My number 1 daughter and I are now indulging in a spot of blog ping pong. Her perspective on stuff versus mine. Her world is about to expand beyond my dreams (world expansion not being easy to pull off with four children in tow) whilst mine has contracted so much that yesterday's shopping trip to Harrogate took on the same level of effort and exhaustion as machete-ing my way through the Amazon jungle (more fun though, perhaps!) Anyway hopefully she will give me a window on the world through her blogs in the months to come and I shall not be a miserable pain - we shall see...
In five weeks, Alex and I leave to travel around the world. The days are getting shorter, my dreams consist of exotic landscapes and I look ahead with a bright spirit of adventure and only mild feelings of trepidation.
Having lived in London for six years, it is with more than a slight curiosity by which people respond to the news that Alex and I are going away. It strikes a discord with the Londoner's Handbook which requires people slaving away hours in a job that only pays barely enough to cover rent and a social life. Some people even compromise the social life - I can name more than a few. Somehow this ingrained mentality has rebranded itself into a civic responsibility that we are required, that we owe the organisations we work for and the city we work in, our lives. And I for one am defying this principle.
Some think I have always defied this by my choice of careers, but they are wrong. I am like you too.
Don't get me wrong - financial security is important for being able to provide for your family and your future and I don't disagree that this is a responsibility everybody should shoulder. But we only have one life and I want to be able to reflect on it as being full of colour and adventure; miracles and the lightness of being. Charged and vibrant memories. A year of seeing the world will provide me more of these than a lifetime of servitude in London. It will also, I hope, give me a breadth of perspective, a renewed sense of self, zest and appreciation of life's fragility and its vitality. But I will also go without expecting any of this to happen, releasing all sense of expectation and burdensome benchmarks - so this trip does not fall short in any way.
Lately I have felt a little plagued by a sense of responsibility. Guilt. It is more one that I have placed on myself than impinged by other people but those can often be the hardest to bear. It is moral. Even worse.
My mum has cancer.
It feels wrong.
I know, mum, if you were reading this right now, you would say "don't be silly". And you're right. But nevertheless, it is a cross that I can't help but bear. I can't help but feel guilty, ashamed that whilst I am lounging on a beach, gazing at a sunset, gin and tonic in hand with a little wooden umbrella, that you might be lying in bed exhausted, throwing up into a bucket, or shedding hair. I am scared for you and it just feels wrong that I will not be there with you - tucking you up in a blanket, rubbing your back or squeezing your hand. I am laying my shame bare.
You and I have been talking a lot about control. And in certain circumstances, the need to relinquish it. Neither of us are very good at this. And I need to accept that this is a situation where both you and I have to let go - you of your body and me of my sense of right and wrong. That in the adventures that Alex and I face ahead, we will experience a part of life that you have dreamed for me since I was born and, in spirit, you too will ride elephants, jump off cliffs, barter for silks, read a map upside down, order dog off a menu (by accident), fart loudly in a temple. And in regaling with you, I will offer the best home remedy possible - distraction through love.
So I cannot promise that I will shake off this horrible feeling about leaving you before I get on the plane. This might have to be something I do a few thousand feet up in the sky with a hefty drink. And I might have my moments on the other side of the world where I stumble and need to call you for reassurance. I hope that's ok. Sometimes your example can be a little too hard to follow.