I keep waking up happy. It’s spooky. It’s as if someone has been doing a nightly operation on me, someone like Elijah Wood in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Instead of messing with my memories, my night gnome takes my DNA and examines the anxiety gene very, very closely. She turns it over, considering it. She assesses its long-term utility to the common good of the other amino acids in the chain. Will it help the group survive? Or has the balance turned against it; has it outserved its calculus of usefulness?
She is a scientist, my night gnome. She is conducting an experiment.
Every day, I wake up happy. But I go to bed worrying about little things, like, will I be able to cope with looking after my baby all day by myself? And throughout the morning, I might wonder, is this going OK? Should I be playing with her more? Should I be doing something else, something that members of the capable mums club know to do? Should I close that door, get her a drink of water, try to get something else done, be more productive?
Then I snaggle my worries on her little face, turned to me with a wide grin. I don’t need to close the door. I don’t need to be or do anything else right now. Things seem to be going quite fine.
Something has happened in the pits of my brain where the self-esteem lives. Someone gave it flowers. Someone said to it, you are actually doing pretty well, but thanks for asking.
An instance of the experiment: we are currently hiring a babysitter. I resisted the temptation to tidy up, or do anything out of the ordinary routine. This is how we do it, I was saying. And it’s OK. That gave me a warm feeling inside and the white hairs on my head seem to bristle with pride, thinking, finally, she is growing into her own wisdom.
I think the fact that I am doing this PhD in writing is one of the experimental catalysts. Someone believing in me and my writing is like someone saying that my way of going about the world is valid.
Another, far more serious part of life right now: my sister is in hospital, and things are not going well. But I feel good about my sisters and brother, all of whom are caring, concerned and actively helping her. At other times, I would have felt completely alone with this. Now I feel like she is supported, and therefore so am I.
Hope is strange; it has a strange effect on your brain, like sun after a night so long you hardly dared believe it would ever, ever end. You reach out as if you could touch the light, but you are afraid that by doing so you will find out it is nothing more than an illusion of your encroaching mind.
Continue the experiment. I am.