9 to 5

Sarah was exhausted. Two heavy bags of grocery shopping pulled on her elbow sockets, the plastic threatening to rip and spill their contents all over the grey streets of Rathmines. Living on the city outskirts was convenient and even picturesque when the sun shone and the canal was relatively free of debris. But pushing her way home through the rush-hour pedestrians made her sad in the pit of her stomach. In a few months’ time it would be pitch dark on her way home, but in the autumn months like this it was usually all just grey – grey buildings, grey streets, grey sky.

On evenings like this, Sarah’s life began to seem ridiculous, consisting as it did of a strange hamster-wheel 9 to 5, the uncomfortable boring clothes, and the tired non-conversation that usually ensued when she and her husband collapsed onto the couch together in the evenings.

Once a week, she would make a detour to a supermarket on her way home, elbowing past hoards of flustered-looking professionals searching freezers for frozen petit pois and angrily examining packets of lean beef. She once saw two women fighting over the last free-range whole chicken.

Today, she had not had the energy to do a full week’s shopping, and instead bought some half-hearted fruit, a few microwave meals and two bottles of red wine. The ten-minute walk home still seemed to take twice as long as usual, and she stopped twice, readjusting the plastic bags and wishing she had remembered to bring a shopping bag.

Come the weekend, they would try to get out of the flat and do what couples were supposed to do – go for walks, buy coffee or lunch, sit by the canal contemplating the floating crisp packets and naan breads, the anchored shopping trolleys and traffic cones, and the fish that darted between them. And Sarah knew that she would enjoy those weekends, would revel in the bottle of wine shared or the pints of lager consumed in the pub, and would forget this empty feeling.

She arrived at the apartment just as Mark was slamming the car door shut and locking it with a blip and a flash of orange light in the falling dusk. ‘Hi sweetheart, let me take those,’ he said warmly, kissing her on the lips and peeling the chafing plastic handles from her sore fingers. And all in a rush, she felt the sad emptiness well up with something. For a moment, there was a sort of tender poignancy to the delicate skin of the forehead emerging from beneath Mark’s receding hairline, the slight soft bulge of his stomach under his navy jumper. She thought inexplicably of the surprising softness of his flaccid penis in her hand. Tears began to well up inside her.

‘Yes, please. Thank you.’ They were tears of relief. Sarah followed her husband inside and shut the door.


Busy Bee

I knew August was going to be a very busy month for me. On top of the thesis I’m finishing, there is unanticipated stuff going on with my life too, and while it’s a nice kind of busy, it hasn’t left a huge amount of time or energy for anything else except the thesis and watching the odd episode of something funny.

I’m definitely not complaining. The summer (autumn, whatever) has finally started to be what I had hoped it would be. When I’m not stressing about my thesis or worrying about my suicidal tooth (which will have to be pulled in September) I am happier than I have been in a long time. Or maybe happier than I have ever been, really.

Measuring your own happiness is a difficult task. So usually I don’t bother trying to compare current feelings to past feelings. And yet. There are some times in life that just stand out above all the others. It’s not that all the bad stuff goes away – or even that it’s perfect, and you’re never worried, anxious, upset. But some things just feel right. And you find yourself unable to stop grinning from ear to ear.

A part of me is terrified. Once you’ve seen the abyss, it’s hard not to fear falling into it again. It’s hard, sometimes, when you’re tired at the end of a long day, not to start picking apart potential problems.

But mostly I’m excited. It’s just as well to have an ear to the ground, so I can exercise damage control if it comes to that. But although I’m scanning the water for sharks, I have jumped right in. And the water feels good.

Tears of joy

Everyone should cry tears of joy at least once in their life.

I probably cry more than most, but I still feel lucky that this has happened to me already so many times. Most of these occasions have been down to one person in particular.

The only other time I can recollect was when my cat came home. We had her only two days when we tried bringing her outside in the garden. She was on a cat leash, as we didn’t want her to wander off and not be able to find her way home. But in a moment of sheer bad luck, just as we got outside with her, a helicopter came by overhead. She was skittish at the best of times, and she completely panicked – she struggled out of the leash and ran off. She was out the front gate and down the street before I could even run after her. I was inconsolable, sure that I would never see her again. But that night, in the wee hours of the morning, my dad woke me up to tell me she was back in her room. That was the first time I cried tears of happiness.

It hadn’t happened to me in a very long time. And even when it did before, it was tinged with relief or sadness, as they came after making up after a fight, or realising I hadn’t lost someone I thought I had. But over the last week, I have experience some of the most purely happy crying of my life.

It’s a strange feeling. Because it’s very close to the physical feeling of grief. It doesn’t seem to turn into actual sobbing, but the tears are copious and the loss of control is similar. The same overwhelming of emotion – with so much feeling, it has to come leaking out of you somehow. It worries me slightly when it happens – I have to take a minute to register what’s happening emotionally, to double-check that I’m not, in fact, sad. But after a second, after a moment of clarity, it is the greatest feeling in the world.

I spent a lot of years thinking that all the crying I was doing was a bad thing, and worrying that I am too emotional, let things get to me too much. But now I am realising that it is a beautiful thing, an expression of pure emotion. It can be almost unbearable when you’re caught up in the grief-stricken sobbing. But these happy tears make up for it.


Is it possible to choose logic over emotion?

We feel hurt and anger, most often, in a place beneath logic. So it would seem that if you managed to focus on the logic of a situation – on the fact, on the circumstance, on the actual bare bones of the reality – you could avoid some of the more unpleasant feelings in life.

I have tried this. I am an innately logical person, I analyse and I try to understand other people. I am not without empathy, I am not unreasonable. But inevitably, the emotional aftertaste starts to colour the logic, and eventually all I am left with is the churning of feelings that an event brings about. The histrionics burst forth.

But it must be possible. Because there are things in life that make no sense to me otherwise.

This must be how people choose to hurt those they care about. The logical step – the logical conclusion. A decision made for the greater good, to be cruel to be kind. I wouldn’t know, because I have never made a conscious decision that I knew would hurt someone I really cared about unless I was retaliating in some way, licking a wound.

That will sound ridiculous. Of course I have hurt people, I have made hurtful choices, I have said hurtful things, I have repeated things that should not have been repeated. But there is this phenomenon that I have seen in a few people on a few occasions – something like a reverse martyrdom. The clear decision to be harsh, to be cold, to pull away. The email unanswered, the phone not picked up. The clear break.

The only way I can understand it is that they have somehow managed to choose logic over emotion. They have decided that this logical course of action will save them some hurt at a later date – or, worse, they have the presumption to assume that they are saving me some later hurt. There is some logic, there must be.

Because I do not want to think that they are acting on their emotions.

Never let go

She was the girl who never learned to let go.

At nine months, her peers were learning to drop things, letting their toys go falling to the floor over and over, shrieking with joy at their new game. But she continued to clutch her toys to her, fearful of losing them. When her parents unclasped her sticky, chubby fingers from her lifelines of stuffed bears and building blocks, she would cry inconsolably.

Later, she failed to learn how to let go of a swing rope; refused to let go at the top of a slide; clutched ice-cream cones in her fist until they melted and dissolved into a pulpy mess. She wouldn’t let her teachers take her homework from her to correct, wouldn’t let anyone near her hair with a scissors.

Throughout her life, she braved ridicule and irritation in the face of spent friendships, failed at school and work assignments to avoid graduation or promotion, and into drawer upon drawer poured a sea of receipts and cinema tickets. She avoided funerals and flea markets. And one by one, every man she ever loved walked out on her.

Creative deficit

I haven’t been posting here so much simply because I haven’t been doing anything creative recently. I feel like I’m on the cusp of it again, but I’ve been so busy with working on my research project and socialising in every spare minute that it just hasn’t been happening.

Even more old ghosts have come out of the woodwork in the past week; it’s turning into a very strange summer. But maybe this means I can put them all to rest, finally. A summer of relationship closure.

Anyway, I keep going onto Amazon and looking at the Canon EOS 1100d, then checking my bank balance, then looking at Amazon again… It looks like I won’t have time to go on any holidays this summer, and I’m starting to use that as an excuse to just fork out and buy myself a camera. My dad’s camera is living in his study again – he just doesn’t seem to like me using it, and won’t let me take it anywhere, despite him only taking about 5 pictures on it a year. So time to buy my own, methinks.

Hopefully being able to lug a camera around with me more will mean I’ll get back into it a bit. And I feel a story gathering in the wings, too. If it wasn’t for this stupid thesis I would probably be doing lots of stuff at the moment, but duty calls…

(Edit: just realised I managed to originally spell ‘deficit’ with an extra ‘e’. What. Or should I say whate.)

The space before

All these little daily disappointments, I feel them in my knees. When I rise in the morning and feel the ache as my toes spread and my weight moves down my legs, I know I am in for a tired and uninspired day. But when I make mistakes, I feel it rising behind my ears like a blush. I feel it sometimes, as I reach for the hand of the wrong man, as I set aside something important. The warning in the space before regret.

During the day, in the glare of the sun, it is hard to tell if the scorching against my ears is the heat of the summer, or an impending disaster. It is easier in the dark, when the wine and tequila lays a vignette over the world, and he comes into clearer focus in the centre of my life. My whole body burns then, and the fear is gone.

I have yet to find the part of me that responds to what is correct. I sit for hours, staring questions in the face, and mentally examine myself from head to toe. That twinge in my chest – excitement or fear? Anticipation or trepidation? When I feel the tears come I don’t know if it’s sadness or exhaustion.

We all long for what we can’t have. And because it doesn’t exist, we long for that one true love that will follow us throughout a lifetime. Is there anyone who doesn’t wish their first love, that first flutter at the tender age of fifteen, was their last? Their one and only? We all want that clarity of feeling, the knowing that it’s right simply because it always has been.

But it’s never that easy. We fumble through life, clutching at the straws that are offered to us. And it can be hard to tell the clutching from the genuine falling.

So I try to just feel the want. It can consume me, if I let it, but I’m too old now for such extravagance. I rise in the morning, swing my legs off the bed, and test out my knees. I try not to take the disappointments personally.