It’s a big family holiday in Devon, with my parents and Catie’s parents joining us, in the flat below and below to the left, in what is shaping up for an excellent sitcom scenario.
After my brief waking and sleeping nightmare that I had lost my wedding ring and perhaps my marriage, I was up properly at 6 with a baby who wanted to be entertained. I thought this was meant to be a holiday. It actually involves way more parenting than a normal week. What a swizz. And yet if I ignored them and went to the bar for cocktails, it would be I who would be criticised.
Phoebe was keen to get to the beach, but we needed to go to the supermarket first, so it was going to be the afternoon before we were there. And the organisation required to move a family of four half a mile down a hill is a job in itself, but finally we made it and Catie looked after a sleeping Ernie as Phoebe dragged me off for digging in the sand. She wanted to find shells, so I suggested going down to the sea and she had lots of fun running away from the tiny waves and screaming. I was in jeans and trainers (God knows why I had made that choice, but that’s what comes from being tired and thinking of other people) and getting wet, but through my tiredness was having fun too. We then started building castles a short way from the waves and then waited for the incoming tide to destroy them. And now I was totally on board and enjoying myself maybe more than my daughter. It’s a simple exercise to remind yourself of the unrelenting power and ebb and flow of our oceans. How quickly a seemingly safe heap of wet sand would find itself being licked by the waves and then consumed and destroyed.
The adults sleep-walked through the afternoon, with the only a cheeky gin and tonic in front of the hotel to raise a smile. We grabbed a sandwich and then headed back to attempt an early night, as our parents drank wine and laughed in the flat below - ah the sweet reversals of time.
We got the kids down and it seemed like we’d get the catch-up sleep that we required, but Ernie woke up and took two hours to be calmed back to sleep, then I fell briefly asleep, only to wake up shortly afterwards, confused and suffering from a mild panic attack. It’s been a while since I’ve had one of these (though I think they often happen on holiday) and as much as I tried to tell myself that the unnamed dread that I was feeling would pass like all the others had done before, it still kept me awake for hours as I attempted to identify what was bothering me and what had caused this discombobulation. It was more annoying, of course, because I knew how tired I was and how much I needed to be asleep. I wondered if it was somehow a reaction to not having gigged for a week or so. Was I really that shallow? That I was so addicted to making strangers laugh that I could be so affected by going cold turkey? How would I be in old age if no one wanted to see me any more? Shouldn’t I give up this job if it could have this terrible psychological repercussion?
But it was actually about nothing and everything, my brain self sabotaging, trying to make me think of the worst things possible, haunting me with child death and my death and the feeling that life is a meaningless waste of time. I have speculated before that these moments in the night are the only time we see things as they really are. Existential dread is certainly the more logical reaction to life and happiness is a delusion.
I felt like I wouldn’t get to sleep or be happy again, though I knew if I waited it out that things would be OK. It was odd to experience this when I am generally very happy with my lot. But that’s what made it more worrying. Like crying uncontrollably to Love Acutally, what if it never stopped.
I fell asleep on the sofa some time after midnight and was woken by the sunrise. All was fine, of course, as the mask of delusion and the illness of non-depression over took me again. I was tired still, of course and the kids were about to wake up too. But hopefully that’s the last time I suffer from something like that again for a while. How will I get through to September without the drug of performance?
Alcohol. Sweet alcohol.