I've been thinking a lot about those long months when I didn't see my children.
When I was fifteen I woke up in the middle of the night and I knew what the meaning of life was. Not all life. Just mine. The very purpose of being. I had it. Just an average, unexceptional fifteen year old. But I woke up knowing why I was here. What I was supposed to do. How everything in the world fits together in collected, little rows like blades of grass. But more importantly than that - I felt it. So in truth it's wrong to say I knew what it was. Because I hadn't learned anything. I certainly hadn't earned it. And strictly speaking I didn't really even know it. But I absolutely felt it. Content to slip back to sleep. But when I woke up I'd forgotten what it was. You have no idea how irritating that has been.
I often have a dream that I'm in a car. I'm not aware of movement. I'm just aware that I'm inside the car. With my kids. And it's about to crash. It's an apocryphal statement that if you dream of falling you'll wake up before you hit the bottom. Because if you do then supposedly you'll die. But in my dreams I always hit the bottom. I always slip in the pool and drown. I always crash the car. And after I do that's not when I wake up. I just carry on. Swiftly on to the next nightmare. That's how they go. Banal. Repetitive. Consecutive vanilla-nightmare after vanilla-nightmare. Until they move on to something newer and much more creatively frightening. Nowadays the dream inside the car itself isn't frightening. I almost find my feet - figuring out fast which nightmare I'm in. It must have happened a thousand times now. If I'm honest a lot more. But the moment of impact still feels viscerally real. Aware that in seconds that I'll hit the oncoming vehicle in front. Unable to move. Unavoidable. Dealing with the aftermath.
But instead of the silent numbness - waiting for the now familiar, almost boring smash of death - I've started frantically looking for my phone. Desperately trying to call someone. To have them know that my last thoughts were of them. And thinking with a palpable sense of urgency, "how quickly can I dial them?" So that they know that the last thoughts I have are just of them. Because I want them to know in that ultimate moment - the understood last moment - that I needed to talk to them. That they're everything. But I can't find my phone. Not in time. Not before the crash. That's the new nightmare. That it'll all end without me getting the chance to simply say something. For years not even knowing who the fuck I was actually frantic to call. Not enough time to wait. Just never enough time.
During the first few weeks of not seeing my kids every minute dragged along thickly. Heavy and sluggish. Every space inside that minute filled with me entirely aware of the time. Crammed right into the all four corners of each sixty second period. One of the worst feelings in the world is to miss someone. The constant, unending nag of it invades every, single moment of your day. But knowing the person on the other end feels the same way means - in an odd way - that the feeling comes from a very good place. As long as you can tell them so they know how much you miss them - and that you wish you could talk to them - it makes it a little easier to wait to speak to them again. What got me through was my daughter. Randomly chirping up and just saying, "I miss you Daddy." But not tinged with sadness. Always said in a happy sense. She called me for about thirty seconds in June just to tell me she missed me. And the joy in her telling me confused me so much that I had to ask her why she seemed so happy yet was saying something that hurt so much. And she told me - in that way that it was entirely obvious to her - that she got to tell me herself. And that made her really happy. So why would she be sad?
I guffed on and on in a different post about how it took a long time for me to figure some things out. Who I am. What I'd been. And yes - in thick, syrupy, cliched-terms - where I'm going. During those long months I was also sat waiting to find out a few other things. Frankly, fucking horrible things that I could only learn about by waiting. And how that after coming through a whole host of things - most of which very, very few people know about - in a compressed time period that I've come out to where I am now and feel good. Contentedly aware that I've all this space in front of me. Not crippled by those weighty moments. That call from my daughter massively shaped that feeling. That knowing. She knew the real purpose of that moment wasn't to tell me she felt dreadful. But to tell me that in that very moment she was happy. It was all in the context. And how she chose to value those moments. And while I didn't know when I'd see them again - I knew it was just a case of waiting.
And waiting is just a thing. It can feel heavy and too large to get around. But step back and it's just a thing. And out in front of it is this huge stretch of everything else that comes after it. That knowing has changed how I feel in the middle of moment when I'm just waiting. Even when I'm aware that I'm going to have to wait for a lot of time to pass and a lot of things to happen. Now it seems so infinitesimal. Not worthless. That's precisely the opposite of what my daughter taught me. But what will come is so large and holds so much worth that the sluggish, sticky, dragging, weighty seconds of waiting are far more bearable. And you get to actually act in that moment. Not just passing it to get to the later that you really want.
And there's no better example of than Dr. Seuss's Waiting Room. How - when you're stuck in a bad moment - that it's just a moment before something else. Slap bang in the middle of Oh The Places You'll Go is one of the most lucid, poetic explanations of the drag you could ever read. Beautifully articulating that feeling - that you can't see past the Wait. And we all have them. But that beyond it there's so much.
Which all ties back to that feeling when I was fifteen. I not going to pretend I've had some strange epiphany and I know the meaning of life. That's not only massively self-aggrandizing. But it's seriously mental. It's the sort of thing people who collect their own shit, or who have written something they call, "My Manifesto" say (I was quite tempted to call this entry My Manifesto just for the ridiculousness that would bring). Of course I don't know that. But I think I understand what the feeling means. I remember that feeling. The focused, warm glow. The feeling that every cell in my body was vibrating. All in one chorus together. As if filled with a knowing, unfailing purpose. All ready to erupt away. Twenty-plus years of somewhat remembering that feeling. Hearing it like a faint echo. Glancing it briefly. Like a photograph's negative. Feeling it burn inside with the intense purity of loneliness. All that time waiting to figure out what the hell it was.
And I really do feel that feeling. And it feels pretty fucking good. And it's not actually fair to say I figured it out. Someone else helped me find it. But for me - figuring out that there's all this stuff way out in front has been really valuable. And that all that stuff way out before is of inherent value too. All that space filled. And all that new space to fill. I certainly don't mean the short, pithy emotionless statement, "everything always works out in the end." Because everything always works out way, way before the end. It's more a case of feeling that any moment of waiting for things to pass - that would usually feel crushed by the size of it all - just doesn't cripple me like it used to. It's just a thing. It's incredibly relieving to know that when you fall into the Waiting Room that you can actually embrace every moment of it - even the uncomfortable parts. Step back a bit and see the bigger picture. It's just a tiny moment. Yes it's valuable. But it just depends how you look at it. Not waiting for the better to come. The "better" will come anyway. So safe in the knowledge that you aren't really waiting at all.
Wow - that reeks so much of existential philosophy in places I can literally hear Prof. Brian Cox wretching.