I haven’t felt like a depressed person this weekend. My mental health hasn’t really been on my radar. It’s been a busy few days of teaching, parenting and having the LOLs with teenagers. Teenage folk these days aren’t half as wild as in my day. Yes, I’m that old I can legitimately use the phrase “back in my day” now. But honestly, the kids I’ve taught, given birth to (of which there are hundreds) and loved and liked are way more clued in than those of us of a Nineties vintage. Or maybe that was just my group of friends.
I’ve been fully functioning, even-tempered, sociable and that’s all while still battling (woe is me again…) this dose of a cough/cold. I’ve almost lost my voice which usually happens to me twice an academic year while I’m in school, as it does to many of the educating classes. I felt really bad on Friday but, brave little me, I soldiered on till one thirty am baking a chocolate cake and pink Valentine’s buns and preparing a huge pot of Spag Bol for a Valentine’s/Birthday party for ElsaDaughter’s mates. It was extra special because her big sister came up and is staying with us.
ElsaDaughter’s older (half – although we don’t really use the “half”, a sister is a sister and if you’re lucky enough to have one you don’t dilute it) is just ten months older. Yeah, that was a fun and fertile time for their father. Growing up they were super close but when ElsaDaughter and I moved to the city, distance inevitably got in the way. Not much at first but as they got into thirteen/fourteen I guess they wanted to hang out with the pals more than each other and with me being unwell, I guess I wasn’t great at keeping the link live. Their dad, My Husband, has no influence on Sweetie(Ex)StepDaughter’s life but then he doesn’t have much on ElsaDaughter’s either. They’re their mammies’ girls. Thank god. Once, Sweetie(Ex)StepDaughter introduced me as her auntie which meant so much to me; she said it was too complicated to explain that I used to be married to her dad and my daughter is her sister and I was at her mother’s wedding and she still hangs out with us. And I’m kind of like an auntie to her.
I’m currently filling up a bucket of bath salts infused water for them to soak their feet while they half watch a movie, eat buns and take selfies. I can’t even describe how good it is to see them together. They didn’t really meet until ElsaDaughter was three, such was the complexity of the romantic entanglement their father had created, and to be fair, her mam was more than gracious in allowing her little girl to come visit us. The girls got on straight away and Sweetie(Ex)StepDaughter ended up joining in our madness most weekends. I loved it. I got two cute kids for the price of one. Looking at the two of them now, I just can’t believe how lucky ElsaDaughter is to have a big sister like her and how lucky I am that it all worked out. These tricky family things always come down to the women – we get over the shit and pull together to make something work, which us what I like to think Sweetie(Ex)StepDaughter’s mam and I did.
Anyway, seven fifteen year old girls were here last night while I was trying to watch the rugby. I almost lost the plot with the decibel levels at one point, around the time Jamie Heaslip was kneed in the back by Pascal Papé. What a brutal match. Apart from Sexton’s shiner I can only imagine the bruised bodies (I’d kiss them better) today.
I managed to get an hour of peace and quiet by going to the gym. The things you have to do for an hour alone…
Saturday night; Valentine’s Night – I went to the gym. Wow. That’s pathetic. I’m so unbelievably single. I still can’t get past date two. Either they ghost me or I go undercover, avoiding any possible potential explanation of why I’m not in work and disclosing any real information about my borderline personality or shady history.
Strangely enough there were quite a few people at the gym, mostly guys. In fact there were only two women there: me and another woman who looked like she was determined to work out so hard that she wouldn’t be single for next year’s February 14th. So that was mega reassuring.
Where we live is probably the worst possible location for a singleton, never mind a clinically depressed, emotionally unstable, broke, lone parent (I am a catch) with four hours’ sleep, a chest infection, seven hormonal young women for dinner and a noise fest. A flower shop downstairs and a never ending block of cosy, softly lit restaurants to choose from: roses and candles abounded.
I was actually fairly stunned by the amount of money being spent on what used to be a day for a simple card and a silly rhyming ditty. When the hell did Valentine’s turn into a national spend binge for the sickeningly loved up? When I heard an ad on the radio for a well known day spa in the city advertising a ninety nine euro Valentine’s special and urging women to drop hints to their other halves to buy it for them, I thought I was back in 2005 when we were all whipping out our MBNA credit cards for such indulgence. But no, apparently, your true love doesn’t really love you unless he pays for your Brazilian and your facial; sends a dozen roses to your work; takes you out for a stuffy dinner on your weekend away and then admires you in your new Empreinte lingerie he spent forever trying to choose with the help of an exasperated shop girl trying to work out your bra size from iPhone photos and “She’s about your size” gestures.
The girls are watching “The Maze Runner” which seems like a mixture between “I Am Legend”, “The Hunger Games” and “The Truman Show” with a bit of classical tragedy thrown in, as in everyone ends up dead. Talk about post-apocalyptic carnage. They will insist on immersing themselves in gloom; the toughest thing we watched was “ER”, with a bit of gritty realism from “This Life”.
But Valentine’s Day didn’t really bother me. More than any other year, I actually enjoyed it. I didn’t feel any resentment towards couples feeding each other cremated steak last night as I walked home from the gym, sweaty and stinky. Nor did I long for a big bunch of roses to adorn my dining table. Give me the fifty quid that they would have cost instead to cover electric and groceries and you’d have my heart for… a week or so. I loved having ElsaDaughter’s crew round despite their inability to shut up during crucial moments of a rugby match – my penchant for feeding people, baking for them, making them feel at home does something to remind me I’m not a totally self-involved, emotionally reductive bitch with no maternal flair. I just wish I could keep that part of me at the forefront rather than letting it regress back down under the plates of hardened lava; the swirls of stone crumbling into impermeable caves of pitch.
But I’ve been good, overall. I’m coping with the home stuff. Some of the money stuff I’m addressing – not sorting it because I have so much debt I doubt I’ll ever be anything other than grateful I can put food in the fridge and keep this apartment, lit and heated if possible.
I’ve left the two girls watching “Pitch Perfect”, which seems funnier than I thought it would be based on the first five minutes I saw. They are beyond adorable: sitting there together; sometimes bickering; sometimes playing with each other’s hair; ElsaDaughter hiding under a pillow on Sweetie(Ex)StepDaughter’s lap during a scary bit; stalking celebrity boys on Instagram.
Life has some lovely moments in store for us all: we just need to remember that they will come even on our Staying Alive days.
Also, I’ve figured out who I would want to play me in a film about my life: when I was younger, Juno Temple. Now (although she’d need a few fake wrinkles and plenty of carbs), Emma Stone and as I get older and probably more eccentric, Helena Bonham Carter. I’m hardly flattering myself there, am I? I have a habit of asking pointless, random questions like “If you could be the leader of any country, which would it be?; “If you could have been the author of any book ever published, what would it be?”; “If you were a shoe, what would you be like?”. Silly, distracting, fun.