Sometimes – thankfully rarely – my little daughter comes to me with her shoulders drooping and a furrow in her brow and simply says “Mummy, I feel sad.”
And we have a cuddle and talk, cuddle some more and talk about the things that concern her until The Sadness decides to take a hike. Life is always better after a cuddle, to my mind.
Today is my turn to have The Sadness. When you’re a grown-up it’s absolutely no different. The dark sense of sorrow comes over you in waves, sending you bolting for the nearest toilet cubicle, dabbing away the tears, looking skywards, telling yourself not to be so ridiculous. To be fair, it’s entirely of my own making – what goes up, must come down.
This year, for the first time in well over a quarter of my life, I took Christmas off. I was actually allowed to fill in a holiday form and have eleven consecutive days away from work. This might sound pretty standard to many, but I worked in retail for over 13 years, and holy fuck that signature on the bottom of the form was almost enough to make me believe in the existence of god. Eleven days of joy. Late nights and lie-ins, precious moments with my husband and baby, parents, siblings, tiny nieces and nephew, extended family and glorious friends. My girl and I shared the end of our Christmas break with a hop up to London for a recital at St-Martins-in-the-Fields (another visit to a church where I didn’t burst into flames – old Wikipedia reckons it was built on the site of a Pagan temple, so I can only assume my ancestors sniffed me out and gave me a break) and suddenly the first tiny little drops of The Sadness started to seep in.
Have you ever experienced a sudden moment of overwhelming love, so powerful it stops you in your tracks? I have them every so often. And yesterday this pistol whip of emotion was for my beautiful daughter as she sat looking up at the gilded ceilings of the church. It occurred to me that she had never seen anything like it before, the church in our town (where her choir sing the compulsory Christmas concert and where I am, again, surprised by my lack of ignition) is wooden and deliberately, almost arrogantly, humble. Not this church. It is the antithesis of humble. It’s not quite the Katie Price of churches, but bugger me all its important bits are excessively large and shiny and quite, quite beautiful. She looked up, eyes wide, while the most perfect music played and I had to gulp back the tears. She will never be this little again. So awestruck by her surroundings and so vulnerable. So open to this new place and new experience. So perfect. My baby forever, but won’t be a baby for long.
Afterwards we whizzed around our favourite places, ate Japanese food and cuddled on the cold streets of Soho. It was the best. See? Cuddles always help.
Last night I slept badly and today I returned to work. I half joked that I was going to give up work and homeschool Romilly so we never had to leave the couch again. What I meant was ‘so we never have to leave each other’s side again’. We Skyped each other silly messages and emojis. The combination of missing her and the pressure of work was suddenly too much and I cried again. It threatened not to stop, so I hid in a meeting room. Just in case.
I am a grown woman and well aware that this is stupid behaviour. Also it’s generally frowned upon to have an emotional breakdown in the workplace. I told myself it was my own stupid fault for taking Christmas off, but why would I sacrifice all The Happiness because of a little bit of The Sadness?
Tonight, while my husband was working late, I decided to just go with the tears. Let the little fuckers roll down my face, splash on the keyboard and do their worst. It feels hideous, but when I’m done I’ll go and have a cuddle with my boy. And tomorrow morning I’ll kiss my little monkey-face on the nose, make her breakfast and cuddle her all the way to school. She’ll never be any the wiser, but I will feel better.