“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter.” Nora Ephron – I Feel Bad About My Neck
Yes, I’m just going to slide in here at the back, like a latecomer at a wedding, and just pretend like I’ve been here this whole last 5 months. Just write up a post like I’ve never not been posting… Will probably say too much, at speed, in my haste to be totally normal and on top of things, only to think later on “why did I even say that!??” So. Nothing to see here.
Yesterday, probably day 147 of sitting on the sofa that is my maternity leave, I actually did something about my urge to read whilst fossilising there… Incredibly, I’ve been fighting it. “But I should just be DOING some housework. If I could only put Ben down.” Yeah yeah, I know, the only thing you should be doing is looking after the baby. So says everyone apart from my mother. And possibly my neighbours about whom I’m developing quite the complex. You see, they see me on the sofa when they go out, with my son in my arms, and they see me in the same spot when they return. Sometimes I have actually moved from that spot a little bit during the day. Not that they would know. But, trust me, nothing says you need to do some housework like going out for the day 100 miles away, accidentally leaving the front door open and triggering those same neighbours to do a recce around your house to ensure you weren’t dead in your beds. Kind of them, sure, but socially even more mortifying for you.
But my new son doesn’t get this and now I have no choice but to accept that my neighbours are certainly convinced we are the family from hell next door, that I never move from my spot on the sofa and that I am definitely not currently on speaking terms with domesticity. Once you move past the unedifying shame of knowing they’ve seen the 2 weeks’ worth of ironing strewn about your bedroom, it’s quite liberating. I can finally stop the self-delusion and self-abuse that I even could be doing something else and instead just sit here holding my struggling boy who will not sleep anywhere but in my arms or in the pram. And enjoy it while I can. And I can give in to just sitting here and do some important things for my mental health, at the same time. Like watching entire seasons of House Of Cards. And reading.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first person I’ve turned to to read since having Ben is Nora Ephron. Heartburn was a revelation, to me, a few years ago, probably because when I thought of Nora Ephron, I thought of all of the sentimental movies she was involved in that invariably starred Meg Ryan and which I have never seen nor probably ever will. So, I read it with low expectations. And it hit me between the eyes. When I read it, my friend’s mum was mortally ill. For some reason, I really wanted and intended to pass on the book. I feel I failed Lyn a little bit by not getting around to giving it to her. Which is ridiculous. She didn’t know I intended to let her have it and in any case she was probably too ill to read for herself. But to this day I think of Lyn when I think of the book and know she would have loved it.
I was genuinely upset when I heard of Nora Ephron’s death on my husband’s 40th birthday. And yesterday I read the last thing she ever wrote and published, which I found very poignant – as well as hilarious – in my sleepless, hormonal state. As Ben lay, heavy in my arms, I devoured her words and wit and wisdom and felt quite healed in the process. There’s something about reading the words of others that can help order those conflicted thoughts that go around your head when you’re sat with only them and a sleepy weight in your arms for company, day after day. It’s a beautiful, silent dialogue with no one to judge you. I was an only child, so this conversation has always been a lifeline for me. She sums it up here, perfectly. Thanks, Nora.
“Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.”