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hello again hinterland

January 27, 2015

So this is the first time i’ve blogged here for nearly half a decade. Since I last wrote I’ve had five addresses, including one in America for a year. I’ve been married, moved further down the northern line than I ever thought I would, I’ve had two kids, and many, many rants about the inequalities that appear once you’ve become a mum. Without doubt, I’ve been busy.

And yet I look back at the posts here and wonder just how I managed to pack it all in. Becoming a mum has been transformative in so many ways. But it has pretty much killed off the rich hinterland I so clearly cultivated in the pre-baby years. I haven’t been to the cinema or a gig since my boy was born two years ago; nor have I made it to a seminar, working breakfast or conference. I feel a bit ashamed about this, but also defensive: it’s not that I’ve been sitting on my hands, or drinking endless cappuccinos with my new yummy mummy friends. Having two small kids is relentless, thankless work, as others have described better than I could ever hope to.

There are so many things I’ve gained and learned since becoming a parent, but the brutal severance with my hinterland is the loss I felt most keenly as I searched for my new place in the world with a baby in tow. In the early months I devoured novels during the endless night feeds. The Goldfinch, The Signature of All Things and A Hologram for the King will forever take me back to a zombie-like place caught between sleep and wakefulness. Don’t ever ask me to explain the plot lines, I won’t remember. But beyond these mammoth night-time reading/feeding sessions, my world contracted. Days became a series of 15-minute slots alternating between feeding, changing, bathing, cooing, rocking and then feeding again. As time went on patterns changed but the punctuated nature of time remained. So too did the geographical shrinkage of my world: I rarely ventured a mile beyond my house, all the more so once the second babe arrived.

Don’t get me wrong: I am (finally) deeply happy in this new world, which brings wild joy as well as visceral frustration. But I have missed my hinterland. So now my heart is beating a little bit faster at the prospect of returning to it. I have finally found a way of leaving my children for two days a week that doesn’t leave me an emotional wreck. And so suddenly here I am with time on my hands to read, to think, to talk. I am greedy with it, devouring books and articles at a rate that suggests I am probably not taking them in properly. But I want more, more, more, and I feel full of ideas and possibilities in a way that’s eluded me for a few years now.

These emotions have made me realize that for me, this re-engagement with my hinterland is about nurturing my soul. Exploring all those things that interest me beyond paid work (and indeed the unpaid work of parenting), reconnecting with stuff I like to watch or read or imagine when no one’s looking or judging – this is the stuff that makes me feel alive. It makes me feel connected to ideas and people who are different to me, who enrich my life and challenge me to look at the world through fresh eyes. Looking after my hinterland is my little stand against the relentless encroachment of paid work upon life more generally. It is also my present to myself after the two most challenging years of life so far. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

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One comment

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