After the walk / Further adventures

Where the hell did I go?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh! I want to create something good, and I have 40 minutes before nursery finishes!

Did you know that I once did great things? I once scared myself daily, pushing myself to the tops of hills, along dual carriageways, through fields of lively bullocks, and so far out of my comfort zone that it became normal. I tuned into the donkey’s fight or flight instinct so totally that we reacted as one organism, only I got good eventually at hiding my true feelings so that my body responded several notches more calmly on the scale of terror. I brought him down from fear; he took his lead from me. I got good at it, and I wrote about it, and people enjoyed hearing about it, and then I worked like an idiot for two years and made the film and wrote the book and although I seem to remember the bald fact that it was hard going and I doubted myself, I still finished. I made something beautiful that I am proud of, and people liked it.

And then I made something else beautiful that I’m proud of, but some days I want to howl with the enormous act of self-sabotage that it has been to have a child! I love him of course, and he’s rearranged my life in dozens of brilliant ways too, but oh-my-god how painfully I sometimes miss myself. I’m calling into this melodramatic echoey void of my own productive past, a huge cave of old dead time, shingled all over inside with achievements and ideas and some sort of hard-won understanding of what I was capable of and good at and suited to. And now I can only squint backwards into the dim light of it all and wonder how it was ever possible. And stand reduced, as nervous about my skills and as short on self esteem as I was when I was a brand-new adult twenty years ago, only now without that sparky sense of the possibilities of the future, and the time to just play with things, and fail at things, and succeed at things.

And I’m looking for a tissue to dry my eyes – and there are a fucking pair of nursery’s socks in my handbag! Get out! Is no space mine any more?

Before I walked around Wales with a donkey I edited magazines. I knew every one of the hundreds of threads that needed chasing out and tying up by a deadline, and I didn’t have enough staff and I was paid badly, and I was often at the silent buzzing fluorescent desk at midnight or 6am, and it didn’t matter because I was on fire. We made lovely, funny, beautifully designed magazines, one a month, without time to draw breath before the next one was due. The power and the glory, and that adrenaline of excelling myself, and creating every day. Was that really me? How sad. And I knew then that I’d forget the commute and the irritations and just remember the romance, and here I am, nostalgic.

IMG_6669croppedAnd worst of all? I’m complaining online about motherhood! How tedious! How totally hackneyed. If you’re still reading this, don’t! Go away and find something written by someone who has something new to add to the sum of thoughts in the world. I might start harping on about sticky toddler fingers and gin before bathtime, and disappear into a crowded blogosphere of whingers. Never mind that it’s harder than walking around Wales with a donkey; it’s boring. My complaints are boring. I’m sorry. I don’t know who I am, except that I’m this little guy’s mother. And some people have three children and survive, and some people can’t have any children, and some people have real problems, are dying or are being kicked out of the country, or are at the millions of miserable fronts of austerity, and I’m just complaining about being me.

And now I feel a little teeny tiny bit better, because I wrote something. And it’s not very good, but I did it. Something exists where nothing did half an hour ago, and at the very least it’ll remind my future nostalgic that sometimes I howled on my own at the laptop and allowed myself to really wallow. And my future self will probably think, aw – little tiny baby socks in your handbag. How sweet. I wish I still had someone who loved me so unconditionally that he just wanted to touch me all the time, and scratch me and bite me and cuddle me and smell me and almost be me, and take me over until we are one organism, and I’m the one in charge so I have to pull myself together and grow up.

I just didn’t realise I’d have to grow up so far – further than fun, to the far side of myself, and live there in servitude, bitching and whining, for ever and ever.

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  1. Angharad Wynne says:


    It does gradually get better, and changes dynamic, and just when you think you’ve got it sorted…..they grow up and leave home and you miss them like hell. Bloody inconsiderate!

    Biiig hug, imaginary tea and sympathy xx

  2. Only a mum could understand… and we do!

  3. I am not a mum, but I do understand. We can all look back and think that our past self is more interesting. I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t – it just changes. I have adult stepchildren and 3 step-granddaughters, and at least they don’t live with us! Ali x Ps. Baby socks are cute!

  4. Bringing a new human into the world, is THE most important job there is. And probably the least appreciated.

    Making sure this new human is healthy, happy, and well adjusted until you send them off on their own – basically contributing to the plus side of the universe rather than the minus – is the greatest responsibility any of us can bear. And many have no business doing it.

    Non staining, no crumbs included (((hugs))) from across the pond.

  5. Polly Pearshouse says:

    Yes, as a mother, long ago, of three, all understood and remembered Hannah …… Now, with three grandchildren, my one regret is that I didn’t spend more time cuddling my children instead of trying ‘to get things done’. You’re still there …. enjoy ……. There is time.

  6. Never fear; you WILL come back again! We all do (or most of us anyway). We survive our children’s childhood, they survive our inexperience and ineptnesses, and then they go off to university and you both miss them and breathe a sigh of relief at having your own space back again. And then you may find your children have become independent but suddenly your parents have become dependant – on you – and your life isn’t your own again. But then if you’re lucky something magical happens and your children have become your friends and you find you’re playing music together, or going to concerts, or walking, or simply enjoying the same telly programmes. And your time really IS your own (if you can avoid too many commitments and committees and the like) and you can try new things and go on courses and make new friends. Since I turned 60 five years ago I have been having the best fun of my entire life! I have learnt a new musical instrument (the Swedish nyckelharpa) and gained a whole new family of friends with it; I have been on numerous musical weekends and am constantly signing up for more; I have learnt some Morris dances and made shadow puppets and gained confidence in singing. In short, I am having the time of my life doing my own thing AND loving the time I spend with my family and my young grandsons. So be patient; YOU are still there inside, however it feels right now, and the best is yet to come!

  7. Sandra DeSimone says:

    Read to the end! Maybe your calling is to give a voice to all new moms who have had similar experiences and concerns but thought they were awful for feeling what is normal. I look now at at my 41!! year old son with a sense of pride and awe. He is now the parent of 4!! boys. I watch them and know now that everything I did was exactly what I needed to do- mistakes and all. You are going to be fine and even have an amazing amount of material you can draw on for your writing… or simply enjoy the memories you are creating every moment.
    Just a thought- being a grandparent is the real gig But don’t rush that!!

  8. I saw this coming. It’s very difficult for adventurist woman to settle down. Time will pass and your baby will grow up. It feels slow while you’re in it, but next thing you know…. you’ll have yourself back.

  9. Hanrahan. I’m a mum of two and I work more than full time. I just got in from an ultimate power ballads club night. THIS WILL BE YOU, LIVING THE DREAM! Love ya x

  10. Good, keep writing..
    We all explore the doubts and the negatives, it’s what makes us enjoy the positives and the mundane(it was a untrafficked drive, the flight was boring, lunch was nice( what did I order)).
    Enjoy writing.

  11. I love this post and there’s a lot of wisdom in the comments. You WILL have more adventures- some with the little Intruder and some without. In the meantime, gin is good.

  12. “A huge cave of old dead time…”
    Marvelous image. You’ve still got it. Write us a post once a week about whatever comes to mind when you have a spare minute, even if you have to stay up late or get up early to do it. We’re all still here and would live to hear your written voice again. Interaction with us would do you good.

    • Thank you Leslie! I was just thinking that. It’s probably not cool to confess this, but I think I have been a bit paralysed by the pressure of having over 6000 likes on Facebook etc. The daily ups and downs of the figure feel like some sort of awful barometer of popularity, and I hardly dare make a peep for fear of losing people – especially if I post a picture with no blinkin’ donkey in it! But this has been a cathartic little explosion, and I’m going to do it. Monthly maybe – I’ll aim for weekly, but I’m also working on being more realistic about what I can achieve. Thank you for knowing what a narcissist wants to hear!

  13. Love, not live. Jesus.

  14. ‘getting older is not for the faint hearted!’ I believe Meatloaf said that and he’s been to hell and back…I wrote to you ages ago when you were writing Seaside Donkey. I loved reading it as you visited places I knew well. Years ago I cycled to Asia and all round the UK John o Groats to lands End via Galway. I believed the only way to really travel is under your own steam or with a donkey a la Dervla Murphy. Then three children and a grandchild and having to does cramp your style and its a struggle to find those freedom places in the nearby everyday. I’m waiting for my first book to be published next year. I’ve written everyday in A4 szed page a day diaries since 1973. Most of it is bollocks but hey ho its writing and words on the paper and a process to find a way through not to fight it but to allow as gently as we can..but what we give to our children they pay back. All my children have come for a visit this year and thats a blessing and they will be with us at Christmas..hang on HANNAH AND DREAM ON..

    • Thank you for responding! Amazing writing effort – 44 years! My save-from-a-fire item is a box of diaries from 1997 to 2004, when ironically I got my first genuinely creative job and stopped writing for fun. Now it takes an emotion as strong as the howl above to force me into it! I’ll try to make it a habit…

  15. Bravo you! I’ve bravo’ed you through the walk around Wales and all the rest of it and I bravo you now for writing beautifully and honestly about how life feels, hopefully only sometimes!

  16. I think more people should say these things! Your words are not at all boring, or not to me. Sometimes I feel like mothers are silenced in our culture because of the myth that women’s stories are boring. Now I’m reading Hollie McNish’s brilliant ‘Nobody Told Me’ and it’s the first time I’ve felt my experience of motherhood reflected back to me. And that’s despite trawling the mummies blogs to seek it out! So write your stories and be proud! And if no-one publishes it because we live in a sexist culture that finds mothers boring, then publish it yourself! I think there are probably a million new mothers and fathers desperate to read it. Oh and by the way, this is so much better written than any moany mummy blog I’ve come across ☺

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