In about 6 weeks I go back to work full time. Ouch – it’s a downer, but if I’m honest, its not too bad, because I’ve not felt like myself for a large portion of the last 5 months. Or of the last year, maybe.
Being off work, being the only man in most rooms I’m in, drinking coffee alone, having the same conversation with dozens of mums I will never meet again, all the while trying to figure out whether I’m doing ok. Writing a blog to help with that. None of it really feels like me. Going back to work will be a relief in some ways because I’ll be firmly back in my comfort zone, a safe little triangle of work, home and friends, in which all is known.
Fucking comfort zones eh? Too tempting by half. Its new year, there is lots of talk of resolutions new beginnings and change, and the last 6 months have certainly given me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and what I’m comfortable with. About what I can change about myself. I initially assumed that 6 months is long enough to develop some new habits, to shake off old constraints and focus on things I always wanted to do. But it turns out some things are fixed. My novel went nowhere. I wrote about 4 songs but only finished one of them. Same as it ever was.
And then there’s watching a baby grow and develop. If ever you need a lesson in personality, just watch a baby closely for a while (preferably one you have a relationship with, I’m not talking binoculars at the playground). So much about a baby is fixed from birth. I didn’t believe that would be the case, but it’s undeniable. Ours is a furious, twitchy, curious box of endless energy who will not be tamed. She was like that at week one and she’s like that now. She exhibits the same traits in every new environment she encounters. Its fixed.
It’s convinced me that we’ve all got our defaults, and though we can learn to mitigate them, or imitate others, our basic instincts cannot be shed. Maybe that’s why my comfort zone is so attractive, and why in many ways I have felt odd, and ill at ease at points in the last 6 months.
The life of a stay at home parent is a lovely, lazy lifestyle in many ways. It’s nice to wander through, and interesting to watch a whole different world of daytime stuff, of prams and shoppers, umbrellas, lunchtime drunks, young truants and scared old ladies. But its not my default to be here, doing this, writing this. I don’t enjoy passing hours making small talk with strangers because there’s nothing else to do. I feel fake, like I’m hiding behind a front. My mouth is saying things like “yeah she sleeps through” and “have you tried Infacol?” but my brain is sat in the background thinking “what the fuck, John, your nicotine-tampon idea would make a way better conversation than this”.
But but but, just once in a while, the same conversation about sleep or feeding takes an unexpected turn, and I realise that today’s random stranger is someone great, someone I’d never have met if I’d stuck to my defaults and hidden in my shell, following my instincts.
They’re a trap, sometimes.