Christmas / impending doom

You were on a train heading home and not feeling too shabby about things when you received your brother’s email.

The brief trip to London had arguably been worth it.  You’d maintained connections with established contacts, made one or two new ones, shown your face, proved you weren’t dead.  Your industry nemesis was there, and caused a spinetingle, as ever.  You studiously ignored each other, as ever.  Bitch.

You’d resolved to try and be a little more proactive in these couple of months.  To sit at your desk in your flat for seven or eight hours a day, five days a week, constantly doing work which makes you money: that’s stupidly unrealistic and you should know that by know.  It’s when you have consecutive days without doing anything paid, that’s what starts to dredge at the soul.  You have to do other things for intangible benefits, for your sanity.

It was a shame you couldn’t hang around for the evening networking drinks, which make networking much easier.  But you had to head back to continue that thing you were doing which was giving you purpose, which made you feel like stuff you did could actually matter.  You’d clashed diary items but it was forgivable.  It was fine.

Your brother’s email was a matter-of-fact ‘by the way’ addendum to a bantery earlier exchange about your photographs.  It said that he and his family would be spending Christmas with his wife’s family in Wales this year, only stopping by your parental home for a couple of days after the main event.

You sank in your seat and curled your lip, watching Paddington begin to trundle past outside your window.  Bollocks, you thought, and imagined sitting with your parents and the dog, mostly in silence, throughout the festive season.  That is, when your mother wouldn’t be wittering her inanities that you’d have to smile peaceably at.

Brother and his family, wife and young children, bring a carnival atmosphere of distracting mayhem.   Without that there’s an enormous vacuum of you and your nothing.  WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?! the silence appears to scream, together with the concerned glance of your mother, because you can’t help but look glum for the most part.  It’s a quite profoundly depressing.  You’re forced to reflect because absolutely nothing about the experience is even slightly novel.  Another Christmas here, like virtually every other one in your living memory, in this house, in this room, sat on this fucking sofa.  Not even the brother’s kids to bring levity.

How old are you now?  Sheesh..

The train ploughed on through London suburbs, some of them desolated and eerie, and you considered your troubling relationship with your mum, or your lack of one.  Your father’s general disinterest was more manageable in a way.  You’d reached an entente which, although occasionally it might irk you, it was essentially fine: you could talk about other stuff and had learned to cope without his support.  With your mother it was more troubling because she desperately appeared to want to know you, but she was useless at it.

She was one of those people who computed everything anyone said to her as meaning: “have you ever been there / felt that / seen that / thought that?”  And would accept anything you said as a cue to speak about her own take.  She did it with friends up at the pub too, not just you.  It was her conversational manner, which somewhat hamstrung the chance of having conversations about anything that wasn’t directly to do with her experience of something.  And it didn’t help that her own experience of things was usually quite tedious.

Brother openly berated you for not indulging her as well as him, which you conceded but were unable to summon the appropriate level of effort.  He was a better actor.  It wasn’t your way and in any case your performance would have to be significantly longer.  It was basically true though; you were never overflowing with patience.  Perhaps you could try harder this year.

When you’d discussed the dysfunction with a friend whose maternal relationship you openly envied – such a sharp, intelligent woman – he asked if you’d raised it with her.  You had a few years ago.  It had been mutually upsetting and not changed a thing.

Should you just let it lie though, because “that’s the way it is”?  Or isn’t that somehow patronising, to think that she couldn’t cope?  She’s always been naïve and childlike in a way – which makes you think it would be pointless, but she’s also a sixty year old woman, not massively intelligent but also not senile, yet.  Surely in hindsight she’d be grateful if it forced her to adjust conversational habits and helped to develop a slightly better relationship?  Or is that a ridiculously ambitious goal? Would it all just be unnecessarily upsetting and dramatic?  Should we all just dance around her and make the widely accepted concessions which being someone’s offspring demands of us.

What goes around..  It’s family..

You thought about speaking again, or maybe emailing, which might be better in giving distance, allowing her to digest what you’re saying more rationally, less emotionally.  You probably wouldn’t though, would you?  Or you could just be less of an insensitive prick and try harder with her: perform, smile, laugh.  If you can be moderately nice and charming in a business setting with people you just met, why couldn’t you with your own mother?

Bah, humbug.

Your head bobbed against the window, halfway between London and Reading, the warm sunset haze fading out to grey.  You fell asleep.

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