Well, I haven’t blogged in a while. Been kind of busy and preoccupied with finishing the novel. And also with wrestling my demons. It’s an ongoing fight. Sometimes I think I’m winning, other times, I’m not quite so sure.
Another reason I’ve been busy is I’m on my holidays with the family in Canada. And this kind of goes hand in hand with my struggle right now.
Ok, so I love Canada. I’ve been here many times, albeit only to Ontario. The first time I visited was in 1985. A lovely relative offered to be my sponsor if I wanted to make the move across the ocean more permanent. I was 17. I had a boyfriend back home. I was shy. I was pretty sure I had my life mapped out.
What do we really know at 17? (OK, so don’t answer that if you are 17. And if you are 17, what are you doing reading a middle-aged blog?)
I knew Hamlet pretty well. And I knew the words to the back catalogue of Wham!. (Yes, an exclamation mark was required there.) I knew how to dance en pointe (that’s on your tippy toes in excruciatingly painful ballet shoes). I knew how to make peppermint ice, a decent cup of tea, and how to bowl overarm.
I also knew about the pain of loss and life thereafter. I knew that one day your father could be there, the next he could be gone. Forever. In the most painful way of rejection.
However, I didn’t know that I had choices. I didn’t know about risk-taking. I didn’t know about stepping out of the boat.
If I knew then what I know now, what would I have done? Would I have taken that chance and gone to Canada?
I don’t know. But this is what did happen: The boyfriend (still a virtual friend in case he’s reading this) didn’t last forever. I left home. I went to university, the first woman in my family. I got an English degree and a major episode of depression. I lost a cousin and an aunt. I got engaged. I graduated. I got married.
But, all the time…. this feeling that my life hadn’t yet started.
Was it a restlessness, a knowledge that life is transient, temporary, a gift on loan to us? Was it just me? Was it my genes?
To put it plainly, why did my daddy drive off in a car, leaving his wife and three kids behind? Why did he fix a hose to his exhaust and breathe in those poisonous fumes that made him sleep forever?
We don’t know. No note. No definitive reason. Just conjecture.
I was ten when he died. I never knew his parents. His dad died back in the 50s of some tropical disease. His mother died of cancer when I was a baby. Her mother had died in childbirth when she and her twin were just six years old. There’s no one to ask if there is a genetic link there somewhere. All I can do is try to fill in the gaps. Which is what a writer does when she makes up stories. She asks ‘what if?’
So I ask myself, on the weekend that I become the exact age my father was when he died, ‘what if?’. What if I had gone to Canada after leaving school? What if I had gone to a university in Toronto and studied anthropology? What if I had got a job in a museum and had a special interest in the elders of the First Nations of Canada? What if I had got married to a red-blooded Canadian and become a hockey mom?
As someone once said to me (actually the same lovely relative who offered to sponsor me back in the day), life is about how you react to the decisions you make. Well, I am reacting right now. I am alone in a hotel room in downtown Toronto. I am wondering if I should hitch a ride out to Saskatchewan? Trek up to see those Northern Lights. Fly to the moon.
Or what if I just went to bed with my usual sleeping pill and slept the sleep of the dead. No dreams. No nightmares. Just numbness.
Well, I’d wake up tomorrow and wash and dress and eat and go about my everyday ordinary life. And I’d try to make it work, this life I have. For my family and those I care about. For my dad. My ancestors.
And yes, if you are reading this and wondering, what the heck is going on in Sophie’s brain? Well, it’s pretty much what goes on in Sophie’s brain everyday. Only I’m allowing myself this indulgence of speaking out online as this is a momentous weekend.
As somebody else once said, tomorrow is another day. I don’t know what life has in store for me but I guess I will just have to step out of the boat.