I believe it was Aristotle (though with my half-cocked education, it might also have been Churchill or Buzz Lightyear) who defined happiness as the complete and habitual exercise of all one's functions. Which is fine if you are an Ancient Greek who needs only exercise his need to scamper the hills of Athens in a Dionysian fashion, enjoy the odd orgy, some shotputting and running and heaps of olives and Nana Mouskouri albums.
For a long time, I have felt overwhelmed to the point of mania by the myriad of functions I am expected to exercise. So in the spring, when the Colonel left after several years of false starts, I had the time and space to examine my functions. Like Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters, I did a lot of beetling about in baggy cords, muttering at the pavement and tilting at priests. It was an improbable acupuncturist, a former Chelsea wine dealer turned shaman healer who countered the Greek with some ancient Chinese wisdom. Something along the lines of "you need to have nothing before you can claim to have anything at all." I may have got that wrong - I was distracted by the copper forest of needles bristling along my Gate of Hope.
However, in the last nine months, I have distilled my roles to one: Mummy. I have baked and walked the dog, read books in the afternoon and stopped trying to make things happen. Just existing has been enough. Emptying my life has been frightening and liberating, but silence, it turns out, has its own sweet music.
Last weekend, Edward and I went to Bath, which glowed in a late autumn Georgian ochre. We walked through damp piles of pungent oak leaves and thawed hands and hearts over hot coffee and hazelnut cake. We are giving our marriage a second chance. Slowly, privately. Just the four of us. And the dog. And bloody Aristotle.