Time for a Bath

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

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.


  1. How very brave of you to bare your soul like this. I wish I was a wise man and could share some pearls with you. All I got is a sincere wish that all goes well for you and yours.

  2. As Buzz always says "To infinity and beyond!" - here's wishing you contentment for your future....and a big hug x

  3. The good thing about Aristotle is he is unlikely to interfere. Best of luck to you - I hope everything turns out for the very best.

  4. You know, I tried to do something similar about a year ago. "No projects," I told myself. While I was doing nothing, the house was much happier.

    And now with the wisdom of experience, I can just say, "Don't fall off the wagon."

  5. Dearest Els,

    Last Sunday after my hysterical happiness at finding you posted up, I sent you a long e-mail. Today it wended its way back into my "Mailer somethingorother" unable to be delivered, spam box.

    I think what you have shared here is such a magnificent leap of faith toward us. It's touching to have you tell us and trust us.

    But, then again, you know we all love you and more than anything in the world wish for your happiness. And, I'm sure I'm speaking for more than just moi meme, making us happy with your magnificent, heart-rendering, hilarious writing is deeply appreciated. You make us happy.


  6. I really apologize for being such an idiot, but Edward is the Colonel is the boys' father? Or they are 2 or 3 different people? I cannot remember for the life of me. Which really isn't your problem, and doesn't change the fact that I am so sorry you've been going through this and I really hope all works out. I'm divorced, the experience was hideous. I think having a marriage that has survived distress must be a wonderful thing.

  7. My marriage of 13 years has been over for almost ten. There's not a day I don't think about her. She remarried last summer. I always thought if she remarried I would stop thinking about her. Happy she found happiness. But I still think about her. Every day.


Please leave a comment if you can be remotely bothered - anything you have to say is valuable and I absolutely love hearing from you all. Elizabeth