It was my birthday last week; not especially an important one, except for one reason. I am now the same age as my mother. Weird. It’s weird to imagine me leading her life, when ours diverged significantly. Weird thinking about the responsibilities and worries she had that I don’t and never will. Weird to think about what she achieved compared to what I have, when it’s not a race nor a competition. And I don’t want to think about this. Which is why I am writing about it instead.
And yet, being the same age invites comparisons. I have such an urge to write lists and tally everything: Mum held more art exhibitions, but more of my writing is published. Blah, blah, blah. Mum could swim, I really can’t properly (but am about to learn). Mum was married, I am not (I think I win that round). The lists don’t mean much because the conditions are different. Times have changed. She can’t, except in what she means to me and to those who loved and knew her.
This is a glitch in my mainframe as it once more processes the uneven passage of time and memory, the fragility of all life, and my own mortality. It happens, now and again, given the occurrence of certain anniversaries and such like. My system re-calibrates, sometimes automatically, like a laptop with daylight savings, and the days roll on.
Sometimes the adjustment takes more effort.
If there are profound psychological insights to be made from this circumstance, I’m not sure I’ll be making many.
I’m also uncertain if any I might have will translate beyond this…? Surely this experience is common enough? Eventually.
Of course, there are times I wish things were different. I imagine what we could have achieved had we collaborated properly back then, but neither of us thought to. We didn’t have the capacity. The timing was off, school/work, lack of confidence, life, etc, etc ad infinitum.
Could have beens are a nightmare maze of what ifs that never can be. If I have one insight, it is this: avoid them. They are springes to catch woodcocks, as Hamlet said, and my high school English teacher liked to quote.
Thus, imagining what we could achieve now, writing/arting together is beyond me. I can’t even see what my mother would be like in her 60s today, although I believe her art practice would have evolved. But she had her time, as short as it was. My mother, having overcome many reservations and disbelief in herself, while coping with myriad barriers, managed to achieve quite a bit, whatever I want to tally.
Despite imagined attempts, I’m yet to balance my side of this ledger.
But then, I have the time she never got.