A number of life events pierce a person’s sense of finite time. Becoming a parent sits high on my list.
My husband craved financial stability before we decided to start a family. For me, it was feeling the sting of our temporal existence; I watched my mother and aunt battle cancer at the same time. Tapping into the courage of facing this terror bludgeoned trepidation about possible motherhood.
I fell pregnant toward the end of their treatment. Our growing foetus became a bastion of continuity, hope in the dark. Our baby boy arrived on a glorious day in November. Ten days later I felt like I’d died. Everything on my physical and metaphysical plane was challenged, dispersed, an overturned jar of proverbial marbles.
A decade on, I’m now grateful for that terrifying mess, the madness of sleep deprivation, the torture of those early breastfeeding days, the sense that my life was oozing away beneath me, fat gloop swirling underfoot. I skimmed depression, half dressed on the best of days, forgotten showers. A fog descended. I waded through the days, surrendering to the incessant challenges of having a miniscule human depending on its parents.
Without realising, I toned my fearlessness in the face of this daunting task, honing confidence to make mistakes (hundreds), trusting I was doing my best. This new family member became my personal trainer, sharpening my determination and curiosity for ambitions beyond the survival of our infant. He made me understand that, in the end, his survival depended far more on me preserving my own.
Our babies (now plural!) taught me resilience, unswerving focus (try distracting a toddler in the middle of a tantrum), about the magnitude of human emotions (did I mention tantrum?) which I would argue I had not given myself permission to feel in their entirety till I became a mother. The old version of me died so that I could find the courage and drive to create. I learnt to welcome the liberation and excruciating limbo of not knowing how a piece of writing would shape up. The exact place I operate from as a parent feeds my creative life.
Our children have taught me to be attuned to the moment, to be sensitive to all that is unsaid (they are powerful conduits for undercurrents unspoken and will act out accordingly, for better or for worse!). They taught me how to relinquish to naps in order to grow and refresh. I’m emotionally bruised and fortified by living with two young children.
They force me to work toward the best version of myself, to never waste time in wishing, to never let the world stream by without dipping into whatever area of it I feel I must participate in. And most of all, they teach me how to revisit Wonder. Wonder is questions without fixed answers. Wonder is starting with a blank page and not panicking. I would even go so far, on my lyrical tangent, to argue Wonder is the art of being alive.
But on a practical level, what does working toward balance between creative tangents and making sure dinner is on the table look like? For us, it looks like selling your apartment and moving into your parent’s home to live en masse and divide living costs. It means reducing our outgoings and possessions. It means acknowledging there are days when I can write a chapter with the ease of swimming a length of a pool, buoyant, streamlined, effortful in the most positive way. And welcoming the other days when nothing fits, the sky is an insipid grey, my body is recoiling followed fast by my imagination.
I suppose its not attaching to either of these states but witnessing them without a judgemental eye, as they fly in and by necessity of the human condition, fly back out. It’s accepting help when it’s offered, with the children, the dinner. It’s about not being proud, not being a control freak (of things / people / schedules). It’s trying not to over schedule your time on the planet, rendering it meaningless. It’s about not over scheduling your children’s lives either, nor that of your imagined worlds. It’s about allowing yourself and your children to greet moments of limbo, boredom, indecision, despair as the crazy gifts they are, especially for people who are focused on creating, be that stories, food, homes or futures.
If I can pass on only one message to our noisemakers, I hope it’s that a creative life has value and, like people, must be fed, nurtured and let loose at regular intervals.
Sara Alexander graduated from Hampstead School in London and went on to attend the University of Bristol, graduating with a BA hons. in Theatre, Film & TV. She followed on to complete her postgraduate diploma in acting from Drama Studio London. She has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries,including roles in much loved productions such as Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Dr. Who and Franco Zeffirelli’s Sparrow.
Find out more about her on her Website http://www.saraalexander.net/
About Under a Sardinian Sky
Sometimes a family’s deepest silences hide the most important secrets. For Mina, a London-based travel writer, the enigmatic silence surrounding her aunt Carmela has become a personal obsession. Carmela disappeared from her Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her family’s Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother battling cancer, it’s time to learn the truth.
In 1952, Simius is a busy Sardinian town surrounded by fertile farms and orchards. Carmela Chirigoni, a farmer’s daughter and talented seamstress, is engaged to Franco, son of the area’s wealthiest family. Everyone agrees it’s a good match. But Carmela’s growing doubts about Franco’s possessiveness are magnified when she meets Captain Joe Kavanagh. Joe, an American officer stationed at a local army base, is charismatic, intelligent, and married. Hired as his interpreter, Carmela resolves to ignore her feelings, knowing that any future together must bring upheaval and heartache to both families.
As Mina follows the threads of Carmela’s life to uncover her fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and extraordinary love.
“This enchanting novel is a delightful read, perfectly suited for a warm beach with a cold beverage. Readers who enjoy Adriana Trigiani’s historical Italian family sagas will adore Alexander’s debut.” –Booklist
“Readers will become immersed in Mina’s journey into the past as she explores the nature and prejudices of her aunt’s time, the complexities of familial relationships, and the allure of love. Alexander’s novel will leave readers riveted until the explosive conclusion.” –Publishers Weekly
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