Friday, February 28, 2014

Time and Biscuits

It's been a few non-alcoholic drinks between posts, but I'm back and flumped on the good old blogging couch, recovering from my first foray into the working mummy world. 

After a year in the twenty-four-seven parenting game, with teethers and tantrums and teddies (and tearing out my brittle hair with alarming frequency and effectiveness), I was ready and almost excitedly waiting for my return to work to herald an upheaval of epic proportions. 

Prepared to be swallowed whole by the real world and seventeen thousand red-flagged emails, I put on a skirt, jammed some breastpads down my bra, wiped the toast from my blouse, grabbed a child unfriendly muesli bar and slobber-free water bottle and retraced the steps of my previous life to the train station.

Stepping back through the grimy doors of the morning peak hour train turned out to be an unpleasantly pleasant letdown, like a return to the same point in the mundane romance novel I had completely forgotten I was reading last year. 

For the most part, it appears the same cast of characters from my previous life chapter are all still on stage and ready for the next sector of my working journey - appropriately sleepy, hairsprayed, briefcased, toothpasted, headphoned and jaded.

The key players are still there, playing their parts. The angry girl who somehow manages to squeeze goth streetwear into the conformity of nine-to-five office attire. The mousey haired woman with the eternally crumpled jacket and sensible lunch bag. The obnoxious bicycle man with the exceptionally oversized backpack. The guy with the epic collection of fantasy novels. And the usual cluster of Carriage Seven school girls decked out in blue and white and stripe and straw. 

Despite the slap of a bitter winter and a long scorching summer, the train still bucks just the same way on the tracks that it always did. The ticket machines malfunction just as frequently, the wind still rips through the station overhang with the same ferocity, the tram dings the same way it always has, and the coffee place halfway between the tram and the office still takes as inhumanly long as isn't really possible to make a short latte on the run. 

Time has passed and the calendar has come full circle, but the time warp has found its way into the office as well. Colleagues have come and gone, the phone system has been replaced, and the cream biscuits in the communal kitchen tin have sadly been replaced by plain - but the calls still come and the issues still run and the fluorescent lights still flicker just the same. 

My business cards are still in the second desk drawer, along with a forgotten pump pack of moisturiser, silver coins leftover from the ghost of coffees past, and a pile of long-forgotten filing tattooed with my trademark scrawling sticky notes and bent paperclips. Evidence that I did exist here once before, and that my pregnancy brain was in full swing when I packed up my desk a year ago.

Somehow, right through the soul shattering screaming match of birth and the sleep deprivation of early parenthood, my ability to function behind a desk and my recall of procedures and protocols and important calendar dates and phone extension numbers has remained intact. 

Even my name has been retained in the complicated new phone system, which I have no idea how to use, almost as if my parallel self was there in the office all along while I wasn't. Or was I?

It feels eerily like I've walked back into a parallel universe, one that was mine and is mine, but actually wasn't and isn't and won't be mine at all, even if the cream biscuits are returned to their rightful tin. 

Sitting at my old desk, trying to feel current, trying to pick reality from real, it is plain that while some elements of my universe are identical to how they used to be, others have flown the coop and have no intention of ever coming back down from the big blue sky.

Belonging and longing have become two entirely separate but identical things, divided into a smattering of small segments that can never be put back together the way that they started, but will also somehow be one and the very same. 

If it wasn't for the exploding boobs and the desperate need to pick up some carrots and teething gel and make it to the childcare centre by six, I could almost get sucked into the time warp and let belonging and longing rest together in the filing cabinet until 5pm. 

Almost, almost, nearly. But not quite.

Have you discovered any parallel universes on your parenting journey? I'd love to hear your stories.

M x  

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