When people ask me what I do, I silently judge them for their nosiness before telling them I’m a copywriter. I then explain what a copywriter is, unless they’re fans of ‘Madmen’, in which case I explain what a copywriter isn’t. But I don’t really have the time for writing at the moment. Just the creation of that sentence has guaranteed that the bathroom I should be cleaning will, at best, be left with a smeared mirror, while the sentence explaining about the smeared mirror has probably ensured I won’t have time to mop the floor. If I don’t stop explaining stuff, the bathroom will be a no-go area for all those not in possession of hazmat gear. As usual. But the heart wants what it wants and a writer writes and meta crap like that, so I’m neglecting the list of jobs that are mounting up in order to write this. I’m sure my expected visitors will at least be polite enough to pretend they can’t see the mess as long as they’re here and will only comment on my inadequacy once I’m out of earshot.
There are always things I should do, but don’t. Find more work, sleep more, get more exercise, wash a dish now and then, train one of the cats to switch the kettle on … important stuff like that. And there’s also the other list; the things I shouldn’t be doing, or shouldn’t be doing as much: eat less sugar, tweet less, yell less at political programmes, write fewer lists … But, at the risk of accidentally plagiarising Hallmark’s output for the last century, the thing I should be concentrating on, should have always been concentrating on, is appreciating the things I have while I have them instead of worrying about what I used to have, think I should have had or wish I could get in the future.
Shortly after my dad died at the end of 2014, my mum went into a care home. Her dementia had left her with short-term memory problems and some confusion, so visits immediately took on a Groundhog Day ambience, only on a 5-minute loop instead of a 24-hour one, and we struggled to have a conversation. However, a life spent playing board games and doing quizzes had burnt those processes into her brain, so we could still enjoy some quality time together with the Trivial Pursuit or Ludo and little flashes of the intelligence beneath the fog would surface even as she was asking which colour pieces were hers each time it was her turn. I’d leave when it was time for her to have dinner or for me to go and do mum things instead of daughter things and it’d be just another little interlude in a busy life.
So, when she had an accident last month and went to hospital, we lost those games and had nothing left but Groundhog Day and it was hard to take. We were all looking forward to the day when we could get her back to the home and slip back into the routine that would let her be herself again, in some small way. Sadly, that didn’t and won’t happen as she died in the early hours of Wednesday. Comfortable, clean, sleeping, not alone. We could all do a lot worse. Since then, I’ve been cleaning, decorating, making more phone calls than I usually make in a year, eating fast food because I have no time to cook, writing when I shouldn’t be writing and, as ever, not appreciating what I have while I have it. From now on, when people ask what I do, I’ll give them the honest answer; I fiddle while Rome burns.