I spend a lot of time every day wishing for space. I’m not being greedy here – I’m not pleading with the universe to grant me solitary mountaintops, or vast plains, or a deep, crystal clear lake.
Just two minutes to pee in private would be nice. Or maybe silence while I’m changing the baby’s nappy, instead of a three-year-old shouting loudly, “Look at me, look at me, Mummy! MUMMY, LOOK AT ME MUMMEEEE! LOOK! LOOK!”
I would say that on average eight times a day, I long for actual, physical space – space away from little people who are intent on pulling my hair, climbing onto my back, attempting to jam fingers up my nose and generally clambering all over me, clinging to my limbs as if hanging off branches of a tree.
But then something happened, and I got struck with the realisation that, one day, I will have all the space I have craved. One day, when my skin is the texture of autumn leaves, I will long for their touch.
Two weeks ago, my Nan died.
She had a lot of space.
I often blame the physical distance between us, because we lived 300 miles apart. But I could have picked up the phone more often than I did. And now, I am caught in a kind of limbo, wishing I had spoken to her more and knowing there is no longer time.
I have not always been a good granddaughter.
I didn’t cry for weeks. I felt so removed from her passing.
And then, the morning we were due to visit her house, I sat on the toilet seat in a Premier Inn on the outskirts of her hometown in South Wales, and I sobbed so hard I retched into a paper sanitary disposal bag.
Because even if you haven’t been physically close to someone for a long while, if they are woven into the fabric of your childhood, your memories, your DNA, it will hit you, even if it doesn’t hit you right away.
And then, when you are feeling sad and regretful and guilty, it can take someone else you love to bring you back. My son, in his unique little way, brought me back.
To persuade him to wear a smart shirt to the funeral, I told him he could wear whatever he wanted at the ‘little party’ afterwards.
I am such a tit.
And so it was my three-year-old rocked up to my Nan’s wake dressed as Buzz Lightyear. At one point he even declared rather loudly, “To infinity and beyond!” Which, I suppose, summed the whole event up quite nicely. Good job my family have a sense of humour.
Despite having said my goodbyes, the remorse lingered. It trailed me home along the M4.
I knew what I needed. I needed to run.
So I did. And it worked. The guilt fell away – for then, anyway. I ran further than I have for a long time. I ran through deep mud and puddles and up a killer hill. With my legs burning and my lungs screaming, I ran into nothingness; into the space I needed in my head.
And while I ran, things became a little clearer: my Nan had been unhappy for a long time, ever since she lost my grandfather, 17 years ago.
Now somewhere, somehow, she is back with the love of her life.
Perhaps, after all, this is what I need. Not more space (although I will always long to pee in private). But more time with the people I love. Even if that does mean little feet jabbing me in the ribs as they clamber all over me.
Because right now, I have all the time in the world.