I’m huffing up the stairs, socks straggling and escaping from the jumble in my arms. Every two steps one piece of clean laundry falls and I stop and pick it up and three more fall instead. It takes five minutes to go upstairs, which would be nothing in a mansion but an irritatingly long time in an average three-bedroomed terrace house, and by the time I finally dump the laundry – all of it, including the would-be escapees – on the bed for ironing, my mood has plummeted and I can’t decide if I’m boiling with rage (at absolutely everything and nothing) or inexpressibly sad.
I don’t know where it came from, this wave of … whatever it is. One minute I’m pulling the bin back into the garden after Bin Day, breathing in deeply, taking a moment before going back inside, before that big black cloud bursts; the next, the cloud has burst and that wave hits me, growing as I go up the stairs.
I throw the washing onto the bed; I throw my phone after it, and stare at the jumbled heap in disgust as the rain beats on the window. I’m tempted to throw it all in the basket and do it another day, but we need clean clothes and I know it will build up into something unmanageable if I don’t do it.
One foot in front of the other.
I have been through multiple rounds of cognitive behaviour therapy, and I’ve learned my little tricks. I know one of the things that helps is music, so rather than flick through Netflix aimlessly looking for something to watch while I iron, I choose a playlist on Spotify. One I made when I was going through CBT Round 3, I think: songs from the early 2000s, when Britney Spears and Ricky Martin were on The Box and Gareth Gates lost out to Will Young on Pop Idol. I put that on shuffle, and I sit down and start sorting the stuff that isn’t to iron but to be folded and put away.
Somewhere in the middle of folding pants and rolling socks, I realise that I’m breathing more deeply. I don’t feel like my head is spinning and buzzing and full of emotion. And, with all the triteness of a Hollywood rom-com miracle moment, just as Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are singing ‘Elephant Love Medley’ from Moulin Rouge, the sun starts streaming into the room.
And there are two, then four, soft little arms around me, giving me a cuddle and saying “love you, Mummy.”