I have a stone sitting on my kitchen window-sill with my name on it. Most days I don’t even to stop to recognise it, and I suppose most days I forget that it tells me who I am – I am more than ‘mummy’, I am more than a weary housewife or a guilt-ridden family member. Especially, I am more than ‘the one who has MS’ (said in the obligatory concerned, gossipy whisper). I am Ruth.
Interestingly, I got that stone on what was possibly one of the worst days of my life, when my whole identity seemed to be flying away at the rate of knots. That day, I could barely walk. I had to abandon my dignity (and my shoes) at the door of my brother’s wedding. And the funny thing was, hardly anybody noticed. I was hiding behind my daughter’s push-chair, and behind my son’s entertaining ways. And I was glad of that, but heart-broken too. I look at the photos of myself that day, and all I see is someone who doesn’t know where she is, or who she is. I am Ruth.
Although, I haven’t even been able to be the other things I know I’m meant to be, and live to be. I haven’t been able to be ‘mummy’ either. The mummy who chases her son around the house and never fails to take him a walk every day. The mummy who can carry him up the stairs to bed, or lift him up when he’s dizzy or hurt. I have been the invalid who lies down every afternoon and tells him off for bouncing on the bed. Who cries too much and shouts too much. Now I’m getting better, these things must be redeemed. I am mummy.
Sadly too, I haven’t been the wife I know my husband hopes I will be. I say no to every spontaneous trip out, and I get in a state if I stay up late, terrified I won’t be able to manage the next day. I don’t want to be someone that is always tired, and always sick. I don’t want to be bound by my lack of energy and my fears about the future. I want to be a good wife, a joyful wife, a loving wife and a wife who is properly alive. I am his Ruth too.