This is a guest post from author and actress Sara Alexander, whose new book Under a Sardinian Sky is released this week.
My husband craved financial stability before we decided to start a family. For me, it was feeling the sting of our temporal existence; I watched my mother and aunt battle cancer at the same time. Tapping into the courage of facing this terror bludgeoned trepidation about possible motherhood.
I fell pregnant toward the end of their treatment. Our growing foetus became a bastion of continuity, hope in the dark. Our baby boy arrived on a glorious day in November. Ten days later I felt like I’d died. Everything on my physical and metaphysical plane was challenged, dispersed, an overturned jar of proverbial marbles. A decade on, I’m now grateful for that terrifying mess, the madness of sleep deprivation, the torture of those early breastfeeding days, the sense that my life was oozing away beneath me, fat gloop swirling underfoot. I skimmed depression, half dressed on the best of days, forgotten showers. A fog descended. I waded through the days, surrendering to the incessant challenges of having a miniscule human depending on its parents. Without realising, I toned my fearlessness in the face of this daunting task, honing confidence to make mistakes (hundreds), trusting I was doing my best. This new family member became my personal trainer, sharpening my determination and curiosity for ambitions beyond the survival of our infant. He made me understand that, in the end, his survival depended far more on me preserving my own.
Our babies (now plural!) taught me resilience, unswerving focus (try distracting a toddler in the middle of a tantrum), about the magnitude of human emotions (did I mention tantrum?) which I would argue I had not given myself permission to feel in their entirety till I became a mother. The old version of me died so that I could find the courage and drive to create. I learnt to welcome the liberation and excruciating limbo of not knowing how a piece of writing would shape up. The exact place I operate from as a parent feeds my creative life.
Our children have taught me to be attuned to the moment, to be sensitive to all that is unsaid (they are powerful conduits for undercurrents unspoken and will act out accordingly, for better or for worse!). They taught me how to relinquish to naps in order to grow and refresh. I’m emotionally bruised and fortified by living with two young children. They force me to work toward the best version of myself, to never waste time in wishing, to never let the world stream by without dipping into whatever area of it I feel I must participate in. And most of all, they teach me how to revisit Wonder. Wonder is questions without fixed answers. Wonder is starting with a blank page and not panicking. I would even go so far, on my lyrical tangent, to argue Wonder is the art of being alive.
Growing up in North West London, Sara attended Hampstead Comprehensive School alongside Zadie Smith, before going on to graduate the University of Bristol with a BA honours in Theatre, Film & Television, and Drama Studio London with a postgraduate diploma in acting. Exploring her Sardinian heritage, Sara perfectly conjures the island in Under a Sardinian Sky a novel about family obligations, possessive relationships and star-crossed love in post war Sardinia. Sara channels her own family history and her vast acting experience into this moving exploration of the weight of silence, the pressure to be selfless for your family, and the lines between love and possession.
Under a Sardinian Sky by Sara Alexander (HQ, £7.99) is released on April 20th. A review will follow shortly on this blog.