Not that long ago — less than a year — and enduring habitually for a considerable season — it was not unusual to wake on a Saturday morning with a dull dread within.
The space opening up ahead of me threatened emptiness on the scale of mundanity. You see what I mean? Not an epic emptiness that might promote wonder or inwardly lubricating awe. You know: as in mountain grandeur, or endless desert? Such emptiness as that offers a comforting distraction.
No. This was a mundane emptiness. Really nothing to complain about. Yet my innards regularly did precisely that. They groaned inwardly, as only innards can do.
Sporting events provided the most relief. The Six Nations positively lit up my life on an annual basis, emblazoning five wintry Saturdays, inside two short months, with a bloody, fiery collision of red, green, white and blue! Ardent colours of nationalistic competition, providing gladiatorial warfare: rugby played with an intensity capable of lifting, invigorating, frustrating and dumping you, coiled in a embrace of feverish anxiety and disgust. We writhe, in sympathetic struggles and wrestles, we fans, pushing our champions onwards, the visceral need for a taste of victory embodied not only by the battle-worn players themselves upon the muddy field, but also by us, in our tortured, angst-ridden souls, even whilst ensconsed in our homes.
It does that to you, sport, if you let it. Pity those that look oddly on us: they who have not, cannot, will not share in the cause of our explosive, pulsatimg joy. Sport, enjoyed with soulful passion, through a TV screen? Not even there in the stadium? Pity us not. We are there: in spirit, inside the hallowed stadia to which we’ve temporarily bound our joy.
Is this then an ode to sporting joy and sorrow? Not at all. It is merely to observe the relish that such contests may bring to an empty weekend. And how the absence of such adds weight to the onset of the peculiar maudlin precipitated by a weekend vista whelmed by ordinariness.
You need to get a life, someone says. Perhaps. Perhaps I have one, but trouble to extend it into my weekend space?
In fact, I do have one. As I write this on a Saturday morning. It’s really not so very different to the one that evoked the dread I felt. But it is different enough that the dread has gone. No Six Nations in sight.
What has changed? Everything and nothing. Some really vital personal lifestyle changes that will need their own particular words of elucidation, have indubitably been instrumental. The net effect, I think, can best be summed up thus: I am learning to love the life I live, rather than to long for a life I’d love to live.
I still dream. Hope has not been buried. But I’ve drawn my horizons more closely around me, permitting myself to enjoy the predictability, mundanity and domesticity of the forthcoming empty weekend.