A Conundrum

 

Sometimes it feels like all I do is moan about not having sufficient time to do all  the things I want to do, but when I do have the time I struggle to work out what it was I wanted to do.

I’m trying to keep mindful about this, to observe the frustration and the boredom and the indecisiveness and just be with it for a while, but it’s not easy. I am so much more organised now than I’ve been in a long while, but I don’t especially feel like I have anything that important in my schedule to organise. I have a natty Filofax and stacks of index cards (which are my default to-do list receptacles) but all my ideas and creativity seem to have flown out of the window.

I was in a grump this morning, about all of the above and a few more things, I’m sure. I did fifty-five minutes of Wii Fit Plus which certainly helped -and eased the horrid sluggishness that has been increasing exponentially with the hip and back pain – but the grumpiness is still hovering like a carrion crow in my peripheral vision, ready to dice down and peck at me.

Tomorrow is another day: this mood can’t last for ever.

My good intentions were lead astray

Stairs to nowhere, Llandudno

I’ve had a funny old week.

 

I’m not quite sure where it went. True, I did spend three days of it training to be a workplace manual handling assessor (and I learnt some good tips and tricks to preserve my skeleton) but as to the rest of it, I don’t know.

The course facilitators were telling us it takes 21 days to make a habit. I thought it was a bit more than that, but more crucially, I’ve realised that this has been a week when habits have slipped, and maybe that’s why I’m feeling somewhat detached right now. For the past few weeks I’ve felt grounded and alive and present like I haven’t for a long time, but this past week something seems to have slipped slightly, and I’m finding myself sluggish and lacking vitality.

That happy, zingy feeling I was enjoying waking up to seems to have slunk off somewhere.

I know I’ve missed a few days taking my wonderful B Vitamins, and I made a point of buying some more in the supermarket this morning. I wasn’t sure they were that effective, but the slump that’s following their absence is noticeable.

I haven’t been as organised this week. My lists have been a bit half-hearted and I don’t feel like I accomplished much. This is partly, I believe, due to my routine being disrupted by the training course – although, ironically, I actually had a proper 9-5 routine for three days, instead of silly all-over-the-place shifts. Anyway, today I have helped my son clear his list, so something has been achieved.

I haven’t really done any meditation, either. I try to remain mindful as much as I can, but it’s funny, there are a few daydreams that insist on niggling their way back into my consciousness. I want to shout, ‘Emma! Will you STOP thinking that!’ but then I remember that I have to be kind to myself. The Guardian gave away a little book about meditation yesterday as part of their Start Happy campaign; I intend to read it later, and check out some of the recipes and videos on the site, too.

My dreams have been weird, too. I did have some cheese on toast in bed the other night, and then woke up exhausted, like I’d lived another whole life while I was sleeping. Do you ever get ‘cheese dreams?’

On a positive note, I have been to the beach (although it was a week ago) and bought some khaki trousers and a turquoise cardigan, and kept my book list up-to-date (I’ve read at least six books this year so far – is that normal?) so my resolutions continue to have an impact on my life.

Right. I need to go and shake myself, I think.

Snippet

I’ve been following my resolution and jotting down ideas on the back of the 3×5 index cards I use for my daily to-do lists, but somehow nothing has bubbled up out of my subconscious that’s inspired me to write about it. I have some good plans for future posts but I feel the need to do more reading, and to enjoy the research process before I work out what it is I actually want to say.

Suffice to say it revolves around intellectual questions like whether or not Balenciaga handbags have a place in my life…

Anyway, one of the tasks on the day before yesterday’s card said ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and it took me a while to remember what on earth it was about, eventually seizing on the notion that I’d planned to update the writing page here with a charming Sherlock Holmes pastiche I wrote a few years ago.

If you like mysteries, feminism, hallucinogenic substances and conspiracy theories then you may well enjoy it!

  • You can read Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Muses here…

I hereby resolve…

You know, I’ve had every good intention of writing about my New Year’s resolutions.

We’ll ignore the fact that one of them was to write and blog more often and concentrate instead on the reality of my new year so far which has mostly revolved around an evil viral infection that’s taken up residence in my respiratory system.

Anyway – better late than never. Here goes:

  • Visit the beach at least once a week. It really is criminal that I live so close to the sea but never seem to spend enough time enjoying it. The smell of ozone, the sound of the waves – all these things are good for me, and free.
  • Wear more colour. This is actually one of last year’s resolutions which I’m recycling, because it was effective. I have bought more non-black things over the past year, but I still end up taking black as the easy option. I do quite fancy having my colours done, but there’s always the terrifying possibility that I might discover that I should be wearing oyster or taupe or mauve, which would distress me horribly. What I really fancy is a pair of amazing red shoes!
  • Do something with the novel. I wrote a good two-thirds of the novel last year. Most of it happened during NaNoWriMo, and all of it came as a complete surprise, seeing as I’d started believing all the negative self-talk and practically convinced myself I would never write again. Anyway, I need to print it out and read it and then  start moulding it into a more robust shape. Oh, and finish it, too.
  • Make a poetry book. I’ve been wanting to do this on Lulu or Blurb for ages. I want to make something tangible and special to give to people close to me at Christmas. Of course, this means I will have to write some more poems, so this is in fact a resolution within a resolution.
  • Grow three friendships. I think I have enough room in my heart and space in my life to share with more people. I am actively scouting for my new friends right now. Until recently this kind of thing would have terrified me – and also probably earned my scorn – but no more! Now, I’m incredibly excited about meeting new people and strengthening old alliances and I’m not sure I have much to lose.
  • Cook a new recipe every week. I can cook, and I love cooking, but I want to extend my repertoire beyond my staple Italian- and Mexican-based recipes.
  • Catch my ideas. I have good ideas all the time. I have brainwaves and flashes of inspiration daily, but I have a bad habit of not writing them down for further action. I’ve been reading Mind Performance Hacks and picking up some good ideas about how to do this.
  • Meditate. One of the best books I read last year was The Mindful Manifesto. I only picked it up to take advantage of a 3 for 2 offer, but was quickly hooked. I downloaded the mindfulness meditation mp3s that accompany the book, and I’m enjoying using them. I’m taking baby steps onto the path, but already I’m understanding the value of what I’m doing.
  • Record my achievements. I’m planning to review my resolutions here monthly. EDIT – I’ve signed up to the Happiness Project Toolbox to keep track of how well I do!

Did you make any resolutions, or set yourself any goals or challenges for the new year?

My little corner of the world

I wrote a little about my study when I was responding to the #reverb10 prompt about appreciation. I took a few photos but only used one of them. I was just looking at them and realised I need to reflect a little more about the place I come to write – not that it’s the only place I write, I have notebooks with me all the time, and love writing at the beach, and even more so on train journeys – but this is my little corner of the world where I know people will give me some space if I’m writing; it’s the place where my favourite postcards – some of which have been with me for over ten years – hang above my desk, and the shelves my dad made for me are heaving with my accumulated treasures.

 

I should start with my desk. Leo made it for me out of timber left over when we she converted my son’s high sleeper into a cabin bed. It’s the perfect height for me, although I need a new chair. At the moment I’m using one of those weird ergonomic stools that you kneel on. My back loves it but my knees disagree.

As you can see, I share the desk with my dwarf Chinese hamster, Ming. He’s an amputee who lost a toe early in life, but it doesn’t seem to bother him at all.

There’s a lot of stuff crammed into that little corner, a lot of memories; the wig was part of my infamous marionette Hallowe’en costume a few years ago, and the veil you can just see the edges of is attached to one of the mini top hats I made for my Punk Moulin Rouge-themed birthday even longer ago than that.

Lots of Elvis tat, because I love it. I love it so much I submitted a whole portfolio inspired by Elvis tat and its cultural impact as part of my Creative Writing MA. There’s a huge pile of notebooks on the middle shelf. My filing system is based more on archaeological principles than anything more logical – the deeper down you dig the older the stuff usually is. It works for me. (And if you fancy the idea of organising your documents more organically, the Noguchi system is a good place to start).

I found the Mexican puppets in a charity shop. I really do need to make a film with them, because the little man looks very cute when he’s strumming his guitar.

Lady Di’s there because… well, because she’s Lady Di. We have the Queen in the kitchen, on the fridge (stuck on with Elvis magnets, of course).

Flying heart fairy lights and Jesus on my desktop surrounded by tacky silk flowers. These are the things that make me feel like I’m home – the things that sustain me.

The doll on the top shelf, the one on the right-hand side in the orange dress has been with me since I was a very little girl. I’ve got it into my head that someone brought her back from America for me way back in the days when not many  people travelled out of the UK, let alone as far as the US. I need to ask my mother if that’s true.

Anyway, she talks. Well, more to the point, she kind of wails and complains a lot. You pull her head away from her body which then returns neck-wards up the cord that connects the two. Meanwhile she screams, ‘My feet are moving CLOSER!’ and ‘Here comes my BO-DY!’ and my favourite (mostly because she very, very rarely says it), ‘I’m falling apart: UH-UH!’

 

The flash has obliterated the photo on the shelf below. Here’s a better shot of it, nestled as it is in front of some literary theory text books.

That’s my mum, aged about three, with my Nan, who’s in her late eighties now, so it must have been taken in the 1940s. I love their hair, and their dresses, and the way it seems like they’re staring right out at me. That’s my son next to them, when he was a lot younger.

The green bird on the pink and black base makes a tweeting sound when you wiggle the stick up and down. It’s a bit subdued now, because there’s a slight crack in the base. I can remember playing with this at one of my great aunties’ houses when I was very little. They both had budgies, and I think this hung in one of the bird cages, but I could be wrong.

So many little treasures, all of which have a special meaning for me; presents from dear friends, mementoes of those no longer with me, irreplaceable things my son made at primary school: things that make me feel loved, and whole and, most importantly, inspired.

Reverb 10 – Dec 31 – Core Story

What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

(Author: Molly O’Neill)

Heart, South Beach, Aberystwyth - Dec 2010

Gosh. My last #reverb10 post.

I started something, and then I finished it
.

And in between those two important achievements I put in a fair bit of work. It was hard, sometimes, fitting in posting around preparing for Christmas and doing a job which has a tendency to sap both my mental and physical energy, but I chose to keep going, because I believed in the project – and crucially, I enjoyed it.

I’ve just spent some time quietly reading back through every post I made, marvelling at the way my posts developed. I began to find places where I could use photos that I’ve taken over the past year: photos that sat seemingly forgotten on my hard drive were given a new lease of life through being shared with you.

My writing has loosened up and become tighter at the same time – does that make sense?

Taking part in reverb10  led me in new and unexpected directions: now I’m reading about the intersection between productivity and creativity and communication and having flashes of inspiration about how these ideas could be applied to my day job to improve the quality of patient care. The more I stimulate my mind, the more it works in exciting and surprising ways; I’m one of the Ideas People again.

One of the things I love about writing is that however measured and deliberate you are, every single word also exists in the much larger context of everything else you’ve written. Reading back through the larger whole – as I have done with my #reverb10 posts – has thrown up some interesting patterns that I wasn’t aware of when I wrote them. I’ve made some connections which seem blatant in hindsight but to which I was oblivious at the times.

It struck me how often I’ve written about being blessed with wonderful family and friends.

From the nucleus of myself, Leo and my son, to my extended family, and my friends – who I like to think of as my ‘chosen family’ –  it’s been the people who have made this year worthwhile. I used to think that having too many friends or a large and bustling family would be overwhelming – too demanding and too much pressure on my time. I’ve changed my mind. I want lots of people in my life – loads of them, in fact! – what I have to give I have in abundance and there’s enough to share with everyone.

This last year has been one of looking at what worked in my life, and what didn’t. And then working out how to make things better. I decided I didn’t want to be an angry person any more.

I worked out that trying to be in control – and inevitably failing, because being in control of everything ever is simply not possible, no matter how much time and energy you devote to trying- was at the root of a lot of the generalised, but exhausting, day-to-day crossness and niggledness I was feeling. This was a massive revelation!

But, you know, allowing events to take their own course, letting situations develop in their own organic way is OK. Nothing got broken and nobody died, and the time and energy saved allowed me to step back a little, to find moments of  stillness where there was no need for frantic mental chatter. When things got hairy, I knew that my instincts – which I’d allowed to flourish – would guide me safely.

It’s been a funny old year. Micro-analysis suggests I had more than my fair share of challenges to deal with, and yet the resounding memories are of learning and growing and feeling proud of myself for getting through them. I don’t always believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger –   it might not destroy you but it can still leave you feeling battered, broken and sorely disillusioned – but I feel curiously self-contained and capable right now.

I’m moving into the New Year with a feeling of purpose and direction
.

Note that I said ‘a feeling’ there – I’m not entirely sure what my purpose is or which direction it’s taking me in; I have some ideas – and one of my resolutions is to make sure I start capturing all these ideas – but I’m excited, you know?

The possibilities are endless, and I’m looking forward to all of them.

Reverb10 – Dec 30 – Gift

This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

(Author: Holly Root)

My iPod. In its new pink skin.

Tempting as it is to spend another post waxing lyrical about my wonderful family and friends – because having special people in my life is the gift that just keeps on giving – when it comes to stuff, the best gift I’ve received this year was my iPod Touch, which Leo bought for me in the spring.

It’s meant I can take oodles of music wherever I go, and when I’ve heard something on the radio that I’ve liked, iTunes has let me buy it before I forget what it is.

Being able to check my emails –  and the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter updates –  anywhere in the house has brought me back to the bosom of my family rather than being squirrelled away in my study.

Having weather updates, a spirit level, and a planetarium in my pocket has been really useful – I actually used the iHandy Level app to put up some shelves. Angry Birds, DoodleJump and Words with Friends have kept me amused – sadly the virtual aquarium was less riveting and Leo has frequently chastised me for letting my fish die. Again.

Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never really got into podcasts, but on a whim a few weeks ago I searched for some relaxation/ meditation ones and the choice overwhelmed me . Some of them, it has to be said, are less wonderful – the man with a voice like a robot who sounded like he’s recorded his podcast in a very echoey public toilet is my favourite for all the wrong reasons, as is the lady who obviously kept dropping things while she was recording. I’ve been saying for a while I should record my own: I think I’ll add that to next year’s to-do list.

So yes, the iPod wins, but honourable mentions do need to go to my Pandora bracelet – complete with one-of-a-kind mammoth charm; the Vivienne Westwood skull and crossbones earrings my best friend bought me for my birthday; the set of photos that my son took of me for an art project; My Philippe Starck Louis Ghost chair from my parents, and last, but definitely not least the Fame lip balm which is the only one which never dries out my lips.

And if that list makes you think that I’m horribly spoilt, well you’re right. But in my defence it was my fortieth birthday earlier on in the year, and all those lovely people whose presence in my life is such a treat really did spoil me rotten, I know that. I just hope that in the next year, and the year after that, and all the ones that follow, I’ll carry on being deserving of such thoughtfulness and generosity.

Reverb10 – Dec 27 – Ordinary Joy

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

(Author: Brené Brown)

 

Cinnamon Cupcakes

 

I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one single moment. I find joy all the time, often in the most unexpected places, and yes, usually during quite ordinary moments. Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • Making cupcakes, and watching people enjoy them
  • Hearing my son belly-laughing to himself
  • Travelling from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth on the Cambrian Coast railway line, and seeing the sun set over the Dyfi Estuary
  • Remembering that I live at the seaside
  • Laughing with my patients
  • Painting my nails and not smudging them
  • Surprising my best friend’s little girl by picking her up from school when she’s not expecting me to
  • Having a day on my own in the house, just pottering
  • Having hot rosy cheeks on a cold day

Reverb10 – Dec 26 – Soul Food

What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?
(Author: Elise Marie Collins)

Pretzel & Pear Cake, Berlin, April 2010

Pretzel & Pear Cake, Berlin, April 2010

This was my Easter Sunday breakfast, eaten al fresco at a cafe beside a pond, in the middle of some woods in the Tiergarten, Berlin. We’d already walked a few miles that morning, around the back of the zoo where we saw elephants and flamingoes through the fence, and by the time we found the cafe we were ravenous.

Huge mugs of coffee, even huger pretzels topped with great big boulders of salt and heavy, sticky cake with whole pears embedded in it.

We ate with little birds pecking at the crumbs by our feet, rosy-cheeked from the April air and energy restored for a long day walking through the city.

Reverb10 – Dec 25 – Photo

December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

(Author: Tracey Clark)

My son took this photo while we were eating at Wagamama, just off Leicester Square. We’d been in London for a few hours and were on our way to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the theatre. I’d been promising to take him to Wagamama for ages, and he wasn’t disappointed.

We had four days of proper quality time together in London, doing whatever he chose, as his eighteenth birthday treat. It was both exhausting and exhilarating.

I don’t know how he manages it, but usually when he takes photos of me, I look absolutely dreadful. This one, though, is lovely – and also proof that you can totally mix leopard-print with tartan.


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