You can find my article “How To Fail; a lesson for my children.” In the latest addition of the NI4Kids magazine. It’s about the need to build resilience in order to succeed. If you are not local to Northern Ireland you can find the whole magazine online or click the link for my article. I hope you enjoy.
This week I was delighted to be invited by the lovely Melissa Addey (@MelissaAddey) to contribute to her brilliant thepraminthehall blog. You can read my post here. I talk about the importance of prioritising your time. We all need to ‘make’ our own time; it’s not simply given to us.
Right now, there’s a laundry basket of wet towels that really needs my attention together with any number of ‘other things’ I should be doing, but I have one hour before I have to collect my youngest from nursery and right now is the only ‘free-time’ I’m likely to get, so I’m doing this instead. I know on my deathbed I’ll not wish I’d kept a tidy house (though my husband might disagree!) I’ll be glad I tried my best to achieve my own goals.
What about you, what will you prioritise?
In other news, last week my writing group were given the Mark Strand poem ‘Lines for Winter’ were he writes to a friend suffering with depression. The poem repeats the line ‘tell yourself’ and it got me thinking about what we tell ourselves in order to keep us thinking our glass is either half full, or not. And what happens if we stop telling ourselves the positives and slip into the negative. My response to the poem is below. It just may have sparked another bigger story idea. You never know, there might be another book in me after all! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
I Tell Myself. (Lines for a wife)
I dreamt of you again last night. I’m not sure if it’s you then, or you now. When I’m awake you’re out of reach. But, when I’m sleeping it’s… it’s like you’re beside me. I can almost feel you. I worry I might utter your name for David to overhear. I feel guilty. I feel guilty for even thinking about you. But surely, an affair in my mind does not equal the same betrayal? Does it? I mean I never actually wouId…
I’ve been telling myself it’s an age thing. A mid-life crisis. A cliché. Something to do with turning fifty. Because it was all so long ago and we were children – really. I’m seeing it through rose-tinted glasses… aren’t I? There’s no way back, I know, but… a part of me, no – all of me, would love to be with you again; young and free. We were together for a long time. Years too long. Most of it has dissolved into the ether of my memory; taped up and packaged away under ‘when I was young’ and ‘first love.’ But some of it, tiny moments of it, have solidified and I continue to feel them. It’s unsettling. And then seeing you last week – well, I just can’t shake you from my skin. It’s as though you’re in my bones. Inside my head. I see you even when you’re not there.
I’ve been telling myself that this melancholy, this greyness hanging over me is hormones. Nothing more. Just stupid crazy, old woman hormones. Because I love my husband. Twenty-five years married and we’re still happy. I think. We’ve not turned completely inward with neglect. Sure, life is not as exciting or carefree or passionate, but that’s normal – right? We don’t live on the same heightened spectrum of emotions; we’re not teenagers anymore. But then, David and I never were teenagers together – that was us – you and me. In fact, David was already thirty when I met him; bruised and broken-hearted still from you. We used to spend hours in my bedroom, just kissing. We had nothing else to do. We had time to waste. I’ve never had better. I wonder if we’d still be as good. We were each other’s first in… everything. It’s no wonder I still feel something for you. We were great together.
I’ve been telling myself to go to the Doctor, but what would I say? That I met an old boyfriend and now I think the last twenty-five years have been… what? A mistake? That I feel as though I’ve been sleep-walking, living only on the perimeter of happiness – not the full blown thing, the way it was with you. I’d be given some pills, for sure. But what would that solve? No. I’ve been trying to be an optimist about this. I’ve been trying to work out what I know. After all, on the eve of fifty I should know – something, right? So why do I feel as though I know nothing at all?
I’ve been telling myself that it’s being nineteen, I miss. Not you. It was a puppy love compared to the love required to sustain twenty-five years of marriage and parenthood. I wouldn’t swap David for you. He loves me and I love him. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
“If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.“
The Spice Girls.
There are many reasons why I’m glad to be a girl / woman (what are you supposed to call yourself at 39yrs?) And one of the top ones is because of my girlfriends. Men can’t do girlfriends the way girls can. It’s something we’ve got all to ourselves, like growing other humans, they’ll never be able to do that either.
For many of my crew (including myself) 2016 is the year our lives rolls over into our 4th decade. Cue lots of parties and excuses for weekends away, the first of which took place last Saturday for Naomi who has been my BF since I was in double-figures and has enriched my life in countless ways. For twenty-four hours I was surrounded by amazing women, ate great food (that I didn’t have to cook myself), drank lots of champagne and danced to the wee small hours. What can I say? My cup runneth over.
When I am surrounded by my womenfolk, most of whom I’ve known for at least twenty years, I defy my 5″ 2inches and become 10ft tall. It feels as though time has stopped and not a day has passed since we were all teenagers, or bright young twenty-somethings. Whether we see each other every week, every few months, once a year, or for those even further afield (JAM I’m looking at you and counting down till August!) less than that, we can still pick up exactly where we left off and run from there. Why? I hear you cry. Because that’s the power of love; it’s ageless. When we fall in love the clock stops. Think about it: if you’re married your partner remains the youthful version of themselves they were when you met, our children remain the babies they were when they were placed in our arms, our parents remain the same fresh-faced versions of themselves they were when we were growing up. And so, I’ve concluded, it’s the same with girlfriends. We never age. We are exactly how we have always been to each other. How beautiful is that?
I am blessed to have an amazing bunch of women that I am lucky enough to call my friends. They are smart, beautiful, stylish, they have proper jobs (unlike moi): I’m talking solicitors, teachers, barristers, a few of them even run their own businesses -for example- have you ever wondered what Ireland smells like? Well then you need to check out www.bogstandard.ie My friend Alix started it at Uni way before scented candles were even ‘a thing’! A real-life mum-preneur and she still manages to read every crap draft I send her and give me honest, detailed feedback! There’s also a professional equestrian rider among the mix who does some seriously gutsy stuff on horseback and manage three kids. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg – you get the gist. A-MAZING! Some have been to hell and back, some are married, some are not, some have children, some have not. But we have all had our ups and downs. And we are in this together. We started out in unison; wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and now forty years into this thing called life we are all a little bit wiser (sometimes!) and plan to party the heck out of 2016. In a world where older women are deemed insignificant and invisible we’re not going to be put on a shelf, we’re not going to be silenced and we’re not going down any hills! It’s only the start of our 2nd Act and it’s going to be girl power all the way!
Put in a call, text, or send a cartoon picture of a cat to a girlfriend just to tell her she rocks!
Those of you that follow me on various social media thingys will know that I’m a yogi. It keeps my mind clear and my body strong. Last night my yoga teacher read this by George Carlin and I wanted to share it with you,
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our
possessions, but reduced our values. W e talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more
computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one nights stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.
Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe,because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.
Remember, to say, “I love you” to your spouse and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.
If you’re like me, much of this will have resonated. We spend so much of our time chasing our tails and not communicating meaningfully with those we love. I am as guilty as the next person. I’m a SAHM with a complex. I often feel guilty for spending time on my writing while my husband is out there at the cutting edge of profit and loss as he tries to earn a living for the whole family. I’m always bemoaning that I don’t get enough time for my writing, but any amount of time never seems enough! And it’s been years now and still no novel on the bookshelf! The truth is, I am not a patient person and writing is the ultimate game of patience. I have just finished Anthony Doerr’s fabulous novel ‘ All The Light We Cannot See’ and it took him ten years to write! In that case I’ve hardly scratched the surface. It’s all too easy to get so fixated on your end goal that you forget to enjoy the journey. I am still young(ish), I have two gorgeous boys who are growing up far too fast; these are the days of my life, these are the days I will want to live again.
It was great to hear the lovely @DinahJefferies on BBC Woman’s Hour this week talking about becoming a bestselling novelist in her sixties. It was a reminder there is no sell-by-date with writing. It’s about perseverance and the only person putting time limits on it is myself. Note to self; remember who won the race between the tortoise and the hare.
Nx (channeling my inner tortoise)
So, I was horrendously nervous and just about got the words out, but I did manage to read my homework to my writing group. And guess what? No one died, no one fell on the floor laughing, no one said, “… and you’ve spent how many years doing this?” Instead, I got some valuable feedback with a large dollop of support and encouragement. This is surely the best thing about being part of a group, part of a community and makes all the fear worthwhile. And the guy below is my homework for this week. (You can read a short extract from my current book using his characteristics at the end of this post.) What characteristics would you give him?
I’m on a roll, and together with my new real-life writing group, I think I’ve discovered my online ‘home’. Selfish Mothers is a group of amazing women saying it how it is. I’ve only just dipped my toe in, but already I’ve got a serious girl crush on most of them! They are all so cool: I want them as my BFF’s now! I know I’ve found the women to buttress me and guide me through my blogging endeavours and beyond. And the one thing that unites us? We are all trying our best, in different ways, to be the greatest mothers we can be, while keeping our own sh**t together too.
Now here’s that meerkat extract. I hope you enjoy.
Dearest Beth, do you remember our blinking competitions? You could beat the whole family at it. Our eyes would sting and water with the effort of keeping them open, while you would sit impermeable looking into some unseen middle distance. It was like stone had replaced your flesh. You’ve always been the serious one. You’ve never seemed to enjoy the lighter side of life. I’ve always found that strange; you were created out of so much love and joy. Those formative years were such happy ones for us as a family. Is it because I left you? Is it because you sensed the risk involved, even though, in those days it was very small? Maybe. Maybe, I should have stayed at home with you… I guess we’ll never know. As a baby you rarely cried and made very little sound. When you did begin to speak, at around three years old, you were polite and economical with your words, only speaking when spoken to and little else. Of course, I’ve worried all these years that I somehow passed on my burden of secrecy to you, but that surely was impossible – wasn’t it? But when you were younger, and even sometimes now, you’ve a way of looking at me that makes me feel as though you’re looking through me, reading the truth of me, clearly telling the colour of the lies I’ve told. You’ve always seen me with such… accusing eyes; direct as an arrow through my heart. The sharpness of you has cut me often. Why have you always stood apart from the rest of us? Alert and ready to run, instead of enjoying the safety and comfort that comes with a family herd. What sixth sense has made you so untrusting that you’ve gone through life sensing danger, when often, there was only the safety of those that loved you.
When you were little you developed a knack for entering a room silently. I could be reading, making the dinner or performing some other domestic task blissfully unaware of your presence until you’d speak. It never failed to startle me. I would never know how long you’d been standing there observing, or what invisible thought process you might have witnessed… I had a terrible habit of talking to myself, of verbalizing conversations before I had them. It’s always concerned me what whispered secrets you might have heard. You never mentioned them if you did, but then you wouldn’t, would you? In my mind’s eye I can see your four-year old self, standing with your eyes half-shut singing, ‘I can still see you. Look Mummy, I can still see you even with my eyes closed!’ And I’ve always felt that you could ‘see me’ in a way that the others could not. If that’s the case, maybe this book will not hold any revelations for you, but simply be an affirmation of what you’ve already suspected.