Eight Minutes To Midnight.

I can’t quite believe that I’ve finished the first year of my MA already! My last module was ‘Life Writing.’ It made me delve into my own life and examine my relationships and personal experiences rather than make it up! Here’s what I wrote when given the task to write  about  ‘a time when I changed my mind. ‘

I hope you enjoy.

P.S. It feels good to be back! x

Eight Minutes To Midnight.

At eight IMG_0556minutes to midnight, on Tuesday 24th October 2006 I didn’t change my mind. It was changed for me.  My cotton nightie was ripped open at the neck and William was laid slick with blood and a cheesy coating of vernix on my bare chest. A sheet was pulled up over us and my life inverted. He was the best decision I’ve never made.

I had not wanted a baby. My pregnancy was unplanned. Our marriage could still be counted in weeks. A whirlwind romance from which I was still breathless. Children were a hazy responsibility in the future. Something for my thirties, something for once I’d established my career, something for when I was a proper grown-up, or maybe never at all.

It took me over two months before  I went to the Doctor and faced the truth of what my body was already telling me. Growing and morphing out of all proportion into shapes it had never been before. At least please make it a girl, I’d thought.  I was truculent.  I thought my life was over. My freedom lost. The fresh foundations of our marriage had not yet set. We wobbled and it was terrifying.

At eight minutes to midnight, I would find out what it feels like to find gold nuggets at the bottom of a pan full of gravel.

As the years have passed, our love has become elastic. We no longer need skin to skin contact to know that we belong to one another. I’m not the epicentre of his world anymore. Each year I am gently nudged a little further towards the periphery.  I’m instructed there’s to be limited association in public and certainly no kisses. It’s been years since I’ve had a proposal. I remind him, of how each night at bedtime, he used to solemnly ask me for my hand in marriage and he screws up his face in disgust, “Gross Mum.”  I’m more likely to get put in a head-lock these days as get a hug.

William doesn’t know that he was the glue that kept our marriage together when vows could not. He was, and is, too young to understand that he made us try harder, that he is the reason for us, as we are now; stronger, better. We had to wait four long years before the miracle of our cells would combine and stick to me again. Mother nature didn’t care that I’d changed my mind about being a mum, she made sure to punish me for my insolence the first time round.

At eight minutes to midnight he left my body, but I swear I still feel the tug of his umbilical cord, like the stroke of a bell ringer, deep in my gut. I watch him, playing with friends, or sauntering out from school; chatting always chatting to someone. Like his dad, he is tall and broad across his shoulders and I feel my throat tighten and my chest fill up with grateful joy. My boy. My immeasurable, handsome, kind, funny boy. How wrong I was; my life didn’t end with him, the most meaningful part of it began.

Before eight minutes to midnight, I thought I knew love. I didn’t.

 

 

Going back to go forward.

 

I’ve big news. I’m going back to University. As of yesterday I’m a fully registered and enrolled student, again! In July I got accepted to study for my MA in Creative Writing at Queens University Belfast. Fair to say that I am excited and terrified in equal measure – What if I’m the oldest in the class by decades? How will I juggle it with motherhood? What if everyone laughs at what I write, or what I’ve got to say? What if I’m not good enough? All these questions, and more, have been whizzing about my head and feeding my internal monologue. And yesterday they were joined by a healthy dose of ‘What the F***k am I doing?’ Everyone was so, so young. I’m not in the habit of hanging around with folk barely out of their teens. I’m either with little folk who still need help wiping their arse, or people with faces like my own; faces with creases, faces with stories to tell. NOT faces that look so… new. And here’s the other thing; they are all so sure of themselves, they seem to know exactly where they’re heading, they already know their place in the world. It was terrifying. Borderline traumatic. Where have the past twenty years gone? Surely there must be a mistake? I felt completely out of place. Unlike my self-assured compatriots, panic and fear seeped through my system.

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I gathered myself over a coffee (though I felt more in need of gin) and I stopped judging. I stopped presuming that everyone was looking at me with pity thinking I was a sad old woman still in pursuit of her dreams at almost forty! I thought of myself at nineteen or twenty years old. I thought about the things I would do differently, if I had my time again. I thought about what my nineteen year old self would make of my thirty-nine year old self. I thought about what I might say to her, if I had the chance. Because I remembered that once upon a time, I too, was a confident young woman who thought she knew her place in the world, who thought she knew what she clearly didn’t. I was that girl. And even though, she has all the benefits of youth on her side, the woman I am today would not swap with her. As the Dixie Chicks say, ‘I’ve gone the long way around’. Maybe not everything in my professional life is how I might have envisaged when I was a nineteen year old university student, but it’s only when you get older that you realise not everything in life goes quite to plan. I feel lucky and blessed to be healthy, to have a happy marriage and two wonderful sons. I guess all those fresh-faced students will have to live a bit longer to appreciate just how precious the simple things are. To realise that sometimes you have to go back, in order to move forwards.

Classes start next week. Please God don’t let the lecturers be young enough to be my off-spring!

Babies and Books.

Spring has sprung, at last! Hasn’t it? Well, kind of. I’ll take the longer days, at least that’s something – right? I’ve been in the middle of a baby-boom lately; babies have been arriving like the Easter bunny drops eggs! My nephew, and a little cousin to my boys, arrived safely on 18th March.

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MY first baby with his new cousin 

I’ve been thinking (dangerous, I know) but I can’t help but draw parallels between babies and writing a book. One friend has waited over ten long years for her precious baby girl. And then suddenly she’s here, and all the torment of ‘trying’ has disappeared. A brand new life. A miracle. A lucky-dip.

And I can’t help but wonder if I will get lucky… It’s been a hard slog. A long wait. At times, painful. And now, suddenly it’s over.

I’ve been enjoying what I’ve jokingly called my ‘retirement’ . In other words the relief of getting to the end of it. Now I’ve created a bit of distance between it and me I can begin to look back and see things that I didn’t before. My readers are starting to come back to me with their feedback and I know I’ve more work to do. But it’ll never be like it was before. The hardest part is behind me. I can start to live the afterwards, to think about what to do now that I’m not ‘writing my second book.’ Go back to my old day job? Or maybe try something completely different? It’s both exciting and scary.

As I’ve gazed in wonderment at the new lives I’ve had the privilege of holding these last couple of weeks; the parents in awe, my head awash with the memories of my own precious little bundles that I once held. I can’t help but fantasize if my novels will have a life, if they will ever live outside of me, if they might change my life and make my dreams come true. Like new mothers, the effort and pain of the journey means that I am still swearing never again. It’s over. I’m done. I have no plans for any more siblings.

But then again, time has a habit of making us forget the bad bits. And maybe it wasn’t as awful as I remember…  And so maybe, just maybe there are a couple more stories bubbling away at the back of my head. Maybe I should never say never. Maybe I have one more in me…

P.s My ‘retirement’ has meant I’ve been able to indulge in some binge reading, the best of which have been: ‘A God In Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson, ‘I Let You Go’ by Claire Macintosh and ‘The Girl On The Train’ is as good as everyone says!

The End.

girl-jumping-in-the-airThis is how I felt on Monday when I got to the end of my manuscript. I started work on this novel almost three years ago and this is my fourth(ish) draft. It’s been hard. Harder than I ever imagined.  I am delighted and terrified in equal measure that all the work (for now) is done.  I know, if I’m lucky enough to get it picked up by a publisher (please, please, God) then there will definitely be more. But for now I have done all I can. My character’s lives, on the page, are complete. I’m so glad and relieved to be done. I keep fist-pumping myself at random  because at one point – no,  at lots of points,   I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get there. And who knows what will come of it, but I’ve achieved a goal I set for myself and it feels great. Thanks to all of you for your words of support. I really do appreciate it.

So what now? Don’t they say ‘the end’ is only another beginning… And it’s Valentine cupcakes for school on Friday so I thought I / we should do a trial batch…

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Aesthetics aside, they taste delicious, but safe to say I probably won’t be making this into a baking blog!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone and please do let me know what personal goals you’ve achieved so far in 2016. Big or small, each one counts!

BELIEVE!

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Unfortunately I’m currently between number 3 & 4

I finished the penultimate edit of my book today! Yay – super feeling, should be celebrating another milestone – right? Wrong. Instead I had a sinking feeling of, ‘oh crap, what if it’s not good enough. In fact I don’t think it is good enough. Is the ending strong enough? Have I just wasted the last three years? What if my agent doesn’t like it?’ And so on, and so on. Horrible. It feels like mental self-harm. There’s no blood, no scars, but bloody hell it hurts on the inside. It is often said, ‘to be creative  you must lose the fear of being wrong.’ Well, I can certainly testify to the fear. I’ve lived with it now for eight years and it intensified three years ago when I decided to take a ‘career-break’ and dedicate my time completely to my second book. The book I’ve almost finished. The book I think is no longer good enough.

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My cheque for £50k, cue laughter.

I’ve learnt that, the trick to stop myself from going insane is to keep control of the fear. So, I’d like to share with you my latest secret weapon. For those of you that read my earlier post on meditation (click here if you didn’t catch it) I’ve kept it up. Not everyday, but regularly enough to make me feel calm and in control for at least the ten minutes after. As part of it, Oprah quotes Jim Carey the actor, who used to park his car on Holywood Boulevard and dream of the day when he would be a famous actor. He even wrote himself a cheque for $10m dollars and sure enough a few years later he actually received a cheque for $10m for one of his movies. His visualisation helped him BELIEVE that he could do it.

Belief, or lack of fear, seems to be half the battle. So, I thought what the hell, and despite feeling ridiculous I duly wrote myself a cheque for ‘my first published book’. I have it up where I can see it everyday and you know what – it feels good, there’s something about actually putting it up there in writing, like a promise to myself. A pledge. A belief. My husband sniggered – especially when he saw the amount, it’s nowhere near $10m and I’m definitely not doing it for the money – but you know what? Let him laugh. I can’t wait to see his face when I show him the real thing!

Whatever your dreams: BELIEVE.

P.S. The wonderful Kelly at www.projectme.com has more great tips on achieving your goals.

Nx