Friendship and turning 4-OH.

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!

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The grainy night-club shot when we all should have known better!

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It matters how this ends.

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My eldest is an anxious boy. He gets nervous about the smallest of things. On Monday night we were lucky enough to see Adele open her word tour in Belfast. It was an amazing night and she spoke – in her own unedited style – about her nerves before the show. (Let’s say we all had intimate knowledge of her bowel movements that day!) I try to teach him that nervousness and feeling fear is normal. They mean you care. They mean you’re doing something that matters, because a life without risk, is not a life worth living. Fear can be your friend, albeit a rowdy one that needs kept in check, it can make you grow beyond what you thought was ever possible. Show me a person who has never felt fear, and I will show you someone that has never lived. On Monday night Adele inadvertently taught him that it’s ok to feel nervous, that it’s ok to feel fear.

After spending every spare hour for eight years writing two books consecutively, and a career break of almost three, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to tell him how scared I feel, right now. Because being finished is just the start. It’s time to send my manuscript to my readers and my agent. And for me, it really matters how this ends.

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A Little Silence goes a Long Way.

Last weekend I went on a mini yoga retreat. As part of it we had an introduction to meditation. Maybe it’s an age thing, but increasingly, I am finding a need for some ‘me time’ in my life. A few precious moments away from family demands, a screen, noise and the general 24/7 interference of modern living. A little silence helps me to cope. It can be an opportunity to slow down time and remind myself of my goals.

The end of the school year always causes reflection; I’m in awe at how my boys have grown physically and mentally in the time it has taken me to make a cup of tea – or at least that is what it feels like. Again, I find myself wanting to stop the clock and pause. I join with all the other mums at the school gate to complain that it’s going too fast. We watch helpless on the sidelines as our children race fearlessly through their childhoods. And yet, juxtaposed against this is my own slow sludge towards my goal of getting published. Eight years and two books and still no closer. I am desperate for it to happen. I am frustrated that it is taking so long, and yet, how can that be when everything else around me is happening so fast?

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It’s this state of contradiction that yoga helps with. It helps me to stay in the ‘now’ it helps me to believe that life will take its course and what will be, will be. It keeps me strong and helps to counteract the countless hours of sitting that writing demands. Yoga and meditation are not about loud music, or pumping up the cardio. It demands stillness, focus and concentration of breath. Can life get anymore stripped back than simply taking notice of how you breathe? A writer’ s head carries a world of fictional characters inside it, each one with hopes and dreams, flaws and attributes; these people are alive to us and sometimes I find it hard to cope with the demands of them combined with my actual real-life!

I’ve come to realize that my writing itself is a kind of meditation. It’s what I need to try and make sense of the world around me. I use what I know,  and what I don’t know, to unclutter my mind. I sit, mostly in silence (though I’ve trained myself to write wherever I can), without the interference of phone or Internet and I download onto the screen infront of me. I think it’s the solitary silence that gives writing it’s mystic. In a world were most people sit amongst open plan offices surrounded by people, phones, printers, sitting alone for hours on end without human or online contact can seem… well, wierd. But it’s as simple, and as complicated as that. My fictional characters need space to grow, to live, and for that I need a clear head and preferably silence.

How do you unclutter? How do you stop time and reflect? Maybe blogging is your way of ‘downloading’. When is the last time you sat in silence? Try it. I’d love to know how you get on.

Do male writers get distracted by housework?

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This question has been irking me for a while, but to be honest, I’ve shied away from it for fear of the stink it might cause. But, hey-ho in for a penny, in for a pound! Why not put it ‘out there’ on my new blog?

So guys, I’d like to know:

Does your writing time get squeezed by laundry?

Does it get slashed by cooking and preparation of family meals?

Does it only get started late at night once everyone else in the house is fed, watered and in bed?

Do you suffer guilt if you leave the breakfast dishes by the sink?

Do you hoover before you sit at your desk?

(And I’m not talking about procrastination here. I mean the day and daily tasks that must be done in order to keep a family functioning and living in a reasonably habitable environment. )

My guess is, probably, no. The above examples are  just a few of the reasons, why there are so few women earning a living from writing compared to men. My guess, is that men think, ‘sod the washing; it can wait’. My guess, is that men use their singular-tasking brains to give them tunnel vision to the end. My guess, is that men ignore all the domestic distractions and ‘Just Do It!’ Am I right? Men out there, please let me know.

And as for us ladies, it’s time to take a lead from the men, and JFDI!