A wee update

Well that was a bit of an unplanned hiatus. Most days I sit down fired up, ready to write. Only to be horribly distracted, pulled in several different directions by one thing and another and as always writing is an easy thing to let slide.

That isn’t to say that I’ve been stagnating. Lots of things bubbling away.

I start an Open University degree course in English Literature and Creative Writing in October and I am beyond excited. I am so far beyond excited that it closely resembles absolute terror.

This is something that has been a secret dream for a very long time. But I’ve allowed self doubt and fear to prevent me even looking too closely into it. Not any more.

I might, heavy emphasis on the might, be considering setting up a business. I’m still at the weighing up the pros and cons stage. I’ve got all the skills, experience and knowledge to set myself up as a Virtual Assistant. Ultimately, it’s what I’ve been doing for the last 3 years.

I’ve even gone and got myself a client. But whether or not I decide to jump in with both feet might need to wait until August. I’ve got the 7 weeks of no school and nursery of the summer holidays to endure between now and then.

Even I’m not daft enough to consider setting up a new business and dealing with both my girls all day every day. So while I’m pondering and plotting I’m doing a bit of the background work. My key learning thus far is that I really do not like Linked In and that I am spectacularly bad at thinking of names!

I’m not powering through the books but I’m reading more non-fiction this year. A couple of highlights have been The book you wish your parents had read by Philippa Perry and Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.

Philippa Perry filled me with hope that I haven’t irreparably damaged my children. While Caroline Criado Perez brought me back down to earth with a bump and let me know that regardless of any damage I have done both children are screwed as they’re female!

The eldest daughter is continuing to cause massive concern. Her mental health is so poor and we are really struggling to get help. Another strongly worded letter went off to the GP this week requesting that someone starts to lead the process. We are currently being passed pillar to post with each service claiming that another service is best placed to help. All the while leaving a 13 year old child very unhappy, completely unsupported and in real pain.

All the time that she is unhappy, unsupported and in pain she is creating havoc. We’ve had truancy, self harm and we think that she cracked my husbands rib. All in the space of a week.

Is it any wonder that I’m struggling to find the time to write?

In every end there is a beginning

I lost my job this week. A job that I loved. For an organisation which I was so proud to be involved with, let alone employed by.

I had an inkling that there were questions around the validity of my remote working. I knew that had I been closer to Glasgow I would have found opportunities to extend my remit and help out with more of the face to face, feet on the ground administration of the small charity.

However, I knew, and remain confident, that I was providing a valuable, cost effective and efficient service. Only it would appear that the powers that be disagreed.

I wasn’t consulted or involved in the decision. On Monday it was presented to me all tied up and with a ribbon on the top. Only there wasn’t actually a ribbon, that might have softened the blow.

I’m gutted. Eviscerated with the shame of it. I’ll find another job. I’ll manage to get money coming in. The dent in my confidence. The wobble in my self-belief and newly seeded doubt in my abilities aren’t so easily remedied.

I’m acknowledging the queasy, cold sweat of this uncertainty. I’m not wasting it. If I’m already feeling the fear I might as well capitalise on it. Instead of seeking the familiarity of sticking to secretarial and admin roles I’m venturing out into the unknown and am planning to see if I can get paid for writing.

The terror that this fills me with, the plethora of questions that I need to muddle answers to and the tiny flicker of excitement that this could be amazing are the best sort of distraction.

It’s really lovely to have a cunning plan while I’m curled foetal position, mainlining dairy milk and writing elaborate lists of ways to fast track karmic payback on my less than appreciative ex-employers.

Run for your lives

It will surprise no one to know that I have always leant towards the dramatic. “Run for your lives” was my childhood catch phrase. Oft repeated as I tore around the garden sporting a cape made from an old curtain and fully prepared to assist Wonder Woman in the foiling of dastardly plans.

I am the living embodiment of making a mountain out of a molehill and a drama out of a crisis.

Unashamedly.

I do really well in a crisis. I’m majestic under pressure. It’s the mundanity of daily life which I crumble under.

There is, isn’t there always, a downside. I am prone to panic. My imagination knows no bounds. Helped along by my extensive reading, watching and listening to post apocalyptic, dystopian and the end of the world fiction.

Should my long suffering husband be 10 minutes later home than expected he’s dead. No not in a threatening I’m going to hurt you way. In a horrible accident, police at the door, sobbing widow way.

Now a sensible person would use the tracking app thingy to locate him or phone to check in. I carefully and methodically begin planning his funeral. Agonise over how I am going to tell the girls. Break out into a cold sweat at the thought of navigating the parents in law without an ally. All because he’s stuck behind a tractor on the A96.

I am conscious that this probably isn’t terribly good for my mental health. Let alone my cortisol and adrenaline levels.

I have been attempting lots of mindfulness and distracting myself with gratitude lists and the like. It has had absolutely no impact.

About a fortnight ago I was having a bit of a wobble. In an effort to attempt to settle to sleep I put on radio 4, only to hear a news report about the escalating conflict between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. Immediately, I go straight to – do they have nuclear weapons? Shit I think they both do. I’m now navigating my way through the post-nuclear landscape to Tesco to get a shopping trolly and head out like in Cormac McCarthy’s Road.

Sleep was not going to come. I switched on the light and wrote. A big list of worries. It was a much easier list than those gratitude ones I had been agonising over.

Climate change.

Brexit.

School places.

The employment prospects of my eldest daughter – she’s 13 at the moment so I have a while to worry about this one!

Will we ever chose wallpaper for the bathroom.

India and Pakistan. Syria. Sudan. Yemen. All the other places where my limited geographical knowledge lets me down.

All featured on the list. The very act of writing them down released me of the need to continue to bounce them around my head. I slept better than I had in ages.

My new bedtime routine has me skipping to bed. Where I perch, pencil poised ready to list all the things that want to keep me up at night. I’m having such fun. As was my husband, laughing at me.

Although he shut up pretty sharpish when I threatened to put him in the blue suit when the grey suit looks much better open casket. It would appear that actually telling people you have spent large chunks of time planning out their funeral doesn’t lead to them sleeping quite so soundly.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Sometimes I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something. The beautiful rainbow on an otherwise perfectly miserable day. Picking up my phone to call someone just as it begins to vibrate with them calling me. Those coincidences reassuring me that this is all part of some kind of grand design.

Other days I don’t need to wonder. The universe is crystal clear in her rallying cry, no decoding required.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was a shout. Possibly even a banshee scream.

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I tend not to read non fiction. I’m all about the story, the more fantastical the better. So when I found myself in the library’s non-fiction aisles I was a bit unsure what I was doing. But I was drawn to the spine of Big Magic. When I saw the headline on the cover ‘Creative living beyond fear’ all the wee hairs on the back of my neck woke up.

I thought I’d read a couple of chapters to see what I made of it. I read 120 pages before stopping to feed my poor, starving children. Fed them and immediately went back to the book. Inhaling rather than reading.

I wrote notes, nodded and giggled throughout. Gilbert’s style is warm, conversational and never preaching or highbrow. To be told that I don’t need to conquer my fears is massively liberating. I can own being a scaredy cat. But I will no longer stagnate, frozen in fear.

What struck me the most about Big Magic was the infusion of joy. Gilbert does not pretend that creating is an easy option. She instead mounts a convincing and appealing case for it being a positive, happy and nourishing endeavour.

Ultimately, I would love to make a career from writing. That said, I don’t write with this in mind. I write because I need to create. I write because I always have. I write because I don’t know how not to.

The universe steering me towards a book that celebrates this right now. Well that’s Big Magic