Wednesday, 30 July 2014

My Little Temper Tantrum

The school summer holidays are five days old ( two of which were the weekend) and I have already had my first meltdown. Is this early or am I following the usual pattern? I don't know. I can't remember although maybe if I delve into the archive on here.......

I'm back. A quick scamper down memory lane reveals that I posted along similar lines in July 2009, July AND August 2011 and August 2012! I'm sure I would ave done last year too but I was too busy being stressed about the new 'Blogging the book' project that I was about to start.

The problem lies in the differing approaches to house tidiness by me and the rest of my family. I am tidy. Not to a point of madness, I hasten to add. I have cupboards that I'd rather other people didn't see - although not many. But on the surface, my house is pretty straight and that's how I like it. A place for everything and everything in its place. It makes me feel calm. If things are are straight then my mind feels relaxed.

Let me describe this for you. Imagine skeins of brightly coloured thread all laid out in neat lines, all running parallel and heading off into the distance in close proximity to one another but never actually touching.

Strangely enough, I can't actually find an illustration of that online so I've made my own. Cool huh?
So there you have it. My mind when all is tidy. Looks lovely doesn't it? And in this calm state, I am able to deal with just about anything. My children make a lot of noise. They all talk over another. There is always at least one of them singing and invariable someone is in another part of the house and shouting (or singing) for attention.

But all is well. My house is tidy and so I can deal with the random cries for attention, demands to know where things might be, whether I can provide someone a lift and questions concerning food. All is well.

By contrast (and you can see where this is going can't you?) when my immediate environment is polluted by things out of place, then my head starts to buzz. I have an illustration for this as well. Hold on!

There you go! Don't laugh. So, when things are messy and my mind is running in a consequent tangle, I am less receptive to all the rest of it. Suddenly, what is manageable when things are straight becomes a cacophony of tangled threads in my head and I fail to cope until I have managed to get my surroundings back to something near what I need them to be ( and thus restored the lines.)

Today, the threads were in a proper pickle. And to make matters worse, the battery in the smoke alarm decided to tell me that it was on its last legs by beeping every 30 seconds. Something had to give. It was me!

We all have our little failings and foibles. This is mine  (or at least one of them.) I have been the same for as long as any of my children have known me so why can't they get the hang of it? It's not tricky. Tidy up and Mum is a pussycat. Make a mess and suffer the consequences!

You will be glad to know that after a fair amount of rather satisfying if not a little inappropriate swearing, the violent hurling of a book and a really blood curdling scream (together with some rapid tidying up), things are now back to normal.

I think I shall make them all read this so that they can see my rather cool illustrations. (I'm quite pleased with those. Can you tell?) Perhaps then they will understand what causes the tantrums. Then again, who am I kidding???


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Passion, eureka moments and Lynda La Plante

Do you have a passion? Is there something in your life that makes your heart race, that shoots electricity to your extremities when you think about it, that gives you a buzz that nothing else quite tops? (No. Not sex. Concentrate!)

I'm not known for extremes. When I drink coffee I don't get a caffeine hit. I spent over a decade exercising like a lunatic chasing an endorphin thrill that I was promised would come but never did. I am immune to these sensations (and I'm not alone - there is science, apparently, behind why some people just don't feel it). It doesn't worry me. It's just who I am.

Now bear with me. I feel a little exposed committing this next bit to paper.

I went to the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival today and sat in the second row listening to those talented people who have achieved what I can only dream of. There's nothing new in that. Whenever there's a practising author in the vicinity, you can usually find me sitting nearby, notebook in hand. All aspiring writers and also, as I learned today, real writers love listening to others talk about their craft.

So what made today worthy of note?

Well, there I was listening to the extremely talented Lynda La Plante tell us anecdotes about her writing life. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak then snatch it up. You won't be disappointed. Not only does she have lots of fascinating stories to tell but she recounts them in a way that had us weeping with laughter.

Anyway, back to my legal high. I am listening, enraptured by this woman who is living the life that I would love to have and I realise that there's this strange sensation building in my chest. I have to take extra large gulps of air just so that I can keep up with the demands that my heart is making. Even my scalp is fizzing and I'm smiling so broadly that my eyes are barely open. This feels great. I am happy.

Then her words take a more sombre turn. She tells us that an aspiring writer must keep going no matter how hard it gets and must remember that 'rejection doesn't mean no.'

That's when it happened. I just burst into tears - just like that. I'm listening to Lynda La Plante speak and there are tears cascading down my cheeks. That's not a normal response, is it? And then I know, without a shadow of doubt, that this writing lark is truly, truly important to me.

The rest of the audience is enjoying her speak, totally unaware of the Damascus moment that I have just experienced but for me it's as if a whole heaven of lightbulbs has lit up over my head.

I know what I am taking on. I know how much hard work is needed and how slim the chances are of me receiving any recognition for what I do but that really doesn't matter. It's about finding the thing that makes your heart sing and then holding on to it for all that you're worth.

All I have to do is to keep putting one word in front of another and never give up.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Notes to my Younger Self

A couple of weeks ago, when writing the piece about choosing universities, I started thinking about the things I might have told my younger self if only I'd had the presence of mind.

It's a peculiar exercise. It makes you dig deep in your consciousness to mine any wisdom that might have been buried there over the years. I quite liked that bit. But also, there is obviously an element of thoughtful regret which sat less well with me. On the whole, I wouldn't change any of the last 47 and 3/4 years but I suppose, if I were pressed....

1. Stop worrying about your weight!

From my early teenage years until after I was married, I exercised like a daemon and counted calories obsessively. I knew the associated energy value of virtually everything that passed my lips and how many I'd burned off. I even had a little book with it all written down. I was like a woman possessed and to what end? The minute I stopped worrying about it, it balanced itself. The up-side is that I'm now quite good at guessing quantities when I bake.

2. Cut those around you a bit of slack.

This one is still a work in progress!

3. Some people will never be able to give you what you're looking for from them.

It's taken me a surprisingly long time to realise that we are all motivated by different things and what is gob-smackingly obvious to me doesn't even feature on someone else's radar. 'But they're not you!' is something that I still hear more often than I'd care to admit to.

4. Who cares what your peers think?

I'm sure this one rings true with most of us but if I look back at the things that I didn't do because of the fear of ridicule or standing out from the crowd, I shiver at the missed opportunities. My kids use this dreadful word 'judged' and it makes me want to shake them. Who has the right to judge you? Do what you want or what you believe to be right or preferably both and let the onlookers stare.

5. It's ok to fail.

This kind of links into number 4. You don't have to wait until your sentence construction is perfect to have a workable conversation. It's ok to stumble in public. Don't be afraid.

6. Real friends are a rare breed and when you find one you need to hang on to them.

Friends come and go, floating in and out of your life like flotsam and jetsam and that is fine. Many of them are of the moment. The real ones who will gently tell you the truth rather than what you want to hear, who will go out of their way to help no matter how great the inconvenience to themselves, who can see through the version of yourself that you present to the outside world to the real you... those are the keepers.

7. Being independent will only take you so far.

You can't always operate as a team of one. Sometimes things work better if you rely on another person to do their bit. Not often but it's always worth considering!

8. Your hair will never look like you want it to. Live with it!

9. Stay on track.

Being single minded might annoy those around you but it's the best way to get things done.

      And finally...

10. Don't stop reading and writing.

Life is going to get pretty hectic so guard the things that you love so that they don't get left in a dark corner somewhere only to be rediscovered, dusty and flea-bitten, in thirty years' time.

So there you go. Would I have listened to myself?  Maybe ( although see point number 7) but it doesn't really matter. It's all part of life's labyrinth to discover these things for ourselves and as we know, youth is wasted on the young.

What would you tell the younger you?