Pouncing Pressure, Hidden Hijack

I’ve been re-listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcasts this week, to ready me for five nights away on my own to catch up on writing my novel a little, with the novelty of no interruptions.  The thought of the time away is really a big deal when you’re a woman, a mother and a writer who works at home.  The first, second and last descriptors there are, in my experience, extremely difficult to manage alongside the act of writing a big piece rather than dipping in and out of smaller ones.  An excellent article in Harper’s Bazaar covers the issues I’m nodding at here and I suggest anyone navigating an unapologetically modern relationship or considering the messages they’re giving younger generations about gender roles reads the piece for comfort and fire-stoking.  It’s an absolute cracker.

But back to the Magic Lessons.  Every single episode feels freshly relevant.  Yesterday I did my own version of a homework task Gilbert sets a podcast guest in order to help balance an internal dialogue which often poleaxed ambition.  You can listen to the podcast here.  Reflecting on the task of stepping aside from the locked mind to exchange letters with both Fear and Curiosity, I was prompted to shine a light on my own fears because they’re currently presenting the biggest hurdle to productivity during my time away.

As a sidenote, a horrible irony here is that I really didn’t feel the weight of these fears until I booked some time away.  The act of booking the time, hell, the audaciousness of booking the time in some folks’ eyes, set off an epic domino chain in my head about pressure.  I didn’t realise the domino chain was happening until it was halfway through and heading towards an elaborate helter-skelter set of turns before stretching into middle distance further than my terrified eyes could see.  Think the domino chain in Collateral Beauty scaled up by a hundred and you’re there.dchtbc 2016 1

In a nutshell, the pressure-fear, wee darling that it is, has pretty much been whispering  self-loathing into my lugholes since I got my Airbnb e-receipt.  Here’s a fragment for your delectation;

‘Five nights away, huh?  That’s brave.  Or stupid.  Especially as you’ve had some really shit feedback on the novel recently.  Do you not think if you were going to have finished the novel you’d have done it by now?  I mean, you don’t even really have a good story, do you?  And you keep changing direction.  And you’re still not doing it the way you want it to, are you?  Because that way is shit and you know it. Your blindspot’s massive.  But yeah.  Have a great week away.’

Swim, swim, swimming I went.  Swimming into a pool of mindcrap.

That’s the thing about creativity.  It makes light and dark and balance must be imposed.

Despite the mindcrap, there was another voice in my head, quite possibly it’s the voice of leftover drugs from my teens but I guess that’s valid too.

The other voice says go and write.  And go and enjoy.  And lighten up, sweetheart.  You’re doing great.  Oh, and, most importantly….?  For the love of fuck write the book you want, the way you want it written, because evidently you care so much more about that than anyone else’s feedback.  How do I know that?  I know that because when you think about the book you want to write, you smile.  And that’s the thing.  Write a smiling book that you one-day-kinda-soon finish and to fuck with whether it ever gets published, read or respected by anyone else.  It’s either that or you’re carrying that baby everywhere while you try to write one that your heart isn’t in and one day realising the one you love isn’t there anymore – it just turned to regret.  It waited too long.

Writing that, I can hear the other voice more clearly.  It doesn’t belong to 16 year old me at a rave in Arbroath on MDMA.  It belongs to me AND Liz Gilbert, one of the woman in the USA right now making the world a better place against all the odds.  I dare say she’s scared and brave all at the same time.  How inspiring.

#FuckDominos

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52and40/28 Ties That Bind

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Months ago, husband and I scoured our west coast map for unseen places, zoning in on Glenelg.  We went last week, exhilarated by the drive over The Ratagan Pass which had us whooping, awe-filled and delighted about the backseat being uncharacteristically empty so nobody was chucking up.

It was a flying visit, but a great place for orientation with Skye as the Arnisdale shore’s just 600m across the water.  Glenelg’s history’s fascinating – and prescient.  We’ll be back in future to bag the ferry crossing and drive up to Elgol (and whoop more).

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52and40/21 Pivot Point

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Years ago, while reading about dog training, I learned the phrase, ‘pressure creates counter pressure’.  I was struggling with our then enormous puppy pulling on the lead.  The phrase underlined my feeling that yanking back was only making my arm hurt more and my stress levels soar. So I stopped yanking back.  Disengaged from negativity.  Got used to standing, waiting for fresh eyes and curiousity.  Eventually, it worked.

Scotland’s at a crossroads about whether, among other things, we value evolving multi-culturalism over a United Kingdom.  Yes or No.

Pressure and counter pressure.

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52and40/15 Embers

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The zombies are calling me.

People who refer to other people as ‘they’.

‘They’re all the same’, and, ‘that’s what they want you to think’.

People who’ve given up on hope and change and hunkered down, rolling a boulder called fear into the cave doorway and frowning about how they’ll get the smoke from the fire to vent in a closed space.

I feel the temptation.

It’d be easy to sign up for the Daily Mail and play Loathe My Neighbour.

But, goddammit, I’ve no experience of easy ever feeling worth it.

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call it madness

It strikes me that not knowing how to do something is not a good enough reason for not trying to do it.  Lots of people don’t like that fact, if you state it as your reality.

We like to believe that there are things we can do and things we can’t do.  Our minds like to trick us into thinking that if we just stick to the things that we can do then we’ll be safe and everything will be easy.  Yet, when we stick to safe and easy we usually just end up a bit bored and predictable; pink turns to beige and joy turns down its volume to a lightly sighing contentment.

Our minds do us a disservice, quite a lot of the time.  We live in a society that promotes ideas of fear as if they were oxygen.  Our western stream of consciousness screams self-esteem and yet largely still belittles people with the audacity to value themselves.  Our conditioned thoughts place limits on us and shut doors to rooms we can’t imagine ever entering, because we’ve told ourselves they’re not for us to see or enjoy and that they’re for someone more suitable.

Then you hear a story about someone who just stepped into a room that they’d previously cordoned off and how they started making their way, tiny step by step, across the carpet to the window.  If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a person like that tell the story of enjoying an entirely new view and then looking back into the hallway with a reborn perspective on their life and how they frame ideas.  These people then start to say things that are borne from possibilities rather than fear.  Maybe one day they’ll run a 10k, or go to China and take photos of old men in old villages wearing old hats, or cook a full traditional Turkish meal, or swim in the sea.

Some people who hear the maybes will think the person they’re listening to has gone mad.

Other people will see or hear something that tells them the other person has never been more sane.  The person who’s travelled from one way of thinking to another knows that they’ve poked a hole through the matrix and seen reality without the limiting filter on.

And that they can’t go back to where they were.

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52and39/26 When The Lights Change

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Relocating is an enormous hall of mirrors.  You’re a tourist and resident, a stranger and a statistic.

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It’s four years since spaces were unexpectedly available in an Edinburgh school.  I was there at 9am the next day, in the mad last hours of term.  At noon my husband found a rental house that allowed pets.

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At the last minute, everything aligned.  Just two days before, I’d pretty much written the idea off.

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I took a photo every day for a year.  It kept me hungry for finding silver linings and stories.

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