Truth Hurts

I’ve taken the long way around getting to writing this post. A new job, long-awaited, started back in spring last year. My instincts told me not to take it, that it was too good to be true, but I mistook them for fear and shouted them down. I have calibrated my self-listening skills since and so the learning continues.

Ah, but times have been dark.

Ah, but times have been light.

I’m not sure whether to call the last twelve months since I left the job a breakdown or a breakthrough and since there’s no need to choose, I’ll call it both. Hell, I might even go as far as to say you can’t have one without the other.

It has been a newsflash to me that somewhere in this body of wonders I don’t have an amazing superpower which turns things I want to be true into truths. Goddamn.

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So why did I take the job? I took it because we really needed the money. I took it because I trusted the voices of those with greater social and professional standing than my own when they called it A Great Thing. I took it because a fancy job title fed my ego but I didn’t stop to check whether the place and the people and the price would nurture my soul or the world. I took it because I was tired of the hustle and isolation of freelancing and scared that if I didn’t take it I’d regret it forever. And it played out terribly. A front-row seat inside what turned out to be a disaster hitherto disguised as a good, much-validated idea.

Instinct, instinct, instinct.

Now, back freelancing, the hustle and the isolation feel sweet and clean and full of peace and honesty. 

Today is the first day I can say I’m glad it all happened. I guess my fingertips have been waiting to type that, waiting and willing and working for it to at last feel true.

As well as all the breaking, I’ve grown. I’ve taken on some personal boundaries that were long overdue and realised my instincts aren’t something to be cursed for not shouting loudly enough, but that they’re a gift; a gift I’ve overlooked way too readily till now.

In jettisoning the job I waited a decade for I’ve gone on a truth trip too. Dark nights of the soul will do that. There’s been frequent beckoning from the Beelzebub of Bullshit in my brain to be dealt with as part of that; the ego wants it all to be someone else’s fault, of course, to lash out and create a social media trash fire, as is the way of the times; to be a victim, create a dramafest, control the narrative, publically post-mortem the disaster, etc. In the end, quiet truth tastes better in my mouth and doesn’t poison my gratitude for what remains, so I choose that. In so doing the need for social media has dropped away like a stone kicked absent-mindedly from a cliff edge. Strange thing, that, because social media was such a positive in my life until I went off course, P45 in hand, delighted about the prospect of regular pay.  Yet, a small splash and now the inclination is gone, into the blue. Maybe I’ll come across it one day on a beach and pick it up again.

For now, brand new creativity and productivity have replaced phone-screen time. I have a balanced freelance workload, am learning heaps of bigger production skills with podcasting and the house is getting TLC most days; an hour of painting here, a bit of sanding there, accompanied by podcasts that affirm the good shit and call out the batshit. Having the time to speak more with people face to face and down the line is nice too – truly. Now when I check the time it’s two hours behind where I think it’ll be. My phone no longer gets into the bedroom, not even in the mornings, and so I’m getting more time with books and meditation and my favourite souls. I’m no longer melding yesterday with tomorrow and constantly feeling around for a missing today.

Long may all of this version of life – broken down, broken through – continue. I am at home in the muddle of uncertainty sometimes working out into something beautiful once more. Phew.

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52and40/39 Method in the Madness

I’ve been unitasking.  I like that this sounds like unicycling but actually involves zero circus fuckery.  Unitasking’s simply doing one thing at a time.  I can multitask but I make mistakes, get stressed and then there’s frustration about rushing or being a bitch to myself or some poor bystander along the way.  So, no more lunch while checking emails and walking the dog.  Now I’m just having lunch.  Then checking emails.  Then walking the dog. Hardly miraculous, but I’m certainly happier and this way feels pragmatically zen and paced for the times.

 

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More about #52and40 here

52and40/38 Habit Forming

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I read thirteen books this year.  I’m happy about re-establishing reading after years of total drought.  Some say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit.  It’s taken me nearer twenty one months.  At first my concentration was so poor I had to read every paragraph repeatedly, forcing myself to put down my phone for twenty minutes at a time.  Then, slowly, I began relishing phone dumping; books morphing into pacifier and portal; a way to slow down time and accelerate perspectives.

How long does it take you to make a change?

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More about the malarky that is #52and40 here

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52and40/37 White Noise

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I love the odd day in Glasgow.  As familiarity grows, I’m beginning to link the city up with maps, memories, family folklore and reference points in the past, present and future.  I like the break from Edinburgh’s tourism too, when I’m off west.  Interactions with people and the pavement feel markedly more real and more easily connected in a context where showmanship’s less prevalent.  I trust myself and my reading of stories I’m collecting better without a backdrop of pressure on a place.  I’ve always been easily influenced; mood is infectious, too.

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More here on what the crack is with #52and40.  

52and40/36 ‘Tis The Season

My mental health’s gone off kilter recently.  As a health-conscious veteran of PMDD,  postnatal and antenatal depressions, I know when my neurochemistry’s recalibrated in an unhelpful direction.  I’m lucky SSRIs work well for me and I feel positive, mainly, about medical interventions.  I like my life in full, balanced colour.  So, while the palette reloads, I’m taking things easier.

Meanwhile, I’m heartened by the stigma around mental health honesty eroding.  I see people responding with less shock when someone owns a decline.  This rise in empathy and emotional courage really helps.

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Wotcha

If you like my soapbox moments or share my passions, grab a coffee or a gin and get comfy as you’ve happened upon my read me here update and it’d be great to have your comments along the way.

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Firstly, I’ve written as a guest blogger on The History Girls Frae Scotland recently.   I can pretty much guarantee you’ll love The History Girls Frae Scotland site for all its content, best described by themselves as ‘History, Heritage and Hilarity’, it’s a total delight.  The post I’ve written for them is about why, pushed by modern and historical politics, I came to create the website and online community I run called The Grantidote.

TheGrantidoteTrioThe Grantidote is a collection  of real women’s stories from people’s knowledge of grandmothers and other women who impacted their lives.  The Grantidote’s purpose is to create an intervention to a male-centric society in which toxic masculinity’s been normalised.  This may sound like heavy work but the reality’s different – it’s a pleasure and change never felt so accessible to me than through this simple but profound portal.  If you think you’ve a story about a woman to tell with me for this important archive, regardless of your gender, please get in touch.  Contributions can be little or large and I’m interested in getting graphic storytelling and spoken word included too.  Basically, the door’s wide open and the mood’s uber welcoming.  Dive in!

Second up, I was recently interviewed by Jane Woods for Changing People.  Changing People works with businesses and individuals to address gender imbalances in workplaces.  As someone who doesn’t have a career, this chat was terrifying and affirming and had me thinking so much about the discomfort and inadequacy I’ve felt over the years about the informality of my work.  My insecurities here are informed by quite extreme anxiety about money and security dating back to my teens, compounded by adult experiences with post-natal depression.  It was therapeutic to be able to step back from anxiety about my identity and see a bigger story I’m tentatively proud to call my own.

Third and last (and really joyfully) I’ve been doing a wee bit of novel writing and nurturing short stories and poems for competitions. Words, words, everywhere…

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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