Concave

Hi, hello.

I wrote this short thing while I was noodling about with writing prompts (thoroughly recommend Writers HQ if anyone’s looking for good ones!). The prompt was “convex or concave” and as you can see, I opted for the latter. It got me thinking about my less than stellar relationship with my meat suit over the years, and the few paragraphs below are what came out after I set a ten-minute timer and started scribbling.

I just want to say up top that this post is not an attack on smaller bodies. It’s a result of years of assuming it was necessary for me to shoehorn mine into a shape that it didn’t want to be via a host of ridiculous and unsustainable means (hello, Special K diet!). M’kay, thanks. Here goes:

When I think of the word “concave”, it puts me in mind of begging. I imagine the hollow created by two cupped hands in a silent plea for more. “Concave” indicates both a lack and a need. No one begs unless there’s some underlying sense of desperation they need to address.

So then why did I spend all of my teens and most of my twenties hungering after a concave curve in my middle? I’d fantasized about wearing little tops that would “show off” a begging bowl of a midriff to everyone around me. I thought that once I’d somehow scooped the flesh from between my ribs and pelvis, I’d never need anything again: I’d be filled with unshakable confidence and inundated with admirers, all because my stomach no longer perched atop my jeans when I sat down.

At thirty-three, I now know that, for my body at least, I would need to be especially under-nourished to get to a point where I’m presenting like an apple with a chunk bitten out of it. I’ve learned that during all those years, my desire for hollowness was linked with begging: Begging for respite from my chattering worries (translation: generalised anxiety), begging for acceptance, and begging for validation.

I’m so fucking grateful that I’ve since accepted that I don’t need to eat only cereal for two meals a day, go cold turkey on snacking, or chew each mouthful of food thirty times over like a cow chewing cud in order to get those things. And that I sure as shit don’t need to beg for them.

Can I have a lift?

So, last night was interesting. There I was, enjoying having the house to myself for the first evening in months, while my other half was out playing football, also for the first time in months. I was content in the domestic snow globe I’ve been inhabiting since 2020, feeling all safe and quiet.

After and unidentifiable number of episodes of The Circle (another bingeable show I find myself late to the party in discovering), Andy came blustering through the door, informing me of all the myriad ways he expected to ache in the morning. As he recounted the evening’s events, I kept one eye on the drama unfolding on my iPad, paying neither full attention until one utterance from Resident Boy’s mouth knocked the wind from me.

“Me and some of the boys are going to the rugby club in a couple of weeks. You alright to give me a lift?”

“What?”

He repeated himself and a hot, energy-giving anger flared up in my gut. I think I snapped something in response about supposing that I would have to, because how else would he be able to get pissed out of his brains?

That was about the long and short of our brief verbal interaction last night. Bewildered by my own visceral emotional reaction, I passive aggressively took myself off to bed, making sure my ascent up the stairs was extra clompy for good measure. While in bed, I fought off waves of indignation that I couldn’t logic my way out of, until I passed out in a tense ball.

When I finally did drop off to sleep, I found myself jerking in and out of a series of disturbing nightmares. When I’m stressed, I have a fun habit of dreaming that I’m awake, realising I’m not, then ‘waking up’ again, only to discover I’m still dreaming. One star, would not recommend.

This morning, my body felt like a coiled spring, and it was difficult to tell whether I was upset, angry or unwell, seeing as I had my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine earlier this week (hurrah!). There was a tightness in my chest, and my stomach felt like I’d had cement for dinner the night before.  

It wasn’t until much later in the day that I realise that what I’ve been feeling in response to Andy’s question wasn’t anger, but fear. I’ve been pretty vocal since last March about how I cannot wait to venture back out into the world in a dress (fuck me, remember those?) to talk utter nonsense and dance like I’m possessed with my friends, so I didn’t anticipate such a bodily reaction to the thought of things starting to resemble pre-covid life.

Know who did? My mum. A few weeks ago, she told me that she wouldn’t be surprised if the last year had messed me up a bit. At the time, I’d disagreed, but of course she was bang on, as usual.

I’ve worked from home since last March, and my only face-to-face interactions have been with a miniscule number of people. I’ve essentially managed to de-socialise myself. I need to get myself one of those little hi viz jackets you see on certain dogs that say “I’m nervous. Please stay back” on them.

I think the reason my anger and terror directed themselves at Andy was that last night, he brought the real world thundering back through the front door with him, all with one innocuous request for a favour.

All I’ve known for months has been screaming headlines, informing me that everything is to be feared and the world is crumbling around its axis. I’ve overthought every social interaction I’ve embarked on, for fear of passing a potentially life-threatening virus on to my loved ones. People I know have lost their loved ones. Quite frankly, it’s been shit. Shit with the silver lining of fewer obligations and the ability to work in loungewear, but still shit. The explosion of anxiety that blasted through me yesterday was totally natural. There is no official guidance on how to come out of something this monumental with your sanity fully intact.

I don’t have a nice, neat conclusion to this tale of overreaction. I just wanted to share how I felt because I think this kind of stuff needs to be talked about.

The coming months look set to bring with them a lot of adjustments, for better or for worse. So, if you can’t wait to fling your arms around your mates despite not being much of a hugger before the year 2020, while also wishing you could hole yourself up under your bed and never see another soul again, I’m right there with you. We’re living in a scary, fast-moving, frustrating, hopeful, amazing, horrible time right now. Any and every emotion we’re experiencing is one hundred percent justified.

So…how you feeling?

Hands off my hobby!

Audio recording of blog (please excuse the word fudging towards the end!)

It’s a weird time right now, isn’t it? Globally, it feels like the winds are changing, so we’d best remember not to pull a face, lest it get stuck that way.

With the vaccine rollout steaming ahead, society is waking from its government-enforced hibernation and venturing back out into the shops and pubs world with equal parts hope and trepidation. I’m in simultaneous fight and flight mode, and I very much doubt I’m special in that respect.

Like lots of others, I’ve used the locked-in freakiness of the last 12 plus months to revisit a hobby. I love to write (gasp!) but imagined time constraints and my inner dictator/perfectionist/cranky old lady (I call her Betty) likes to snuff out any little sparks of motivation with her orthopaedic shoes.

Fortunately, the dress code for lockdown is slippers and loungewear – pet hair encouraged but not compulsory. All must leave their metaphorical creativity squashing shoes at the door.

From March 2020, I saw an opportunity to throw myself into no-pressure writing as my weekend plans dissolved, along with my commute. I started by joining the lovely, judgement-free Writing for Fun and Sanity community (Eventbrite link here if you’re curious). We scribbly sous meet most Saturdays online to be led through a handful of thought-provoking exercises by author and beacon of positivity Marianne Power.

I also took it upon myself to follow the 12-week programme in creativity bible The Artists Way and thoroughly enjoyed its hippy-dippy approach to pen wielding (the book covers all kinds of creative expression, not just writing). I also read and reread a tonne of ‘writers on writing’- type books. My favourites so far are:

  • Bird by bird – Anne Lamott
  • Writing down the bones – Natalie Goldberg
  • Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
  • And, of course, The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

As devastating as this crappy pandemic has been, one twinkle of silver lining for me was this being able to reconnect with an activity that gives me joy for its own sake, and if Facebook is to be believed, there’s a small army of bakers, gardeners, painters, sketchers, linguists, and guitarists, you name it, who have felt the same way.

So, I wonder, has the recent change of course back towards ‘normality’ (I’m starting to hate that word) awoken the kraken named ‘Should’ for you too? My sense of play over the last year has produced a gothic horror novella and a clutch of odd-but-endearing short stories. But now, Betty is stressed again. My dictator brain is telling me that now these things exist, I should send them off to some agency/magazine/publisher or another in a bid to make money, because why ‘waste’ all that time if cash and recognition aren’t the result?

While I won’t deny that money is useful, and recognition feels great, it does frustrate me that these things seem to be the ultimate end goal for all human endeavour. I’ve been guilty in the past of telling others who are bossing their pastimes that they should start a cake making business, sell their art to others, make a side hustle of their hobby!

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so, it should be a personal choice, entered into because it’s what you genuinely want. The popular idea that to be worthy, your efforts must bear financial fruit makes me want to hide in a cupboard. Bloody capitalism. Grumble, grumble.

As I write this, I’m unsure what, if anything, I’ll do with the modest mound of fiction I’ve collected. I do enjoy sharing what I’ve done – it feels like a natural part of the process. I’m the same obnoxious child who got her kicks from having her doodles displayed on the fridge – I’m just fractionally taller and slightly more obliged to pretend I know what I’m doing.

Maybe I’ll stick the stories up for a few pence on Kindle or figure out how to host them for free for download on this site. Maybe I’ll print them off and demand that Mum digs the magnets out and sticks into her kitchen appliances. Or I could just keep them in the Word documents they live in and enjoy looking at the files from time to time to remind myself that “Look! I did that!”

I don’t know.

I think my point here is that just because the beast we call society, with its love of productivity and tangible, sellable results is reawakening, we don’t have to offer up all our wonderful messy, artsy stuff to appease it, to prove that we’ve been productive while it was sleeping, honest. The fruits of our play are ours alone to do what the hell we want to with. Or even nothing at all.   

Man’s Search for Meaning/Hit Me Like a Skittle Bus

Hello there! Been a while hasn’t it? I would apologise for my erratic posting schedule, but trust me, you really don’t want the alternative. It would go the same way as my regular phonecalls with my Mum do. We both insist on asking each other “any news?” every single day. Spoiler: there is never any news. We’re both living lockdown Groundhog Day. Still, we live in hope.

Oh, that reminds me. Mum, I know you’re reading this.

…Any news?

I came on here to enthuse about a book I’ve read this past week that hit me like a bus. In a good way, though. A bus made of marshmallows that was full of Skittles and puppies, and suchlike.

The book isn’t a new one by any stretch – it’s been around since 1946, so it’s taken me long enough to get around to reading it (haw haw), but I’m so glad I did. Sometimes the perfect book comes into your life at exactly the right time, which is precisely what happened for me with Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Right now, the covid-y carousel of horror that is the news and the raging wheely bin fire that is social media offer very little in the way of comfort. Pair that with repetitive, rainy, locked-down days and no guarantee of life ever returning to (I’m starting to hate this word) “normal”, and you’ve got yourself a potent recipe for hopelessness.   

Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and philosopher survived four (four!) different concentration camps during World War Two and still managed to emerge from the nightmarish experience with a strengthened conviction that there is meaning to be found in life, in spite of even the most painful experiences. Man’s Search for Meaning is a testament to this, and is split into two parts. The first documents what he went through in the concentration camps, and the second is more philosophical, going into more detail about his theories and beliefs. Both are fantastic.

There is no way I can do his writing justice here, but I feel compelled to share the love for it, so that’s what I’m going to do! I suppose you could say that I find meaning in the task…

Anyway, here are some of the key take-aways from this wonderful book that resonated with me:

Happiness is a by-product, not a goal.

Frankl believed that modern society’s obsession with pursuing happiness is senseless. He saw happiness as a result of doing or experiencing something meaningful, not an end in itself. He believed that searching for happiness for its own sake is like trying to push your way into a room via a door that only opens outwards. Man loved an analogy.

Meaning is individual and situational.

He wrote that asking “what is the meaning of life?” is akin to asking a master chess player which one move is the best chess move. It would be impossible to answer. The best move depends entirely on the situation, as well as to the unique person the situation is happening to. The issue, he said, lies in the question itself. It isn’t our place to ask what the meaning is in a given experience, day, or lifetime. We’re approaching it the wrong way round. Frankl instead encourages us to realise that life is asking questions of us every moment of every day. The future isn’t ours to know. Our responsibility is to think about what life is asking from us right now. It’s how we answer, whether that’s verbally, in action, or in attitude, that gives us our sense of meaning.

There are 3 main ways meaning can be found.

These are through:

  • Action/work. By work, I mean what you focus your energy on, not necessarily what pays the bills. Although the two kinds of work don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
  • Experience e.g through appreciating nature or loving others.
  • Suffering. Not suffering for its own sake, though. If you can do anything to alleviate it, then that’s what should be done, but in cases where the suffering is unavoidable, meaning can be found by the acceptance and endurance of it.

Life’s transience is what gives it meaning.

If we were to live forever, we would never do anything of note. There wouldn’t be any need to. There would be no legacy to leave behind, because we ourselves would never be leaving. As we age, rather than mourning that we have fewer pages left on our calendars, we should instead rejoice in the ever expanding catalogue of actions we’ve taken, choices we’ve made and things we’ve experienced. Every second, we make choices, and everything filed away into the past becomes permanent and unchangeable. No one can erase us from this fixed past. We are safe and saved there.

There is so much more to Man’s Search for Meaning than I’ve shared here, but if this way of thinking tickles your pickle (my pickle was well and truly tickled), then I definitely recommend a read. I wasn’t expecting something written by a holocaust survivor to be anywhere near this hopeful and life affirming.

I stumbled across it as a Daily Deal on Kindle a while back, and I’m incredibly glad I did. I’ve since listened to the audiobook version of a series of lectures Frankl also wrote on the same topic called Yes to Life in Spite of Everything, which is more philosophical than biographical, but just as absorbing. If you, like me have been feeling a bit “blah” lately, you might find both works helpful too. If you do end up reading either, come back here and let me know how you got on!

In the meantime, links to both books below:

Man’s Search for Meaning

Yes to Life in Spite of Everything

Hope you’re looking after yourself. Until next time..whenever that is! xx

“What happened?”
“He asked what the meaning of life was.”
“Ahh…a rook-ie mistake…”
“Sigh…why are you like this?”

Remembrance, Removed

Note up top: I originally wrote this post in my notebook after watching today’s Remembrance Day ceremony on TV. As you can see, I had some feelings to process. Just putting in a quick disclaimer before I continue:

  • None of what I express represents any employer/group I associate with’s feelings or opinions; only my own in one particular moment.
  • This isn’t me saying that I’m anti-military or anti remembrance service. If I was, I’d have a number of ex-military family members justifiably keen for a “quick word” with me. I’m a former Army brat and respect the reasons why someone would feel a calling to protect their loved ones on such an intense scale.
  •  I strongly believe that our rituals are needed, as they’re what keeps memories alive – it just frustrates me that nothing we do can will ever feel significant enough to commemorate what those who’ve gambled, and in many cases, lost their lives at war have experienced.

I just watched the Remembrance Sunday ceremony on the BBC. It felt odd watching the royal family and a smattering of politicians put on a (likely heartfelt, I won’t deny that) display of solemnity from a distance. I mean this is both a physical sense because of the covid-19 regulations, and in the sense of time passed from the events being commemorated.

Everyone in attendance gathered two metres apart from each other, as well as decades away from the bloodshed of both world wars, while I was even further separated by a TV screen. I sat three layers of removal from any real sense of the original horrors.

The people at the ceremony were so neat. I noticed lots of straight, black edges in their clothing, punctuated by bright, red spots of poppies. I understand that poppies represent blood spilled, lives lost and souls at eternal rest, but the bold, almost domesticated tidiness at the lapels of those there gave everything an abstract feel. Art wanly imitating life.

During the two minutes’ silence, I thought of a soldier in the trenches.

He’s young – maybe about nineteen or so. He’s away from his family for the first time, picturing them sat together at home, perhaps around a fire, certainly worrying about him. He feels he owes it to them to come home alive, having done his duty for his country and, by extension, them.

He feels sick as he remembers what his duty entails. He’s already seen it up close. It’s World War One and combat is still largely fought at close range. His duty to Queen and country involves charging at another man (boy) and seeing his own involuntary scream roaring back at him from this stranger’s mouth – a primal, guttural sound borne of fear and adrenaline.

He sees himself in his enemy’s white knuckles, which grip his gun, because it’s all that stands between him and near certain death. He sees the whites of his opponent’s eyes. They remind his of his collie dog’s eyes during a thunderstorm, ears pinned back and nothing any family member can do to assure him that the sky isn’t exploding.

Our soldier looks up. The sky above him is exploding, and it’s only a matter of time until he’s due to climb back over the top. Tonight, he’ll either steal another son, father, uncle, brother from an ashen-faced family around a hearth, or he’ll break the hearts of his own family, all those miles away.

Do I think in that moment, he’d give a single shit that a prince has just laid another heap of flowers at the foot of a monument in his honour? Would he be soothed by the idea that years from where he is, people will come to place artificial flowers below an artificial grave for him?

Would he care that I, in my pyjamas, dog in lap and throw over my knees managed to stop talking for two whole minutes while the nation arranged its features in a bid to represent solemnity and sincerity in exchange for what he’s had to do?

Extreme Admin Viking

Right then, chaps! We have wine, we have ice cream on a stick, and we have the urge to write a blog post. No one can tell this girl she don’t know how to party.

Today, I cleaned my house (Becky stop, this is just too exciting!), both actually and professionally. I dragged the hoover round my chateau during my lunch hour and then proceeded to end the day on an unusually short to-do list before the Friday ritual – dramatically snapping my laptop shut, pulling the plug on it and declaring myself “finiiiiished!” to the dog.

I felt disproportionately proud of myself for having completed most of my tasks today. I’m one of those super chill types who don’t feel like they’ve achieved a decent day’s work unless they’ve run at it like a Viking going into battle. Some villages may occasionally be burnt down in my pursuit of task completion, but dammit, I get the job done!

I’m fully aware that this isn’t perhaps the healthiest way to operate in the 9 to 5, but I have this deep-seated, illogical belief that if I somehow complete all the work EVER, my brain will be all soft and calm for the first time in my life; A tranquil sea beneath fluffy clouds as opposed to the usual swirling rapids beneath a sky full of unexpected explosions…that’s also raining frogs. And someone’s playing death metal somewhere in off in the hills.

Of course, “the work” is never done because there’s always more to do. Logically I know that by doing everything as quickly as possible, I’m just bringing the next lot of stuff closer to me faster. It’s a bit like running on the prize treadmill on the Generation Game, but instead of cuddly toys, you just get more work.

It’s just as well that it never runs out, because if I did finish all of the universe’s admin I’d suddenly find myself out of the job.

As I get older, I’m learning to live with my village-raider mentality when it comes to dealing with Word documents, emails and spreadsheets. I know there’s not much I can do to prevent myself from arming myself with tools (coffee and protein bars) and screaming blue murder as I advance into my workweek. It’s just how I do things.

So, I’ve decided that if I can’t change it, I can flip how I see it. I, ladies and gentlemen, am not a type A stress-head. I am instead an extreme sportsperson. I partake in the sport of Extreme Admin.

Adrenaline seeking is a legitimate lifetime pursuit for some, and those people are rarely judged for actively putting themselves in scenarios where their heart rate goes dangerously through the roof. In fact, some would go as far as saying that these sky diving, Everest climbing, swimming-with-sharks-ing types are cool.

Well, then surely what I do for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is cool too! I too seek thrills on the daily. I too flirt with death (okay. A mild pressure headache) every time I get off my rocker on adrenaline at the keyboard. Have you ever tried to book a last minute meeting for several Busy-and-Important types whilst writing up meeting minutes with one hand and throwing coffee into your face with the other, and at the same time, someone is Skyping you to ask if you’ve finished The Thing With the Deadline yet? It’s nail biting stuff, truly!

People take pictures of themselves sky diving, mouths flapping in the wind, eyebrows way up on their scalps, when they don’t even realise that they could get this exact same image by spying an email marked with the little red “urgent” flag of doom in their inbox at 4.59pm on a Friday afternoon. Some people pay hundreds upon thousands of pounds for that kind of terror!

The best bit? Iget paid to do it! While others break the bank looking for their next kick, I get all mine whilst sat on my backside, wearing my Britney-esque headset and clasping a cuppa. At least while I’m pushing the pace, tripping my tatas off on cortisol, I’m cozy, warm and within 10 seconds of the fridge. Can’t beat it.

What’s your unofficial extreme sport? Let me know in the comments!

Dammit, Carol, I said NO comic sans!!

Disclaimer: Before you start worrying about me having a coronary, don’t! I have a slight tendency towards exaggeration and just got a bit carried away with the idea of me wearing a Viking helmet, running at a big pile of documents. I assure you I take regular breaks, exercise lots and do loads of relaxing stuff to wind down after a hard day’s extreme adminning. I also do said extreme adminning for a lovely company who give us wellbeing breaks, flexible hours and generally walks the walk when it comes to wellbeing. It’s all good. I’m going to stop talking now because I’m making it all sound much less impressive that what I was going for. Bye!

When life gives you hang overs…wear your wellies?

When I drink wine, I always do it dressed up as a cat attending a masquerade ball. Why? Don’t you?

I am slightly hung over.

My first clue was the dull throbbing between my eyebrows, and the second came when I decided to make cheese on toast (extra cheese, chunky bread, drowned in hot sauce) and couldn’t stand to wait the 5 minutes for the grill to do its thing. Instead of practicing patience, I snarfed down a bag of crisps, several slices of ham and multiple spoons full of chocolate spread like the feral beast I am.

I don’t handle hang overs well. I usually alternate between flopping around the house in the manner of a fainting lady of the manor and snapping at my nearest and dearest for not psychically knowing what my exact needs are at every moment. To be fair, the latter isn’t difficult. It’s usually more snacks or a nap.

It’s like the layer that usually forms a barrier against my soft, squishy brain and everyday annoyances is temporarily thinned by booze, and for a day or two, I’m vulnerable to animal rescue videos and the idea that every petty thing is out to get me.

Today is a perfect storm for self-pity in Brain Del Becky. Last night, I celebrated Halloween by donning cat ears and eyeliner whiskers and chatting with friends on Zoom, all while mainlining wine and Bud Light. A classy combination, I know.

Today looks like someone’s put a crappy black and white filter on the world outside and we’re experiencing the kind of drizzle where raindrops aren’t especially visible, but outdoors is just a curtain of wet. On top of that, I can’t go anywhere, because Wales is experiencing Lockdown, The Sequel: Shorter, Sharper, Shitter.

Then why am I in such a good mood? My weakened bullshit barrier appears to be letting in more of the wholesome stuff than the usual angsty nonsense. I spent the first part of my day nestled into my chins and dressing gown on the sofa, laughing inanely at the boyfriend responding to that Sky ad that samples Martin Solveig’s song Hello with an unenthused “…hi” every time the singer said “hello” and enjoying flashbacks from last night’s Zoom chats. A particular highlight was watching a friend demonstrating how to pull of some complex yoga moves in a bear onesie at gone 1am, which prompted me to write a reminder to pull “pubes to boobs” for a particular pose on my home office whiteboard…if only I could remember what the pose was. It sounds painful.

…downward dog? Answers on a postcard.

This afternoon, I also discovered that

  1. I own wellies (thanks Reading Festival 20..16? Can’t remember)
  2. I don’t have to walk the dog with rainwater squelching between my rapidly wrinkling toes any more.

I took an inordinate amount of pleasure from this while I dragged my only semi-willing jack russell/pug/sensitive princess mix round the local park; Me making a point of only walking in the muddiest patches of sodden grass because I could and him primly judging me on the path beside me.

The best part of our walk was when we passed by the playground, which is usually a petri dish teeming with racing small people and saw that it was empty of all life, bar a family of four – two parents, two young children, all in matching, brightly-coloured rain coats and wellies. They were oblivious to my creepy, watching presence, too busy attending to the important business of alternately flinging each child down a zip line as violently as possible while they screamed in terror/glee (hard to tell. Amusing either way).

I don’t know if I’d have been slightly emotional if I hadn’t melted my defences with wine the night prior, but I just remember being struck by how lovely that was. I felt a weird kinship with this nuclear unit. While everyone else in the area was burrowing at home, away from the wind and rain, I was sloshing around outdoors, thinking nothing more than “Hah! Dry feet!!” while they had fun in a space that would otherwise be full of chaos and other humans. It sort-of reminded me of that Christmas ad where the family are indoors, and the fox has a go on the empty trampoline.

I have no idea what my point is. Am I endorsing hang overs, rain gear or seeing the silver lining in things that most people naturally view as a bit rubbish? I dunno.

Wellies are good, though aren’t they?

P.S My baby sister got engaged last night! If you’re reading this, please comment a nice message for her so I can screen grab a bunch of well wishes from strangers and share them with her while she waits for her Moonpig card and present to arrive from me…apparently turning up at someone’s flat to drop a gift off and scream about potential hen do’s is considered “non-essential travel.” Pfft!

Getting in the Habit

Disclaimer: not a fun, punny post involving nuns. Telling you up front to save you time if you came for nun content. Apologies.

Ok, so I wasn’t planning on writing anything this evening, let alone blogging, but following my first (socially distanced) spin class in what feels like 300 years, I feel like this:

No, it wasn’t raining. It was indoors and I’m just that sweaty. Hot in every sense of the word, I know.

Clearly, the exertion has knocked some reserve of manic energy loose that I didn’t know I had and now I need to do something with it. Also, you’d look like this too if you’d been pedaling like a demon to bangers like Proud Mary for the last 45 minutes. Don’t judge.

To give you some sort of context, I didn’t plan on doing much after the class because I’ve been a bit knackered. Combo of:

  • Starting a new jobbo! This week, I’ve been constantly bowled over by how much genuine passion everyone I’m meeting has for their work and how lovely they all are. Remotely taking in lots of new information, names and faces over Skype all day has left me behaving like a cranky toddler come the evenings. All I’ve wanted has dinner and a snooze. Also sweets.
  • The weather. Always a trending topic in Britain, but more so this week, as the UK appears to have floated up into space and relocated to the surface of the sun while we weren’t looking. I don’t think I’ve slept for more than an hour at a time between waking up, cursing the useless open window and trying to smother myself back to unconsciousness with my pillow. It’s made for some pretty impressive storms, though; The weather, not my cursing. I’m not that powerful.
  • Stupid book. Last week, I read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I had a little breather in between leaving my last job and starting in my new role and decided to fill the time with as much fun stuff as I could.

    Anyone who knows me knows that “fun stuff” for me involves learning about human psychology and then trying to psycholog…erise (?) myself as a result. The book is great, and I’d highly recommend it. It teaches you the main ways that habits are formed and how you can make or break habits of your choosing.

    What it doesn’t advise you to do is attempt to implement ALL of the habits at once. Here is a list of some of the things I’ve decided I’m going to be doing every day since reading it:
    • Learn Portuguese via Duolingo.
    • Write every day. I’m writing the first draft of this post on a site called 750words.com, which incentivises writing 750 words daily by giving you stats and emailing you reminders to log in.
    • Working out and hitting my step goal. Generally do this anyway, seeing as all my nervous energy has to go somewhere lest I implode, but my inner narcissist fancied a humblebrag.
    • Answering at least one section of of whatever college assignment I’m in the middle of at the time.

Add this lot to the usual stuff like walk the dog, do the dishes, remember to interact with the bloke in the kitchen (I think he said his name was Andy. Seems like a nice chap – he’s been feeding me for 9 years) and sleep, I’m starting to see this might have been a slightly insane undertaking.

…Is this how people who have kids feel all the time? I don’t understand how it’s done and am both impressed with and mildly frightened of you and your time management powers.

I’m not too sure where I’m going with this post. The endorphin-fueled mania is quickly giving way to a mild stupor, so I’d better wrap this up while I can still sort-of spell.

Right. So. My grand point will be…that I am going to create a new habit to add to my list of habits!

My new habit will be to get in the habit of not doing all of the aforementioned habits every single day. Honestly, who was that helping and/or impressing? It leaves zero room for spontaneity, rest, Netflix or additional snacks, and the latter is borderline criminal. I chose to do all of those things to feel good and cater to my mental health and interests. Trust me to opt into the least healthy way of putting them into practice.

As Atomic Habits suggests, the best way to start my new habit of breaking habits is to start small. I’ll pick one thing per day that I absolutely cannot do and build from there. I think, given time, dedication and supreme effort, I will eventually win at not doing stuff. I may even be able to compete at an elite level.

I’m sure there’s a more serious message to be found here about looking after your well-being and not turning self care into self torture, but I’ll let you work that one out for yourself. I appear to be knackered again.

Off to lie in the dark and curse at the temperature some more. I hope you found this enlightening. Go forth and do nothing! Or something. But not too much, okay?

Work in the time of coronavirus

I’ve been meaning to write a blog about coronavirus for a little while now – specifically about how it’s affected (or not affected) the way I’ve carried out my work. The reason for the delay? It felt a bit narcissistic to be summarising how a global pandemic which has prematurely ended the lives of over 36,000 people in the UK alone (at the time of writing) is affecting privileged, safely-working-from-home little old me.

But, then I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it? This once in a lifetime (Christ, I hope!), insane dystopian nightmare of an experience is affecting pretty much everyone on a global scale by vastly varying degrees. Nevertheless, we’re all affected. And for every worthy think piece, speculating on the demise or regeneration of society as we know it, there must also be fluff, detailing the lives of those who now live in slippers and refer to their pets as their colleagues.

Readers, I am here to peddle the fluff! Don’t thank me. Just doing the job I was put on this Earth to do. 

So, here goes. How a global pandemic is affecting the way I work:

I NEED it!

Yes, I needed work before covid came a-knockin’. I require a lot of food to maintain the level of restlessness I’ve become accustomed to, and that food requires money. But more than ever, when my leisure options are reduced to a.) nap and b.) drag the unwilling dog around the block AGAIN, I’ve realised that I rely on my work to bring me a sense of accomplishment and structure. 

I’m an incredibly task-oriented person who uses to-do lists to plan what that week’s to-do lists are going to look like, and without a daily list of boxes to tick and little victories to earn, I’d just be a human troll doll in a dressing gown, sadly trying to find redemption at the bottom of my 15th bag of crisps in one day.

Working from home works

Like the majority of bipeds with a pulse, I miss properly interacting with people. At this point, if it weren’t for the miracle that is Zoom helping me recall their appearances, I’d be envisioning crudely drawn stick figure versions of my friends and family every time I tried to conjure up a mental image of them. I thought that after a week or 2 of working from my spare bedroom, I’d be crawling up the walls, being distracted by the contents of my fridge every 30 seconds. Turns out – not the case!

I’ve enjoyed learning how to better collaborate with people from a distance, I have fewer distractions to contend with, so I’m churning out work much more quickly, and I’m still on the same tank of petrol I had on 23rd March due to the total lack of commute (ka-ching!). Of course, I will welcome things going back to normal-ish, whenever that may be, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what I have now. We’re so fortunate that we live in a time of bafflingly efficient technology. Things are bad, but they could be so much worse. 

Got them sweet, sweet skills

This is a time of free courses, adaptation and connection with people that we perhaps wouldn’t otherwise be talking to, or at least, not as much. Here’s some stuff I know now that I didn’t know in March:

  • How to confidently use Zoom (also that Zoom exists. Did I mention I love Zoom?).
  • How to plan, advertise and organise an online training event for the public.
  • How to use Google Keywords better, as well as a few other new marketing tools for the old tool belt (thanks v much, Focus Enterprise Hub and co. for the webinar!).
  • How to best adapt how I keep in touch with my co-workers in non face-to-face ways.
  • That I’m not as scared as I initially thought I was of slapping my face up on social media via short informational videos.
  • That I’m endlessly amused by the difference in how the UK and Welsh Government answer daft questions during their daily press briefings. I summarise both briefings for work each day, and it tickles me how direct Welsh Gov are when they’re asked a stupid question. They suffer no fools and I love it!
  • No matter how many times I ask the intern to get me a snack, he will not get me one. Instead, he vacantly wags his tail until I fetch him a treat. That’s some expert manipulation right there. I don’t know how he does it.

Thus ends my very important documentation of what I’ve learned so far. 

On a more serious note, I hope that wherever you’re reading this from, you’re safe and well. I know that sentiment is heard so often right now that it’s lost all meaning, along with variations like “I hope this email finds you well” and “please stay safe” (thank God you told me to, I was about to go rollerblading on the motorway!), but that doesn’t make it any less sincere. I really do hope you have all you need to cope during these wonky times. I recommend comfy pyjamas and crisps.

Be silly, be comfy, be snacky and, most importantly, be safe (leave the rollerblades alone). 

I’m off to ask the intern for a Curly Wurly.

Just can’t get the staff these days…

I’ve Stopped Should-ing My Pants!

Help, I’m possessed….with the urge to write a blog post!

Apologies – bit anticlimactic, but I’m excited.

It’s been nearly a whole year since I had the urge to write anything here and in September, I had a notification that my domain name was about to expire. Thinking I was blogging’s first ever Zen lady-monk, I decided it was time for www.spilledthink.com and I to part ways. I’d been struggling to think of something new to write once a month, let alone once a week as per my original intentions, so I put my precious jumble of letters back up for adoption to enable it to find a new and more deserving home.

Clearly it’s been in the domain name pound this entire time, because when I searched for it this morning, it was very much available. Maybe it has behavioral problems – bit its foster family or something. I didn’t train it very well.

Back to my original point. This morning, I opened my eyes, and since my brain is essentially a living to-do list, it booted up and immediately started thinking about what it should do today. It concluded that it wanted to blog, which isn’t an urge I’ve felt for a long time. Here’s why I decided to give up my loveable domain name that may or may not pee on the carpet last year:

Blogging had become a chore

The second I decide I’m going to do something regularly, it immediately becomes a should i.e unpaid work, and thinking about doing it stresses me out. Here are just a few great things I’ve managed to suck the fun out of at one time or another in this way:

  • Journaling
  • Writing fiction/anything else at all for fun (Brain: “You have to write for fun, or you aren’t a creative or worthy person. Now enjoy yourself or I will berate you about how awful, boring and uncreative you are for the next week!”)
  • The thought of meeting up with people I genuinely love in any way that remotely whiffs of obligation
  • Physical activity – I love moving about and picking up heavy things then putting them down again for enjoyment (I’m a simple creature), but the second I decide I have to do it for XYZ reason, I will stand in the entrance of the gym, pouting and giving the barbell a sulky side eye until I remember I don’t have to be able to lift Terry Crews to get enjoyment out of workouts.

I forgot what blogging is “for”

As a doddering elder millennial, I was around when blogging wasn’t a word yet and tonnes of angsty teens dabbled with an online diaries (Livejournal, anyone?). I was also around where some of these personal diaries exploded into book-deal grabbing personal narratives, TV shows and whatnot –Secret Diaries of a London Call Girl and The Unmumsy Mum spring to mind.

More recently, blogging has become a marketing tool for businesses to help with search engine optimisation and customer engagement – something I use for the day job – and it’s more about creating money and a following than self-expression. People don’t seem to want to sift through blogs as a means of entertainment anymore. Case in point, from Google Trends:

Part of my job involves watching and summarizing coronavirus-related press conferences right now and this graph showing the rise and decline of people googling “blog” since 2004 looks eerily like the graph the UK Government keep showing for the rate of infection. Clearly, we’ve “flattened the curve” of blogging. Haw haw.

When I was posting increasingly sporadically last year, milking the dusty teat of my grey matter (heh. Also ick, but it’s staying – I think that might have to be the title of my autobiography) for any idea, my drive to blog was at odds with what I thought blogging should be for, which made it mega hard to sit down and start typing. Want to know what I think its purpose is today?

What blogging’s actually for (for me):

  • The pure, button bashing (mind out the gutter, sicko) enjoyment of it
  • A space to create awful metaphors (see prev. brain milking comment) and dad-puns and not have to take them out, because no one’s paying me to do it
  • A way of fueling my rampant narcissism and talking about me, me, MEEEEEE, where the uninterested audience can simply click away to avoid it and not have to smother me with a scatter cushion to stop me from talking
  • A tool for getting my monkey mind to focus and stop chattering bollocks for half an hour.

Getting a bit snacky now and should really go do Friday. How about a hastily written summary before I go raid the kitchen?

What did we learn today, kids?

The quickest way to murder the joy in something is to should all over it. Because of this, I’m applying zero pressure to myself to post regularly. I might do another one tomorrow, next week or never, but if I do carry on, it’ll be because I want to, dammit!

When it comes to blogging, I am pledging to finally stop should-ing myself, which will save both my sanity and my pants. Hurrah! Talk to you soon, faceless void that is the internet – or maybe I won’t, who the hell knows! 😊