Apologies for the temporary hiatus in accessing my blog. For personal reasons I hid from the world for a little time, and did actually contemplate closing this site down completely. After some time out rearranging my head from its state of emotional basketcasery, I’ve decided to stay put and just make some of my more personal posts private.
I’ve decided to reboot both the blog and myself by taking part in The Curious Professor Z’s Batfit update for November (posting a little early as I’m away during Halloween). Sorry, this a wordy post but it’s also been rather cathartic writing it all out.
I’ve been thinking about what I’ve accomplished this year, and initially the answer was nothing. Nada. But of course, that’s not true. There have been chinks of light in the torpid grey of 2014:
- My short story The Bone Queen was highly commended in a nation competition with Red Squirrel Press, and published in April this year. I achieved one of my writing dreams to then do a reading at Newcastle’s Lit & Phil with my closest family and friends cheering me on. I was terrified and elated, and I loved it.
- I’ve taken some of the hardest decisions of my life this year, and don’t regret them though I do often think about the reasons I took them and whether I should feel any remorse or regret. Ultimately, the answer is no. It’s taken me 8 months to reach the point where I accept that really, I had no choice.
- One of these decisions was to take a risk and jump into the unknown by resigning from paid, safe employment. When I reflect on this again in October 2015 I may have a different view, but given events that have taken place over the past 8 months it was the wisest decision I could have taken. If I’d stayed I would have ended up breaking down and leaving under a cloud. As it was I had a chance to say goodbye to many wonderful people, and preserve the friendships that I’d built up over 7 years. I miss some of the people, I miss the intellectual challenge of much of the work, but I really do not miss the stress of my hellish deadlines and volumes of work.
- I threw myself out of my comfort zone and spent a week on a residential writing course. It was revelatory. Every moment was pleasure. I realised what type of writer I really want to be. I created a blueprint with a curious, quirky and demanding tutor for how I would write the book that I am supposed to be writing – and so far I am following it. I have the odd wobble, and the self doubt creeps in, but ultimately I have a golden opportunity to create something I think I’ve waited my whole life to undertake.
- Seeing the emotional effect that my words could have on people was utterly priceless when I made my fellow course members and tutors cry reading my short story Private 48158 as the sun set in the Scottish Highlands.
- My husband. Him Underfoot. I couldn’t have gotten through this year without his steady, warm, loving presence by my side. He really is the star by which my compass is set.
What I’ve learned.
You may be wondering what this has to do with being Bat Fit. Well, this is housekeeping month. Clearing out my mental decks. I could reiterate everything that’s caused grief and stress this year, but some of it is not my story to tell. So let’s just look at what I’ve learned.
I’ve realised that grief can be sympathised with, and to a degree anticipated, but until it actually happens to you, the loss of a parent cannot be fully understood. There is no timescale for recovery, no set pattern for how you are going to feel from day to day. You can be sat, 8 months later, travelling with thoughts meandering, wool gathering, and then you find yourself welling up in public, the sound of his voice in your head, a snippet of a song he would have loved, the news events he’ll never be able to comment on, the stories of your past that have now been lost.
I’ve realised that it is pointless to regret choice. I rarely make important choices without a great deal of agony and procrastination. Yet when I make it, the decision is final (actually, as a grant assessor I work on basically the same principle). As long as I know I’ve looked at all options, pros and cons, then I am confident in my decisions. I think it’s important to acknowledge this to myself, as my mother is very good at undermining me, particularly in my decision to give up work and is constantly asking me if I’ve applied for a new job yet. I have patiently (and sometimes not quite so politely!) explained that my decision to leave employed work has a deadline – and it’s November 2015. Regardless of appearances, I AM working. I writing stories, developing plots, family trees. It may ultimately come to nothing – but my biggest regret would have been if I’d never taken this risk.
I’ve realised I have to force myself to be a social animal. I’m chronically shy. I never feel interesting enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, posh enough….the list is endless. Not having a formal workplace provides excellent cover for the introvert…and I’m having to challenge my social anxiety every time I make an arrangement o meet with a friend for coffee, or to go for drinks. I think they’d be astounded to read this – once I’m out I’m generally fine and have a great time. It’s the actual crossing of the door thresh I find difficult. I’d happily not speak to anyone other than my immediate family for days on end.
So, What’s A Girl to Do? Goals..
Exercise: I need to exercise more. I’d made a great start in September, swimming twice a week and then walking the 2.3miles home from the pool home. This isn’t a chore, there’s a great coffee shop mid point on the route! I’d gone from an arthritic 20 lengths of the pool to 40 in 6 weeks and was beginning to both mentally and physically notice the benefits. Then personal armageddon hit, coupled with a really severe reaction to my annual flu jab (the first time ever) – one of my arms was basically unusable for 2 weeks (and a lovely shade of yellow and purple – they’d have chucked me out of the pool!). I haven’t been swimming or walking for 4 weeks, and physically I feel like hell.
GOAL: to get my ass back in that pool after my Halloween holiday next week and crank up the lengths again at least twice a week. There’s a ‘congratualations’ bagel & tea en route home, after all.
Alcohol: I use alcohol as a crutch. There’s been way too much of it in my life this year and I’m not enjoying it anymore, whilst occasionally craving it (more of a mental craving than physical one). I don’t drink more than twice a week, but when I do I have no ‘off-switch’. It also makes me very emotional. At the start of the year, I took the Dry January challenge and stopped for a month. I’d been intending to carry it on, but my Dad died mid-Feb and I fell into the barrel all too readily. I’m on holiday next week, which includes a music festival and an annual meeting with friends, usually in pubs. I’m going to go, have fun, and then from the 5th November, I’m taking a month out of drinking again. My body complains now when I drink – 2 glasses of wine and I feel like a zombie the next day. I’m beginning to realise it just isn’t worth it.
GOAL: a (mostly) Dry November, followed by a Dry January pledge. And less red wine in general.
Weight: I’ve gained 7 pounds this year. That may not sound like much, but for a shrimp like me it’s very noticeable, and frankly it makes me unhappy. My clothes are a tad on the tight side, I feel frumpy and I’m off to Whitby Goth Weekend next week, and feeling that everything is just a bit uncomfortable. Him Underfoot keeps telling me not to worry (he can’t see past the cleavage, bless him), but I’m female. I worry. I go out socially. Then I drink to cope with the social anxiety. And eat cheese. And the circle starts…!
Not this year. We’re self catering and we are poorer than previous years. So less eating out at American Diners (yummiest breakfasts in the world) and more omelettes in our own abode. Fewer cheesy chips wile watching the bands (a bit of a tradition) and a baked spud instead. We’re still going to drink too much, but I’ve also arrange afternoon tea as an alternative with one friend. And it’s Whitby. The one week of the year I can do whatever the hell I like.
GOAL: I’d like to be between 7-10 pounds lighter by this stage next year. Sounds simple….!
Personal achievements: I’ve mentioned that my Sabbatical will last until at least November 2015. Him Underfoot & I have a goal in mind for that stage – a full first draft of the novel that is currently in the incubation period. I’ve just completed 3 months of research, and the plot threads are beginning to knit themselves together. I also have a potential writing mentor from January through my local library. They give you deadlines! I need deadlines! This is my overarching aim for the year ahead.
I also want to get more financially astute. I need to keep a stronger track of where money is going over the next 12 months. I’ve already cut back greatly, but there needs to be a second cut from January 2015. HU and I have agreed that over the Christmas Holidays we are going to have a full financial audit together, as next year will be rather lean.
And I promise not to become a hermit! I WILL have a social life…