Since my residency at Lanterne Rouge ended, I hadn’t been back to the coffee shop. ‘I’m so busy!’ I told myself.
I was scared that it might feel different. Less mine, somehow. That I wouldn’t be a VIPoet anymore.
At the time of writing, I am back. It’s just the same. Although there are some very lovely new sugar bowls! The box where folk could ask for book recommendations has been replaced by a Cyclist Café of the Year award. There’s a collecting tin where I used to put my poem of the month.
And the best bit is the welcome. It always has been, here. I still feel like a VIP – everyone who comes to this wee coffee shop in this wee part of the world is welcomed, made to feel important and special.
Because we all are.
I give in. I really do.
We now have two enforced periods of no-screen: Wednesdays after school (which is now library day) and Sunday mornings.
My oldest will actually come to church, despite their firm atheism, just to help the time go by. This week I asked them to make me another picture challenge for a blog post. They weren’t happy with the drawing, but asked me to recreate it for them.
So here we are:
This is my life. Every minute that is not a scheduled screen free minute is now spent on a screen. Going for a walk has become a mental battle before it gets anywhere near physically punishing. You don’t want to know what the screen time graphs I get from Microsoft look like (yeah, cheers for that, Microsoft).
I’m not the only one, am I?
This is your annual reminder to make time for yourself over Christmas.
It is a great time of year (for many, not for everyone) to see friends and family, buy thoughtful gifts, decorate your house top to toe in tinsel or greenery: wrap, post, socialise, and eat, eat, eat.
It is a great time to stretch yourself to breaking and end up exhausted.
If you can, plan some days that are empty. Or some hours. Or some minutes. Force yourself to sit down. Or go to sleep. Or breathe.
It is OK to not have a wonderful time every moment of every day over Christmas. It is OK if your children do not have a wonderful time every moment of their school holiday. You get to be a person too.
tinylife will return on 12th January.
I have always told my kids that I’m built for comfort, not for speed, but it seems to become truer the longer I live. ‘Asthma often comes on in middle age,’ says the nurse. Ouch, I think. But he’s got a point.
I’d been cycling three times a week and doing yoga most days, and I’d wondered why I still couldn’t climb the stairs without getting out of breath. At least that mystery was solved.
A few weeks later, and I’m at the GP with the huge list of THINGS I tend to have to talk about these days. One of which was my hip. ‘It’s been a bit sore,’ I said, ‘but it’s OK if I stretch it out.’
Yeah, I’m not a doctor. I have ligament damage and/or bursitis and I’m not to do yoga for a month.
There is no future in looking sideways.
Do not pay attention when people look sideways to your path: do not start to compare yourself to others. How can you compare a palm leaf and a pine needle? And yet, both carry life, are beautiful, bring green, bring oxygen, bring peace to the forest, the desert.
We are here to do our work. Not to wonder whether we should do our work, or leave it to other people that we think are better, braver, luckier, richer.
No one else can make what we can make, not in the way that we could make it. A twig can’t be a leaf, a branch can’t be the tree’s trunk.
Your stories have value. Your creative works have substance.
You are not a good judge of the quality of your own work.
I was always good at learning songs and poems off by heart. Mr HB used to refer to it as ‘my super power,’ which made me feel special and precious.
Of course I’m now in my 40s and have two children. My head is so full of dentist appointments, maths homework and what on earth are we going to have for dinner tonight that the lyrics have all fallen out of my brain (science).
What is wonderful about this is that my oldest has inherited ‘the powers.’ They are regularly asked to regale their classmates with screeds of Hamilton, the musical. On the flip side, they are horrified at the draining of my super powers. I try to sing along with Hamilton in the car, and get berated constantly. NO, MUM THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT WORD!
Aaaah, humility. Thanks kids.
There is no news about my second novel.
Here is the news about my second novel.
I was very fortunate to meet a lovely agent who read the whole thing, and she really liked it. This was beyond exciting! She had loads of great feedback too, including ‘what’ it is (a comedy) and what the main themes are (parenting insecurity, female rivalry, the pressure felt by, and put on, children).
I re-wrote the draft with all her comments and observations. This is draft 15, but it’s very similar to drafts 7 and 8, (except draft 7 was in the present tense, of course).
Then I did that thing I always do when I’m nearing the end of a redraft. I slow right down because I’m afraid to finish. But I did finish. It’s 10k words longer and it’s back on submission. Wish me luck!