Mr HB and I went for a walk the other day, and for once he wanted to talk about my writing (this never happens). It turns out he wanted to check whether I still wanted to be a writer. ‘It doesn’t seem to make you happy. At all,’ he said.
I was a bit shocked! But then I remembered. His perception is based on me whining: another rejection, another novel that will have to go in a drawer because it doesn’t quite work, another opportunity that went to someone else, another year with not much or no money.
So I reminded him that I don’t do this for money (just as well!). And I told him that, contrary to appearances, I love to write. It keeps me sane. That feeling, when I get into flow and an hour goes by …
As a woman with mental health issues, and the parent of an enby kid, I’m often aware of other people’s male-cis-het-ableist privilege.
Today, however, I have the most privilege I’ve ever felt in my life.
- I am in an air bnb (financially secure enough for this, and multiple trips to Tesco for cashews and vegan chocolate)
- for two nights (not in a nine-five with four weeks of holiday a year)
- my children being looked after by their dad (co-parenting: surely the ultimate privilege?)
- writing (able to pursue this un-lucrative work for many years now)
- listening to music and podcasts (having decided I can afford Spotify: currently on free trial)
- and reading (only one was free from the library).
This is heaven.
This. An accident of birth, and race, cisgendered heterosexual marriage, and secure family that led me to this point.
I spent some years of my adulthood listening to Radio 4.
This did not last long.
We bounced around for a while, but I’ve settled on Boogie in the Morning, on Forth One. This is why:
- Arlene is not marketed as a travel news bimbo. She’s given an equal amount of airtime,
- Boogie is polite to her and doesn’t treat her as ‘less than’ because she is a woman,
- the quiz happens before we have to leave for school,
- I used to listen in the basement of the City Chambers in Edinburgh. Now I listen in my kitchen in the East Lothian Countryside,
- they actually go on a booze cruise with their biggest fans every year,
- there is a cute kid telling a joke every day,
- the banter is pure quality, and
- if it’s a snow day, they let us know!
My favourite bit of parenting is when the kids are getting along. I am delighted to report that, at the time of writing, and for the last week or so, they have been best pals!
Of course this means no one ever goes to sleep…
‘Carry on time’ is the perfect compromise between ‘your parents need some child-free time in the evenings’ and ‘but we’re not tiiiiiiiired.’ Sometimes it ends in tears (or punches), but it’s only when they’re really quiet I have to go and see what they’re up to.
It is a pleasure, getting to know these little people, watching them getting to know each other. It is even more pleasurable doing this from the sofa, watching Netflix with the cat. It’s not just the convenience, though, honest! Without my input, their relationship has the chance to grow.
At the close of my sixth decade, I’m too old to play games. Acceptance is the easier option, and more likely to yield success.
I accept the signs of a life lived in a perfectly serviceable body. Once, I played the game. Girls manipulated their appearance to win the man, the money and the desirable life, though the odds were against us and the prizes were overstated.
And even in the unfeasibly smooth face of the septuagenarian celebrity, the pursuit of youth is a game not worth playing. Good luck to those women, but for me, commodification in the guise of empowerment and visibility of the older woman is too high a stake.
I’m out of the game. I won’t buy the miracle cream and I’ve embarked on my last diet. Because, I’m relieved to report, being older suits me.
This is a pretty accurate representation of my favourite jumper.
It fits me – well, if there was one and a half of me!
It has a hole in the sleeve I keep picking at.
It is more shapeless than I have drawn it.
It is Shetland wool – the place I holidayed every year as a child and where my mum lives now.
I bought it in a shop across the road from where one of my dear friends lives. In Manhattan.
Yep that’s a lot of airmiles it has – Shetland – New York – East Lothian.
It is the jumper equivalent to a warm bath, clean sheets on the bed after two weeks away, a mug of hot chocolate, that floaty feeling you get at around 3am on New Year’s morning when everyone is still singing: half asleep, half-cut and cosy.
‘What are you doing for your 40th?’
No one cares whether you celebrate your 34th birthday, or your 37th, or even your 39th, but the minute you say you’re 40 this year, this is always the first question.
And who am I to argue?
My sister is hosting a party during October, when my actual birthday is, for our immediate family.
I’ve decided not to do a big party in the village – it feels like a stress.
But this weekend, the one thing I wanted to do this year. Myself and my three pals from school. We’ve been friends for 25 years now. I can’t believe I have held onto friends for 25 years! They are awesome, inspiring, thoughtful, supportive people. We are going away to a spa together. Just us. I will be there when I post this. I can’t wait.
It always feels like the things I hold out against most vociferously are the ones I end up obsessed by.
I never wanted to live in Scotland. Didn’t feel I belonged, didn’t think there was ‘enough’ here for me. Now it’s home, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. (See also, The Archers)
The same has come to pass with … Yoga. I couldn’t stand all that hippy, bendy, breathing stuff. What a piece of nonsense. And so expensive!
I was wrong though. Wrong about it all. Through my lovely school friends, I discovered Yoga with Adriene and can confirm that Adriene is not paying me to tell you that she is wonderful. She does not need my rave reviews, she has over 3 million followers. I am hooked. Folded.
AND I can touch my toes for the first time in twenty years!
Years and years ago, an advert came on the TV that spoke to what I had been trying to do in a small way ever since I came back out of hospital after psychotic episode two. Piecing myself back together, explaining why it was taking so long, meant I had to talk about my mental health.
I’d never wanted to hide what happened – I’m an oversharer, in case you didn’t already know – but I didn’t realise this was a bold choice at the time.
Two weeks ago, I was invited to meet with See Me to talk about writing for them. The organisation has loads of active volunteers who are doing all sorts of cool stuff all over Scotland – but what’s missing is people to write up, share and champion this work.
I’m excited. It’s a perfect fit for me.
Does everyone remember how to play Go Fish? It’s the sort of entry-level card game, easy to pick up, and you have a hand of seven, which can be held by the smallest of fingers.
I love cards, and this was the first game I taught my kids (I should add that I don’t ever play for money – sometimes matches!). I can still remember my little one, learning to play.
When asked ‘All your Kings, please,’ despite having been reminded of the rules of the game their response would always be the same.
‘I don’t even have any Kings!’
Then we would roll our eyes, and say, ‘So what do you say?’
And then we’d be treated to a triumphant ‘Go Fish!’
Now, when we play, I will take up the refrain.
‘I don’t even have any Kings…Go Fish!’