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Isn’t tomorrow just another day?

I’m not a traditionalist. I question everything and I break rules. When I see people doing things en masse I take a step back, observe and query why.
I’m not a snob, I’m not superior, I’m not deliberately difficult. Maybe I’ve had too many experiences of *doing things just because it’s the done thing* backfiring on me. Or maybe it’s in my genes. Throughout my childhood I always felt like a bit of a misfit. There’s an overpowering force inside me that says, “Whoa. Make up your own mind about everything; do things in your own time.”
Tonight I will not be worrying about what I am going to wear, because I will not be going out and squishing awkwardly into someone else’s house or a busy pub, reluctantly kissing drunk, sweaty strangers, making forced conversation, willing it to be time to go home, wondering where my husband is or if my children are okay. I will not be drinking champagne and staying up really late and waking up feeling ill tomorrow.

I will not be making a list of resolutions just because it’s the done thing.
I don’t feel any significant endings or beginnings more than any other day right now. Life will not be different for us tomorrow just because we have counted another 365 days and it’s time to start again. My husband will be going to work on New Year’s Day, anyway.

If I make a list of things I want to do or change, or things I think I should do or change then I am setting myself up for disappointment. This is a time of year (in the UK) of long nights, dark groggy mornings, viruses and cold. I know I will fail. Instead I make mini resolutions regularly: I will buy more organic produce this week, spend less on Amazon this month, I will do yoga today, I will play the flute today, I will tell my family I love them today. Last month we decided to research a greener boiler for our home. We will do something about that when we know we have enough money.
If I feel like dancing, I dance. If I feel like having a few drinks I have a few drinks. If I feel like staying up late and making a life changing decision about how I can be a better person then I do that. But it will probably be on a Wednesday in April or a Thursday in June.

Endings are deaths, final exams, leaving home, finishing a relationship, the first cold day in Autumn. New beginnings are births, moving house, the resolutions you make after a painful ending of some kind, the eureka moments you have in the shower, the first daffodil in spring.
(In fact, the worst 2 experiences of my adult life happened in early January 2009 and in March 2010, right near the beginning of the year)

I never start a diet on Jan 1st. I am my own harshest judge. I will fail and I will hate myself. Instead I will instinctively want to go for brisk walks when the weather is better. I will eat more salads and fruit when they are in season. I will do yoga when the children are back at school. I will naturally eat less when it is not so damn cold.

But I’m not a completely miserable stubborn git. (I leave that to my husband – Just kidding darling, if he reads this!) Tonight we will eat a nice meal, watch TV, say ‘Happy New Year’ at midnight and tomorrow we will make an effort to have a slightly more exciting family lunch than usual. We will start new calendars, new diaries and write 2011 on everything instead of 2010. We will be joining in, in our own little way!

If you need a new beginning at midnight tonight, if you are happy to wave goodbye to 2010 then I say good for you. If you work hard all year and need an excuse to let your hair down tonight, then I hope you have fun kissing sweaty drunk people! If you have had sadness or difficulty in 2010, then I hope 2011 is better for you.

I think my eldest daughter will say that she can’t wait for her GCSEs to be over in June 2011 and then she can leave the school she is not enjoying and start to be herself.

For me, I think the life changing new things began in about July in 2010 and the year before it was in September.

Happy New Beginnings to you, whenever they happen!

Small Stones

“A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention.”

Today I have decided I’m taking part in A River of Stones throughout January.
This involves noticing and writing down (succinctly) one thing every day.

Here’s info about how to write small stones: Writing your own small stones by Fiona Robyn

I did something similar last year. I attempted a Haiku every day for a few months. But, even though I enjoyed that and still love Haiku, I think this will be more fun for me. Haiku come with varying and debatable sets of rules about lines, syllables and imagery which I found a little frustrating and occasionally depersonalising.

Thanks to Fiona and Kaspa for organising this. It’s a superb idea.

Want to join in?

• Go to the Welcome page at A River of Stones

• Follow @ariverofstones on Twitter

• email and ask to be emailed updates

That wasn’t so bad…

Five days ago I posted a lengthy rant about Christmas getting in the way of my writing.
Well I have enjoyed Christmas after all this year. It has been quiet-ish one with lots of family film watching. I’ve managed to see at least 6 films in four days, share some sofa-time with the brood and I’m sure it’s done me a lot of good.
We writers don’t always know what’s good for us! 🙂

Writing Cold Turkey

I have this affliction. Some might call it an addiction.
(Yes, that’s right – I’m a rapper!… ;))

I have a want, an urge, a need to create and communicate with the written word.
The worst time is in the morning, about an hour or so after I have woken. I start to wonder when and how I can get my next fix. I shoot up words in the shower and hope no one finds me and stops me while I’m getting high in the next couple of hours. If they do I am angry, upset, distressed.
I write to the detriment of all else. Sometimes I go without food or I perch half dressed in front of my laptop, with wet hair, going blue while I soar on an inspired push of words that send me skywards, weaving and ducking spinning and whirling, getting carried away, forgetting everything else.
If I don’t get my morning fix I go downhill fast. I get agitated. I see that my window of opportunity for a fix has passed and I mourn the absence of my beloved drug. I look for opportunities throughout the day, becoming more and more unpleasant to be around.
Time off from writing isn’t time off for me. It’s time spent pushing my imagination away like a favourite pet in case I get hairs on a posh frock I didn’t even want to wear. It’s time denying myself intense satisfaction like saying no to the last chocolate in case someone else wants it even though I’m craving it. It’s like having to leave my baby with a neighbour while I have an in-growing toenail removed.
When I write I am ignoring my family, the housework, the office-work I should be doing for our business, the telephone, the outside world, even my basic physical needs. Things suffer in all sorts of areas that affect all sorts of people and that guilt is difficult to balance against a powerful craving.
A string of words begin an idea or a story for me. They appear with images, a voice, and most importantly a style. When this apparition is with me I have to obey it immediately or it becomes diluted, weaker, lacks punch, is soulless almost. It becomes less and less powerful, like a rocket running out of fuel. It might be okay to look at but it loses its oomph. The style walks away with its tail in the air like a cat unimpressed with the cheap supermarket petfood. I can still write down my idea, turn it into a story later when I have arranged it around everything else in my life. But it’s never the same; that alternative comes at a given time in an agreed dose. It’s a prescribed substitute: weaker and less effective.
So often I don’t write at all. I am not satisfied with that weak alternative. The apparition still visits me regularly each morning but so do responsibilities and I can only write when I am not being disturbed. Like a drug my writing is selfish, self-indulgent and destructive, it costs us money and it causes problems. But I am more bearable when I have been writing and also more sane. That’s got to be important hasn’t it?
I have put writing aside for almost a month now to deal with Christmas. But after Boxing Day the cold turkey ends.

In honour of a very special man

No time for Friday flash stories at the moment. I’m having ideas but family must come first and that’s fine (for now!)

But today my head is full of thoughts of my dad and I wanted to write something down.

2 years ago this week I was preparing for Christmas (in fact I was halfway though constructing a big, pink wooden castle for our youngest daughter) when Dad phoned me from the Royal Marsden in Surrey to say that he was coming home to die. The next few weeks were terribly sad, busy and unreal. He deteriorated very fast and we lost him on January 11th 2009, aged 67.

Now the sounds, smells and sights of Christmas preparations remind me of that terrible time. Even the cold weather and the return to big winter coats and boots take me back to Winter 2008/09.

This morning I felt like crying when I realised it was the 17th – the date of that awful phone call and I was looking out of the window into the garden when I saw a bird I had never seen before. Dad was a huge fan of British birds and I wished I could phone him and ask him what it was. Instead I looked it up on the Internet and discovered it was a redwing. Two redwings hung around our garden all day today and gave me immense pleasure. I would love to tell Dad.

Dad was interested in music – all kinds of music. He would watch Top of the Pops with us when we were young. He also liked Jazz, Baroque, Beethoven symphonies, The Beatles, Paul Simon, you name it – he would give it a chance. He taught himself the guitar to about grade 5 level and played pretty well. He was a great linguist and the way he messed about with the English language would have you in stitches. He was also a fluent French speaker and gave up many years of his life to teach others. Mum was so proud of him that she set up an award in his name at his old college – Exeter College, Oxford University to help other budding linguists.
Dad was also a brilliant artist. He drew and painted well and loved photography.
Somehow, through genes and nurturing and her grandfather’s love this creativity has taken new life in our eldest daughter. She is fifteen and studying for grade 7 guitar and today painted a beautiful picture for her guitar teacher.

It’s a superb, lively painting and I’m so proud. Dad would have been extremely proud too.

I love you, Dad and miss you always. You gave the best bear hugs.

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