Back to Basics

I have somehow managed to put my back out. Again. The frustration is almost too much to bear, though I know I need to put it into perspective. It is not (yet) as bad as the last two times, which means that if I’m careful there is a chance it could recover without going into full blown paralysis mode. And although in the current (acute) phase, it is somewhat debilitating, it is far from a life threatening condition. I must, I know, stay positive, although when you’re not yet 35 and it takes a full three seconds to straighten up each time you stand, plus you have shooting pains down both your legs when you walk, it’s kind of hard to keep that top of mind. Still, I must try, because nobody likes a whinger – least of all me.

I’m realising now more than ever the correlation between physical and mental well-being. When I’m feeling stressed with work or life it doesn’t take long to manifest itself in my body. This time has been textbook. Two boozy weekends, a patch of work stress and a ridiculous ongoing drama with our cleaner (of all things) have taken their toll on me mentally, and bang! There goes the back. I have also, I admit, become complacent with my core strengthening exercises of late, doing increasingly watered down versions each morning to afford myself additional, precious moments in my bed. This, combined with increasingly prolonged periods of desk sitting, has once again proved to be a recipe for disaster.

I know this is my body’s way of telling me to sit up and take notice, to find a way to redress the imbalance that has been created. My recently ended counselling has helped me to clarify the things that are important to me. Now I need to start taking active steps towards achieving them. Because if I don’t, I fear back pain will be but the tip of a very big iceberg.

So it’s time to make some changes – physical and mental. Firstly, I must get the stand-up desk my boss sanctioned weeks ago that I haven’t got around to sorting yet. Secondly, I will sign up for the eight week mindfulness course I have found, to try and get my mind back into alignment with my body. Hopefully with a bit more commitment and a bit less complacency I can get back to full health more quickly this time around.

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NaNoWriMo Day 5 & 6 Update

Fuelled by the complacency of (almost) hitting my word target four days in a row, I happily allowed myself a lighter writing session on day five (what? It was a long day, I was tired – excuses ad infinitum). Despite feeling justified at the time, I am kicking myself today. Because, the fact is, week one of NaNo is about getting AS MANY WORDS DOWN AS POSSIBLE. I KNOW this, because I’ve done it several times before. According to Chris Baty in No Plot, No Problem (the edited version of which I have started re-reading to aid me along this attempt at the challenge) Week One is the fun part, when all the words come tumbling out and your characters are romping away. Week One’s evil twin, Week Two, is the bitch of the family, and by cutting myself some slack now I’ve played right into her cunning little hands.

The truth is, my characters were romping away, getting themselves into all sorts of scrapes without my even having to exert any influence. But all of a sudden, after yesterday’s pithy seven hundred words, the well of inspiration has run dry. Actually, that’s not true. It’s not inspiration that’s run dry, it’s my brain that has decided to down tools and stop. Take now for example. It is telling me, quite clearly, that it is Friday night at 9pm and I should, categorically and without question, be curled up on the sofa with a LARGE glass of Cab Sauv watching some heinously terrible TV programme. It does not, and let’s make no bones about it, wish to be sitting at the same computer it’s been sitting in front of all week, trying to make up stories about fictional people. In short, it’s just not having it.

So you see my dilemma. And even as I’ve been ruminating on this blog I have been switching over to the WIP, limping along with a broken stream of uninspired words, wishing my way to the word count target for today. And, to be fair, I have at least crossed the 8,000 mark, which feels like a bit of a milestone (until you consider I started today at 7,004 words). But it’s not flowing and I want with every fibre of my being just to stop and veg the hell out. ARGH. This is torture. But I SHALL NOT be defeated. I shall pour myself a glass of wine (hell, it IS Friday. I’m not a bloody saint) and plough on for just a little longer….

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Travelling in miniature (and I don’t mean the toiletries)

Anyone who has ever travelled far from home will be familiar with the warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you come back. They will also, I suspect, be familiar with the sense of longing that creeps up once you’ve been back for a while, and the tingly anticipation that accompanies the planning of new travels and the promise of fresh adventure. The travelling bug is cyclical, you see, and it is only by leaving and then returning to your place of comfort that you can appreciate both what you left behind and what you discovered while you were away. Or is it? If we were always free to roam the world at will and on a whim, would we become complacent about our situation? Or would we simply wake each day beneath a swaying palm, curl our toes into the sand as the sea softly lapped over them and appreciate each lazy second that ticked by and how fortunate we were to have such an existence?

After my travels in 2011 I remember vividly being in a taxi travelling over Vauxhall Bridge after a night out. The sun was beginning to rise, bathing all of London in a gorgeous sleepy morning haze, and I felt a rush of warmth towards this city I call home. It was a particularly lovely moment because it could so directly be contrasted with a rather less enjoyable moment several months before when, unable to bear the sweaty morning commute for a second longer, I snapped at someone on the tube, and subsequently realised that for my sanity and the safety and wellbeing of those around me it would be best if I went away for a while. And you know what? It worked a treat, and since returning almost two years ago I can honestly say I haven’t exchanged a cross word with a fellow commuter.

Unfortunately the opportunity to just take off for months at a time is not something the majority of people are able to do, and now I’m back in full time (well, as good as full time) employment I’m trying to find a way to satisfy my travelling cravings without actually going on a full blown travelling excursion. I had thought the answer was to plan a travelling trip in miniature. That is, to pick a far flung place, book a flight there and then spend two weeks travelling around. The problem, as I’m coming to find, is that when visiting far flung locations the flight alone costs the earth. But a bigger problem still is that half the joy of travelling is the ability to drift around without a firm plan, changing your mind and direction at the drop of a hat when the winds of adventure change. If you only have two weeks it’s not as easy to go where the wind takes you. You have to have some idea of where you’re going or you might just find you’ve wasted your whole trip queuing for bus tickets in some dead end town. In short, if you don’t plan, you risk spoiling the short time you have, and if you do, the experience will likely feel more like a package holiday tour than a genuine travelling experience. First world dilemma I know, but a dilemma nonetheless.

Maybe it’s just not feasible to travel in miniature, and the whole concept was just a pipe dream I constructed to make me feel less confined within the boundaries of my current situation. Perhaps I should admit defeat and book a package holiday to some nondescript Spanish resort, where the all you can eat buffet and watered down cocktails are included in the price and there’s a talent show each night for all the families. Or perhaps I should keep thinking until I find a solution, because otherwise I fear London won’t be this agreeable forever…

Two simple words

This weekend I’ve spent a lot of quality time with family and good friends, something I realise I haven’t done nearly enough of in recent months. It’s so easy to get complacent about the people closest to you. They’re not going anywhere, after all. But it’s precisely because they’re not going anywhere – because they love you unconditionally, because they’ll never let you down – that you should make an effort to keep them at the centre of your life. They’re the people who understand you better than anyone else, the ones you feel most comfortable being your true self with. They’re the ones who can provide a listening ear and shoulder to cry on one minute and make you laugh like a drain the next. In short, you need them to be you – why wouldn’t you cherish them?

I’ve also spent time this weekend reconnecting with friends – both in person and by email – who I made on my various travels over the past few years. I find these types of friendship so interesting, because you don’t share a history but you do create an unbreakable bond as you make new memories together. People who meet whilst travelling the world alone already have something in common – they’re searching for meaning in their lives, hoping for an adventure, maybe even trying to escape from a negative situation in the ‘real’ world that they’ve left behind. Whilst these kinds of friendships are very different to the friendships that have stood the test of time and turbulence, they are no less important. They teach you just as much about yourself – if not more – and should be valued and nurtured accordingly.

Then there are the friends you don’t even know that well, or who you’ve long since fallen out of regular contact with, who contact you out of the blue to wish you well and offer words of support and encouragement at just the right time. Several such friends have done just that for me in the past week. Their kind words really picked me up when I was plagued with self-doubt about my writing, and they’ve given me the strength to carry on.

Thinking about peoples’ tendency to be complacent towards their friends has, in turn, made me think about the simple act of saying thank you – not just when a stranger holds a door open for you or gives their seat up for you on the train, but to the people you know and love. To be a good friend, parent or sibling takes a degree of selflessness, you must be prepared to put your own ego aside and put that person before yourself. So when someone does that for us, shouldn’t it follow that we show our gratitude in some way?

In light of the above I’d like to do a little roll call to acknowledge all the people who have supported me and made me smile in the past week – family and friends both old and new:

Thank you Mum and David, Rory, Hayley Norrish, Anna Bullock, Amy Roberton, Gabrielle Liddle, Jen Chardon, Alex Sayer, Kaye Dolan, George, Caroline and Milo Watson, Mouse Bunch, Sian Brace, Lucy Caslon, @benjaminmurdoch, @cripesonfriday, @adeteal, @beyond_nadia, @SirHeppe, @matthewpaulgray, @BinaryDad, @dogtaniontastic, @teenybella – you’re all absolutely ACE 🙂

And a general thank you to all the friends and family who I haven’t mentioned above who have – at various times and in various places – put up with me, helped me find hope in hopeless situations, and generally just been there. You know who you are xxxx 

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I can’t think of a better picture to go with this post than this, of me and my best friend at my mum and stepfather’s wedding. We were six years old and completely different (me a girly girl, my best friend a tomboy – hence the colour of our dresses!) but we were – and still are – inseparable. True friendship that stands the test of time doesn’t require you to be the same – it requires you to appreciate your differences, and be there for one another through thick and thin. I’m so fortunate to have wonderful friends who have done just that for me.