Sink, Swim or Self-accept

Self acceptance is a wily old beast. I’ve been chasing it around for years with no success, lying in wait to ensnare it. But it’s always a step ahead, just out of reach. Tonight, though, I had a breakthrough. Because, just as it came barreling past me (as it is wont to do, teasingly), I reached out and grabbed its tail. Just for a second. I let go, obviously, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is I managed to touch it, to make it tangible and real.

Last week I wrote a list of all the things that make me feel guilty. It was long, with the obvious (obligatory) entries about health and diet and exercise. It also mentioned my penchant for a bit of crap TV from time to time, my lack of discipline to write and my lack of ambition.

This week work is ramping up. I’ve been given more responsibility, a new client and the chance to earn a promotion. I didn’t think I was ambitious, yet all of a sudden I feel hungry for it. In two days I’ve racked up several hours of overtime, but instead of feeling downbeat, put upon and weary, I feel calm, confident, happy. Why? Because I realised earlier that it is possible to just let things go; to not worry about coming home late, eating cake, not having time for the gym, not writing, occasionally watching something crap on TV (once in a while, I’m not advocating an unhealthy lifestyle, everything in moderation).

Almost none of the things I guilt over incessantly really matter. In fact, in those rare moments when my vision clears I realise that beneath the layers of guilt I am actually profoundly serene. The things on my to do list can wait until the weekend. I don’t have the mental capacity to worry about all of that as well as working this hard. I can’t do both. Or maybe I can, but I don’t want to. I choose not to. Because ultimately everything in life is a choice. And choosing to accept yourself, with all the foibles that make you who you are, is the best decision you can make.

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Blocking Time

Do you ever feel there isn’t enough time to do the things you want to do outside of your day job? Are you often just so tired at the end of the working day that all you want to do is lie on the sofa and watch crap TV just to relax your mind? But then the guilt sets in, because such activity feels like it actively diminishes your intelligence rather than bolstering it, and if you don’t use your time wisely how will you ever finish that novel/Open University course/improving tome etc.?

If you do feel that way, you’re not alone. I for one experience this cycle of worry and guilt on a daily basis. Even though I know that being a published writer is my goal, somehow it seems that writing at the end of a full day’s work (and, when I can be bothered, a post-work gym session) is always the last thing I want to do.

But then, yesterday, I struck on the most blindingly obvious and simple concept: Instead of telling myself that I had to spend the whole evening writing, with no time to do anything else (the usual mantra due to guilt at not having written enough in the preceding days/weeks), I told myself to spend just one hour working on my screenplay, at the end of which I could spend an hour watching any TV programme I liked. And at the end of that, I would go to bed and spend an hour reading my book (because, in my experience – and somewhat ironically given the benefits – when you’re feeling overtired and too busy the first thing to go is the luxury of reading before bed).

And you know what? It worked. I didn’t do a huge amount of my screenplay, but I did more than I had done in the past few days. And, more than anything, it felt like I had removed a big obstacle that had been standing in my way. I no longer felt scared of the enormity of the task I was facing, because I had broken it down into a manageable task. Moreover, I didn’t feel (as I so often do) that writing meant having to sacrifice all other enjoyment, or that I had to choose between writing and reading (a horrendous choice for a writer because without reading how can you improve your writing? Catch 22).

So often we tell ourselves that we are useless, that it’s impossible to realise our dreams. But what if we’re just framing things incorrectly? What if the problem is not our lack of talent, or even commitment, but rather the very simple and easily corrected issue of time management?

We all know that if we want to do something we must make time for it. But what makes so many people stumble at the first hurdle is the misguided view they must devote every spare moment to the pursuit of that goal. Wrong. Start small, with ten, twenty, thirty minutes a day – whatever feels achievable to you. And make sure that you stick to doing it – simple. It takes time to form a habit, and it isn’t always easy. But if you don’t start, the only person you’ll have to blame for not achieving your potential is yourself.

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Breaking Bad: Done

Having just finished watching the final episode of my latest favourite programme, Breaking Bad (several weeks late to the party as per usual), I can report that the season five finale did not disappoint.

But whilst I’m sad to say goodbye to what has truly been eighty hours (eighty hours! Just think of all the useful things I could have been doing! Like writing decent blog posts for a start) of viewing pleasure (and sometimes also pain), I’m also rather glad to be getting my life back.

You see, between working, writing, training for a marathon and planning an imminent holiday there just aren’t enough hours in the day to spare for televisual pursuits. Which is why it’s just as well this particular pursuit has now come to an end – and a good job the next one (season four of Game of Thrones) doesn’t begin until the Spring….

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Goodbye Walt, I’ll miss you.

Duvet Day

Whilst slobbing around for a whole day in pyjamas isn’t normally my style, from time to time it’s great to give in to temptation and settle down in front of the TV with a fry up and a box set of DVDs (or, in these technologically advanced times, a laptop streaming a series directly from the internet). It’s especially rewarding when the weather outside is foul (tick) and there’s just enough food in the fridge to get you through the day without having to leave the flat or order a takeaway (double tick). Also, given that NaNoWriMo month is fast approaching and this may be the last lazy Sunday this flat sees for some weeks, I feel all the more vindicated for having made this decision.

Duvet days are (I believe I’m correct in asserting) a primary feature of most people’s university experience. Later in life, therefore, it’s rather enjoyable, on the odd occasion, to cast off the shackles of civilised society and revert to eighteen year old type. Characterised by an outright refusal to get dressed and a tendency to eat vast quantities of food whilst watching back to back episodes of the same television programme, Duvet Days are the perfect tonic for the modern overworked and overstimulated mind. Want to eat ice cream in your pants and stare into space for a few hours, troubling your mind with nothing more taxing than what channel to watch and whether to opt for coffee or tea? Go ahead my friend, because a Duvet Day is YOUR opportunity to do just that without experiencing a single iota of guilt. Now, will somebody pass the remote?

Men are from Mars…

It is 10am on the first (and only) lie-in of the week. The doorbell rings and my boyfriend leaps from the bed with uncharacteristic enthusiasm and bounds down the stairs like an excited puppy. Something, I think as I prop myself up on my pillows, is decidedly wrong with this picture.

Moments later he is struggling up the stairs holding a large box which, I subsequently discover, contains a 42 inch plasma screen television. All is suddenly clear. Some twenty minutes later we are sitting, on opposite sofas, staring at this new leviathan in our midst. An hour later still, nothing has changed. In such a short space of time our relationship has been distilled into this no-man’s land of technology over romance. We have access to every channel known to man, and yet, we are doomed.

From this day forward we are destined to be governed by the omnipresent God of computer wizardry, gangling hither and thither between reality and cyberspace-never the ‘twain shall meet. But, on the plus side, the hotly anticipated next series of Game of Thrones will look pretty badass on the new HD purchase…(Shallow? Me? Absolutely). Maybe having a big TV isn’t so bad after all…

Return of the domestic goddess

Love it or hate it, we all turn into grown-ups in the end and today I think I may have officially made the transition. Why? Because today, instead of having a long lie in and spending the day loafing around in my pyjamas watching old episodes of Don’t Tell The Bride (don’t judge me) and eating Hagen Dazs out of the tub, I was up at 9am to clean the flat from top to bottom before heading to a dentist appointment, returning some time later with a bag full of ingredients for a slow cooked lamb tagine. I also stopped off at the hardware store on the way home to purchase a new draining rack, a soap dish and a pair of tea towels. And, if the garden shop on the high street hadn’t had such a pathetic selection of stock I might have brought back a plant or two for the flat – dare I say even herbs in a window box? What has become of me?

There’s probably no cause to worry just yet that my youth has finally forsaken me. Rather, this is the yin and yang principle at work again, redressing nature’s fragile balance after a couple of days of hedonistic fun at Carnival. And, being completely honest, Don’t Tell The Bride and a grab bag of roast beef flavoured Monster Munch *may* have featured somewhere on today’s itinerary…What can I say? Whether young or old, old habits die hard.

Letting go

This afternoon I did a presentation to a group of volunteer fundraisers about ‘Don’t wait until you’re certain,’ the campaign I helped to manage to promote the organisation’s adult helpline service. The first burst of the campaign was handed to me to manage by my outgoing manager three months after I joined the charity, in March last year. To say it was a stressful experience to devise and execute a PR plan for a national media campaign in under a month would be an understatement, but when the launch turned out to be a huge success and contacts to the charity about serious cases of child abuse increased by 16% I was delighted that the blood, sweat and tears had paid off.

Fast forward ten months to January this year and it was time to do it all over again. With a bigger budget to play with we were able to pay for TV advertising as well as digital, which gave a much bigger reach. As before my role was to manage the PR for the campaign, which included the development of a content plan across the charity’s website and social media channels to drive engagement with the campaign messaging. I even wrote my first film script – for a message of support recorded by the rather lovely actor, Dominic West (though sadly I didn’t get to meet him in person).

This time around, with the benefit of TV advertising and a sponsored trend on Twitter, we’ve seen a 46% increase in referrals to the helpline – an uplift that has stayed constant for the duration of the campaign. Social media engagement has also been through the roof as a result of the campaign, which has been exciting to see.

In truth it choked me up delivering a presentation on something that I’ve been so close to for the past year but which I will soon have to walk away from. Yet despite my impending redundancy, this campaign is something I will always feel enormously proud to have been involved with. I know that wherever I go next I will always feel a glow of satisfaction that its success was in no small part down to my contribution.

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