Tree pose...

posted on: Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Life has shrunk down, for weeks I have been in final edit stage of my book and that has meant a pretty rigorous schedule of school run, interspersed with yoga or running, then at my laptop for hours on end. To some degree the process of doing a Masters was one I questioned a few months ago. I felt as if I had opted for a really hard route - anyone can write a book, it's entirely within someone's capability - but I chose to do it accompanied with a tough academic backdrop. The requirement is that I produce a first draft and critical analysis of it by next Monday. So I'm working. I sent the first three chapters to my friend Dawn - an old and trusted friend - and her feedback was so lovely it made me cry! Not because she was gushing and facile, but because she was honest and constructive and I for the first time I thought - I might actually be able to pull this off. I question why I would be wracked with self-doubt at this stage? It's such a curious process to write a book. It dredges up stuff you haven't thought about for years and exorcises themes you hadn't realised you were attached to. And I'm a fairly self-aware person; note six years of navel-gazing on this blog.

So - it is all book, book, book and in amongst that we hurtle towards the end of the school year. My daughter has exams and I can feel the pressure building for next summer when she sits the 'real' versions. My son is struggling to keep up with his own sports schedule and my husband has been away so much that I had to stage an intervention. It's very much feeling like a treadmill.

I pacify myself with thoughts of summer sun in Florida - where we plan to go in August. Yes, I know it's going to be scorching but honestly, I don't mind. I am lizard.

Now the house is more or less complete I am incredulous at the build process we went through. Now everything is covered over and lovely I can hardly recall how very ugly this house became and how much I thought we would never finish it. Now, in all of its whiteness - I even chose a white patio - I find myself getting this pious glow of happiness about it. I am so pleased its done and I am so pleased we persevered. All of my musing about how affected I am by my surroundings, I can honestly say that living in a space that is pleasing does good to my soul. As does the process of following a long-held dream to write a book.

I met with old friends for lunch this week and we discussed how far we'd come; given that we met when our kids started school. Of all of us, I have changed my life the most. When they met me I was deeply entrenched in being a career woman, I'd just gone back after my second maternity leave, I was an amped-up force in high heels. Now, I am a bohemian writer. I wear kicks all the time, I can barely walk in heels. I put yoga before most things. I kept hearing myself say 'you can't keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome,' meaning that when you sit round a table of 40-something women and we all complain about life, we must make a change if we want to be having a different conversation in a years time.

Things I have learned. It's true what they say about creativity; it releases something in you that provokes contentment. If I don't do yoga my body hurts. If I don't get good sleep I am gloomy the next day. It's worth cooking a meal for the family from scratch every night; I'd say this is one of the biggest changes I've made. It's gruelling, but the family meal is the cornerstone of everything for us - and for anyone who is dropping by. I love hosting friends of my kids and sitting down to a proper meal. On a weeknight. I learned that to retire completely from work is not a great idea; there's a flaw to work like a dog then abruptly stop. Better to keep doing something but do it less. Or do it more and stop doing something else. We all make our choices.

Meanwhile our house gets, this time of year, the most crazy wisteria. Honestly I am obsessed with it for an annual two week period in May I am out there photographing it like a maniac. Prettiest thing. I learned that I am very lucky.


posted on: Friday, 6 May 2016

It's the final stretch; I am writing to a deadline, completing the first year of my Masters by the end of May. Wooahhh it feels like not that long ago that I decided to do this crazy go-back-to-school endeavour and now I have nearly finished a book! That's nuts. My friend Simone always said I had a book in me; turns out she was right. What it has meant though is that I have not had much of a presence here. That's temporary so I just wanted to drop in, say hi.

The book - well let's just say that at the moment, wrangling 29 chapters (yes, 29) feels like kneading an enormous piece of bread dough that is so big it won't even fit on the table. You get the analogy. It's hard work and it feels unwieldy and it makes my brain ache. I see in terms of themes my book is about all the stuff that has mattered to me. Like friendship or motherhood or marriage or women. Fascinating what comes out when you put your mind to it.

In other news, it's the first run of sunny days this Spring and this makes me so happy. This time of year is always special as it reminds me of when Boo was born and when everyone who visited us in hospital were wearing summer clothes and it felt like a whole fresh season. She turns fifteen next week. I type that and think it looks like madness; how can fifteen years have passed?!! Funny how it goes. 

As ever when the season changes I want to shed the clothes I have been shrouded in all winter and switch them up with new fresh things. New clothes. But then I remember the shopping embargo and instead think, ahh maybe not. Or maybe I will just try one or two key items. Like these slides (yes, glitter) and this dress (yes, orange). I watched the Iris Apfel film and I can say that it has profoundly affected me. I keep thinking about it and about her. What a character and as for the way she dresses - so inspirational. I want to be just like that when I am in my nineties. I am thinking glasses are an incredible distraction from an ageing face, I so now need to get some big ole glasses. And anyone who wears shoes that have flamingos on them is a friend of mine.

There are all sorts of subliminal messages for me when it comes to anything to do with flamingos, palm trees, pineapples and dolphins. This is a Florida thing. I am still obsessed. I have a writing friend who is also a brand specialist and he was telling me about the memory triggers that are deeply rooted in us that makes us like a certain thing or I guess, more importantly, make us want to buy certain things. This is fascinating to me, especially when you consider why some people, like Iris Apfel have an 'eye' for things. It boils down to knowing what you like. And I like 1980's palm trees. This is why I am enjoying the Mara Hoffman Instagram. Pink and green and a smattering of tropical. It's resort wear and I feel like I want a life that has a resort wear requirement in it.

Meanwhile, a return to yoga yesterday, I don't even know why I stopped. I guess it was having a month of school holidays that did it. I was in my poses thinking 'I love this; why did I stop?' and having answer other than life got in the way. I hate when that happens, but it happens a lot.

The same applies to writing the blog, I don't do it enough and I will try to do more once the deadline is out of the way. I was telling someone about my decision to do a Masters and write a book and how it had enabled me to have a contrast to being a full time mother. I used to be a working mother and that utterly defined everything about me, it was what I did and I defended it to the ends of the earth. In the time since I stopped working (over two years) I see that  actually what I was attached to was having something in my life other than motherhood. It's not as simple an equation as to suggest that motherhood was not enough. It is. It's the most important thing I will ever do. But there has always been a danger of being consumed by it and that felt unhealthy; both for me and for them. So I used to work to stave that off. Then I stopped and devoted myself utterly and was, I must say, not the happiest I've ever been. 

Now, it's a new phase.

What I wanted to find was a way to be a full time mother and have an active brain and life; as honestly even if you work in a really demanding job it's not as if you get to be a part time mother. It is, by definition, a full time gig. You just become adept at shoe-horning it in around everything else. So, as things stand I think I have a possibility of both. I can be the mother and I can write. Of course no one is paying me to write yet, but I am willing to give it a try.