I'd rather be a comma than a full stop...

posted on: Wednesday, 27 July 2016

So the new rhythm asserts itself. No early mornings, less activity, less clock-watching and a run of sunny weather that has left most Brits suspicious; when will it end?! Well, it ended today as we awoke to drizzle and grey. The sun might come back but equally it might not. That might just have been summer. Did you enjoy it?

We went to Amsterdam, Boo and her friend and I. It was beautiful and contrasting and I marvelled again at the tolerance of the society there and the prettiness of the canals and how healthy every one looked. We stayed with one of my oldest friends. We've been before and I wrote about it here. This trip was every bit as lovely.

I am preoccupied with cutting my hair; this affliction hits every few years where I decide that I can't abide long hair a moment more and get fixated on a young, modern hairstyle. I then get fearful that I will get it cut and end up with the dreaded 'housewife hair' and so oscillate between the two extremes for weeks on end. I've written about it before here. I am furtively watching YouTube vlogs of how to style a 'lob' (long bob) and being vaguely alarmed at the young women who film every part of their lives and present them with flourish for people like me. I wonder what I would have done had I been 25? I probably would have vlogged (not a verb?) my lob like everyone else!

Ever get the feeling my life is on a loop? I am repeating myself.

Meanwhile there's Lou the writer. I regard my own book from a distance; I haven't looked at it since the end of May in a deliberate and staunch attempt to get distance from what I wrote. It feels odd, like I have locked an old friend out in the cold as an experiment, however I am back to my old habits of mooching and house-wifing and being able to make plates of waffles for teenagers and I revel in my own domesticity. Playing house. The book can wait till September.

In moments of downtime I look at handbags. I like this one presently. The compact size of it feels symbolic; have I reached a point in my life where all I need to carry is a purse, my phone and a lip balm? I don't need a big kiddy-paraphernalia-filled bag anymore. Note to self: times are a changing.

I am reading a book on mindfulness as the stress monkeys have been sitting on my shoulders; the world has gone nuts and I hate watching the news. Turns out mindfulness is as hard as meditation - which has alluded me for years - and so I revert to yoga, which I can just about manage. There's a lot of background 'noise' in my head and we have many decisions looming and I am counting down to our summer holiday where all I need to think about is what to eat and what bikini to wear. Or what palm tree to photograph.

The lack of a serious and earnest preoccupation worries me in itself, I really ought to be making plans, but then I conclude I am on a break from all that and I settle back down to read a book. I got some heavy pure linen bed sheets which are a treat to be in. Bed is all. I don't trust anyone who says they don't like sleeping.

So that's it - a kind of summer free fall which I quite like but which I shall tire of come another month. My life so compartmentalised into school terms that it is literally bizarre to think what will happen when my children are no longer bound by the academic calendar. A whole different kind of free fall...who knows??! Time to kick my heels up?

Round and around...

posted on: Wednesday, 13 July 2016

And so my children break up from school for another year.

The last few weeks have been...what can I say? Tumultuous.

I have this interest in how humans (by this I mean myself) handle stress; I am always the one who - when someone says they feel overwhelmed or have a dreadful cold - remarks: 'ahh, you must be stressed' like some sort of modern-day soothsayer. What do I know? I guess my key observation has been that stress is a constant in my life, even though in the traditional sense I am not under stress (I am not a firefighter or a police woman, I don't face danger on a daily basis).

I place myself under stress. I don't really know why I do this, I should probably get reprogrammed but I see that consistently I succumb to the affects of stress. I am a stress head, highly strung, wound tight. I am married to someone who is the direct and polar opposite so I know how different I am. Things that really ought to be pleasurable and life-affirming can even become stressful to me. It's a curse.

For the last few years, as I have described at length, I have attempted to manage this with life style changes and a-l-h-o-t of soul-searching. It has worked to a degree but still, every now and then I get a physical reminder that I need to chill the f**k out.

This is how it went. In the dark gloomy winter months following Christmas I was holed up writing my book. Life felt like it had much work and little play in it. My husband was away a lot of the time, I was enjoying the new (white) house but often there was an empty space at the table of four. My daughter got a boyfriend; countless demands entailed as she navigated - and still navigates - the waters of young love. My son became disillusioned with his friends, fights ensued, he became withdrawn and sad. I went on writing and cooking and cleaning and driving them around, all the time wondering quite what had shifted in our nirvana. This is how it goes I told myself; life is a series of phases. I spent a lot of time counselling them and thinking about them and shouldering every little set back in a way that frankly, was disproportionate. I get too involved. By the time I realised that it was kinda too late and the stress monkeys had come to rest on my shoulder.

The remedy was to plan lots of summer fun - yes summer would be the salve, this is just a winter thing I told myself, so I poured over the calendar and booked up concerts and events and holidays and proceeded to count down to them. Now it's July, we are splat in the middle of my summer of fun. Off to Amsterdam at the weekend with my daughter and her buddy - to visit her beloved Godmother. This is all good.

The school term took its toll, we had some uncertainty at the end about my son changing schools (he hasn't), I finished my novel and endured a long month until I got the feedback from my tutors, like I was on death row. The weight of not knowing whether this creative endeavour was any good, whether the toil had been worth it sat heavy. I found out last week that I did OK; more than OK. I am delighted. They liked it, I passed the first year and I got a distinction! Hurrah, so it turns out I did a good job and I then spent a good few days wondering why other people's approval is so important to me. This in itself is an indicator of the effects of stress; why not just bloody well enjoy it?!

We went to Glastonbury - first ever time at the biggest of festivals - it was incredible! I could write an essay on the reasons why. The most fun I have had for a long time. And the nicest of people. Plus  seeing Adele and Coldplay in one weekend was awe-inspiring.

So now, we have nine weeks of school holidays (yes, nine) and a schedule of events to keep us busy. I can honestly say that I am so tired I feel like I could lie down for a week. But I don't. There's stuff to do! People to see! My sister in law from Dubai came to stay with her children so we lived in a communal harmony, two mums, four kids ranging from 15 to 2. It was a reminder of how far we've come! Lovely to have her here and it showed me that it takes a village to raise a child.

In amongst this I go through strange, almost maniacal moments of frippery; internet browsing for sandals, lusting over summer dresses. I long for the opportunity to wake to a guaranteed sunny day but alas the British summer is true to form; contrary. The nation is in a spin and I shan't write about our politics for fear of reprisal, just noting the vitriol directed at my friend Tania when she did is enough to make one's head spin. The public are testy, volatile, there's meanness that has set in like weed. This sort of thing makes me sad. People are anxious. And others are triumphant and gloating. It's a heady mix.

The thing I think about the most is my Florida and my palm trees and the snippets of plans I have to better my novel next year when I return for the second part of my Masters. The future is bright. The toils of parenting will die down and I will return to a state of equilibrium just in time for the winter to set it!

It is just me who goes in these cycles?! I doubt it...

all images via crush cul de sac