A Year To Save A Dream: I Don’t Want To Talk About It

“1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”

– The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz

 

Today was a day away from the comfortable little bubble of home. Away from my beautiful girls and back into the real world. “Keeping in touch days” are a way of keeping parents on maternity leave connected with the working environment in the UK – and today was my day to go in and be back part of my team for the first time since the arrival of the twins.

It was good to be back around these people again. They’re warm, funny and people I trust – I have missed them. Everything was as it always was – the scenery, the gossip and the little bouts of giggles. Time had passed but perceptible change hadn’t come to the office. Comfortable and reliable. My heart thudded to a stop against my ribcage though, when one of my colleagues said she had read my blog.

One of the biggest issues I have around my writing is actually sharing it with people. I worry about the quality lacking in some way and the idea of people reading it and seeing my shortcomings writ large brings sheer terror. Of course, I’m always glad to see the numbers tick up on the visitors counter and am happy to know people are reading. I’m always grateful to my dear friends who cheer me from the sidelines, but always in the recesses of my brain I think it kindness rather than merit.

Worse than the sharing is the onward step of actually talking about it. It drives me into self-protecting jesting. I chirpily mention to my workmate that maybe I’d be able to write a bestselling novel and never come back to work. I’m not really sure why I decided to joke about this. Really, that’s the dream.

But I don’t want to talk about it.

Everyone knows that wishes spoken aloud never come true. Add to that the unspoken fact that anyone who talks about writing a novel probably wont write one. I mean, who do they think they are? Who do I think I am?

I pause after making my joke as my colleague asks me if I was writing the novel. Now I know that I am working on something I hope to shape into a novel. I hold my breath. My first instinct is to just smile and deflect the question in some way. Who do I think I am? I’m no JK Rowling and it’s not like I’m Stephen King. But neither were they, until they were. All writers start somewhere and how the hell can I expect to be read if I can’t even talk about it. How can I share stories and worlds with people if I can’t find the words to describe it?

“Well they say it’s best to write about what you know,” I start. Against my instinct I actually start to say actual out loud words about the story I’m working on. Not my most articulate account of it – but I am saying it to another person – without agonising over it first. My colleague is kind enough to listen to my non specific ramblings without any visible signs of judgement. Like I say, these are people I can trust.

This isn’t a big tale of a victory over imposter syndrome, but for me it is significant progress. Saying it out loud makes me accountable. I’m a believer in being impeccable with my word – saying what I mean. In talking about it I feel I have to deliver. By not saying anything I will never have to produce anything and I can pretend my ambition doesn’t exist. That way, if I fail no one will know. By speaking this aloud I am compelling myself to act, to not live in dreams but to live out dreams,

I don’t want to talk about it – but I’m daring myself to try.

A Year To Save A Dream: Laying the Charges

“There’s no rule on how it is to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

 

Ernest Hemingway

It’s been really easy to let the days pass by with the doing of the things. Time can pass so swiftly and, before you even know it, it is the end of the day of good intentions, where you are surrounded by chocolate wrappers and fighting sleep into the wee small hours to watch the last moments of a streamed TV series you’ve just binged. No productivity, having only the unsatisfactory sensation of having lost the time without even feeling it.

In the warm the time passes on a glacial but heat-stifled gauge during the days, until the sudden realisation that the sweeping in of darkness is when they call time at the nearby public house. Even sat at a desk in front of your keyboard in the sunlight leads to easy distraction – my mind often tethers itself to the lone cloud in the sky, soaring beyond the horizon with my attention. I’m learning even a brightly coloured top can prove a distraction to my brain, the reflection in the screen alarming to my eyes as I push through to see the display beyond and it becomes difficult to reign myself back in and push on.

This is where discipline comes in. You have to sit down and just write. Just get on with it. I have made the space of my desk and tidied, then re-tidied the area. I just have to write.

Just write.

Hemingway was right. Some times it flows easily. A few weeks ago, after fitful and anxious sleep, I woke and felt an urge to sit and write. I was emotional about the passage of time and, feeling myself so very small and powerless in the forward torrent of time, I was able to anchor myself and weave the upset into words. It flowed and was release. Happy enough with the piece that emptied itself from my fear, I took courage and put the story forward for a competition.

At the moment I have set aside my drilling equipment and I’m having to lay the charges. Not an idea to be seen and all efforts feel disingenuous and full of artifice. But I am writing.

As long as I have the passion enough to get up each day and sit down before the computer screen, to open the file and to set down words to tell a story, even if it is just my story, it is enough. It is all I can ask of myself.

A Year To Save A Dream: Building The New

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Dan Millman.

Another day at the keyboard and driving myself forward to get in the habit of considering, on creating and on making change for myself.

I’ve spent too much time in the past, too much energy on focusing on the shoulds in life. You know those ideas our little internal narrator carries as being part of your acceptable standards – “I should work hard on these exams so I can get a good job”, “This relationship is okay so we should settle down” and the evergreen favourite: “I should be better”. Little, meaningless benchmarks which become a complex and codified structure for us to berate ourselves within once we fail.

It is peculiar really, how we co-opt these ideas in to our own subconscious. We speak the words in our own voices, that being the way that causes most harm because we only use them to hurt ourselves. And we, as you might imagine, are the traitor on the inside.

The shoulds were so ingrained with me that they contributed to my workplace stress becoming overwhelming and I had to enter into a period of therapy. Many people consider this idea with a sense of shame. I wear it like a badge of honour, it was the point at which I, that is to say what I consider to be the “real” me, actually began. I started seeing the shoulds for what they are and started to be kinder to myself. It allowed me to open the door to a love that wasn’t settling, that wasn’t an archetype I felt I ought to take on. I became free. Sure, it opened me up to the risk of hurt. I did get hurt, I did suffer loss, but it started to be on my own terms.

I got a taste of freedom. And I liked it.

Of course this was only a small part of the world in which I operate. At this point in time I am on maternity leave. This will, in less than five months come to an end. With it comes a return to work and, inevitably, a loss of a sense of freedom being away has given me. This loss seemed to hit me heavily in the last few weeks and any momentum and creativity I did have dissipated.

It took me a little time and a lot of emotional wrangling to get my head around what I needed to do to shake this funk. In embracing my freedom I seemed to be afflicted by a loss of industry. With no should there was no driving force behind making change, nothing it appears to motivate. Also the shoulds started to regain a foothold around motherhood and my relationship – I started behaving in ways which fitted an internalised vision of the nuclear family instead of taking up my own space and building into myself a sense of needing time and space for creation.

I discussed things with the boy and tried, in my usual hamfisted and clumsy way, to explain that I needed help to get myself back into a sense of forward motion. I don’t ask for help easily, ever, but I have the luxury of having an actual partner in my life who understands me, respects me and helps me, without ever being requested. We agreed a way of working both of our creative natures into the day – he works best at night whereas I need the light to even get started. We carved up the care of our children and the care of each other.

I turned to my own thinking on the matter. Instead of being chased by should I needed to be running towards something. I’m not trying to keep up with an appearance to complying with any expectation – I am chasing my potential. I need to go full force, not into battle but into building, into creation. That is truly the best of the woman’s way. Not in breaking, but in the entire power of Gaia, taking what we are given, wholesale destroying and making anew. Turning any lot into creation, into home, from the very darkness in us which takes life itself, binds it to our life force and births it into the world.

Not all women have children, but all women have the power to be mothers, to bring creation and change into this world. Now is my time to embrace that.

A Year To Save A Dream: Missing The Rain

I miss the rain.

In this seemingly endless scorched summer, marked by a crescendo of the humming noise of life lived out of doors, the accumulation of scents that mark out windless days and relentless light, I feel in need of precipitation and growth.

My mood has been low recently and my creativity as dry as the sandy loam which currently sits beneath the remnants of yellow grass which make up the local recreational spaces. I’ve been trying each day – using Jocelyn De Kwant’s Creative Flow both as a helpful maintenance tool and as a lock pick to try and help me break back in to a sense of forward motion. It must have helped because here I am. Writing.

Although the evidence of my stagnation is all around me, as I am surrounded by numerous false starts of projects with pens, paints and decoupage. Even as I began to write this piece I have to break away to cut my nails, having been irritated by their clacking on the keyboard. The fact I haven’t been annoyed by this earlier in their growth is a marker of the distance between my creativity and myself – it means that in the days or weeks since their last trim I haven’t reached out to my keyboard at all. More than a slight annoyance, when I have a short story project to work on.

My apparent inability to create has brought no relief to my sinking mood, which I attribute to my feeling of not being able to affect change in my life. After Christmas I will be heading back to work, away from my family and especially from my twin babies. This seems to be something I cannot avoid and the likelihood of avoidance only increased by an inability to create a livelihood elsewhere. The sight of my children’s faces give me relief but then trigger an anxiety about being away from their sides as they grow.

I’ve been blessed in the concern of dear friends, old and new, but my inability to articulate what ails me has hampered rescue attempts. It seems that in this tale, I need to save myself.

So I do. I have been kind to myself, rested and taken care. But no-one escapes abandonment on a desert island with bubble baths. Action is required. So I sit down at my keyboard and write. I will work my way forward, because I know no better way.

The Difficult Talk

This evening my Biggest Girl came back downstairs after bedtime in tears.

She was afraid that something might happen to the twins and that they might die. She was worried about everybody she loves dying. It’s a usual part of childhood development – a chat every child and parent has in families full of love.

This conversation always tears my heart a little, as it happens every few months at the moment. I remember being that age myself and sobbing on the stairs for the same reason. The sudden realisation that everyone will die.

I remember my mum and dad speaking in reassuring tones of heaven and life being for a long time and my anxiety around death eventually settled. As I grew older those who died were elderly or ill and it seemed like blessed release.

As I grew older still I learned that death was often indiscriminate, sometimes fast, sometimes slow but always inevitable, if painful. I lost people I loved after long illnesses or suddenly and unexpectedly. I heard and saw death at work all around me.

I came to accept death as part of life and did not fear it, some days even wishing for the day when my energy would be called back into the altogether of the universe. My shifting from form to another energy, as energy is never destroyed, only changed.

Then came my Biggest Girl and death was something to fear again. An uncontrollable constant, which threatened the love I had made flesh. Every day I do what I can to protect my children from death’s looming threat, I hope each day I win.

I tell Biggest Girl death is nothing to fear, that it is like going home and we will be surrounded by those we love, to be happy and cared for always.

“So it’s just like it is now only forever?”

I bite back tears, smile and reassure her, then cuddle her close and send her to bed thinking of this weekend’s plans for a campfire and toasted marshmallows.

After every one of these conversations with my Biggest Girl I am her, I am that little girl crying on the stairs.

I hope we go to that place I describe to her. I try my best to live it now. I’m lucky enough to love these people with whom I have made home and those I welcome into it. My life, to me, is heaven, so death’s shadow once again makes me afraid. I have everything to lose, in a losing game.

Ultimately I remember Shakespeare’s words on the matter, words which mark my grandmother’s grave:

All losses are restored, and sorrows end.”

Ruby Recommends…

Need the dish on new experiences for you and yours? Bored of financially driven magazine recommendations? Try some of these…

SEE

French Netflix Original I Am Not An Easy Man is a must watch – I struggle with dubbing as one of nature’s face-readers – but I persevered and was rewarded.

The premise is the chauvinist Damien (Vincent Elbaz) is flung into a parallel universe where the patriarchy has been swapped for a matriarchy – as one character points out the women are the stronger because they give birth – and he discovers the norms for women are lumped onto men in their entirety.

Leading woman in a man’s world, Marie Sophie Ferdane, is the absolute star as Alexandra, a successful author who counts her conquests with marbles, boxes to ease her troubled mind and who embodies a Don Juan character into a female body.

The aesthetic of the film is brilliant, applying this “matriarchal” sensibility to the modern world in a convincing and detailed manner – right down to the absurd manscaping expected of the boys – as nonsensical on men as it is in women.

I’m desperate to see a sequel, which is tantalisingly dangled in front of as Alexandra appears in this world at the end…

HEAR

Partly Political Broadcast – In the hundredth episode of the fast-paced, wry take on the current political landscape, you’re spoiled to a recap of all the greatest insults for our favourite politicians. Your Twitter hot takes will no doubt benefit – “Haunted Toby jug in a suit” Nigel Farage, “Catalogue model for Dynorod” Theresa May, “Quentin Blake drawing” Jeremy Corbyn and “Badyear Blimp” Donald Trump.

Hosted by comedian Tiernan Douieb, probably named by the fairies who replaced him with a changeling, this is a high energy bounce through the horror of modern politics – must listen.

READ

Reclaim The Earth: Women Speak Out For Life On Earth – edited by Leonie Caldedott and Stephanie Leland

This isn’t a new book – first published in 1983 by iconic publishers The Women’s Press means it is 35 years old – but most of the truths of the essays in this book still stand firm. Topics such as nuclear proliferation, chemical pollution, land rights, childbirth, infanticide and ecology remain as relevant, if not more pressing, today. Reading these words written by women a lifetime ago has really refuelled my passion to make change in the world. I’ve dog eared so many pages it would make any librarian weep – but there’s a lot to reread so forgive me. I also note that you can pick up copies via Amazon for as little as 18p – check it out now.

EAT

Blue cheese and roast beef toastie – we discovered this on the specials board of The Larder Cafe, in Buckingham, which in of itself is a real find (farmhouse plated breakfasts – cor!). Lush – especially with their fresh mint homemade potato salad – but we reckon you could knock this one up at home too.

LEARN

Are you a creative soul who wishes that your artistic exploits formed more of your working life? You really need to make a start with Meg Kissack’s That Hummingbird Life – this amazing website is chock full of leaning resources, pro tables, an amazing podcast (which I have often harped on about via Twitter!). If you want to take things a step further Meg, positivity superhero and talent excavator, also offers one to one mentoring and courses. Bullshit free rebel rousing? What’s not to love.

Kindness: Being Worthy Of Self Worth

We live in a big, big world, with an ever increasing population coming up to seven and a half billion at the time of writing.

Does every single one of those souls matter? Are they all special? Does each and every one have worth? Type “self worth” into a browser you are offered a dazzling array of solutions for lack of self worth – psychological and motivational options being at the fore – and open any website and internet algorithms supply a number of options for boosting self worth.

Some people appear to brim with self worth, self importance and self confidence. Often this comes in tandem with a less-than meaningful approach to kindness towards others – it is inbuilt, often without negative experience and therefore a privilege. In my mind this is probably embodied by a scene in Thor: Ragnarok in which the titular hero is shackled upside down by a magma-based baddy Surtur, before managing to escape with the help of his hammer and super-strength. “You have made a grave mistake Odinson,” warns Surtur. “I make grave mistakes all the time. Everything seems to work out.” Thor knows everything will be all right because, for him, it has never before gone irretrievably wrong.

Meanwhile there are people in the world who have had their self worth systematically destroyed by others. This often goes hand-in-hand with extraordinary levels of empathy and kindness to others, often to their own detriment. How do we find a middle path where balance can be made between looking after others and looking after ourselves. How do we find self worth?

I suppose the start must come with a decision. An agreement with one’s-self on the answer to the question “What Do I Not Deserve?”

I posit the query in this form as the question “What Do I Deserve?” is simply far too big for many people to comprehend and certainly a question with which those with self-esteem issues will struggle to answer. It is just too much as it is wrapped up in expectation. What you do NOT deserve is far easier to define and becomes a line in the sand as to what we can expect to not happen to ourselves.

So grab some paper and work it through with me. What, feasibly, could happen in relationships with other people, whether they be romantic, family, friendship or just daily interactions that you are not willing to accept?

Well, in any of these I have the following thoughts for myself. I will not be physically hurt – I do not deserve that; I will not be spoken to without respect – I do not deserve that; I will not be ignored – I do not deserve that. What do you think you do not deserve? Write it down.

It might be a list of things, it might just be one thing, but what you have before you is the minimum standard you can expect in your life, the MINIMUM. This is what you expect not to happen to yourself and it is the beginning of self worth because you have decided that there are some things you do not deserve. It may seem like a little thing but it is not, it is the foundation for building self respect. Look at that list. What can you do to make sure that you do not suffer what you do not deserve? What needs to change for you to not suffer it? Think about this, write down some thoughts. Remember – this is only a beginning.

If you cannot think of one thing you think you do not deserve please talk to someone – a friend, a relative, a teacher or one of the agencies I mention below – trust me, there are things that no-one deserves. No-one deserves violence, no-one deserves pain, no-one deserves exploitation, no one deserves to have their freedom taken away – these expectations should be at the very minimum.

Please remember that the biggest kindness you can do for yourself is to ask for help. If you are struggling there’s a number of places in which you can seek help. Give yourself permission to use them – do what you would ask any loved one or even a stranger if you are struggling.

▪️Links for a few organisations to help if you are struggling for someone to turn to:

National Domestic Violence Helpline (UK) (I link to this part of the site as it has the helpline and the reminder to clear search history to keep yourself safe)

The National Suicide Prevention Alliance (UK) -This site offers a variety of contacts in your local area, including Mind, The Samaritans and a variety of other support organisations.

Unseen provide support to those impacted by modern slavery and trafficking.

The NSPCC offer support to children and young people affected by abuse and their families.

There are a number of different agencies around the world offering support for a variety of situations – if you’re looking at this article you have the resources to find help – use a search engine to find the help YOU need. It is out there and please believe me when I say you deserve help, you deserve support.

* This blog is part of a series of my writings on Kindness which starts here.