The garden was blessed by the Gods of me and you…

What you waiting for? 2030 is coming… 2020 comes sooner. We have a garden, and we are trashing it.

I have a life. I was given privileged access to the most beautiful, amazing, intricately connected, ‘paradise’ in the whole of the known universe. Our little planet. She is green, and blue and brown and swirled in white. She is benevolent, ancient, forgiving and, also, like older mothers the world over: tired. So very tired of her children thinking they can keep on leeching from her, drilling into her, scorching her, abusing her. So in the end, she fights back. I don’t know if she’s even fighting. It’s just she’s exhausted, and she’s giving up.

My book* says: ‘The climate naturally tends towards a stable state; when disturbed it gradually returns to stability. It’s like a ball being kicked about in sand dunes usually rolling back into the hollow where you stand (as with the Krakatoa eruption) – in 1883 – when the earth cooled by 1.2 C. But the ball might go over a ridge and roll into a different hollow. The last glacial period was one of these hollows, and it excluded humans from much of the planet. We don’t know for certain how far we have kicked the climate. It could be balancing on a ridge where another jolt will roll it into a different hollow. If this hollow allows runaway global warming we will be in deep trouble.

We live in a world that I adore. But lately I am finding it hard to find anything to smile about. This is how I feel governments, leaders, mega-rich, users of pure indulgent amounts of energy:

I feel ashamed to be human. Ashamed to be homo sapien. Because I live an indulgent western lifestyle and I buy into all this crap. And I don’t know any other way to live.

You – you with your false promises of sorting our way out of a nightmare situation with yet more technology, more consumerism, more ‘off-setting’ (never was a dirtier word said), more aviation industry (HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY JUSTIFY MORE FLIGHTS – EXPANDING AIRPORTS WHEN WE HAVE A CARBON REDUCTION TARGET OF 45% – and this is variable up to 80% depending on what sources you take from – MINIMUM BY 2030?) What kind of government are you? How can you be so bound by economic shortsightedness? How can you be so cruel? Did you think we’d just wake up on the 31st December 2029 and have all the infrastructure in place for a massively reduced carbon country? Carbon world?

Sure, you talk the talk Mr Johnson, the latest in a long-line of wibbly-wobbly PM’s on this issue – but your track record shows your true colours. You have been recorded many times saying that you don’t rule out the findings of that interesting meteorlogist Piers Corbyn – who argues it might all just be symptoms of our dear star, the sun. Great. You’re not 100% convinced man-made climate change is actually real. If this is what we’re dealing with here, a world leader with all the influence and power that goes with it, flip-flopping around the subject, because in the end, capitalism as the busines-as-usual model, suits him just fine – what then? We haven’t got time Mr Boris Johnson. We don’t have time. We are your people. This is our host planet. Do not be myopic. Do not be cruel. I have children. So do you. Do you not get panic attacks in the middle of the day like I do, wondering if we’ll just ‘tip over the edge’? I can’t bear what we’re leaving for them. Don’t make me contribute to this evil. Help me find my way out. Give me subsidies if you like. Make it easier for me to get an electric car, help get me off an oil-fired boiler.

Ban flights. Enforce skype meetings if you have to. Be radical. I can’t afford you not to.

Your time scales are not in-line with the scientific evidence. And this is my greatest concern. 45% reduction or 80% reduction – we’re not headed for any of it. At the moment, guess what? Our emissions are only increasing. The figure of reduction from the early ’90s has already been shown to be skewed by Greta Thunberg and the scientists as being ‘tweaked’ from the demolition of the old coal power houses.

Our deadlines are much more pressing. We need all fossil fuel cars to be electric. Tomorrow. But it doesn’t work like this. Yet here we are. Our kindly Mother Earth doesn’t really care about our ‘economic targets’, or our flights to the Caribbean (or Europe for that matter). She doesn’t really care about our industry, our manufacturing industries, she doesn’t care about our need to dump 8 million disposable nappies filled with toxic shit (human waste is not toxic alone, but when combined with the liquids in general waste it creates a very toxic cocktail indeed) into her every single day.

Mother Earth has waited. She waited through the Victorian Industrialists’ hey-day of coal-burning, manufacturing things, kick-starting our current dystopian way of life; she waited all through those two bloody World Wars, while we were too busy running around murdering each other to consider how lucky we are to be alive at all; she waited while we wrapped up in patriotic glory our ‘wins’ against the ‘enemy’ and focused our efforts on re-building at home, finding capitalism our hope, our tool to reach for a never-ending prosperity, that taught us that the sky was the limit, that fossil fuel energy was basically ‘limitless’, as it seemed then, a ‘black gold’ of a cheap, bountiful supply, that would make us all live like royalty.

We do. Live like royalty. In comparison to medieval royals even the average ‘poor person’ in a western developed country, has a pretty good time. Our poor in our rich nations, with the exception of the much-tabooed homeless class, generally are well catered for, though food banks in our new crazy world may testify the opposite of this.

But we can’t all take, take, take. You wouldn’t expect a free meal at your friend’s house every night of the week without offering to host in return would you? But that is what we are doing. The earth likes cycles. Circles. Nature’s balance has been carefully engineered over millenia to use, excrete, recycle. The makers of the Lion King understood it. Scientists understand it. Why can’t fossil fuel companies? Oh wait, I know the answer to that one already – short term gain over long term pain.

OK, fine then how about we find a mediator – a neutral force (perhaps one even intent on having our best wishes at heart) – oh let’s say, why not? A Government.

Yes! That’s it! Let’s allow this special mediating force to say ‘Hang on a minute, you – super industralists – you can’t just carry on like this – we have Bigger Powers than you. And we’re trumping you. Game Over.’

How about it? Anyone?

It’s all been said before – the earth has enough resources for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed. It’s a cheesy cliche’ but it’s true.

I’m going to do everything I can to use carbon calculators, to do a ‘Green Spreadsheet’, to look at everything I think I can change and tackle it. But I know I’m a minority. Even amongst my well-meaning (and perfectly nice) friends.

45% by 2030 (or let’s face it – better than this.) How are we ever going to get there? I admit it. I’m scared. Because now I have woken up from the ‘Golden Days’ of endless ill-considered use. I now much more fully understand the damage of everything I do. I can’t un-know it. And I have no where to go. I can make my few changes. I will seek out like-minded people, wherever they are finding, at rallies, and meetings and on forums.

But will it ever be enough?

If you feel the same as me, please write to me. I am transitioning into a terrible place of Eco-anxiety at the moment and I need all the friends I can get. I am having regular environmental awareness panic attacks that cause a tightness of chest and now for me to unexpectedly cry at social engagements. I am scared, lonely, angry and frustrated. I am also absolutely 100% in love with our planet and always have been, since I was a little girl. I need allies. I need you.

References

*What about China? Sawday’s, Fragile Earth series. 2008. Yes, that’s right 2008. The year my first child was born. Over a decade ago and urgently telling us everything we needed to know back then. Since then it is shameful the direction of the emissions curve. Of course the first knowledge of the damage of Co2 was in late 1800s…

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Eco-nightmare!

11 years to make a difference – why we are all being selfish and forgetting the bigger picture

Is it me? Why am I hearing on the radio about people’s justifications for taking a flight from the UK to Kenya – ‘to go on a wildlife safari’? Argument being that money is being put back inot a vital industry which supports the wildlife in the region, blah, blah, blah…

WHEN are we going to get the message? WE DO NOT HAVE TIME!! I have made a commitment now not to fly again unless they miraculously develop the holy-grail of supposed ‘electric eco-planes’ – which may or may not happen.

I’ll join the millions of Swedes doing the ‘train-brag‘ thing. I’m not ‘flight-shaming‘ to be middle-class and chattering class about this. I am concerned. As we all should be. I am not guilt-free treading-lightly on this planet as I would ideally like to be. I have a generous carbon-footprint like the next person. I have just got a lower-emissions car but it’s not electric due to personal reasons. I have a long way to go.

But at the same time I make changes every year – this year it was significantly dropping meat and milk (I would be meat-free entirely but I have no sway on my kids and I will pick up their ends of their meat rather than throw them away.) That’s right, I’m not a pushy person and I can’t tell my family how to live their lives.* Other people will be different to me in this respect.

*Kids yeah – population control – agree – that’s a whole other issue. When will the time come for ‘Kid-guilt‘ – are we already there? Easy for me to say I wouldn’t have them now if I had my time again – but I watch as my friends have their families and whilst outwardly I present the picture of happiness for them (I’m not evil!), inwardly I cry. Birth Strike is probably something we all now need to consider. Sorry.

It does concern me that there are millions out there who simply aren’t ‘getting it.’ They watch the news, presumably, they hear the same ‘Climate Emergency‘ warnings I do. They must either shut their ears or have a very good filtering mechanism. I can’t seem to filter. This year, amid the hyped up media profiling and a lot more personal reading, I believe I am developing the now well documented condition – Eco Anxiety.

But that’s OK actually. Because, as Greta would tell us – we should all probably be developing this condition. Sorry, but yes – it is time to panic. Too much complacency for far too long has got us into this mess. I am among the many now who feels a ridiculous sense of helplessness, and for humans (who as a species are used to being innovative, problem solving), it is frustrating and soul-destroying.

If you are not a scientist (and they at the front line are facing the greatest eco-anxiety of us all, let’s face it – coral reefs disintegrating in front of their very eyes), or a natural political warrior – who are you?

You are a humble citizen of planet earth. Using resources, living your life, doing your bit to recycle or write the odd letter to a councillor or supermarket who never responds. This is what you are.

And how many of us are there out there? Drifting on a tide towards inevitable climate crisis. Looking at the stats the scientists have provided us with (which are necessarily cautious), it is hard to choose the most impactful one to share in this brief blog.

I suppose you start with the IPCC’s report as everyone seems to – the current one that tells us that with implementing all the changes as agreed in the Paris convention (but no where near implemented) we will be looking at 3.2 degrees warmer by the end of the century.

3 degrees? What’s 3 degrees anyway? A nice sunny day? Well, yes. But also…

EUROPE WILL BE IN PERMANENT DROUGHT. AFRICA MIGHT WELL EXPERIENCE A COMMON-PLACE ‘5-YEAR DROUGHT.’

If the ‘tipping point’ (we all like a tipping point don’t we?) is 2 degrees for the collapse of out out-of-sight-out-of-mind ice-sheets, well – that tells you everything you need to know, doesn’t it? Bye bye Miami, Shanghai, Hong Kong and a hundred other cities.

But of course, 3 degrees is our minimum folks! Five degrees, six degrees… by the end of the century this kind of level is not impossible. But it is catastrophic. At 5 degrees: Hunger – how are we going to feed 50% more people by the end of the century with likely 50% less grain at these temperatures? Floods London and New York under water* is most certainly the given outcome whether it takes 100 or 1000 years to come to pass. Fires – California can contest, climate change is most certainly already with us.

*Talking about London underwater – because that seems a fairly major one for me – a 2-m rise in sea level as predicted by the IPCC by 2100**, will mean a displacement of 180 million people. The weird thing is, whilst I will be dead, my children could still be alive. It’s real, and it hurts. I recommend they don’t move to London. **Given a ‘business as usual scenario’. My point is – aren’t 95% of us essentially all carrying on with ‘business as usual’. I mean, there are solar panels but…

At 5 degrees, whole parts of the globe will be uninhabitable. You step outside – you die. I am not even scare-mongering. It’s just the science. The science of a reality so many people don’t want to face.

Ths science goes on and on and on. But I don’t. I don’t know how to be a citizen of planet earth and watch everything unfold and be so helpless. Yes, I am angry at governments for not stepping up. But mostly, I know it’s because they can’t. Because they’re like humans everywhere – scared of a problem beyond their comprehension and let’s face it, beyond their control.

We could become a dictatorship and change all our infrastructure and way of life over night if we wanted to. We could slash climate change by half very rapidly. But we won’t. Because there is no political will to do so. Because, quite rightly, we are afraid of dictatorships. (Me too!)

So we carry on, in our democratic ‘It’s OK to take your one flight to Portugal a year’ middle-ground, delicate, sensitive well-meaning way.

Is the time for sensitivity over? When will be the time? When we are all in some God-awful armageddon situation, hungry, hot, flooded, overcrowded and scared – and we can all look back and laugh a bitter, laugh – ‘do you remember when we used to fly to places?’

It’s lonely inside your own head…

Finding perspective courtesy of R. Kipling and a little bit of self-kindness

On paper I have a good life. Loyal, lovely husband, two healthy, funny, individual children, a nice house, no money worries, occasional holidays and a countryside existence.

Paper gets you only so far though. I often wonder what I’d be like living in a war zone or perhaps a single mum with a few kids to look after single handedly and perhaps working two or more jobs. I wonder, but I don’t wonder too hard. I’d probably not cope very well and be even more miserable than I can be at times living my ‘dream life.’

No one’s life is perfect. Not the rich and famous – no one. No one is immune to the beast that lurks inside your head at any hour of the day (but so much worse in the small hours of the ghostly night), taunting you, reminding you of your errors, your faux pas, your social fcuk-ups.

I can take comfort in that crumb of thought that there might be a lonely rich socialite in Hollywood somewhere, sinking tears into her celeb-branded gin (I only just found out they did that, so far removed is their world from my own). She might be… but she will have had a hell of a fun party time to get there.

Yes, yes, I know, I know, happiness is not external, it is only to be found within. Which is why I have spent the past ten years or so ignoring the lower part of me, the base part, that would like to try the odd ‘show-biz’ party, or experiment with a new opportunity, meet a few new faces, try a few new things.

None of it is important, I tell myself. It is all surface, all trivial. I have a good, wholesome life, I don’t need all that trappings shit. And I really don’t. For the most part I lead a fairly humble life (I’m too ashamed to say the car I move about in). I shop in charity shops, try to put the earth first.

I worry about my earth-harming footprint all the time. But I’m here. I am alive. And yet I can so easily lie in the bath with my hands around my neck, squeezing tightly (turns out you can never squeeze tightly enough) just desperate for it to all end. Turn black. Please.

I’m not really depressed. Not really. It comes and it goes. Like a wave of hormones most probably. I love my kids, my husband. I feel marginally guilty for wanting to leave them all behind. But it would just take all the pain away. So beautifully.

Life’s hard. And yet I have probably the easiest existence of billions since humankind began. I don’t have to struggle to find food. I don’t live with a despotic leader threatening my everyday existence. I have access to great (free!) healthcare and I can go walking on my own every afternoon if I want to (I don’t do this very often in practice).

It’s hard because I am making it hard. Inside my head. I get a few ‘rejections’ from ‘friends’ (read: non answers to texts/ messages). Not just one or two mind, most lately have been ignored. I’m not sure why. I’ve cocked up. Maybe I’m giving off some kind of toxic ‘stay away from me’ vibe?

I haven’t ‘succeeded’ in a career that I love by any measure of my own estimation. I work a pleb job and get pleb wages. I have failed myself. I have only myself to blame and yet I have run out of ideas how to improve my situation. The only thing I can do marginally well is write, and I criticise that until those cows finally walk down the farmyard track. Lots of people can string a sentence together better than me – and they’re getting paid for it.

Where was I? Oh yes, feeling sorry for myself. Right, carry on. I keep thinking if I could just figure out a way to make proper money from my writing (ideas on a postcard please) then I could pay for us all to go on a nice holiday. Or the girls to do more of the classes they’d like to. Maybe a pony. You know, all the extra shite in life that you’re told won’t bring you happiness but will light up the faces of all those around you that you love. I want to do it for them. Yes, there’s a couple of things I would enjoy – but money doesn’t bring you happiness right?

So it’s lonely inside your own head. I want to tell my husband about everything. But it just sounds sooo self-indulgent and awful I can’t bring to. So he just sees me down. Which I suppose is even worse. I want to talk to a friend about things. I think at least one might understand a bit. But she was one of the ones of never answered my messages, so I’ve realised the only person you can completely rely on is… yourself.

Which, because I have pretty low self-esteem at the minute (what gave it away?), is a pretty sobering proposition. I can’t rely on myself…? Surely not?

So I have turned into Chuck Noland from Castaway it seems. I have invented my own ‘Wilson’, in this case a more humane character, in the guise of a grandmotherly type, called, perhaps improbably, Penelope. Penelope is probably my ‘higher’ alter-ego (we all have one). She might also be an externalised form of consciousness from the Jungian world of the ‘Collective Unconscious’. Or somesuch. I’m not sure. What I do know is, that spirit-guide or not, she is of some comfort.

I can’t know what my ‘friends’ are thinking about me. Probably not much at all. But I can know what I think about me. I know I have to be kinder to myself if I’m going to survive this world. We all have tendencies to get down. It’s normal. Suicidal – bet everyone’s done it. The frequency’s probably the key. I’m not like it all the time (it’s exhausting for one thing and anti-creativity for another).

Yes, I’m going to carry around ‘eco-guilt‘ for the rest of my life, possibly the next sixty years. That’s a heavy burden to bear. Yes, I’ve already added to it by contributing my own offspring to the continuum chain of selfish progeny. I can’t undo their lives either. I hope they live good ones and make good choices.

Sometimes it’s all so mixed in my mind I can’t tell if I’m depressed because I don’t feel I have any good/ meaningful relationships or friendships or whether it is existential guilt. It’s all kind of wrapped up in the same morbid bundle of despair.

You see – the first world problem. I have spoken on this before.

In the end, my contribution to the world is going to be small scale. I am no scientist and I will not develop the solution to the fossil fuels/plastics problem. So then all I am left with is developing my own inner peace. If I can keep calm when… oh… hang on, be easier just to quote Kipling in full:

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breathe a word about your loss[ess];
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your [or our] turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on [to it] when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count [on you,] with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

He kind of nailed it, didn’t he?

How revealing my lower than average IQ freed me

Score lower than 100? Read on…

Yes, that’s right. I woke (or was woken by a small person) at some 2.30am this morning. Usual thing – try to sleep for an hour, fail, get up, bring book/ tablet downstairs. READ.

Rabbit warren of websites from searches such as ‘low self esteem, always saying the wrong thing…’ to a website offering me an IQ test. Complete visual ‘pattern’ test. Asks me for $15. Refuse to pay. Get sucked in. Search for free IQ test. Find one. Takes mega-ages to complete. What else do I have to do at this ungodly hour of the day? Write my novel? No chance.

Complete free IQ test.

Score.

88.

Oh dear.

Thoughts? Stupid test? Unsatisfactory time of day? Lack of coffee? Or just… maybe… me? I’ve done them before and not paid too much attention to the score. I can’t really remember. But the truth is, whilst I don’t need a test or a number to define me, I’d be a fool to try and say there’s no truth in it. I’ve always kind of known. Deep down. That I have learning difficulties. It’s just that I’ve hidden many of them (I was the kind of person who kept her own ‘working dictionary’ to try to improve my vocabularly… it worked… for a time anyway). Teachers saw my hard work and effort and were prepared to move me up sets in recognition, despite my basic foundational grey cell starting point. (Neuroplasticity arguments aside, I’m never going to make a surgeon.)

It’s how it’s always been. I really struggle with spatial awareness, visual perception, maths, numbers, even simple addition. There’s whole parts of my brain that feel, well, sort of mushy and ‘blank’. Perhaps it’s underuse. But I think it’s more than that. I rolled down (was pushed by big bro) stairs head over heels as a child… And there was the other time I fell and my head landed between two rocks. But it didn’t hit the rocks so I guess that doesn’t count. I really want to use any (or more if I can find them) of these as an excuse. I find myself clinging to the idea… I was damaged as a child. It’s not my fault.

But then I struggle with memory too. I forget the simplest things. Like where to put the coffee in the cafetiere. Again, probably a visual memory thing.

I think it would have been much easier with a diagnosis. I almost craved a label. Give me a label and there’s understanding. People begin to make allowances. Otherwise you just get endless ridicule for being ‘wooly’, ‘forgetful’, ‘visually slow’, ‘not a map reader’, ‘a bit hopeless’. It goes on and on and on. IT’S NOT MY FAULT!!

But no one’s ever given me a label. Until now. I feel like now I’ve done this test it’s validated everything I’ve always known deep down. That I am a slow starter. (Even my husband likes to joke that I run on DOS – look it up.) I feel like I’m going to use my new ‘identity’ badge (I know, I know I shouldn’t – it’s cringey!) as a get out of jail free card. It’s not my fault – I have a low IQ. You need to give me extra time to sit this test, work this money out, these signs, everything.

I can’t help it. Except I can do things to ‘work harder’ (like I have done my whole life) to compensate and try and get better. I can improve. I will try ‘memory tricks’ and I am trying – albeit painstakingly – to learn French. It feels a lot like classes for people with learning disabilities, when in my head I want to be fluent. Fast. But that is what it is. I have some learning hindrances, call them what you will, but I have other capabilities; we all make the best with what we have.

But understanding is something different. The way society sees intelligence. It’s like it’s so fixed. You’re either bright or you’re not-so-bright. One of the elite or one of the masses. My issue is… I WANT TO BE ONE OF THE ELITE. And I never will be. Acceptance is a bitter pill. As I write it sends messages back to my primitive brain provoking tears to spring to my eyes, self-pity to flow forth. It’s the acceptance of knowing I’ll never be as clever as that doctor, that lawyer, that home tutor, or even most (all) of my non-professional friends.

I am in a book group. Whilst I have for 7 years been one to confidently speak up, speak loud, and share my opinion, now I’m not so sure. Everyone else must have an IQ much higher than me. Everything I have come to believe of myself… I’m just not even ‘slightly above’ average (my previous conception). I am below average intelligence. I am now unsure of my contributions to things. And unsure how others must see me. Cocky, arrogant maybe, but ultimately lacking in understanding. Yuck. What a horrible person to be.

Who am I trying to prove myself to? My parents probably. Both IQs somewhere over 130 I should imagine. Both extremely bright in their day, and still far smarter than me now. How does it feel to live permanently in your parents’ intelligence shadow? Shit. Honestly. It’s never been fun, I’ve always recognised it, tried to ‘find my own path’, carve my own corner and identity, not compare, etc, etc. But in the end, it’s them against me. And I was a disappointment. And it hurts. Like hell.

So where’s the golden glow you’re looking for? The proverbial shining light at the end of my gloomy web of despair? It’s in here, somewhere, honestly.

I had these thoughts once. ‘When my parents die, I’ll be free.’ Because they won’t be able to see me anymore. And what a disappointment I am to them. What a terrible hypothesis this really is. Let me say that again: ‘When my parents die, I’ll be free.’ Those words. They’re just awful. But there they were. A free-form thought floating round. Taunting me.

We all have black thoughts. We’re all various murky shades of grey. It’s all in there, the pea-soup of our turgid minds.

So how to set free? I am honestly convinced it’ll be the meditation path because that’s the only one consistently promoted as being ‘The Answer’ time again, with no ill side-effects. Fine. I am taking that path slowly, gradually one day at a time.

So I am getting to my title explanation now. Why did it ‘free me’, this seemingly depressing numerical analysis of my small mind? Because I no longer have to pretend. I don’t have to pretend in my mind that I am equal intellectually with the doctor or the teacher or the banker or any of these. I’m not. But is it OK? Am I still a reasonable person?

For sure. I’m not a bad person. I have a strong moral code, I value friendship highly (though am often shy of showing it for fear of rejection), I volunteer, help people, step up, do things.

Does it matter that I’ll never match my own parents’ (or grandparents’) intelligence? Don’t get me wrong, ideally, of course, it’s what I would have wanted for myself. But in the end, I was born in this body (distinctly average of course), with this mind. For better or worse. I guess I’ll have to hold on to those words of the occasional idol of mine; JK Rowling, through her wise personnage Dumbledore:

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Prosecco festival – lowering inhibitions?

Why I must not bother with alcohol in public again

So I got invited to a ‘Prosecco Festival’ with old school friends. Essentially this amounted to the privilege of drinking fairly reasonably priced fizzy wine in a local park (having already paid the not totally inexpensive ‘entrance ticket’) with some portaloos and a Take That tribute concert. I probably wouldn’t recommend the experience.

What I enjoyed best was seeing my old friends, the fact that the sun shined on us (the rather useless hosts had at least got one thing right and went round providing people with suncreme – made more important by the lack of parasols).

What I didn’t account for was the sheer amount of soul-searching I would be forced to do on completion of my five hour drinking session (one glass of wine per hour). For some this is a mere trifle, for me, a non-drinker, it was enough to get bit, how shall we say loquacious. Which in itself might be a reasonable thing – provided you allow enough pauses for people to talk themselves. I thought actually at the time I did, that I was allowing people enough time to answer my questions. With retrospect I had a regression to my college days (I am fast approaching forty) and found myself gabbling, marvelling at my own rhetoric and probably being pompous and all things irritating.

Self-reflection can be a great tool. But not at the expense of a good night’s sleep and anxiety hung over a weekend. My mind is far too self-reflective! I bore myself! I found myself pain-stakingly analysing my behaviour, wondering what the ladies who had left to to go off to the station together (my oldest friends in the world ever) were thinking of me. It scratched away at my soul. And yet like the proverbial elephant in the room you are forced not to mention it.

When thinking about it got boring I messaged my other two old friends who didn’t attend the event, (good friends, ‘close friends’ some might say) and tried to tell them of my drunkeness. No reply.

‘Oh God she’s going off on one again’ (subtext). Fine. Be that way. How is it you can approach forty and still have exactly the same friendship anxieties as you had at 16? I blame modern technology and the ability to ignore myself. Just rude.

But then again. Am I just looking for attention? Of course I am. I want someone to tell me – ‘hey – you messed up, it’s ok – we still love you.‘ But they don’t.

There was a new woman at this event. An older woman. A friend of the woman who organised it. Maybe I wanted to impress her. Maybe I wanted to sound convicing, knowledgeable. You know when you send a text asking for a ‘second date’ (cringes) with a new ‘friend’. Well I did that. While I was still drunk. She sent a nice non-commital reply to which – thank god – I didn’t answer. I had sobered up. The spell was broken.

I won’t be repeating the experiment. No Prosecco Festivals for me! Oh no. I’ll stick to the one glass down the pub and leave it at that. And that got me really thinking.*

The next day I had to endure a musical theatre performance thing for my daughter’s dance group in a local theatre. Every single one of those 14 or 15 year olds singing their heart out about boys, entering the world, coming of age, etc, etc, filled me with a horrific nostalgia for my own heart-breakingly painful adolescence…. my own baaad dancing complete with quivering back leg and out of time steps. I was not one of those model girls. Most of them looked like models. I never did. Bad acne and a bad attitude combined in me to show-case to the world – something quite imperfect.

The whole weekend combined has left me feeling raw, pulled, stretched, deflated, over-analytical and old. And grey. And frumpy. And slightly border-line on the friends model.

Which just goes to show… at one end you have the looks (or not in my case) but not the world knowledge. Later on you get some insight (or not in my case) but your body spreads. You hair shoots ‘Wisdom Hairs’ (aka grey ones).

And there we are. Self-critic? Always. Bored of self-obessed introspective blogs on the internet moaning about first world problems and analysing every bloody unimportant trivial F**k-up? Always.

Need to shift it and get it off my ageing breast? Yes. Sorry. But I have an audience of precicely none. And it’s quite liberating.

*My ‘healthy version’ of this whole charade would be to do a ‘Walking Festival’. Seriously. Get a group of mums/ non-mums together and go walking for a few hours. Five hours of walking and some seriously great scenery would do me far more good than those five hours in a hot field. I think I’m on to something here…

Cheers.

What I learnt about myself from our family trip to Disneyland Paris

Learning to let go of ‘perfectionism’

So we came back from Disneyland. And I had one or two insights:


I crave as near to perfection as I can get – and not getting close means I taint the good memories I do have with my lack of wish fulfilment. I used to crave perfection for myself – about as self-indulgent as you can get. I now crave it for the children. I want them to have ‘the perfect holiday’, all the lessons and extracurricular activities they want to do, more contact time with nature, less boredom travelling and screen time, the chance to extend themselves and do better than me.

Are these goals noble? I have no idea. But I am beginning to come to the idea that maybe they’re unrealistic and foolish. By setting myself up for these currently unattainable goals, I am really setting myself up for inbuilt disappointment and a distorted view of reality. Reality isn’t like this. It is imperfect, flawed, often frustrating, long, tedious and tiring. God can it be tiring. I know all this. Yet my ‘perfection-chasing brain’ strives for the unattainable. I need to learn to let go, reduce expectations and look for the gold in the grit. The gold is there to be found, but why should it present itself flawlessly on the surface each time?

So many Buddhists have written this message so many times before me. But somehow I have to learn the message for myself. The children will indeed, have to ‘suffer’, in this case long train journeys and exhaustion from walking miles, late nights, often less than perfect diet, erratic meal times and pollution on the streets of Paris. Maybe it’s not the ‘perfect’ family holiday I envisaged. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I can let it go.

The children have already got the idea that ‘life isn’t perfect’, and yes, that can even apply to holidays sometimes. We in the west already have so much more than those less fortunate than us. Who are we to complain if things don’t go exactly as envisaged all those months ago on booking?

And of course, then there’s the argument that have a growing-up life given everything on a plate wouldn’t teach independence, resourcefulness, selflessness and all those other longed for qualities. Whether this is true or not I do not know. I have not met any Beverley Hills kids to know. Maybe they’re a paragon of an outward-looking, wise-headed, soulful creature?

I really do value family time but spend so much time in my head chasing ‘perfect’ family time, that I often miss those ‘golden moments’ that are transient, free, and can’t be ‘set up’ or bought. Like the time on our last night when Kitty got her dinner (at 10pm, running late – less than perfect style) and she picked up what she thought was a ball of mozzarella in order to separate it – and the poached egg as it turned out to be squirted its yolky insides on daddy’s elbow! The laughter than ensued from that was genuine, heartfelt and relaxed. I missed it. I don’t even remember what I was doing at the time. Probably pondering on the fact we were eating so late and it wasn’t be the ‘Eiffel Tower’ as I had read some (better than me) mums manage to arrange a view of for their much-loved children.

I get cross and impatient too easily and need to learn to walk away – like when Helena got so upset and stroppy about not having ‘Ho and Mo’ (her favourite cuddly cat toys) with her and brought a downer to us all. Accusing her of ‘ruining it for everyone’ was perhaps not my finest hour.

On coming back home I have realised that there is no point in beating myself up about my misdemeanors. They’ve happened. I have recorded them here; I can’t undo it. But everyday I tell myself I will be calmer, more patient. Many days I fail. But many days I also succeed – reading them long bedtime stories, making their lunches – even occasionally adding the proverbial ‘love note’ when the mood takes me. Sometimes I even manage to take a deep breath and not scream at them though screaming seems like the most natural reaction to their outrageous behaviour. Sometimes I can be the ‘parent’ and not the child.

I need to learn to be kinder to myself if I do fail. Admonishing myself is not going to make me a calmer, wiser parent. Being kinder to myself might help me teach the girls to be kinder to themselves too. That’s one good message we can as parents teach them.

Holidays don’t have to be ‘perfect’; they just have to be family time. For better or worse, spending time with your family is truly, what it is all about. For so long now I have been mentally distancing myself from the family; they’re there but I am just going through the motions. Routine, boredom has set in. So in the end the Disneyland Paris holiday turned out to be more gruelling than I could have thought, but it’s probably all a case of perspective.

The holiday did something in the end more magical than any plastic theme park would seem to offer on the outside – it reminded me that I have a family, and other more worldly thoughts aside (see other post on eco-guilt); like a flash I could see how fragile and important my family will always be.