Reverb 19: nourishing

Day 19: how did you nourish yourself?

How did you nourish your beautiful body in 2012?

What self-care practices will you take with you into 2013?

In February I got into a useful habit of making a large batch of soup on a Sunday, which could be heated up in the work microwave, and did three or four lunches, and got me eating more vegetables with less faff. This went on for some months, but I have got out of the habit again. The problem is that Sunday is my busy day, and I do not always find time between morning church and evening church to cook – sometimes, to cook twice. Not to mention shopping and all that.

I went through a phase of consuming daily multivitamin pills and St John’s Wort (in the vague hope that they would sort out my immune system and the brain slugs respectively) but got out of that habit as well. I’m no good with pills.

At the moment I am eating a lot of clementines and satsumas and things, because they are easy and cheerful.

I have been wondering (vaguely, again) about getting a veg box delivered. I do tend to use food up if I actually have it in the house (unless I have completely forgotten about it). We did decide against it a while back, on the grounds that the market is so good, but we don’t actually go to the market, because of having to carry everything back. (I suppose the trike would help with that; but it is still a journey that I don’t necessarily have time to make.)

Also, try not to fall over so much. And go to the dentist.

Reverb 18: colouring

Day 18: the colour of you?

What colour best represents the year you had in 2012? And why?

What colour would you like to invite into your life in 2013?

Be as literal or metaphorical, clever or crazy, or just plain off-the-wall with this as you choose!

I think it’s been a blue year.

Lots of different shades of blue. I have had turquoise seas and skies that faded from a blue almost as bright, paler and paler, until it darkened again into navy, midnight.

I have been looking for gold shells on blue backgrounds. Bright, vibrant, royal blue. Gold stars, too, and arrows. It’s a very medieval colour scheme, as much at home on the ceiling of Sainte-Chapelle as on the waymarkings of the Camino de Santiago. (Neither of which I’ve seen in the flesh this year, but let that pass.)

Something blue. I’ve been to four weddings this year, missed one because I was ill, and heard with pleasure of three to come next year. (Two on the same date, but there you go. I suppose there are only so many Saturdays.)

The blues have been squatting in my head for a while. Never mind them.

Next year. Next year I’m not sure about. Perhaps something very crisp and bright, with a glow around the edges. Yellow, perhaps, or a very young spring green. Something new and full of potential. Something that’s going to explode into something else.

Reverb 17: making a difference

Day 17: How did you make a difference?

Think of one person whose life you made a difference to in 2012.

What did you gain from this?

How will you continue to make a difference in 2013?

This one was difficult.

First it hit me in the self-esteem. What have I done this year to make a difference to someone else’s life? Precious little. I have bought a Big Issue here and there… I found it very difficult to put my finger on one action that made one difference to one life. In fact, the only event that feels like it fits the bill is a tweet from one of my friends, saying that they had found one of my posts helpful, when they tried to get their head around synodfail.

What did I gain from this? Validation, I suppose, affirmation, a sense that my maunderings made sense to somebody outside my own head but inside the whole mess. The encouragement to continue to share? But my sense is still that I am the prime beneficiary here, that it was all for myself first and foremost.

In my head I have John Donne saying that no man is an island, and Carl Sagan telling me that, if I want to make an apple pie from scratch, I must first invent the universe.

There is nothing that I can do that will make a difference to somebody else without also making a difference to me. I will never know what difference I can make to someone else, because I can never get outside the fishbowl of my own mind.

And usually I am OK with that. I got used to the idea of being a cog in a machine long ago. I am – usually – quite happy to be a cog in a machine, so long as the sausages that come out of that machine are known to be good. I would rather – usually – be a good cog than an indifferent fork.

This year, that doesn’t seem to have been quite enough for me, and I’m not quite sure how to move it on. I think I need to reach out more, to open myself up more, to find a way of doing more without over-committing myself. To find something worth doing outside work and church, because those are two institutions that have been driving me right up the wall recently, and I’ve been beginning to doubt that I can make a difference in them.

See more people. Know more people. Love more people. See more of the people I know; know the people I know better; love the people I know.

Goodness only knows what that’s going to look like. We’ll see.

Reverb 6 and 14: learning and rewriting

Day 6: What did you learn?

Compare the “you” from the beginning of 2012 to the “you” that you are now. What new skills or talents have you learned or discovered this year?

The one thing I started doing this year that I’d never done before was letterboxing, and as a result of this I have become reasonably good at using lino cutters to carve rubber stamps out of common-or-garden erasers, which is something I’d never attempted before. I have found some letterboxes made by other people whose skill has left me in awe (The Hero of Sherwood is spectacularly good; unfortunately I can’t show you a picture) but I’ve managed to make a few stamps that have a recognisable picture.

I’ve become competent at cycling on the road. This is mostly confidence and etiquette, but it bears mentioning.

I’m beginning to learn how to get proper plots into my stories. Mostly it happens without my conscious decision; part of me watches with bewildered gratitude as I exclaim ‘but of course A would do X if it turned out that B had done Y!’ – but it’s very exciting, because that never used to happen before. So I must have learned somehow…

There were various nifty little tricks I learned on various Microsoft programs, but that’s boring.

Day 14: the path that brought you here

Sometimes I spend too long at the end of the year planning for the new year ahead, so something like #reverb12 is so good for me.

This year was so full of change for me and mine that it feels like it wasn’t a “good one”. While I welcome the fresh breeze that change can bring, too much change just leaves me itchy and skittish, the ground loose beneath my feet. Then, when things settle again and the road ahead looks smooth and delightful, I think – what’s next?

But I need to remember to look back at the winding path before I start walking.

My question is: what was the most important thing you learned in 2012?

I think the most important thing I learned this year was that ‘I ought to’ is a very bad reason to do anything. I had run myself into a wall with ‘I ought to’ and had lost sight of what was actually important for me.

When I had learned to reformulate every ‘I ought to’ into either ‘I want to’ or ‘X needs doing’, I was able to see much more clearly where I was, what needed doing, and whether it needed me to do it. Then I was able to do it, but in a way that did not stress me out, or not do it, and not feel guilty about not doing it.

It has allowed me to do things – some of them very big, scary, things – on my own terms. The whole thing broke a very damaging pattern and I very much want to remember it, and take it forward into next year with me.

The Church of England and Same-Sex Marriage: What Happened, and How Very Furious I Am About It

1. Govt starts talking about same-sex marriage.

2. Much to the fury of much of its membership, Church of England expresses opposition to this idea, on the grounds that (despite this having been explicitly vetoed) religions might be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their beliefs.

3. Govt obligingly provides ‘quadruple legal lock’ to prevent Church of England performing same-sex marriage.

4a. Members of Church of England who wanted same-sex marriage very upset, as (this is feeling familiar, isn’t it?) this puts us about five years backwards from where we could be, at a conservative estimate. (I do feel that this is being glossed over in the coverage, but possibly I am not reading the right coverage.)

4b. Other members of Church of England fairly upset as they have been hoist with own petard and been made to look kinda homophobic. (I don’t have much sympathy there, no.)

Reverb 5 and 13: destination and journey

Day 5: What was your dream destination?

What was your dream destination in 2012 and why?

It can be a town, city, country or region — real or imaginary — and doesn’t matter if you actually got there or not!

Prestatyn.

Don’t laugh.

No, really. One of my mad schemes for this year was to walk Offa’s Dyke, the 8th century earthwork that marks the border between England and Wales. I was going to go south to north, for some reason that now escapes me, starting in Chepstow and ending in Prestatyn.

My reaction to most long-distance paths is, ‘ooh, when can I practicably walk that one?’ and Offa’s Dyke is no exception. This was going to be the year. I didn’t do it in the end, because I wasn’t rich enough and I wasn’t fit enough, and I did the Isle of Wight Coastal Path instead, this being much easier and less pressurised, but I do still want to get to Prestatyn. Or Chepstow. Whichever.

Day 13: Some selfie love?

Please post your favourite picture of yourself from 2012, self-portrait or otherwise!

By all means! This is me, on Midna-the-trike, on the way to watch the Women’s Cycle Road Race at the Olympic Games. Picture taken by Tony and sepiafied by Sam, his brother-in-law.

Reverb 4 and 12: me, dancing, weeping

Day 4: How will you celebrate YOU?

How are you going to celebrate your self this festive season?

I don’t mind admitting that I found it very difficult to get my head around this question. For me, the festive season is not about celebrating me at all; it is about celebrating Christmas (in its religious sense) well, either preparing to do so (both in the solemn observance of Advent and in, e.g., practising Christmas music) or actually doing so; it is about celebrating friendships and relationships, even where that’s a slightly desperate greetings card whose implied message is ‘I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch ALL YEAR! I do still like you and want to be your friend; I’m just a bit rubbish!’ Celebrating myself hasn’t really entered into my consciousness. Part of that is the fact that I spent a lot of the last three months thinking that I was not worthy of celebration, because my brain was doing that annoying thing where it wants to kill me. Part of it is not really having thought about it.

This Reverb project, however, is a sort of celebration of myself. What I do every year, towards the tail end of December, is spend a while taking stock of who I am and where I want to go next. This, glorified meme though it be, is a good way to do that. It involves my taking a long, hard, look at myself, accepting what I see, and moving on. That sounds simple, but it can, as I implied the day before yesterday, be terrifying. One never quite knows that one’s going to like what one sees. So just saying, ‘Right, I’m actually OK,’ and moving on, is in itself a celebration.

Perhaps, though, I should do something frivolous to celebrate myself, as well. But what? I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll go for a very long walk some time between Christmas and New Year. And (looking at other people’s comments on the prompt post) I might get myself a nice dress; it’s been a while since I had a new one.

Day 12: Your most intense emotions

What made you dance in 2012? What made you weep?

Depressingly, the answer to the second question comes to mind much more readily than the answer to the first. I have wept frequently and passionately this year, as much over things inside my own head as for those outside it. There was one particularly bad night in October, when I was suddenly sick to the back teeth of all kinds of activism. Since my job is activism, since family harmony relies on activism, since my philosophy has pretty much always been based on making the world a better place – the logical extension, I’m afraid, of the idea that the only two possible careers for a Christian woman are that of missionary and nurse – this was a problem. Dust and ashes territory. I cried quite a lot that night.

And this year I cried, for what I think was the first time since 2005 and Jean Charles de Menezes, over a news story. The Synod vote, of course: no, we won’t actually be having women bishops this time, either. That hurt. That hurt like a kick in the gut, feeling that my own Church didn’t want me, the more so because we all thought it was going to go through at long, long last. It wasn’t personal, but it felt like that.

As for dancing, well, I think 2012’s most joyful moments did involve literal dancing. Cousin G’s wedding was tremendous fun, featuring all the aunts and uncles and almost all the cousins together, a jazz band, a cheesy disco, and my brothers and the N. Kirby boys marching in to When the Saints Go Marching In. We are not a particularly close-knit family, but we don’t half get on well when we are all together.

Apart from that (and, similarly, Coz Ed’s post-wedding wedding party, though there was no dancing there) my moments of joy have mostly been very simple, more like overflowing contentment in the face of great beauty. Stopping to listen or to look, when I’ve been walking, when the sky or the sea have been so huge and beautiful that I couldn’t not be happy. The goslings at Jacob’s Well. Whitened cobwebs in the frost this morning. Walking from Blackgang to Niton late in the afternoon, with the sunlight falling slanted and gilding the trees, and the cliffs like ivory, and the shadows very black, watching tiny people walking up to St Catherine’s lighthouse, and beyond that the sea going on and on and dancing in the end of the day.

Reverb 3 and 11: wishing and singing

Day 3: What do you really wish for?

Imagine a scenario where you only had one year left to live. What is one thing that you really wish to do that you just haven’t had the chance to accomplish yet?

I would like to add: what steps could you take (however small) to ensure that you accomplish this thing in 2013?

I am a little hesitant about answering this one, not because I don’t have an answer in mind, but because only a month ago my answer would have been different. I’m not sure what it would have been, but it wouldn’t have been this:

I want to write my novel. I want to write it, and I want it to be good. And I think this is the one thing that I want to do that nobody else can do for me.

What steps can I take? Well, that’s easy enough. Write. Write every day until it’s done. (Within reason, and without getting myself so stressed out about it that I don’t want to do it any more.) Even doing ten days’ worth at the end of Picowrimo I found things coming together, of characters coming to life and beginning to drive the plots themselves, and it suddenly became plausible. I hope that if I keep working this will keep happening.

Day 11: What was music to your ears?

What was music to your ears in 2012, literally or metaphorically?

It hasn’t been a particularly outstanding year, music-wise. My two most impressive achievements were singing half the alto solo in This is the Record of John three times, and getting paid for playing the cello – both firsts. I should have done Record for the Advent carol service last year, but I had the flu.

I also escaped from the choirboy supervision rota and became slightly obsessed with operetta. We did several lovely pieces in choir – Byrd 3-part, And I saw a new heaven, There shall a star from Jacob come forth – but I don’t think there was anything particularly interesting that we hadn’t done before. But then I have been in this choir since 2008, and we do repeat most of our repertoire year on year, and so I have got to grips with most of it. Every so often I do suddenly realise how fantastically wonderful a particular piece is – it happened this year with the three mentioned above – and I really am very lucky. It’s impressive how quickly one gets used to such luxury (and by luxury I mean three practices and two services per week). I love it.

Reverb 2 and 10: spending and risking

Day 2: Your most significant spend

What was your most significant expenditure in 2012?

It doesn’t have to be necessarily the biggest expenditure, just the one with the most impact.

What difference has it made to your life?

As a matter of fact it was the biggest expenditure, or, rather, between the two of them, they were. Epona and Midna, the tricycles. Epona, £350, from eBay (whence she is shortly to return). Midna, twice that, from Evans, via the Cycle to Work scheme. They have changed my life, and I have to count them both, because if I hadn’t had the instant gratification of riding Epona, useless as she is, I’d probably have lost interest long before it occurred to me to look into Cycle to Work. And then Midna took so long to show up… Epona served her purpose, even if only for a few weeks. I am going to sell her on, but doubt I’d get much for her in the middle of December. Midna is great.

They have changed my life. Not in any dramatic, world-changing way, but cycling makes me more cheerful and gives me a little bit more independence. It means that I can buy twelve tins of tomatoes at a time if I feel like it. I cycled to and from work today, and even though it was simultaneously freezing and sweaty, and a little bit scary in the dark, and some wanker overtook me far too close (deliberately so, I think) it was such fun, in a way that sitting on the train for ten minutes never can be. It puts me in a whole different mindset.

Day 10: Your greatest risk

What was the greatest risk you took in 2012? What was the outcome?

Should I say, starting to cycle again? Perhaps. I did wonder if I was being a bit rash, forking out three hundred and fifty quid for something I wasn’t sure I was going to have the nerve to use. And actually every day I cycle is a risk; I’m always uncomfortably aware that I’m rather more likely to be killed on the road than I would on the train; but it is one of those occasions where you have to make the choice and stick with it.

There have been a couple of moments this year where I’ve felt physically in danger, and, looking back, have discovered that I took risks to get there – the most notable, perhaps, being where the path disappeared at Woody Bay, when I’d decided not to follow the boring, not-at-all-coastal, coastal path, and see if I could get round by the actual coastline. But that was all right: I swore a lot, clawed my way back up to the actual path, and trudged through a hell of a lot of mud to Seaview.

Coming out to the Rector felt risky at the time, but turned out to be safe and moving and vaguely hilarious. It does feel risky, living without the mask, particularly when it’s a long time since you’ve looked at yourself without it, and the person behind it doesn’t look the same as last time. Yes, I think that was the biggest risk of all: being prepared to let the label fall off. It’s worked out OK; I do tend to forget and to slip back into my idea of who I ought to be, but when I do remember it’s very liberating.

Starting – late

I forgot all about reverb12 until yesterday, and then couldn’t find it. I should have begun on the 1st; it’s now the 9th. I will attempt to catch up by posting two a day until I’m back on schedule. We shall see how this works.

Day 1: How are you starting?

How are you starting this last month of 2012?

Take a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself the question: how do you feel…

… in your body? in your mind? in your day job? in your creative life? in your heart?

This is rather retrospective, of course, but I’ve felt rather stuck in the first week of December, and only really woken up today, so let’s go with it.

When I went into December I was fed up with 2012 – so much so that I was talking, only half-jokingly, about switching to the liturgical calendar and calling it new year already. My depression was atrocious, made worse by the dark mornings (because they are getting dark, now). This led to my not wanting to get out of bed in time to cycle to work, which led to me feeling worse.

Work has been one long slog since July, dealing with staff absence all over the place, feeling that I was enjoying what I was doing, but there wasn’t enough of it, and I wasn’t actually supposed to be doing that, and anyway, what was the point? I’d not picked myself up properly from a mental crash in October, having finally got fed up with being dragged into other people’s causes, and feeling like a fraud for being paid to care about other people’s causes.

My creative life, on the other hand, had suddenly picked up, thanks in large part and the House of Laity. I got some blinding white-hot fury down in pixels, and this kick-started a project that had been stalled (even, I thought, abandoned) since – well, the last time I decided it wasn’t worth writing. This time it’s looking a lot sharper; it has much more shape to it. That’s a positive, then.

Day 9: Your favourite book?

What was the best book you read in 2012, and why? (And by “Why?” I mean: Why did you read it? And why was it your favourite? Although these answers could be one and the same…!)

To Kill A Mockingbird, without question. Why did I read it? Because it was the May choice for our works book club. Why was it my favourite? Because it was so utterly convincing. Because I was kicking myself for never having read it before. Because it made me so sad, and so angry. Because everything else I’ve read this year has disappointed me in one way or another, and To Kill A Mockingbird didn’t.