Reverb 31: love

Day 31: love to you, wherever you are NOW

Skipping the blurb, because it’s tl;dr, but here are the prompts:

2013 is going to be MY YEAR because somewhere in the middle of it, I’m going to know where I’m going next.

In 2013, I am going to do something I’ve been trying to do for the last five years, and finish my damn novel.

In 2013, I am going to feel very scared, but I am not going to let that stop me doing things.

In 2013, I am not going to shut myself off.

In December 2013, I am going to look back and say that was a good year; it all makes sense now.

Reverb 30: celebrating

Day 30: what can you celebrate NOW?

Often we see our life as a humongous journey, and we believe that not only have we not arrived at our far away desired destination, but we also think we must accomplish x, y, and z, before we can declare with satisfaction that we are THERE.

For a moment, take a close look at who you are NOW. See what you can declare.

Merge the past, present, and future into one big ARRIVAL.

Describe joyously and in great celebration the BEING that you ARE.

I’m here. When I think that there were moments this year that I couldn’t see beyond the end of the week, that feels like an arrival in itself: that I’m here, and that enough mist has rolled away from the path ahead for me to be able to see where I’m going.

I’m going, but, as this prompt reminds me, I’ve also arrived. I am always arriving, always finding new things.

Here I am: slouching in my seat, sore throat, chewed left thumbnail, wearing a scarf and a fake fur throw over actual clothes. Listening to some obscure Gilbert and Sullivan (obscure enough that I can’t identify it without looking at iTunes, anyway). At the end of a cup of tea. Writing in [plot goes here] in the rough draft of my actual serious novel, upon which I am attempting to write 1000 words every day. Wondering how long it is until suppertime. Being distracted by anonymemes. All of which is OK. You know, it’s getting dark on 30th December, and this is who I am.

Where I have arrived at: knowing that I don’t have to do x, y and z. Knowing that I can do them if I want to. (I know I go on about this, but it really was one of the year’s lightbulb moments.) Knowing that I can write, and that I have already written some stuff that is damned good. Knowing that I can sing (well, not today, but usually) and that I am more of an asset than a liability to my choir. Knowing that I’m good at my job, even when I’m not quite sure what it’s meant to be, and have no idea at all where it’s going to go next. Knowing that I’m presenting myself with a reasonable degree of integrity.

This post has been difficult to write, because, helloooooo, British self-deprecation, what what? Consequently I shall stop there; but it’s been rather good for me.

Reverb 29: love

Day 29: have you heard your word?

What word did you select to be your travelling companion in 2012? What gifts did this word bring?

What word will you choose to guide you through 2013? What do you hope it will bring into your life?

Last year, I decided that this year’s word was going to be balance. There was a point this summer when I decided that actually I should have said integrity. I didn’t just want to have balanced the various weightings of my life; I wanted to have got to the point where I could see them as all being part of the whole. I haven’t managed this as much as I’d like to have done (does anybody, ever?) but I think that getting to the point where the goal revealed itself as integrity was an achievement in itself. I will continue to work towards it.

Next year’s word has to be love – and I will have to remind myself of this thirteen times every day. I want this to be the year when I uncoil myself and reach out – and this is as much about loving myself (ugh) as it is about loving others. (This calls back to integrity, and looking at myself, and all sorts of other things I’ve been writing about this month.) I want to love more, to be more loving, and I want that to express itself in actions.

Reverb 28: facing fears

Day 28: how will you overcome *those* fears?

Think of three things that daunted you in 2012: how are you going to work towards overcoming them in 2013?

I continue to suspect that all my fears come out of the one super-fear: that of being thought to be an idiot. This certainly accounts for fears one and two:

1. Talking to people;
2. Sharing my work;

Interestingly, this phases in and out depending on context. Work – actual assigned job work, I mean – gets most of my best brain time, so I tend to be pretty good at talking to people – strangers and colleagues, as appropriate – and have no qualms about saying “look at this newsletter I have written! is it not glorious?” And this is because work is a case where not doing all this would make me look like an idiot, so I have to.

It also phases in and out depending on my overall mood. As with all these things, I think the answer to becoming less scared is to practise more. I used to have a rule that I’d make myself talk to at least one person every week after church, rather than dashing straight for the door. Now I’m on collection duty this is less easy to manage. I must find other people to talk to.

Fear the third comes from somewhere completely different.

3. Looking at myself.

Not physically (though it’s sometimes difficult as we have no helpful mirrors), but, I don’t know, mentally or emotionally. Not wanting to prod myself too hard in case I find that I don’t like the person under the mask, in case she isn’t the person I want to be.

The way I’ve found to deal with this one is time to myself, and a blank notebook. This year, at the retreat I went on with church, I had this huge thing that was squatting on my mind. I spent a lot of the Greater Silence sitting up late and writing the whole lot down. And then I looked at it and went, ‘Is that it?’

Reverb 26: claiming time

Day 26: how will you make time?

How do you intend to carve out more time for the things that are the most important to you in 2013?

What did I decide on? Writing, cycling, people, prayer. I should also include sleep. I am not going to cut into my sleep time for any of this, because it will have a negative impact on everything.

So. Seven hours of work. (Lunchtime at the moment is either reading or wandering around town.) Eight hours of sleep. Nine hours to divide between everything else. That’s weekdays. As far as weekends are concerned, I get about five hours on a Sunday between the two sets of church, and so Saturday is the only day that’s completely free.

How to get the rest of it in? Yes, well, this is always the problem, isn’t it? And, much as I rave about cycling, and, indeed, need to keep cycling because it’s the only serious exercise I get, it does deprive me of an hour per work day (ten minutes train journey, plus ~ten minutes messing around at either end) that I was previously devoting to reading or writing.

Work time is, of course, work time. I have in the past tried doing the Angels of the Hours at work, but usually end up thinking, ‘well, I have a browser window open now, let me look at the internet’, so that doesn’t really work.

My Thursday evenings usually turn out to be the most productive: in the two hours between work and choir practice I sit in Caffe Nero, get my head down, and write. Either that or I go to Evensong at the cathedral. Both good. I will keep Thursdays going in this manner. (And I have dropped off the chorister minding list, hurrah! I know I am going for the love and the outreach this year, but really, watching fifteen small boys attempting to kill each other did nothing for my feelings for humanity in general.)

The obvious answer, to some of it at least, is to switch off the internet more. That’s the plan, then, from when work starts again. Computer goes off at 10pm. That gives time for prayer and reading and things like that. I really don’t tend to do much of use beyond 10pm; it’s usually TVtropes or obsessively re-reading comments I’ve seen before.

The writing is going to have to get squeezed in at odd moments. As it happens, this works pretty well, so long as I have a notebook handy. I think the trick here is not to dedicate a particular chunk of time to it, but to aim for the old thousand words per day.

As for people – friends, family – I think that’s what Saturdays are for. And so I shall aim to either meet up with somebody, or do something interesting with Tony, every Saturday. I’m quite good at joining in with social things at work, but terrible at planning things from scratch. Also, as this year, I want to talk to Anne on the phone a lot. (Mondays, or Wednesdays.)

I’m now looking at all of the above with deep suspicion, because I have a horrible feeling that I’m never going to be able to keep to it. I do think there is an element of truth in that, and that I do need to leave myself some wiggle room, give myself permission to fail at it. So there. This will not necessarily work all the time. It is worth working towards, though. And so I shall try to make those two big changes, and stick to them, and not beat myself up when I don’t, but not give up on trying. 10pm switch-off, and Saturdays.

Reverb 25: being vulnerable

Day 25: how will you be vulnerable?

How will you be vulnerable?

The soft white underbelly, the flaw in the armor, the Achilles’ heel — weaknesses are what make us the most human, the most beautiful.

Next year, how will you tend to your vulnerabilities? How will you build them a shelter from the storm? How will you put them through physical therapy? How will you find a way to make them work to your advantage?

I am not sure about Achilles’ heel. I think I have Achilles’ ankles, and, short of wearing tight-laced walking boots day in, day out, I’m not sure what I can do about them.

That is not what this question is about, of course. This question wants to know about vulnerabilities in my head and my heart.

I will stop being afraid of them.

This year I want to love. I want to uncurl, to open up, to stop being scared of looking silly. Ephphatha. It sounds terribly soppy – but I am honestly so fed up with not caring about anything or anybody. Building shelters for my vulnerabilities hasn’t worked.

This is what I am praying this Christmas: let me love.

I do not care where it leads me. I do not care what it makes of me.

Let me love.

I’m not really sure where to start. Perhaps I will get drunk and read In Memoriam. Perhaps I will write all my thank you letters. Tonight, though, I think, I’ll go to bed.

Reverb 24: writing, praying

Day 24: your most important habit?

What is the single most important habit you intend to cultivate in 2013?

Well, I’m going to cheat, and choose two. When I first saw this prompt, I thought ‘writing, of course’ – and then I saw somebody else’s response, and went ‘but I really ought to choose prayer, oughtn’t I?’

I can’t perform some mental sleight-of-hand and declare that actually they are the same thing, because they really aren’t. I could keep doing either of them without also doing the other. I want to do both of them for my own sake, but they aren’t particularly connected.

I want to do both. I want both to be the most important.

I want to write, and write, and write. It is one of those things that one only gets better at by practising, and I want so much to get better.

And I want to pray. I want to stop drifting away. I want to be anchored in reality, not floating around in fantastic ideas of who I think I am. I want to be opened up; and prayer is the way to do that.

These both seem like very inward-looking habits. They are: a habit that relies on somebody else, anybody else, is doomed to failure. Prayer is a habit that will turn me outwards, though. Writing makes me disagreeable and secretive; prayer makes me calm and joyful and friendly.

I do want to write next year. I want to write a lot. It can’t be my only habit, though, because it leaves me incomplete. If I had to choose, then, it would be prayer. But I don’t, so it’s both.

Reverb 23: letting go

Day 23: what will you let go of?

Name three excuses — stories you tell yourself that are holding you back — that you are going to let go of in 2013.

1. As previously discussed, ‘ought to’. The idea that I cannot level up to ‘decent human being’ until I complete tasks X, Y and Z – when it would be much easier to complete said tasks if I had first accepted that I am a decent human being, accepted and valued as such.

2. My writing is terrible and I can’t plot for toffee. And that this is an immoveable obstacle. In fact, I’ve proved to myself this year that plotting comes with practice.

3. That everybody hates me. This is a mindworm that comes free with depression, and ranges in severity from ‘I’m not very popular’ to ‘I am completely pointless and useless’, by way of ‘everybody that claims to like or love me is either lying or bonkers’ and ‘I should not try to make friends because I will just look stupid’.

I could really do with letting go of my fear of looking stupid.

Reverb 21 and 22: dreaming, giving, receiving

Day 21: what’s on the dream list?

What items did you tick off your dream list in 2012? What other, unexpected, dreams came to fruition?

What are the top three items on your dream list for 2013?

I was assigned to work with the LGBT group, which is a post I’d hankered after ever since I joined my employer – and discovered that, like any other group, it is full of people, some of whom are easier to work with than others. As a direct consequence I went to some Prides on purpose.

I walked all the way around the Isle of Wight, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long while. This was unexpected in a way, because I’d originally planned to do Offa’s Dyke, but decided against it for financial and fitness reasons – then realised that I could walk the coastal path, the way I’d always wanted to.

I bought myself a dinner jacket, and have worn it twice this year. With the monocle.

My top three items for 2013? Actually, that’s quite a difficult one, because I am waiting for certain things to shake down. 2013 is the year that everything changes, and it’s hard to see how to be ready when you’re not quite sure how it’s going to change. But here’s how I’d like things to work out:

1. Tony finishes his PhD in style, floppy hat, etc., and finds that there are jobs on the other side.
2. Anne gets well enough to be able to come and live with us.
3. I get myself into a position where I have a choice to stop working where I work now, if I feel like that. I don’t have any plans to do that at the moment, but I feel as if I would like to have the option.

Day 22: your most important gift?

What was the greatest gift you received in 2012? What was the greatest gift you gave?

What do you intend to give yourself in 2013?

In terms of the difference it’s made to my self-perception, the greatest gift I received was, I think, the support and encouragement of the Pico community. The discipline of posting snippets of writing, the enjoyment of reading other people’s, the excitement when somebody says something nice about my own, all keeps me interested in my own writing. We had three months of Pico this year, and it was all extremely useful. It’s a gift that makes more of my gift, such as it is.

As for the greatest gift I gave – well, I’m still trying to take my youngest birthday to the theatre, but he is on stage so much himself that it’s been difficult to find a weekend. Use of our spare bed, for various friends and family members, also springs to mind, though it’s damned uncomfortable. Honourable mention goes to yesterday, when I was entrusted with the proceeds of two whip-rounds, and came back with a) a sponge bag filled with smellies, and an extremely enviable travel journal, for the person who is leaving our office to go travelling; b) a set of baby-gros and a box of Roses, for the person who is currently on maternity leave. I ended up with 30p left over, which I thought was pretty good going; I am usually rubbish at that sort of girling.

In 2013 I want a new camera. Mine broke and I borrowed Tony’s, but, even though it is the identical model, it is NOT THE SAME and I want my very own. My photography was improving no end before that happened, and that’s something that I would love to keep up.

Reverb 20: losing, finding

Day 20: what was lost and what was found?

What was lost in 2012? What do you intend to find in 2013?

What was lost? A lot of faith in a couple of institutions that, in one way or another, define most of my life. One of those I’d rather not discuss online; the other I’ve talked about a lot recently. So I shall leave that there.

In 2013 I intend to find: my box of diaries from years past; my confidence; my top F; time to read The Faerie Queene; time to write every day; possibly a new direction; clothes I want to buy.