Reverb day 21: from here on

#reverbWhat can you say today with certainty?
From here, the days get lighter.

I have a friend who asks me exactly the right questions (even if I never answer them).

I know what is the next step on Speak Its Name.

Things are grim, but they do not stay grim.

In 2015, I am open to… huge, exciting, things happening

In 2015, I want to feel… light-hearted and full of grace

In 2015, I will say no to… over-commitment

In 2015, I will know I am on the right track when… I see the secret holiness of everything. But when I find myself veering off course, I will gently but firmly… rewrite my timetable so that I have a day or a week free to reset what needs resetting

In December 2015, I want to look back and say… that, my love, was the best year ever.

Reverb day 20: laughing to the point of disaster

#reverbOne thing I learned in 2014 was how to make space for joy and levity, even in the midst of challenging circumstances or sad times.

How could you make space for joy in the year to come? How could you protect it?

I have noted repeatedly that this is going to be the year for fun. I am going to seek fun out deliberately. I am hoping that there will be joy coming along with the fun.

One thing that I found immensely useful in 2014 was the #100happydays meme. I am a little cynical about forced gratitude, particularly of the sort imposed on one from outside (‘cheer up, there are children starving in Africa’, or, ‘cheer up, it might never happen’) but this practice, taken on because I wished to do it, proved to be surprisingly joyful in itself, so much so that I have embarked upon it again. Even on the darkest days (today is 21st December, we note) it had me looking for one single good thing to talk about, and, once I’d found that, I often found more.

It’s always there. I just have to find it.

And what of levity? I gave up drinking alcohol this year but find, at least on the evidence of Friday’s office Christmas party, that my sense of levity has declined not one whit. It had been a very long time since I laughed so hard that I was nearly sick. It’s very good to know that this is still within me.

Reverb day 19: ill rainbow mermaids eating chocolates and carrying purple bells

#reverbToday, I invite you to consider: what sorts of signs and symbols have recurred for you in 2014? Think: repeating colours, shapes, people, sayings, music, images, ideas. Where could they possibly be leading you?

Mermaids – cheating, rather, because I went looking for mermaids once I discovered what an apt metaphor they were. Mermaids for me are a useful way of thinking about fiction, these creatures that look almost the same as us, but who, moving from one element to another, need things provided or explained that feel obvious in this world.

Rainbows – Lots of them, this year. There were a couple of weeks in the autumn where it seemed as if every day I saw a rainbow from the window of my train home. One of these felt particularly apt, coming on the day that Vicky Beeching came out. And there’s one that falls on the wall at work, when the sun comes a certain way through the windows. I think the obvious message is obvious here. I have been managing to be more out this year, if (it feels) less active.

Bells – the quarter-hour chimes from the church opposite my office, bringing me back to the moment.

Purple – I know it’s my favourite colour, but even my study wall was purple when we moved in. Still preparing, still waiting. But also luxury and sovereignty.

Inventive ways of transporting things – well, I have moved to Cambridge, and you would not believe what weird things I’ve seen carried dangled from a bicycle’s handlebars. I managed to bring a planter of herbs home in my own bike basket (only spilt a few bark chippings); but the best one I saw was a chap on a skateboard, moving at a good speed through the railway station car park, with a wide, flat cardboard package balanced on his head. I am not sure if this has a moral, but I note it.

Chocolate – it’s good stuff, an inexpensive indulgence.

Illness – mental or physical, one way or another I’ve been ill on and off since August. I think it’s trying to say that I need some rest.

Reverb day 18: stop, look and listen

#reverbIn the busyness of the everyday, taking time to nourish the soul doesn’t reach the top of the ‘to do’ list as often as it should.

What nourishes your soul? How would you like to incorporate more of this into your life in 2015?

I could quote the whole of The Elixir, which is all about making the mundane suffused with the divine, so that the busyness of the everyday itself contains that which nourishes the soul. This is part of it; this is why I am so captivated at the moment with the bells and the hours, the moments that make me stop, and listen, and find the deep well of peace that is within myself and everywhere.

There is more to it, for it cannot be denied that it is an awful lot easier to stop and listen when I remember that this is something that I am supposed (ha!) to be doing, and so, when I make space for myself to do it, I find that there are many more of those prompts to stop and listen.

My commitment for 2015, therefore, is to book myself a retreat, and then, before I go on it, to book myself another one. To join the new work choir. To attend Wednesday communion when I possibly can. And to find a way of talking about this that doesn’t sound like I’m teaching a toddler how to cross the road, though perhaps it’s not such a bad analogy.

Reverb day 17: here, we spell it ‘arsehole’

#reverbHow can you stop being an a**hole, get out of your own way and make room for more of your magic to happen in 2015?

Today I would like to be a tortoise. I would like to pull my head and arms and legs into a shell, and go to sleep in a box full of straw, and spend the winter in a shed. And nobody would find this at all odd because, you know, that’s what tortoises do. Nobody would feel at all hurt or insulted, nobody would expect me to send them Christmas cards, nobody would expect me to be anywhere but in my box. Because I am a tortoise.

Which is a long way of saying that I am knackered, and have been driving myself far too hard and expecting far too much of myself. I have been doing too much travelling, too much socialising, too much messing around on the internet… Not that I don’t love all those things, but there are ways of doing them that drain me, and ways of doing them that fill me up, and at the moment they all seem to be wearing me out. Hence my desire to hibernate.

How can I sort this out for next year? I have a couple of ideas, and they are mostly about being more clever with my diary. Firstly, I’m thinking about working from home occasionally. On an ordinary work day I travel one hundred and sixteen miles. If I don’t have to do that five days running, I think I’ll wind up much less tired. Also, I’ve seen a small ad from a piano teacher who does daytime lessons. One of those hours that I’m not spending on the train, I can use for piano.

Then I can be clever with my annual leave. This year, now I don’t have to use it on moving house and boring stuff like that, I’m going to book at least two separate weeks of absolutely nothing at all, as well as using some of it on actual honest to God holidays. And by ‘holidays’ I do not mean ‘visiting my parents on the Isle of Wight again’: dearly as I love my parents, visits to them are never as relaxing as I think they’re going to be. Also, it’s high time I went abroad again.

Next year, I’m going to let myself have fun, damn it.

Reverb day 16: refusing to try harder

#reverbIn 2015, is there something you’d like to try harder at because you believe it would make all the difference?

Conversely, what is something you could stop trying so hard at that might actually help you manifest what you’d like?

I have been promising myself piano lessons all year. At first they were waiting until the piano was tuned. Then they were waiting until there was some spare cash. Then they were waiting for the silversmithing class to be finished, because I can’t cope with more than one extracurricular activity at the moment.

Now they’re waiting for me to get my act together and find a teacher. I am avoiding this noticeably – even apart from being knackered and not getting much done anyway – I think because of needing to be good at it straight away, which of course I won’t be.

I don’t think trying harder is the answer, though. In fact, the thought of trying harder makes me want to cry, and that’s hardly productive. I need to stop being knackered (Christmas holidays should help with that, although I am dashing around more than I’d meant to) and then unravel, gently, the stuff around needing to be good at it.

Reverb day 15: negotiations with gremlins

#reverbWhat are you really proud that you made happen in 2014, despite the gremlins? And what will you do anyway in 2015?

In 2014 I finished (for certain values of ‘finished’; read on) my first novel, Speak Its Name. I also resumed writing my first novel, The Slowest Elopement. The latter has been going, on and off, since I was twelve, maybe younger. The former is a relative newcomer; I started writing it in 2007. You will understand why finishing either of them feels like an achievement.

I sent Speak Its Name off to about five agents (consecutively, not all at once); none of them were interested, but doing this at all was bloody scary, and having done it has deprived the gremlins of at least one of their arguments, namely, that I’m too chicken.

Of course, having done very little with Speak Its Name for a few months now, I am haunted by a conviction that, even after two thorough edits, it needs to be about 15,000 words shorter (which I can do something about), written entirely from one particular character’s point of view (tricky, but doable) and that it will never get taken up unless I remove the religion and the politics (impossible).

This, therefore, is a thing that I will do anyway in 2015. At least, I’ll attempt the first two. I will then think about self-publishing.

I will also complete The Slowest Elopement, which contains no religion, and no politics, but might get me disowned.

Piece of cake. Gremlins like cake.