If You Could Turn Back Time…

I’m curious. If you could turn back time, first of all, would you? Second, when would you go back to and why?

I think I’ve always been a nostalgic sort of person. It’s not that I look back at the past through rose tinted glasses, it’s just that I’m ruled by my emotions, and all it takes is one song, or smell, or random memory out of nowhere and I’m transported back to a part of my life that is now over, or different. Maybe it’s just hard trying to come to grips with how fast life goes. It goes faster as you get older, right? I think we could all agree on that. I was talking about this with one of my kids the other day and we decided that the reason summer seemed to last forever when you were little was because you had no concept of time. For my youngest child, every day lasts a lifetime, whereas for my oldest child, her life is lived against the clock just like mine. As we age we are increasingly ruled by time and schedule. We have to do things by a certain time or on a certain day, and for this reason, we are far more aware of time passing. So it feels faster.

This got me thinking about time and schedules and life in general (it doesn’t take much to set me off…) and it got me wondering, if I could turn back time and go back to any point in my life, not for good, but just to enjoy it again, soak it up, experience it one more time, what part would it be?

It came to me instantly. If I could go back, just for a while, I would go back to when I was a young mum and my two eldest children were a baby and a toddler. And the reason is because life was so unbelievably simple and carefree at that time.

I had my first daughter at 24 and nineteen months later her sister was born. Looking after my daughters was my job, my full time job, my only job. I had started some of the training that would eventually lead to me qualifying as a childminder when my eldest was three years old, but back then, at one point, they were my only job, my only responsibility. They were my world.

And what a simple, sweet time it was. I’m not sure I realised it at the time but I do know I was happy. I had wanted to be a mum for a long time and felt like all my dreams had come true. I had these beautiful little girls and my entire life was looking after them, keeping them happy, having fun. I didn’t drive back then, so I walked everywhere pushing my double buggy with pride. I look back and I can see my face smiling. I remember strangers saying the predictable; ‘havn’t you got your hands full?’ and I would always say no, not really, it’s fine, I love it.

There aren’t always that many positive narratives about motherhood. Mostly, you hear horror stories of pregnancy, birth, ruined bodies, sleepless nights, dirty nappies and temper tantrums. Obviously, that’s all part of it, but I remember being surprised by how much fun it was, how much I enjoyed being with these two tiny humans.

Our lives back then were so simple. No nursery or school or work, so our days were our own. We did not have to be anywhere by a certain time. We did not have to pick anyone up or drive anyone about. It was just me and them and days to fill with fun. Good times. The best of times. And that is not to say that going on to have my two gorgeous sons was not as good. In many ways, my sons have always been easier than my girls! But because I qualified as a childminder before my third child came along, life was different. The eldest started school, the next nursery, and my son had to fit into this very scheduled life, of work and school run and dashing here and there. Same for my next son. Life is tiring. Often it is stressful. Often I start a day wishing for it to be over. I look forward to Friday and think about it as the week marches on. Sometimes there is not enough time to breathe or think. Sometimes I am horribly aware of how fast I am hurtling towards cold, final death. Sometimes I look in the mirror and do not recognise the tired eyes and fine lines staring back at me.

Back then, I was so young. So hopeful, so happy, so vibrant. I had my two longed for children and we could do anything we wanted. Life was an adventure, not a chore. I also actually liked my body. Having my daughters had shook me clear of the eating problems I had lived with for so long. For once, I was proud of my body, for growing, nurturing and feeding my babies. I was young enough to bounce back quickly after birth. I felt slim and young and attractive. The opposite to how I feel now!

So, that’s mine. If I could turn back time that is where I would go back to, just for a little while. Not that I would trade or change my life now. I wouldn’t. I just realise now how much more complicated and tiring it is. I would go back and spend some time in my young, slim body, cuddling my two tiny girls, who were the only people I had to please and who were so very pleased with every little thing I did. Simple times.

What about you? If you could turn back time just for a bit, where would you head back to and why? I would love to know.

Advertisements

10 Ways Writing A Book Is Like Raising A Child

 

This blog post is brought to you from the mind of a writer who has a three-year-old son who won’t go to sleep by himself. As frustrating as it is, his delightful refusal to fall asleep on his own, is entirely my fault. As my fourth and last baby, I have held onto him even tighter. This time, I ignored the advice I had struggled with in the past, I shunned the social norms and expectations and embraced what felt natural. So, he was breastfed to sleep until he was two and three months, and since then, I have cuddled up in bed with him and held him until he falls asleep. So of course, he has absolutely no clue how to drop off on his own. We tried working on it last week and it was horrible. There was crying and shouting and stomping about and general confusion for both of us. Inevitably, I gave in to him and to my heart and got back into bed with him. As I lay there, holding his half snoring, half sobbing body tightly to mine, I suddenly realised that a year from now he will be about to start school. I held him even tighter and as I gazed into his face I could have wept with the useless, torment of knowing this will all one day be over. And then I started thinking about writing books, preparing them and letting them go. I released my latest book The Tree Of Rebelson the 11th August after two years of work. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that writing books and raising kids have quite a few things in common…

  1. They occupy your mind constantly and completely. I sometimes say my mind is like a sieve these days. Utter mush. But in truth, it is just full of children and writing and there is not a lot of room for much else. If I am not thinking of,  worrying about or planning things for my children, then I am consumed with thoughts and fears and ideas of the fictional kind.
  2. You don’t want to let them go. Well, sometimes you do. When they drive you mad, when you’re at a complete loss as to what they need or want. When you’re tired, close to exhaustion, just want to escape, or have completely forgotten why you started this in the first place! But most of the time, letting go is hard. Almost impossible. I just spent two years making sure one book was good enough to meet the world. And as for the kids, I’m never going to be ready for that.
  3. You are always preparing to let go. Though you don’t want to, you know you have to. As a parent, bringing up your child to be a decent human being, is preparation for letting them go. From the moment you first hold them in your arms, you are making decisions that will affect how they turn out. You encourage them to walk and talk and run and climb. You send them to pre-school and teach them how to hold a knife and fork. You do all of these things because you know that one day they will be standing on their own two feet. It’s the same with writing a book. When you first start it feels impossible that it will ever be developed enough to share with anyone. It’s a mountain to climb. Followed by another one. But every draft, every edit, every rewrite, every proofread are all part of letting it go bit by bit.
  4. You know you must work hard for the end result to have a positive impact on the world. You don’t want to raise an arsehole. You don’t want to inflict a spoiled brat on the world. You don’t want to create a selfish, mean or ignorant human. There are already enough of those! Raising decent kids is a lot of hard work. You have to say no a lot, and you have to explain why you are saying no. You have to distract them from the thing you are saying no about. You have to be inventive, creative, spontaneous, organised and heroic. Writing a book is similar. You might not aim to change the world, but surely you don’t want to make the world a worse place?
  5. Inspiration works both ways. My children and our lives together inspire my writing. I write for them and because of them. Our journey takes me outside of myself and later allows me to fully wallow inside of myself. They have made me a better person and I want to be that better person for them. Being a writer also inspires me as a parent and a human. Because I love writing, I am interested in humanity and in the stories that make up a society. I hope this makes me more empathetic as a person, as I try, time after time, to get into the heads of other people.
  6. The work is never really over. You get to the top of the mountain, only to discover another one! The work is never over if you are a writer. There will always be another idea, another plot, another story to be told. The same applies to parenthood. They might fly the nest one day, but you are never going to stop worrying about them.
  7. But once it’s mostly done, you will have more time for the next project. When I go cold at the thought of my littlest one starting school, I remind myself how much more time I will have for other things, once he does. I can remember when my third child started school, I spent months dreading it and welling up at even the thought of it, and then, that summer, I started writing again. I had not written in years. But suddenly it was back and I needed it more than ever. I was suddenly excited. I had something just for me. I had a part of me back again! And the same thing applies to writing a book. You feel so many mixed emotions when you finally publish it, but what allows you to let go is the call of the next project, the next characters and so on. It keeps you excited.
  8. They will always be your baby. Kids grow up fast. They often move away from you before you are ready. Pulling their hand out of yours when they spot their friends. Saying they are too old for bedtime stories. It happens bit by bit. You watch them grow. You prepare to say goodbye. But even when they eventually leave home, just like the books you wrote, they will still be your babies. Forever. Nothing can change that.
  9. They came from inside of you. And I don’t just mean physically, although this is obviously true of both your children and your writing! I mean they were created and developed and matured with your thoughts, feelings, emotions and imagination. What is inside of you as a human, what makes you you, has had an influence on these offspring of yours.
  10. Creating them means you will live forever. Well, sort of. I like to think of it like this anyway. Passing your genes onto your children, as well as some of your experiences, stories, opinions, beliefs, means parts of you live on after you have died. The same could be said of writing books. Your words and therefore, parts of you and who you were, will continue to exist long after you do.

people-2572105_640

 

Where Is My Mind?? On End Of Term Brain Fog

I feel like I’ve done a lot of stupid things lately. You know, how we all have days when our brain just isn’t functioning properly? You go upstairs to get something, then come back down empty handed? You tell people the same thing more than once? You go the shop to buy something and come out with something else entirely? This is all annoying stuff, but what it if gets worse? What if you forget people’s birthdays or special events? What if you make arrangements and then totally forget about them? You start to feel like you are losing your mind.

Last Saturday I had an event to go to. It was a bit of a weird one that came about due to a conversation via Twitter months ago. Another author tagged me in a Tweet from Waterstones asking if there were any YA authors in the Bournemouth area. I replied yes, someone took my email address, and that was that for a while. It later transpired that they wanted someone local to interview two YA authors (proper ones, with actual books in actual Waterstones.) I thought why the hell not? It will be an experience. These past few years I’ve been saying yes to a lot of stuff I once would have said no to, and the results have been quite fun. So I looked up the authors, did my research, purchased some books and put some questions together.

I sorted out childcare and turned up on Saturday afternoon fully prepared and intrigued. Only to be told it was the wrong day.

I wanted the floor to open up and pull me in.

I felt my face catch on fire, mumbled something about it being fine for me to come again tomorrow and hurried out of the shop.

I felt so pissed off with myself after that. I had been utterly convinced it was Saturday. But they were quite right. I checked all the emails later that night. 16th July. Sunday. How could I possibly have got it so wrong? Why on earth was I so convinced the 16th was a Saturday? Why did I not double check? What the hell is wrong with me?

headinhands

I really didn’t want to go back the next day, but I did. I didn’t see the shop girl I had blushed in front of the day before, so I decided to play it cool and pretend it never happened. The lady who organised the event introduced me to the authors, we all had a drink in the cafe and then I interviewed them while the organiser filmed us. Scary stuff, and totally new to me, but I did it. Plus, I’d developed a heavy cold overnight and was feeling terrible. I don’t think I want to watch it when it ends up on Twitter. But I did it.

That mistake was embarrassing, but there have been loads of instances like this lately and I think I have a good old fashioned case of ‘end of term brain fog’. I see the other mums in the morning on the school run, and I know from the brief snatches of conversation we get between shoving kids into school, that we are all running on empty, and counting the minutes down to the summer holiday.

Of course, entertaining kids for six weeks and juggling commitments brings its own anxieties, but at least there is less structure, less of a time scale to keep to. We can do stuff or we can laze about. We can book some busy days and we can have stay at home days. We don’t have to get up early or make lunch boxes or iron the school clothes. We can all take our time and just breathe…

Brain fog is horrible. Forgetting stuff and getting in a muddle is really frustrating, especially when you are trying so damn hard to look like you’ve got your shit together! All the mums I know work bloody hard. They all have jobs, many of them self-employed so they can work it around the kids, and they all do the bulk of the housework as well. They spend their days shaking kids out of bed, shovelling breakfast into them, dealing with fussiness and dragging feet, checking the time, finding the car keys, getting stuck in traffic, and all the time your mind is already on all the other things you’ve got to do that day…so much so that on some days you actually can’t wait for the day to be over.

These last few months have been pretty full on. I’ve been preparing The Tree Of Rebels for release (11th August!!!) and I was working for many weeks on a workshop I ran on living the Indie Life. (I ran this the weekend before last and managed NOT to screw anything up!!) I am also in the process of turning my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group into a Community Interest Company. This is taking up a lot of my time. And then have have been all the things I’ve said yes to…

Maybe I need a few months of slowing down…

Perhaps my brain is trying to tell me something. I’ve had so many ‘oh my god, what is wrong with me’ moments lately, I’ve genuinely started to worry if I’ve got some sort of early dementia.

Hopefully not. For now, I will blame it on that frazzled end-of-school-year feeling and look forward to a lovely six weeks with my kids!

Over to you! Do you suffer from brain fog? Is it worse at certain times of the year? Have you done anything really embarrassing lately? Do let me know and feel free to comment and share!

The Many Roles That Make Up Who We Are

Last Tuesday was a fairly busy day for me.

I got up around 6am with my two-year-old, as is the norm. We had breakfast, got dressed, let the chickens and ducks out and fed and watered them all. Then we had our usual little mooch down the lane with the dogs. Back home, I had my coffee and he had a hot chocolate to warm up. These things happen every day.

20170219_085234

 

After that, I left the house with my fourteen-year-old and drove us to the local community hall where I was running a writing workshop for 7-16 year olds. I do this every school holiday with my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group business . I slipped off my ‘mum’ hat and popped on my teaching one, welcoming the children in, talking about writing and getting the workshop started. Once it was over, my daughter helped me put the tables and chairs away, and I was Mum again.

We arrived home and I slipped further into the usual role of Mum, with my toddler who had missed me. I only had time to eat some lunch, placate him with brief cuddles and chat, before I had to get back into the car to drive to another job. This time it was within my other role as a dog walker. I’ve only gone back to this fairly recently, but it was what I was doing before I had my youngest child. Back then, it was the perfect day job to tie in with writing. In between walking dogs, I wrote.

I put on my wellies and mucky dog walking coat, collected the dogs from their home and set off across the muddied fields of Throop, adjacent to the river, as usual, in total awe at the beauty of my surroundings. I was yet another me. The dog loving me. Never happier than when in the company of these lolling, wagging, slobbering beasts. Dogs are an obsession to me as much as reading, writing and music. They make me who I am, and who I have always been, and when I am walking along with them, lost in my own head, smiling at their antics, I am reminded of who I was as a child and of what I dearly wanted. To be a writer and to work with animals.

20170208_113514

While I walked, I slipped between dog walker and writer mode, throwing their ball and tossing them treats, as I thought up blog posts and articles and snippets of short stories in my head. Every now and then, as is standard, I had to tap something into my phone notebook in case I forgot it later.For this time, I was not Mum or writing teacher, I was myself, I was Chan.

Back home, a brief rest and then it was time to walk my own doggies again. I was definitely tired by then, and had just recieved a text from a good friend reminding me that it was drinks tonight. I had totally forgotten and instantly I thought no, I can’t, it’s been a busy day and I really need to do some writing and get an early night…At the same time, I desperately wanted to go. This is a group of friends I made through being a mum. Our 9 year olds have all been friends for the last five years, and our friendships have grown over that time. We try and meet up every now and again outside of school, as these days, we are seeing less and less of each other within the school environment. The boys are getting older and wanting more independence, and we’ve all noticed we now see less and less of the usual mums in the playground, as we increasingly drop the kids off and leave them to it.

I made myself go out and socialise, as it is not something I do very often. Like most writers, I’m an introvert at heart and love nothing more than my own company, my own imagination, and to round off the night, a good book. I was so glad I went, though, as I was able to enjoy a few glasses of wine, and strip off all the roles I had played in the day and all the many ‘hats’ I had worn. With the workday over, children in bed, and partners at home, we were all able to have a good moan and a catch-up, a bit of essential ‘me’ time!

This was a busy day, but not an unusual one and it got me thinking about how the roles we play make up who we are. But who is the real you? Are we ever really our true selves, or just different versions of us, presented in different ways, for different reasons? It got me thinking about the next week ahead. On the Friday I was lucky enough to be interviewed on BBC Radio Solent as part of their Dorset Lives section. I was incredibly nervous, but yet when I listened back, I was overwhelmed by how calm, confident and professional I sounded talking about my writing and why I set up my Chasing Driftwood business. I couldn’t believe that was actually me! I mean, was it actually me? Or just the version of myself I knew I had to present in order to get through that particular situation? It was certainly not the same me that gets ratty with my kids at home, or wanders by the river, splattered with mud, throwing balls for dogs! This week I will going into a local school for a meeting about a proposed school writing project, inspired by another writer, but put forward by me for this area. Yet again, I am sure the ‘me’ I put forward during this meeting is going to be different. Professional and confident, but she is also going to need to be warm and passionate about the project and how it could benefit the school.

Is there ever a true us? Does a real me exist? Is it the one who is left when I am totally alone, beholden to no one, with nothing expected of me? Or is it the one who chats to other mums inside the school gates? The one who drifts off inside her own head when out with her dogs? The one who runs the bath, and picks up the dirty clothes and makes the lunch boxes for the next school day? Or the one who plans writing workshops and presentations?

I guess I am or have slowly become all of these roles, and all of these people. They are all me, when I need them to be me. They are all parts of who I am and what make me an individual. Some of them did not use to exist at all, but now, here they are. Here I am. All these different faces and demeanours and personas. How very odd when you think about it!

So, what about you? Who is the real you? How many roles do you play out in your busy life? How many hats do you have to wear? Please feel free to comment and join in the conversation! I would love to hear from you!