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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

Stay In Your Own Lane; first music gig

Last night I took my thirteen year old daughter and her two closest friend to their first gig. The band was their current favourite, Twenty One Pilots (their wikipedia page describes their sound as schizophrenic pop, in case you’ve not heard of them!) Anyway, the genre and the band are not particularly important to this post, although I will say I was enormously impressed.

My daughter has been to family music festivals before, but this was the first time she got to a see a band of her choice, a band she has discovered and fallen in love with herself. I have to admit, I felt kind of privileged to be able to experience this rites of passage experience with her, even if it was politely from the side-lines. I watched their excitement build as we finally arrived at the venue, and watched their confidence soar as they joined the massive, snaking queue of teens, who all looked just like them. (Checked shirt, skinny jeans, red beany hat.)

My daughter has a phrase she sometimes uses when I show an interest in her music tastes, or when we discuss our musical differences. She will say jokingly; ‘stay in your own lane’! Which basically means, don’t try to get it, don’t try to understand, go back to the 90’s where you belong!

So, with this in mind, I kept to myself in the over excited queue, whilst keeping a watchful eye over my hyperactive charges. I wasn’t there to enjoy the band, and had to keep reminding myself of this. I wasn’t there to join in, or embarrass them in any way. I was only there because under fourteens must be accompanied by an adult.

Once inside, they queued for their merchandise or ‘merch’ as they call it these days, we found the toilets, and then found our seats in the circle upstairs. Once seated, I looked around and felt immediately old and out of place. I go to gigs and festivals as much as I can, but I go to see either music from my era, the 90’s, or music I have gotten into lately. I was surrounded by teenage girls and boys who all looked remarkably like my strong minded daughter. I was also really tired and could have easily dropped off asleep at that point. I then started to notice the other parents. Dotted here and there among the beany hats and checked shirts, sat sedately and smiling gently while the excited chatter built to a crescendo around them, were parents, around my age or older. They were out of their lanes too.

Then the band started. The four teen girls in front of us instantly leaped to the feet and started bouncing and screaming, and pretty much didn’t stop. Everyone else followed suit, while us oldies remained seated, as we were only there because we had to be. We didn’t want to get too excited or too involved, no matter how good the band was.

I tried to mind my own business, whilst stealing the odd glance at my teen as she enjoyed herself. I’ll admit I had to choke back the odd tear or two, watching the utter joy on her face as she sung along to the songs she loved. It was more than just excitement though, more than just joy and the wonder of a first time time experience. It was their sudden sense of belonging, of being part of a tribe to while they automatically knew they belonged, of seeing themselves in the people around them, feeling a powerful sense of unity and without a doubt, pride in who they are.

It made me think back to my first gig. Pulp is always the one that sticks in my mind. I think it was 1994 and I went with my then best friend, a girl who had always been bullied and ridiculed at school. I remember how it felt for us, to walk among a crowd of young people who looked just like us, who loved Pulp as much as we did. We belonged. We’d found our people, and no one was going to laugh at us for being different.

That feeling was repeated for me many times over the years, and even more recently when I finally got to see the reformed Stone Roses at Finsbury Park in 2013. That smile you get on your face when you recognise the people. When you all sing along. When you jump and bounce and wave your arms all as one. A tribe. A belonging. Add to that the utter thrill of finally seeing a band you love, in the flesh, right there, and they are talking to you, and singing for you, and giving it all for you. Nothing can beat that! The only sad thing is that it ever has to end.

So, in the end, I was up on my feet like the rest of them. At one point a mini drum kit had been placed on a platform, and passed out on top of the crowd. The drummer then climbed onto it and drummed on top of the audience! The singer vanished, only to suddenly appear up on the balcony with us. Like all great front men, he had complete control of the crowd. If he had asked them all to jump off the balcony for him, they would have done so willingly.

I crept out of my own lane just a little bit, just long enough to be extremely impressed, and to wish I was young again! I didn’t sing or dance though. My daughter would have been mortified.

On the way home, the kids were buzzing and hyper. My daughter talked about the next gig she wants to go to. I can see now that she has the bug and I am happy for her. If anything can help you get through this confusing life in this crazy world, it’s music. It reminds you why you are alive.

I was left wondering if I would be welcomed along next time. By that date, she will be fourteen, and in most venues, won’t need and adult with her. I felt a brief stab of sorrow at the thought of being asked to merely drop her off and pick her up again. I’d miss out, but that is as it should be. She’s got her lane and I’ve got mine. I’m sure they will cross paths again at some point. Festivals are great for that.

In the meantime I will just savour the memories, of being able to witness one of her first experiences once again. Like watching her take her first steps, learn to ride a bike, and learn to read. I’m glad I got to be a part of it, even if it is unlikely to happen again!