I’ll tell you how I’m feeling today, if you tell me too. Not for us, the false niceties papering over our humanness. Not for us, the filters to smooth out our skin on social media, to give the grey pallor of our faces a sunlight hue.
I’m tired and overwhelmed, and I know it will pass, but today I don’t want to pretend. Tomorrow, I will embrace my rational side, the part of me which smiles and is always in control, which knows how lucky I am.
Get up, you say, to a small child, after they have fallen. It’s not that bad. It’ll heal fast. Come, let me give you a plaster and a hug. It’ll be fine. And we learn, to get up and carry on, though we might not want to. Sometimes you need to step out of the rush, and be quiet and held.
It’s been a busy few months with J travelling lots and sleepless nights with the babe. It’s a funny sort of limbo before a book launch. There’s the sense that there’s never really an end to the number of things that can be done to make a book launch a success. And therein lies the problem. This one, I can’t control. This one, I have to trust to the stars. And really, the best thing I can do is write book two.
It will be easier when our baby starts nursery in the new year, when I have uninterrupted time for work. For creative work, you need time to wander, to drift and dream. But I want it all. I want to hold this soft last baby of ours close for as long as I can, to give my novel the chance of reaching readers, and to spill my stories onto the page before they escape me.
You know the 80/20 rule? 20 per cent of your effort is responsible for 80 per cent of your outcomes. It’s the sort of thing that runs through my head when I am rushing about. What can I cut from my routine? What can I streamline? A few weeks ago I caught myself explaining to our 8 year old about economy of movement. Utterly ridiculous. I hope she forgets every word.
I know so many superwomen. I admire Mary Poppins. The practicality and positivity, together with resolve and a sense of fun, and oh the magic. We pat ourselves and each other on the back in congratulation, burying the knowledge that our attention can only be split so much, that the narrative of superwomen helps us least of all, that it’s far healthier to accept help.
On Friday, I was due out with some local friends. With J away, mum came over to babysit the kids for an hour or two. The baby woke three times before I left the house, and when I finally set off down the road, I giggled at the feeling of freedom. The bar we met at is tiny and wonderful, and close by. A community hub brimming with creativity. What better company is there than a group of warm, forthright women to buoy you?
There’s a moment in my novel, when the protagonist is told about an old shaman way of finding out if members of their tribe were in full health. The shaman would ask: when was the last time you danced?; when was the last time you sang?
It is so important to step away from the grind, to be able to distinguish between passing stress and long-term cares. To acknowledge when you need to adjust your schedule or expectations to create space for yourself, to stop yourself from burning out. It might be as simple as finding moments in your day for self-care.
For me, a few minutes dancing in the kitchen with the kids or on my yoga mat does the world of good. Or a bath and a book. Or taking my notepad and a pen, and just sitting on a park bench for half an hour writing tiny observations down. Noticing small things helps maintain perspective, helps remind us of the bigger picture. We can all be kinder to ourselves. I hope you’re being kind to yourself today.