I thought it was time to have a quick look at those rather pesky resolutions I instituted at the tail end of 2011, when in the grips of euphoric optimism. It’s strange, but a whiff of any change nearby or soon to come and I feel a sense of such spaciousness in my thinking, that I feel my possibilities are greatly enlarged. Life seems to be offering so much more; or I am suddenly feeling capable of actually grasping more – that’s more likely it. I get out of my own way.
And then the New Year actually starts, and I am as crowded in the head as usual, and my attempts to make change are either stymied, or deeply compromised. Partly by myself and my way of looking at things; partly by sheer time constraints. And money. Those are the Big Three of my Downfall (to be dramatic about it, as you know I do like to be!)
So, I’m going to flick through those ideas I had, and see how far I actually got with them, so far – never forgetting the year is a work in progress. The bits I said before will be in bold, then my recoup on them.
I will spend less out, pay off more of loans and debts, and actually start to save (no matter how hard this seems). This is going to plan – except its not working! Isn’t that the funniest statement?! I am saving – so far got £36 (a pound here and a pound there) in a small building society Christmas Account (i.e. I CAN’T touch it all year, until 1st December, or I disturb the small interest). This suits me well – it’s separate form the rest of my banking which is all lumped together, and I have to set money aside separately for that. THAT is working. The other 2 savings accounts I set up, with my existing bank are not going so well at all. I set up one for Family Birthdays (for presents), and one for Treats and Learning (i.e. books I can’t resist, and anything educational I see). The problem is…that everything really does still seem to be going up in price (electricity, gas, food, the rent, this year – to name only the ones that have bugged me most obviously so far…) so that the Housekeeping money Stanley gives me is staying the same, and not coping. And his pay hasn’t risen, so he can’t afford to give me any more. As it is, we never go out, even for coffee, let alone lunch, anymore…no cinema (I get taken by Fry who pays out of his dole money, once every 2 months if he can afford it). There’s no outings or expeditions of any kind: it’s just rent, travel, food, Fluffhead stuffs. That’s it. And what we have is barely scraping by. So I keep dipping into what I have saved. Any part time work I look into is, so far, either the wrong hours (i.e. no babysitting available), or so poorly paid it really would make very little difference when you consider how tired I’d be after and how this would impact on taking care of the Perennial Fluffhead. And the Rob Peter To Pay Paul continues – I pay off the credit card minimum each month and a bit extra – but the bit extra is always deeply necessary again by the week before payday, for basic groceries…So! Doom! Doom! DOOM! On that resolution – so far. You can only scrape the butter so thin before you really are just eating dry toast, you know? But onto the next thing, to see if I’m doing any better…
I have this vague poorly thought out Master Plan idea of being the Queen of Bargains, Coupons and Discounts next year. Now, this is going rather better. I am being eagle-eyed and very awake indeed where this is concerned. I am paying attention to all ‘3 for 2’s and seeing if its things I actually would use/do use – and more importantly, can I actually afford the outlay of extra ones right that minute. The annoying thing about this, is that sometimes I can’t. But I comfort myself with the fact that I am at least trying my best here – I am weighing up all the options. I have so far saved, I calculated yesterday (with the aid of a calculator, and no doubt my tongue out the corner of my mouth, as I am nothing if not crap at maths), a grand total of £52 since 1st January! That is Not Bad At All. When you are busy taking advantage of offers (with always the proviso that they ARE things you actually need) you often lose sight of the receipts and what you actually save. I was so encouraged by this totting up I did, I will carry on doing it, I think. It included all these funny little Boots receipts where you get extra points on their advantage card for spending , say, £10 on vitamins or toiletries, and then me using those points to buy Fluffhead’s growing up milk, nappies etc (which was then a saving, as Boots points are 1 point = 1p, so that 100 points is literally a free £1. It included all the Tesco and Waitrose offers where I got a discount or a free extra something, or the usual 3 for 2. It included looking at the packaging of things and then giving limited details to a website (ticking the ‘no offers from 3rd parties’ section – always look for that) and being sent a coupon that then got me a whole or partially free thing I needed (and because Googlemail has a very good spam filter, then not being bothered by the subsequent email crap sent through, unless I chose to be). So satisfactory progress there, I report!
Also, a Charity Shop Queen next year. Now, I will say this one is also going very well indeed; but it’s very frustrating. After that at length moan I had about the Charity Shops back in Paddington, I have to say that the ones here are the most helpful and cheerful places. The prices are so LOW at the moment, that if I had sufficient money I could BoHo my entire wardrobe and have it busting with good quality and unusual colourful things for about £150, at the moment. That’s why I’m frustrated. I keep trying to get my books in there (and the library – where I am true to my word – they now know my name and regularly take the £1.10 fee for having reserved and sourced my loan books from elsewhere; I’m in there about 3 times a week). You know, the books I feel I MUST buy, because I will want to re-read them, or refer to them again. I have a very stringent book policy at the moment: Layer 1 – try and read what you have. Ehem. And then, layer 2 – for all popular books I might want to read, get or reserve at the library before thinking of buying. Layer 3 – get at a charity shop if will need to re-read, as said. I only get things from Amazon (who I am convinced, I have single-handedly saved from the pitfalls of the recession for many years now – why don’t I have a plaque or something, somewhere; a medal, praising me for supporting business?), or other online or high street shops, if they are unavailable at library or charity shops (like so many of the magic books, sewing books, history books and oddly, biographies and old blockbusting novels from the eighties, that I tend to read). This means that I have spent on Amazon, so far this year £12 only (and £5 of that was a gift voucher left over from Christmas). This IS hurting, I have to say. My appetite for books is rapacious. Unlike my father, who also had a bone deep need for books – he used to like to collect them and admire them and look at them. He was always reading something, but he had thousands of books that never quite got his ‘needing a bookmark’ attention. I always say: books call to me to be bought; then they have to call again to be read – the gap between can be years. But they will get read. And if they haven’t called after 5 years, they get sold on; or given away. As do all the ones I won’t re-read. Hence my Amazon sales. Which are also doing ok, especially for this time of year and economic downturn. (But since the entire profits are going into propping up the Housekeeping money, rather than buying me a life, or some more books [!!!], or paying off the credit card, it all feels a bit circular and counter productive. But I’m not moaning about it!! I moan about plenty, but not this. I just wish things were ‘easier, less of a constant one step forward two steps back struggle’ as Stanley said the other day, after listening to me moan for a champion one solid hour. His poor face at the end.)
I want to rehabilitate my sewing machine. And get my needles and threads out. As I can’t really afford any news clothes (of any kind from anywhere) currently, I am getting lurid dreams when I lay in bed at night, of cannibalising my old clothes. Yes, well. Due to one thing and another, I have had 4 days less where I could have had a couple of hours babysitting, since January, so I’m running behind. And the prioritising goes like this: write, read, housework, nap, sew – when I get any spare time at all. So what I have accomplished here is the readying of 5 separate cannibalisation projects: you know, as I said, tops with sleeves too short and bottoms too short are going to be lengthened in both these areas with complimentary coloured other tops. My sewing machine still gathers dust. Troubadour recently reunited me with most of my patterns, by large parcel post, so that the trickier jobs I can now refer to a pattern to make sure I cut right. But I have yet to make time for it. Which is difficult, as writing and reading are sedentary, and while sewing is too, it’s a different kind of creating – it’s more physical. I do need to make time for this kind of variety; and for the feeling of satisfaction I would get. If only I didn’t crave to read and write as I do. It’s definitely like food. I NEED to do both, regularly. So sewing is at present languishing.
Spirituality. I read a lot of it. I do think on it. I do rituals here and there. I say to myself that my life is too full of Fluffhead and Stanley and Saint Mum and Fry and reading books and replying very late to emails from friends and trying to write stories and DOING THIS (which does take about 2 or 3 hours a time then more to add links if I am going to, and check for typos etc etc etc), to actually be properly organised about it. Then I go around, complaining to myself that I don’t FEEL very connected to the earth, to my own Best Me, and to that intangible whatsity thing I have a notion I have felt before several times, and experienced another several, the effects of. I need to plan things to do, regularly. Mmmmmmmm. Never a truer word. Did you notice how in that priorities list above, I didn’t mention meditating, or doing altar work, or even reading spirituality? I’m not doing very well here either, so I am still suffering exactly the same problems as I listed above there. I still have ideas for what to plan, but my tiny little time spots get eaten by reading, writing and housework. And exhaustion from the constant noise that comes with a Fluffhead. The other sillier thing to note here is: I need to meditate to calm down. Yet I feel I need to be calmed down in order to meditate successfully. Otherwise I am just crossly (not at all unattachedly) listening to myself think thoughts, endlessly. It’s a battle – when I know I am sposed to be just regarding each though kindly, patting it on the head and sending it on its way, like leaves floating off down an autumn stream. Just 5 minutes – I tell myself. And almost without exception, find myself falling asleep while sitting up, which then proves very restful indeed! I persist, I persist. But so far…very little joy here. And this is due to my own lack of prioritising. I think I feel that reading and writing propel me into another state of mind and another world, with utmost quickness and immediacy. With my time problem, this is vital. Taking the time to mellow into a meaningful and not just ‘going through the motions till the next thing’ spiritual practice is hard for me. I’ll get back to you. I’m not giving up.
I have this awful sensation of TIME’S AWASTIN’ all the time! I find it really difficult to do nothing and just meditate, or rest. This is a new thing, since the birth of Fluffhead. Since I did that at late 30s, and am now 40, I have this terrible feeling of hurtling toward the Rest Of My Life, which I feel will be shorter than the bit I just did. So that this problem still exists too. Even when I have some time off – and my goodness, IT FLIES by, which terrifies me, making my intervals of Me Time feel seconds long; compared to the rest of my ‘shifts’ which are from the instant I get up to the instant I sleep and beyond, as Fluffhead and I wake in the night several times…Time too, is still a constant problem. I will here mention that the creativity coach and general psychological thinker, Eric Maisel, has done some very interesting work on the problem some of us have with time. In the Van Gogh Blues, he specifically did a chapter on this. The horrible ‘time’s getting away, and what the hell am I doing with it?’ feeling. He made an interesting suggestion that a lot of depressions and anxieties around this subject are the result of a loss of personal meaning in your life, which you need to recreate for yourself, daily, moment by moment, and to keep reminding yourself of. The only way to avoid this feeling of being stuck in futility is to create your own meaning that encompasses what you do with the time you do have – the boring bits and the good bits. I find this idea comforting and helpful – though I must say, my meaning slippage is daily, and I am never quite satisfied (as yet) with those I have created…I further mention this as he is going to do a guest post here, in April (fingers crossed, in case all goes arse over tit – he’s agreed so far). So be excited, and interested etc.
So the routine next year will be Iyengar yoga (to add to the Hatha yoga I’ve done for a few years with varying regularity), some pilates and other stretching, and some basic beginner cardiovascular bounce about in the living room stuffs – as I am so unfit since Fluffhead. Oh the ignominious failure of it!! Yes, I am still overly curvaceous, and as you will note (sigh) I didn’t prioritise this on my list of what to do with a spare 10 minutes, either, did I?! There is the fact I keep moving while hanging out with Fluffhead, for an hour at a time, just skipping about, or doing lunges (yes, look through my living room window and laugh), or basic aerobics steps. Every day. I time how long I am able to keep doing it before I have to sit down and help with the numbers board or the block stacking, or reading to him…And the daily walks down the hill to town and back again are unchanged. Because the town is tiny, there isn’t far too go before you hit another hill, and if you think I am going to spend all day toiling up and down hills with Fluffhead in his tank-like pushchair and 4 pints of milk and assorted tins under in the basket…you are mistaking me for my friend Alias Indie, who regularly does Iron Man events for charity, and is the very vision of slenderliness…and she smokes 20 a day, and has exceptional taste in books and film. What a woman! She’s most excellent.
Ahhh….on this note of abject stinking failure I will slink away. No summary of thoughts, to tell you that there is a moral to all this. Only to say, hopefully, well – it’s only February, hey? I still have time! Change is always possible, and I didn’t fail at all these goals so far, and any of them can be modified. Except I like them as they are, I just think I need more time. (That is my current thinking anyway.)
No…my only and last word will be…Tomorrow will be the first ever guest post, by my Damn Good Friend and Floppy Haired Nonsense Angel, Mr. Frank Key, of the legendary Hooting Yard. I’m not going to link it today as I don’t want you nipping off there and seeing the exact post he said I could borrow, as he only wrote it yesterday! Besides which, ehem, it’s on the Blogroll. But anyway – do look forward to this, as I have selected one of his best Rhapsodies on the Improbable for you. It made me laugh out loud, and you need to read it to brighten your day.
No! That’ll be my last word: there’s no such thing as Failure (with New Year’s Resolutions at any rate), there’s only Success As Yet Improbably Disguised! On that thought of little dubious close scrutiny, I go.
 Alias Troubadour used to be very fond of saying, about my downer moods and phases: just because you hold up your hands and cover your eyes, or hold something up and place it between you and the sun, doesn’t mean the light isn’t still there, shining as strong as ever. You just can’t see it, and have to take down the obstruction. Yourself. One of many rather good things Troubadour was wont to come out with. (Of course, in a downery mood, it’s as useless as collecting salt in a sieve. You aren’t at that point capable of seeing HOW to take down the obstruction; the basic logic of the idea is therefore lost on you.)
 Blockbusting novels from the ‘80s, hmmm…after honey, that nectar of the Gods, my next obsession this year (I am nothing if not relentlessly obsessive – I think its to do with being unable to cope with the Real World as I find it, and retreating into a Big Study of something or other, that keeps me then, relatively free from anxiety…or…you could just say I get faddy and study something to death, suck it dry, have some info in my head, and then move on to the next thing that catches my attention; without the psycho-babble, and with me a less sad seeming person. Merely an Information Craving Person.) Anywaaaaaaaaaaaaaay…I am knee deep in the oeuvre’s of Judith Krantz (‘Princess Daisy’ et al), Pamela Townley (little known English bonkbuster writer of same period, more famous for marrying one of the Hawkwind lads; my personal favourite being ‘Rogan’s Moor’: she's underrated!), Shirley Conran (yes, ‘Lace’, of course), Barbara Taylor Bradford (‘A Woman of Substance’ and lord knows how many more, tons!) and June Flaum Singer (‘The Debutantes’ as well as many others – she is the cruellest author of the lot, though beguiling and moreish; and oddly unlinked on the net). It’s interesting, as this odd obsession – of re-creating my 14th year in terms of beach reading at Westgate, Littlehampton and Margate on the annueal family holiday to The Seaside started just after I read some Truly Scary and Very Depressing and Yet Full of Fight feminism – the brilliant and important Living Dolls, by Natasha Walter. READ IT! It’s about men too, and not in a cross way. It’s about humanity and how we are all treating each other. Foremost – it’s about Choice: and how some choices are being fed to women as free when they are anything but. A choice is only a choice if you genuinely are placed between at least 2 and preferably more options, and that one of them is not tipped ludicrously at you, forced like a stage magicians card trick. And the other options then made to seem futile and isolationist…or even not mentioned to you at all. It’s also about the worrying trend of Biological Determinism sweeping through our society today, with regard to gender roles. Backed up by some VERY poor scientific method – by those respected as much as say, Steven Pinker. It’s shocking and very worrying. So I think my brain went on a severe hibernation holiday in order to process all this new info, and retreated to a place where I previously had more choice: that is – when I was growing up, all seemed possible, and all was before me; I wasn’t yet in my life, I was still regarding what might be made of it. And oddly enough – we remember all these blockbusting 500 page doorstop novels with affectionate disdain now, 20-30 years later..but there’s plenty female self determination in those too. It’s just (annoyingly) muddied by a constant reference to the beauty of the heroines, and a lot of what happens to them is predicated on that – the commodification of the women is relentless in these books as a result…but, especially in the case of Judith Krantz, she comments on it all the time, within the stories. It’s a puzzle…they knew what was going on, they played on it and with it…Though I have to say: the feeling I get at the end of zipping through each one, is one of overwhelming Go Getting Optimism, if tempered by the knowledge I will not at anytime soon be a Russian Princess, or starting my own modelling agency, or crossly asking a lot of guilty looking men I took an entire book to get in one room, ‘which one of you bastards is my father?’ I doubt there’s much high drama for me, in the immediate future at any rate.)