Tag Archives: life

Innerspace

Hey! It’s great to see you again. Thanks so much for calling over. Welcome to my head! I like it in here; it’s comfy. Stretch out, and make yourself at home. Have a glass of wine. Enjoy the view. Pretty, isn’t it?

Talk to me – though go gently, won’t you? If you ask me a question, give me a second to think about my answer. Be prepared for me to look at the problem from all angles before I make a decision. I like to look, and look, before I leap.

Don’t worry that I don’t speak all that much. I will, once I get to know you a bit better. I just prefer to listen at first, that’s all. I like to soak in whatever’s around me, at my own pace. I like to set the permeability of my own boundaries, and deal with whatever I encounter in private, when I have time to sort through it and think about every detail.

Oh, no. I’m not shy. Not really. I love people. I’m just quiet, and careful, and I tend slightly toward anxiety. I like to think more than I like to act. I like to plan. I like solidity, certainty. I like to know where I am and where I’m going. I don’t like to take risks. This can look like shyness, sometimes.

And I like to be by myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like other people. I just get swamped quickly, and I tend to panic when that happens. I don’t like to be out of control or – worse – to appear out of control. I can be good in a crisis, but only when I get a handle on what’s happening, and I have a second or two to make a plan. Then, I’m unstoppable.

But when something’s new, and scary, and unexpected? Yeah. Then, I’m not so good.

Hipster cat and me, well - we understand one another. Image: fbcustom.me

Hipster cat and me, well – we understand one another.
Image: fbcustom.me

What’s that? Oh – yeah. I don’t know why I embarked upon a professional life which is so full of unknowable newness and instability, either. Strange, isn’t it? It would’ve made more sense – infinitely more sense – to stay tucked up in a steady-ish, predictable, quiet-life type of job, just like the one I had before I decided to change everything in my world. I would have spent the rest of my life dreaming and gnashing my teeth, probably. But I wouldn’t be waking up scared every morning, either.

It’s not fun not to ‘know.’ It’s not fun to feel like things are out of your control, and that there’s nothing you can do about it. In a way it mirrors the reality of existence – because, when it’s all said and done, is anything truly under our control? – but then you remember that you don’t want to be reminded of the arbitrary, chaotic nature of reality. Your little life, your patch of world, is supposed to be your domain. It’s supposed to give you the impression that you’re the boss, even if, deep in  your heart, you know you’re kidding yourself. So, if your square of turf is a mess, and you feel like you’re taking one random step after another, it can all get a bit too much.

Which is why I hide out up here, where all the cushions and the books and the warm wall-hangings are, where all the memories live and where dreams haunt the rafters like restless ghosts, yearning for release. I can close my eyes and breathe, and get through the next five minutes, and the next, and the next, and before I know it I’ve survived another day.

And then we – for I know I’m not alone – get up the next day and do it all over again, hoping that someday (maybe, when we least expect it) all the disparate little edges of our lives will line up with a click, and the picture that appears will be beautiful, and exactly what we planned all along.

Until then, all we can do is work as hard as we can, and hope that the path we’re taking – albeit circuitous – will lead us where we’ve always wanted to go.

And if we have a few friends to drink wine and read books with along the way, all the better.

Choose Wisely

rpmftns.com

rpmftns.com

Every day, we make choices. We make them based on the best knowledge we have at the time, based on the feelings in our hearts at a particular juncture, based on how we expect our lives to turn out. But life never – or, rarely – turns out the way you plan it, and so sometimes our choices turn out to be unexpectedly fantastic, and other times unimaginably bad. But still, we make them, because we must.

I don’t like to think I am my choices. I would rather think I shape my life than the other way around; I tell myself that I am in control. But is this true? Does a choice made in sorrow by a version of myself that I no longer recognise still hold sway over me to this day? A choice that had to be made – which was, despite everything, the best choice for its own, or any, moment – and which, in so many ways, was not a choice at all because its alternative was unthinkable. A choice that should have left no questions in its wake.

Faced with it right now, this moment, would I make the same decision? A million times, yes.

All the same, a strange dislocation occurs when you’re faced with your life the way it could have been, had you chosen differently. A doubling, a dizzying sense of unreality. An uncomfortable, sickening and vertiginous feeling. Even if you know the choices you made were right, still the call of the unwalked path is strong, for just that moment, that one window into an unlived life. Perhaps it shouldn’t be this way: there is no point to wondering ‘what if?’ And yet, it happens.

Are there multitudes of worlds in which versions of you are living the lives you could have had, each of them gazing up at their particular stars and dreaming about living the life you have? Perhaps. The life you have is a wished-for ideal, and it is good to remember that.

Maybe we fool ourselves that our choices mean anything at all. Perhaps there is only one way that things could ever be, and no matter what we choose we cannot escape it. Perhaps, in its own dark way, this is comforting. It may even be true that there is no such thing as ‘choosing wisely’; all we can do is do the best we can, given our particular circumstances in any given moment. The important thing is to choose, and not to regret – to trust yourself to make a choice and stick with it, and move on without looking back.

You know something?Maybe I should have slept a little better last night, so that I wouldn’t have woken up with a head full of fuzz this morning.

Huh?  image: 123rf.com

Huh?
image: 123rf.com

Go forth and grab Tuesday by the lapels, my friends, while I wait for my brain to re-engage.

Just Like Starting Over

This morning, we woke to a refreshed world. Heavy rain fell in most places last night, washing away the dust and dessication of the last few weeks, and the air feels lighter and clearer this morning. For the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like I’m wearing a too-tight hat made of red-hot metal, and a headache isn’t threatening to engulf me. It’s a nice feeling.

Because of all this freshness, several related things are on my mind this morning, things like: learning from the past and then leaving it behind, new beginnings, corners being turned and change being made for the better (hopefully, at least). Today’s the perfect day to think about things like this. The earthy, rich air is coming in my open window and the grass is sighing with relief outside, and everything feels new.

Image: flickriver.com

Image: flickriver.com

Nobody goes through life without making mistakes, or doing things that, on reflection, they would have decided against if they’d been given a second chance; everyone has done or said things which cause them to cringe with embarrassment when they creep into mind weeks or months or even years later. I am no exception, of course. Learning from your mistakes, allowing them to shape your future in a positive way, and eventually letting them go, is a very important life skill. I’ve always had trouble with the ‘letting them go’ part of this model; I find it very difficult, and always have. I tend to hold on to my regrets and my embarrassments, and over time they ferment into something more damaging, something which feels a lot like guilt.

Guilt can be a terribly corrosive emotion – I’m not even sure ’emotion’ is the correct word. Perhaps ‘force’ is better. It’s something which can erode a person’s self-belief and confidence, warping their ability to lay down plans for their future life, robbing them of any ability to move forward and keep going. I’m not talking here about ‘justified’ guilt – i.e. the natural and perhaps deserved guilt a person may feel if they commit a crime or harm someone else or break the law; I’m talking about the pernicious kind, the self-directed, self-harming kind, the sort of guilt that eats you up over mistakes made, things said in anger or in error, things for which you can’t forgive yourself. Things which you carry with you like a ball and chain. I think certain people are perhaps more prone to this sort of thinking than others; perfectionists, for instance, or people who feel (rightly or wrongly) that they are carrying a burden of expectation, or people who are serious, and careful, and who like to be right. People, in short, who can’t deal with the fact that sometimes, they’re going to say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and that it’s just another part of life. There has to come a point, however, where this foundation-dissolving guilt is allowed to trickle away, and the person can be washed clean of it; that’s difficult, though, when the person can’t let themselves get past it.

When I make a mistake that causes me to be embarrassed by my own behaviour or when I engage on a course of action that I later regret, I tend to build a skin of forgetfulness over the whole thing; of course, like any skin, it’s vulnerable and porous and prone to being popped. I push away my mistake, I try not to think about my error, I don’t allow myself to deal with it rationally and come to the (inevitable) conclusion: ‘it wasn’t all that bad. What are you beating yourself up over?’ Instead, the memory remains, buried deep, ready to explode at any moment. Like a sore tooth or a niggling pain, though, the awareness of the bubble of guilt deep within me is always there. I might choose to ignore it, but I know exactly where it is. In that way, then, my attempts to forget it, to cover it over, to leave it behind, are all fruitless. It becomes the focal point of my mental life, and an insurmountable obstacle.

I’m not really sure why I do this. Perhaps I’m a bit of a weirdo.

Forgiving oneself, and starting afresh, are not always easy things to do – but they have to be done. You can live your life with a bubble of guilt and regret inside you, but you won’t take any risks, and you won’t do anything for fear of doing something wrong, and you won’t say anything at all for fear of saying something inadvertently hurtful or stupid or embarrassing – and what sort of life is that? I find it difficult to allow myself the space and compassion to make mistakes, to learn from them and atone for them, and to move on without the burden of them hanging around my neck, but as I grow older I am getting better at it. I’m trying to treat myself with more kindness and consideration, and trying to realise that I am going to make mistakes, sometimes, but that it’s perfectly all right. On a day like today, when the cooling rains have come to refresh my little patch of world and make it new, I’m going to make another effort to keep this lesson to the forefront of my mind.

A life of writing, where you are your own sole motivator, is a life incompatible with being handicapped by guilt and regret. You can’t keep moving forward if you’re afraid to move on, after all. It’s time to leave my regrets where they belong and allow myself the freedom to learn, and grow, and move into the future.

Image: guardian.co.uk

Image: guardian.co.uk

Happy Thursday, everyone! It’s almost the weekend. Hang in there…

Bootstraps

‘Writing’ and ‘being a writer’ aren’t the same thing, by a long shot. ‘Writing’, that wonderful thing, is something I could do all day, fancifully kneading verbs and adverbs together while mixing a few adjectives in for good measure, trilling with ladylike laughter as I sprinkle the whole with punctuation; writing, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing. I love it.

Being a writer, though – and I’m the first to admit that I’m not even on the first rung of the very long ladder that’s labelled ‘A Writing Career’ – is, at times, obscenely difficult. Getting rejections is hard (I’m going through a spate of that at the moment); writing to deadline is hard; juggling deadlines is harder still. I’m still not completely ‘on top’ of the various deadlines I’m aiming for this summer, and several have just whooshed by. I’m telling myself that sometimes, you’ve just got to admit you can’t do everything, and give up worrying, but the problem with good self-advice is you don’t generally listen to it.

There’s still nothing else I’d rather be doing, however.

Image: sarahhina.blogspot.com

Image: sarahhina.blogspot.com

Today the things that are on my mind include: wondering how I’m going to get on this Saturday (I’m recording one of my stories for a podcast, of which more next week); worrying about all the stories I have out on sub at the moment and hoping some of them – even one – will make the cut; thinking about the stories in piles on my workdesk or in pieces on my computer and hoping that I can save them in time to get them ready for some of my aforementioned deadlines; the constant low-level worry about whether I’ve done the right thing with my life, and – the biggie – my novels, and my plans for those. And, as the title of today’s post suggests, I’m pretty much telling myself to buck up, take a deep breath and just get on with it.

Seriously. Just get on with it. I wonder, sometimes, why the niggling ‘am I doing the right thing?’ is constantly gnawing at the edges of my mind – I know I am. I’ve never been more sure. But when rejection emails are pouring in and nothing I write seems to be hitting the spot, perhaps worry is the only logical psychological response. It’s a bad cycle to allow myself to get into, though, because the rot of ‘well, nothing I’m submitting is any good,’ will eventually turn into ‘nothing I write is any good.’ Once that happens, I’ll only be one step away from giving up. And that can’t happen. I don’t want it to.

I know I want to write for the rest of my life because none of the challenges that I’ve so far faced have put me off the idea, and none of the warnings from other writers – ‘It’s a long, hard slog!’ ‘You’ll never earn a penny!’ ‘You’re in competition with far too many others!’ ‘You need to be exceptional to succeed!’ – have given me a second’s pause. I don’t know if it’s unhinged optimism, or simply self-delusion, but I still want to write, even knowing all this may be true. There is a lot of competition out there, and you’ll never be a millionaire. You could work for the rest of your life doing this, and still you may never succeed.

But I never wanted to be a millionaire anyway, and there’s a lot of competition in every walk of life. There’ll always be a better bookseller/teacher/lawyer/rocket scientist than you, but should that put you off wanting to be one? No way. Isn’t every job, and every career, a long hard slog? Yes. So why should writing be any different?

I know I want to be a writer because I’m willing to accept penury, long hours, hard work, brain-ache, rejection, disappointment and isolation to get there. In fact, it goes further than being willing to accept all these things: you have to be willing to inflict them upon yourself. That takes a special kind of masochism, and probably explains a lot about writers and their tendencies towards alcohol and oddness. (Hopefully I’ll avoid those bits.)

But I know I’ll succeed as a writer because I already have succeeded as a writer – I’m doing it. What more success could I ask for? Anything more than what I already have is gravy, as the saying goes. I’d love to see my name on the spine of a shelf-full of novels, and I’d love to see my stories appearing in some of the high-profile publications I’ve recently submitted to, and I’d love to think that I could bring the same joy into a young reader’s life that my favourite authors brought into mine – but if it never happens, I’m still a writer. I’m giving it my very best shot, and for that if nothing else I should be happy with what I’ve achieved.

I’ll try to remember all this the next time I get a rejection! Oh, how easy it is to write all this self-encouragement in a blog post and forget it completely when the dark cloud of doubt decides to settle over your head once more…

If you write, you’re a writer. End of story. Get on with it!

Grab those bootstraps, and keep on going! Image: wikiality.wikia.com

Grab those bootstraps, and keep on going!
Image: wikiality.wikia.com

 

In Love with Life

It’s almost the end of May, everybody. In a few short days, this month will be entirely used up and cast aside in favour of June, and I’ll have to make good on my promise to myself that my book – my ‘Eldritch’ – will be ready to start the process of finding an agent.

That’s the problem with making promises to yourself, isn’t it? You’ve got to keep them.

I’m not saying that ‘Eldritch’ isn’t ready. It’s sitting here beside me, in a satisfyingly thick bundle of paper; I’ve read it over and over again. I’ve tweaked it, and fixed it, and pulled sentences apart, and unmixed my metaphors, and checked for continuity errors, and taken out some of the millions of commas that seem to grow, unchecked, in everything I write. But, somehow, it just doesn’t seem good enough, still.

Image: moma.org

Image: moma.org

I just wish I looked as glamorous as this when going through a crisis of confidence. Actually, I look a bit more like Kathy Bates in ‘Misery’. But anyway.

On top of working slowly through The Novel, I’ve also spent the past week writing short stories. I’m trying to work through my list of submission deadlines – lots of competitions are looming, and I want to push myself to enter as many of them as I possibly can. It’s been a while since I made a big submission, and I’ve got to keep this ball rolling as long as I possibly can. However, there is a problem.

None of the short pieces I’ve written have made my personal grade. I’ve worked very hard on them, and I’ve sweated over them, and I’ve chosen words with extreme care, moved paragraphs around, deleted half the story and started again from scratch, changed titles, changed characters, changed everything that can be changed, and… I still don’t like either of the two major pieces of work I’ve completed over the last few days. Hackneyed, cloying, clichéd, boring – this is how they seem, to me. I just know they’ll never be good enough.

The first piece I wrote was a story about a little girl who, confused by something which is happening in her home life, takes out her rage and fear on another girl, a child at school, who innocently involves herself in the first child’s life. The story follows the two girls as they grow older, and shows us how, at one point, the second child has a chance to help the first, but chooses not to because of the pain she still suffers as a result of the first child’s bullying actions when they were younger. I’m not sure why this story didn’t work. It should work. I wanted it to. For a while after I’d written it I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, which is unusual for me; normally, I’m visceral about these things, and I know straight away how I feel about a written piece. But for this one, I wasn’t sure. I wanted to like it, but it didn’t turn out the way I’d seen it in my head, perhaps.

The second piece was about a shy young man and his forceful, abrasive mother, and their strained relationship. For reasons the boy doesn’t understand at first, his mother’s angry sorrow is focused on a particular place near their home. It’s a place she asks her son not to go to, but it also happens to be a popular meeting point for parties, and so – inevitably – the day comes when the young man betrays his mother’s trust, and attends a party in this strange place, sacred to his mother. When the mother discovers her son has broken his promise to her, she is extremely angry, and in her subsequent breakdown the reason for her dislike of the place becomes clear to the boy at the same time as the reader.

Again, a story I really wanted to like. But it just doesn’t work.

Because of all this, I’ve probably been feeling a bit defeated over the past few days. My energy levels are a bit depleted, maybe, and my brain seems stuck in first gear. I needed some inspiration, some encouragement. I needed a reminder of what I’m doing here, and why I’m doing it.

And, yesterday evening, I found it.

I’m not sure if you’ll have heard of a poet named Dorothy Molloy Carpenter. Sadly, Ms. Molloy Carpenter passed away almost a decade ago, just before her first book of poetry was published (two further volumes were also published posthumously). During her time of illness, when she was facing into treatment for the disease that claimed her life, she wrote a prayer of sorts, called her ‘Credo’. This prayer was printed on a card that was distributed at her memorial service, which happened to be held at the University in which I used to work. Many years ago, someone gave me their copy of this card, and I’ve held on to it ever since; somehow, last night, I happened to read it again just when I needed to. I want to quote a little bit from the beginning of the prayer, if you’ll indulge me:

The one essential thing is for my voice to ring out in the cosmos and to use, to this end, every available second. Everything else must serve this. This is being in love with life.

Every voice is needed for the full harmony.

Well.

There you have it. Use every available second. Sing your song. Make your contribution. Say your piece. Write your story. Be in love with life.

Image: insehee.egloos.com

Image: insehee.egloos.com

Happy Thursday. Use it as well as you can, and remember that the world needs every scrap of positivity, every drop of happiness, and every flicker of love that it can get. We can’t all save the world from terror, but we can all do our best to add to the communal store of joy. Let’s all do what we can.

 

 

Regrets? I Could Do With Fewer…

If I could give my younger self any advice, it would go something like this:

Image: volunteerweekly.org

Image: volunteerweekly.org

“Dear Little SJ,

You know all those stories you want to write, and all those words you want to string together into pretty little necklaces of imagination? Yes? Well, I just want to ask one thing. What are you waiting for? Do you think the words are going to spontaneously arrange themselves onto the page, astounding passersby and setting off fireworks to announce their own fabulousness? No. They need you to bring them to life. So, go and do it.

Also, you know all those hours you spend standing in front of the bathroom mirror hating everything you see? Give that up, for a load of reasons, but mainly these: you are so much lovelier than you think you are, and you will meet a man, eventually, who thinks you’re so beautiful that he’ll tell you every day how much he loves you. Yes – every day.  Can you imagine it?

Learn how to take compliments.

Now, look around at all your friends. Do you see them, standing around the lockers at school, having a laugh? Treasure these people. Twenty years from now, they will still be in your life, and you will love them just as much as you do now, and they will be just as important to you. You will all have things to go through in life for which you’ll need one another’s support. There are things facing you that you won’t have a hope of getting through without these guys on your side. So, look after your friends.

Find a sport, and start doing it. Seriously. I know you think your P.E. teacher is a demon sent from hell to torment you, and you’d much rather be reading a book, but trust me. Your creaking joints and wobbly bits from the future are imploring you to do some exercise now, when you’re still young enough for it to become a habit and make a difference.

You don’t really need me to tell you to take care of your family, and to try to behave like less of a hormonal Hulkette at home – but I’ll do it anyway. ‘Take care of your family. Stop behaving like a hormonal Hulkette. They love you, you love them – end of story.’

Don’t feel weird for liking to read, enjoying the books and music you enjoy, or watching movies that nobody else watches. Later in your life, your tastes in books, movies and most especially music will help you to make friends, convince people you’re cool, and even (almost) allow you to impress a boy. But don’t hold your breath on that one.

Also, you are cool. Trust me.

Oh, and speaking of boys – that guy you like right now? Forget about it. And the one after him, the one after him, the one after him, and the one after him. After that, you’ll start getting it right. More or less. Here’s a shortcut: go for the boys who are kind, considerate, funny and sweet, and who are brave enough to show you that they like you. Don’t go for the hipster types who pepper their conversation with Neil Young lyrics and whose guitar cases have the Woodstock logo painted on in Tipp-Ex. I know why you keep falling into the same trap, but just trust me, and let me save you from years of heartache. All right?

Spend more time with your grandmother. In fact, go and pay her a visit right this minute. When she goes, the pain of it will be so huge that it will leave a crater in your life. Treasure her now, while you can.

Try to take it easy on yourself. Don’t spend years beating yourself up for mistakes you’re going to make; don’t allow yourself to be spoken to in ways you don’t like; don’t allow anyone to make little of you. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you deserve to be treated like this, because it’ll take years to get out of that mindset. Don’t worry when your life falls apart in the last semester of your last year at university – it’ll suck, but you’ll be fine.

Enjoy your PhD studies. Remind yourself every day that you’re doing a PhD, and how absurdly cool that is. Remind yourself how much of an achievement it is. Be proud of it. It will go by so fast that soon, it’ll feel like you didn’t do it at all. And that’ll be a shame.

There are people who’ll come, and people who’ll go, and it will hurt. But your life will carry on and things will work out better than you could have dreamed. Don’t get too attached to things and places; there are people, too, who you’d be better off not getting too emotionally dependent on. You will lose more friends than you will gain over the course of your life, and you will feel like it’s the end of the world every time someone walks out of your circle. It’s not. The ones who are important will always find their way back.

You are a slightly socially awkward person, and you have no balance, and you’re never sure what to say in any given moment. This isn’t going to change. Learn to embrace it. Eventually, people will start thinking it’s endearing instead of ridiculous.

And, overall? You’re okay, little S.J. You’re okay.

With all my love (because, did you realise, it’s not big-headed or weird to show yourself some love once in a while. Did you know that?)

Old S.J.”

The Proust Questionnaire

Today, I feel like answering some questions.

Image: blog.freeforums.org

Image: blog.freeforums.org

Not, of course, that anybody has asked me to answer any of these questions – but that’s beside the point. I scoured the internet for a list of suitable questions, and decided eventually that the best list I could find was this one – a questionnaire made famous by the answers given by Marcel Proust. I won’t answer them all (because we’d be here all day), but I think there are a few excellent questions in here. So, here goes!

My favourite virtue: My favourite virtue is kindness. Proust seemed to take this question as referring to a virtue he possessed himself (and in which he excelled); if that’s the way you’re supposed to answer the question, then my answer stays the same. I try to be kind, and I hope I succeed most of the time.

My favourite qualities in a person: The original questionnaire split this one up into ‘favourite qualities in a woman/man’, but I don’t think that’s really appropriate in our modern age. My favourite qualities in a person would include kindness, but also gentleness, generosity of spirit, compassion and the openness to love.

What I appreciate the most in my friends: I appreciate the fact that I’ve got friends at all! Each of them has their own talents and wonderful qualities, but one thing they all possess is a sense of humour. We make each other laugh so much, my friends and I, and hopefully we always will.

My main fault: I have so many faults, I’ll have to limit myself to the main ones. So – my faults are as follows: I have a quick temper, I tend to close myself off when I’m in a bad mood, I find it hard to multi-task (despite the stereotype about women being better at this than men!), I tend to be impatient, I’m nowhere near healthy enough, I don’t like change and find it hard to cope with, and I’m very (very) stubborn. And that’s just for starters.

My favourite occupation: Whether the questionnaire means occupation in the sense of ‘job’ or ‘pastime’, the answer remains the same: writing! Reading, drawing and walking are not far behind it on the list of favourites.

My idea of happiness: It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy, really. At least, I hope not! Happiness, for me, is knowing that all my loved ones are safe and happy, being with my husband – not necessarily doing anything in particular, just being in his company – and spending time with my family, and knowing that I have enough and I am enough. Happiness is a conscious decision, I think, but it’s one you have to make every day.

My idea of misery: Misery to me is being separated from someone I love. If I don’t see my family for a while, I tend to slump down into sadness, and I hate when my husband is away. Misery would be knowing that this separation was going to be permanent.

If not yourself, who would you be?: This is a dangerous question. I’d like to say I’d love to be a published author (take your pick from Laini Taylor, Kristin Cashore, Jeanette Winterson, Catherine Fisher, and so on), but I know that it’s never a good thing to wish to be someone else. Everyone is carrying their own burdens, and most people carry them with grace and dignity, and so well that another person (even a close friend) may never even guess at them. I may not be able to carry another person’s burdens with the same strength they have. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised it’s a huge blessing to be happy just to be yourself. So, if I couldn’t be me as I am now, I’d like to be me in a year’s time. Just to see what’s changed.

My favourite heroes/heroines: My real-life heroes include my family, particularly my (deceased) grandparents, whose lives were unimaginably different from mine and who surmounted difficulties I know I couldn’t cope with. In history, I admire a huge amount of people, including St. Maximilian Kolbe, Anne Frank, Leonhard Seppala and Gunnar Kaasen and their dogs Togo and Balto, Ada Lovelace, Madame Curie, the Brontes and Austen, Harvey Milk, Sophie Scholl, Marie de France, and so many others. In general I admire any person who does what they can to stand up against oppression, to create art even when they’re told they can’t, who defies injustice and fights to protect their rights and the rights of others, and who doesn’t let their gender or social status hold them back. Not a lot to ask, then.

The natural talent I’d like to be gifted with: I’d love to be able to dance. Not just the belly-wobbling flailing that I get up and do at family weddings, but proper ballet-style dancing. I’d love to be graceful. As it is, I fall over when I stand on one foot.

My favourite motto: I have a few mottos that I really like. These are: ‘All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well,’ which is attributed to Julian of Norwich, a medieval nun. I also love ‘Thaes ofereode; thisses swa maeg’ which is the refrain from an Old English poem named ‘Deor’ (it means ‘That was overcome, and so will this be), and I like to think of this one when I’m facing a challenge. It reminds me that I’ve survived up to now, and I can face whatever’s coming. And I also love a line from Beowulf, which is ‘Gaeth a wyrd swa hio scel’, which roughly means ‘Fate will go as it must’ – in other words, if something is going to happen, it’ll happen. It reminds me that I can’t control anything except myself, and my own reactions to what happens in my life.

Well, I hope this has been an illuminating read! I’d just like to let you know that I won’t be blogging on Monday morning because it’s a Bank Holiday in Ireland (and, more importantly, I won’t have access to a computer that day), so I wanted to wish you all a happy St. Patrick’s Day and a good weekend.

Image: bunclody.net

Image: bunclody.net

Thanks for reading!