Wednesday 24 June 2020
I've noticed that many creative people have low levels of confidence. I suppose because, like anyone who sells anything, we are only as good as our last product. If, say, your first book sells really well, the expectation is that the second book must be as good, if not better. That's enough to knock the creative stuffing out of anyone.
But even for those people who write books that consistently sell well, there is very often the sudden confidence crisis once the book's been sent in to an editor - is it good enough? Will she/he like it? And then, when the book comes out, you have the same worry - will the readers like it? Will it sell? Will it convey the message you're trying to get across?
I remember hearing that Jenni Murray said that, for all the many years she's been presenting Woman's Hour, the only time she wasn't nervous was the time that she made a huge blunder - on air, with her mother listening. So perhaps this lack of confidence is like stage fright - we need it to keep us performing at our best, whether it's books, art, presenting - whatever it is.
As I've grown older my confidence levels have mostly levelled out. But there are those Bad Hair Days when everything seems wrong, when I can't write a word - or what I've written is rubbish. When I'm convinced that I am unlovable, unwanted, few an utter failure, all that stuff.
What I try and do now is remember that there are certain times of year when I just feel rubbish. Mid December to mid January us often a write off for me. Lockdown hasn't been fun. But the only constant in life is change.
And I think that's what we all need to remember. That the rubbish times do pass. Last week I was feeling horrible, but today the sun is shining, Moll is snoring under the bed as I write this and I'm seeing some dear friends later.
So we all need to remember, not just in these Covid times, that this too will pass.
Wednesday 17 June 2020
When I first heard that people living on their own could form a support bubble with another household, I thought, What great news! and skipped around the kitchen, as I am fortunate in having some really amazing close friends. At last - the prospect of a HUG! Like everyone living on their own, we are starved of that most basic of human needs - TOUCH. But now I’d be able to hug my friends!
But as the evening wore on, it gradually became clear that all my close friends have FAMILY, and family takes precedence over friends. So, at a time when the government finally appeared to be trying to make it easier for those of us living on our own, I now felt as if I were being punished for not having my own family. (I have brothers but I rarely see them, and my mother lives 100 miles away. Much though I love my mum, driving 200 miles to see her would not be support in any way. But I still felt guilty, that I was being a Bad Daughter.)
The fact that my friends have family commitments was quite understandable on one level, but because I was feeling very wobbly, it felt like a personal rejection. I began to feel unloved, unwanted, the odd one out - it opened up a Pandora’s Box of insecurity that I have battled with since being a teenager.
Once again it felt like Christmas (a friend once described me as The Waif and Stray), with everyone wrapped up in their family bubbles, while I stood outside, watching through the window, before trudging home on my own. Or at school, when everyone picked teams and you were the last one left. The odd one out. The one that the teacher made one team take, and they hated you for it. Yes, the demons really had a field day.
I finally plucked up courage and texted a dear friend, but I was by this time so worried about rejection (her partner has family commitments), that I was prepared for her to say No, sorry.
But bless her, they readjusted their family commitments so I can be part of their bubble and we celebrated with HUGE HUGS (I cried like a baby) and a glass of wine on Saturday night.
For someone who hasn’t touched another human being, let alone had a hug for three months, those hugs were simply the best thing ever.
I know I'm incredibly fortunate in having a Support Bubble, but those days of feeling really isolated and wretched made me realise that there most be so many people who feel the same. And who don’t have the prospect of a bubble to help them.
Those who don’t have friends or family nearby. Those who might have family but don’t get on (remember, this is supposed to be a support bubble, not a detention bubble. We’ve all had enough of those.) Those who have to make really difficult choices between children and partners, children and other children - the list is sadly all too long.
I discussed this, sobbing loudly, when I met with my dear mate Jacqui, and wondered how I could help others who are, for whatever, reason, Bubble-Less.
And while I can’t invite anyone to join mine, I would urge any family or couple to look around you, think of who you know who might be on their own, who might really need some support. They might not want to ask: they might be scared of being rejected. (I was.) And that would make them feel even worse. But if you can help anyone, please do. It would not only change their lives, but it might also change yours.
Just think about how quickly life can change. It could be you on the outside, looking in.
Wednesday 10 June 2020
Well, to a certain extent I suppose I did slow down socially as, like everyone else, I had no social life during lockdown. But during the day I was busy working on my novel. I did a counselling course. I collected prescriptions and shopping for people as part of Volunteer Cornwall. I walked Moll as and when permitted. I wrote my blog. I wrote. And I wrote. As I'm used to working from home, this part of my life didn't change.
But I listened to various friends talking about how lovely it was to be with their families and/or partners, doing nothing all day. Evenings spent watching films, drinking wine with their nearest and dearest. Daytimes spent cycling or walking or doing the garden (with their nearest and dearest).
Last week I had a socially distant walk with some friends I hadn't seen for a while who had both spent a relaxed time with their partners. "You've been ever so busy," one of them said.
I felt almost guilty, that I hadn't been relaxed. Doing nothing. But I explained, "It's lovely to do nothing when you're with your loved one, but the trouble is, because I live alone, if I sat around doing nothing, I'd get extremely depressed. I'd fall into that black chasm which has steep, slippery walls, and I wouldn't be able to get out again and that scares the hell out of me. So it's vital for me to keep working. Have a purpose. A focus."
As Wendy Perriam once said, on being widowed, "I've got plenty of friends to do things with. I really miss someone to do nothing with."
I was telling a close friend about this conversation with my mates when he rang a few days ago. He's not on his own but sometimes you can feel more lonely when you're with the wrong person. There was a short pause when I told him about fearing I'd fall into that black pit. Then he said, "Yes. That's what's happened to me."
As a writer we want to communicate. And part of that communication is to help other people crawl out of their black pits. So for everyone wanting a hand up, just shout. Talk to anyone you trust about how you feel. The black pit only exists when there's one person in it. Once you've shared how you feel, the black will become lighter. Daylight will filter through. You will realise that the walls are not so steep, and they're beginning to dry out.
Furthermore, there's a foothold in the corner, and if you put one foot in, you can reach up, and pull yourself out.
Wednesday 3 June 2020
As you can imagine, Thursday was a bit of a fraught day. The vet rang at 9.30 to see if I'd like to bring her in earlier as they had a cancellation, so I had to take her there, ring from the car park, while someone from the surgery, in PPE, picked her up and took her off. And that was the last I saw of her for six hours.
Luckily the heart surgeon rang before and after the scan to ask what had been going on etc. and he said he thought she'd probably just had a bug. Certainly after several days of very little exercise, her energy levels have bounced back which is lovely to see. Moll has a heart murmur which could lead to congestive heart failure - this is essentially when fluid accumulates around the lungs. (This is how Pip died, so I am praying this doesn't happen to her, bless her.) So I monitor her breathing once a week while she's asleep and as it hadn't changed, this seemed a good sign.
Having done the scan he said no, the heart isn't enlarged, she's no worse than she was nine months ago, and she doesn't need to have another scan for a while. Unless her breathing changes or I see anything else I'm worried about, in which case bring her in straight away. I suspect that she led them a merry dance in there as she gets very stressed at the vet anyway, let alone when they're trying to sedate her and do scans etc. The scans are also incredibly expensive so I will be glad for her not to have any more for a while.
So she's back and, to my amazement, the next day she was firing on all cylinders. Had her first proper walk for a week and loved it. Since then her energy levels have been amazing - especially as it's been hot - so we've walked later, in the cool, and the last few days we've both been swimming which has been fantastic.
I am so relieved and delighted and amazed to have my little companion back with me and walking alongside me. Bouncing and swimming alongside me, in fact. I can't tell you the difference it has made.
There were other things going on last week that were very stressful and unfortunate, resulting in more sleepless nights and a lot of tears. But having Moll back to her occasionally grizzly self makes me a very happy woman.
She is snoring on the bed behind me as I write: the one loving constant in my life and I am so glad that we have some more time together. Time that I hope to make as joyous as possible for both of us.