When No means Yes

I used to hate endings and I’d avoid them at all costs. I especially hated last days in jobs and wished I had the audacity to pull a sickie as some others do. My aversion to endings meant I’ve stayed too long in work situations, in relationships and probably even overstayed my welcome at parties. I’ve waited to be made redundant rather than walk. I’ve chosen to be dumped than be the dumper. And I’ve been shown the door.

As part of my counselling studies I took classes in endings and I’ve come to appreciate their potency and place. Endings evoke strong emotions. They bring feelings of abandonment, unresolved loss, anxiety, fear. But a well handled ending can be an opportunity for reflection and closure and set you up for what comes next.

After two years as a volunteer reading group facilitator at the library I led my last meeting yesterday. My role didn’t involve a big commitment but it was yet another draw on my time. We’d meet mid morning on the second Monday of each month though we went for the first Monday in December. I’d pitched the idea to the library in the first place – a reading group with the focus on memoirs and biographies. I’ve been introduced to so many fine lives since we started. Chaplin, Gandhi, Joan Crawford, Coco Chanel, Robert Graves, Anne Heller to name but a few.

The memoir group was very well read. They members were older than me and I enjoyed a glimpse into their worlds. With a young family and parents living away I rarely find myself in the company of elders. In her prime Victoria* was an arts critic with a national paper. In the fifties she reported from Africa for the BBC world service. Her love of literature remained in spite of her dementia but over the time she’d been joining us her condition deteriorated and she wasn’t reading the books any more though she could still tell us about her days in Fleet street or her impression of a writer (famous or infamous) she’d encountered.

Patricia’s husband  is 85 and he makes his way to East London once a week to ice-skate. He was a World champion skater back in the day. Tom is a retired lecturer and the most knowledgeable of us all. He makes fantastic use of his Freedom Pass (free travel) with constant trips to the city for concerts and events. I loved to get his recommendations and more often these were to free performances and exhibitions. Of all our group, he was the one who never missed a meeting. So I felt I’d be letting Tom down in bowing out. Though I’m hoping the group has gained enough momentum to carry on without me. On Monday Tom gave me a little pot of white hyacinths. It meant a lot. It means a lot. I made a decision and I said No to carrying on something I enjoy so that I could say Yes to other projects in my life that I want to pursue.

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“Sometimes you must gently refuse even some things which appeal to you, so that you can focus your limited human attention not only on what is important, but on what is possible”. (Elizabeth Gilbert)

There are other things I need to decline and cull to do the stuff I know I want to do. This was a start.

 

*Names have been changed to keep anonymity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogfest 2015

Blogfest falls in November as does my birthday so I gifted myself a ticket to the “annual celebration of sharp writing and big ideas” that makes up Mumsnet Blogfest.

A winning tweet netted me another ticket which I offered to my sister. She’d have her flight from Dublin to cover but the goody bags alone would negate that spend. Not to mention a programme packed with brilliant speakers and inspiring sessions. Funny to see these folk in the room and not as head shots attached to clever newspaper columns or wise commenters from radio and TV. Bryony Gordon, Polly Vernon, Esther Freud, Tim Dowling, Fi Glover, Lucy Cavendish and Robert Crompton spoke. There were amongst comedians and actors too.  Val McDermid, Sandi Toksvig and David Baddiel delivered their thoughts in 5 minute long think bombs. Lionel Shiver was in the house. Margaret Atwood appeared via a live link but problems with sound meant we mostly could only benefit from her reactions. Nods and giggles and a beatific smile.

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I attended “25 ways to get published” and left more convinced than ever that writing a novel might be a good place to start! We had talks from YouTube and a session with the Crumb sisters. Is there room out there for another sister team, we asked ourselves.

A random choice led me to From blogging to vlogging. I was one of about 50 I guess.  Our instructor was only Mike Figgis, the hollywood film director (Leaving Las Vegas)! He was brilliant. And the stories he used to illustrate practical solutions to cinematography  (or iphone shooting as most of us would be) were a complete treat. See my attempt at photo-bombing Mike Figgis.

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Later at home I positioned myself in the hallway. I took on board some of his tips, adding my own spin. Light streamed in over my shoulder. I held the camera at a height. I bit my lip as he suggested to get that puckered look and I shot my portrait. But from the neck down. My solution to crows feet and furrows.

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I’m wearing the Mother Tee from Selfishmother.com, one of the goodies in our take-home bags.  Also in the bag were a mindfulness colouring book, Boden brolly, Cadbury’s Advent calendar, a novel, deodorant and body creams, coco cola, popcorn, stress ball, magazine and pens. There were more products dispensed from sponsor stands. 

Butlins are looking to recruit blogging ambassadors. Pitrok are asking for people to trial their #sweatwell deodorants. Maybe. We cooperated with Unilever and headed outside to do their sombre tree walk stressing the devastation of deforestation.

A drinks reception capped off the day perfectly. We had an  interesting chat with one of the organisers about the planning that goes into the event. The speakers give freely of their time. It’s testimony to Mumsnet’s great reputation that they fill the programme with such a successful and generous lot. She told me that only 12 people attending this year had been to all four blogfests. I’m one of them.  I consider it a part of my own professional and personal development. Yeah, the goody bags are a draw too.

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