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Paddle Surfing

— { image via Women’s Health Mag } —

I’m back! I know I’ve been gone a while (I’m not even going to count how long) and I know any excuses would only seem lacklustre (insert standard blogger paragraph about email mountain this and client work that and family crap the other, blah, blah, blah.) When I logged on the other day and took a look at my recent stats and traffic, the first thing that jumped out at me was that someone had come across my site by googling “who said ‘I am the pirate who doesn’t touch anything’? I like to think that on the blog of the blogger who doesn’t blog anything, they found their answer.*

So, how about we kick things off for the umpteenth time with a story? (And my apologies for the language. Kind of.)

A couple of months ago I was in California visiting family, and asked a friend to teach me to paddle board. I always thought that it looked quite easy (I know, you’re probably laughing at me right now, but I honestly thought it couldn’t be that hard), and it looked like my kind of exercise (the kind where you don’t do much but just chat to your friends and enjoy the sunshine). WRONG. Damn that shit is hard. After I’d fallen in twice and flailed around in dark water that scared the crap out of me, I realised that this was a mountain I wasn’t going to conquer (at least not today), and I should just sit back and enjoy the view from the foothills. Those who know me will attest that I do not take failure well. When someone finished a test quicker then me for the first (and only!) time in my make up artist training I actually cried about it I was so pissed off.

But, I climbed back on my board (took some doing, let me tell you), and sitting cross legged with paddle in hand, I followed my friends out of the marina towards a buoy of sea lions, from there we paddled over to the wharf and bobbed around in the cool dark shadows amongst the giant posts, counting starfish. And you know what? I’m pretty sure I enjoyed the ride just as much as I would have had I stepped onto that board and nailed it first time. Oh, and just as we were paddling back to the dock, I felt my gold thumb ring, that hasn’t been taken off for 10 years, slip from my hand and *plink* into the ocean. I think this wound me up more than the not being good at something.

You’re thinking that maybe there’s more to this story? You’re not wrong. The last month in the real world has been more than a little unsettling. A whirlwind move saw me moving into a proper home for the first time in over 2 years (there’s only so long a girl can make living like a gypsy look glamorous) and there have been some serious disruptions in my professional life too. Something I had spent 2 years pouring my heart and soul (not to mention hours and hours of time and effort) into was taken away from me quite unceremoniously. I’m sure that with some distance and a good dose of motivational quotes from Pinterest, I’ll soon start to see it as a blessing. ‘Some things fall apart so that better things can fall together’ and so on… I’m pretty much done with feeling angry, sad and above all disheartened (people really can be the worst).

The moral of this story? I’m gonna go with ‘learn to enjoy falling off your paddle board’, because if I said what I really wanted to say I’d probably get into trouble.

So, a new horizon, new projects in the pipeline and the faintest shimmer of a silver lining.  Let’s finish with a nice picture of some stripes. They make everything better…


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*the answer, of course, is Drop Dead Fred. And you all knew that, right?

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Sometimes the internet is just the place to find that ass kickin’ dose of tough love that deep down you know you need (the other place is my friend Candice, she’s good. Really good.).

99U is one of my favourite sites for just such a butt-kicking, from the practical to the existential, and everything in between, they’ve got it covered. Last week I found myself bookmarking 2 of their posts and returning to them more then once to remind myself of the wisdom within…

An excerpt from the new 99U book, featuring, amongst others, Seth Godin…

Everybody who does creative work has figured out how to deal with their own demons to get their work done. There is no evidence that setting up your easel like Van Gogh makes you paint better. Tactics are idiosyncratic. But strategies are universal, and there are a lot of talented folks who are not succeeding the way they want to because their strategies are broken.

The strategy is simple, I think. The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way.

There are many ways you can signify to yourself that you are doing your practice. For example, some people wear a white lab coat or a particular pair of glasses, or always work in a specific place—in doing these things, they are professionalizing their art.

The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.

I was instantly reminded of Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, where she talks about ritual and routine as ways to kickstart your day, to slip into your creative routine and maintain momentum.

It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, my life at the moment is the opposite of routine and ritual. I don’t really have a home, my time is split almost 50/50 between Devon and London so I’m constantly on the move, and there has been so much family upheaval in the last 18 months that as a family (both immediate and extended) we’re still trying to figure out the new normal. At the moment, nothing is permanent.

So routine & ritual? I should be so lucky! Along with a home, it’s the one thing I would wish for if I had a magic lamp in my hands right now.


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Of course, all this upheaval, travel, change and general stress can take it’s toll on a girl, and at times I find myself projecting that anxiety onto other people.

Empathy, and trying to think more kindly of people I have no real knowledge of is something I’m try to do more of (much to the frustration of some people who seem to think it’s just me being contrary or argumentative). But under duress, snap judgements of people become much easier than putting the effort into considering the alternatives (have you read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? Brilliant book.). So I was happy to come across this excerpt from a 2005 commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace, urging listeners to live life mindfully and to have empathy for our fellow humans:

Most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible.

It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options.

You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.

I’m also sure that thinking better of other people can only help you think better of yourself in the long run. And that has to be a good thing, right?

Here endeth Monday’s lesson! x

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{ hmmmmmmm } say what…

 A facebook instant messaging chat…
J: just sent u msg
Me: How very exciting 
J: its not that exciting!
Me: I know 
J: I built that up too much I think
Me: Sarcasm doesn’t travel well
J: it does not!
Me: I thought the lack of exclamation mark implied it but maybe I need to investigate that further.
J:  exclamations are thrown round willy nilly – they mean nothing to me anymore

Me: And what a lovely message it is!…

…Note the presence of the exclamation mark implying sincerity…

Being as sarcastic as me has it’s pitfalls when it comes to email and instant messaging.
Some people just don’t get me. ..

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{ hmmmmmmm } say what…

Dear Printed Reading Material
So true.
From the genius that is a thank you note a day on thxthxthx.
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{ hmmmmmmm } nada…

I got nothing.
I’ve started 3 blog posts in the last hour and none of them have made it past the finish line. 
So I give up. For today.
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{ hmmmmmmm } In pursuit of happiness…

Warning, this post contains strong language and passages of self indulgent pity. Read on if you must, but don’t say you haven’t been warned.
First, a story.
In the Summer of 2008 I worked for 3 months as a Wig Mistress at The Old Vic in London. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had. I loved every second of it, loved all of the amazing actors that I worked with and pretty much had the time of my life.
Immediately afterwards I started working on another show which toured the UK for four months. This was the worst job I have ever had. The woman I was working for was a bully, who made me miserable every single day. I hated touring, living out of a suitcase and staying in ‘digs’ (people’s grotty spare bedrooms, a different one every week) was my idea of hell. At the same time, the world’s banks went into meltdown, and my savings disappeared into an Icelandic shaped black hole for the best part of 5 months. Nice.
During this time, one of my few sources of comfort was the company tour manager. ‘A’ would somehow find a sushi restaurant in which ever city we happened to be in (not the easiest of tasks in England), take me for lunch, listen to me moan, bitch and cry about everything, then cheer me up with bad jokes and even worse Les Dawson impressions. But best of all the comforting words was the following story about a well know British actress (who shall remain nameless)…
Said actress was in her dressing room at the theatre, during the interval, preparing for the second half. Her dresser is helping her into her corset and costume, fussing with her hat, laying out her gloves etc. The actress, who had yet to endear herself to anyone, cast or crew, reached for her earrings and found only one. All hell broke loose, screaming, gesticulating, accusations. Her dresser had had enough, infuriated, she made for the door, opened it, turned to the star and shouted at the top of her voice for all to hear, “it’s an earring, not a fucking kidney!” She then turned on her heels, made a swift exit and never returned.
It’s not a fucking kidney. That became my mantra. However miserable things get, at least it’s not a fucking kidney.
Why am I telling you all this? Well folks, it’s been one of those weeks. No, one of those months. In fact, lets tell it like it is, so far it’s been one of those years.
First up, I am supposed to be moving out of my flat in one week and I have yet to find somewhere to move too. I am the homiest person you could hope to meet. Home is everything to me. Mine is not a life of endless travels to far off places in search of adventures. It’s a life of Sunday papers, hot baths, home baked cakes and familiarity. So the whole “having nowhere to live” situation weighs heavy on my heart.
Secondly, everything that can go wrong with a wedding stationery print run has. And I mean EVERYTHING. I am scared to answer my phone for fear of more bad news. If there’s one thing I find it hard to forgive myself for, it’s letting other people down. I let it eat away at me, gnawing at my confidence until I wonder why I ever thought I could do a good enough job to begin with. Even the stuff that isn’t my fault, I still feel responsible and let it seep into me like some poisonous gas. If I had a therapist she’d probably be telling me that it’s all a result of my parents divorce when I was seven. My determination to avoid conflict, to make everyone around me happy at any expense, to say what I think people want to hear, to please them before pleasing myself. Theirs was not the most civil of divorces, and as the older child, I was the messenger between my parents, “tell your mother this”, “tell your father that” and so on. 
Why on earth am I telling you all this? Well, it’s three o’clock in the morning, and I can’t sleep, because all of that poisonous people pleasing gas is swirling around inside me, driving me crazy. I’m reliving every conversation with printers, stressed out brides and anxious grooms. Repeating in my head every voicemail message, every text, every email, trying to work out how I got everything so wrong (there I go again. What I mean is how everything went so wrong). Why I’m so useless. Why I even thought I could do it in the first place. Who do I think I am?
I guess that’s the problem. I don’t know who I am. I haven’t found my place, my anchor, my niche. I don’t really know where I belong. So I’m wandering around, trying on every pair of shoes I find, in the desperate hope that one of them fits. And all the while, volunteering to make, find, design, cook, buy anything and everything that I think will make other people happy and getting absolutely nowhere in the process. 
Perhaps if I put that energy into trying to make myself happy I’d be getting somewhere. I don’t mean superficial bar of chocolate and a bubble bath happy. 5 minute happy. I mean actual life happy. In my soul happy. Down to my bones happy.
So, where to start?
Well, I’m going to try and stop feeling guilty about only posting five things this week (including this emotional ramble).
I am not going to give my self a stomach ulcer over wedding stationery.
I’m going to take every medication I can find to finally rid myself of this 4 week old cold/cough.
After that, who knows? But when all is said and done, it’s just a blog. It’s just paper and ink. It’s just snot…
…it’s not a fucking kidney.
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{ hmmmmmmm } why did the penguin cross the road…

 It’s true what they say…
…laughter really is the best medicine.*
I’ve been struggling with my creative demons for the last couple of weeks, worrying about where I’m going to live and generally feeling out of sorts.  It’s nothing new for me, but when you’re in the midst of the funk, it’s hard to remember what you’re supposed to do to get yourself out of it.
The answer, of course, is laughing. Laugh your socks off. Laugh until you cry. Laugh until you nearly pee your pants.
It really is the best treatment for kicking you out of your funk. One of the bonuses of living on your own is that you can laugh as loud and as heartily as you like, and there’s no one to look at you like you’re slightly deranged (although I suspect that when you find the right person, then they love you however you laugh, and laugh with you. But that’s a whole other kettle of bummed out fish!)
And so, with my sides almost split, I’m off for another dose of medicine.
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*I expect penguins are effective too, only rather more difficult to get hold of in central London.
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{ hmmmmmmm } feeling a bit…

…when I would rather be feeling a bit…

..what’s a girl to do?

{ pic 1 // pic 2 }

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{ hmmmmmmm }

What a week! And I don’t mean that in a good way.

This week, the universe managed to thwart my every move. Hours and hours of work spoiled by something I couldn’t have foreseen – the weather.

Why do I feel so wretched about something that’s so out of my control?
I don’t know, but I do.
My soul is just a little bit broken tonight.

Back to the boldness tomorrow, until then, I just have to remember…

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{ hmmmmmmm } baby it’s cold outside…

London is pretty darn cold right now, we’re expecting snow any second, and I can’t stop thinking about this room…

…is it even a room? Whatever it is, I wish I was there right now, with my new stack of books

{ photo by Francesco Bittichesu via desire to inspire }


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