Make It Count

 

It’s 22:30 and I am starting to write. I’ve had a good day, but nothing really remarkable happened.

Some days are just like that. Not totally fab, but not totally drab either. Somewhere in the category of normal, with a few good bits thrown in.

It got me thinking about a movie a saw I few months ago. It’s called Life in a Day. I’ve been looking forward to its release since the day it was made – July 24, 2010. The whole film is made up entirely of amateur video footage from all over the world. All shot on that one day.

The reason I know this is because Rob and I submitted footage for the film. It was great fun and we had a fully packed day – a friend’s biker-style wedding celebration and another friend’s birthday. And it’s really quite remarkable how much I remember about that day. Even though it’s one and a half years ago. Even though our footage didn’t make the final cut. I guess that day I really paid attention.

In the film itself, there’s everything from remarkable events like births, weddings and people dealing with illness to unremarkable events such as children laughing or pets playing. And I guess that’s what life is kinda like… a lot of moments that we might consider unremarkable in between memorable moments, people or events.

At the end of the film, there’s a girl in her car. It’s dark. She looks into the camera and talks about how she waited all day for something remarkable that she could film. And nothing happened. Now it’s close to midnight. And she doesn’t want to miss her chance of making this day count.

So in the end, this is what she says:

“I want people to know that I’m here. I don’t want to cease to exist.
 
I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I‘m this great person because I don’t think I am. At all. I think I’m a normal girl, normal life, not interesting enough to know anything about. But I want to be.
 
And today, even though nothing great really happened, tonight I feel as if something great happened.”

 

She’s real, honest and emotional. And out of all the thousands of titbits that make up this feature-length film, that’s the one I remember the most.

I think she made her day count. In a big way. Even though for the better part of 23 hours, nothing really remarkable happened.

D-Day

 

As I was dashing off last night’s post, I decided that today the dragons’ den finally needed addressing. The title ‘D-Day’ popped into my head and I hallucinated that I might write a quick post about making my dragon’s den of a living room dragon-free – temporarily, at least.  

I love the universe. I really do. It heard D-Day and made other plans. 

First of all, I had some big realizations about money. Good, juicy stuff. I might write about that another day.

Then the mail came. With a letter from my university. I have been expelled for non-payment of fees. Despite the fact that I withdrew for the year. It’s no good trying to write clever academic work whilst suffering from sleep deprivation and baby brain. But apparently my paperwork got lost.

The thing is, I have been wanting to study and to write for a very long time. So I got one part of the dream by getting accepted into a fabulous university and doing really well. But now the writing bit is coming to the forefront. Which coincidentally is more aligned with being a new mum. And I’ve been getting the feeling for quite some time that in order to pursue one, I need to let the other go.

Now I know not all decisions in life have to be one or the other, but this one seems to be. For now, anyway. In any case, I am not sure how I would be a great mum, and write, and finish my degree all at the same time. But I feel like a failure walking away from my degree without finishing.

It’s become part of my identity. I’m a student in the way other people are account directors, or investment bankers. So now I have to say I’m a writer. And mean it. And it kinda scares me. It doesn’t have the same certainty… yet.

But I know I gotta let something go in order for the writing thing to take off. I gotta make a bold statement. And the universe hit me over the head with one today (although I will set the record straight about it all).

There’s a saying that if you leap, something will appear. The first thing that came to me was a rope. But leaping and a rope are not a good combination. So scratch that.

It’s actually leap and the net will appear. It’s the net, Nette… the net, not the rope!

Now I know some of you might think that none of this is a big deal. But it is a big deal to me. And I can’t judge myself by somebody else’s standards. So what I’m hanging on to is the image of the leap. And I’m writing about it so I can’t chicken out and take it all back. I’ve already done that about 100 times.

And if nothing else, I gotta do it for Lilly. To teach her that to go after your big dream, you gotta be brave enough to leave your comfort zone. And take that leap.

Despite what the gremlins say.

 

Quality Problems II

 

So after yesterday’s realization that I’m really quite lucky, I was feeling inspired and refreshed. Foolishly optimistic. I decided to cook the hard-working hubby his favourite dinner. Clean my dragons’ den of a living room. None of this was on my ‘get to do’ list but I hallucinated myself into thinking that I could manage to squeeze it into the wee hours between Lilly’s afternoon nap and bedtime.

Yeah, right. Who was I kidding? There’s only so much you can do with a six month old in tow, especially towards the end of the day when they get a bit fractious.

And really, I’m hardly a domestic goddess to start with. I’m ok with the fact that the laundry only gets put away when there’s new laundry to be hung up. That the aftermath of the papaya explosion that was Lilly’s breakfast is still in the sink to be cleaned up at 4pm. Things like that.

Nevertheless, I charged into the kitchen. Foraged through cupboard and freezer. Super-charged my slow cooker and cleaned up the papaya pandemonium. Yet despite my best efforts of continuously singing the same bits of the same Dolly Parton song that normally keeps Lilly appeased, I way overstepped the limits of her patience. In the end, I did manage to make dinner but only just. A tantrum was very narrowly avoided. Some might say a minor tantrum was had but I prefer not to go there.

And rather than being greeted by a delightful dinner upon returning home, the hard-working hubby was greeted by Hell’s Kitchen. There might have been dinner bubbling away somewhere, but he could be forgiven for not noticing in amidst the dishes and the remnants of the potato and pumpkin fest that was Lilly’s dinner. Wife absent settling babe to sleep. Unintended hint to empty dishwasher so ‘new’ dirty dishes could actually be put in it.

Oh, and the dragons’ den of a living room? Yep, still there. Never even started tackling that one.  

But I will. One day. That’s a quality problem too.

Quality Problems I

 

This morning I made a list of things I want to get on with. I read somewhere that you should frame tasks up as things that you ‘get’ to do rather than things that you ‘have’ to do. I like that. Makes it less daunting. More like a privilege, less like a drag. And many of the things that I get to do are actually pretty exciting. Like looking for an agent and fine tuning upcoming travel plans. Fundraising and getting my blog snazzed up.

It also got me thinking how lucky I am to get to do the things I do every day. I have an amazing daughter that I get to spend time with. I am under no pressure to return to a conventional job and be separate from her. I get to write and go for walks with Jack. I get to hang out in cafés with other mummies. On top of that, I still get to nag Rob about emptying the dishwasher and I get to petition him for a few pockets of Lilly-free time every week.

So really, I’m a lucky girl.   

That’s not to say that I don’t feel tired or overwhelmed or exhausted at times. It can kinda zap your energy to be present with a babe pretty much most of the time. Anticipating all of her needs; keeping her changed, fed and entertained. Making sure she gets naps. Tucking her up at night. I’m not complaining but being with a small person all day (and part of the night) would even wear the Duracell bunny out eventually.

So I’m a lucky girl with quality problems. That doesn’t mean that they don’t feel real at the time. It just means that really I have it very good… and so do most of us. Most of the time. We just need reminding ever so often.

Suza Belle

 

The other day, I mentioned my friend Suza Belle. She’s the one who taught me that you chose your family among your friends. As an extension of that philosophy, she also believes that we all only have as much ‘real’ family as we can handle. I guess in my case I can’t handle very much…

As her name would suggest, she’s a true Southern Belle. Exudes love, class and style in abundance. And in the serendipitous circle of life, she was introduced to me by one of my best friends, Jason; and in turn introduced me to her niece Stacey, who has become a great friend and a very important part of my life. I love how that works.

Suza Belle is seventy, with the biggest heart I know and the spirit of somebody half her age.  At least. As a matter of fact, she frequently complains that her body is far too old for her adventurous mind. I can see why. No body can contain that much spirit.

Last time we met, she just started internet dating. She was excited and giggling like a teenager. Her only complaint was that barstools were too difficult to get on. And that the men were ‘all so old’. I bombed at internet dating in my thirties. I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell in my seventies.

Suza Belle’s a great cook and entertainer. A fabulous raconteur. She tells the love story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson (the 7th US President) like she was there, with plenty of creative licence, of course. She travels any chance she gets, cane and vintage Louis Vuitton handbag in tow. She came to Germany to celebrate Christmas with my brother and grandmother. We had the best Christmas ever. She came to my thirtieth birthday party in London and to my wedding in France.

She’s taught me a great deal about making the best of life. About enjoying it to the full, despite what may ail and bug you. If you listen to her story, you’d think she’d have every reason to be bitter and resentful. But she isn’t. It just wouldn’t do.

For her seventieth birthday, her guests were asked to write down their favourite Suza Belle story. It was difficult just chose just one. I could write book full of Suza Belle stories.

Maybe one day I will. In the meantime, I can’t wait for Lilly to meet her.

Suza Belle, Stacey and me

Little Things

 

Friday evening. Time to curl up on the couch. Spend some quality time with hubby. A good reason to keep things short… well, even shorter than usual. And a perfect time for taking a moment to appreciate the little things.

Such as that it’s Friday evening and I have a couch and a hubby (well, he’s hardly little but you get the point). I have a sleeping babe, and I’ve just indulged in a candlelit bath. Been wanting to do that for days. Just kept deciding that other stuff was more important. Like writing, feeding myself… the basic things, really.

I got out of the bath to find my laptop atop a cozy blanket, waiting for me to get all comfy. Alongside a knitting magazine. I am getting takeaway dinner.

And I got a card from my lovely little one, who apparently acquired advanced communication skills (and a scribe) when I wasn’t looking.

Aaaaah, feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Thoroughly spoiled. All loved up.

Happy Friday everyone!

 

 

Mr Right

I got invited to a wedding today. This is exciting. I love weddings. I haven’t been to one since my own and that’s already 3½ years ago. Having written about family yesterday, it got me thinking about relationships. So I invited myself to a trip down memory lane.

I started dating late, or whatever it was called in High School. My first serious crush was on a guy who was in a perpetual on again/off again relationship. I pined after him for months; then resorted to dating his twin brother. Kind of as a consolation prize, I guess. And they weren’t even identical. Talk about literally settling for second best. My next boyfriend broke up with me because he wanted to spend more time with his dog. This is fact, not fiction.

Over the years, I have been with a guy who turned out to be gay. I’ve been asked to shave my pubic hair on a second date. I got dumped by my fiancé of two years, conveniently only just after having moved to a different country to be with him. Stalked by an ex with emails detailing his sex life with previous partners. Broken up with on a long-distance phone call.

My short foray into internet dating bombed when I failed to fully appreciate one guy’s need to be in touch with his inner child; or another’s phone reading of poetry (Rilke ‘Der Panther’). Maybe I just wasn’t New Age enough. Another cancelled our first date on the day because he got back together with his ex-wife the night before.

I’m trying to think what traumatizing things I may have done to any of my exes or interested parties. Aside from the fact that I once dropped off one guy at the airport after a weekend visit only to turn around and go to dinner with another, I’m not coming up with much. Maybe that’s selective memory.

Anyway, this is all for real, I promise. I couldn’t make it up if I tried. Of course most of it wasn’t particularly amusing at the time. But time is a great healer. Brings out the funny side of things.

If you let it. If you let go.

Maybe not straight away, but eventually. I promise. And I’m not making that up either.

Thicker Than Blood

 

The other day, I hinted at how good friends make everything better. My friends are, and always have been, a very important part of my life.

So I thought I would share an article I entered in a writing competition for Elle Magazine in the UK last year. I had heaps of fun writing it and felt full up with gratitude in the process. It’s slightly longer than my usual posts but I’ve been waiting for the right time to share it. Sitting on the sofa with an ice pack on my ankle seems just about as good a time as any so read on…

* * * * *

There’s a saying that blood runs thicker than water. I’m not so sure. Not in my case, anyway. I seem to have spent a good part of my adult life running away from my family roots rather than embracing them. They say you cannot choose your family (although some spiritualists might beg to differ) but you can choose your friends and I guess for me that has mostly been a true reflection of my experience.

I was twenty when I left Germany for good. When I say leaving, I don’t just mean I moved out and started university or a job, in which case twenty might seem a little old. Instead, I made a complete break by leaving the European continent straight from my childhood bedroom. Growing up in a wealthy middle class family, on the surface it seemed I had everything I could have wished for. Everything except closeness. In our family, distance and reserve were nearer to the scale of daily emotions than the love and affection I longed to experience.   

I married young, even though I never thought I would. My husband’s American family showed me unconditional love and acceptance before we had even met. Initially I felt suspicious and did not know how to handle such affection. I suppose I found it hard to believe they were sincere; yet even after our eventual divorce, I am still fortunate to be considered their daughter-in-love and am very close to my ex-sister-in-law and her daughter, my favourite niece.

I’ll never regret moving to the States for love because I found love in a great many other ways. Living in Nashville, I met two of my closest friends in a string of serendipitous events. Jason and I worked in the same hotel and after a morning of combing the countryside for yard sales and vintage finds, we dropped in on his friend Sue (aka Suza Belle) in the middle of nowhere in rural Tennessee. We walked into her mansion filled with both priceless antiques and roadside junk and I instantly felt at home. It was Suza Belle who taught me that we make our own family through the friends we chose – a motto I have lived by ever since.

As I moved my peripatetic self from Nashville to Atlanta, and eventually to London and Brussels, I continued finding my chosen family. Moving from city to city and across continents quickly teaches you to separate your acquaintances from your friends. True friends are the ones with whom you can pick up your connection where you last left off, even though you may not have been in close contact for months or years. They are the ones who get who you are, and accept you with all your flaws and quirky character traits. The ones you can call on when the proverbial shit hits the fan, and the ones you share and celebrate good times with: big occasions like significant birthdays, weddings and joint travels; and small ones like a fabulous dinner or simply an afternoon catching up. They are the ones who travel across borders for a hug and a laugh, let you crash their family Christmases and entertain your 6-week-old daughter while you indulge in your first post-baby pampering session. The ones whom you trust to navigate you down single-lane tracks in a hire car in rural Greece, and the ones who you forgive for occasionally falling asleep during said navigating duties due to the lingering influence of liquid fun from the night before (this being before the advent of satellite navigation, of course). Great friends are also the ones who don’t hesitate to pick up the phone when they need a bit of cheering up themselves. It’s all about giving as well as taking, and I trust that I contribute as much to my chosen family as I receive.

Of course friendships, like all relationships, are not without friction. Some friendships require a lot of effort and not all are destined to last happily ever after. It took me until I was almost forty to learn the latter. I decided to let a very close friendship of almost ten years go and it was hard and awkward, not unlike breaking off an intimate relationship. Naturally, I have committed a few friendship faux pas myself, such as failing to reply for weeks and months to concerned calls and text messages from my best childhood friend when my life was seemingly consumed by international business travel, or letting something slip that I had been told in confidence. Thankfully in both cases, the friendship was strong enough to weather the storm.

 

For all those who might want to judge me for valuing my friends as family, I should probably add that due to my parents’ and most grandparents’ untimely passing, my blood family now is really only a nucleus of one, my younger brother. And now that I have a family of my own, I hope to show my daughter the values of both kinds of families. Because beyond family ties, I guess it’s all about love… and choosing the ones you want to share and celebrate that love with.

* * * * *

Time Out

 

My fabulous self is grounded today. Bad ankle. Not sure how and why. GP (read: doctor) doesn’t know either. But as long as I can put at least 10% of my body weight on it, it’s apparently nothing to worry about. Just take painkillers.

This is bad news for my peripatetic self. I like to be mobile. Out and about. I guess the universe is telling me to take a break.

Which leads me to something I was pondering last week. I was feeling a bit off as I found myself on the losing end of nap negotiations with Lilly. Rob came to the rescue with some slick sling action, leaving me faced with the choice of either taking time out or doing some ‘stuff’.

The whole thing got me thinking about how we can use both action and inaction to either move forward or stay stuck. You can take a rest to recharge, or to just plain hide your face under the cover. You can take action to move forward to what you are here for on this planet; or you can do inconsequential things that distract you from the task at hand. So both action and inaction can be a way of either progressing or procrastinating.

In the end, I did a quick meditation and some journaling (recharging with purpose), followed by some ‘stuff’ around the house to clear space for writing and ‘me’ time that evening. And felt better for it all than simply having surrendered to the sofa, tempting as that option may have sounded. It all reminded me of the saying that ‘imperfect action is better than perfect inaction’, a comment which appropriately enough was also posted on my blog last night.

Today I won the naptime battle. I had to concede to cuddling up on the couch. But while the girl is snoozing, I get to type out a blog post on my phone. You gotta love technology!

As for the rest of the day, I won’t be moving far beyond the four corners of the play mat. Just like Lilly. Maybe my universe decided to shrink down to the size of hers to get us to spend some quality home time today. And as always, it’s all good.

 

PS: And before anyone asks, no – this is not a hooker heel related injury!

Friends and Foes

 

I had a night out last night. Both dinner and a show (planned) and a break from blogging (unplanned). Basically I ended up sleeping on the job. Literally. And I got caught. Wicked. Because that means people are actually reading my stuff!

I saw a bad panto that was made better for being followed by dinner with friends. I had a glass of wine. It was lovely. It hurt my head. Lesson: Don’t kid yourself into thinking that Pinot Grigio will further your creativity when you’ve been largely abstinent for the better part of 18 months. It ain’t gonna happen. But it tasted good!

My consequently slow morning was made significantly better by a hot sugary concoction from a certain favourite coffee shop (not getting paid for product placement… yet). Followed by a morning out with some lovely mummies and babes.

So, beverages and friends basically made both my evening and my day. Greater credit given to the friends, of course. After all, even the best cocktail can’t make you like your enemies. Not that I have many of those, but metaphorically speaking. Then again, I’d be lying if I said the gremlins hadn’t raised their little heads again. They’re not my enemies but they sure aren’t my BFF’s either.

‘You missed a post last night’, they’re saying. ‘So now you’re out of your creative flow. You’ve failed, haven’t you?’ Pesky little buggers. I know none of this is true but man, they make it sound so convincing. Great at cranking up the guilt. It’s tempting to listen; even if you know it’s all a load of poppycock. Codswallop even. Someone said the other day that it’s all about progress, not perfection. I like that. That someone wasn’t a gremlin, of course.

So gremlins, go on – take a night off. Really, you deserve it. Have a glass of wine. And go bother somebody else in the morning. I’ll be busy being fabulous.