Tag Archives: writing

Unsticking the Stuck

Stuck. That’s where I am. Not in the middle with you. Just stuck.

In fairness, today was a day that invited melancholy. It dawned grey and grisly, with a thorough downpour. And not forgetting it was a Monday. Factor in a house undergoing renovations (read: no roof. I repeat: NO ROOF!) and you are probably getting an idea of how my week kicked off. (Ferrying soggy cardboard boxes around as their bottoms fell open spilling my worldly goods on the ground and generally feeling sorry for myself.)

But actually the weather and the worldly goods spilling on the ground weren’t really the problem, if I’m honest. I was just having one of those stuck days. Those days where the awareness of the length of your to-do list weighs so heavily on your shoulders that you can’t hold your head up straight. But equally you’d rather check in on Facebook just one more time rather than face action-ing just one of those suckers. And let’s face it, it’s not your fault. If you can’t hold your head up high enough to look at your to-do list then you can’t really be expected to tackle it, now can you.

So that’s how my Monday went. Avoiding. Sitting. Hitting ‘like’ on Facebook. Letting my woes mount. And then it struck me. The way to become unstuck.

There is no one item on my to-do list right now that will make me feel immeasurably better through doing. But there is one thing. And that thing is writing. Which is why I’m here. Unsticking the stuck.

Please bear with me. And you? What do you do when you need to shake things up? Have you a cure I need to know?

Quick Fix Tips for When You’re Feeling Stuck

Somebody said something really insightful to me today. Something that struck a chord. In fact, it felt more like a clunk settling down within me as a giant piece of a jigsaw fell into place.

And, would you believe it? I can’t actually remember exactly what it was that they said. How dumb is that?

I do know that it was something to do with letting go of fear and allowing yourself to go with the flow. But much more elegantly and cogently put.

I feel a little like words are escaping me right now. I am tongue tied. I can’t express myself how I’d like. But I still have all these amazing thoughts spinning around inside. Moments of recognition and understanding. How do I best express and share them? Is that in fact what I should be doing?

Some things I know for definite. Small things, easy to encapsulate. These can be my jumping off point. My base list.

1. Drinking less alcohol is better for me. For my health, my productivity, my energy and my mood. It is totally worth cutting out alcohol midweek and keeping it to a two drink maximum at the weekend. This more than any other one change can make the single biggest and easiest to achieve difference. I need to remember this. I need to remind myself regularly until it becomes easy, comfortable habit.

2. Exercise. I’ve known for ages that exercise is a fantastic mood and energy mover for me. But try fantasize as I might I have yet to turn myself into a hungry running machine who pounds the tracks come rain or hail and regardless of whether my son wants to go to the park or not. Again, the getting started is so hard. The getting to a point where you’re hooked on the healthy behavior and will move heaven and earth to do it. Which is why the seven minute workout and five minute abs apps are so great. There can be no chance of wriggling out of doing them. Jeez, even the Pope could find seven spare minutes in his day.

3. Writing and Blogging. I’m desperate to get back into my blogging. I love it. Although you would be forgiven for imagining this was not the case given my recent blogging output or rather lack thereof. I need to start again, posting and publishing. Oiling the creaky joints of my writing skeleton. A post a day, come what may. Here or there or anywhere. As long as I write and commit to paper the thoughts and analysis that constantly whirr in my head begging for expression I know that, once again, it will get easier. I will hit my stride, find my flow and the inspiration will come again.

That’ll do for now. A three point plan to start me on the way to happiness, to shake me out of my stupor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy and I have every reason to be content. But there is a little niggle of dissatisfaction, of stuckness, of unfulfilled potential that, if left untended, could prove dangerous. Time to shake things up.

How about you? What quick fix tips work for you when you find yourself stagnating or lacking inspiration?

Mass Motivation

I’m tired and I’m sore and most of all I’m stressed. You know the way. A tight knot sits in my stomach and I want to press it down, ignore it, stifle it with aimless Facebook-trawling and maybe with a beer or two this evening.

And, yes I do know that better coping strategies are available. See: yoga, walks, exercise, deep breathing, long talks with good friends. But somehow, if I’m honest, they are not the first things that spring to mind when I am super-stressed. Nor are they the things that most appeal. If only. Life would be so much simpler then.

But. Despite my innate self-destructive tendencies / stupidity / humanity (delete according to your levels of compassion) there is something that pulls me back on track just as I’m getting set to veer off radically.

You see, one of my best friends is coming to visit me this weekend for a brief climbing trip. And she is currently super-psyched and amped up for training and fitness. She’s been texting and WhatsApp-ing me updates on her progress and posting inspiring/intimidating statuses all over Facebook. It could be depressing but I’ve chosen to look on it as motivating.

I need to at least try and keep up with her. So, despite feeling rubbish and not at all like doing anything, I’m about to haul my lazy ass up off the sofa, go out for a walk and then do some core stability exercises.

And the funny thing is, of course I already know I’ll feel better once I’ve done them. As in, this ball of tension in my stomach will have dissipated somewhat and I’ll be capable of more productive work. You’d think that would be motivation enough wouldn’t you? Somehow it’s not. But the motivation of someone else out there putting the work in and goading/encouraging me into it somehow does the trick.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot actually. Especially in this last month of mega-stress and slings and arrows of outrageous horribleness, when my sanity has in no small way been saved by the simple act of some social spreading of motivation. This is a power that I need to  harness and share.

Watch this space for some forthcoming ideas and experiments.

And what about you? Have you got any ideas, insights or experience of the power of shared or social motivation techniques? Am I making any sense to you? I’d love to hear from you and really hope that you will join me on this journey into happiness.

More happiness for more people – that’s my mantra!

Life’s Ups and Downs

Life has been somewhat up and down of late. That’s the problem with highs; they are, of necessity, followed by lows. The yin to the yang.  You can get to the stage where it’s hard to believe in yourself. Are you just fooling yourself when you’re feeling great? Is it all a sham?

I don’t think so. But I don’t know. What can we ever know 100%? I know that I love my son, more than anything in this world. That much I know 100%. That much is impervious to change. Beyond that, not much. I can’t vouch for the non-changing nature of anything. Everything changes. Everything evolves. Flexibility is our greatest friend. We need to be able to adapt to new situations, accept change and respond accordingly.

It’s not always easy. It can be scary. But it’s life. Constantly changing, ever-evolving, never the same. Wouldn’t it be dreadfully boring if it were otherwise?

A Sign

Is this the sign I asked for, Universe? It certainly feels like a powerful sign, even though it’s not something I would have knowingly requested.

I am so angry right now. Fuming. And as Public Image Limited so rightly sang (yelled?) all those years ago: anger is an energy. And boy do I feel energized right now. And like yelling.

I will have to act on it because my body and mind have united to force me into action. I am literally shaking with adrenalin. Sleep will not come easy tonight, although perhaps more so after typing this out. With each word released on the tiny screen of my smartphone (I’m that desperate to blog that I’m doing it one fingered on my phone!) I can feel my anger drain and my body and mind settle.

But that is not to deny my anger or its validity. It is just to say that by expressing it I am releasing its power.

I have genuinely been wronged, and my partner even more so, by a xenophobic, small minded, lazy, control freak idiot. His actions and attitude I can only describe as unbelievable.

My fear is that they are likely symptomatic of the culture he was born into. The culture I now live in.

As I wrestle with the question of whether I should continue to live here, to raise my son here; for a countryman of this place to behave in this way to me and my partner cannot help but feel like a sign.

Maybe it’s time to go.

The Field

Less than a week ago I was on the verge of giving up on gardening. Let me put this in perspective for you. My ‘garden’ is actually a 1,700m2 ex cow field. Having moved from a city where I had a postage stamp sized back yard to the rolling countryside of northern Spain nearly 8 years ago I decided I wasn’t going to do things by halves. This was my first mistake.

My second, and biggest, mistake was really a corollary of the first. Continuing with the theme of biting off more than I can chew not doing things by halves, that first Spring I got a local farmer in to plough pretty much all of the field so that I could plant vegetables. Of course, I didn’t plant it to capacity. And I certainly didn’t weed it enough. Turned out all I did was create a wonderful space for weeds to invade. Bye bye meadow, hello brambles and thistles. Schoolgirl error.

So, I had taken a large and difficult project and in one fell swoop had multiplied the difficulty level by a factor of 5. And then I got depressed about it and decided to ignore it. You can probably guess how that worked out.

Intermittently over the last few years I have wrestled with my field, trying to tame it into some semblance of cultivation. Over the course of that time I’ve also had a few fairly valid excuses for not getting much done out there – the best part of a year spent with my right arm in a cast, a pregnancy, followed by a small, demanding child. There never seems to have been enough time to really devote to it.

Now my son is 4 and I feel this should be the time. It’s been in my mind that this would be the year when it would all come together. Then last month winter kicked in surprisingly early and viciously. It rained and raged for a full fortnight. I locked myself indoors and sulkily glowered at my sodden field, taunting all my inadequacies through its very visible existence.

I got to the point where I decided that the best course of action (in order to save my sanity) would be to just admit defeat. Focus my efforts elsewhere, on projects that I am better suited to. Work, writing, climbing. Forget the sodding field.

Just as I was right there, on the point of giving up, the sun came out. The sky turned blue and stayed that way. The ‘garden’ beckoned again. Right. I decided that I would focus on one small part of it. The flower borders around the small lawn to the top of the field. I wouldn’t even look at the rest. I was not taking on the challenge of the whole field again. I had already accepted defeat.

So it was that with lowly ambitions I took my son to hang out in (a small portion of) the field. We pottered around in the sunshine and I slowly began to remember how much I actually enjoy it. This being outdoors, this digging in the earth, this clearing of weeds to reveal neglected fruits and flowers.

After a few hours my back is aching but my heart is lightened. I take a moment to lean on my hoe and I dare to raise my eyes from the flower bed beneath my nose to take in the wider vista of the field. It looks different somehow. I can see how I might break it down into manageable chunks of work. Now I can see how much I can achieve in just a few hours of steady, solid labour concentrated on one small section my brain is calculating possibilities differently.

That was 5 days ago. The weather has held fair and we have spent all day every day of a 4 day weekend in the garden. My son has helped me with planting and taking cuttings and run around happily with his friend from next door. At night he has collapsed into bed and fallen asleep in seconds. I have enjoyed watching him reveling in nature and playing happily in the outdoors. This in itself would be enough. Add to it that I have continued to chip away at the gargantuan gardening task that lies before me and I am almost in nirvana.

Yet again I realize that the darkest point is right before the dawn. Being on the verge of giving up can force you to re-evaluate your perspective and re-draw your goals. Great joy can follow from near despair.

No One Thing

There is no one thing that you can do or that can happen that will change everything for you. No one thing that will make everything better. No one thing that can or should define your life and who you are.

Life is about lots of things. The good and the bad and the whole heap of stuff in between. Life is the sum of all of these and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

So don’t pin your hopes on any one thing or any one person or any one philosophy to get you through. Just keep on doing all the things that life asks of you. The big and the small. The grand gestures, the game changers and the small, seemingly trivial acts too. The form filling, the minutes spent chatting to an elderly neighbour, the laundry, the housekeeping.

We can’t always be engaged in the most edifying or exciting of activities. Even astronauts have to clear the dishes from time to time. And these small, mundane, monotonous activities underpin the more dramatic moments of our lives. They are the solid basis on which we create the airy opportunities.

So don’t resent them as taking you away from your bigger goals. Embrace them mindfully. You may just get the inspiration for that novel you so desperately want to write when you’re in the middle of washing up. Or if not, at least you’ll have a pleasant space in which to sit while you wrack your brains.