makar [ˈmækər]
n (Literature / Poetry) Scot a creative artist, esp a poet
[a Scot variant of maker]

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Be careful. Don't read too much news." This is what my doctor said to me last time I saw her. Wise words, especially when addressing someone with a baby in their belly and anxiety. And yet, it's pretty hard to turn away and block out all that is happening in the world right now. I used to be a news addict before I had children. I listened religiously to radio news, read the newspapers, checked the websites all day long, and when, after university, I didn't have a job for a few months (just a string of unpaid work experience placements, two in national newspapers), I obsessively watched coverage of the Iraq war.

Once I became a mum, I stopped; I just couldn't stomach it anymore. It was a matter of survival. The small, immediate world of caring for my children couldn't exist alongside this huge, deeply troubling museum of horrors, so I turned away from it. But, of course, you can't live in a bubble forever; to ignore anything that doesn't directly impact on you is a kind of wilful negligence. It is to be complicit in some way with the bad things that are happening. So I started listening and reading again (although I draw the line at television news and have happily survived without a television for more than a decade), and to care about what was going on beyond my narrow day-to-day world. Anxiety is an entirely normal response to the news and yet, I believe it's important to know these things. I also have to function, as we all do, on another scale and, to do so, I need to be my own censor.

We apologise for worrying about the little things, for our "first-world problems", but this is what anchors us, this is what stops us from spinning out of control. I need to worry about what to cook for dinner, to fret over the kids' behaviour and friendships, to write lists of baby names and shopping and odd jobs, to procrastinate over my work, and to deliberate about the rickety fence and the higgledy piggledy garden and the mismatched furniture. It's a question of finding the balance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

So it's a pretty standard holiday story. You go away and the kids swim and walk and cycle all day, eat foods that are normally treats, sleep well because they are physically exhausted, and are generally very happy to be lavished with attention from two parents and allowed to do all the things they love to do. Meanwhile, you watch on, delighting in the way it ought to be, this raising kids malarky, maybe even manage to read an entire book, actually have a conversation or two with one another, and inevitably indulge in the-why-don't-we-move-here-fantasy. And of course, we did do all this last week. We'd planned a business, selected a street to live on, even noticed a possible school...but it was all a FANTASY. Just part of going away to a different place and doing things differently and wondering what if... I love where we live and I have no real desire to move anywhere else, but still, there is something special about going away and seeing an alternative way of being. So rather than pack our bags, we decided to think about what made being on holiday better than not being on holiday, and to attempt to bring some of those things back with us to our everyday life. I won't bore you with all the details but let's just say less technology is good, so is lots of unscheduled time, cooking together seems to make eating together a lot more enjoyable, and spending as much time as possible outdoors in nature makes everyone happier. Simple, right?


Monday, January 2, 2017

I love the end of the year - it brings a sense of closure and introspection and the opportunity to instigate some changes. In the last few days of 2016, I thought about what I want to focus on over the coming year and, in particular, over the next five months before our baby is due. I jotted down a list of what I'd like to achieve in this brief window of semi-freedom, while my third is in full-time education and my baby is still self-contained. It was an ambitious list, but not one beyond the realms of possibility. I'm hoping it will keep me on track. We shall see...

But a list is not a resolution and, by New Year's Eve, I still hadn't decided on one. Where to begin? There are so many things that I could do better, so much room for improvement. And then it came to me: something simple and entirely possible that would improve my well-being and my productivity. I would resolve to write every single day, no matter what. It needn't be a 1000-words of fiction, or anything meaningful or even good; I just need to write, be it a scrawled paragraph of a novel, a new plot-line development, a quick character sketch, a rant about a personal encounter or experience, an observational description of the colours or smells or feel of the day, even a blog post... just write every day.

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