26 June 2006

Rain or shine?

A sky like today (if you’re not in Oxfordshire, just to let you know, it’s GRIM: it’s grey and it rains a fair bit, enough to fill our water butts!) reminds me what it could actually be like on our wedding day. Horror! I try not to think about the kind of weather it might be that day, but sometimes, it’s impossible not to wonder. The wedding is now less than four weeks away (I just can’t believe it!) and every now and again, I want to stop somebody in the street and ask them: ‘Do you know what the weather will be like on 22nd July?’. Sometimes it feels like the words really will come out of my mouth. Sometimes I feel that somebody will know for sure. But of course, until the day before, nobody will know, really.

When I remember what the weather was like on 26th July last year, when we first saw the venue, I shiver. It was grey, not very warm, and even if it wasn’t raining, I really hope it won’t be that bad on 22nd July this year...

In a few weeks’ time, I’ll be Mrs Y, after being Miss X for nearly 30 years... It will feel strange for a while, but at the same time I can’t wait to change my name. It’s been such a hard name to carry, all these years. Mind you, Y is just as difficult to understand and spell. But it will define me in a different way: I'll be French, with a weird Corsican first name, married to an Englishman, with a funny, always-have-to-spell-it last name...

Doing too much

(This was actually written on 7th April 2006. I was going to edit it before posting it, but then never found the time or energy – until today.)

Are there not enough things to do in life? Is it not enough to have to get up, go to work (or stay at home but work nonetheless, as the case may be), come back, cook, do the washing-up, clean the house, tend to the garden and the cat, pay the mortgage, update the monthly budget, email one’s friends, speak to the said friends over the phone every now and again too? Why do I, on top of all this, also put pressure on myself to go to the gym, write this article, write that short story, finish my distance writing course, edit my photographs, write my blog, of course – and not only that, write two blogs (there is one in French somewhere in the ether as well!) – write a novel in French, make nice photo albums with my pictures, and now, also, finally, walk my 10,000 steps a day?! (13,000 today!)

Some of these things are laudable – actually, all of them are, it’s just that combined together, they tend to make me become crazy and feel like a zombie, unable to function properly, walking like a disarticulated skeleton. This is what happened to me two weeks ago, after running for 20mn on the treadmill (as well as doing my whole exercise routine) three days in a row (well, two days in a row and then another day after a 24-hour ‘rest’!), when I hadn’t run since I was 18, for the baccalaurĂ©at! I was proud of myself on Day 3, but not so much on Days 4 to 7! So I gave myself a two-week break and tonight I went back to the gym for the first time. I still ran on the treadmill, but just for 8mn, and altogether I was in the torture chamber for 50mn – much more reasonable. I listened to my body very attentively and slowed down as soon as there were signs of a slight weakening. I’m feeling quite good as a result, as opposed to a thousand-year-old mummy.

This is one of the reasons why I haven’t written much in here. After the huge and quick descent to hell (exhaustion) 10 days ago, I decided I really, really, really had to slow down and stop doing so much. It was a big wake-up call. I had had it before, but after a while I had forgotten about it. This time, I am going to make sure I don’t forget.

The other reason for not writing much here lately is because I took part in a travel writing competition and 1) I was busy writing three articles that I wanted to enter, and 2) I was horrified to see my name in big letters across my screen when I checked the competition website (they posted all the articles that were entered, and the results will be announced by 30 April). It was quite a harrowing experience. Most people would be impressed and quite chuffed – I was mortified and very scared, especially when I told my boss and her colleague, along with a few colleagues and friends, about it and they looked at the website. I suddenly thought: ‘What if they think it’s crap? What if they think I probably won’t win? What if they think it’s not interesting? What if they think “Why does she even bother?”’. I just wanted to hide and never show my face ever again.

This taught me a great lesson and made me realise one huge thing. It had entered my mind before, but I had dismissed it, having not looked at it properly, I think. This time, I have, and it all became very obvious and very right: the only reason why I want to be published is because I want some recognition, I want to be acknowledged, I want to be valued. Those murky waters I have mentioned before, that is what they are – a lack of recognition from my parents and family, and therefore a huge lack of confidence, self-esteem and self-worth deep within me. Two weeks ago, I realised: and would being published achieve what I badly need? No, of course not! But most importantly, I became aware that I was chasing a dream, and maybe not that I would never reach it for real, but that the whole pursuit was preventing me from enjoying the present, the very thing I am also trying to get pleasure from and live fully... It suddenly became very clear to me that this carrot (publication) was dangling in front of me, a stone’s throw away, and was likely to be out of reach for a very long time, and that I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice all my life to catch and eat that elusive carrot. 1) It might never happen, 2) even if it does, the price to pay to get there is far too high to even contemplate any more.

And so I decided to stop writing – the ‘for the sake of trying to get published’ kind of writing. From then on, I was only going to write for my own pleasure, with absolutely no pressure. Writing is a business, and as such it needs to be taken seriously if one ever wants to get published. Well, I’m not one of these people any more. The others can take it as seriously as they like, they can spend hours slaving over words and sentences and pages and rewrites, they can worry about the advance they’re going to get (or not), the kind of contract they will be able to obtain from their agent or publisher, about writer’s block, about fame – but I’m not going to take part in this dangerous game, I don’t want to any more.

Since I made this big decision, I have been feeling such relief, it’s amazing! I can read my writing magazine and think ‘Ah ah, I don’t need to do that!’ or ‘Ah ah, it doesn’t concern me!’ and rejoice in the knowledge that never again will I put pressure on myself to finish a piece of writing and to send it to a competition in time. I don’t care any more. That is not what life is about for me any more. That life is too stressful, and I give myself enough stress every day about little things. From now on, I am going to write only when I feel like writing, and write only what I feel like writing, not following the rules, not caring about characterisation, plot and dialects – I am just going to write what I know how to write, for my own pure pleasure, and sod the rest of them!

So you might read me here a bit more often again...!