Unexpected flow state

I had a pretty great day at work today, unexpectedly.

I arrived in the office completely exhausted and with a major overhaul needed on my UI designs before I go on holiday in two days. As I sat there, barely able to keep my eyes open, and having a hard time understanding the contents of my emails, it seemed unlikely I was going to make it through the day without either falling asleep under my desk or running screaming from the building. (Neither of which has happened to date, but there’s always a first time…)

When I realised I hadn’t yet taken my meds, I figured I’d better do that at least. They haven’t seemed to be helping a lot lately, but on a morning like this morning I need all the edge I can get. I grabbed a coffee, took my medicine like a good little girl, and sat down at my desk with a plan to take it one step at a time and see how much I could get through.

HappyAnd it worked! It never works, and yet I keep trying. (It’s a sign of insanity, apparently.) But today I had that beautiful, blissful experience of settling down to work, and then lifting my head a few hours later to realise that not only is it lunchtime already, but I have a bunch of stuff written down that didn’t exist a little while ago.  (Not fiction writing, which would have been even nicer, but specs and designs, which contextually was more important.)

So I went and had lunch, and chatted with a friend, and headed back early because even though I had been very productive in the morning, there was still a whole bunch to do.

It happened again!

I don’t know if it was the meds, or the coffee, or the impending holiday, or just because it was a lovely sunny day outside, but I got a ton of stuff done, and I might actually get everything prepared before I go away so that it doesn’t all explode while I’m away.

I would like more days like that, please.

(And I wonder if excessive parenthetical asides is also a sign of insanity?)

 
© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit Michael R Perry 2013

The train gang

Today will be mostly spent on a long train journey – with my inlaws, but not with my husband since he will be picking us up at the station.  I expect it will be… interesting.

Either it will be dull and peaceful and I’ll have a longer post later, or it won’t.  Wish me luck!

How to learn?

I was always a bright student, not a good one.

I learned by incorporating new information into the existing web of what I knew, so that once I understood something I was unlikely to forget it again.  Hence I was able to mask my undiagnosed ADHD and my complete lack of study skills successfully enough by piecing together the parts of lessons I had been paying attention to, and making educated guesses.  I didn’t get brilliant marks, but I didn’t fail either.

I never had any particular strength of will, but I could fake it by putting myself into a situation where it was easier to follow through than to give in.  I can also draw on my reserves of stubbornness and bloody-mindedness at a pinch; they can look like willpower and perseverance if you don’t know what’s going on under the surface.

I seem to have missed many of the ‘meta’ lessons which I should have learned at school – I have no strategies for dealing with the frustration of not understanding something, or for persevering when things become difficult and it would be easier to lie down and quit.  I never learned to ask for help in a gracious way; by the time I have to admit to myself that I need to lean on someone else, I’m pretty much going to be a prickly and messy ball of nerves.

I would very much like to retrofit a ‘good character’ on to myself.

Clearly my failure to learn these techniques means that I am a bad person.  This is continually being driven home to me by the sort of writing exercises which attribute strength of will, determination, perseverance, self control and the like to the hero, whereas the villain, or even worse, the comic relief is vacillating and racked with self-doubt.

So the question remains – how to learn?

 

© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit Michael Anderson 2013

Home on the range

We signed the contracts for our new house this morning.  It still doesn’t feel entirely real, and yet I’m starting to get excited about it.

The new house is out in the countryside, a couple of hours’ drive from where we live now.  It’s a very rural setting – the nearest town consists of a small hotel and a grocery/hardware store – but it’s not far from a major road, about ten minutes’ drive from two mid-sized towns, and there are two different cities less than two hours’ drive away.

One of the things I’m excited about is the garden.  There’s a decent sized piece of land with the house, enough to have a pretty little lawn out the front, a deck and barbecue area out back, and plenty of space left over for growing vegetables, and maybe even raising some chickens.

I’m also excited about decorating.  It’s going to need quite a bit of work, since the roof leaks in places, there are some window panes missing, and no kitchen to speak of, but on the other hand that gives us so much scope to set everything up the way we like it.  Having rented for most of my life, and being used to not even putting hooks up on the wall without the landlord’s permission, that amount of freedom is amazing.

Last, but definitely not least, I will be able to set out a space of my own for writing.  There are some old cowsheds beside the house (hereafter called ‘the stables’ because it sounds more elegant) which I have my eye on for converting into a cosy little study all of my own.

If all goes according to plan, we could have the keys as early as next week.  I can’t wait.

Nesting

Well, it’s all excitement in here tonight.  We were all settled in for a long wait for the solicitors to do their thing, not particularly expecting to hear back until September, and then the contracts for our new house arrived in the post this morning!  On top of that, my husband rang me at work at lunchtime to say we can go in and sign them tomorrow!

Wish us luck, world – there’s a whole new life ahead of us.

Proprioception

Proprioception is a great word.  It literally translates as ‘sense of self’, but it’s not some kind of abstract ‘self’ as an individual.  It is a fundamental physical sense, just like one of the five we’re taught about as children.  It’s the sense that tells you where the parts of your body are even when you can’t see them, so that, for example, you can reach behind you for something out of sight.

I saw an amazing documentary when I was younger that had a huge impact on me.  It’s called ‘The man who lost his body’, and it’s about someone who lost his sense of proprioception, and learned to work around it through pure determination.

The ability to overcome obstacles through sheer strength of will has been a fascination of mine for a long time.  Thinking back, I wonder if watching this documentary was where that fascination started.  It’s something I envy – I don’t posess that kind of determination myself, although I’ve been known to make a working replica using a mixture of motivational techniques and bloodymindedness.

Which brings me back to a different ‘sense of self’ – the sort of self that goes with self-image, self-esteem, and self-determination.  Does a high level of motivation require a strong personal identity?  It seems plausible; after all if you’re not even sure who you really are, how can you be certain what you really want?  How can you be so certain that you are willing to sacrifice less important wants and needs in the pursuit of a single goal?

 

(With thanks to A Writer’s Path, who reminded me about proprioception.)

 

 

Cake

On Sunday (after an attack of the Fear) I decided to cut myself some slack and do something unrelated to anything I had to do.  I was planning on doing some knitting with a bunch of nice yarn I bought last year and haven’t done anything with, but then I realised my needles are still in storage.  Not insurmountable, but I didn’t fancy spending Sunday climbing over boxes and trying to figure out which was the magic one.  So I made a cake instead.  Just for the sake of celebrating cake.  Here it is:

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Power and Agency

I realised the other day that my little girl characters are always angry.

“What’s that all about?” I asked myself.

When I think of my childhood, ‘angry’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind.  Sure, it was a bit chaotic; I moved schools a lot, and I was a small, strange, introverted child who never fit in, but I lived for the most part in books and my own imagination and built a warm, safe bubble around myself.

Why would I be angry?

Sure, I felt there was a lot demanded of me.  Things like chores and homework confounded me, and keeping my room tidy seemed like an impossibility.  These were the monsters I battled with.  No matter how safe and warm I felt inside my bubble, they were always waiting just outside to grab me.

And sure, I resented it.  The adults around me made baffling demands, and tried to hold me accountable for things I couldn’t possibly achieve.

Aha, we’re getting somewhere now.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I heard about ADHD, and battled for, and ultimately won a diagnosis and treatment.  Until that point, no matter how much I wanted to do something, now matter how important or how dire the consequences, I never felt there was much I could actually do to change the outcome.

Self-control is a widely admired trait.  And lack of self-control is generally looked down upon.  Society rolls its eyes and looks the other way when one of its members indulges in reckless and self destructive behaviours.  “No self-control,” it mutters.

Let me tell you, it’s no picnic from the other side either.  Feeling like you have no self-control, no control over your self, the one thing which you own completely, is debilitating.  Without the confidence that you can take a decision and follow it through, it’s difficult to develop any sense of agency.

Little wonder then, that my younger self is so angry.  She doesn’t know what’s wrong, or why everything is so difficult, or why the people who have power over her impose these impossible, incomprehensible restrictions on her.  The world is far too arbitrary and scary, so she retreats into her bubble, where it’s logical, and warm, and safe.