Sometimes my posts practically write themselves.
They seem to leap out of my head, travel through my fingers and appear almost fully formed on the screen in front of me.
These are the ones that I write in my head, all day long as things happen around me when I find moments of interest or insight.
At other times there is either a void in my thought process – or even more painfully (but thankfully relatively rarely) a completely blank page.
The blanks arrive oddly not because I have too little to say – but instead because there’s just too much – and I become aware that there are deeper forces at work.
Sometimes writing is a catharsis – but paradoxically also realising why you can’t is similarly thought provoking and it too can eventually provide insight.
One recent (significant) decision I’ve made was rooted partially around a realisation of why a creative drought had arrived.
That particular choice will no doubt be discussed at a later date – but to give you a window into the inner workings of my mind here are a few paragraphs that started, but never reached a published conclusion.
I started constructing the following entry several times during the week – mostly in the dead of night – and always with the same result.
I became annoyed with myself and I shut down.
(This was the final attempt.)
It’s 2am on Wednesday morning and I can’t sleep.
No matter what I do I don’t seem to be able to stop thinking about random things and it’s one of those moments where you have a head full of thoughts but answers to almost none of the questions that arise from them.
I’m aware too that many of them (at least for the time being) are unresolvable both in my head and reality.
I’ve just got to let most of them play out and see where they end up.
Outside it’s raining, so rather than waste the rather wonderful ambient silence that appears to be accompanying it (there is no traffic or animal noise, just the sound of running water) I’ve decided to sit downstairs with the back door wide open on a folding patio chair and listen to it.
It’s pitch black in my kitchen and I’m seated in just my underwear with my legs crossed absorbing the sound and scent of the rain whilst typing.
There’s a gentle breeze that’s not quite cool enough to make me get dressed but sufficiently chilly to ensure that I have slightly cold feet.
It’s not an unpleasant sensation though because the temperature has helped slow the beating of my heart…
…and it’s not until I typed and read those last few words back that I realise it was (until I came downstairs) faster than it is now.
(I check it on Apple Watch)
I know that in the great scheme of things that it’s currently pretty slow.
Physically I’ve barely moved for the last 20 minutes but mentally (before I came downstairs) I was all over the place and I realise now that what’s happening to me both at night and during the day is a form of anxiety.
I’m thinking about life issues without vocalising or resolving tensions surrounding them and the impact of turning all of this inwards and trying to ignore it is dribbling into other things.
Over the last month or so this phenomenon has been on the rise but I’ve not recognised it for what it is.
It’s odd because until very recently I didn’t feel this way at all. I tended to see it a lot in others but not when I looked in the mirror.
Whenever possible I’ve tried to process and deal with things as they happen rather than bottling them up.
(I get angry with myself – stop typing and return to bed without finishing but decide not to delete it.
Back to today…)
I don’t want to be seen as an unhappy person and I don’t feel comfortable (even now) writing a post following a similar string of posts that paint me in what I consider to be an unflattering light.
I don’t want to appear like I can’t adequately cope with things – or that I’m wallowing in thoughts when I should just be getting on with life – but clearly running away from writing about how I really feel and exploring this has consequences.
This last week I’ve also been withdrawing a bit again (despite saying I wouldn’t) and trying to solve my own problems in isolation without people around me – and the truth is I just can’t.
I can’t do without them around me – and even when I don’t feel like I can cope with company (have you ever wondered why on earth anyone would want to talk to you when you feel down?) when I force myself to do it there’s almost always a positive outcome.
Last night I was invited to a small social gathering at a Unionist Club locally.
There was live music, some people I knew (it was an ex-colleague’s birthday) and many people I didn’t know.
After the band finished (and I could finally hear myself think) I spent more time talking to the various people there. As the night slowly drew to a conclusion and I talked to them more and more I began to notice a growing inner calm.
It came from human contact.
It came from surrounding myself with it even though (before I arrived) I had felt like sitting alone and withdrawing inside my own head.
Today this continued – and despite not really wanting to I got up and went out really early for a walk.
The world looked wonderful at 7am.
All of the flowers and bushes were covered in little glistening dewy droplets that made them sparkle in the warming sunshine that was slowly peeping over the nearby trees.
As I walked my post was finally coming together. It would be about the band who played the night before (the Zephyrs) and the people that I met.
I’d chatted to some real characters who asked a lot of probing questions about my weight loss. My responses and theirs were still rattling around my mind.
Eventually I sat down outside a pub in Warwick with a coffee – some six and a half miles later.
The square was quickly coming to life.
It was market day – and as I sat nearby the fruit stalls as they laid out their wares in the cool of the shady square my fingers started a new blog.
It would be about my walk in the sunshine and the huge baking potatoes on the nearby stall that would barely fit in my oven, let alone a microwave.
Why on Earth were they so big? The tomatoes nearby were larger still!
Who was growing these massive vegetables?
These thoughts however were unexpectedly interrupted by passing friends who stopped to say hello and ultimately decided to delay their planned breakfast to sit with me for a drink and chat.
They had not long returned from holiday and were keen to show me some pictures of a lovely little corner of the world in Spain – where the hillsides seemed to go on forever and in the distance there were mountains.
‘They’re occasionally covered with snow too!’ my friend said as she pinched and zoomed in and out of the image on her screen.
The mountains looked impossibly picturesque, framed by an impossibly blue sky and for a brief moment I found myself fantasising about walking over them.
It looked lovely – and they both looked happy.
I forgot what I was typing my blog – because I was enjoying talking to them and chatting about life.
I was also fantasising about going exploring in a place with endless vistas and snow capped peaks.
This made me feel better still and my post once more evolved in my mind as we parted company and I walked away.
The flow was being directed toward our conversation. Maybe it would be about swimming pools and villas in Spain with views and hills to walk over. Maybe it would be aspirational. Maybe I too would go to Spain one day and see the mountains for myself.
Now wasn’t the time to finish it though. Now was the time to make my way to Slimming World.
Not just yet though.
On the way I walked idly into a charity shop, and as I quickly browsed I noticed a rack of jackets.
There was a new (still with tags!) grey Jasper Conran one in my size for only £12.50!
I slung it over a my shoulders and it seemed to fit perfectly.
The arms were just the right length!
It also appeared to suit my casual outfit rather well, so I bought it, pulled the price label off, popped it on and headed to my group in the sunshine with a smile on my face.
Today was a different group entirely.
It felt weird.
All week long I’d avoided my scales and tried not to think about Slimming World or whether I’ve doing good (or bad).
I’ve instead tried to stick to plan – have been on it sometimes and not at others – but more than anything I’ve been trying to do away with guilt and worry and just live life.
The theory behind this (following my chat with Angie after group last week) was that I wanted to attend, not weigh in, listen to the talk, feel good in my clothes and remain focused without it all being about a number.
As a target member I don’t have to weigh in EVERY week any more and I don’t have to tie myself in knots, or feel any guilt if I don’t want to.
It felt slightly unsettling to not see a number or have the certainty of knowing exactly how heavy I was but it also felt good.
Somehow I was still in the zone but had no idea what the scales said.
I walked away and as I did the narrative continued to write itself in my head.
It would be a charity shop victory – a moment of shopping triumph – enabled by a shrunken waistline and feeling positive about clothes and life – all bookended by the people I’d seen the night before, that morning in Warwick and also those in my group.
Until the phone rang.
My friend was free earlier than expected and wondered if I wanted to go for a walk before the time we’d planned.
The narrative stopped in my head. I’d have to pick it up later. Walking was way more fun.
My mental typewriter had the page pulled out of it, screwed up and the contents thrown in a little ball towards a brain bin with a basketball hoop.
I changed and headed over to her house.
We’d decided to walk along the canal from Hatton towards Knowle and it seemed like a lovely day for it.
To the ‘Tom o the Wood’ and back again was ten miles and it was always a wonderfully quiet stretch of waterway.
It was prime twalking territory.
It seemed that we both needed it.
There was a lot to chat about and both of us had been thinking complex thoughts about how the week had been progressing.
Nothing felt simple in each of our lives and yet in the sunshine as we talked it through nothing seemed overwhelming.
Life was just floating along and occasionally it was gliding over and serenely nibbling the grass.
By the time we reached the pub my feet were beginning to tire though.
I settled for some pickled eggs and a large coffee as a reward and we stopped to sit under a parasol at a table in the shade for an hour as we recuperated.
My watch said I’d nearly hit 14 miles so far that day and for some reason pickled eggs and coffee felt like an appropriate way of celebrating.
We sat chatting next to a quirky sign in the beer garden and gossiped as our feet recovered.
The sun was shining and as we set the world to rights all the while my narrative was shifting in my head.
I watched her laughing as we talked.
Now it was about the ridiculousness of pickled eggs.
Who discovered that eggs could be pickled and who tried to eat one first?
For that matter who discovered vinegar and pickled anything before deciding to eat it?!
The blog would be about the ridiculousness of pickles – the people that make and eat them and swans on the canal.
We left the pub and as we headed back I took a picture, which (for the umpteenth time that day) my mate shamelessly photobombed.
I put my phone away and we continued home – the topic now shifting to blackberries – of which there were millions.
We walked as we talked and munched.
As we did so she stung her index finger on a nettle whilst picking them. It was her first nettle sting it seemed.
As she complained about the sensation and hopped up and down I rubbed a nearby docleaf into the sting.
‘You just scrunch up the underside and rub it into your finger to anaesthetise a nettle burn.’ I advised.
‘It’s amazing how the remedy for the sting always grows next to the nettles.’ I reflected.
I plucked another juicy, fresh and green docleaf and handed it to her.
‘If it starts again use this.’ I said – and she held onto it as we headed back to Hatton.
Nature. That would be the theme.
Nature, it’s circle of life and pickled eggs.
How did nature provide such a wonderful remedy that was always a few feet away (a possible metaphor for life) and how did people discover pickled eggs.
I liked it.
Weird discoveries and nature.
Upon arriving home (now with almost 20 miles on my clock) I decided to eat and cooked myself a chilli.
As I ate the food (which was delicious!) my blog came into view.
The lovely day along the canal, the swan, the chat, the food and the coffee.
And pickled eggs.
Pickled eggs are weird.
Then I fell asleep.
Four hours later I awoke to a text from my friend – a moment of thought that she wanted to share – and my narrative reformed again.
It would be about people.
Pure and simple.
They were the common theme in all of this.
There wasn’t a magical formula and pickled eggs were just eggs in vinegar.
The attempts to write that had failed had all stalled with anger – and all had concluded inside my own head.
They’d died before reaching the page and expired alone on a bleak literary battlefield – without the intervention of external medics to patch them up and return them to the fight.
Within less than 24 hours of filling my life with people and their quirky stories or perspectives I was alive again.
My thoughts were racing – and not in a bad way this time – because my pulse was even and I was relaxed.
There was no anxiety and the post had written itself (as all the best ones do) because my thoughts were outside of my head.
They had been liberated by others rather than being trapped in solitary confinement – forever trying to escape but not being able to pick the locks alone.
They had climbed out of my mind via the companionship of people and the ability that they all gave me to normalise my sometimes insular patterns of dealing with problems.
When I don’t force myself to be with others and I try to solve everything myself I always end up stumbling eventually.
When I do internet then posts just flow – because they’re filled with the life and friendship of others.
Some (like this one) practically write themselves.