Inky past times

The photo above is not a tattoo. It was part of a costume that I wore one Halloween when I dressed up as a Deatheater. I painted it with body paint freehand early on in the day. I got some very suspect looks whilst I was walking around my local supermarket wearing my ordinary skirt, top and heels. Clearly, a tattoo of a skull and snake was not in keeping with that particular outfit. It did go much better with my ominous black cloak that I wore later in the evening. But on the inky front, I have two tattoos.

My first I got whilst on a seaside holiday when I was nineteen. I initially wanted a floral design on my hip, but the tattooist advised that having a tattoo on my hip would be very painful, so to go for a more fleshy area. So I went for the base of my back, nowhere close to the bone. And I decided on a new design, a little Chinese character meaning ‘friend’ (and have checked, it really does mean that!). This was before it was super on trend, not that it particularly mattered. When choosing to permanently mark my body, it is important for me to like what I am permanently marking it with! I still like it now, despite what everyone told me at the time.

My Mum was neither shocked nor horrified (though some of her friends were) when I got as she, as she put it ‘knows what I am like’. For many years after I flirted with the idea of a second tattoo, but could never find a design that appealed enough.

Wehn I was around thirty-six I found my design. I had not been looking for anything specific, but I was reading something about Eric Carle who is one of my favourite children’s authors. He wrote a book called ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. He said that he wrote this book because he wanted children to know that there was always the possibility for change. This sentiment resonated with me massively. I had made some fairly major breakthroughs at the time, and suddenly, I knew what my tattoo would be. It would be the beautiful butterfly at the end.

If you have never read the book (and if you have not, I would definitely encourage!) then the butterfly at the end isn’t a traditional pretty symmetrical one, it is a glorious mismatch of colour and pattern. Within around two months from reading the quote, the butterfly now has a residence on my back. It took four hours, it was a lot of ink.

Both pieces of ink still make me gloriously happy. I have had negative comments. One from a lady in a sports changing room, asking me why I have a tattoo in a place that I cannot see. I explained that my back is a big canvas. She was relentless in her questioning (around five minutes, the time it took me to get changed), so much so she was making everyone else feel uncomfortable, but I answered her questions calmly. I guess she needed to vent that day and was disappointed by my lack of energised response. I also had a boyfriend who told me that it was like looking at scars and that I wasn’t to get any more, speak to anyone with or talk about my own, but that is worthy of a whole other blog. However, mostly I have had massively positive responses to my pretty ink, and this does make me happy. My choices for how I decorate my body are utterly my own.

Map Point. When have I felt compelled to change myself because of someone else?



A time for all possibilities

For the mess of other people, I am marvellous. I can look at someone’s untidiness and see instant ways to make it simple, more streamlined, more efficient. But for my own, I cannot. It isn’t the mess I want to think about today, but my rationale for wanting to tidy up in the first place.

It isn’t that I never want to tidy up, sometimes I feel super motivated and I am a super busy buzzing bee. Other times, I simply traverse around my house simply ignoring whatever clutter I have created. I find it interesting that I can vary between these two states with such intensity.

If someone is coming to my house that I don’t know very well, then generally I have a mad set to round the house, which would involve actually cleaning and tidying the kitchen, throwing all mess into the back room and hoovering all the new carpet that I find that has not seen light of day since the last time a mad set to took place. I guess this sort of clear stems from the guilt that I not adulting better and an expectation that I should be. My house growing up was generally always a space of tidy and calm. Except for my room which was mostly my own personal haven of chaos. It would be fair to say that this is a dominant personality aspect!

I think that I am in a phase now where I no longer feel the compulsion to tidy up when friends come over. This feels to be a good thing, I am more accepting of myself. But will there ever come a time where tidying up, living in a space of calm is something that I actively want to achieve?

The idea of living in a house where I can find everything without having to turn half the house upside down really does appeal. Getting rid of stuff that I don’t want I would like to be easy. Currently, there is a phased system for this.

  1. Put stuff I don’t want in a bag
  2. Look at the bag for a good few weeks, sometimes longer
  3. Re-sort bag, removing items that I cannot be parted with
  4. Make the brave step to actually take it to the charity shop
  5. Think about what I have taken for a goodly while afterwards

I don’t yet feel that there are any good ways to speed up this system with experiencing a tonne of regret, but I am optimistic that eventually, I will want a more tranquil residence to abide in. I think for me going forward, it is the possibility that I could change, rather than believing myself to be stuck. And for tonight? I will sit happily with the prospect that there are many new challenges ahead.

Map Point. What aspect of myself do I believe could never change?



The birds on the rooftops

I found myself listening to the birds singing their evening tweetings and was suddenly aware that my eyes were leaking. The massive panoramas of beautiful vast places are easy to feel a sense of awe about. A sense of spirituality. I think that we all find this in our day to day, generally without even thinking about it. This world is a place filled with possibility, and we are people of much curiosity.

It is seriously easy to assess our time with negative things, to mark off the milestones with the disappointments and hardships. But what if we marked off our time by the things that have amazed us, by the things that have elevated us. That would be better.

I went to university when I was twenty-five and made a conscious decision not to share any of my sad stories. Before this, I had sort of carved my personality around them. It wasn’t that I was always unhappy, as there were definite ‘up’ times, but I didn’t understand myself well enough to be able to maintain that for extended periods of time. So sad stories became something of a theme. However removing all my sad stories, it transpires, wasn’t enough to make me happy. So I began to make changes.

For me, change wasn’t an all overnight thing. I have the deepest admiration for those who can make decisive cuts into their lives and have the tenacity to stick with it. So from my mid-twenties, changes have been small.

I think that the purchase of me new rock boots marked a new era (aged twenty five). They are massive, they are striking, they are happiness in the shape of a boot. I stand over six foot when I wear them (the platform is intense!). However the boots themselves are utterly arbitrary, but it’s how when I wear them that’s important. And I feel amazing. The same applies when I dye my hair. My hair when I was small was a rich chestnutty auburn, but has faded up over the years. And as such, I occasionally put a bit of colour in it. My favourite would likely be a bright post box red. The feeling that I get when I change my physicality, be it through different clothes, hair or make up, gives me an instant inherent confidence, I feel like the person that I am meant to be.

In understanding the link that my physical self has on my mental state was empowering. But it didn’t change the basic way I was feeling, it could provide a short term boost, but nothing that could be sustained (I now understand why some people obsessively clothes shop!). Then after my daughter’s dad left, things started to change emotionally for me. I learnt who I wanted to be. This was the first time in my adult life that I had been single for a sustained period of time, and I also had a three year old to take care of too. It was scary, my Mum’s support was invaluable, and I coped. I developed a strong circle of friends around me, people that I could genuinely rely on, which although I had epic friends before, I acquired more! Through these beautiful friendships, I learnt so much more about me. For the first time, I could see my strength. And from that position, I started to see beauty and my place in my world.

The birds are still tweeting.

Map Point. What changes have I made recently?



Moment of clarity

This morning I have been thinking about when I was a child and my relationship with my Auntie Joan. She wasn’t a real auntie, but one of my mum’s best friends who lived across the road. I liked her well enough but in truth, the most massive appeal of Auntie Joan was that she let me rearrange her food cupboards. I would order, categorise by type and shape, and bring a sense of tranquillity to the cupboard which was above her breakfast bar. It was an activity that filled me with joy.

Thinking about this stemmed from a conversation that I had last night with Will. We were talking about the benefits of having a personal assistant in a somewhat jokey sort of way. I started off by thinking that it would be good to have someone to bring physical order to my life, someone to tend my kitchen, then I realised that I could do this perfectly well. Then I thought about my paperwork, and how nice it would be to have someone to organise it. This one took a bit longer to process, but it eventually occurred to me that I am good at this too, just not actively so in my own life.

I organise events, run accounts, coordinate activities and a host of similar things. I can look at someone else’s paperwork and see immediate clarity, I know where things are meant to go. I have an inbuilt Dewey decimal system in my head; I can always see how much better things could be.

So thinking back to how I felt about organisation as a child (it’s amazing! it’s phenomenal!) and to my situation now where helping others to make sense of their chaos comes easily, (but applying this to my own life feels trickier). I started to ponder the interim years. What prevented me from applying this incredible skill to my life?

Then I thought about the videos. Am sure that I have blogged on this before, likely in reference to hoarding, but I think I somewhat understated the organisation involved in this. Each video was diligently numbered and labelled, and kept strictly in its row. I believe there was also a reference folder so that I could simply flick through the pages, locate the program that I wanted and instantly locate without having to sift through every tape. It was an elegant system.

At the same time, I knew it wasn’t healthy to have to record everything I watched, I knew that what I was doing edged on a sort of hysteria, but quietly. The tapes became an area that I could perfectly control, there was no loss or corruption, everything was precisely as it should be. And this juxtaposed with being at school, where bullying made my life a scary place. Maybe at this point, perhaps even subconsciously, I knew that I had tarnished my love of order. Now when things become too organised, too neat in my life, I feel uncomfortable, as I have linked this to feelings of being out of control. Only I am not experiencing that sort of pain anymore, I am genuinely excited and happy to be entirely me, my life is brilliant! Only now that me, when things get to tidy, decides that it would be a super great plan to pull out entire cupboards worth of stuff, which I can then feel at ease with. Only at a deeper level, I really am not.

So moving forward, I see the link that no longer serves me. Being organised is not a pollution, it is a straightforward thing that enables me to have a life where I can do more of what I love. It creates simplicity. And this is exceptional.

Map Point. How can I understand my motivations better?


No more television

Growing up, screen time was important to me. I watched a lot of television; soaps, dramas, cartoons, and it was marvellous. I also had a distinct love of cinema from an early age, keeping all my movie tickets (I still do this now). I loved screen time. Then came the ZX Spectrum and Nintendo consoles, my life as a gamer manifested! This didn’t really change too much through my twenties, and with the arrival of somewhat cheaper (not after 6pm) internet, my screen time then included the internet too.

Then in my early thirties, I lived in a house that did not have good television signal, despite the boosters that were purchased and the aerial wiggling that was carried out. So the decision was made to abscond from the picture box. There was also no internet in this house either, which made screen time incredibly limited to the occasional film, or PC based game. This was a big change, but it felt to be an important one. I read more. I socialised more. I found myself spending more time cooking, playing board games, more time for lots of things that had previously not taken any precedence.

So for the last eight years of my life, I have existed without watching television. I spend a lot of time on the internet now so my guess would be that whatever time you have, you will invariably fill with something. But it’s people’s reactions to me not watching television that surprised me, I am generally asked what I do with all the free time that I must have. And then I started to wonder that if we perceive time as ‘free’ then what are our genuine thoughts on sitting in front of a screen?

When I first stopped watching TV, there was more time for other things, but as with anything, it came with its drawbacks. Gradually my evenings became less about the extra fun stuff and more about finishing domestic tasks. Many of my friends who watch TV seem to have a natural cut off point from being domestic – as soon as their first evening program starts. They sit down, with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and their evening begins. The TV provides the permission to stop.  I can easily still be tending to washing or clearing the kitchen late into the evening; I don’t have that cut-off.

This has been a recent observation and something that I am going to change. I want more of the fun stuff.

Map Point. Where am I losing time?