Turning the dial round one notch

On Sunday, I put a cardigan on under the linen jacket that I’ve been wearing all summer. Yesterday I swapped my Birkenstocks for ‘proper’ shoes before I left the house.  Today I put an extra layer on top of my outfit.  Three days in a row, therefore it’s official: we’re moving towards autumn and it’s time to turn the wardrobe dial around one notch.

I have to say that I’m excited.  My new (well second-hand but new to me) houndstooth check coat is hanging expectantly on the outside of my wardrobe.  Inside the doors, the clothes are begging for a re-jig, with the woollens moving to centre stage and the linens to the side, the open toed sandals giving way to boots. 

It may not be full-on gloves and scarves weather for some months yet, but it’s definitely getting cool enough for a nice cardigan.  And that makes me very happy indeed.

A nice surprise

On Friday evening, I got home late from having dinner with a friend.  I was in a very jolly mood, buoyed up by lovely food and several hours of non-stop conversation.  My mood was temporarily dampened by the ominous HMRC envelope that had arrived.  Assuming it contained bad news, like ‘you owe us £1 million by 1st September’, I gingerly opened it, knowing that I couldn’t simply ignore it until the morning.  And lo and behold, it wasn’t a demand for a million pounds!  On the contrary, they owe me money.  It took several re-readings before I felt confident that this was the case, but it is true.  I am getting a rebate of almost £900. 

As my friend had requested a ‘I’m home safe’ text, I duly messaged her with news of my nice surprise.  Her response spoke well of my relationship with money: amazing, she said, but remember to treat yourself with it – don’t just be sensible.  How well she knows me.  And how right she was.  There is absolutely no way that I could just splurge it.  I wouldn’t even know where to start.  Straightaway I knew that it is going either into my pension or towards repaying some PhD-related debt.  A few days later, I’ve decided that it’s going on the latter.  However I’m determined that between now and when the cheque actually arrives I’m going to have lots of fun trying to mentally spend it on frivolity.  Suggestions please as to the most outlandish thing (or things) that £900 can buy.

Sunshine & laughter

When I think of summer, I think of sunshine and laughter – frolicking outside in fields and meadows, or on a beach with the waves lapping at my feet.  This afternoon, I am feeling very summery.  Admittedly I’m not at the seaside, or even outside.  I’m sitting at my desk working.  But the sun is streaming gloriously through the window (so much so that I’ve had to concede defeat and drop the blind somewhat).  I’ve also just laughed very heartily at an email sent by my mum:

‘Edinburgh fringe winner of best joke from Nick Helm “I needed a password of eight characters so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”’

Lol indeed.  In fact, I’ve just laughed again when re-reading it. 

Sunshine and laughter on a Thursday afternoon feels like summer to me, despite lack of fields, meadows, sea and sand.  It’s a good feeling to bask in for a while, before summer’s glow fades away to autumn.

As the final sentence of my previous post suggested, I suspected that yesterday’s ideas-fest would continue unabated despite my desire to go to sleep. I was proved right. Thoughts, plans, inspiration came flooding in thick and fast until well into the night. They’ve continued today too. A task that I was slightly dreading has been straightforward and even enjoyable as I suddenly realised that I actually knew how to tackle it. Creativity is in abundance – to such an extent that I need to be careful that I don’t over-commit by hoping that this current ideas factory/productivity will continue apace. It can’t and it won’t maintain this level of momentum. I’ll just have to enjoy it while it lasts and remember it once it fades. I’ll also have to try to observe current conditions in the hope that I can come one step closer to answering the question “Where do ideas and thoughts come from when we’re not actively trying to think them?”. I’ll be honest and say I still have no idea in this particular case, despite the plethora of ideas about other things. The human brain is awe-inspiring when you think about it. And it’s high time I gave mine another rest. Goodnight.

Where do ideas come from? How do thoughts happen? I’ve wondered this a few times recently. I know when I’m in a generally good place mentally by the frequency of good ideas I get, usually work-related. It’s as if when I’m in a good place, I have the mental freedom and space to let my mind just be, and for ideas to magically emerge, seemingly appearing from nowhere. This doesn’t, or can’t, happen under pressure. In an amusing anecdote in “A Life of One’s Own”, the book after which this blog was named, Field describes how when saying she “was trying to think”, her boss instructed her not to try but to “just think”. Similarly, today I was doing some research and had no intention of thinking beyond processing the information, yet I found my brain whirring away without me and throwing up some excellent thoughts and ideas (even if I do say so myself). I just hope they stop now I want to go to sleep.

£5.24 and out

I now have £5.24 left in my purse, all in coins.  There isn’t a single note left from the pile that I withdrew on 28th July.  Admittedly, I am still waiting to get some back from other people, but even so I have pretty much spent up.  The last bit of spending was giving £2 to my cousin’s little boy for popcorn at the cinema and then about £10 at our meeting house’s garden party yesterday afternoon (I lost count after all the cakes, games and stalls, but I do know that I came home with several pairs of 1960s stockings, two vintage glasses for my collection and a box of Maltesers – the prize for winning the ping pong game).

Keeping track of my spending for the last few weeks has revealed a lot of things.  I have actually seen where my money has trickled away to: lunches, odd groceries, presents & collections, charity boxes, a coat, my beauty appointment.

I’ve also realised a lot about my wider relationship with money, even though I haven’t been actively counting every single penny that my wage packet goes on.  I’ve noticed how ungenerous, how mean, I feel when I don’t give more to charity.  The odd few pence in a collection tin gangle away in my conscience: I want to pledge more.  One of my few goals in life is to give 10% of my income to charity every year.  At the moment, I give 2.5% – I have a long way to go.  I’ve learnt that I can do a lot more and, more crucially, that I want to do a lot more; giving feels hugely important – more important that £5 on some pasta for lunch when I could be more organised and take something from home.  I know that I need to have a long, hard look at all my finances and re-jig, re-organise and – most importantly – re-prioritise.

Closely linked to this revelation is the sense that the money I spend bears very little relation to my priorities and values.  Lots of what I do, lots of what means the most to me, doesn’t cost any money.  The majority of my socialising this month hasn’t involved spending cash.  Today I’ve been to morning meeting & I’m off to a tea party this afternoon; my idea of a perfect day, yet it has no relationship to the monetary value of such events.  This is a good thing, although it has been a shock to discover.  Despite my desire for simplicity, I still equate money spent = good time had.  This clearly isn’t the case and August 2011 has been the month in which I fully realised this lesson.  And it’s still only the 21st. 

Today my closest friend went on holiday with her boyfriend. First thing this morning, I text her to say have a good time. I hope they have an amazing week. At the same time, however, I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy. That’s very hard to admit. It’s hard to admit because she’s my friend. It’s hard to admit because it’s always difficult to acknowledge negative emotions without feeling like a failure. It’s hard to admit on the back of such an amazing week in my own life. It’s not like I don’t enjoy myself and my own life. But I have to concede to feeling lonely. Not always, but sometimes. Sometimes I just want to feel loved. To feel wanted. Adored. Part of a team. Sometimes it would just be good to know that there’s someone there available when I spot a bargain last minute package holiday deal.