For some the night is always darker…Soothing words from fiction

‘For some the night is always darker –
for them the skies of dawn are bluer too.’

I came across this quotation, scribbled
on the back of a business card, when sorting through some paperwork at the
weekend.  I first read it many moons ago
whilst researching for my PhD.  It is
from a short story called ‘Whistle in the Dark’ by Gabriel Dundas, which appeared
in Woman magazine on 26th
January 1963.  I have only a vague
recollection of the plot.  According to
my notes, it is set on a farm.  Kay is
the younger sister and is back from college for the summer.  All her friends are doing a drama course, live
in a warehouse and talk about the fringe festival at Edinburgh.  Kay wears make-up and high heels when
visiting the farm assistant, a young man who has been to college and is looking
for his own farm.  She realizes that she
loves him.

Pretty standard women’s magazine
fiction.  I didn’t end up writing about
this story in particular, but could have done a nice little summary of what its
themes and motifs meant in the context of the time.  However historical analysis wouldn’t have
communicated what struck me about this story when I stumbled upon it in the archive.
What made the story stand out – what made
me write the opening line on a business card and tuck it away in my personal
possessions – is what Kay’s father tells her later on in proceedings.  He says, ‘The sky is bluer for you, and the
dark blacker. You live harder and you love harder…. But you’ve got to learn,
Kay, to whistle in the dark.’

‘The sky is bluer for you, and the dark
blacker. You live harder and you love harder…. But you’ve got to learn, Kay, to
whistle in the dark.’

At the time of the story’s publication,
Woman was the best-selling magazine
in the UK, with a circulation of over three million copies per week (that doesn’t
begin to cover the secondary audience – all the daughters, sisters, husbands,
friends etc. that would look at a single copy).
How many of those millions of readers also read those words from Kay’s
father?  Did they touch any of them in
the way that they did me?  Do they speak
to you at all?

The words may be as clichéd and
formulaic as the rest of the story, but something about them resonated deeply with
me during what was a difficult time in my life.
I’d long felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with me: that
I felt things (good and bad) more strongly than other people; I struggled to
live with highs and lows; everything was too much – I was too much.  To suddenly find acknowledgement that other
people (even if fictional) were like that was a balm to my soul.  I was not alone!  Others too felt the extra intensity, the
bluer and the blacker.  What relief!  

Years later, I still use Kay’s father’s
words as a framework for understanding how I perceive the world.  I’ve learnt to accept that for me (but not
necessarily others in my life) the sky is bluer and the dark blacker.  I live harder and love harder, with both the
joys and pains that this brings.  And I’m
slowly learning to whistle in the dark.

Tell me, what lines from fiction have
guided you?  What’s spoken to your
soul?  Have any quotations become
mantra-like in your mind?  Alas the comment
function here still isn’t working but posted below are ways to join the
conversation on social media.

I hope the sky is bluer for you today.

Get in touch by commenting below or via
social media: there’s Instagram,
Twitter,
Pinterest
or the A Life Of One’s
Own Facebook page
.
And of course you can also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

Advertisements

Let It Rain: lessons from bad weather on holiday

I’m writing this from a hotel bar in Mallorca. When I woke
this morning, I thought we’d be spending a day lounging in the sun as we did
yesterday. My friends and I had the pool/beach debate. Even up to putting our
bags in the hotel’s left luggage room to collect when we leave later, being
outdoors was on the agenda. Then it started to rain. Heavily. And there was
lightning. Four hours later, it hasn’t changed. Sun and sand segued to clouds
and cafes.

We keep gazing out the windows out the pool to gauge how bad
it is. Too bad to even consider venturing out to explore is the answer. During
our four day getaway, this is the second time where the weather has put paid to
our well laid plans. Two days have been predictably hot and beautiful, but two
have surprised us. This was not what we booked for!

What to do about this? There is nothing except make the best
of it. Accept what is, as the Buddhists would say. Let it rain, as Longfellow
put it.

  • I’m still getting to spend time with friends that I don’t
    see much.
  • We’re still getting chance to read the books and magazines
    we’d packed in our beach bags.
  • The bar still serves good coffee.
  • My fingernails are still sporting the gorgeous colour I’ve
    had time to apply – the one that goes brilliantly with my beautiful new ring,
    purchased during our lovely afternoon in Palma on the other rainy day.
  • My brain still has the freedom to roam and day dream, which
    is what I’d most hoped for from the trip.

There are somethings that we simply can’t change. Like the
weather. So all we can do is make the best of the circumstances we do have. I’m
loving having a bit of time to think in advance of Thursday about this week’s
blog post. I’m enjoying my drink. I’m savouring the relaxedness in my bones
from a good break.

Where do you need to let it rain in your life?

Get in touch via social media: there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook
page
.  And of course you can also
email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

“Human nature is water, not stone.” (Marty Rubin) – and that makes us flexible

I’ve had a
lot on my mind this last week.  A
particularly heavy period threw my moods off kilter.  An important work deadline is coming up at
the start of September, with the final big push that entails.  I’m going away with friends this coming
weekend, so there was planning for that too.
Other assorted demands and to dos pulled me here and there as well.

This mental
hullabaloo affected blog post preparation.
Time set aside to draft was swamped by other issues.  My planned topic shifted from A to B to C, D
and E, leaving me sitting here on Thursday – way past the time when the posts
are usually scheduled for – with a blank page on the screen and still no clear
sense in my head as to what I want to say.

Topic A was
prompted by violating my ‘don’t work after dinner unless it’s totally urgent’
policy.  One Friday evening, despite
having no pressing submission date, I took my laptop back out at 8pm and went
back to a document because I knew that in this case, leaving the revision until
Monday morning would be more detrimental to my state of mind than simply doing
it.  

Lesson: having
our own rules can be useful for easing the burden of decision-making and for
setting clear boundaries but sometimes we need to break them.  Flexibility is a useful skill to cultivate.

As I was wrote
the first two paragraphs above, an amazing solution sprang to mind – I’ll write a
summary of each possible blog post topic that I’d considered this last
week!  Five mini posts in one!  Great idea, only now I’ve written an outline
of the first point, plans B, C, D and E have vanished from my mind.  Gone.
Evaporated (no doubt I’ll wake up in the middle of the night shouting
them aloud).

I guess
that decides the topic for me.  Plan A it
is, albeit in summary form.  I’m
resisting because it’s different to how I usually write posts; it’s much
shorter, for a start.  But perhaps this
is a good thing.  Shows I’ve learnt to be
flexible after all!

What do you
need to get flexible about?  Maybe you’re
strict about no screen time for your kids before tea but with a wet summer holiday
upon us you’re thinking an hour on their favourite game might do everyone some
good.  Maybe you’re religiously saving
for something but another opportunity you’ve dreamt about has arisen and you
can’t seize that chance without drawing down on what you’ve put aside.  Maybe you’re super proud of your independence
but are straining under the pressure of everything that has fallen to you – is it
time to ask for (and accept) help from others?

Where would
a bit more malleability benefit you?  

Get in
touch by commenting below or via social media: there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page.
And of course you can also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).

The more I treat myself like a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

‘I eat my
lunch early, around noon’, a colleague wrote in an email earlier this week,
before half-apologetically adding ‘like a child’. Her admission made me smile
because over the course of this year, I’ve been learning a lot about self-care (as
I’ve written about previously)
and much of that comes down to thinking about myself as if I were a young
child. Whenever I can feel my mood start to shift downwards or I find myself
losing concentration, I ask the same questions posed by parents the world over:
hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Too hot? Too cold? Need the toilet? Uncomfortable?
Needs playtime? Needs downtime?

It’s
amazing how addressing one of those issues restores equilibrium and allows me to
continue going about my day. Very occasionally it might be something else,
something more cerebral or adult-like, such as needing to send a difficult
email that’s been playing on my mind. More often than not, though, it’s a basic
physical or mental need that is most pressing. As I’ve also previously
observed
, basic doesn’t always mean easy. Knowing that we need to eat
regularly doesn’t guarantee that we act upon our awareness. At the weekend I
found myself on the verge of a full on tantrum in the Marks and Spencer food
hall because my partner was lingering longer than I thought necessary in the
meat aisle and the effects of not eating lunch were taking their toll on my
sense of balance and perspective.  

Oftentimes
we slip into the trap of thinking that we are too busy and important to look
after these kinds of essentials. We kid ourselves (fitting double-meaning!)
that we are too sophisticated to eat dinner early even if we’re getting hungry
when we finish work. We somehow imagine that we can simply override the need to
get a decent amount of sleep because it is not convenient; it would interfere
with our social life or desire to watch box-sets late into the night. Setting a
bedtime for ourselves seems so, well, childish.

Yet there’s
a paradox at the heart of all this. All the best insights seem to involve some
kind of oxymoron or apparent contradiction, and when this one came to me it
didn’t disappoint. The paradox of self-care is that the more I treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.  

The more I
treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

I’m sure
this doesn’t just apply to me.  Repeat it
to yourself and see if it resonates with your experience as well.

What this
means is that the more I not only accept but also consistently implement the
self-care basics as I would if I were caring for a toddler, the better able I
am to act in a mature way.

If I’d had
lunch, or even a decent snack like a banana, I wouldn’t have begun to meltdown
in the food hall. Maybe after a decent night’s sleep the critical feedback from
your boss doesn’t sting as much. Perhaps getting lost driving to a friend’s new
house doesn’t feel so stressful if you stopped for a loo break when you first needed
to rather than convincing yourself to ‘hang on’.  

When the
basic needs are met, we are freed up to be who we want to be in the world. We
have a solid base to build upon, our foundations are strong. It’s easier to
stay composed. Our moods don’t crash. Problems that arise don’t feel quite so
much like a crisis.

Our lives become
diffused with equanimity in a way that seems out of reach when we’re careening
round with too few hours of sleep, too little food and not even allowing ourselves
to sit on the toilet for long enough.

The more I
treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

Think about
parenting yourself as you would if you were two years old. What is it that you
most need? Is it time to say ‘I think someone needs an early night!’ as your
mum may have done? Or make a rule that there’s no screen time between getting
in home and dinner? Need some shoes that fit properly?

Think
particularly about your pinch points and what self-parental provisions you need
to make for in or around those situations: good music for a long journey, play
dates with friends, some kind of metaphorical equivalent of baby wipes in your
handbag (or perhaps actual baby wipes would help)?

Try
something and notice the effects. Does accepting that we function in the same
way as small children allow you to maintain a more adult like demeanour?

Let me and
other readers know how you get on! Get in touch by commenting below or via
social media: there’s Instagram,
Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  And of course you can
also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).