Sleep fighting, or I how I learned to stop moaning about tiredness and use it as a source of delirious creativity

Last night was not a vintage night in my household.  We were very much awake for most of it, so much so that I just had a mid morning nap, brief and blissfull, on the playstation console.  My son is also feeling the burn, pressing his forehead and eyes into any available solid object like coasters and baby wipe packets, while hankering after any unavailable solid object (I saw the way he looked at my slipper).  But it is his damn fault that we are tired, with his constant flailing and griping – when will he learn?!! By 8 months, they should have this down, shouldn’t they?  But no – if my son were a Viking, he would go by the name of ‘Theodore, the Sleepfighter’.  So, yes, we are really tired.

 

Fact 1 – no one is surprised when, as a new parent, you say you are tired.  Fact 2 – gatherings of new parents will try and out tired each other with anecdotes of extreme acts  committed while tired (you were so tired that you put your car keys in the fridge? I was so tired that I voted for UKIP!)  Fact 3 – it is an entirely boring conversation to have, up there with routes taken to destinations and one’s health.

 

I am going to own the tiredness.

 

So my son is a little peaky today – teething undoubtedly, grouchy, pissed off.  He’s okay though, in fact he is now asleep in his chair, beaten but unbowed.  Instead of trying to sleep (what a loser would do) or cry about being tired (same), I will use my delirium to think about all the ways T would have been treated through history for his current, slightly ‘off’ condition.  Bearing in mind that I have no sense of history, or geography, which is akin to having no sense of time or space, which is akin to being accurate, this should be a short and highly speculative (i.e historically false) list.  Here we go:

 

Viking era – T would have been offered to the Gods.  His moods would be used to discern the weather.  I think he would be a talisman.

Middle Ages – T would have been diagnosed by a monk with having too much bile and would have been covered in leeches.  If this didn’t work, he may have been declared a devil child.

Victorian Era – he would have been diagnosed with something, anything, in front of a paying audience.

Early 1900s – He would have been diagnosed as hysteric and sent for dream analysis and then a cure in Switzerland.

1920s – given rum

1950s – given some of those new fangled wonder drugs that everyone is talking about

1970s – bathed in breastmilk and forced into tree pose while someone cleansed his aura with a mung bean

1980s – sterilised and placed in a hyperbaric chamber

2010s – analysed via online forum by various warring factions  who weigh in on the best possible way to treat him based on what they had read online.  This in itself would then become an online story on a clickbait website.

 

As it is, I will watch him for a bit and then give thanks for the fact that he is asleep and then quietly retreat to somewhere comfortable … like a playstation, for example.

 

Night night.

 

 

 

 

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Alright

I never do anything fully, so I never do anything at all.  This phrase popped up in my journal this morning.  It’s a restless day, a day for the stay at home mums (as if any mum is genuinely a ‘stay at home’ mum now – we’re all too busy attending sensory/swimming/playdates).  But it is stay at home today, because of an unexpected and very beautiful snow fall which is now into its fourth hour.  Plus my son (I have a son now, eight months) is asleep in his chair and the house is more or less tidy and yes I’ve changed the TV License so well done me.

 

Stay at home – what sort of image do these phrases conjure up?  Home …comfort, home …safe, home ….sweet home.  Stay ….put, stay …still, stay ….calm.  All lovely and soothing if taken in isolation but far from accurate depictions of my experience.  When I genuinely am a stay at home mum (i.e today), these connotations are kind of soporific; I totally understand how people become sofa-locked when they are ‘stay at home’.. We become children – we work on a task and reward basis and if I ‘stay at home’ too long, the task reward ratio becomes ever slighter.  Day 1: I tidy out the drawers, freeze several meals and sort out life insurance, therefore, I shall meditate for half an hour and make a pot of tea.  Day five: I haven’t watched television for an hour, therefore I shall watch television for an hour.  You see? Who is the bigger baby here? When my son is awake, he is active, engrossed.  Sometimes I lose half a day being ‘stay at home’, dreaming of the things I’ll do when I’m not stay at home in the same way that, out and about, I dream of the things I’ll do when I’m ‘stay at home’ again.  Plus ca change.

This is not self-criticism, but written more in the spirit of acceptance.  The day is busy, but busy in a way that I never thought I would find busy – with dishes and nappies and stacking cups.  Being temporarily sofa-locked, I am going to wildly paraphrase here, but I’m thinking of the section in The Golden notebook when Doris Lessing writes about a change in her heroine’s character, when she moved from appreciating a certain hour as when day turns into night to seeing it as the ‘time to put the vegetables on’.  The day can be meted out thus; but it is no bad thing, it is how things are, for now. Continue reading

This is the end, my blue-eyed friend, the end

So I did it. I blogged consecutively for a month.  A major achievement since my output prior to this was as erratic as Scott Carpenter’s (and sometimes as discordant).  Allow me to be a little indulgent here; partly because I am genuinely proud to have turned up every day for 31 days, but also because I have been incarcerated in bed by the snot vines that I reported on yesterday.  I feel we should have something momentous to mark the occasion as I look back on a month of blogging, the highs and lows.  If you’re reading this, maybe drink a glass of prosecco or put on the music from the BBC Sports Personality of the Year to give it a sense of gravitas.  I’m going to do both.

 

There were days when I was genuinely terrified of having nothing to write and they were usually the days when I produced the things that I was happiest with, when I just turned up and let a thought grow on the page, like the post about the Girl from Space.  I think my blog genuinely reflects me, in fact it helps to order the thoughts I harbour about myself privately. I understand myself better through writing.  To my mind, the picture you get is of someone is pretty inconsistent, who wants to be better and who is frequently drawing on memories from childhood and making sense of them as an adult. I don’t think I’ve ver really done this before, and maybe you can’t, not until you are in your mid-thirties and you, if not your life has settled down a bit more.  Still musing on that one….

 

Lest I get too Carrie Bradshaw, I think my most popular posts were recipes and my most sinister was the one where I wrote about spying on people through their front room windows.  The most çreatively bereft’ award goes to my post about Law and Order, probably and any cheeky re-blog that I may have slipped in on nights when there was no time.  

 

What this blogathon has taught more than anything else is that ideas are infinite, and that sometimes it is better to do it and see what happens than procrastinate and die alone.  The blog community is full of positive supportive individuals and I defy anyone not to feel more confident in themselves after turning up every day and writing, writing, writing.

 

Now I am turning into Carrie Bradshaw, or maybe even Doogie Howser, so I shall bid you adieu.  Keep the home fires burning.

Stef

Spanish Castle Magic

I’m puzzled by the parts of my childhood home that I can remember in detail; I would have no idea on what colour the walls were, or the bathroom even (though it was probably avocado, let’s face it), but I remember certain parts very very clearly.  Our house was a converted telephone exchange, but few of the original features remained.  Thank God for the ambition of the architect though; where many may have seen a functional bungalow type thing, she saw …. a Spanish villa.  So the walls were white, the patio was red tiled, and running across the facade were a series of arches which continued over the driveway.  I loved how it looked.

The stairs were awesome.  They were big wooden slabs driven horizontally into the wall with a balustrade of wrought iron.  What magic could I create here? Would I scale the underneath of each step? Would i wriggle straight through between the slats and enter a world of intrigue and mystery? No: I would spend most of my time wedged between two slats, my legs dangling freely and preted to be in an office. At a desk.  You see, I also had a little typewriter in a briefcase, which featured a series of images guiding me through what people did in an office and at what time.  At 9.30, according to the pictures I would arrive at work.  11 meant time for a black coffee, 1 oçlock was a ham sandwich.  I was supposed to down tools at 5 pm, but hey, sometimes I finished a little earlier to beat the rush home.

 

What I did during these hours is anyone’s guess. This was pre-internet, so I couldn’t even access real online information through my office space.  I wasn’t building an app empire, and there was no-one to email.  So I think I spent most of the time … pretending.  Pretending to do things that I associated with offices; like typing letters, making up imaginary data, sighing and musing on lunch.  Turns out I was scarily accurate on what office life was like!

 

Granted, there was probably a hella lot more engaging things that I could have been doing, like building dens, bike-riding, dancing in my pants, but hey, it’s not what i was pretending, it was how I was pretending.  I could pretend, quite happily, to be in an office for entire days, so much so that my mum and dad became adept at walking right over my little head if they needed to go upstairs.  I was part of the furniture (buh-bum-cha).  

 

It turns out that my husband was similarly fascinated by the stairs in his house, but his big challenge was seeing from how high he could jump down and not slam into the wall at the bottom.  He’s a bit like that.

 

My niece and nephew live there now (with my sister and brother-in-law, thankfully) and the house has adapted into a new home.  Fashions change: the arches are still there, but the inside is much sleeker and spacier.  Regardless, they’ve found their own pretend adventures.  In spite of their myriad toys, one of their favourite games involves sliding off the back of the sofa, pretending to be innocent fairies in the thrall of the wicked witch, my mother.  They can play this game for hours, something which takes a year of the wicked witch’s life each time they do.  The stairs have gone, but the sofa remains.  Space is adaptable, as are we, but what is re-assuring is that we still have the guaranteed imagination to find joy in pretending. 

 

 

An elegant ‘now’ monkey

Noises Off Experiment:  Completed!

This week has been pushing back the cuticle of noise and distraction to reveal some lovely healthy brand spanking new thoughts and sources of creativity underneath.  Like pushing back a cuticle, it has involved some commitment; not because I have particularly missed noise and distraction, but because, if you have read the rest of my blog posts, you will know that I have been preoccupied with my thoughts to the detriment of thinking about my body and ‘the moment’.

And this has been mighty frustrating at times …

Overall, I think I’ve made some headway. I’m proud to say that I don’t crave an episode of Mad Men or even John Humphreys in the morning and although  I’m a long way from ‘cured’ (which is completely the wrong phrase to use) I feel  more fulfilled and  excited by the prospect of living a quieter life.

So what have I found out from this week?

I can be more productive if I take the time to switch off external noise as far as possible and engage a little.  And my choice of words is deliberate – there is a big difference between swtiching off and blocking out, which would have required some effort on my part and would have meant that I was still having to account and repair for outside distraction.  Nope, best to cut it off at the source, which means no telly, radio or music.  Rip off the plaster!

My mind, as it turns out is not a lonely wanderer, but an amateur rockclimber.  It has all the kit, but by golly is it nervy! It clings to precipices of dark thoughts, refusing to budge for hours, dangling on the same phrase, riffing on the idea of ‘you can’t do this you can’t do this you can’t do this’, rather than loosely swinging from moment to moment like an elegant ‘now’ monkey.  How I long to be an elegant ‘now’ monkey!

But who knows? Awareness is half the battle and being forced to listen to my thoughts incessantly has made me take them less seriously than before. I feel that if I keep turning off that which I am not consciously listening to, I may be able to live more easily in the present.  A week is a starting point, and I will maintain an audio fast as a practice, maybe two days of the seven to begin with…. and take it from there.

But if you are interested in living mindfully I strongly recommend taking a break from outside noise  to foster your creativity and mental balance. One day we all might And move from the cliff-face of distraction to the treetops of fulfillment!

Stef

Creativity, good wishes and epiphanies

Noises Off: Experiment Day 4

Hello!  If you’ve just found me, you may need to read the last couple of posts to work out what I’m doing.  If you like intrigue and are short of time, let’s just say I’m audio-fasting (thanks Rhi x)

The power of the written word!  Something about contextualising my frustrations in print yesterday must have done me good, for I spent the rest of the evening with the attitude of a meditative android, calmly going about the business of making aubergine parmigiana and doing the  washing in an audio-free bubble, judiciously and easily avoiding eye contact with my mind (if that’s possible) for the duration.  No explanation as to why it was so easy to switch off after writing, but stranger things have happened.

However, day 4 arrives and i’m frustrated at not having attained a plateau of peace.  This morning, my internal radio accompanied me with a Doors medley and ‘Sometimes it Snows in April’ by Prince, both of which swelled in my brain and burst through my mouth in intermittent melody blurts, forcing me to randomly sing half lines here and there, unconnected to anything else that was going on.  How odd!  On the way to the train I pre-empted several conversations that I may or may not have today (update:  I didn’t have any of them) and mentally tried out a few lines from each one.  This may of course make me insane, but this morning I preferred to see my current state as akin to the island infested by rats that Agent Silva reminisces about in Skyfall.  Mentally, I’m letting my thoughts over-run me (and sometimes it does feel like a swarm of movement and unstoppable tessellations).  I’m observing this, waiting for the poison to be ministered and the hubbub to subdue.  All weaker thoughts will die out till we’re down to just two giant mega thoughts who must fight to the death.

But this is a pretty nasty metaphor and inaccurate.  I don’t wish to kill my brain-chatter, just find a way of disengaging.  Thoughts bring creativity, good wishes, epiphanies.  Frankly, thoughts are what I’m writing to you right now.  And, more practically, it’s impossible to kill them off.  Like creativity, good wishes and epiphanies, they are endless and spontaneous.  Just not always relevant or helpful.  So I’ll turn my attention to the present again.  These critters have had free rein for long enough.

Outside the sky is a block of grey white, and the trees all shades of green and in between.  It’s about to rain …

3 days to go.

 

 

Writer’s bitch

It’s devillishly personal and impossible to explain to anyone else.  This is because I have writer’s block which is a) devillishly personal and b) writer’s block which means that I can’t express it or indeed anything very well (witness this sentence).

 

My writer’s block is accompanied by a grave case of self doubt.  The bitchface inner critic is perched on her bony arse in my left ear, waiting to pick up on any phrase I spin forth and critique it in her bland, repetitive, empty way.  She seizes up on the irrelevant and builds them into something significant.  As I typed ‘like’, I accidentally punched in “liek”.  Bitchface was straight on it, taking it as a sign of my blanket failings as a writer.  Bitchface is about 12 years old and a total asshole.

 

I wouldn’t mind if she were witty, but she isn’t.  She is purely there to destroy any shreds of hope I have in my writing at the moment.  Very often she will simply repeat a phrase in a whiny voice and add nothing to it.  And by Jiminy is she powerful; she has even now wrapped her vines around my tentative google searches for inspiration in the guise of writing competitions or forums.  Her ‘what’s the point’ mantra’ is winning hands down at the moment.

I’m beginning to think that she has something going on with Writer’s block because they’re always together.  I don’t trust them.  If so, bitchface definitely wears the pants in their relationship; if it were just Writer’s Block on his own, big solid stump of blank that he is, I think I could win him round.  But she always shows up and sticks the boot in.  Writer’s Block might even be quite helpful if he were on his own and I could just …contemplate him for a while.  But it’s never just him.  They’re a couple, I’m sure.

 

I hate Bitchface.  She spoils everything and I’m not even kidding.  She is making my life hell at the moment.  According to her I am terrible at everything I try and deserve to fail. I’m a rotten teacher, with no social life (deservedly) and no chance of being happy and creative and successful.  Ever.  In stronger moments I’ve tried exorcising her, but it never works. 

 

Bitchface has read all of this and you would think that she would be happy with this paean to her ways.  But she isn’t.  She has complained about my lack of adjectives and lack of stylisticpunch.  For this is how she rolls.

 

Bitchface 1 Nefny 0

 

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