I am getting off my ass this January and rebooting my inner-programming. Everyday, I am learning something new, and recording this digitally. This initiative is called #learnuaryNI and was launched by a local marketing expert, Christine Watson. I’ve been in need of such a reboot for a while now.
Somewhere deep within my psyche, from a time which I can’t pinpoint, a feeling took root that I was just a bit shit. I disguised this with bravado, or humour, or basked in the reflected glory of some of my friends, but always, there lurked a great fear. ‘Don’t give me any responsibility!’ the voices said. ‘I don’t want it, because for certain I shall FUCK IT UP.’ Happily, for all concerned, I am learning to challenge these thoughts.
One way is to quieten the noises in your head and just to listen. On Saturday morning at Ormeau Park, I was sorting parkrun tokens, slowly, and counting them twice because I am not in my natural element with numbers. I looked up and saw that nobody else was way ahead of me: the piles of sorted tokens in front of me, were the same size as those in front of everyone else. Another parkrun devotee sat down beside me. If she’s not running herself she is marshalling, or scanning at the finish line, with a ready smile. ‘I hate counting tokens,’ she said. ‘I can’t count to save my life.’ She laughed and sipped her coffee.
Her lightness in spirit made me feel exonerated. I always think it’s just me who can’t do things. It’s just me who thinks they can’t count, (I got a B in GCSE Maths, I can’t be THAT bad.) It’s just me who stalls at red lights; who puts delicates on a boil wash by accident; who loses their M&S coupons so my points remain at zero when I’ve spent enough in their store over the years to settle the national debt of Greece. It’s just me who can’t get on the WiFi; who finds important e-mails in the junk three weeks late; who realizes it’s PE day and the kit is in the wash.
I have a good friend who happens to be a doctor. Her capacity for kindness seems infinite and she has a good smattering of common sense too. But when I start my usual ‘I’m not wise, I’m half mad’ sort of patter, she has absolutely no patience. ‘That doesn’t make you mad, that makes you human,’ she will say, just about resisting the urge to roll her eyes at me and call me a cretin. I find this enormously comforting and it stops me wittering on about shit so our chat can move on to more interesting topics.
I wonder at what stage this evil little goblin took charge of the controls in my grey matter, pushing the buttons that drip-fed this negativity. I need to break that goblin’s fingers.
For years these voices have said: you are stupid, you look shit; you can’t run; HA HA HA HA, think you can write? Oh how it rolled about with mirth at that one, the little shite. In short, the goblin said, ‘you aren’t good enough.’ Regardless of the fact I came from a secure family, had great friends and went on to meet LSB and have children of my own, the malign voices were still chuntering on in the background.
But, I’m rather fed up with them. And this January I have made it my business to be more positive. Eleven days in and I’ve stayed true to my commitment. I’ve written a little bit, everyday. I haven’t poured a large glass of wine in the evenings because I want to be productive, instead of doing what is easier and familiar. Instead of being intimidated, I have started asking people questions. Yesterday at the pool while my kids had a lesson, I noticed another teacher who was waiting for her pupil to arrive. ‘If she didn’t mind,’ I asked, ‘would she give me some hints on my front crawl?’ She* didn’t mind at all, and told me three ways I could improve and conserve my strength. (I wasted energy on my stroke and held myself back, which seemed to be a metaphor for life in general.)
So instead of saying ‘I can’t,’ I’m going to say ‘I’m learning’. I want to be open, receptive, and less full of fear.
My biggest bugbear is technology, so I have signed up to a class on podcasts in the Ormeau Baths next Friday. The former me would have listened to the voice which said ‘What in the name of God would you do that for? You’ll look like a right mug.’ It may have a point but I’m not giving that voice air-time and I’m going. It’s free and open to all, so why wouldn’t I?
As a caveat, I should say that I didn’t wake up on January the first and decide to change my personality. These thoughts have been ruminating for some time but I’m now, conscientiously, putting them into action. I’ve been reading encouraging words from Anne Lamott and listening to Ted Talks, one of which, ‘How to make stress your friend’ by Kelly McGonigal, was particularly useful in helping me to recognise triggers for stress and manipulate these to my advantage. The most salient point I took is recognising that everyone faces stress and negative thoughts, and by acknowledging this it shakes you out of the self-indulgent ‘Poor Little Old Me’ mind-set and encourages you to just get on with it.
So readers, I’m knackered from all the exercise I’m doing and the usual business of rearing children and trying to write and sort out this FRIGGING house; but I’m chipper. Ish. Or more than usual anyway.
*Her name is Lesley and she gives private lessons over at the Olympia. Lovely woman.