Monday 20 January 2020

A Big Fat Daddy.


I am busy again, it is wonderful.  All that blether about taking a Sabbatical and working out what I want to do, about focus and keeping myself from going into overdrive has been joyfully thrown out of the window at the first opportunity, and the window firmly closed behind it.  It is fine, I say, I am back in the driving seat, and all is well. 

Bring it on, I say, I can handle all this, I am the Daddy, I can do it.

I am really busy, it is true.  I am a little watchful too, because this enthusiasm for projects has been hard to handle before, in the end.  What seems to happen is that I do too much, can't cope and my head explodes.  Then I announce that I am becoming a recluse and I will never work again.  After a while, with good sleep and nice healthy meals, I am inspired by someone, something, and off we go again.  It looks like I work too much, or not at all.  This is not sustainable, so bear with me, I am going to unpick this in front of your very eyes.

  • What do you think you want?  To plod away at stuff, getting it all done, with timetables, order and proper mealtimes.  Each project has a little folder, a file, a chart and some coloured pins to track progress.  Each project has a name and all the information needed is updated daily in triplicate and I keep to the allotted hours per project per day so I always know where I am.  Everything runs like clockwork, and when I get a surprise phone call, or something isn't working to plan, I am so calm and ordered, refusing to flap or panic, that I bring order back into what could have been an unwelcome disruption to the routine.  I am, after all, the Daddy.  
  • What do you think you have?  A blunderbuss approach where everything is massively exciting and all my notes are on bits of paper, in my head or teeny notes on my phone.  Where I make plans to spend a day in the studio but have to do the dishwasher first, then check my Instagram, then do a bit of emergency gardening.  I have said yes to many different things
    because I read something about them recently in a book and now I think I am an expert.  Each project seems like a great idea, and very do-able until I see that I have said yes to 5498503 of them.  Now there isn't much time and I rush about making a start on all of them, blame the people who asked me for asking me, and then eventually my head explodes.  I am joining an enclosed order of silent nuns I say, and for a while, I mean it.  Everyone else just laughs.  
  • Is any of the above really accurate?  No.
Let us now turn to what is actually true.  I have agreed to many projects, and I know I have tendencies to exaggerate.  So, if I am not a plodder or a blunderbuss, let us see what I actually am.
  • What, actually, are you?  I am a well meaning artist.  The sabbatical was very helpful and enlightening, so now I am also enlightened.  It was a time of rest and thought, much lying on the sofa, eating peanut butter and thinking great thoughts, so I am now fat.  I am older and wiser at the start of the new decade, which makes me sensible.  I have very good health thanks to my grandfather who, along with his eight siblings, all lived until they were between ninety three and one hundred and four years old, so that makes me invincible.  Being invincible means I can safely do what I like which could make me incautious, but it doesn't.  I am sensible, so that is a relief.  Finally, I have been doing my kind of work for twenty years, so I am both experienced and accomplished.  
  • Wonderful.  List all the things you are then - An artist, enlightened, fat, sensible, invincible, experienced and accomplished. 
  • What, actually, are you up to?  I am working on the following
  1. The exhibition called Addicts And Those Who Love Them opening in May in Brighton
  2. Finishing my book As Mother Lay Dying 
  3. Taking Grief Cafes at our local Womens' Centre
  4. Taking Loss Conversations at the local Job Centre (pending)
  5. Supporting three clients with cancer for Macmillan
  6. Taking the A Graceful Death exhibition to the Dead Good Day Festival
  7. Performing a one woman show, the Soul Midwife Sofa, at the Dead Good Day Festival
  8. Taking a workshop with a lovely palliative care nurse friend called How To Sit With The Dying
  9. Finishing a double portrait 
  • Anything else? Yes! Of course! A re branding of all my stuff, a new website, joining Patreon and world domination.
  • So, are you working too much, or not at all? Here is the thing - I used to be like that.  I am not like that now.  The most important work is the Addicts exhibition, and that is taking up much of my time with a deadline of the 2 May so there is no messing about there.  I have also, being both sensible and accomplished, decided to simply do the best I can.  Very zen. The book is ongoing.  The Loss Conversations are to be confirmed and will be every second week.  The Grief Cafe is once a month.  My Macmillan clients are every week, and this week I am taking one of my clients, aged eighty four, to London for a day out.  We are taking the train up, riding the double decker buses and ending up at the National Gallery.  It will be like the Famous Five reduced to Two, and very elderly.  The A Graceful Death exhibition has been going for over ten years now, so setting it up is easier than it used to be.  The workshop on sitting with the dying is fun, and I have done plenty before, the double portrait is just a matter of application and concentration but the one woman show, well - that is going to need a bit of preparation.  That does make me nervous.  But not so that I become mad.  I am invincible, sensible, fat and accomplished.  I know I will sort it all out.

It seems the sabbatical and the new decade have enabled me to be artistic, enlightened, fat, sensible, invincible, experienced and accomplished.  That is awfully helpful if it is my destiny to take on a thousand things at once, if I am doomed by my own personality and character not to be a one-thing-at-a-time kind of person.  So the conclusion is, that yes, I do tend to work too much then not at all - but now that I am so wise and fat and accomplished, I can see problems coming from far away in the distance, galloping along the horizon, and I can take evasive action.  I do not have to wait until my head explodes to rest, I do not have wait until a convent of silent nuns is the only way to stop.  So it does seem that I am still the Daddy.  It does seem that I am still in the driving seat, and I am a new and improved enlightened, fat, sensible, invincible, experienced and accomplished Daddy to be reckoned with. 

Oh bring it on, Sisters.  I'm on my way!

Sunday 5 January 2020

Do what you can, not what you can't

Quick! Run!
Have you ever made a decision to do something amazing for yourself - a plan, a dream, a project, a thought - only to be overwhelmed with the enormity of what is ahead?  Like a rabbit dazzled in the headlights, you become paralysed with fear, and scuttle off to safety somewhere.  Phew, you say, not doing that again.

Doing what you can't 

It's not for me.

As the theoretical rabbit, you have run from the headlights to a place of safety.  This is possibly your go-to comfort space where nothing can get you, and you can breathe easily again.  Whatever this space is, let's not judge it, let's just say that it is there.  My safe space is always about comfort; sitting on the sofa with blankets, cushions and a pot of tea.  From there, I feel relief and protection, and I can pass the time telling myself I will do whatever I ran away from later.  But from my comfort place, I do not want the later to come, I am not sure if I am good enough/wise enough/strong enough. It is easier to stay here, in my place of comfort.

It's not for me, I may say, and you in your circumstance, may say the same.  It is not for us. Whatever this thing was that seemed so exciting when we thought of it, and so terrifying when we glimpsed the work ahead, whatever it was, we cannot possibly do it now.

I'm not one of them.

They are the people who succeed at things.  Separate from us, they have a secret thing that makes them do what they say they are going to do.  They are lucky, they are unafraid, they have networks and support systems, and they are really annoying.

This amazing thing we thought we would do, is for these other people.  We aren't like that, we don't have their drive, determination, talent, and in our lowest moments, we think they probably all have personality disorders anyway.

From our place of safety, this seems to be a sad truth, that we have to be another type of person in order to do our thing.  We aren't one of them, so it is best to not even start.  This is where I could have more cake and look things up on YouTube.

They'll laugh at me.

How very dare you have ideas
Yes, well, the They has expanded to include everyone in the whole world.  We envisage putting ourselves out there and instead of feeling the buzz of excitement for our new project, or idea, or
thought, we see everyone looking at us and smirking.  We hear them say, oh dear, how awkward.

We have visions of standing up before a group of people and not being able to say anything sensible about our ideas or projects, and everyone giving a slow hand clap.  They all go off for tea and fall about laughing.

How dare you have these ideas, they chuckle, how very dare you.

I'll be so embarrassed.

Now that in our imaginations, we have separated ourselves from people who do the things that we want to do, have caused the whole world great amusement when talking about our dreams, we cringe with embarrassment at the thought of all this humiliation.

I will be so embarrassed, we say to ourselves, if I put myself out there.  In this frame of mind, even a little email to someone about this project we thought so amazing, seems impossibly cringe-worthy.  Whatever way we gather our thoughts about it, we end up embarrassing even ourselves.  Oh no, we say to ourselves, it is definitely not for me.

And we are back to square one.

Do what you can, not what you can't. 

This is very simple and very freeing.  You cannot do what you cannot do, but you can do what you can do.  The problem with having dreams, projects, plans, is that we may only focus on what we can't do, because for some reason we need to beat ourselves up.  If I make a plan to write a book, and my imagination shows me scene after scene of what I think is the correct path to take, and all of it frightens the life out of me, then I am concentrating on what I can't do.  These things that I think I ought and should do, make me realise I am useless, because I simply cannot cope with them.  It reinforces the idea that I am no good and that it is, once again, not for me.  I could, though, just start by doing what I can do, and put some words down on either the laptop or on paper.  It is very simple.

Doing what you can.

It is for me.

It IS  for you!
Ask yourself, why would it not be for you?  Glimpsing the work ahead can be alarming but, the work ahead has not happened yet.  You have no real idea of how things will go, you can only imagine - and if you imagine frightening stuff, then you are capable of imagining not-frightening stuff.

This is your journey, your thing, your idea, it comes from you.  How it unfolds is partly in your own hands, and partly not.  But to start with, it is all up to you.  Even if you sit on your sofa with a pillow on your head, it is still possible to make a start.  The secret to everything is state of mind.  Allow yourself to notice how negative you may be, and stop it.  Change your mind.

  1. Write it all down.  But be polite to yourself, you do not want to work from notes and thoughts that tell you off.  If I wrote notes to myself about creating some new artwork, and I was very negative, it may read  - Creating an exhibition.  Why can't I do it? No nice paints, wish I had some money.  Get money.  How?  Can't do it, no time.  Rent rooms in the house out?  Can't.  Hate people. It would be easier to work from if it read - Creating an exhibition. How can I do it?  Make time to raise money for paints.  Ideas to raise money - rent some rooms out? Other ideas?    
  2. Daydream.  This is a lovely way to experience possibilities without having too many boundaries.  This is an exercise for enjoying things that could go very well, and there are no limits.  I recently imagined that I had lovely white wavy hair and I looked just like Audrey Hepburn.  It doesn't matter that I don't have white hair or look remotely like Audrey Hepburn, it was just a lovely daydream.
  3. Think about what you can do, not what you can't.  Write it down and remember to be nice about yourself.
You are one of them.

They, those people, are one of you.  You have imbued them with super powers because they seem to be doing the things you want to do.  But they still have to find the courage to do what they do, and they may well struggle, they may have to dig deep.  But they are not going to tell you that, and they are human too. 
  1. Don't worry about who you think these people are.  Work out who YOU are.  It all comes from you, and you need to focus on yourself.  They haven't got any super powers.  Like you they are good at some things and not at others.  But they are giving it a go and in time, you may choose to do that too.
  2. Networks and support systems.  Yes, there are networking groups and business support groups, but if that is too much to think of right now, family and friends are a great support system too.  Even if you only have one of each.  If you are very shy, online friends are a great network and support system.  You may be surprised at what you already have around you.  
  3. You are who you choose to be. Focus on who you are, not who you are not. Write it all down remembering to be polite about yourself.  Allow yourself to be nice on paper, allow yourself to have good points. That is you, too.
They will listen to what you say.

How brave it is to stand up and tell people your plans and hopes.  In our imaginations before we have even begun our project, we see ourselves not being taken seriously.  We fear ridicule and because we have made the people who seem to make a go of things, separate from us, we have created a most unreal and damaging scenario. 

What if your ideas are good, and you like them, and people listen?  
  1. Practice.  All those people who are doing what you want to do had to start at the beginning, everyone had to speak for the first time.  Talking about your projects does get easier with practice. 
  2. Tell people who can respect your message.  If the people you choose to talk to listen well, they may offer good feedback and advice.  Don't talk about your things to people who will make you feel bad.  Good criticism makes you feel inspired, bad criticism makes you feel crushed.
  3. Anyone who laughs at you is rude.  Select your listeners carefully, and if anyone is rude to you, try not to take it personally, keep your power, and go and talk to someone who supports you.  
Be brave.

Just finished the trifle
If all those people are not different to you, and if they may well listen to you, and if your own plans and dreams excite you, be brave.

Finish that trifle, and get off the sofa and write it all down.

Then tell someone who likes you and will listen, about your plans, projects, dreams and ideas.

Have courage and dare to be a weeny bit special.

My mother always advised us to focus on what we could do, not on what we couldn't do.  She also advised us to be

 Bloody, Bold and Resolute.

And these are your orders.

Mum.  Bloody, bold and resolute. 

Once every two weeks, I write a newsletter of all the things I am painting, doing and writing.  Would you would like to subscribe? You will read of projects such as the new exhibition on addiction, and the upcoming Patreon page.  And at any time you can unsubscribe, and I will never know it was you who left.  
Email me at with your name and email address to receive it.  You will love it. New one out this Wednesday 8 January.