The Third Thing

Natalie Goldberg, in her book on writing memoir Old Friend From Far Away, writes that “Couples need a third thing – a child, a dog, a house, a business – to gaze upon.  Side to side, not face on.”  She is referring to couples being very similar to writers, needing a ‘third thing’ to write about.

I can see this is true of writers, but wondered if this was also true about couples.  Is it not enough to just be one half of a couple?  Sometimes, when life has been too busy, too hectic with kids and family and work and all the circus of the trappings of our lives, sometimes at those times, I’ve longed for couple time.  Imagined a time when there would just be the two of us, together.  Alone.  Alone together.

But yet…this statement from Goldberg made me stop and think.  It makes clear: couples, like writers, need a third thing.  And I think she might be right.  I think of our lives so far, and the third thing that maybe we had or have, did or do, side to side:

Worked hard and had friends, gone to Yoga and Wing Chun, played squash and read books, separately but together.  Had a child, lost a mother, had parents divorce in middle-age.  Bought and sold houses, had another child, to keep the first company.  Built a business, working side to side, sold a business, and did new things.  He taught; I wrote.  We both raised two daughters.  Owned cars, volunteered.  Got part-time jobs, reviewed books, had writing published.  We both completed degrees as mature students (at different times in different subjects), and ran blogs.  Separately.

And side by side, we move onward, onward together, us two but with many third things between us.

Keeping life interesting.

 

 

 

 

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Balance

Trees.  I love them.  I’ve probably banged on about my affinity with all things natural and simple on here before, but once I started to take notice of the natural world around me, I kept seeing similarities and connections everywhere.  As I’m typing this blog post, for example, BBC Radio has just mentioned that my home city has the most trees of any in Europe.  See?  Coincidence.  Connections.

Take the Banyan tree, known as ‘the tree of many feet’.  This is because of the way its many roots spread.  Sacred in Hinduism, the Banyan is grounded, fixed to the earth by a multitude of connections.  For this reason, it is often seen in images reflecting practises from the East, such as Yoga.

When I began a regular Yoga practise, I felt like I had finally come home.  That sounds like something new-age-y, I know, but it was the truth.  It was like I had turned a switch and finally realised what I should have been doing with my body for my whole life previously.  I very much define my life and my body in before Yoga and after Yoga terms.

It wasn’t just the Yoga itself, but that once I started on that path, I began to look at every area of my personal being.  My attitudes to ageing, to health, to my writing life.

Or there’s the cherry blossom.  The Japanese see cherry blossom as representing the passage of time, transcience, impermanence, and mortality.

I recently wrote a piece on here about facing the changes brought about by my eldest going off to university.  I’ve also just had a birthday, which always beings about a bit of internal reflection.  It can often feel disheartening when another year passes and we maybe feel we haven’t achieved goals we may have set.  I should have finished that manuscript by now…I hoped to be earning more from my writing by now… and so on.

The Danish have a phrase which is considered a high compliment, manhviler sig selv, which means someone who rests in him- or her-self.  Essentially being happy in one’s own skin.  Maybe being happy with the type of writer I am, appreciating the successes I have had and seeking out more, but in my own time and my own way.  It’s all about balance, about the harmony between what we want and what we need.

It used to bother me that there were grey hairs beginning to appear, and that lines were creeping around my eyes when I smiled.  Yet, spending more time in nature has made me look anew at the negative way we assimilate women’s looks and women’s lives.

Then I read about the Silver Birch.  These trees have smooth, perfect trunks when young saplings.  Their barks grow rough and broken when mature, however, just like our own skin can do.  Yet, we don’t pull them from the ground, assuming them to be of no more use.  We cherish trees and woodlands the older they get.

In this, as in many ways, we maybe could learn important lessons from the natural world.

Kate  xx

 

Blackbird

Sitting at my desk this morning, searching for inspiration and trying to keep warm as I stared out at the wintery landscape, a blackbird on the tree outside my window nips at the orange berries.  There are very few left on the bare branches now.  The fat pigeons have taken most of them already, as I’ve sat here watching from my desk, trying to make words appear on pages.

The bird must be freezing; it has been sub-zero temperatures lately, and thin snow and ice lay on the garden, littering the branches of my blackbird’s tree.  Yet, I also envy the bird.  Its life appears so simple, so uncomplicated.  There are berries; he eats the berries.  He will come back tomorrow and eat some more, until all the berries have gone.  Then where will he go?  Maybe he will visit the generous gardeners who buy nuts and fat balls from the shop I work in in my other life, where I need to make money to support this habit of writing. The life when I am not at my desk, but dreaming of being at my desk.  Maybe the bigger birds will get there first, leaving the small blackbird to starve.

Even so, as I drag myself back to the page and try to make sense of the work I’m trying to make, today I envy that little blackbird his freedom and simplicity.

As I return to my writing, I try to remind myself to keep it simple, always.  To allow myself freedom on the page.  To be more bird.

Kate xx

ICYMI, I have a little flash up over at spelkfiction.com called ‘Arrivals’ https://spelkfiction.com/

It’s had some lovely comments left by kind readers, which make it all worthwhile : )

Manhviler sig selv

The Danish have a saying: ‘manhviler sig selv’.  Someone who “rests within him- or herself”.  Essentially, someone happy in their own skin.

I love this saying.  I found it recently, and like all things I’m afraid I’ll forget, I scribbled it down into a notebook to come across some day when I needed a hit of inspiration.

I’ve been restless lately.  Sometimes, it feels like I’ve been restless my whole life.  I often see this as a bad thing, as a fault or weakness.  Why can’t I just be like everyone else and stick to one thing?  I ask, often.

Why can’t I just be happy to rest within myself?

The thing is: though I love this Danish saying, and wish wholeheartedly to feel restful and at one within myself, I’ve come to realise that maybe I need to be restless in order to find what makes me happy within my own skin.

I don’t know if all of us are searching for what we’re meant to do with our lives.  Some  people seem to be content to sit in front of box-sets, a glass of wine to help them unwind from the day, unquestioning.  It sounds a really relaxing way to live.  I often envy such people.

And then I don’t.  Because my discontentedness and restlessness often drives me to make changes.  It drives me to get involved in things I might never have known about.  It drives me to make changes in my life to make it better, or at least more interesting.

It drives me to write, write, write about it all.

I recently saw a documentary about the writer Joan Didion, ‘The Centre Will Not Hold’.  I’m a big fan of her writing and reportage, and a line in the documentary struck me as relevant to my own feelings on writing: ‘She always writes to find out what she thinks, and what she feels’.

I will keep striving to reach this elusive manhviler sig selv; to rest and try to feel happy in my own skin.  But in the meantime, I’ll write about the adventures on the path to getting there.

Happy adventures of your own.

Kate  xx

 

Writing, Motherhood, & Duvet Days

Hi all,

Well, it’s one of those autumn/fall mornings, where I woke up with a little bit of a sore throat, the sky turned grey after the beautiful October sunshine we’ve been getting here. Taking a draw on the coffee to up the caffeine and steel myself for getting out of bed, I reflected on my plans for the day: getting my youngest ready for school; attending to some volunteer duties I’d promised; promoting my essay, which went live this morning (see below!); a freelance project I need to work on…

Then, the familiar croak of my daughter’s ‘ill-voice’. Nothing scuppers a days plans so swiftly as your kids staying off school sick. So, tucking her back under the duvet, unscrewing the lid of the always-sticky paracetamol bottle, I went about squeezing my day’s work into the time I had.

Ironically, and in a totally unplanned way, I have just outlined the basis of today’s published essay. Having often been told it was ‘impossible’ to do any creative work with children around, but conversely finding that my experiences as a mother has influenced my writing in countless ways, I recently undertook a research project to read up on some of the women writers I admired at key points in my life, to see where they stood on the subject.

I found this research to be enriching to my own writing, and it encouraged me to write this essay about it http://feminartsy.com/a-womb-of-ones-own-motherhood-and-the-female-writer/

Working with the fabulous editor and creator of Feminartsy was a great experience, and I feel she helped me pull together all the strands of my argument.  I hope you enjoy reading – I’m proud of this one! : )

Happy reading and writing,

Kate  xx

 

 

Distraction=Procrastination

“Distraction is a form of procrastination”.

I read this quote online this morning, posted by @TheMinimalists and found it interesting.  It’s something I’ve been grappling with for a while now; a consideration of the multitude of distractions surrounding us.  I spent much of the summer reading books by people like Cal Newport, reading around simplicity and focus and finding a deeper life away from the modern world’s distractions of smartphones and social media.

The truth is, places like Twitter offer a writer a place to share work, to get feedback, and to connect with other people who are engaging in the often frustrating and thankless task of putting words down in some kind of coherent order.

But then there’s the distraction.  And the enemy of getting anywhere at all: Procrastination.  Sometimes, intending to work on a writing idea, I’ve lost countless minutes to responding to a thread on Twitter, only to look up and see my time is up, or my focus has gone.

So this autumn, I committed to making some changes.  I took the app off the phone; I stopped receiving email notifications; I upped my security settings.  I tried to block out the online world and live more in the real one, to allow some breathing space.

Inevitably, I still log on, to share work or to read the work of others.  But I’m finding that I will only do that once I’ve checked in with myself first.  When I’ve walked and breathed.  When I’ve tasted my strong morning coffee and made conversation with real life people.

When I’ve sat at my desk and written something, anything, that might just count toward the work I really want to do.

Kate xx

Oh yes…I also had some work published over the past few days…here are the links, in case you might want to have a read : )

Fairy Tales

http://thresholds.chi.ac.uk/stitching-feminism-and-fairytale/

 

 

Proprioception

In the woods, a man’s glove, sitting on the branch of a sprouting tree.  Black with orange fingers curled like a hand about to pluck berries.

Where would it have come from?  Who would have walked through the woods and left behind a piece of themselves, like an offering?

As I often do, I make up my own story.  Maybe a man was taking a walk through the woods this morning and spotted some autumn leaves turning gold-brown.  Perhaps he couldn’t resist pulling off a glove, so he could feel the crisping leaf for himself.

When we see these tiny elements of nature, of beauty, something within us needs to reach out and touch it, to become a part of it.  I feel the same about the trees that surround me in the woods.  I can’t help reaching out and touching their trunks, rubbing their ancient, peeling flanks, hugging onto them tightly.

Maybe the gloved man was the same.  Maybe he couldn’t help but reach out and touch the leaves this morning.

I like to think so.  I like to think of him now, reaching work wearing only one glove.  Or tonight, reaching into his pocket for the invisible item, puzzling, thinking he’s dropped one somewhere.  Cursing, perhaps, at his loss.  Or shrugging: it’s only a glove, after all.

I discovered a new word recently: proprioception.  The sense we innately have of where our joints are, even when we can’t see them.  We can tell where our hands are when our eyes are closed, for example.

This weekend, we dropped our eldest daughter off for her first term at University.  I thought of this word as we left, as we walked away, back to our car.  A family of four, temporarily reduced to three.

It’s said that a tree’s appearance in the forest changes each time we look at it from a different angle.  The tree gradually metamorphoses as we take each step away from it.

As we stepped away from our darling girl, hurtled back down the motorway, further away from her, the proprioception that began when she was still a dream wrapped up tightly inside me eighteen years ago, meant I felt I’d left a part of me back there.

Like the man with his lost glove, I keep looking around me, feeling something is missing.