Work, Life and Dreams: 2013 365 Challenge #282

Cousins doing craft

Cousins doing craft

Apologies that today’s post is a little late. I try and have it live by 10am GMT, usually writing it the night before, but various things have cascaded this week and I’m rather behind.

My sister and her family arrived from America yesterday, so we spent the evening with them, letting the cousins meet and play properly for the first time. Then, this morning, after a rather hectic double drop off for school (having had to wake a tired son ten minutes before leaving the house, and asking nursery to feed him!), I got chatting with some of the other mums about school and life in general.

It was an interesting discussion. They’re both teachers and finding it tough adjusting back to work after the vacation, because the ante has been upped (new Head) and the workload is even more impossible than before. I really don’t know how they do it. We got chatting about public vs private sector (I’ve always worked in the private sector in various listed or privately owned organisations). They have their pluses and minuses, with the main difference being job security and holiday time versus better pay.

Captured for posterity: cousins cooperating!

Captured for posterity: cousins cooperating!

The middle ground, that I think more and more of my generation are moving towards, is self-employment. Working freelance so you control your own holidays and remuneration, in exchange for even more sketchy job security!

When I got home, I ran through the discussion with hubbie, because it’s just as relevant for him at the moment, having (finally, hurrah!) got a job. Particularly now he has to be in a company two years before getting any kind of payout if he gets made redundant again (the nature of his job is that he quite often does it so well he does himself out of a job, if that makes sense. He’s been made redundant three times).

We had a great conversation about setting five year goals; about having a dream and visualising it so you know what you are working towards. I understand it now, because that’s how I feel about with the writing. When I left work, six years ago, it was because I hated my job. I didn’t really have a viable plan of how I was going to replace that income. I had a dream that I would sell paintings to hotels and restaurants and make money that way, but it was a pipe dream because I’m rubbish at sales.

Now I’m looking long term and without the rose-tinted specs. I know it will be years (if ever) before the books make the kind of money I earned in the private sector. But I have job security: I decide when to write, when to publish, where to promote and at what price. I have flexible working: I can take my kids to school and pick them up and I don’t have to pay a fortune for childcare. Above all, I have self belief. I know the path I’m following and I’m happy about where I think it will lead.

Embrace Life. Trust Love. Cherish Dreams.

Embrace Life. Trust Love. Cherish Dreams.

When I worked in an organisation, I never fitted. I desperately tried to change my personality to enable me to keep my job and get promoted.

The things that made me me – the things I felt I could offer that were of value – were all the wrong things as far as my colleagues and managers were concerned. Now I can use those traits to advantage: I can be open and honest, without having to play a political game, I can work inside my own moral and ethical code, I can be myself.

I know I am hugely fortunate. My much-missed Dad left me enough to follow my dreams and I thank him for it every day. I know he would be proud and would very much approve of my choices. He always ploughed his own furrow, mostly he always worked for himself, and he kept his dreams simple. I’m happy to forgo skiing holidays, new clothes, a car that doesn’t rattle and randomly decide not to start, in order to be content.

Maybe that’s why my author tagline is “Embrace Life. Trust Love. Cherish Dreams.”


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire ran her hands around the steering wheel and smiled. The endless grey tarmac outside the window flashed passed as she pressed the accelerator, and her smile widened. After weeks trapped on a coach, it felt great to be free.

“Oi! Steady on. My car isn’t used to going above fifty.”

Claire grinned sheepishly at her friend. “Sorry, Kim.”

Kim grimaced and Claire felt some of her elation seep away. Kim had found fault with everything since their departure early that morning. Although she tried to be sympathetic it was starting to grate.

I have to remember she was in hospital until last night. This must all be so overwhelming.

Claire flushed guiltily as she thought back to her conversations with Kim. Her friend had wanted a few more days to recover but, conscious of her money and Conor’s goodwill both slipping away, Claire had pushed her friend to leave immediately.

And it doesn’t do to dwell, I can see that. Keeping moving is the thing.

She thought Kim had fallen asleep and so her voice made Claire jump.

“I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Oh crap, really? You poor thing. Hang on, I’ll find us somewhere to stop.” Claire searched alongside the motorway for a sign to indicate how far away the services were. She didn’t fancy stopping on the hard shoulder. At last a blue sign informed her that it was three miles to the next service station.

“Can you hang on for five minutes?”

When Kim didn’t respond, Claire glanced over. Her friend was slumped forward with her hands covering her face.

Crap, crap, crap. Stupid idiot. I should have listened to her, let her stay home and rest. I’m sure Conor would have understood. Now she’s going to end up back in hospital and it will be my fault. Again.

Gripping the wheel with slippery hands, Claire indicated for the turning and guided Kim’s hatchback up the ramp to the car park. Parking close to the grass, Claire jumped out and ran round the car to help her friend.

Within minutes they were perched on a picnic bench, although Claire was grateful that her friend hadn’t yet vomited. It was too early in the morning for that.

“What can I do? Do you want water? Something to eat? What did the doctors say?”

Claire wondered if she should call Jeff. The hospital hadn’t given much advice when they’d discharged Kim. Only to say that she needed to be watched; to make sure she took her anti-depressants and to check back in from time to time. Nothing about the physical side effects of the overdose.

Helplessness washed over Claire as she watched Kim staring at the floor, her face a pale tinge of green. It wasn’t worth it. No job was worth making her friend more sick.

“Sorry, Kim. I rushed you into this. Do you want to go home? Back to the hospital? We’re only about two hours away.”

Kim shook her head, but didn’t speak. Claire’s mind raced with options, her throat aching with supressed tears.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

“I’m okay.” Kim’s voice drifted up to Claire amidst the noise of the busy car park. “The stuff they made me drink – the charcoal – I feel like it’s still in my mouth, in my stomach. It was awful.” She gave a dry chuckle. “Makes my poo black too. Like I’ve eaten a mountain of liquorice.”

Claire strained to hear Kim’s words; her ears muffling out all the other sounds until her focus was completely on her friend. She wanted to ask more, ask her if she thought she might do it again, but it felt like prying.

“Could I have some water, please?”

Claire nodded, then hesitated, unsure whether to leave Kim alone while she went into the shop.

“I’ll be okay, I promise,” Kim said, interpreting Claire’s indecision. “I’m not going to do anything stupid. I don’t want to die. It was just then, at that moment, I didn’t know how to live. I wanted the pain to stop. I felt like I was trapped in a burning building and it was jump or be burnt alive.” Kim clasped and unclasped her hands, and Claire watched, mesmerised.

“I’m still not sure if I know how to live, but I’m fighting it. You’re here, now, and Jeff. We’ll find a way.”

“I’m here,” Claire agreed, but the words tore through her.

I’m here, but you shouldn’t be coming to Cornwall. You need constant care, and a therapist to help you. What if I get it wrong and you try again and we don’t stop you. What then?

Fear, indecision, guilt all dragged at Claire. She had to start her job, to pay off the bills before the credit card companies made demands. But Kim needed her.

I don’t think I can do this.

The darkness washed around the edges of Claire’s vision, and the world pitched and fell, as if she and Kim were cast adrift on a sinking ship. She wasn’t sure she had the strength to keep them both afloat.


4 thoughts on “Work, Life and Dreams: 2013 365 Challenge #282

  1. Congrats to hubby on getting the job! We’re a couple with one employed, one self employed – and that does give a degree of security. I hear you on the not fitting in because of open and honest – I’m in that club too! Hope you enjoy your sister’s visit – and I’m sure your dad would be extremely proud of you. x

    • Yes, that’s the one (I only have one sibling). It’s great to see her, although with four kids aged five and under running round together we haven’t had much chance to chat! 🙂

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