Matt Haig, author of The Humans, recently ran a hashtag on Twitter asking people to give their best piece of advice to the human race. It’s worth a look at #thehumans, as there were some great nuggets of wisdom.
I liked, “Walk the wavy line between self control and abandon. Try not to fall over. Much.”
My advice was:
Learn to live life as dogs and children do: live in the moment, love openly, forgive willingly, laugh often
I really should learn to follow my own advice. Today I am struggling with one of my biggest faults, a severe inability to let it go. I hang on to mistakes, especially my own mistakes, forever. Particularly if it is something I feel I should have done and didn’t (like not buying my dad a heater, when he then died of pneumonia.)
Today’s gut-twisting mistake is not putting my children into a certain preschool when I had a chance two years ago (I know, get a grip, right?). We visited it, my daughter didn’t like the woman running it, and we never went back. Even though I heard good things about it. I did consider it, I even contacted them a few months ago, when we couldn’t afford our current childcare after hubbie was made redundant and we had to reduce our days. A lot of family stress came from that reduction in childcare, and some of it might have been avoided if I had moved the kids to the new (cheaper) preschool.
I lie awake at night all the time worrying about childcare, because I have so much choice. It doesn’t matter when I write. I don’t work shifts or have a boss to fit around. I need two or three days a week to keep on top of housework and work on my blog/novels/marketing. And to stay sane, away from the endless chatter and squabbling of a house of preschoolers. And there are lots of options, although none are cheap. When you’re not earning, that’s definitely a factor! I churn the options round and round until my head aches and I’m no nearer to a solution.
Anyway, it’s an old discussion. Today we visited preschools to choose one for my son, when my daughter goes to primary school in September. Nursery is not only very expensive, it is quite a small environment. I want space for Aaron to run and run, preferably outdoors.
We visited two preschools, the first near the primary school, so uber convenient, the other the one mentioned above. It’s in a village hall, surrounded by a large lawn and playground. It’s perfect. But, being me, I didn’t think, “Hurrah, we’ve chosen a great preschool for September and the kids want to start straight away, and they have a forest school and so much quiet space, it’s wonderful.” Instead of all that positivity, I’m mostly thinking, “why didn’t I try harder to get Amber in two years ago. It’s cheaper, nicer, there’s more space, etc etc.” (Not helped by Amber telling me she wants to go to forest school, which isn’t possible!)
I hope my Learning Happiness as a Second Language book will also help me learn the art of Letting Go. Live in the moment, love openly, forgive willingly (especially myself), laugh often.
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 eye down the list of links on the website and sighed. This is wearing thin. Go Ape – done that; country parks – done that; Spa Day – not allowed even if it is tempting; narrow-gage railway – done that though worth mentioning on the blog; country house – done that. Looks like I’m going to have to wait for Julia’s email after all. The only thing on the list that could be considered a high-adrenalin activity was karting, and Claire decided she’d sooner resign.
There must be something new to do in Sherwood Forest. Her mind filled with images of men in tights hiding in the trees and the words of the song “Robin Hood” began to play in her head.
Right, so what is Robin Hood famous for? Archery? That’s a possibility. Or what about horse riding? A nice gentle hack through the trees might be nice. A quick search on the internet threw up several possibilities and Claire was soon booked up.
There we go, Julia, no need for you to lower yourself to the task at all. It’s all in hand. Though I don’t think plodding through the trees on a pony is going to humiliate me quite enough for you. Tough.
Claire stared between the horse’s ears at the rump of the pony in front, and tried not to cry. Her legs hurt, her bum hurt and, thanks to a moment’s inattention, her head hurt where she’d ridden into a low-slung branch. So much for a relaxing hack through the woods. The worst part was being the eldest in the group by more than a decade. Claire hadn’t enquired what group she’d be joining and it turned out to be a bunch of teenagers on some Outward Bound expedition.
Head low, Claire let the horse find its own path through the forest and tried to enjoy the sound of bird song and the occasional sight of snow drops deep beneath the trees. After an hour even the teenage chatter began to diminish. Through the foliage around her, Claire could sense the sky darkening and the humidity rising.
It’s going to rain. Bugger. I really must get in the habit of checking the forecast. She pulled up the collar of her coat and wished she’d thought to put the hood up underneath her hard hat.
Well, Julia, is this miserable enough for you? Hunching her shoulders, Claire was reminded of a character in one of Sky’s story books about a sulking vulture called Boris. The thought made her smile briefly, but the feeling didn’t last long.
The temperature plummeted as the sun disappeared behind a charcoal grey cloud, hovering it seemed only metres above the trees. There was a pause, then heavy rain drops began to splatter through the leaves.
Claire felt as if she’d fallen into the percussion section of the orchestra pit. The rain splashing on her hard hat syncopated with the clopping of the hooves on the path and the whistle of the wind through the trees.
The horse in front of her stopped and Claire craned her neck to see the problem. Horses had gathered in a group at the front and she wondered if someone had fallen off or been injured. I can’t imagine any of these plod-a-longs bucking. More likely someone fell asleep from boredom and slid off.
A whisper came back along the line to Claire. The teenager on the pony in front didn’t turn and share it with her, but she got the general gist. We’re lost.
Claire gave a quick kick to the ribs of her beast and on the third attempt it shuffled forwards, past the gaggle of teenagers. Eventually she drew alongside the guide, a woman no older than Claire, who was staring at a tatty piece of now-soggy paper, turning it this way and that.
“Are we lost?”
Claire didn’t mean to sound so accusatory, but cold and fatigue sharpened her voice. The girl looked up, her face woebegone. She nodded slightly without making eye contact.
“How can we be lost? Surely you know the route like the back of your hand? We’re not in the Amazon rainforest.”
“I’m new. This is the first time I’ve taken a group out on my own. I’m used to riding on the downs, these trees make me claustrophobic.”
Claire swore under her breath. I feel a hundred years old. There clearly wasn’t any point bothering with the sodden map. She pulled out her phone and prayed for signal. Luck was on her side. Frowning over the screen, trying to shield it from the rain, she fathomed the general direction of the stables.
“We need to head that way.” She pointed through the trees, but the rain had reduced visibility to almost zero. Shouting over the gathering wind, Claire added, “Though I don’t know how we find a path through this.”
The guide shouted back, her facing losing some of its gloom.
“Sorry?” Claire yelled.
“I said the ponies will find their way home, if we point them the right way.”
Claire nodded, then signalled for the guide to lead on. She let the teenagers past, and took up position at the rear again – this time to watch for stragglers rather than to mope.
Only I could come on a pony trek with the clueless newbie. Thank you evil genie Carl and your handmaiden Julia. I don’t know how you arranged it, but you managed to inject adrenalin even into this.