Posts tagged ‘bravery’

November 20, 2013

Just Me

I’m going for a run in the morning. Well, I say ‘run’, but given that I’ve not been out for nearly a year it’s more likely to be a short, red-faced limp around the park, but at least its a start.  However, the most important part of the whole thing is that I am going to run alone.

I’m not very good at doing things alone. I like my own company when I’m at home, but when it comes to going out, I prefer to find a willing accomplice. When it comes to running, its in case I get mugged, get lost, have an accident, or more likely, just fail to maintain the necessary level of enthusiasm and just give up, go home, and curl up on the sofa instead.

But it’s not just when it comes to running. There’s a new exhibition at Somerset House that I dearly wish to see. I’m not even sure when it’s on, but mostly, the reason I know that I won’t get there is that I won’t find someone to go with me. My lovely boyfriend, who is quite often my partner-in-crime draws the line at Isabella Blow exhibitions, it seems! Even if I could find someone to tag along with, I doubt we’d be able to organise our diaries anyway.

I’ve had a handful of occasions when my desire to do something outweighs my fear of doing things alone. But mostly, and definitely when it comes to running, my fear of doing things alone keeps me from doing things at all. But waiting for someone else to share my plans, experiences, or even running habits means waiting too long. Exhibitions close, opportunities disappear, days pass. What I need to do is realise the bottom line: if I want to do something, it means I have to pluck up the courage to do it on my own. And it’s not like I’m a child – I’m 37 years old, for heaven’s sake. Why am I so scared the whole damn time? Well, sometimes, I’ve attempted to brave things alone, and it’s gone wrong. A particular example is the tech event I attended on my own, only to find that everyone else there not only knew loads more about tech than I did, but also knew each other. My nerve just couldn’t hold and I left, in tears, for the first bus home. Yet, the letterpress workshop, which kept me awake for two nights with nerves beforehand, was utterly wonderful, and a real highlight of my year.

This is in danger of sounding like ‘One is Fun’, the most depressingly named cookbook of all time (sorry Delia) but it’s not meant to be like that. It’s meant to be a call-to-arms. A wake-up call to myself. The truth of the situation is that I’ll never know how things will turn out unless I give them a try. And the good thing is, that if I try to be brave enough to fly solo, there will be no more waiting. As my theme tune says, ‘The Time Is Now’. So, self, it’s time to get cracking…

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August 8, 2012

Roles and roller coasters.

When my daughter was born, she spent the first nine weeks of her life in hospital. On the blessed day she was allowed to come home she weighed the grand amount of five pounds and four ounces, and was a tiny and delicate porcelain doll baby with almost translucent skin and barely any hair. As you can imagine, her early birth and subsequent hospital stay was a traumatic time for us all. She was the first grandchild for both sides of our family and so, from the day of her arrival, was treated with such love from everyone it was almost overwhelming. We got cards and gifts from people we didn’t even know, who had heard about her early arrival and wanted to send their best wishes. I still have them all.

As a consequence of her tiny stature, I’ve always thought of her as being delicate and fragile, and I’ve been guilty of treating her in that way – as though she might break easily. But recently, that’s begun to change. Even though her end of year report talked of her being ‘gentle and quietly spoken’ she is beginning to surprise me in so many ways. She’s athletic, bold and brave. She’s one of the tallest children in her class, and even though she has a tiny hand-span waist (making clothes buying a nightmare), she also has a six pack of muscles!

Perhaps a lot of this is merely that she’s growing up, but I’m beginning to see that my ‘cotton-wool’ treatment of her was wrong. I’ve never really behaved the same way with her younger brother, (who I consider to be relentless in his pursuit of life, even when he’s clinging to me)  and so I do think that it’s a hangover from those days when I had to sit by her incubator, unable to do little more than watch her breathe.

This was highlighted to me hugely when we were on holiday last week. We went to the Isle of Wight (which I’ll write more about in another blog) and spent a day at Blackgang Chine. Now, if you went to Blackgang Chine when you were a child, you’ll know it’s a cliff-side theme park, and some of it really and truly remains the same as when I was a child – and the kids are still enjoying it so much. The place was packed full, and it was so great to see that in a time when we’re constantly told that kids don’t play outside, and as a consequence of too much TV have lost their imagination, that if you provide the right backdrop (a fairy castle, or a pirate ship that fires water, or a cowboy town) that imagination is alive and well. It was like being in the middle of an Enid Blyton novel, or perhaps ‘Just William’ might be more fitting!

Anyway, one of the new things at Blackgang Chine is a roller coaster. A proper, scary, roller coaster. It’s only short, but there were plenty of screams coming from it when my daughter announced that she wanted to try it. Now, that in itself was a surprise. However, she duly queued with her dad, having found out that she was just tall enough (at five) to go on it.

Here it is! – Well, part of it anyway…

Heart-in-mouth, I watched as they took their place on the ride. From what I could see from the ground (waiting with her younger brother) they seemed to be having fun, but at the end, I waited by the exit anxiously for them to appear. They didn’t come out and so I was imagining all kinds of horrific accidents, or perhaps just buckets of tears. But, and I bet you know what’s coming already, she loved it so much she stayed on for another go…and then two more. Followed by three times down a terrifying water shute, in the dark.

I think that we get assigned a role in a family, and that it can stick with you forever. In my family, I’ve been thought of as the ‘academic’ one (even though I went to agricultural college, not Oxbridge!) , and my brother as the ‘practical’ one. In fact, even to this day, if we have an argument his parting shot to me is often “oh, go and read a book…” so it’s clearly a label that has stuck. Little brother, if you’re reading this, you know I’m right! The problem with such a label is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – you think that you can only do certain things, or behave in a certain way, because that’s the role you’ve been assigned or the way people think of you. This clearly isn’t true. I could be practical and my brother could be academic, if we gave ourselves the permission to be different and worked at it. If you think about it, I bet you know what role you were assigned (often unwittingly) by your family or friends, or even one you’ve given yourself.

So, I’m going to try really hard not to think of my kids as being the ‘delicate’ one and the ‘relentless’ one. I want them to carry on surprising me and to be the person they want to be, whoever that is.