Sunday 26 January 2014

Legally Brown

Last weekend I went mental and had my hair dyed from bright blonde to brown. Not a gentle, caramel hued fudge. Not a soft, coppery oak. I'm talking batty Bonham Carter brown, darker than madness itself.

I had been blonde for six years. Blonde is the fun, dippy, easy-going, party-loving Me of my late twenties. I don't have the time, the bank balance or the deep conditioning treatments to deal with it any more. Post-baby, I had been walking round like a dog-eared version of my former self: hair scraped back, haloed with frizz, ends so split there wasn't even hope of a reunion tour. It was time to take drastic action.

Going dark was more of shock than I'd expected. I'm seven years older than the last time I had dark hair. My thirty-something complexion is going to take some serious TLC before it can stand up to the harsh mistress Brunette. My hair is now a brutal contrast to my pasty face, mutinously pointing out my extra bags and wrinkles. I haven't been able to leave the house without a FFOM (Full Face Of Make-up) yet.

I tell you what though, it still feels good. I can wear yellow again. I can go an extra day without a shampoo. I'm saving £10 and an hour and a half at hair appointments I can now wait weeks longer for. My hair doesn't look like its been cooked in a George Foreman mega-grill anymore. I can get away with wearing at least ten times more eye make-up, which is my absolute favourite thing to do. And I can pretend to be dark and mysterious for at least five minutes before opening my mouth.

Who wouldn't want to be a brunette?

(I give it at least six months before I go post-box red)

Thursday 16 January 2014

Out Of Time

Patience is a funny thing.  I’ve spent so many years waiting for the next big thing… the next job, the next holiday, the perfect pair of shoes. Always wishing my life away waiting for something a little bit better, a little bit more grown-up, something that takes me that little bit closer to ultimate fulfilment.

Now it’s not weeks and months I’m concerned with - it’s minutes and hours. I start at one hundred green bottles, not ten, as I think longingly about the dinner that’s getting cold downstairs, that phone-call I really need to make, how much I want to lie down on my feather soft bed and close my eyes. On bad days I attempt to harness psychic powers to will that clock around to 6:15pm so somebody else can hold this screaming, teething, tomato-faced baby who clearly hates me. It’s a continuous mental battle of wanting time to pass quicker, faster, now, now, now…or watching it slipping past as I’m stuck marching up and down a nursery with an aching back and an inconsolable, wailing boy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of always wanting to be somewhere you’re not. To fall into a pointless spiral of misery.

I don’t know when it clicked for me. Somewhere during the horrible weeks before we worked out that E was dairy intolerant, I think. I reached a tipping point, and my mind gave up. It just quit. It stopped trying to teleport me somewhere I wasn’t, stopped trying to hold back the sands of time, stopped trying to change something it couldn’t change. It wasn’t a conscious decision I made - my brain simply couldn’t take any more. Immediately everything else in the world fell away, and it was just me and my little boy. The irritating hum of what’s on telly when is S home I haven’t done the washing up I think the cat is weeing on that banjo stopped. There was nothing but me and the crying. And when that happened, I finally heard him properly, focused on him, realised there was nothing I could do to help him that I wasn’t already doing. So I just cuddled him. And the minutes suddenly started to pass more quickly, and I wasn’t cross, and it didn’t feel like my fault anymore. It didn’t feel like he was broken and I couldn’t fix him, it felt like he was a baby who was crying, and at some point he would be a baby who wasn't crying. And then he would probably cry again, and that would stop too. And that was just the way of the world.

I'm thinking about this now because I've recently tried to take up meditation, and it seems to me the same sort of set-up. Getting your mind to Just Let Go is simultaneously the simplest and the most elusive thing in the world. To suggest it's even an act you can perform or a state you can achieve seems wrong somehow. It's the opposite of all that. It's a giving up, almost. It's the ultimate patience. Not necessarily being happy, but being content to just sit and be. Let chaos go on around you, but keep yourself still at the centre.

It doesn't always work for me - the thought of having to go back to work in a few months is already giving me sleepless nights. In a bid to stop the pointless dread of the inevitable  future (that almost certainly won't be as bad as I think it's going to be) I'm going to milk every drop of joy from the weeks we've got left together just the two of us. To be still together. To have patience.

Sunday 5 January 2014

2014: Persist

Last year was amazing for me, the best for as long as I can remember. I am so lucky to have had the experiences I have had. I have learned to be patient, to be present in the moment and consciously switch my brain off from thinking about the past or the future. I have learned the value of time.

Having acres of time is paralysing. It's easy to put things off. But when, suddenly, time is only available to you in twenty, ten and two minute bursts, you are thrust into the present. Every waking moment becomes an opportunity to get things done. Prioritising becomes an artform. You become an efficiency machine. "Today I will 1 - wee 2 - eat 3 - sleep  4 - shower 5 - wash up 6 - work/email 7 - sit my knackered arse down." So rarely do I reach the end of that list in a day, but it's definitely more often than it was six months ago.

It should be exhausting. It is. But sitting and letting the tide of Stuff That Needs To Get Done wash over me like a tsunami of drudgery is no longer an option. Money is running out. Maternity leave is running out. It's time to ride the wave.

My word for 2014 is PERSIST. When I fall off, I will get back up. If I feel sad, I need to dust myself down and keep trying. Make that list longer and keep hitting it until I've achieved. I will not spend the next twenty years treading water or wondering what I might have accomplished if I'd tried a bit harder. Even if I only get five spare minutes in a day, those minutes have to go towards something. Another step in the right direction, however small.