were right

It is almost one year since my Grandad died.  I still hear his voice.

Some of my main memories of him from when I was younger involve his, as I perceived them, somewhat ridiculous eccentricities.  This was a man who used to write dates on cheques like this...

Friday 28th October 2011 A.D.

Seriously.  "A.D." !!! Like the bank cashier might look at his cheque and think..."Hmm, I wonder if this cheque is from over 2000 years ago, how can I possibly tell if it doesn't say A.D. or B.C. on it?" 

He was also an epic complainer.  I remember him sitting at the living room table, writing letters of complaint on his big old typewriter.  I don't know who they were to, anyone who would listen I suspect.  He taught me how to use the typewriter, I still love the romance of even the thought of the clicking letters and the ink blots.  So much beauty is lost in the functionality of modern technology.

If I ever asked him what the letters were about, he would launch into some huge rambling explanation about the topic, in far too much depth for my young mind to understand.  My Mum would roll her eyes and try and make him stop.  One of the things he used to complain about most was the Euro.  There was debate about whether or not the UK should join the Euro, and he was passionately against it.

He would stick anti-Euro stickers on every letter he posted.  It wouldn't surprise me if he stuck quite a few on me!  At the time, I didn't understand.  I thought "Why would governments suggest something that wasn't for the best?".  I was young.  I was naive.

Now I see he was right.  Eccentric maybe, but right.  At least on that one issue.  He taught me to always stand up for what you believe in, even when you feel like no-one else is on your side.  Even when your input is almost certainly irrelevant.  Even if you may be wrong.  You, and only you, have to be able to live with yourself.

Thank you Grandad.

I'm never writing "A.D." on a cheque though....

A Design So Vast

I am not a fan of mommy blogs.  This is no reflection on mothers, it is a reflection on me.  Their issues, concerns and joys are not mine.  So their writing interests me less than that of other blogs out there.  But there are exceptions.  

A Design So Vast  is one of them.  Lindsey is a mother, and she writes beautifully.  She sees the beauty and the splendour in the twisted pain and the mundane dust of this world.  And she has red hair, so I automatically like her.  Check out her blog, it will not disappoint!  And she posts daily...she has my admiration for that alone...


Her post today caught my eye.

"The challenge, for me, is to incorporate my understanding of this most mysterious aspect of life into my experience without being utterly paralyzed by it.  The question is how to find peace despite this yawning abyss.  Is it possible, though, that life is full of grandeur, beauty, and blinding pain not despite but because of this black hole?"

I share Lindsey's opinion.  I think that the ability to comprehend the triviality of our momentary mortal existence is what makes us human.  It is difficult to embrace this without drowning in the enormity of it, but it is possible and perhaps it represents one of the truest sources of satisfaction in this life.

Yet again, it seems Buddhism already has the answer.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day.
And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know, or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation published by HarperONE, San Francisco, 1999 All rights reserved 

It's not often that I read something on the internet and don't conclude I would need to mentally re-write sections  in order for to me feel as if it fits me.  Maybe I am just tired.  The exam is done. It went well, but I feel kind of shell-shocked. Crazy right...

Life like the movies

Some days I just wish that life was a little more like the movies.

And also that all doors looked like this!

That the moment when you hit rock bottom would be the moment someone who loves you knocks on the door.

That no matter how hard you fall there would always be the perfect friend waiting to pick up the pieces.

That it is OK to completely screw up with the man of your dreams, because one day, someday, somewhere, there would always be a second chance.

That if it isn't ok yet, that just means it isn't the end.

This world is beautiful, but some days I wish the edges were a little softer.  That there were more second chances.  That we could be less alone.

And some days?  Well some days I waste my time crying over bad films because life is not a movie, it's just life.

And one day?  One day I hope that bad movies will no longer make me cry, because life is better. 

How to revise well

Exams have always been something I am good at.  Is it because I am super-crazily-intelligent and don't have to work hard for it? No.  In fact I have often done better than people who are more intelligent than me and appear to have worked at least as hard if not harder.  Why?  Because I was better at revising than them.  Simple as that.

So what are my oh-so-special secrets?  Well unfortunately, the biggest secret is hard work.  Boo hiss that is not what I want to have to say, and I am sure it is not what anyone wants to hear.  But lets dig a little deeper.

  1. Do you get the results you need?  The results you want? If the answer is yes, then do not change how you revise.  No matter how many people lecture you on the latest technique or revision guide or make one of those "If only you would listen to me..." sighs, have the conviction to do it your way.  Because it works for you.
  2. If you do not get the results you want or need, take all the advice you can get.  There are great techniques and knowledgeable people out there, try new stuff out.  There will be a way which works for you.
  3. Make a decision then commit.  Do you want or need to do well...or not?  If the answer is yes, work hard from the start, do not pretend things will be ok if you wait until the night before the exam to start revising.  If the answer is no, do not do less work and then panic last minute because you suddenly decided you wanted to get that A*.  It is your choice.  Choose.  And commit.
  4. One hour of good quality revision is better than three hours of poor quality revision.  If you are in the right mood to revise, make it really good quality revision.  Just because you are in such a workaholic mood that you can cope with watching Scrubs while revising, doesn't mean you should.  Put yourself into the environment in which you revise best.
  5. One hour of poor quality revision is better than no revision at all.  If you are in that mood which means that being in your best revision environment is intolerable, do revise while watching Scrubs.  That distraction from your poor work ethic will enable you to remain partially on task.
  6. Accept that during your revision period, you will have to change your normal routine.  Normally spend all weekend with friends?  Two hours a day in the gym?  Only sleep for five hours a night?  It's not going to happen.  Something has to give.  It is not forever, and you committed to this exam, so it is ok to let something else slide.  Explain and apologise to those around you who are affected,they want you to do well and they will understand.
  7. Accept that during your revision period, you are going to change.  You are under a lot of pressure, your normal routine has changed, you will be tired, and this is going to impact on your mood.  Again, this is not going to be forever, observe it, accept it and cut yourself some slack.  Explain and apologise to those around you who are affected, they still love you, still want you to do well guessed it...they will still understand.
  8. On exam day, have confidence in yourself.  And (controversially), enjoy it.  You have worked for this and this is the culmination of your efforts, so be present and remember just how soon it will be over.  Enjoy writing.  I am sure that those exam markers much prefer marking a paper which has been written with passion than one that has been written by a terrified angry nervous wreck.  And I like to think that if they like it, they will probably mark it more favourably.  They are only human after all.
 So how do I implement these seven principles?

  1.    I get the results I want.  I cannot count the number of times I have ignored well-meaning and great advice, simply because I know what works for me already.  Arrogance? Sure.  Do I care? No...because I get the grades I want.
  2. Not applicable because I answered yes to item 1.  So what do I actually do?  Well the photo above shows how I manage my materials, and then basically all I do is write out my A3 sheets and lists of studies...until I know them.  I always run through the sheets in the same order and I make sure everything is divided into small titled sections so each section acts as a trigger to remembering the next section.  I like to use A3 paper because I also remember where things are positioned in relation to each other.
  3. I choose to do well.  I like to start revision about five weeks before an exam.  I spend approximately two hours a day revising.  I am typically studying for one 3-hour exam in which I will have to write essays on three different topics, but I also work full time.  I would alter my revision schedule accordingly based on the number of exams and the amount of other commitments there are in my life.
  4. My best revision environment is sitting on the couch or lying on the floor, listening to the radio.  I find it hard to focus in complete silence.  My radio station preference is Chill because there are no adverts, no DJ talk, few lyrics to tempt me into singing and a beat which is uptempo enough to keep me awake while relaxed enough to keep me calm.  I typically revise for up to an hour, then take a quarter of an hour break, then start again.  As a maximum I would do three hours in an evening, or five hours across a whole day.
  5. When I am feeling too irritated by revising to submit to it fully, I cannot focus with only the radio to keep me on-task.  So I revise with the TV on.  Something mindless that doesnt have to be watched 100% in order to be understood - like Simpsons, Friends, Scrubs etc.  I take slightly longer breaks, maybe half an hour.
  6. I'm not going to lie, I hate changing my routine.  But I do.  I go to bed an hour earlier.  I'm not so strict with myself about what I eat and I double the amount of coffee I drink.  I only have a single night a week revision-free, whereas when I'm not in revision mode I typically have two nights a week when I dont study.
  7. I am a nightmare to live with when I am preparing for an exam.  I am really irritable and completely disorganised and forgetful, characteristics which are completely out of character for me.  I am mindful of this difference and try and keep myself present in the negative emotion so that it doesn't become too consuming.  But to an extent, I just go with it.
  8. On exam day, I always make an effort.  I dress nicely, I put makeup on.  It is tempting to spend every last second revising, but if I feel like I cant look anyone in the eye in that exam room, that lack of confidence has the potential to impact my performance.  I enjoy writing as many pages as I possibly can, and that agonising hand-ache at the end?  To me, that means it was a job well done.

Because dogs are awesome...

And because dogs in motion are extra awesome... 

...even if they have had the misfortune to be born as Basset Hounds...

And also because revision is consuming my mind, life, body and soul. Sorry.

Happy Birthday Blog has been 1 year since I started this blog, and I am actually really surprised by what a positive experience I have had so far.

So what have I learnt in the last 12 months?

1. I love to write!  At primary school I adored writing stories, but higher education most definitely beat the joy of writing out of me.  I had forgotten why I ever enjoyed writing, so it has been a really nice experience rediscovering that part of me.  I can definitely see myself writing a book someday!

2. That blogging is definitely going to be a suitable way of recording my travel experiences when I leave on my adventures.  It is a habit I find easy to keep up, and I think it will suit the kinds of things I want to record and share.  The aim of starting the blog was to find out whether I could use it for this purpose, so I call this conclusion a big success.  

3. To carry a camera everywhere I go.  I really like knowing that I have the ability to capture any impromptu photo-worthy moment now, instead of going "ohhhhhhhhh I wish I had my camera!".  

4. I need a better camera...and better photography skills.  Enough said.  

5. To force myself into adopting a more congruent identity.  It is very easy to allow the roles we fill define us - daughter, employee, lover etc.  I always shape myself to fit the moment I am in, to please the people I am with, I think we all do.  Even without contradicting the core components of who we are, it is surprisingly easy to be a very different person depending on the situation we are in.  When you are writing, that is no longer an option.  It is a habit which has spilled over into my everyday life, and I am glad of this. 

6. To expose more of who I really am in everyday life.  To achieve greater congruency in identity, you have two options.  Present yourself at a sufficiently superficial level that you can appear congruent to all people without risk of judgement or negative reactions.  Or to always present yourself without any of the boundaries that are usually used to protect ourselves from everyone but our closest family and friends.  To achieve the level of catharsis I need to find writing beneficial, the first method is not an option for me.

I think it is very interesting that of the six biggest things my year of blogging has taught me, only two of them are actually directly related to the blog itself...
Here's to the next year!

Awesome sauce

This video rocks! And Ki'une's site looks good too.

Revision will be the death of me.  I am exhaustion.

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