Manifesting a Dream

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It may look like part of a historical display, or just a place to shelter from the rain.  But it’s also a dream.

Soon there will be an old-style wooden gypsy caravan in my garden. There is no logical reason for this. Nobody will be living in it or travelling in it. It has no shafts, anyway, so it can no longer be drawn by a horse. Getting it into the garden is causing many logistical challenges. (There is mud. A lot of mud. There is hedge removal – hedge consisting mainly of things with very sharp thorns. There is a narrow lane and there is an electric fence.)

But this is not just a caravan. It is a dream come true. It’s a ride to future possibility. It’s creativity on wheels. It’s a huge, believe-in-yourself gift to my creative heart-led self.

Maybe that seems a lot to expect from a wooden shed on wheels. But squint carefully through the fog of time and, at a distance of about thirty years, you’ll see a little blonde girl gazing up at that shed on wheels with joy and wonder and a visible sparkle all around her. She imagines living a life of adventure under that canvas roof. She’s fascinated by its tiny cupboards and drawers and windows. She wants to snuggle up in the built-in bed and drift away. She writes a story with herself as the heroine and the wooden caravan as the place where magic happens. In the story-within-a-story in her mind, she imagines her writer-self scribbling her stories perched in its open doorway.  To see this wood, iron and canvas dream become real in front of her seems like a miracle.

We don’t all share the same dreams. One person’s deepest longing may be another person’s biggest folly. But dreams are important and it’s vital to support our own and those of others. My husband sees no need at all for a wooden gypsy caravan in our back garden and yet – and I bless him for it – he’s willing to acknowledge and accept that it matters deeply to me and to that little blonde girl I once was (and perhaps still am).

Dreams may be ethereal and mystical, but manifesting them is a strangely practical activity involving a lot of hard work. In this case I’ve sweated for hours removing bramble, hawthorn and blackthorn, suffered injury from all those thorns, carried out complex negotiations with neighbours over access, and been at the mercy of the rain that’s causing the mud that’s preventing final delivery. (My dream would be in danger of sinking into the neighbour’s field if we tried to bring it into the garden now. There is probably some meaningful metaphor here, but I don’t want to over-stretch the point!)

If a dream is going to come true, at some point we have to make the switch from dreamer to do-er. And there always comes a point when you wonder if it’s worth the effort. (A bramble whipping across your face and drawing blood will do that.) But it is. Even if no-one shares your dream, you can make it happen and it will be worth it.

When the field dries out and my caravan comes home, I can’t wait to go out and meet it and my little-girl self again.

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The catapult effect

Crash.

Ah, that will be real life arriving.

There’s been a funny time of working (and writing) limbo in these parts recently: plenty to do, but nothing big or urgent. A little here, a little there, some gentle marketing… And then the marketing takes effect and there are client calls and visits to make, and commitments to large and sometimes challenging pieces of work, and long days of discussion and thinking and planning and all the things that I enjoy but have somehow forgotten how to deal with and it feels like suddenly catapulted forward into bright light and noise and frantic activity.

This, too, is just another part of the freelance cycle. I suppose that the shock and blinking surprise I feel every single time, and the readjustment needed, are also part of the same cycle.

How do you deal with suddenly being flung forward into a new cycle of activity after a slower period?

How often do you stop?

Can you ever stop when you work from home?  When clients rely on you for your work and your family relies on you for food and clean underwear, can you really stop?

And if you did stop, what would you do?  Could you actually do nothing?  What does “stopping” look like?

I’ve been trying to stop.  It’s taken me a week to work out how.

Lessons learnt from a minor ailment:

Working from your bed isn’t the thing to do, despite what I tried to tell youSleeping in your bed is a much better idea.  It’s actually not possible to do decent work when you feel inhuman, and as well as potentially making yourself worse, you’re simply wasting time that you could be spending recovering.  And quite possibly making stupid mistakes that you’ll have to fix later.  (Of course I would never do this.  Ahem.)

If someone offers to help, say yes.  Whether it’s the school run, making dinner, doing the shopping – if someone else is able do it, and is volunteering to do it, say yes even if you think you could probably manage.  Don’t even think about saying to yourself, “but I should be able to cope”.  Says who?

If they don’t volunteer, ask.  They’re only not volunteering because they don’t realise you need the help, because you always manage.  Don’t be a martyr.

Giving yourself time off is hard.  That’s why you need to take more of it than you think.  I promised myself I’d take at least four days off to recover and spent two of them working the whole time because I just couldn’t switch off.  Now I’ve got that out of my system, though, I’m beginning to work out what “stopping” involves.  I just spent a whole day pottering: walking, writing, reading, trying to sleep (this one still needs practice) and a good helping of staring at the sky.  I saw a fox on my travels and did a lot of not thinking.

Perhaps you can’t do as much work as you think you can.  Not forever, anyway.  Or maybe just not now.  Not if you want to be well and to notice and enjoy the spring that’s just beginning.  Perhaps it’s time to stop, just for a while, until you work out how much work is enough work.

Comfort zone? What comfort zone?

  • The day begins with internet connectivity problems.  This is not the IT department’s problem.  There is no IT department – there is just me.

I end up having conversations I barely understand with people in different call centres who contradict one another.  Then it starts working again of its own accord, at least temporarily.

  • A client hasn’t paid on time.  This is not the Finance department’s problem.  There is no Finance department – there is just me.

I spend ages trying to word a polite but firm email which encourages action without sounding begging or threatening.

  • I’m not feeling motivated or something about a task is annoying me.  This is not something I can moan about over lunch or coffee with colleagues.  There are no colleagues – there is just me and whatever random leftovers I can cobble together into something resembling a meal.

I end up venting to the husband and the boy over dinner later on.  They are (well, one of them is) politely sympathetic.  The other continues to tell us in great detail about a computer game that neither of us has ever played, or wanted to play.

  • Someone points out a spelling mistake on the company website.  (Which has been there for years.  Oh the shame.)  This is not the Marketing department’s problem…

You get the idea.  I’m not complaining, mind.  I wouldn’t change my situation for the world.  (And I do happen to have a pseudo-IT-department in the shape of the husband, to whom I’m very grateful!)

My point is that sometimes I start to feel as if working from home in this way is a bit too comfortable, a bit too easy.  I do something I enjoy and feel is worthwhile, and I get to do it at home and be at the school gates for the boy every morning and every afternoon.  I start to feel that I should get out of my comfort zone and do things which challenge me a bit more.  Then I realise that I do – most days.  Because there’s only me, all of the jobs are mine, whether I’m naturally good at them or not.  This comfort zone can get pretty uncomfortable at times.

Of course, what I’m best of all at is knowing when I absolutely can’t – or won’t – do something.  Then I’m brilliant at either finding a reason why it doesn’t really need to be done, or finding someone else who’s better at it than me – and paying them.  Enter my accountant – who doesn’t chase late payments (I can do that, even if I don’t enjoy it), but who does sort out my accounts and tax returns (which would drive me round the bend).

Then there are the times when I’m asked, “do you do such-and-such?”, where ‘such-and-such’ is something which I’m sure I could do if I put my mind to, but have never actually done before… and I hear my own voice say, “yes, I can do that.”  Then there’s no-one except myself to blame for the huge learning curve I suddenly have to embark on.  That’s pretty uncomfortable, and very good for me.

Do what you can

Some days feel like a mountain you just can’t climb.  Do what you can.

When you look at something and think, “I can’t” – just do what you can.

If you meet the deadline but it’s toast for dinner – you did what you could.

If you miss the deadline and it’s toast for dinner – you did what you could.

 

I noticed a poster on the wall of the boy’s school today:

“Courage does not always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”

 

(It’s from a Mary Anne Radmacher art poster. I’ve discovered she’s written the book too.)

Skills for life

When I signed up as a charity fundraiser all those years ago, it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d need negotiation skills, a thick skin, and a creative imagination.

When I became a mother, I thought I was prepared for the sleepless nights, constant nurturing and complete revision of life’s priorities. (I wasn’t, but that’s another story!)  But at no point did I consider that I would need to learn any of the following:

Fixing a prized remote controlled car with nothing but duct tape.

An encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Star Wars and the ability to converse endlessly about it as if it matters.

Even more highly developed negotiation skills.  Especially at bedtime.

How to watch the same film forty-nine times, play the same game and read the same book four hundred and nine times without going crazy.

Whatever the job, there is always more to it than you think.  Any business has accounts, marketing, planning and a raft of other things to be done which aren’t what you might call the core of the business (the fundraising; the widget-making; the writing, whatever).  Even that dream business, the one you’ve been dreaming about since you were eight, the one that’s ideal because it uses all your natural abilities – even that one needs planning, financial and otherwise, and has a hundred mundane actions which need to be done to make it real. 

But if you’ve held down any kind of job, been a parent, or made anything else happen, then you do have the skills to make the dream come true as well.  It won’t happen with a flash of light and a magical rainbow.  It will happen with hard work and putting to good use the skills you’ve learned in other areas of your life.

Mind you, I hope I won’t need to use my remote-controlled car repairing abilities too often.  I think that skill needs a bit of work.