Balancing Trick

Life is all about balance.  I’m not talking about “work-life-balance” as that’s fairly straightforward – you should have as much life as possible, and as little work. The balance I’m talking about is more, a lack of extremes. 

For example, having a little shiny crystal in your purse, because you think it opens a chakra, or summons an angel, hurts no-one and might make you happy; having forty-thousand crystals strung up in every corner of your house, car and handbag makes you uncomfortable to be around  …literally.

Me Grimacing as Dad accidentally sits on a crystal and screams “Ow!”

Extremes have their own place too; it’s ok to pull an all-nighter once in a while to get a difficult chapter of a book written or, as is more likely for you, finish the boss level on some mega-difficult console game.  It’s not ok to do this every night.

Picture of someone at work red-eyed and wired on coffee saying “I’m going to require coffee, and lots of it!”

It’s great to get fit and eat healthily, but it’s bad if all you do is exercise and calorie count.  Equally it’s less than ideal to vegetate and eat cake all day (although obviously it’s a lot of bloody fun and should be done at least once in a while!)

If you spend your whole life earning money and networking to progress then you may well earn a lot of money, but you won’t have any time left over for living.  That’s where we get the phrase “spend your life” from; life, like money, is a commodity.

First Guy “Time is more important than money because you can always get more money but you can’t buy more time.” Second Guy: “You can ALWAYS get more money?!”

Unfortunately money also remains a commodity – you CAN’T always get more money, certainly not without giving up more time.  Ultimately, you have to find a balance with both time and money.  I think Goethe said it best:-

Quote: Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time. – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

You can work hard all your life and maybe retire on a good pension, or you can enjoy your life and maybe end your life destitute, but perhaps if you get the balance right you can instead have alternate periods of time and money that give you the balance you need.

Balance isn’t an easy thing to achieve though, but like anything, if you’re at least aiming to find it, you have a much better chance of getting there.

It’s Different For Girls

Growing up in the late 70s and 80s, there were only a very few exciting role models for girls if you didn’t aspire to be a superhero in hot-pants, or a Prime Minister with a swinging brick for a heart, hated throughout the land, but I digress… 

Luckily for me, I have always struggled to pick up on social cues, or miss them entirely, and because gender is mainly a social construct I failed to notice it’s existence.

Two girls with sticks - Kate “It’s a Fairy-wand!” Me “It’s a Light-Saber!” Dog: “It’s clearly a stick.”

It genuinely never occurred to me that I couldn’t grow up to be Indiana Jones or Magnum PI, …or B.A. Baracus, and I was going to grow up to be the hero, the tough guy, the main character in my own story.

Me as BA Baracus on the Titanic shouting “I’m the king of the world! Fool.”

The only female character I could ever really get on board with was Princess Leia, partly because she was smart, independent and could fight like the boys, but also because my Mum had that exact weird Danish-pastry hairstyle on her wedding photo and it was both familiar and comforting.

Black and white pic of my mum with Leia buns and a bouquet

As I got older, the social cues for how I “should” behave as a girl got stronger and stronger, to the point where even I couldn’t ignore them anymore.

Initially I was devastated, I had already mapped out my life as a private investigator, with a side-line in treasure-hunting, who would eventually see out my days as a lovable hobo – I couldn’t do any of that as some stupid girl.

Young me giving my hobo stick (ala Dick Whittington) to a hobo saying “You might as well have this, I’ll never get to use it apparently.”

As a teenager I started to grow boobs, great boobs, and with great boobs came great power, and not a lot of responsibility, and finally I got on board with being a girl. 

…Unfortunately, I was a little behind on actually being a girl and it took me a good few years to catch up on some important socially-constructed behaviour.

Kate: “Great boobs yes, but you’ll find them more effective if you shave your damn legs!” Me in tight dress with incredibly hairy legs considering this carefully.

Even after that it wasn’t a smooth ride because, on top of the personal grooming issues and behavioural expectations, I’d never really learnt how to talk to girls, all I knew was how to talk AT them – to this day I remain a proud and accomplished woman-splainer.

The power of my boobs has now diminished, or at least changed.  Don’t get me wrong they’re still a knock out, but in more of a physically capable of rendering a passer-by unconscious than impressing them kind of a way.

Short man lying unconscious with a black eye and stars circling his head - me apologising “Sorry I swung around too quickly and hit you with what was almost certainly the corner of my shopping bag...”

When I look back at my life so far I feel happy and proud to be a girl BUT I do wish I hadn’t let embracing being a girl distract me from realising that I was right first time round; there was no reason I couldn’t be Magnum PI.  

…Frankly, at this age, I don’t even have to rule out being able to achieve a Tom Selleck level moustache.

I look at the world now and I see fabulous role models for girls everywhere; amazing comedians, powerful pop divas, women in science, art, even politics, and to my utter delight actual female Ghostbusters AND Jedis. 

I’m not naïve enough to assume it’s a done deal, I’ve seen progress before following by a period of recession, but it makes me unbelievably happy to know that this generation of girls could grow up without the assumption that they have to be the sidekick in life.

My Guest Post For Pencils and Popcans!

Recently, Tanya Kuzmanovic, of the wonderful blog Pencils and Popcans, very kindly asked me to write a guest post.  

To view my guest post, titled How Not To Clean Your House click on the picture below:- 

A clean house is a sign of a wasted life!

I hope you enjoy it and please do check out Tanya’s brilliant blog and fabulous published essays whilst you are there!   

Mum being chased by a washing machine with a face and a large pile of washing up

 

Why Did We Once Holiday With Drunken Pirates?

This is a very good question, and one you are sure to ask one day soon.  The short answer is it was Grandad’s 70th birthday.  The long answer is the same, but in the following excruciating detail:-

It all started the way most of our holidays with Grandad start, with him talking us into going by lying about what the holiday would entail.

Grandad with big eyes, “Please-please-please! A quiet family holiday? Is that too much to ask for MY special birthday?”

A tearful Grandad had gone into great detail about how important it was to him to spend some real QUALITY time with his Grandchildren, after all, he “might not have many more years left”…  *sniff* *fake cry* *sniff*

Ten massive ladles of guilt later and the next step was for me to talk your Dad into it, which wasn’t so easy because he’d been on holiday with Grandad before.

Mum: Of Course I remember “the horror”, but come on, it’s only once every ten years. Dad: Like Pennywise from the film IT?! That can’t just be a coincidence...

I tried to point out to Grandad that we don’t really go on holiday with other people in our family and that considering we struggle to spend an hour or two together the rest of the year it might not be the best idea, and he said:-

Grandad rolling his eyes: Is this about Blackpool again? I wasn’t drunk. Everyone likes to rest their eyes when traffic slows down, it’s normal!

Foolishly we agreed to go, on the promise of separate accommodation, and for an absolute maximum of 3 days.  I mean, a quiet family holiday, how bad could it be?!

Hints of changes to the original itinerary soon started to creep in…

Grandad: I’m thinking of inviting a few work pals. ...And Sue, Jim? Maybe Dave? ...And remember my neighbours from down the road - I want to say... Ken and Barb?

The thing is, whilst Grandad enjoys the fantasy of spending quality time with his family, what he really wants to do is party with his friends, and because in his mind he is compromising in the first place by spending time with his family, he should really be allowed to party with his friends.

Anyway, long story short we end up on the North East coast, also known as the coldest seaside resort in the British Isles – it makes Scotland look like Barbados. 

Grandad in the rain covered in snow “It’s really quite bracing once you’re used to it!”

There we were shivering on our “close family quality-time” holiday with Grandad.  Just us, and 20 to 30 of Grandad’s closest friends and acquaintances, plus a couple of people whose names he thought “might be Ken and Barb”.

You’re right, this doesn’t explain the “Drunken Pirates” bit.  Ok, so Grandad had mentioned that we should bring pirate outfits for you kids and ourselves for a “special birthday outing”.  Your Dad joked that he hoped it wouldn’t involve a boat as we were all recovering from ear and balance problems and you as small children couldn’t swim yet.

Mum rolling eyes: Don’t be ridiculous it won’t involve a boat. Pfft, a boat?!

Of course it DID involve a boat.  Grandad had hired a “Pirate Galleon” to take us around the bay – he thought he’d hired it exclusively, but he hadn’t, so our close family unit, and entourage of 30 by now VERY drunken 50-70 year-old pirates, were accompanied by 20 or so very sober non-pirates.

The other passengers seemed less than impressed to be on board a sea vessel with so many inebriated pirates, especially as Grandad held up the boat’s departure for ten minutes to wait for the slower drunker pirates.  We tried to pretend we weren’t with them but obviously that was made all the more difficult by our matching pirate outfits…

Naturally, being small children, you and your cousin bloody LOVED being on the boat.  Your Dad, and I, and Auntie Kate, were less keen…

Boat, three kids, each of us holding onto a kid for dear life. Me sobbing “Oh God! We’re all going to die!”

Amazingly, we all made it back in one piece and unfortunately no drunken pirates were harmed so they continued to party noisily into the night whilst we kissed the ground and thanked God for our separate accommodation.

Luckily the next day Grandad organised some “real quality family time” crab-fishing off the pier, just us, and him, and 20 or so very hungover pirates, trying miserably to attach dead fish-heads to hooks.  Which obviously is also TOTALLY NORMAL. 

I am fairly certain we WILL be “busy” on his 80th.

Difficult People

Difficult people, can’t live with them, can’t live with them.  Certainly nobody wants to work with them, or enjoys dealing with them as customers, but often we can’t avoid them.

Everyone experiences difficult people in various areas of their life, but usually there is one particularly difficult person that causes a very regular and specific pain; it’s usually a relative, often a parent…

The only people I know of that don’t have a single difficult person who they regularly moan about in their life, are in fact a difficult person themselves.   

Sassy woman says“Difficult? I tell it like it is, no sugar-coating. I say it to your FACE! ...Hey, where did everyone go?!!”

Personally, I have read and listened to a great deal of advice on how to deal with difficult people BUT I have never effectively learnt HOW to deal with difficult people  …and I think I may have finally figured out why.

Like the reasonable man described in law, and the standard patient described in medical journals, the difficult person does not exist. 

Frankenstein has a staff member held in the air above his head, she says “He looks pretty real to me!!!” Colleague legging it “Yeah, and really quite angry...”

Unfortunately, whilst the difficult person does not exist, difficult situations, and people who are difficult to interact with, very definitely do.  

This is not just semantics – I am trying to explain that the reason it is hard to learn how to deal with “difficult people” is that they are not a single cohesive group; they are all difficult in their own unique and special way.  Yippee!

There are people who seem to only want to use you for their own ends:

Woman in coat, with two screaming kids says “We WERE having coffee, but I have to cancel so now you’re free to babysit my kids right?” Second woman looks shocked and almost drops coffees.

There are people who mean well but are unreliable:

Dad in car, me, as a child with a hockey stick frozen at the side of the road covered in snow – Dad : “3pm?! I thought we said 5.30?”

Then there are people who are suffering from their own problems so severely that they can’t play nicely with others:

Woman at desk “An emergency you say? Sure I’ll help, what is it?” Woman opposite screeches: “I haven’t got time to TELL you what it is!”

With such a wide variety of people who are difficult to deal with on offer, and so many different ways to experience them, to learn how to deal with every single one of them simply isn’t possible.

By all means read advice on how to deal with difficult or “toxic” people; take whatever tips you can, where ever the hell you can get them.  I know I do.  Experience can help, as can removing yourself from the situation.

Woman reaching for coat “AN emergency you say? What a coincidence, I have to leave now, bye!” Other woman looks disgruntled.

Once you accept that it is impossible to deal with every single kind of difficult person you can get on with the business of coping with them when you do come across them, without berating yourself afterwards for not having handled them better.

Also please remember most people, difficult or not, mean well.  Often their difficultness is caused by their own internal struggles, and whilst it feels personal it probably isn’t meant to hurt you.  At the same time please remember that if they did intend to hurt you, pretending that it hasn’t hurt you can really spoil their fun.

Television Lies To You

I grew up watching 1980s television and film and I definitely remember that if you were any ordinary person with a dream, a good heart and a funky, sarcastic attitude it was a shoe-in that everything worked out for you; money, romance, career, the lot.

The Goonies Poster recreation with Mum, Dad, Thing1 and Thing 2 hanging from a stalactite over pirate ship full of treasure below.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the romance, that went as planned (unless we count that first guy before your Dad – which we definitely don’t BTW) but the career and the copious amounts of money have definitely been more elusive.

I feel like the opportunities I expected to encounter, simply never showed up. 

Army Recruitment Office – “No A-Team? How then am I supposed to get framed for a crime I didn’t commit to promptly escape to live as a soldier of fortune?!” Army recruitment sergeant looks unimpressed

I mean, it seems unfathomable, but to this day I have never once, NOT ONCE, EVER, been presented with 30 million dollars to spend over thirty days in order to inherit 300 million dollars.  I know, right?! 

I have also never been called to a lawyer’s office to be challenged to spend a night in a haunted mansion in order to inherit it – and growing up this one had always seemed the most CERTAIN of all.  It happened to someone on Scooby-Doo every other week.

Worse, I have found not one single piece of pirate gold.  ANYWHERE.  And believe you me, I’ve looked.

Woman and Man Metal-detectoring in a pond – Woman: “Another coke-can. Is that a jelly-fish?” Man staring at condom on end of metal detector “Nope...”

I feel that maybe, just maybe, television has LIED to me, and that all the scenarios I have so carefully prepared myself for in life are actually just fantasies of some kind.

I’m not saying I’ve learnt nothing useful from TV – I can swing myself in and out of an open Dodge Charger window instead of using the door …well, I could, …until my late twenties.  I am great at recognising when a plan comes together, and I am SPOT ON at pitying fools.  I am a bit lacking in direction though, if I’m honest.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is this, following a question you asked me last night, I thought it important to point out that television, film, and indeed gaming, are not accurate depictions of where your life is headed.

Little boy asks “Soooo, hypothetically, where could I acquire a diamond pickaxe or a Pokemon ball?” Mum shrugs and says “Erm...”

It’s wonderful to lose yourself in action and adventure for an hour or two.  Real life can be a little boring in comparison, but it is more realistic to think that your life may turn out more similar to the adults you’re around now, than to say, Pokemon Trainers or Steve from Minecraft.

I could be wrong, certainly the possibility of a brave new world – where you need to spend all your time gathering food and weapons and building shelters – is ever more in the mix, but I think it’s safe to assume that Pokemon Trainer is off the table.

…unless of course the Matrix we all inhabit gets upgraded to include a Kawaii texture-pack?

When to Make a Noise

I think it’s safe to assume, from the way you often wander past me hours after your bedtime, that I have already succeeded in teaching you, Thing one, when to stay quiet.

Eldest son saunters past Mum in dressing gown, he is whistling and has a plate of snacks. The clock shows it is almost midnight.

However for the benefit of Thing 2, I should probably reiterate, if the authority figure hasn’t noticed a missed deadline, that is a good time to stay quiet. 

Youngest son drumming and singing “It’s the final countdown d-d-der-der!” and Mum looks cross and shouts “Annnd that’s BEDTIME!!!”

What I really want to talk about is when to make a NOISE.  Just to be clear, I’m not talking about some magical time of day where you can chase each other around the house screaming and smashing things without me yelling:

Mum screaming “Shut up and stop chasing each other I haven’t got time for A&E today!!!”

I am talking about the times when it IS a good idea to draw attention to yourself.  One good example of this would be when you have completed an arduous task at work.

I don’t mean you should stand on your chair and announce your brilliance to the office, no-one likes that guy, BUT you do need to make people aware of your hard work because often when you do a job well you make it look TOO easy.

Wonder Woman is happily juggling tonnes of paperwork into an Out tray

I have a wonderfully efficient and diligent colleague at work, who quietly solves all kinds of messes, and ploughs through swathes of unpleasant work, but she doesn’t get half the credit she deserves – whereas I, filter-less complainer that I am, make sure that everyone in the office knows of even the smallest hurdles I have jumped.

Smug woman saying “...And then the printer wasn’t even plugged in so I had to do that too!” Colleagues applaud enthusiastically.

In an ideal world, my diligent colleague’s way would be the correct way to behave; it certainly is admirable to quietly work wonders expecting no recognition BUT the problem is that it literally ISN’T recognised, and instead of reward you simply get more of the same.

Wonder Woman unhappily juggling paperwork with a large bundle of paperwork being hurled in her direction whilst someone shouts “Catch!”

This brings me neatly to my final point, the other time it’s important to make some noise is when you do spot someone quietly doing something amazing. 

Tell amazing people how amazing they are, and why.  Let the quiet heroes know their fabulousness has been noticed, even if it’s only by you for now. 

Hopefully one day it will put the world back to how it should be, where filter-less complainers like me don’t get all the glory.

Learn What You Love

It can sometimes seem as though everyone around you has found their passion, or purpose in life, whilst yours remains mysterious and intangible.

This is NORMAL and it’s something most people go through at some point in their lives.  Not everyone has a dream, nor is it imperative that they find one.

Man screaming “Have you seen my passion in life?! ...ANYONE!!!” Boy handing him cake “Is this it?”

Some people seem to be born with a passion for a specific goal.  Perhaps they have a rare or exceptional talent, or perhaps they were simply at the front of the queue when drive and determination were given out.

Baby: Mother, I wish to be a concert pianist. Mum looking at the Bon-Tempi: I’d better get saving then.

Most people are not this lucky and will spend a significant amount of time trekking down many different paths, still unsure if they actually want to reach the end of ANY of them.

Many people berate themselves for not madly loving anything in particular, but that is terribly unfair, what if the thing you will love is something that you haven’t even tried yet?  How then could you possibly be expected to know whether you love it or not?

It would take a lifetime to try ALL of the things you haven’t tried yet, and honestly, some things are probably left untried for a reason…

Upside down in skis falling off a mountain – Ohhhh yeah, this is why I don’t skiiiiiiii!

So if you want to find out what you love, start with what you like.  (If you aren’t sure what you like, start by ruling out what you hate.) 

Practice what you LIKE, to discover what you LOVE

For example, if you quite like drawing, or doodling even, practice it.  Do a little bit of drawing every day.  This will help you improve, and most activities are more fun the better you get at them.

Experiment; try cartoons, still life, oil paints, computer animation, dried pasta and glitter, whatever the hell you like, as long as you try it and have fun.  Also, be kind to yourself about the results – this is your first go, you won’t produce a Rembrandt.

Dad baking and splattering stuff everywhere – Mum: What are you making? ...Aside from a mess? Dad: I don’t know yet, but this is FUN!

You Don’t Have to Have a Dream!

Most importantly, please remember that you don’t HAVE to have a passion at all; it’s not compulsory. 

You don’t need to have one big dream, as Tim Minchin said best in his wonderful 9 life lessons speech, you can have lots of little dreams, or as he calls them “micro-ambitions”.

Don’t Have A Dream by Tim Minchin “Don’t have a dream. Do things well and pursue things that seem interesting. Practice passionate dedication to the pursuit of short term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you, as you never know where it is going to lead.”

(If you want to view Tim Minchin’s full speech click on the above picture.)

So in summary, you don’t have to have an all-encompassing passion in life.  There is nothing wrong with pootling along aimlessly like the rest of us, but if you do want to look for one, the best way is to practice stuff you like, to discover what you love.

 

Should Versus Could

Isn’t COULD a great word?  I could eat some ice-cream, I could change career, I could find a rule of three to hammer home this point comically, but I don’t have to, it’s my choice.

What about SHOULD?  I should be checking my work emails.  I should eat healthier.  I should have started writing this article before 2am… 

COULD is full of possibility, whereas SHOULD is full of responsibility. 

Boss telling Mum to work smarter Mum thinks: I COULD tell him where to stick this job... But I SHOULD probably wait until I've found alternative employment.

We can’t live without SHOULD entirely, because ultimately it is just a more polite version of MUST, and as adults there are things we must do to make our lives, our relationships, and our society work. 

Little boy: I SHOULD wash my hands after using the toilet. Mum: Yes, but DID you?!

However, some of us add in more SHOULDs than are good for us.  Some of us see SHOULDs where COULDs should be. 

1st: I SHOULD have done better. 2nd: I SHOULD be stronger. 3rd in catsuit: I SHOULD be a Kardashian!

Worse, some people like to try and wrongly impose their SHOULDs on others.

Grandad: You SHOULD be more like me. Stop worrying about this Health and Safety nonsense... Grandad is wearing an eye-patch and the door handle is hanging precariously at eye-level

It’s not a problem I’ve suffered from recently, in fact many people who know me would argue that I may have dropped a few more SHOULDs than I should have – but then I take absolutely no notice of other people’s SHOULDs anymore, and I’d recommend you could try doing that too.

Grandad continues: ...but you SHOULD always put the milk in first. Grandson: Nope, it's personal preference. Also let's remove these pointy things from eye-level! (taking down dangerous door handle)

When I was younger I listened to too many SHOULDs.  I thought that I should be the same as everyone else.  I thought that I should fit in, and I thought that I should work on changing the things about me which were different to others.

People who live their lives listening to every SHOULD that they come across aren’t truly free to live their own lives, but that doesn’t mean they should do things differently, it just means that they could do things differently. 

Sad in dressing gown: I SHOULD do some exercise. Happy in jeans and trying out a hula-hoop "I COULD do some exercise".

It is quite normal and understandable to let historic SHOULDs rule your world, everyone does sometimes, but if you want to you could try a new thing too, where sometimes you replace should with could, and live life the way you choose.

Do Something

“Do Something” sounds like an 80s film starring John Cusack, but you’re thinking of Say Anything – which is a great film – but what I want to talk about is how important it is to actually DO something.

Say Anything Parody - Turn that music off and get a job so I don't have to keep explaining you to my Dad!

Despite the film reference and the above picture I’m not saying you must do something meaningful with your life, like get an important job or track down the girl of your dreams; I’m simply saying that the only way forward in life is to take ACTION of some kind, rather than just spend forever planning, and pondering possible outcomes.

Quote - The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao-Tze

This proverb is clearly saying that no matter how long the journey, you’ll never get to your destination if you don’t take that first step. 

To be honest, I always found it uninspiring because I couldn’t think of a journey of a thousand miles that I wanted to take – I’m not much of walker; I usually only get exercise by accident, if at all.

Mum running after bus shouting "Wait!!! ...This isn't my stop!"

I’m a massive hypocrite too because I am the actual QUEEN of prevarication.  I like nothing better than discussing every possible hypothetical component of a task to effectively delay starting it, but that’s why I’m writing this blog, because I want you both to be BETTER at life than me.

I talked about starting this blog for a couple of years before actually doing it – I let little things, like not knowing how the hell to write a blog, or get it hosted, or administer it, put me off, and yet having started it here I am, still barely knowing any of that, but I’m doing it, and doing it has been so much fun and taught me so much.

Mum shouting at screen "New Edit too?! Aw man, the only Guttenburg I know about is Steve!

As Grandad’s DNA is in your genes I should also mention that the best way forward in life is a COMBINATION of planning, pondering outcomes AND action, but without action there can be no progress.  (Though without any planning, and pondering outcomes, that progress might be minimal or dangerous…)

Grandad El Paso driving car towards a rickety bridge over crocodile infested waters "Don't worry, I know a short-cut!"

We all have times in our life where we want to make a change.  Sometimes we don’t even know what that change is, just that we wish things were different.  In most cases we won’t know how to make a change, because, by it’s very nature, a change is different to anything we are familiar with.

Mum looking at ipad "This new job sounds perfect for me! If only I were qualified to do it, or had any experience of whether or not I'd enjoy it..."

For this specific problem Richard Alderson of Careershifters has some great advice in this fabulous article:-  https://www.careershifters.org/expert-advice/how-to-change-career-when-you-have-no-idea-what-youre-doing  Here he explains that the best way to find out more about a career that interests you is networking, prior to taking steps towards it.

This lack of knowledge about what a change may bring can leave us stuck in a frustrated cycle of wishing for change without being able to affect change in any way for fear of causing the wrong kind of change.

We can’t always know what the outcome of making a change will be.  It may well be worse than what we make the change from, so it makes sense not to change too big too soon. 

However, unless we make a change of some kind, NOTHING will change.  So if you’re unhappy, take baby-steps if you need to but, introduce some change.