Thursday, 10 March 2016

Buy Less, Do More

Having travelled to some far-flung places and met people from all walks of life, I'd say that some of the happiest, most grounded people I've ever met were the ones who had the least 'stuff.'

 helping at a school in Vietnam

Now don't get me wrong, I like nice things. Who doesn't? I'm like a magpie when it comes to anything sparkly. If it glimmers or catches the light in any way, I'm scooping it up in my beak. But as I'm getting longer in the tooth (and I mean that literally: receding gums are all part of the ageing process I'm told), I'm finding I'd rather spend my hard-earned wonga on experiences and travel rather than inanimate objects that will inevitably gather dust - and one thing I loathe is housework. So why would I want to pay good money to clutter up my little terraced house with things that will ultimately necessitate more cleaning? No ta! Give me a mini-break or a night out with the girls any day of the week.

There's something liberating about cancelling all but the most essential direct debits and giving excess clothes to the local Oxfam - although it can feel weird seeing a perfect stranger trotting down the high street in one of your old outfits. I remember once taking a bag of old clothes into work with the intention of dropping them at the local Cancer Research shop on the way home, when a colleague offered to do it for me. Imagine my surprise when he came into work the following week casually sporting my gothy old floor-length leather coat.

Obviously part of the reason for buying less when you get to my ripe old age is that you're more likely to be fortunate enough to have everything you need; gone are the years of living in a tiny flat full of mismatched hand-me-downs donated by various well-meaning rellies, whose contents were functional rather than fashionable. I'm now the proud owner of a stylish Dyson rather than the ancient vacuum cleaner I used to have, which put more dustballs onto the carpet than it sucked up. Swirling Seventies-print curtains are no longer hurting my eyes, and I don't have to peel my feet from sticky fourth-hand carpets with onimous-looking stains. Ahh, the memories of starting out in that first rented flat!

Having replaced all those nightmare items, though, somewhere in my mid-twenties came this ugly desire for MORE. No sooner did I have my own flat, than I wanted a house. Then a better house; a bigger house; the biggest we could afford! Living in Essex didn't help, where everyone wants to be Charlie Big Potatoes, and the ostentatious nouveau riche brashly flash their cash.

The law of the land in Essex was such that everyone seemed to be competing to be skinnier, blonder and browner than their neighbours. Luckily I've got naturally light blonde hair (brownie points for me!), but when I think of the countless hours spent creosoting my body with fake tan and sucking in my belly with Spanx.....I was inadvertently trying to emulate a Pepperami.

Oh I was a bit of an animal alright.

photo credit

Fast forward 10 years and I just can't be faffed with all that. Yes I try to look good, but my clothes are more likely to be Primani than Armani. I like my little house. I don't own a car (although that's more to do with being a public menace on the roads than not wanting to show off in a spanking new Merc). For me now it's all about doing rather than having. Give me a few rounds of cocktails and a juicy steak with a mate over another new top any day.

This may in part be due to the fact I'm no longer married and have no children of my own. What felt like the end of the world a few years ago has now led to a seismic shift in my attitudes - if there's no-one to leave it to, why strive for all this stuff in the first place? Far from sounding morose, this realisation has actually been pretty liberating.

You can't take it with you. All those shoes, chests-of-drawers and nick-nacks will eventually get slung into landfill after I shuffle off this mortal coil, so why create more work for the house clearance guys?

The physical clutter to show I once existed on this Earth will end up as firewood, but the memories of my life, the things I actually DID and the adventures that I've had, well they are the important things and will be forever in my heart...

at the Argentinian salt flats

                                               This article has also appeared in So magazine.

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Just Do It

If you have the dubious pleasure of knowing me you'll know that I'm full-on, 100mph, non-stop, all the time. I don't know the meaning of the word relax. A Duracell bunny with no off switch. It's like my foot is constantly on the gas, flat out, fifth gear, let's 'ave it!

There are some bonuses to being hyper - I get stuff done, for a start. My motto has always been:

                                         "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing quick."

This can be hard on those more laid-back people in my life, who are constantly imploring me to "take a chill pill," as I babble incoherently as soon as my eyes ping open at 6am, my monkey-mind buzzing and spinning like a whirling dervish. I have been known to crank up the heating in my house full-blast in an attempt to boil people from their beds at the crack of dawn just so I can talk at them. How annoying is that? I bet my ex enjoys lying in til lunch now that I'm no longer around to pull that particular stunt. My assistant at work takes one look at me hurtling towards him in the mornings and reaches straight for his supersized can of Monster, downing it in one in an attempt to keep up.

The downside to being a fiery ball of nervous energy is a tendancy towards adrenal burnout as I spin about in the unbecoming manner of a coked-up Tasmanian Devil tornado...

Although I can claim to get stuff done, you'll notice I didn't mention anything about the quality of the job, did I?

The classic hyperactive trait of being flighty also carries through to my inability to focus on anything for more than about 30 seconds. I have the attention span of a gnat. With ADHD. Who's just consumed too many E-numbers.

Funnily enough though, when it comes to having fun, my attention span increases dramatically. Ask me to dance all night long, or be the last girl standing at the bar, no problemo! This girl's got stamina in the shenanigans department. But something studious (ie tedious) and requiring long-term concentration? Forget it!

Unfortunately this characteristic of leaping headlong from one thing to the next often transfers onto things I actually enjoy doing too, although it's more a fear of rejection, rather than the fidgets which gives rise to procrastination and not seeing the task through. My inner voice is worse than any playground bully ever was - how frustrating that it's usually OURSELVES telling us we can't do something, that we'll be no good at it? A quote I try to remember is "If you believe you can or believe you can't, either way you're right."

The reason for this post? To quote Nike billboards the world over and holler, "JUST DO IT!" rather than mumbling "Just Do It Later."

It took me about 30 years to have the balls to do what I love, ie writing, and then another 10 to pluck up the courage to actually share it. Partly due to my fickle nature (I've started writing numerous books and never got past the second chapter), but mostly due to the fear of it being utter drivel and boring people senseless.

Only now through the beauty of social media can I write something, silently repeating to myself that I'm worthy whilst my finger hovers over the delete button....then take a deep breath, say "just do it" in my head and hit 'publish' instead. I'm basically writing for the love of it, and if another human being can pass a few minutes of their dreaded daily commute enjoying reading it, then that's a Brucie bonus. Okayyyy, so I haven't figured out how to make any actual moolah from my writing yet, but hey, one step at a time. Maybe in another 10 years, eh?

So if you're wondering "should I, shouldn't I...." do something, whatever it is, I say DO IT! DO IT NOW! (Unless the thing you're contemplating involves maiming or murder, then maybe give that one a miss, no matter how annoying your boyfriend/mother-in-law/boss may be. I don't fancy being cited in a lawsuit).

Without trotting out too many tired old cliches, I reckon you only regret the things you DON'T do. You don't need me to remind you that life is ridiculously short, passing by in the blink of an eye. I hope I haven't wasted too many precious minutes of yours with this self-indulgent rambling. Whilst I still feel vaguely uncomfortable sharing my innermost thoughts with the judgemental masses, I've come to the conclusion that you just gotta do what makes you happy. Life's too short for anything else.

So if I've bored you that's fine by me, 'cause hopefully it might mean that you'll take your face out of your iPhone and go and do something you've been meaning to do but have been putting off for whatever reason.

Off you go now, run along...

photo credit

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The Big 4-0. That's Four....Oh!!

Ok, so by the age of 40 most people have managed to get their shit together : you've got the big house, the fancy car, the fitness model husband, the adorable 2.4 rug-rats, the high-powered career....oh wait, let me check I have a house, tick, and I'm employed....yeeeees, but the rest?

Before you switch to Facebook thinking this is going to be a pity-party post - stop right there!

So the Big 4-0 is definitely time to take stock of your life, have a bit of a happiness audit, make a few tweaks and culls as one sees fit....but I can safely say to all those dreading the mid-life deadline, 40 is a good age. Ok, so you might not have the picture-perfect life that you envisaged at 20, when 40 sounded absolutely ancient and as far away and unlikely a place as Timbuktu,  but it comes around mighty quick, let me tell you young whippersnappers, and when it does I reckon you'll feel.....well kinda proud actually.

That's not to say that life will have dealt you a winning hand, not at all, by 40 you're bound to have had more than your fair share of setbacks, disappointments, countless broken-hearted outpourings of grief over a bottle of white or six with your besties....but you wear your battle-scars like a badge of honour, "yeah I've been through the wars but I'm still here, I'm still loving life (mostly!) and I intend to make this decade the best yet. What you gonna do about it?!"

Before I launch into a cat's-chorus rendition of Elton's 'I'm Still Standing' (which could be a tad embarrassing on this packed train), let me welcome you to my new blog - a series of observations, musings and mundane day-to-day chitter-chatter about life as a 40-years-young bird.....

Life : A Bird's Eye View

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