They’re part of the holy trinity of things that make me whole: words, music, food.
These three things anchor my life, colour my world and fuel my existence. They allow me to express myself more meaningfully, feel more deeply, and to live more completely.
But, as The Bloke will tell you (and as he has even more frequently told me), sometimes I use words too much.
Especially with our children.
And, truth be told, I don’t always use my words in a pleasant way…but in more of a drawn out, repetitive nag.
Sometimes they even come out as a rant.
Or a tirade.
Or a garbled stream of complaints and admonishments.
My children are reaching the age when they either don’t need me so much any more, or when they firmly believe they don’t need me at all (and could I please leave them alone and perhaps also shut the door on my way out while I’m at it).
As you can well imagine, once you’ve thrown a bunch of elevated hormone levels into the mix, a politely phrased and modulated request to perform the most perfunctory of household tasks (the musical eqivalent of which would be Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending) can produce such unexpectedly snarling, snarky response (think Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Heads Will Roll turned up to at least 11) that I frequently and ever-so-immaturely find myself retaliating in kind.
Things came to a head for me last week (though, fortunately, heads did not actually roll) after an especially super-charged exchange with my elder child, and I did what any self-respecting woman in her mid-forties does, if she still can: I called my mother for advice.
And a bit of a cry.
OK — it was a lot of a cry.
Who says we ever finish growing up?
Except we generally do grow up, and sometimes our mums aren’t always there to listen or helps us find the answers, or to guide us gently to the truth at the heart of the matter — which probably has something to do with the fact that you’ve managed to nurture your child to this point, and now they have reached the stage of their existence where they have to complete that same process you guided them through all over again, for themselves. And that you’ve given them a safe place in which to express themselves and to try out all the wildly different versions of their new, expanding sense of self.
The real question, I suspect, is not about growing up or finishing anything at all.
Because — naturally, serendipitously — once I’d processed the truth bombs dropped by my teenager and the truth pearls bestowed by my mother, I happened to open a book and there was a quote from Rumi which stopped my breath:
And you, when will you begin that long journey into yourself?
And so, that’s what I’m doing.
I’ve chosen to be quiet, and to witness my reactions from within. I’m not asking my children to do things any more — they’ve heard my requests thousands upon thousands of times, and they know what my expectations are.
And when my expectations are not met, I am applying what I call Silent Theory. Not a frosty, passive agressive silence, but a moment of taking a breath and stilling the response which would have so quickly come to my lips and spilled out as sound the split second after my children didn’t do exactly what I wanted them to.
Who, I now wonder, was the child?
It’s extraordinary what you discover in the space between, if you choose to begin that long journey into yourself.
I’m writing this not so long after summarising my December Delights, the posting of which was delayed by the desolation I felt when the beautiful place in which I live went back into lockdown. As time has passed I am learning, yet again, to sit tight without a fight, and to remind myself – as some insightful wag commented – that people from the Northern Beaches have been practicing their whole livesnot to leave the Northern Beaches. I am prompted, yet again, to recall how boundlessly fortunate we are to live here: residents of vibrant yet peaceful neighbourhoods, surrounded by abundant natural beauty, and bordered by the mighty Pacific Ocean in all its majesty.
And as I’ve willed myself to turn my attention to delight, I’ve found – as I have consistently observed throughout this yearlong process of observing the delightful – that actively choosing to look for things which inspire wonder and bring me joy, however fleeting, brings me greater contentment and inner peace.
It’s not an unexpected discovery.
But it’s still an insight I will carry with me into the new year, along with a (sometimes ironic) appreciation that even before I had any inkling how 2020 would unfold, I chose to follow and notice delight in all its forms during this year, the most unusual in which I’ve ever had the privilege to live.
I’m also not surprised to see that the majority of the delights I have selected as my Top Five for the year relate back to my First Principles, which I articulated many years ago now in a post I called The Wellspring: words, music and food. To these, I would now add the recognition of delight, in all its forms.
And so, without further ado, here are my most precious delights of 2020…
Looking back over my year of delights, I notice that there are not many things that have made my list…unless of course they are foodstuffs, such as Chocolate Croissants and Oysters (and yes, those capitals are entirely necessary). But I have to admit there is one thing, one object of considerable bulk and immense importance, that has made its way into my life this year and which did, upon arrival, and has in all the intervening time since, brought me enormous joy and satisfaction.
It’s my new refrigerator.
His name is Fillipé, and he is our brand new sleek stainless steel fridge. I had been wanting him for a very long time, and now that he is here I love everything about him: that the fridge compartment is on top and the freezer drawers are at the bottom, that on the inside he is well lit and glass shelved and spacious, that he is oh so quiet…the list goes on. Opening Fillipé’s door is always a pleasure…it’s like opening a chocolate box, except my fridge is usually full of fruit and vegetables, and glass bottles standing in gleaming rows, and – well, it’s easy to wax lyrical over something so ordinary when you have a friend like Fillipé Fridge, the most delightful appliance I have ever owned.
Being Alcohol Free
At the time of writing this post, I will have gone without alcohol for almost an entire year. I kicked off 2020 with a desire to do things differently, and one of the items highest on my list was to reset my relationship with alcohol. You see, I’m a finisher: if a wine bottle is open, I’m highly likely to see it as my civic duty to ensure it’s finished by the end of the evening. This was true even if I was at home alone, enjoying a quiet glass of vino by myself once the kids had gone to bed. Or even before they’d gone to bed. And so, on 1 January 2020, I resolved not to touch a drop of the demon drink and to see how long I lasted.
Well folks, I’ve lasted far, far longer than I thought I would – ALL YEAR! And along the way I discovered, much more swiftly than I ever thought possible, that I really didn’t need alcohol in my life at all. I’m perfectly happy without it, and feel very comfortable with my decision to eliminate it from my life in 2020. I am also learning to accept other people’s reactions when I say I’d prefer not to have a drink – many and varied as these have been.
I’ve stuck to my decision, feel ever so much better for it (mentally and physically), and that in itself has been a true delight.
Receiving a Negative COVID Test Result
Speaking of being free of things, I would have to say that in 2020 one of the greatest delights you can ever receive is the SMS alerting you to the fact that your most recent COVID test is negative. Given that I am writing this post during a lockdown and waited four hours the other day to get tested (along with eleventy-million other people on the Northern Beaches), I can tell you that receiving the negative result which allows you to venture back out of doors – the wonder, the delight! – is a truly magical thing. You could probably have seen my frenzied fist pump from space.
I should also add that I am also beyond grateful to live in a part of the world where we have excellent access to free of charge testing (Sydneysiders have done over 300,000 tests in the past week – go us!), and that New South Wales also has amazing health workers and contact tracers who go above and beyond to stop the spread of the insidious virus that has turned the world upside down this year.
Cillian Murphy’s Limited Edition
It’s no secret that I am a Cillian Murphy fan – the man is pure class. But in this instance it’s not his brilliant acting that has brought me delight, or his many and varied reading recommendations, but his love of music. Every so often, BBC Radio 6 asks Cillian to guest DJ – whether it’s filling in for Guy Garvey when Elbow goes on tour or, more recently, when they’ve asked him do a Midnight-2am shift that he prerecords from his basement in Dublin and shares with the rest of the world — and when he does, the results are impressive.
The music Murphy includes in his playlists is a truly eclectic mix, but that suits me down to the ground. In addition to bringing spoken word pieces and music new and old to my ears, I’ve been surprised to hear him throw in bits and pieces I listen to often and had (possibly mistakenly?!) thought were obscure – from Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space to instrumental tracks like Sophie Hutchings’ Tail Lights and so very many more. Murphy’s musical knowledge is encyclopaedic and I’m always utterly delighted when his playlists pop up on the airwaves.
Sunshine Over Sea
I love living close to the ocean. We are saltwater people around here, folks who revel in the many splendours of the sea. Some of us need to immerse ourselves in it, others are content to sit and look at it, but many of us need to at least catch a glimpse of it as we go about our daily whirl.
One of the delights I have savoured most this year has been driving around a particular bend near where I live, following the road as it curves upward until – at the crest of the hill, not less – the ocean appears and stretches before me in all its glory, all the way to the horizon. Often, at the time of day when I make this journey, the road I’m travelling appears to merge with a vibrant path of sunshine lighting up the surface of the sea. Would that I could keep driving onto that golden road instead of sticking to the tarmac beneath my wheels!
On one particularly memorable drive during this unforgettable (for all the wrong reasons) year, I happened to be listening to Gang of Youths’ song The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows as I made my morning drive. The music begins quietly enough, but it built to a crescendo just as I drove that curving road and crested the hill, exploding into its chorus as the sunlit ocean overwhelmed my view:
‘Cause not everything means something, honey So say the unsayable Say the most human of things And if everything is temporary I will bear the unbearable Terrible triteness of being…
It’s a memory I will cherish, and one that reminds me – almost every time I turn up that hill – that if everything is temporary (and I genuinely suspect it is), then welcoming and noticing delights may well be our best way of anchoring ourselves in the present, of bearing the unbearable, of making sense of this strange thing we call life.
We all have different ways of making sense of our place and time on this planet, and I thought it fitting to end this post by including a photo capturing the same view I just described that was taken by a friend of mine, whose photography has also brought me delight this year. I asked to share this particular picture because it depicts the glimmering beginnings of the road the sun paints across the sea each day, the one I would love to keep driving onto…but if you check out his Instagram page @frank_see_fotos you can lose yourself in a wealth of images, each one more beautiful than the last. I can’t think of a lovelier way to spend Boxing Day.
It feels like forever since I’ve posted here, and it’s such a relief to have my fingers back on the keys, tapping away so I can make sense of it all.
A fair bit has changed for me in the past six weeks or so: I’ve started a new job and taken on a volunteering role in addition to the work I already do. And although I’ve managed to keep my employment within school hours (which as any working mother will tell you is about the closest thing you’ll get to a modern day miracle), I have missed being here, in my small patch of cyberspace, and have found myself yearning for just five more minutes than I actually had so I could bash out a blogpost.
And because I didn’t have those extra five minutes, the school uniforms got hurriedly ironed instead. Or I threw together some lunch for the next day at the office. Or I quickly sipped a life-saving cup of tea before I jumped back into the car to pick up whichever child from whatever sporting practice/birthday party/school event/playdate they happened to be at.
But I still wanted to be here, sharing the musings of the Daydream Believer.
I’ve often joked with my mates that I’m not a very pleasant person to be around if I haven’t been writing something — writing anything. And the more time I spent attempting to adjust myself and my (occasionally uncooperative) family members to the new set of circumstances I had brought to bear on our world, the less time I spent putting words on a page.
Any words. On any page.
I could feel myself starting to unravel a bit. To come unstuck. Maybe even a little unhinged…
And I knew that meant I had to prepare.
Preparation works for me. It’s why I make lists — on the backs of envelopes, in notebooks, on my phone, even on the back of my hand. It’s why I have a bullet journal (and by this I mean a battered book I lug everywhere and in which I scrawl utterly irreverently, not some sort of pristine Pinterest-worthy portfolio with natty colour coded tabs). It’s why I menu plan. It’s why I write out timetables for my kids. It’s why I have a small filing system in my kitchen to keep track of everything from permission forms to potential holiday plans. It’s why I mentally review my to do list in bed each night. It’s why I allocate time to thinking things through and planning them out.
I reckon there’s one in every family…
Preparation is also, perhaps, in my blood. The motto of the clan into which I was born is “Tout Pret” — which means, of course, “all ready”. And while I do realise that our family words probably have more to do with a well-honed Highland propensity to fight off (just about any) invading force rather than a simple willingness to get the domestic drudgery done, recent family history does seem to indicate that we still possess a tendency towards preparedness and — consequently — to getting things done.
And so here I am: back on the page, still trying to making sense of it all, but knowing that I I made the plans and made the time to be here, now — with my words.
As always, it’s doing what you have to do before you do what you want to do.
The Chameleon: the freelance writer’s spirit animal.
A large part of my work at Blue Jai Creative is freelance writing: I’m a wordsmith for hire, and in that guise my spirit animal is the chameleon.
Maybe it’s a mission statement you’re after, or you need assistance with standardising letter templates for your business, or for someone to revamp the copy on website because you’ve had that on your To Do List since 2014.
Perhaps you want to document your office procedures, or to inject some life into your corporate newsletter, or maybe you need a little help with tweaking a single, significant document for your most important client.
It doesn’t matter to me what it is that you need: if it involves words, I’m your…chameleon.
Let me show you what I mean.
The word chameleon derives from a compound of the Ancient Greek words khamaí and léōn. The Greek word is itself a calque taken from the Akkadian language, meaning the Greeks appropriated a phrase spoken in ancient Mesopotamia meaning “lion of the ground”, translated it word-for-word, and incorporated it into their own vocabulary. Later, the Romans borrowed the word from the Greeks, and modern English usage of the word has emerged from simplifying the spelling of the Latin word chamaeleōn.
Adaptation at its most beautiful: when a chameleon (or wordsmith) can match what they have to offer with what you want to present.
See? There you go — you’ve just learned how the word chameleon came to be part of the English language. But you may also have just learned that a ‘calque’ is a word-for-word translation from one language to another, or that the Akkadians lived in ancient Mesopotamia. Because that’s what I do as a wordsmith: I take a whole pile of complicated information and put it together in such a way that it is easy to read and understand.
More significantly, however, I can adapt my writing style to suit whatever your needs are — just like a chameleon changes its colour. For example, I don’t mind if it’s technical or scientific writing: if you want me to explain the importance of chameleons evolving zygodactylous feet, extrudable tongues and prehensile tails, I’ll do it. (Don’t worry, I won’t do it here, even though I could make it sound far more interesting than you may think it is.)
Or if you’d prefer me to take on far more traditional business lexicon, I can do that too:
Chameleon Enterprises distributes more than 200 separate product lines throughout Africa, southern Europe and southern Asia, and has well-established regional offices in Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Our range has been successfully introduced to the United States, with significant uptake already occurring in the household pet sector in Hawaii, California and Florida. Given the suitability of our products for both wild and domestic use across a diverse range of habitats, future trends indicate that Chameleon Enterprises will be the global leader in small lizard goods and merchandise by 2020.
At Blue Jai Creative, I make sure we’re singing the same song.
See what I mean? I know — in this instance I made it all up. I don’t really believe that there is an as yet untapped market for designer lizard wear for the discerning chameleon, but I can certainly make it sound like I do. And I can make your business sound even better — because your business is real.
Essentially — and yes, I used that particular word deliberately — my job is to make sure that what I write accurately reflects what you and your business are all about. My words need to capture the essence of what you want to say to the world, and to do so with clarity and precision.
So if you want a hand (or even a zygodactylous foot) with whatever writing projects you need to tackle, contact Blue Jai Creative. I believe that you will notice the difference when you do — and your clients will, too.
Go wild: hire a chameleon.
Blue Jai Creative – freelance writing and administration services for your home and business, servicing Sydney’s Northern Beaches and beyond.