Fight for your fun

I’m feeling guilty. I’ve been having too much fun. I was away at the weekend walking and cycling in Cornwall and, two weekends earlier, I was away in Wiltshire on a music festival- camping-mountain biking weekend. I picnicked in London’s parks over Easter and I’m off to Norfolk this weekend for some more rest and relaxation in the beautiful English countryside. I know I wrote in my Just As I Am blog that doing more of what I love is one of the keys to contentment and that I wanted to get out into the Great Outdoors more often, but surely this is over the top? When I resolved to have more fun, I hadn’t reckoned on these feelings of guilt or on these voices in my head that tell me I’m a slacker, that I need to work harder and that I don’t deserve so much time off or so many lovely experiences. I guess it’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime. I think I grew up with a sense that life was a slog and always would be, that it was hard work and that ‘fun’ was reserved for those other people who could afford holiday homes or yachts. Then, in my teenage years and beyond, I developed a different sense of ‘fun’ that included great acts of spontaneity and big worldwide adventures but that also involved overindulging on food, binge drinking until I was sick, behaving outrageously or putting myself in extreme or dangerous situations.

Of course, I also wrote a fair bit in my Just As I Am blog about balance and how I’ve always struggled with it. I’ve been a person of extremes and that has included swinging from the hard slog to extreme ‘fun’ without hanging around in the middle. So, while I believe it’s important for me to fight for my fun – against the voices in my head that tell me I haven’t earned any or that fun is for others – I also deserve to have my fun in a way that’s manageable. So maybe this run of three long weekends is a little bit excessive for someone who’s recovering from overworking and over striving. Maybe I need to approach fun in a more measured fashion. It would be foolish, however, to let my guilty feelings spoil the fun I’ve already planned – something I’ve most definitely done in the past. Why not take all these wonderful opportunities to have fun and just run with them for now, while remembering to plan a little better in the future? Why not take the pressure off myself to achieve and keep on achieving? But then I guess balancing work and fun is particularly hard when you’re self-employed, when you have a big hole in your bank balance as you wait for invoices to come in and when you’re passionate about getting a new website off the ground.

At the Bedruthan Steps on the north Cornish coast, April 30, 2011.

While fun comes naturally to some people, I do believe others of us have to fight a little for it. Just before my Cornish weekend, the same thoughts went through my head as in the run-up to my Honeyfest camping and cycling adventure: my mind started to tell me that going away to Cornwall wasn’t a good idea, that I was too tired, that I had too much to do (working on this website for one) and that I’d only recently had some fun in the British countryside and it was too soon to have anymore. Fortunately, I didn’t listen. I jumped on the train with my bike and headed out to Padstow to walk along the beautiful coastline and cycle through the country lanes. So a weekend I might have spent in London obsessing about this website was enjoyed out in the fresh air, hanging out with friends and meeting new people.

The weekend away also led me to reflect about the importance of relationships. As much as I’d love this website to have an impact on people’s lives, ultimately it’s never going to be as important as being in relationship with others – with friends, partners, siblings, parents, children, work colleagues, neighbours and, in my case, with God. I believe that’s why we’re all here: to learn to live with each other, love, cherish, support and accept each other and to teach and learn from each other. A few years ago, when I had a bit of an existential crisis and ended up on my knees asking what life was all about, love and relationship were the answers I came up with. As yet, I haven’t managed to make a romantic relationship work but I believe if I keep practising my relationship skills out there in the world with friends, male and female, I’ll be better prepared when it’s time to take the plunge.

One last thing about fun. I’m also realising it’s best if I try to incorporate it into every day, rather than reserving it for the weekend or holidays. That combination of hard slog during the week and extreme fun at the weekend may work for some people but I think I need a little more balance. So if I can incorporate fun into my day and working week – even if it’s laughter with a friend on the phone or a handstand or cartwheel in the park on a sunny day – I’ll be on the way to living a more balanced life.

As this is my second post, I also just wanted to expand a little on the inspiration for this site and what I want to achieve with it. When I imagined this site, many thoughts and experiences came to mind but there’s one in particular I wanted to share here. I was coming home on a bus many months ago now, late at night. There was a young girl on the bus, probably in her mid-teens, and she was very drunk. If I remember rightly, she was wearing a very short skirt and high heels and she was having difficulty walking or standing up straight. She got off the bus a few stops before me and I had a strong sense that she wasn’t in a very good condition to be walking alone through London’s dark streets. I was close to getting off the bus and offering to help her to her door but I was stopped by a voice that said, ‘don’t be ridiculous, she’ll be fine, everyone gets drunk and staggers home in their teens etc’. I’m sure she was absolutely fine. There were no reports in the news the next week about a drunken teenage girl getting into trouble on the way home. But I haven’t been able to get that memory out of my head. Probably because it reminded me of all the times I stumbled home drunk and got myself into scrapes or potentially dangerous situations in my teens and 20s. I remember one particular occasion during the years I lived in Mexico City (1995-2000). I’d been out having ‘fun’ – drinking much more alcohol than my body or mind could take – and I flagged down a taxi on the street around 3 am on my own. A few streets away from where I got in, the driver pulled over, two guys jumped in and proceeded to rob me at gunpoint. I thank God that nothing happened to me and that they let me walk away from that scary experience unscathed. I knew it was unwise to flag cabs off the street in Mexico City, particularly as a single female, but I did it anyway. What’s worse, I did it again with a friend a few months later and we got robbed at knifepoint. (I should note here that Mexico City is a marvellous, vibrant, colourful place to visit – just make sure you phone a licensed taxi rather than flagging one off the street).

So what have these memories got to do with this site? Well, they tie in with the idea of mentoring, sharing experiences and passing on wisdom. Of course, I know teenagers and people of all ages will do what they want to do. They’ll get drunk, fool around and get into scrapes. Most of them will be just fine but some of them will get into trouble or into danger. But what if they had an older role model who could help guide them in the right direction? Someone who could gently persuade them that drinking to destruction wasn’t a great idea or that flagging down taxis as a sole female in the middle of the night on the streets of big cities wasn’t all that safe. Now, I know that I could only change my behaviour when I was ready and that no lectures from my Mum or older women about my foolish antics would have made a difference. But what if there’d been a powerful role model in my life around those years, someone who gently guided me while accepting me for who I was, someone who set a good example through their own behaviour rather than lecturing or scolding? I remember having role models at school, in teachers and older pupils, and I have role models in my life today and continue to seek out mentors, but there was a big gap of many years when I was convinced I knew best.

So what if our experiences could help others avoid pain or danger? I know there are many individuals and organisations who believe in the power of mentoring and I do too. The British children’s charity Kids Company, founded by the inspiring Camila Batmanghelidjh (I must add her to my Inspiring Women page), has a mentoring scheme, churches have youth workers and youth leaders, schools have prefects and many other organisations have sponsors and mentors. Of course, this site doesn’t have a mentoring programme but its ethos is based on the power of inspiring and mentoring others. I hope to develop it into a space where women and men (despite the feminine feel, I’d like male readers and contributors too) share thoughts, feelings, experiences and knowledge, inspire each other and pass on wisdom to each other.

And finally, although a few days have gone by since the Royal Wedding, I feel I can’t let it pass without a comment here. Like so many, I loved the pomp and ceremony, the sense of tradition, the people-watching (from the comfort of a friend’s sofa, dressed in posh frock and waving a union jack flag), the endless commentary on wedding attire and the huge display of good will shown by the crowds towards the young couple. What most moved me, however, was seeing a boy who’d grown up in a dysfunctional home make a lifelong commitment to another person after having fallen in love at the tender age of 28. William grew up in a loveless marriage that was played out in the media spotlight, his family’s dirty linen was aired in the press, his parents split up acrimoniously in public and his mother died in a horrific car crash that sparked endless conspiracy theories. Of course, William had many luxuries and privileges that other children from broken homes couldn’t even dream of. But no amount of money can fix a broken heart or heal the scars that are left by so much pain and loss. I think his ability to overcome whatever fears he had about committing to Kate after seeing his parents marriage fall apart gives hope to all us singletons or anyone struggling to take a leap of faith in a relationship. Yes, he had a wobble but it only lasted three months. I guess tribute also goes to his late mother for bringing him up with as much normality as she could muster considering his position as heir to the throne and her unfortunate role as the paparazzi’s No. 1 headshot. I may be a die-hard romantic and a little on the slushy side but the Royal Wedding definitely gives me hope that healing, restoration, love, peace and happiness are available to all of us, however scarred we are by our past.

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6 Responses to Fight for your fun

  1. Helen Clare says:

    Great post Katherine. There’s stuff there that I can relate to. When I was younger, I hitched home from clubs on my own, jumped into cars with strange men a couple of times! Where on earth did that carefree/careless attitude come from? As for getting robbed; it happened to me just a few weeks ago in Barcelona. I should have known better! The friends I was with warned me to be more careful and to keep my bag zipped. They were using money belts, but for some reason, the risk of being pickpocketd just did not ‘click’ with me! We were getting onto a crowded bus and waiting to pay, when it happened. I sensed someone tampering with my bag; I intuitively reached in my bag to realise my pusre was gone. I called out loudly, whilst looking at the man next to me, ‘someone has taken my purse!’ He gave me an unknowing look as a man behind him shouted out ‘It was him!’, as he pointed to a man walking close by down the road. Of course, I jumped off the bus and went running after him. I had been duped and successfully sidetracked! The bus doors closed and carried on its journey, no doubt with the pickpocket or pickpockets on it! I have since bought a money belt 🙂

    Try not to feel guilty about having too much fun. There will be times in our lives when we have to experience suffering and sadness; times when fun won’t feature. Enjoy, cherish and be grateful for the fun times when they happen 🙂

  2. Thanks for the comment, Helen. And sorry to hear about the pickpocketing incident. I guess sometimes we have to go through the experiences ourselves before we’re ready to listen to other people’s advice.
    Katherine

  3. This guilt thing is a bit tricky, isn’t it! I remember hitting the guilt wall quite hard during the first week of the Screw Work Lets Play 30DC and being picked up and dusted down by a fellow challenger, with the words which I hope will stay with me for a long time. The gist of it was that if I ‘m not being true to who I am and being happy, what’s the point? Those who love me get little out of my guilt and I certainly achieve a whole lot less.

    How do I handle it now? If I’m feeling guilty about playing I take it as a pointer that there is more practice to do in being engrossed in my play! PLAY MORE! It sounds as though you are out of practice with play, as was I, so it will be a steep learning curve coping with those feelings. Take them as a marker – how involved are you? Get stuck in girl, enjoy yourself!

    With regards to the wonderful wedding, it would be too easy to say how awful those boys lives have been. Their parents (and I include CPB in there as she will have had a profound effect on them too) have worked hard at keeping the boys lives level. They are clearly loved by those around them. Yes, they’ve had to face trauma, but they seem incredibly well balanced and very well supported. I have grown up with parents who dislike each other and it’s horrible. Yes, I now have a divorce behind me (they are still together after 60 years), but I feel that their influence on my decision to leave was that of: if you’re unhappy, do something about it”.

    I look back on my marriage as a relationship completed. There was no “failure”. It just reached the end of it’s lifespan and I gave myself permission to release myself from it (it took 10 years to decide!!). I got so much comfort and information from Gill Edward’s book “Wild Love” that I have lent it out to loads of my friends (I think I have 3 copies out at the moment). It’s worth a read, particularly if you are asking the question about relationships.

    I work with people with dog problems and I repeat the words, “look where you are going, they will follow” over and over. I think it’s time I started to listen to myself!!

    • Thanks for your comment, Rachael, and for your honesty and openness. And for the encouragement to play more – I’ll take that on board! And reading what you wrote about William and Harry, I agree that those boys must have been loved well for them to turn out so seemingly stable and grounded. I’ll take a look at the book you mentioned too, sounds interesting.
      Best wishes, Katherine

  4. Catherine says:

    Thanks for a great post, which really resonates with me. I am striving for balance between work and play and am a little worn out at the moment from juggling paid employment, freelance work, family commitments and the fun that I am at last trying to have as well. I have taken a ‘semi sabbatical’ for the next year, ie I am continuing with my paid employment three days a week and retained some non-demanding freelance work. I am not making many plans at the moment, just trying to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’. The being includes being creative, which is why i signed up for a recent 30 day challenge to explore how I could use my creative thoughts, ideas etc. It is early days…..

    • Thanks for what you wrote, Catherine. I’m also trying to learn to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ but some habits are pretty ingrained and are slow to change. Your mention of the ‘semi sabbatical’ made me smile – when I quit a big journalism job in 2008 my plan was to have a year of playing, of fun and of exploring my creativity but I didn’t last very long. I was straight back in there at the offer of some work! It sounds like you’re making good progress on the search for balance. Best of luck with developing your creativity. Look forward to hearing how it goes. Katherine

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