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.
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.