Some of you may not have heard of the ageing British rock band Status Quo, particularly if you’re not from around these parts (Britain, I mean). But with an aspiring rock star for a brother and a mother with a soft spot for lead singer Francis Rossi, Status Quo had a special place in my family home as I was growing up. And that kind of stuff stays with you, even if your music tastes change.
So I was quite happy to make the trek across London to Kew Gardens on Tuesday evening with a picnic dinner in my backpack, despite the prospect of yet more downpours. Nor did I mind planting my rug on the wet, muddy grass or eating soggy crisps (only in Britain would so many people choose to picnic in the rain) as a friend and I waited for the main act to come on.
And as they did, the showers went off and the skies cleared.
But despite the entertainment, the surroundings and sense of occasion, there was a time during the concert that I found myself questioning why I always find it so difficult to be present. Here I was, listening to some great live music by a legendary rock band in a rather beautiful setting. But Status Quo only had a portion of my attention.
I seemed to be super alert to everyone around me – whether they might stand on my toes or trip over my bag or stumble drunkenly into me. Is this something to do with getting older, or staying off the booze? Not only that but part of my brain kept wandering off to other things, perhaps to whether I’d make my last train home, or my list of things to do the next day or whether my feet were wet. This is annoying, I thought. I’d really like to be present. All these other people around me seem to be present. Why can’t I be present?
But as the Quo, as they’re affectionately known to their fans, played more of the old favourites – ‘You’re in the Army now’, ‘What You’re Proposing’ and ‘Down, Down, Deeper ‘n Down’, they started to grab my full attention, except for a few moments I took out from singing along to take some poor quality video for posterity….
And as it grew dark and they got close to the finale and played their classic hit ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’, I forgot all that other stuff – the sadness, the loneliness, the journey home, the list of things to do, the career dilemmas. And I began to sing, dance and jump up and down with the rest of the crowd.
I didn’t care if anyone stood on my toes or I on theirs or whether my backpack was safe. I was totally present. I was alive, fully engaged in an activity I love. Perhaps for those few minutes, I remembered who I was – without the baggage, without the fear, without the constant self-analysis – and what I really enjoy. My ever-thinking brain switched off. I was having fun.
And in that moment, everything was possible and nothing mattered. I wonder if the Quo realise what a profound effect that song had on one person in the crowd.
I’m not sure if it’s got anything to do with that precious moment when I jigged and sang along to ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ but the next day I started to work on my book. Yes, the book I’ve been talking about for months on this blog, the book I’ve been planning in my head ever since From Forty With Love went live, the book I’ve procrastinated over, questioned and talked myself out of on numerous occasions. The book that’ll tell part of my story and that of other women facing the issues and challenges of this particular age in our lives and will hopefully inform and entertain many others who will walk the same path.
So I’ve begun writing my synopsis – a serious one that I can send to agents. It’s scary, fun and exciting. It’s a dream, a dream that might not come true but that will always be there and is worth fighting for rather than brushing under the carpet and trampling on.
I imagine it’s not going to be easy. I’ve written a lot on this site about perfectionism, procrastination (and here I am blogging rather than book writing!), a lack of self-belief, fear of being judged, fear of failure, fear of success, indecision, codependency, workaholism, a lack of work/life balance, commitment phobia and so forth. All these issues are going to come into play. But something else has clicked in the last few days: the realisation that life doesn’t have to be a struggle, it doesn’t have to be about hardship – the journey can in fact be a pleasant one.
Things don’t have to be the same as they have always been. We can shift the status quo.
It seemed appropriate, then, that I spotted Marianne Williamson‘s well-known poem this morning – the one made famous by Nelson Mandela – pinned up on a crammed noticeboard in my bedroom. I’m sure you’ll know it as well as I do and perhaps it’s become overused, a cliché almost, in this age of self-discovery, personal development and life coaching.
But it still speaks to me on a very deep level, so I’ll write it out here, just in case it touches someone else today who shares these fears and needs some encouragement to shine.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
– Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love