I’ve always loved writing, whether it was love letters to my boyfriend, sprawling essays examining the inner depths of proto-modernism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness, or life affirming updates for the many pen-pals I collected over the years (one of whom I met on a ferry to Calais whilst on a school trip – my love of language unfortunately never did quite stretch as far as French, so that lasted almost as long as the ferry crossing itself). I’ve always been mesmerised by the power and beauty of the written word.
The love letters eventually dried up, in the 5 or so years I used to write them I didn’t get a single one back, so eventually I cut my losses and stopped (don’t pity me, just note how long it took me to get the hint). I soon stopped sending letters to my pen pals too – it got too dangerous. I was sent a cigarette once from a girl I used to go to school with, my Mum found the letter and asked where the ‘fag’ was – Not the quickest thinker, I grabbed the nearest thing I could find (a knitted square I’d made at school, I seem to remember) and dangled it as evidence of the ‘fag’ I’d been sent – What? You’ve never heard these being described as that before? Ugh Mum, whatever… (I’m so sorry by the way Mum – don’t worry karma has delivered my payback)
I used to write a diary every day for many years – something my friends Caroline and Laura found hilarious. They used to threaten to find them and expose my ramblings to the world – they couldn’t understand what I could possibly find to write about. In fairness to them, neither do I now. I wish I could tell you, but I can’t bring myself to go into the loft to find out – even if I did brave it, I vaguely remember throwing them away during a cleansing phase in one of my revolutionary periods.
Anyway, writing eventually fell off my agenda as I became swept up in the world of motherhood and work – emails and PowerPoint presentations seemingly the only narrow avenue by which I had to express myself. I work for a bank and although I do profess a certain finesse for both aforementioned methods of communication – my options were somewhat limited and audience mostly lukewarm.
About 4 months ago I won a competition at work – the first thing I’d won in about 15 years – something to add to my coveted prize collection of … a Brits 2000 CD … The brief was simple – if you were given £100, what would you start today? Recalling my long lost love of writing, my choice was journalling. I’d attended a friends Dad’s funeral a while back and was incredibly saddened to find that parts of the eulogy were a surprise to him, he had no idea his Dad used to play cricket. Around the same time I also watched the Rio Ferdinand documentary ‘Being Mum and Dad’ where he opened up about the loss of his wife Rebecca. He and the kids were creating a memory jar in the hope that as they grew older they would remember their mum. The whole situation was tragic, but one of the things that struck me most was that the only person unable to contribute to that jar, was the person who knew themselves and the wisdom they would want to impart, best.
My Grandma and Grandad Taylor were in probably one of the longest enduring and most special relationships I’ll ever have the pleasure to witness. They were affectionately known as ‘The Love Birds’ by their neighbours, on account of them walking everywhere together holding hands. I remember my Grandma telling me her wedding ring cost £5 and she had worn it for just over 70 years by the time she passed away in 2014. I used to love listening to the stories of what she got up to, but it was only when I got old enough to realise the days we spent together would be numbered, that it became even more pressing for me to inhale every word she spoke. This was the lady who at 90, when I asked her to close her legs for risk of flashing her knickers in a photo, piped up, ‘Who says I’m wearing any?!’ She had some pretty good stories to tell. Not everyone gets to live such a fabulous life, and certainly not everyone gets to live to the grand old age of 94. She was my very first idol.
My kids know me as their Mum. They know very little about me as a wife, colleague, friend, boss, karate black belt (ok I made this one up, but watch this space) and they only know the stuff I remember to tell them I think is important. I find it incredible that should I die tomorrow, I take all of that with me and leave only memories.
Journalling seemed to be my answer – I was surprised to find that I had won, and was soon in possession of a years worth (no pressure) That was 4 months ago and it’s been a surprisingly easy habit for me to form.
Not only has journalling played a key part in influencing my decision to take a career break, helping me re-establish a sense of self and what’s important to me, it also means there’s so much stuff my kids will now know about what goes on in my life and mind!
If they choose to look back, one day they’ll know that;
- I recently turned to a woman in Waitrose and asked her not to bother buying me anything for Valentines this year – she looked a little confused, as was I when I realised she wasn’t my husband… Surprisingly she didn’t get me anything in the end – I won’t lie, I was slightly disappointed
- Yoga is the best thing to do in ANY situation – I feel this does require a little clarification. Don’t try Yoga at a funeral (unless invited to) and maybe not whilst driving, but definitely do try it if you’re feeling happy, sad, angry, disconnected, inspired or rejected
- 13th November is National Kindness Day, but try to practice it daily, not just once a year
- It’s ok to wish you were a cat (I think I may have been having a bad day)
- You can survive on 3 hours sleep (see above)
- Sometimes it’s you that lets yourself down – no one else
- Peter Bone MP claimed £180,000 in expenses in 2016
- I used to think small people lived in my mouth, so would chew equally on each side to make sure no one missed out
- Gin is overrated, Prosecco isn’t
- If you always see the best in people, sometimes you need to open your eyes to the worst
- Cookers look and are heavy
- Be careful what you say on Webex – there could be people lurking in the shadows…
- Boys can be boisterous – we should consider changing the word to be spelt with a ‘y’ so everyone is clear
- Dodo’s didn’t read and now they’re extinct – is that really a coincidence?
- The kid from Mary Poppins died before I was even born
- 4am is a great time for creative writing
- ‘No one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start now and make a brand new ending’ – Carl Bard
All hugely invaluable information, I’m sure you’ll agree. Difficult to see how they would be able to lead successful lives without the knowledge that each and every one of those points brings…
I’m choosing to write – you could choose drawing, singing, a memory jar, PowerPoint (the joy), signing, vlogging, dancing, morse code, poetry or music but whatever you choose, don’t leave it too late to tell the world and those you love in it, what you want and need them to hear. I know you don’t need me to remind you that tomorrow’s a privilege, not a promise.
I’m off now to go and write my eulogy. I can’t imagine going to my grave without having the last word… Oh, and by the way, if you’re still around and do fancy coming along to my funeral, there’s 2 rules …..1. No crying 2. Do Yoga – I insist on both.