Sunday, 18 January 2015

Taking Stock - This Year's Fearless List

Last year I listed some of the things I found the very thought of rather tricky. Pah! I knew NOTHING.

In 6 months of mentoring from the lovely Andrew Edwards at BBC Radio Leeds, I did so many things I was scared stiff of that my earlier list seems laughable. Walking up to total strangers to ask their views on a subject  - without the shield of a BBC ID badge or other legitimising item - was scary enough.  Interviewing people terrified me but I did it.  Interviewing people on topics I knew nothing about was harder still. Trying for an interview I didn't have to edit - eek!  I never managed that to a decent standard but even trying it freaked me out.
Source of many scary tasks

Then there was the techie side - trying to work out for myself how to edit and tweak a piece with just the software on my laptop.  I got pretty good, considering. (Considering I know nothing and I never mess about with my computer just to see what it does. And I'm a pretty analogue person in a digital world)

From last year's list I did do daily exercise for a month, read Lord of the Flies, ate meat and something aniseed (still hate aniseed, still find the taste of meat fine but the texture distressing. Except pastrami, which is ace), and even kept my opinion to myself several times.  It nearly choked me, so I doubt I'll make a habit of it.  I didn't knit something other than a scarf but I did learn to crochet toys and made two - a rabbit and a dragon - and that blanket for Miss B's birthday, so I consider that a yarn-based ambition fulfilled.
Remember him?
Looking forward, what are the things that seem tricky, intimidating yet worth having a go at this year? I've had a good think about the areas of my life that aren't quite right, and what I could challenge myself to do to improve them.

I'm in the midst of giving up wine. Well, not entirely, but drastically reducing my wine drinking. Mark and I always have wine with our dinner, and then more while watching TV.  It just crept up over the years.  So we're mostly giving up alcohol except for the odd occasion - like my ballet weekend and last night, after hosting Miss B's birthday party.  Cripes, that was a draining day. I've 3 or 4 more things coming up in the next 2 months that I won't mind my having a glass of wine at, but that's about it. The plan is to continue in this vein until spring. It's good for our health and our bank balance. I know both could do with the boost!

I've also realised I'm lonely. I used to see people far more often - whether it was my marvellous pal Julie at sewing class and pilates, the truly ace Emma on our dog walks, or even my monthly book group with women I've been friends with for over 10 years.  Somehow I've retreated inwards and just don't see most of my friends very often. Thank heavens for my mate Kirsty and our procrastination coffees. Without them I might never see anyone. And the less I see people the easier it is to retreat inwards - never a good thing for me. I need people.

Essentially, I'm now unemployed. The school is offering loads of free clubs run by staff members, so demand for the clubs I run (that they pay for) has dried up. Understandably.  In fact, I think it's good for the school and good for parents (Miss B attends a couple and I'm grateful for the free activities) but it means I only had 2 sets of lessons to teach instead of 6.  I'm only baking a couple of cakes a week for Haley and Clifford's regulars, as wholesale baking margins just evaporated in the rising cost of ingredients and power. The franchise "Eggfree (in tiny letters) Cake Box (in big letters) played merry hell with my bespoke cake business, what with using the same damned name to all intents and purposes.  And the more pricey wedding/celebration cake end of things was something I did under sufferance anyway.

So I need a new way to spend my days. For the first time I have no day to day business and no tiny children at home. I need to look into ways to earn money without doing a soul-destroying job I hate, or to volunteer/train at something worthwhile. That could help with the loneliness thing too. The lack of schoolyard chatting, toddler group mornings and work interactions (and the lack of a home-educated kid, who gave me 18 months of good company at one point) and the lack of cash to go out and about only compounds things.

I don't want to think of myself as someone who doesn't work, doesn't contribute to the world, hides away from people. Although in the long dark stretch of the year, those are the easy choices. If I'm to be the Me I like, I need to alter this.

Still, making changes is scary.  Even looking into possibilities of changes is scary.  It is particularly so for me - for the last 16 years I haven't dared to look more than 6 months ahead, and the thought of the future repels me completely.  In fact, since I was about 25, the only time I've been happy to look ahead a year or two was when I was planning my first baby. The future - my future - scares me rigid.  But this blog is called Fearlessly Attempting, not Shying Away From, so I'd better up my game.

 Here are things I'd like to Fearlessly Attempt at least some of this year-

  • Give up regular alcohol consumption until Spring
  • Look for a new way of earning a living
  • See friends regularly
  • Attend at least 5 book group meetings 
  • Have a week of decluttering one room a day.  A month of decluttering weekends would do too
  • Walk 30km in a month
  • Sew something someone could wear (me or the kids)
  • Sew a copy of my favourite tunic by making a pattern from it
  • Learn a new skill
  • Go to a WI meeting
  • Volunteer on a weekly basis 
  • Apply to work at a community radio station
  • Learn to quilt  (please help, Liz Merckel!)
  • Build a new garden project

One thing I have decluttered already is my work shelving unit.  It was covered in a profusion of baking supplies and equipment, all jumbled together. Much of it I no longer need, other bits could be consolidated.  However, downsizing the baking shelves felt like admitting I wasn't working anymore, so I'd put it off.
Happily (!!) my craft supplies were slowly eating my bedroom.  It was chaos.  My lovely calm room was in a dreadful state and I had nowhere to put anything.  It was depressing.  But it was also the spur I needed.

So, I attacked the shelves. I binned some things, reorganised others, bought more IKEA small crates and labelled everything with my Sharpie. I have a shelf for cake boxes, boards and packaging, one for ingredients and the top shelf for things I only occasionally need, like sugar craft supplies and jam-making things.  I have 2 shelves for fabric, needle felting, craft supplies, pens, projects and equipment. The old CD shelves are stuffed with yarn (it looks like a wool shop!) and the tiny wall-mounted boxes that used to hold cupcake sprinkles now hold the kids' Hamma beads, sorted by colour.

It's ACE.  I can find stuff.

Here's a shot of it, part way through:

So, lots to think about, lots to do.  I wish you luck with your aspirations, and I'll let you know how I get on with mine.
J xx


  1. A couple of years ago, for Lent, I did 40 bags in 40 days (just Google :-) ). I found that really good, because I definitely have a tendency to want to do things properly, and if they're not going to be done properly (e.g. a room a day!) I don't bother even starting. 40 bags got me to just do 20-30 minutes a day, which gets plenty done over six weeks, and also to stop after that half hour and have time for everything else still, lol! Also felt like it had more chance of becoming a habit.

    My brother and his partner have been learning to sew. K has made four shirts, and N has made a couple of dresses and a tunic. Quite amazing :-)

    I've got plenty to be getting on with this year :-D

  2. So much of this resonates with me, the not knowing what I'm doing with myself is definitely a thing, and I can't decide how much of the obstacles are reasons or excuses :-/ Feel like I need some life-coaching or something...