Always take your colouring book with you

Archive: Dec 2015

The Truths I Tell Myself

Back in February, when anxiety suddenly ached in my body and my soul, I went to work in Teddington (so south-west London, it’s not really London) with my door keys to home in Southend. I honestly thought during that week I would break down at my desk. And when I did, it would be OK, because I could speed straight back home to Essex and Mum without stopping-off in my depressing Putney flat.

With the love of my colleagues, I made it to the end of the week and went home for a long weekend. The doubts and struggles have changed and continued throughout the year, of course they have. But since that moment in February, I’ve started discovering and reminding myself of these truths. I hope you share them (well, most of them) with me.

Exciting things happen to me
My day job, for now, is pretty humdrum. I answer phones and emails while school friends are playing Super League rugby, touring with their rock-band and creative social media pioneers.

They’re living their dreams, and mine are coming true too. This year I interviewed bestselling author Matt Haig and met the Queen of Breakfast TV, Lorraine Kelly. They were dream-come-true moments that inspire me to keep meeting people and keep telling stories.
No one has it ‘all’
Social media is a rose-tinted world, an endless parade of what’s great about other people’s lives. Don’t mistake it for a reality that every else is living full of holidays and sunshine instead of heartaches and struggles.

It’s OK to ‘miss out’
Life is still awesome when you don’t watch that TV show, don’t eat at that restaurant or stay in one night instead of going out with friends.

I’m doing OK and I’m working towards ‘better’
At my lowest moments, when I questioned my choices and was resentful of anyone ahead  in ‘The Game of Life’, people reminded me there was and always is some unquantifiable hope. A hope that I would feel better and life would be better.

‘Life’ isn’t a linear race between myself or anyone else. Hope doesn’t smooth out the what lies ahead. It powers you onwards.

Hobbies are transient and don’t define me
I adore signing in a choir, and I’ll return to it, hopefully soon. But it’s not for now.
Find ways to feel
Read. Walk. Watch a film. Sing a song. Sport and culture offers a magical realm that takes us both into ourselves and away from our ourselves.

Take time to look after yourself

Physically and mentally, that takes time and compromise. But there is always, always help so take that too.

People will save you and carry you through
Don’t talk about the importance of friends and family. Talk about love and compassion and recognise how those qualities go far beyond neatly-labelled relationships. You don’t need to love someone through friendly or familial ties to care for them. You just need to be there and be in their moment.

A thousand ‘Thank Yous’ to everyone who was there for me, with their ears, in a thousand different moments this year.

#TacheTalk: Time

‘Work/life balance’. An empty phrase we’re all meant to achieve. I thought it meant keeping your job on the desk and working a 35-hour week.

When my friends work long hours, I worry. Ali is a commodity trader who views an hour lunch break as a ‘luxury’. Nathan is a personal trainer seeing clients 45 hours every week. Chris travels across Essex to cut hair at home and in his barbershop. Other friends are ‘really busy at work’ so we weren’t able to have a #TacheTalk.

Nathan, a personal trainer in Essex
Those working styles are alien to me. I clock off at 5pm, forget about work and go home to bake a cake, do the washing, blog, catch up on Lorraine, have a friend round for dinner, buy Christmas decorations, run, race through the latest read for book club, spend half an hour writing a birthday card and sleep.
OK, that’s more accurately one week rather than one day. I’m not busy with long hours at work, but busy with long hours after work and you probably are too. How we use our finite time is dominated by demands to keep living, the pressure we place on ourselves and a fear of missing out. The clocks we set ourselves can feel constraining.

Allow your passions and priorities to guide your time. The passion Ali, Nathan and Chris have for their chosen careers is obvious, inspiring and beautiful. They love their work, and are appropriately rewarded for it. ‘Long hours’ aren’t the burden or worry I painted for them. Inevitably there are overlaps and compromises. Nathan recently won a men’s regional physique competition, but turned down his place in the final as his family came first at that time.

Let’s ditch work/life balance. It’s a poor shorthand that suggests a false dichotomy and a divide between the ‘balanced’ and ‘unbalanced’. I want to stop judging my friends for how long they work and focus on my own busyness. If it’s not a passion or a priority, if it’s not helping me stay happy and healthy, why am I doing it?

John with his American Football

My friend John has a good outlook. When I talked with him about being busy, he offered this view: ‘What do I do with my time? This is my chance to leave more than just DVDs and books for my children to take to charity shops.’

You can see everyone I’ve talked to and donate to Movember here
Tomorrow: Fantasies and realities