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Return of the Mojo

Calvin and Hobbes _8

Eleven months have passed since I last roamed these streets. Months that had the quality of gushing streams that will carry you a great distance before you can so much as say ‘hey’. The blame, of being away or little writing that makes the heart sing, lies conveniently with the day job or inconveniently with my inability to get my s*** together.

“How’re you?”

“Struggling to stay afloat.”

Until now.

Nothing has changed in the assault of daily routines and deadlines. But the head feels lighter, even without the wine.

Why?

Because believe it or not, for the thousandth time everything seemed to be alright when I stepped away from the madness to breathe. And the release brought revelations that there will be work and school night bedtimes, what-to-make-for-dinner conundrums and furniture store dramas brought on by flaming red chairs. But there will also be books and hugs and morning rays on your face and the burning desire to pick up where you left off a year ago with that story you’re hoping to tell.

Of course weekends have that sneaky habit of making you feel you can change everything if only you make everyday like today. Finish half a book, watch a masterpiece, take an outdoor run, write into the night. And then the week begins, dragging you out of your regimented practice and taking you to war. There you falter, losing control of time, that most precious treasure and reeling from all the mortar flying around you (blame the war metaphors on Hemingway).

Most part of life is never as bad as that, only the head and heart colluding to make you believe it to be so. And we go on believing until either things fall apart or (hopefully) we wake up. The waking up is best when self-induced because then it is more likely to last. But sometimes you need all the help in the world and may you find it.

As Anne Lamott reminded me recently, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a minute, including you.”

Happy unplugging!

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Poo-foria: Life’s secret sauce

poop“When you get to my age you’ll realise that the most important thing in life is not money, fame or power. It is having good bowel movement.”

When a friend’s grandfather made that comment more than a decade ago, I knew I was in the presence of a seer. This man had emerged wiser through life and its struggles, with the ability to understand the root of our miseries (not shit, or the lack thereof). He was speaking not only about what a healthy body can do to our joie de vivre. He was speaking also, if you can see beyond the crap, about perspective.

What his comment really seemed to say was, life is simple girl. It appears deceptively like the toughest episode on Crystal Maze (remember that?). Instead it is as straight laced as Peter Capaldi’s abuse-spewing tongue in Thick of it. The machinations at play are only those we invent, to help make sense of all the mess. Instead, what we should be doing is eating our greens (and whole grains), having protected sex and making enough money to buy a traveling trailer.

Wait, wasn’t that what the hippies said (with some drug cocktails thrown in)?

Well, they were onto something.

An entrepreneur, who set up a successful media company more than a decade ago, mentioned encountering some young working professionals (the millennials if you will) who said a job is what they do to ‘pass time’. For someone who has built a business from scratch that is a dreadful statement to encounter. This passing time is likely to catch the young lot unawares when they turn 30 and have the universal what-am-I-doing-with-my-life crisis. For hamsters so caught up in running the wheel, it is often difficult to recognise that they’re not getting anywhere.

Instead blessed are those that have found their passion when young and understood that life is not the road to anything. It is rather the bittersweet ride where best laid plans can come to naught and victories often fly by quicker than bumps. The laughter is not in some grand culmination of events but in the smiles at silly turns.

This Poo-foria philosophy, as I have deemed fit to term it, is the recognition that beyond all our disparate dreams for love, work, family and the world, true joy lies in the simple life – in a warm embrace, a shared meal, in combining forces for good, in a stranger’s (non-creepy) smile and with regularity, in the unhindered (and mindful) release of bodily waste.

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There is no pill for this annoying thing

There is an ad on radio where a woman is asking another how she ‘gets so much done’ in just 24 hours. The super mommy who wakes early, makes food, presentations and evening park visits, credits it all to a pill (not THE PILL meant to keep aforementioned tiny park visit companions at bay).

Since she’s on radio it’s no secret that she’s lying, about three things mainly. First, no pill (or coffee) can make you fill your day with perfectly timed tasks done easy. Second, there is no such thing as perfectly timed tasks. Third, it is never easy.

All that the average lot of us manage to achieve on most days is avoiding a car crash while looking like a car crash. But there are some ‘highly efficient’ individuals, who spoil it for everyone really, because they have one (awfully boring) habit that unfortunately seems to work. It is called (don’t hold your breath) a To-Do list, named so that when it’s over you can end the day with the Ta-Da jig. In recent months I have had the undesirable pleasure of putting it to practice. Now I’m one of those people who either will not enter the rink at all or will go all Karate Kid on it (with many a bludgeoned face to show for it). So in my third decade on earth when I finally seemed to have a handle on what I wanted to do in life (write for peanuts & vino), I decided to begin ‘managing’ my time down to the minute.

Caution: it does not look pretty. It’s more kangaroo on acid on a trampoline (because she forgets she doesn’t need a trampoline). Here’s what the homo sapiens version looks like – you open a shared excel sheet (because it’s easy, accessible on multiple devices anywhere, does not waste paper), list down every darn thing that you need to do every day, decorate it with deadlines (I would curve the life out of them if they weren’t dead already), say ‘done’ on the side when you’ve got it over with and just to make it a party out there (if you’re the kangaroo like me) plugin the start and end time on the dreary bits so you’re racing to get out of there quick.

No one is going to put me on the radio to sell this pill but honey it works for this mama (so far) and it could work for you too. You don’t have to complicate your life exactly as much as I have with this attempt at becoming the boss of me. To your aid have come the good folks who make apps to glue us to our phones even more than we already are. They’ve created a few apps for the list lusters, so why not have a go at Carrot (lists turned into games) or Wunderlist (it’s pretty and allows you to share things like grocery lists with your partner, because c’mon, supermarket scuffles ARE the sex in cohabitation).

What lists allow us to do is break down tasks into surmountable bits that aren’t half as scary when they’re written down and ticked off one by one instead of floating incessantly in our minds. It allows us to do what writer Anne Lamott mentions in her brilliant book ‘Bird by Bird’, “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

The biggest upside of the piecemeal approach to a day (other than the high of writing ‘done’ beside all tasks) is the patterns that appear over time, showing how you may be spending the majority of it in things that add little or nothing to your life (yes Facebook, I’m talking about you). More significantly, tracking your day can be the acknowledgement of one of life’s greatest truths – the only egalitarian treasure all humankind is born with and one we can enjoy until the end, is time (that is, when we can learn to hold down this Road Runner). Beep Beep.

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Colour me perfect

There is no end to the things that can (almost) kill you. Busy work week, negotiations gone bad, loneliness or bad food. And in quite the same way, there is no end to the things that can make you happy. Your latest song crush, tangy tomato pickle, perfect track pants or the morning hug.

The good thing is life is never black or white. It is never a question of whether you think everyone is guilty until proven innocent, or the other way around. Or which side of the morning-blanket-folding-as-redundant-activity argument you are on. It is never going to be just this way or that.

There are always going to be people who throw eggs at the windshield and try to rob you (some thugs do that I’m told). The web will continue to surprise you with what you weren’t looking for and the dog may bite when you are at your best behaviour.

While life may continue to be about the dream job, dream house or dream vacation, it will also be about fighting for the purple-sweatshirt-cause on your way to a reunion (even if the wine-red fancy top wins in the end). Exercise routines will be inversely proportional to the calorie intake (with no prizes for guessing which way the weights tilt, literally). Club memberships aren’t going to be easy either, what with ‘lonely hearts’, ‘perpetual cribbers’ and ‘internet-addicts anonymous’ gunning for the top spot.

With all the colours flying around, choices aren’t going to be black or white (or black and blue, even if you’re most men’s wardrobe).

Life’s palette will continue the confusion dance in all its multi-coloured finery.

The real joyride begins with picking the best hues to paint the portrait of your mad, chaotic, perfect life.