Is it too early for a midlife crisis?

I didn’t mind being thirty-five. Not at all.

I was still coasting along with an ‘age doesn’t matter’ attitude, and generally feeling like I was still young and pretty much at the start of my life and there was still plenty of time to achieve all my planned achievements.

Being thirty-six feels different, and I’m not sure why.

Perhaps it’s just that multiple things have hit me in a slightly alarming way recently. First of all, I did a fairly major accounting exercise for my business in January and realised that I can’t just blame the recent slump in takings on COVID-19 (though of course the pandemic has been a factor): it started way before that. I’ve known for some time now that my editing business is not viable by itself as my long-term career. I either need to build up something else on the side (I hoped writing would play this role, but I’m still not making any money from my writing projects) or retrain so that I can move full-time into something else. I had two academic options planned out for retraining at the beginning of 2020, but the pandemic put them on hold. If life had continued as normal, I would have been a lot further ahead with those options right now, and so I really feel at the moment as though I’m paused (not by choice) in my career, and that a considerable amount of time is being wasted while I wait for the world to restart. I’m sure lots of other people are in a similar position.

Secondly, I’ve been struggling with the loud, insistent tick of the biological clock in recent weeks. I have always known that motherhood would not be right for me or my life, and so I have never planned (and still do not plan) to have children. Still, however logical and sound my 1,001 reasons for staying childfree are, there are times when I feel them drowning under the weight of worries like ‘thirty-six is VERY close to forty; you are running out of time to change your mind’ and ‘who is going to inherit your legacy, your family heirlooms and your videogame collection?’ and ‘don’t you WANT to experience this unconditional love that everyone talks about?’ and ‘your husband is a few years older than you and you are bad at maintaining friendships due to your introversion; you will quite likely spend the last few years of your life alone and unloved’. I will stick to my plan because I know it’s the right thing to do, but the feelings are hard sometimes.

Accepting the things you can’t change is the sensible and obvious thing to do in life. It’s also really hard work. There are a lot of things I wish were different – a lot of things that I was sure I would have managed to achieve by now – and I constantly feel like I’ve let my past younger self down, and that I’m also letting my future older self down by continuing to fail to achieve stuff (or stuff that was on the ‘list’ anyway… I know there’s a lot of unplanned stuff I can be proud of from over the last few years!), and generally being a bit mediocre.

But the life I have now is the life I have now, and I’m not superhuman (even though the mind demons tell me that I COULD be if I just tried a bit harder), and I know I’m doing my best at the moment, and the fact that I didn’t do my best in the past is something that can’t be changed.

Thirty-six is still not sitting right with me, and I’m not sure when it will. But I can’t go backwards, so here we are.

This week has been quite busy and difficult at work, which hasn’t helped. I’m hoping to be able to squeeze in an extra afternoon off on Monday to make it a bit of a long weekend, but we’ll have to see what happens over the next few days.

I’m very nearly at the end of Bravely Second and should finish it over the weekend. I’ve then got the demo of the newly-announced Switch game Project Triangle Strategy to enjoy before Bravely Default II arrives next week!

Running has been short and gentle this week as I’ve been resting a hip/glute twinge. However, my comfortable run speed has increased over the last couple of days, which usually indicates that my legs are up for a nice fast 5k at the weekend. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I’m also hoping to do a long run on Sunday (maybe eight to ten miles?), though the pace for that will be very sedate indeed as I’ve not done anything over six miles for months and months.

Crossing my fingers for a really quiet week next week! I’ve got various coding things I want to get finished/started, so hopefully I’ll have good news on that front next Friday.

Spiky ball
It’s been a spiky ball kind of week, trying to ease the seized-up muscles in my right hip 🙁

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Backstreet Boys – ‘As Long As You Love Me’
The Drifters – ‘Under The Boardwalk’
Will Powers – ‘Kissing With Confidence’

Sunday

Revo – ‘Sylvan Tranquility’
Ray Charles – ‘Hit The Road, Jack’

Monday

Joe Hisaishi – ‘Kokoro No Kakera’
will.i.am and Cody Wise – ‘It’s My Birthday’
The Black Eyed Peas – ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’

Tuesday

Canned Heat – ‘On The Road Again’
Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip – ‘I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper’
The Power Station – ‘Some Like It Hot’
Taylor Swift – ’22’

Wednesday

Judy Garland and Lucille Bremer – ‘Meet Me In St Louis’
Tom Lehrer – ‘Christmas Carol’

Thursday

Ewan MacColl – ‘Dirty Old Town’
Fontella Bass – ‘Rescue Me’
Coldplay – ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’
The Wonder Stuff – ‘A Wish Away’

Friday

Mike Hewer – ‘Snowman Party’
Queen – ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’

The long march out of winter

I am really glad it’s February now.

I don’t usually say that. I normally find February to be a fairly dismal month – there’s still no end in sight to the cold winter weather, and by now I’m a lot more fed up of it than I was at the start of January. It’s also still a long time before anything exciting or fun will happen in the year. Race season normally starts in March at the earliest, Easter break usually isn’t till April, and it’s generally May before the weather gets properly nice and Geth and I start going on all our small summer mini-breaks.

Of course, this year is different in many ways. All the races and gigs and trips we’ve got booked for the spring and summer – all holdovers from the cancelled year that was 2020 – are still up in the air. As ever with this pandemic, massive amounts of conflicting information and predictions are flying around, and it’s just not possible to make plans. I’ll be delighted if things are normal enough by the summer that I can sit or stand at a concert with thousands of other people, but I can’t see it happening. Races might be a different matter, as it’s easier to make them COVID-secure, but I still don’t see the ones I’ve got booked for late spring going ahead.

Then there’s the weather. What kept me fairly cheerful through lockdown 1 last spring – other than the novelty of it – was the fact that we were having the most glorious spring we’d had for years, and every day I was able to go out and run in the warm sunshine, with beautiful cherry-blossom trees everywhere I went. Lockdown 3, in contrast, has been BLEAK. The weather has been constant ice, snow and sleet, meaning that I’ve had to alternate between tedious treadmill runs and grim, slippery, wet runs outside (neither of which are conducive to speed training in the slightest).

As such, while I don’t expect things to change much in February – the weather, certainly, is showing no signs of becoming less awful – it does mean that we’re one month closer to warmer weather, and hopefully looser restrictions, even if things won’t quite return to normal this year in the way that we would like.

On a day-to-day basis, things are trucking on. I’ve had a fairly steady trickle of day job work over the last couple of weeks, and having my new daily schedule has meant that I’ve also been able to fit in a decent amount of time on my own projects. I’ve also been enjoying my evening downtime and making a lot of progress in my videogames. I’m nearly finished with Bravely Second, which should mean I’ll have a couple of weeks’ break from the series to make some more progress on Final Fantasy I before Bravely Default II comes out (already pre-ordered!). Following BDII I may then spend a bit of time playing non-JRPGs as there are quite a lot on my to-play list. I did this last summer (many happy hours spent on the armchair in the living room playing adventure games on the big screen) and am keen to repeat the experience.

There’s also another Adventuron jam coming up this month, so that will doubtless be a fun project for my spare hours!

On the whole, I’m not short of ways to spend my time. I just wish this particular chapter of life didn’t feel so endless at the moment.

Snowdrops
My favourite snowdrops have appeared in their usual place along my run route. I first noticed them when Geth and I had to move house during the Beast from the East three years ago, and since then I’ve always seen them as a reminder that winter won’t last forever.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’
Soft Cell – ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’

Sunday

The Bangles – ‘Hazy Shade Of Winter’
Duran Duran – ‘Save A Prayer’

Monday

Revo – ‘Fighting To The End’
The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar – ‘Pray For Me’
Chuck Berry – ‘You Never Can Tell’
Ed Sheeran – ‘Don’t’
Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’
Soft Cell – ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’

Tuesday

Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’
Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
Soft Cell – ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’
Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Three Little Birds’

Wednesday

Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Three Little Birds’
Queen – ‘Flash’
Sebastian Gampl and Tommy Reeve – ‘Under Control’ 

Thursday

Yuzo Koshiro – ‘Labyrinth I: Emerald Grove’
Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Three Little Birds’
Beyoncé – ‘If I Were A Boy’
Elton John – ‘Step Into Christmas’
Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’
Blondie – ‘One Way Or Another’

Friday

The Bangles – ‘Hazy Shade Of Winter’ 

Budgeting hours and minutes

I do not lead the kind of life where I should be short of free time. My work is part-time, I set my own hours, I don’t have kids, and as an introvert I don’t do much socialising even when there’s no pandemic on. I do run and blog and do a vague series of tasks (mostly accounting and logging) that I call ‘admin’ every day, but none by themselves have ever felt like they take up too much time. So where has it all been going?

In order to answer this question, last week I did what the TOMM website’s TOTT (The Organised Time Technique) book calls a ‘bootcamp’ and logged what I was doing every minute of every day for the whole week. I was expecting to find lots of periods of time lost to aimless social media scrolling and web browsing. However, while the latter did indeed account for an alarming amount of my time, I was surprised to find that I was already fairly strict about limiting the former to once a day. Although that ‘once a day’ was still taking up too much time!

In response to my findings, this week I’ve instigated a daily schedule that tells me what I need to be doing at all times. For the first half of the day, it’s very strict – this enables me to get all my daily stuff done and out of the way. Most of the afternoon is a bit freer, allowing me to work on the projects I choose (or day job work that comes in), and then I have the evenings free to relax. The main problem for me in recent years is that my to-do list takes up the whole day including the evening, and so I’m not getting any downtime. This is a good way of guarding against that – it does mean that my day is a lot less flexible, but I think I’ll get used to that. It does also feel a bit like ‘scheduled fun’, but scheduled fun is better than no fun at all because I’ve let the to-do list take over my whole day!

My new schedule also halves my social media time and eliminates random browsing from the ‘work’ part of the day. These things are huge time sinks, and I know a lot of people struggle with them these days. Social media in particular is very prone to making me feel worse about my own life (and guilty about not adding three hundred additional things per day to my already-crowded to-do list), so I really am better off minimising my time spent there.

I’ve only been doing the new schedule for a few days but I already feel so much better and more relaxed and in control!

So, what have I been using my newfound free evenings for? Well, at the moment it’s videogames (of course), but the important thing is having them free so I can unwind. In the future I might listen to music or watch favourite TV series… the world is my oyster!

Not much in the way of home improvement going on this week, but I’ve really settled into the groove of daily cleaning, especially now I’ve got the new schedule to keep it manageable.

Now for a lot of strictly-scheduled-in downtime over the weekend!

Fireplace
This fireplace needs fixing as it’s not putting out nearly as much heat as it once did, but at least it looks nice.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Traditional – ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’
Duran Duran – ‘Save A Prayer’
Lindisfarne – ‘Lady Eleanor’
Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’

Sunday

Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’

Monday

Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin – ‘I Got Rhythm’
Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’
Peter Hames – ‘Ordinary Man’
The Boomtown Rats – ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’

Tuesday

Joe Hisaishi – ‘Kokoro No Kakera’
LunchMoney Lewis – ‘Bills’
Peter Hames – ‘Ordinary Man’

Wednesday

Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’
Christina Aguilera and Redman – ‘Dirrty’

Thursday

The Marcels – ‘Blue Moon’
Mark Ronson and Lykke Li – ‘Late Night Feelings’
Spandau Ballet – ‘Gold’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’

Plus a bonus track that Geth was humming that day:

3 Daft Monkeys – ‘Paranoid Big Brother’

Friday

Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’
Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
Abba – ‘One Of Us’

A little more comfortable

As part of the big year of home improvement, I’m gradually adding stuff to help make the space easier and more comfortable for day-to-day living. The coffee table in the centre of our living room had been feeling a bit claustrophobic and precarious, as it was too close to the sofa (meaning I had to squeeze in and out of my favourite spot all the time) and really cluttered on top due to my need to have a cushion on it during the day (I like to put my feet up!). I’ve never kicked any of my drinks over yet, but it was only a matter of time. As such, I bought this useful side table last week.

Side table

The soft storage basket in the base provides a space for all my gaming handhelds, and keeping drinks on the top next to me means that they are now at much less risk of being knocked over! This is important given the quantity of electronics I keep and use in the space.

I’ve also been enjoying having all our bread products tucked away out of sight in our new bread bin.

Bread bin

I found it a bit difficult to open at first, but it turns out the trick is not to close it too tightly.

In non-shiny news, I’ve had a fairly busy week. Not too much day job work, but I did have a lot of admin and accounting to do in preparation for submitting my tax return, which was as boring as you might expect! I’ve also been continuing with the TOMM cleaning method, which is still taking me about an hour a day while I get into the swing of it.

From Sunday onwards I was able to go outside to run, which I was really appreciating… and then on Wednesday night it snowed heavily again so I was back indoors on the treadmill yesterday morning! Thankfully it had mostly melted by today so I was back out on the roads again. Hopefully there won’t be any more snow over the weekend as I’ve got lots of outdoor running plans.

I’m still playing ukulele as part of the Zoom group on Wednesday evenings, and I’m still getting as much videogaming in as I possibly can, and… that’s about it. I expect life will continue in this vein for some time, at least until the current lockdown restrictions start to ease off again.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

The Marcels – ‘Blue Moon’
Ben E King – ‘Stand By Me’
John Barrowman – ‘Anything Goes’

Sunday

Yoko Shimomura – ‘Radiant Historia’
Cast of Oliver! – ‘Food, Glorious Food’
Duran Duran – ‘Friends Of Mine’

Monday

Noriyuki Iwadare – ‘Turnabout Sisters’
The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’
Julian Nott – ‘Wallace And Gromit Main Theme’
Arrow – ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’

And a bonus track Geth was humming that day:

The Lancashire Hotpots – ‘The Technical Support Song’

Tuesday

Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’
Glenn Miller – ‘In The Mood’
Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’
3 Daft Monkeys – ‘Paranoid Big Brother’

Wednesday

Oasis – ‘Songbird’
Duran Duran – ‘Friends Of Mine’
The Strokes – ‘Last Nite’
The Chemical Brothers – ‘Galvanise’

Thursday

Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Three Little Birds’
Katy Perry – ‘Firework’
Duran Duran – ‘The Edge Of America’
Revo – ‘Fighting To The End’
Duran Duran – ‘Tel Aviv’
Belinda Carlisle – ‘Circle In The Sand
Duran Duran – ‘Anyone Out There’

Friday

Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
Landscape – ‘Einstein A Go Go’
Traditional – ‘America The Beautiful’
Pointer Sisters – ‘Automatic’
Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’

From grim to glowing: the long journey begins

It’s been a tiring week, largely because I’ve spent most of it cleaning.

I’ve always (sort of) tried to keep things clean in the house, but I’ve never really felt able to stay on top of it or have the place looking as nice as I would like. This year, I really want the house to be up to my standards all the time – it makes me depressed when its not – and so I’ve decided to follow the TOMM routine, which is primarily aimed at busy mums but can be used by anyone. After a few weeks of settling into the routine, the idea is that you spend no more than half an hour per day on the housework (which, in the long run, is all I can realistically spare!). This week was my first week doing the routine, and it took me ages most days because there was a lot of stuff that just hadn’t been done in months, but I already know it’s going to be a lot easier next week, as from now on it’s just about maintaining things.

Having a constantly-clean house will also make it much easier to get all my decorating projects done this year!

I’ve had bits and pieces of day job work as well this week, but have made sure to carve out a bit of time for playing videogames. I’ve finally been able to make a start on playing all the other entries from the most recent Adventuron jam, and am going to finish them off tomorrow before the rating period ends. I’m also making good progress in Bravely Second, and should be able to get it finished before the next game in the series comes out next month.

Running has been largely indoors on the treadmill due to the winter weather. I’m crossing everything that it gets milder soon!

At the moment, next week looks fairly quiet, so I hope it stays that way.

Mop and bucket
I wish I had a house progress photo to share but I’m not quite there yet. Here’s a shot of the mop and bucket instead, which have done good work this week.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Monday

Devo – ‘Whip It’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’
Sparks – ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’
The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’
Duran Duran – ‘Falling Down’
5 Seconds Of Summer – ‘Youngblood’
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – ‘Relax’

Tuesday

The Midnight – ‘Jason’
The Timelords – ‘Doctorin’ The TARDIS’
The Dream Academy – ‘Life In A Northern Town’
The Police – ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’
Haim Saban and Shuki Levy – ‘The Mysterious Cities Of Gold Main Theme’
Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Chaos Shrine’
Duran Duran – ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’

Wednesday

Cast of The Muppet Christmas Carol – ‘Thankful Heart’
Yuka Tsujiyoko – ‘Onset’
Robert Palmer – ‘Addicted To Love’
Fleetwood Mac – ‘Dreams’
Roxy Music – ‘More Than This’
Oasis – ‘Songbird’
Noriyuki Iwadare – ‘It’s Detective Gumshoe, Pal!’

Thursday

The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’
Yoko Shimomura – ‘Radiant Historia’
Arrow – ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’

Friday

Marianne Faithfull – ‘As Tears Go By’

First (half) week of work done

I’ve only been back at work for three days, but it’s been a pretty busy half week, so the weekend is very welcome! The combination of lockdown and snow lends itself well to videogaming, so that’s what I’ll be doing. Geth got me a Switch Lite for my birthday, I still have plenty of games in my backlog on other systems, and I still have lots of games from the most recent Adventuron jam to play and rate – so I’m not going to run out of entertainment any time soon.

It always takes me a while to find my feet again after Christmas. There’s a lot of stuff that needs sorting out in the house, but I’m gradually catching up with things. I’m sleeping late at the moment, which is a habit I really want to get out of so that I can get more done in the mornings. Hopefully once Geth is back at work next week, it’ll be easier to get into pattern.

I started attending a new Zoom music group this week. It’s very beginner-friendly, and Zoom music groups are always muted so I can happily bash away on my ukulele without worrying about anyone hearing me. As such, it’s a really good way to get back into playing; I haven’t found much time for practising since my previous classes came to a halt last March.

A good start to January, given the ongoing circumstances.

Pizza calendar
All calendars now arrived and installed. Getting there!

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’

Christmassy weekend vibes

Another busy day. I got my day job work for the week finished – so barring any last-minute jobs next week, I’m clear for Christmas! – and finished off the coding for my game (just the graphics to implement now). Geth and I also went to Asda to do our last big Christmas shop. Because we’ll be forming a bubble with Mum and Dad for Christmas, we’re following the guidance to isolate between today and the 23rd, so no more shop visits until post-bubble.

I’ve been very good with my diet for the last few weeks, but Christmas eating sort of begins this weekend! I’d been having trouble finding fancy mince pies that didn’t have any alcohol in them, so I was delighted to see some salted caramel ones in Asda today. Looking forward to trying lots of different ones over the next few days.

I’ll be back with an update on Monday, and hopefully a link to my brand new Christmas game!

Pizza
Tonight’s pizza – a treat to celebrate Geth’s Christmas holidays!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Pet Shop Boys – ‘Heart’

Inching closer

Another day, another quick run, another afternoon of coding, another chunk of day job work, another set of presents wrapped, and another day closer to Christmas!

Geth is finishing work tomorrow so it’ll be a good weekend. I’m looking forward to getting my game finished and making final preparations for next week.

Cards and tree
House is still looking generally Christmassy. Good thing given that we’re spending so much time in it this year!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Pet Shop Boys – ‘Heart’
Judy Garland – ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’

Pressing on!

It’s been quite a tiring week so far! Coding, day job work and Christmas prep are all keeping me pretty busy. It’s all going well, though, and it means I will appreciate my Christmas break all the more.

My game is going really well. I’m nearly done with the coding and should be able to move onto graphics tomorrow. The deadline is Monday, but my game is fairly short so it shouldn’t take me too long, and I’m hoping to have it with my playtesters by the weekend.

Day job work (at least everything that’s come in so far) should also be done by the weekend. I keep my business open till Christmas Eve (because there are always last-minute short jobs from clients on Christmas Eve) but then I will be taking a fortnight’s break to coincide with academic Christmas holidays. I’m obviously sad that the COVID rules mean I can only spend a few days with family rather than the whole of Christmas like I usually do, but it means I can take the opportunity to learn how to do a bit of special cooking by myself this year. Dad is cooking all the New Year favourites (pizza and hotpot!) during the short time we have together at Christmas, and I’m going to be watching so that I can have a go at them myself at New Year.

New Year and my birthday are going to be very emotionally wobbly for me because there are so many things I’ve done my whole life that I can’t do this year, and I’m feeling a bit fragile about it. Still, I know everyone’s in the same boat, and we just have to make the best of it. Christmas 2021 will hopefully be really extra-special and appreciated as a result.

Another busy day tomorrow. The weekend fast approaches though!

Faux mink blanket
I dug out this enormous faux-mink blanket when I was sorting out the upstairs rooms the other week. It was just taking up space before, but now it’s a really comfy sofa throw.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Pet Shop Boys – ‘Heart’

Lots still to do before Christmas!

I’ve got a very busy week coming up, but everything is scheduled in neatly and will get done. Just about!

I spent most of today working on my jam game, though I did also have a bit of editing to do. My four main projects this week are coding, cleaning, day job work and Christmas prep – there’s quite a lot to do. Nevertheless, it all needs doing so I will beaver on!

Another busy day tomorrow.

Christmas 1985
Christmas wrapping paper in 1985 was absolutely amazeballs. I just can’t find stuff this nice these days!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Wynter Gordon – ‘Dirty Talk’