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’

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’

Hours in the day

A four-miler in the heat today…

…and then straight into work, as it’s been one of those ‘clients are like buses’ weeks with everybody sending projects at once! I’ve been keeping an eye on my hour-by-hour time management today and making notes, as I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated recently by busywork taking up more time than it deserves. Hoping to be able to streamline things a bit over the next few weeks, as I’ve got a lot of projects to be getting on with and I want them all finished by mid-July so that I can start getting some day-long videogaming sessions in! Might as well make the most of not going anywhere for summer holidays this year 🙂

Looking forward to an evening of graphics creation, and hoping for another earlyish start tomorrow so I can get another good chunk of work done.

Red diary
Geth’s new diary for academic year 2020-21 arrived today. He ordered it early so that we can start planning out CoronaYear 2: The Rescheduling. I LOVE the colour so much that I might be adding a red diary of my own to my Christmas list this year 😍

Today’s earworm playlist:

Melanie C and Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes – ‘Never Be The Same Again’
Yoko Shimomura – ‘Colony 9’
Daniel Bedingfield – ‘Gotta Get Thru This’

Back to it

Just a mile today…

…because I managed a fairly long run (well, long in terms of my recent efforts!) yesterday, which I was quite pleased with.

The weekend was really good. I spent most of it curled up on the sofa working on my latest game, with Geth playing Xenoblade Chronicles in the background. Today was more weekday-like though – I had a bit of day job work to do, and quite a lot of admin to catch up with. I’ve been neglecting the ‘coronawall’, which is basically a giant display of multicoloured lists pinned up on the living room wall, keeping track of all the stuff we were meant to be doing this year that got cancelled, and what’s happening with rescheduled dates and refunds and so on. After a bit of work this afternoon, it’s now up to date as far as the Great North Run, which was announced as cancelled this morning.

I still find it strange that back in early March I was still living my busy normal life, with races and parkruns and social running groups and family visits and gigs and boardgame meetups with friends and ukulele classes, and wondering why I never had time to get anything done, and then suddenly it all just… stopped. I find it even stranger that I still feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day!

I don’t really see my own life going back to the way it was, either, even if the world does eventually. The occasional event will be nice, but this year has proven to me that I need to spend the vast majority of my time at home, just me and Geth. The improvement in my mental health over the last three months has been absolutely immeasurable, despite the situational anxiety of COVID and everything else that’s happening.

Another nice productive day tomorrow, I hope.

Newcastle Town Moor
It was a bit misty over the weekend! The Town Moor always looks more beautiful and atmospheric in non-ideal weather, though.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Yoko Shimomura – ‘Colony 9’
Pet Shop Boys – ‘On Social Media’

Bank holiday time!

Another quick (well, slow) mile this morning…

…because I had a lot of things to get done today so that I would be able to relax properly over the bank holiday weekend! I finished my editing, and also got a piece of writing finished for a competition (the submission deadline was today, so I was cutting it a bit fine – I wish I’d had more time to work on it, but this week ended up being a bit mental!).

Geth and I have celebrated the arrival of the bank holiday with pizza (weigh-in went fine this morning, so we’re allowed) and special drinks (beer for him, alcohol-free fizzy for me). It feels strange having a bank holiday on a Friday when it’s not Easter – I think the last time was the Royal Wedding in 2011! The fact that it’s the 75th anniversary of VE Day feels a bit odd too, as I remember the 50th anniversary in 1995 and the WWII school project we were doing at the time. Difficult to believe that a whole third of the total time since the war itself has gone by since then.

It’s meant to be lovely weather tomorrow (it certainly was today), but other than helping Geth with the gravel in the garden, I think I will probably be inside with my videogames as usual!

Nosecco
A bottle of alcohol-free fizzy to celebrate the bank holiday! Excuse the blurry photo – my phone camera was more interested in the Xbox next-gen showcase on TV for some reason (no idea why, it was dreadful!).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Revo – ‘A Crystal’s Sparkle’
Revo – ‘The Land Of Beginnings’
Vera Lynn – ‘We’ll Meet Again’
Tinchy Stryder and N-Dubz – ‘Number 1’

Filling the space

I did another 10k this morning…

…and managed a similar pace to Saturday, which I was very pleased about! I feel as though my daily training since the start of the year has sped me up in what seems to be a permanent way. I’ll just keep plugging away and see what happens.

I have most definitely filled up the routine extra time afforded by the lockdown now, to the extent that I’m not sure how I’m going to go back to regular life when this is all over. I’ve written before about how it’s going to be a slow process out of lockdown for me – I won’t just be jumping back into a routine of multiple classes and groups and meetups per week, because I think I would find that overwhelming. But the thing is that I’m not sure I ever want to go back to that busy routine. All of the individual things were meant to be fun, but taken together, they made life a bit stressful. As such, I think there are things to which I won’t be returning – things I’m going to have to learn to let go of. I don’t know which things yet. The only thing I know I will definitely be going back to post-lockdown is parkrun – it’s free of charge, it’s helpful for my running improvement, and I love it to death.

In short, my big takeaway from this year is that there’s no point spending time and money on things that cause me stress, just because I feel that it’s something I SHOULD do. As such, I’ve stopped buying all the magazines I’m not getting round to reading, including breaking my decade-plus streak of buying Doctor Who Magazine (that was a wrench… but I’ve just not had time for Who fandom for a good two or three years. I haven’t even watched the most recent series yet, which would have been unthinkable when I was in my twenties). I no longer attend every vintage fair in Newcastle just because it’s on (this is something I discussed in my personal style post the other day). I stopped going to Pilates and dance classes last year – I enjoy those things, but they’re just not a priority for me any more.

Learning to let go is something I’ve always found difficult, and something I discussed a lot in my counselling sessions earlier this year. I am a consummate hoarder, not just of physical possessions but also of memories and identities and personal connections.

(If somebody de-friends me on Facebook, I hold a grudge like you would not believe – because why would we want to lose each other from our collection of contacts? Collections are to be grown, not ‘culled’! We may not have anything in common now, but we did once, and why would you want to move on from that? Why would you want to let go?)

My identity as a Doctor Who fan is one of those things I’m struggling to let go of, hence why I am trying not to think about having broken my magazine-buying streak. My identity as a goth is another. I became goth in my teens, made all my university friends and met my future husband in the goth and rock society, spent my twenties in various states of consciousness at goth clubs and gigs and festivals, and then… I last went to a scene event in August 2018. I only still wear my old goth band t-shirts and hoodies because they’re comfortable. It’s been years since I last listened to the music – I prefer ’80s pop and soundtracks and synthwave now. I got sober, and so I don’t really like spending time in pubs and clubs anymore, and I think it’ll be some time before I can brave a festival again.

‘You do still wear a lot of black, though,’ my counsellor said when I mentioned this to her. I suppose I do – some habits are hard to break, and it’s a practical colour. It’s just… I just don’t feel drawn to that particular aesthetic anymore, and while I’ve still got a lot of friends in the scene, I don’t see myself wanting to go back to the events, and I don’t think I can really call myself ‘goth’ these days, and I’m not sure I want to.

Accepting that fact requires a big shift in thinking, though. Just like accepting that these days I’m a casual Doctor Who viewer at best, and accepting that there are some old acquaintances I’m never going to see or speak to again (and that I probably won’t miss them), and accepting that I really need to chuck out those manky old Ikea cushions I’ve been hanging onto since 2002.

I’ve never yet been capable of making that big shift in thinking. But it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that it’s a necessary process.

I’m videogaming again tonight. In recent months I’ve occasionally felt a bit sheepish about mentioning that every day – like it’s a bit sad to be spending all my time videogaming, even if lockdown does provide me with the perfect excuse. But it’s what makes me happy at the moment, and that’s all that matters.

Newcastle Town Moor
I ran on the Town Moor today for the first time since the final pre-lockdown parkrun. It felt strange, even though I’ve often done solo runs there before. While I was enjoying parkrun touristing in the months before coronavirus happened, I think that I will be back at my home parkrun on the Moor when it’s time for the great parkrun return.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Yasunori Mitsuda – ‘Where It All Began’
Nina Nesbitt – ‘Stay Out’

Finding balance

I went out for an absolutely beautiful run this morning…

…with perfect sunshine, and perfect energy, and so many lovely spring flowers along the way. I’m planning to do a few new and different routes this week and am really excited about my morning runs. They get me out of the house for just long enough every day that I don’t feel trapped or cooped up by the lockdown, and am perfectly content to stay inside for the rest of the time.

In all honesty, other than the general feeling of apocalyptic dread and accompanying nightmares (which I’m guessing is the case for everyone at the moment), I have been lucky enough that the current situation is working out quite well for me:

  • While my day job work has slowed down a bit, it hasn’t stopped completely, and I work from home anyway so haven’t had to adapt my work setup.
  • Obviously I was hugely disappointed a month ago when it was announced that the London Marathon was postponed, because training had been going so well. However, I’m really appreciating the more relaxed approach to running I can take at the moment, and I hope that I’ll be able to build on the work I’ve already done and run an even better time in October, presuming the new date goes ahead.
  • Stress-wise, I am actually benefiting hugely from life going on hold. For the last couple of years, I have felt as though I have had far too much on and have been constantly falling behind with my to-do list. I end up dreading going away on trips, because I know it will disrupt my daily routine so badly and lead to weeks of stress as I try to catch up with everything. But right now, I have nothing getting in the way: all my trips and events have been cancelled or postponed, and all my weekly classes and meetings are on hold. Every day is exactly the same, and for me, it turns out that that is exactly what I need. I am going to have to do some serious thinking about what life is going to look like for me after the lockdown is over.

I feel pretty guilty that it has taken a horrible worldwide pandemic for me to have the free time I’ve been dreaming of for years, but it has given me the impetus to reassess my priorities in life.

Tomorrow is a Wednesday, but that doesn’t really matter right now. I’ve got no middling-distance midweek run to do, no ukulele class to go to, no worries about fitting everything else in inbetween. It will be very similar to today, and that is absolutely fine by me.

Cat in spring garden
Another paparazzo shot of next door’s cat exploring our garden. He’s a little confused by the shorter grass now that Geth is out mowing it regularly again.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Cast of The Lion King – ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’

Making the most of time

Just a mile today…

…because I wanted to get home quickly and get on with today’s projects. I’ve done a whole separate post about my current adventures in creating game graphics, which is my main focus this week. It’s a lot of fun but also takes a long time!

I find that my hobbies have sort of expanded to fill my current additional free time, and am starting to worry that once this lockdown is over, I’ll go back to feeling like I never have enough time for the things I love doing. One thing that I definitely need to do (and this has been a bit of a theme recently) is learn to let go of the things in life that I’m not enjoying but instead just doing out of obligation.

Tomorrow should be a really good day – I’ll be doing my special run for RED day 100, then a bit of day job work, and then Easter weekend can begin. It’ll be a fairly unusual Easter weekend given the circumstances, but I’m still looking forward to a few days relaxing and the occasional bit of chocolate.

Spring flowers
Today’s bit of garden progress: more spring flowers have appeared. Due to the current situation, I’m appreciating our garden a lot more than usual!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Takeru Kanazaki – ‘Fódlan Winds (Thunder)’
Glenn Miller – ‘In The Mood’
Adam & The Ants – ‘Prince Charming’
Cast of The Jungle Book – ‘I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song)’
Michael Land – ‘The Swamp’

Stretching out

I ran with Geth again this morning…

…and since then we’ve just been in the house, hiding from the cancelled world outside. Geth went to Sainsbury’s, and came back with approximately half the things I’d sent him out for (panic-buying has officially set in here in Newcastle), but we’ll manage. I also went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription – the outside world feels a bit odd and apocalyptic at the moment.

It’s felt like a long day, but I’m not about to complain, because extra time is my most treasured thing and suddenly having a lot more of it is a real silver lining. Sage Gateshead has now closed, so my ukulele classes are not happening for the foreseeable future, and I don’t know when they’ll be rescheduled. The UK Games Expo confirmed this evening that they are postponing the event to August; parkrun will make an announcement tomorrow.

The North Tyneside 10k has also postponed to October, so that’s the last of my spring races fallen by the wayside. I’m amazed and grateful that none of my postponed races clash with each other (or with the GNR), and also feel quite lucky that I hadn’t booked any of my planned autumn races before this all kicked off. I had wanted to run the South Shields 10 Mile and the Great Scottish Run this year, but they’ll be there for me in the future.

Keeping in touch with family as the daily situation changes is my main priority at the moment, along with keeping myself and Geth safe and sane. Running is a big help with the latter, and I’m really glad I have that in my life at the moment.

Brooks running shoes
I was able to try out my new running shoes from Inverness this morning. They’re super bouncy and did give me a slight but noticeable boost!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Lightwood Games – ‘Link-A-Pix Theme’
Ollie Wride – ‘Back To Life’
Mesh and Mechanical Cabaret – ‘Born To Lie [Duet Version]’
Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Unflinchable Courage’
EMF – ‘Unbelievable’

New Year’s Resolutions 2019

I did sit down and write a very long post about plans for 2019, but it got a bit reflective and overwhelming and kind of un-fun.  Instead, I’ve condensed it into a list of New Year’s Resolutions, which I suppose is more traditional anyway!

So, in 2019 I want to:

1. Finish sorting out the house contents.

Refreshing the actual decor of the house such as carpets and walls is going to be a job for next decade (which sounds kind of scary now I’ve written it down), but finishing sorting out the actual contents of the house is definitely something I can get done this year. Most of the stuff I still need to get rid of is only still in the house because it needs scanning first, so once I’ve set up the scanner and shredder in the study, I’ll be able to chip away at this boring job quite efficiently.

2. Write 500,000 words in 2019…

Among the online writing communities I frequent, this is known as a ‘half milwordy’. I know it sounds ridiculous, but between this blog and all the poetry and fiction that I write every day, it’s actually fairly manageable.

3. …and edit and pitch all the words I’ve already written.

I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was four (so it’s actually going to be thirty years on Thursday, OMG), and that is never going to happen if all my writing just stays between me and my computer. This year, I’m going to edit all my existing projects to a finalised state and prepare ten project pitches for sending out to agents and publishers throughout the year.

4. Take weekends off.

Well, other than running, obviously. Apart from the daily to-do list, I’m not scheduling any chores for the weekends.

5. Buy fewer clothes.

I had to buy a whole new wardrobe last year because I’d lost so much weight. It was really fun, but I have enough clothes now. I’ll allow myself one purchase every time I go to a vintage fair, because vintage fairs are awesome.

6. Run a marathon.

It’s booked, it’s planned, I’ve selected the 16-week training plan I’m going to be following starting on the 7th of January. London, here I come! I am 100% certain that this is the only one I will ever do, so I’m determined to do it properly.

7. Perform some of my poetry in public.

This one is absolutely terrifying and as such is the one thing on this list that is at risk of not getting done out of pure fear. Up until now, this is the kind of thing that would have required a lot of Dutch courage, but as it happens, a more important resolution is to…

8. Get sober.

It’s well past time, and from the 6th of January onwards I’ll no longer be consuming alcohol. I’ll do a longer post about this later this week.

9. Get back into the habit of music practice.

I got several small instruments for Christmas including a lovely ukulele – I’d put them on my Christmas list and Dad did a lot more research into them than I had, so I got better versions than I’d asked for! I’m going to get an hour’s practice in every evening that I can, but more importantly, I’m going to sign up for beginners’ classes at the Sage Gateshead, as I find I stick with things better when I have a group or class for accountability (it also gets me out of the house and meeting people).

10. Actually play some videogames.

I didn’t have time for videogaming AT ALL in 2018. I’ve been sorely neglecting both my 3DS and my Steam account (I’ve still got a Steam voucher my brother Malcolm gave me for last Christmas that I’ve not spent yet!) and I’m really itching to get back into it again, especially seeing as I’ve been watching Geth play so many games on the Switch recently. Maybe all those free weekends I’m planning will give me a chance to mash buttons again!

It’ll be interesting to revisit this post in a year’s time!