Archive for September, 2014

Most of my life has been spent achieving stuff – an education, a career, a family…some sort of identity that tells me, and the world who I am. Work, work, work – I’ve been called a workaholic more than once, and usually by another workaholic…they know the signs. Work can be an endless treadmill but it’s far better than not doing anything? Ummm. Interesting. Let’s just hit the pause button. All the workaholics ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Well there’s the money. And the status. The thrill of success – being able to stare down a problem and achieve where others have failed. All of those gloriously egoistic and materialistic reasons. That’s ok. No-one’s judging here, but what if your employment stopped tomorrow and you hadn’t planned for it? Where would your ego and lifestyle be then? Worse still where would your identity be?

These are the questions I’m pondering because today is┬áDay 1 of my new unemployment. I didn’t think I’d be unemployed at this stage. Thought I’d slide on my knees all the way to another job eventually; onto greener pastures, new circumstances, people and nail biting challenges which I would successfully overcome. However unforeseen things happen in life, tragic things, hard things. Not everything is tied up in neat linear boxes of continuity.

Anyway I found myself unemployed and actually scared by the prospect. Who would provide for the house, what are people going to think, how long will I be unemployed…ah the list of scareables (such a word?) went on. That was until I separated my real identity from my work identity.

Little by little, I stopped being scared. I began to do the maths on my budget and think about the things I had always wanted to do. There was some further study to upgrade my existing teaching quals – good idea I thought – I like teaching and it offered another spectrum when I did decide to return to work. There’s the new book to write – always wanted to find the time to do that, now I have it. And the opportunity to do a bit of casual consultancy work…there have been offers already. Not too much but just enough. And there’s time to look around for new work without the pressure of being in a busy job, doing long days, and getting to an application at 9.00pm, exhausted.

There’s all those things, however the best of all is the time to stop, get healthy, get peaceful, and get relaxing. Like everyone else in this world I have a strong identity. Not being in work is giving me time to find it, drowned out as it was by superficial concerns. Already I am humming along to a happy tune at the most random of times – driving back from picking up a wireless adapter for my computer or going on my morning walk where it’s spring green as far as the eye can see. I’m getting a little bit happy, and it feels good. Really good.

What I’m trying to say is that today, on Day 1, I’m comfortable with who I am and I don’t have to be working 10 hours a day mostly just to keep my ego at bay. Did I also mention the freedom from employment captivity…yeah that part feels good too. I’m the boss of me now.

I look at the question of identity in my book Belonging Places. If you haven’t headed over to Amazon to have a look at my author page and the links to my books, I invite you to see if there’s anything there you like.

I have just finished another short story for my upcoming horror anthology called ‘Trinity of Terror’. It’s about ghost hunter, Sybilla, who is very good at what she does, and knows it. Without giving the story away, there’s a lesson to be learned when readers reach The End.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with being confident as long as you are not belligerent and naive with it. Then, as I have observed, something will inevitably take you down…a rung or two. Better to be savvy, confident and with just a hint of caution. In my story, Sybilla shows absolutely no caution and there is someone who is second guessing her…which is not that hard to do with arrogant and naive people because they have given up covering their tracks, and even keeping a look out for danger; and their instincts are blunt.

Risk takers have always fascinated me though. They live on the edge and, it seems to me, are not really ‘living’ unless there’s risk involved. At first the risks might be small but, after a while, they get bigger – just like the thrill that accompanies them. At some point, they will cross the line, almost becoming habitual, and then it’s just inevitable really that the risk becomes real.

I’m not sure what attracts me to the horror genre but I think it’s a fascination with the edge of life. I might not be a risk taker myself, but I am an intuitive and analytical observer. And I know that most things in life are rarely simple but overlayed with complexity and, often, dysfunction. Sometimes that dysfunction borders on the bizarre.

I also believe that this life and this reality is not all there is. There are energies, universal and karmic laws that, while not readily understood, can manifest in real ways. So bring together an active imagination, experience, observation and analysis, and a certain ‘psychic’ sense, and it’s not that hard to conjure the horrendous. Did I mention a certain cynicism too? I don’t think you can write horror with happy endings…well not for every character in the story. Someone must, inevitably learn and there is often suffering involved in learning.

Writing horror also allows for a fertile imagination. I can be inspired by grey clouds and a windy half-light, or a slightly bizarre encounter with an individual, or even observing a couple who are overly affectionate. What lies beneath, or ahead, given just the right twist.

My horror anthology ‘Evil Imminent’ will definitely be out before the end of the year – just in time to take away with you on Christmas holidays, perhaps to read late into the night or in broad daylight if you prefer.

 

Life has been, well, challenging in the past few months as I’ve had to catch the odd curve ball. Not that I’m complaining, really I’m not. But I am human and when times get a bit tough, you tend to reflect, question and ultimately take time out. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been on a less than ideal ride lately, but I’m here and yes, I’m counting my blessings.

Taking time out to reflect is not such a bad thing because it can lead to renewal. One of the more positive outcomes recently has been a rediscovery of myself. It’s been a slow and painstaking process – not over yet I guess – but I’m re-emerging better than before. I’m remembering feelings and motivations from years ago, and as I plant my herbs in my garden in time for spring, I’m remembering the beauty of this world. And that there is new life around the corner.

So what do I want to do with my life? I reckon it’s a question we should ask ourselves often, and not just when we lose a loved one, have an emotional or health crisis or lose a job. We should ask that question every time we stop living in the moment and find ourselves going through the day to day motions without much joy or passion. If we are really living honestly, then making sure we are on track with whatever our purpose might be, and aiming for what makes us happiest, is what we need to accomplish. Not just putting one step in front of the other and being emotionally cut off from ourselves and others, day after day, month after month and God forbid, year after year.

If I had to put something out to the universe right now, it would be happiness for myself, my kin and my friends. And I don’t think it takes that much to be happy. Here are some rules that I’m ‘reflecting’ on at the moment, and even trying and retrying some of them out already:

  • Live simply, count your blessings, stay in the present and not the past or future.
  • Go outside and spend some time in nature. If you really listen, you can hear the connection between all living things.
  • Get a dog. They will be your best friend in the whole world.
  • Do what you love. That could be anything from cooking creatively through to spending time with friends. Doing what you love is not just a phrase associated with a career; it’s about how you live each day.
  • Connect and reconnect with old friends…after all, they’ve known you for a long time and likely you don’t have to pretend to be anyone but yourself.
  • Find your purpose. What makes you uniquely you? If you’re in a job where you’re not satisfied, find something else. Don’t waste your time stuck in a rut because time is precious and your lifespan is precious. No-one’s being granted extra time in that department as far as I can see.
  • Don’t put things off. If you want to get into a car and drive to a beach, then find time to do it.
  • Love yourself. You know what they say, if you don’t know how to do that, it’s an invitation for others to walk over you because your boundaries will be loose.
  • Make sure you’re loving others as well. Spread it round and see what comes back to you.
  • Say no more often. You’re allowed to do that.
  • And one of my absolute favourites, enjoy…no really enjoy, the thoughts, the talents and uniqueness of others. Whether that’s watching a great film, reading a wonderful book, or listening to someone else’s sheer brilliant thoughts, appreciate them for the great human beings they are. And on a universal level, the infinite capacity of human beings to be wonderful and inspiring.

So, armed with my little list, I will go forward, onwards and upwards and no doubt still catching the odd curved ball in the future.

Ps. I have started writing again, and am working on the remainder of my horror anthology ‘Evil Imminent’, before I start on my next full length novel. Yeah! (picture me doing a high 5 now)