Friday, 30 December 2016

New Year Resolutions: Control vs Acceptance

I've always been a big list maker. A goal setter. More enthusiastic about my New Year's resolutions than the big party. One of my most memorable New Year's was when I stayed in to finish writing a short story. It was the first story I ever got  selected for a reading at Waterstones Book Shop in London. It felt like a huge reward at the time for the sacrifice I'd made.

Today I thought I might be pregnant. At five in the morning I took a test with my heart in my throat. What better way to start the new year? I thought excitedly. My mind raced ahead, wondering who I would tell first and how long I would wait until I told them.  

As I waited for the result, there was a power cut and I couldn't see the strip. If this was a film, I thought, the lights would come on and I would see the positive line. Then I would scream. Or maybe I wouldn't. I would slip back into bed and casually whisper to my husband, So, how do you fancy being a Daddy?

The lights went back on. The test was negative. My life isn't a film.

Today as I contemplated writing a blog post, I thought to myself: What's the point of making a list of goals when I have no control over what matters?

But I don't think that's entirely true. We may not have control over everything, but we can choose how we react to events in our life. Today I felt very tempted to succumb to my melancholy and hide under my bed covers. Instead I found a podcast on staying positive when trying to conceive and hoovered my bedroom. Next I'm going to scribble the serenity prayer above my desk.

I don't believe in making impossible resolutions. I'm not someone who decides in January that they are going to go the gym every day from now on. If you didn't go to the gym before, why are you going to go every day? There must have been a reason you didn't go before. Maybe you hate the gym. Fair enough. Perhaps you should choose another way of exercising, like a dance class or martial arts.

Goals should be achievable. So here are mine:

1. Pass my driving exam 
2. Finish rewriting my book The Hen Party
3. Try doing yoga once a week to restore balance in my body!
4. Meditate every day (achievable because I already do this most days!)
5. Get involved with the charity that organises beach clean ups
6. Visit my family more, keep in touch with my friends and surround myself with people who nourish me
7. Write a brand new book

and of course,

8. Keep writing blogs (because it feels so good to share.) 

Thanks to everyone for reading my blog this year and for all the supportive comments across my social networks. It means so much!

For more regular posts, you can find me on Facebook/EmilyBenetAuthor


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Driving Test 1: The Pigeon of Doom

I remember it clearly even though it must have been over fifteen years ago now. I was in the car with my Mum and we were driving through one of Bermondsey's many railway tunnels. There were pigeons on the road ahead and it looked like they weren't going to move. I gasped as I thought we were going to run them over.  But at the last minute they flew out of the way.

"My friend failed her driving test because she stopped for a pigeon," my Mum said.

Yesterday I had my driving test. I hadn't started off brilliantly, taking the wrong exit off the motorway. But I'd handled it well, changing lanes at a more complicated junction. I managed some intersections and stopped for some pedestrians. All fine.

And then I saw a pigeon ahead of me. It was just sitting there, barely moving. I was joining a main road and I was equally aware of the Stop sign I had been repeatedly told to obey or else. Come on pigeon, I thought. I probably said it out loud too. I thought of what my Mum had said about her friend. I had no doubt in my mind it would fly away. That's what pigeons do.

The pigeon did not fly away. Not until I had driven over its head. I can't remember this clearly. All I know is my instructor said, "It's okay, it's flown up into a tree."

It threw me a bit. After that the examiner told me to stop wherever I could. We had been taught that one thing is to 'estacionar' (park) by reversing, and the other is to 'parar', nose first. I had already parked successfully. Now I just needed to stop somewhere.  And for some reason I didn't think stopping was as serious as parking properly, so I stupidly left the car sticking out a little bit. Maybe I would have got away with it. But to make matters worse, though I had pulled the handbrake up, it was a sticky stick that required an extra last pull. As I got out of the car to swap with the next student, it started rolling forward and the instructor had to pull it up.

After the test the examiner brought up the pigeon.

"What if it had been a dog or a cat or a sheep?" he said, clearly upset. I told him I'd been convinced it would fly away. I didn't add that I wouldn't have assumed a dog, cat or sheep would have flown away.

I told him about my Mum's friend who had failed for stopping for a pigeon.

"We like animals in this country," he said. It seemed ironic really. Spain isn't China, but it doesn't exactly have a reputation for being animal friendly, whereas I think England does.

"I love animals too," I insisted. I felt like I needed to explain how I'd spent most my childhood cleaning out guinea pig hutches, how I only bought free range eggs...

In the end it wasn't the pigeon that swung it. It was the handbrake. He would have passed me if it hadn't been for that bloody handbrake. It was the pigeon I dreamed about though. It took me ages to get to sleep, the exam playing on repeat in my head over and over again. 


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Driving Around Mallorca Like a Mad Goat

I've a driving exam next Tuesday. Or maybe it'll be Monday. It seems the driving school wants to keep it a surprise. 

"What do you mean it might move to Monday?" I ask my instructor, when he tells me. 

"It's 50 / 50."

That's ridiculous, I think. It's lucky I'm flexible but that's not the point.

"What if I had a normal job?" I say.

He shrugs. "Well you don't so stop complaining."

"But what if I did..."

He ignores me. I'm in the backseat and easy to ignore. I'm currently watching another student drive. He's pretty smooth. Shame he keeps going the wrong way down one way streets.

50/50. Like the chances of me passing. I'm good sometimes. Not all the time though.

"You're a bit of a mad goat," my instructor says, when we're alone. "I think it's your personality. You need to calm down."

This is a serious problem, I think. How on earth am I going to be able to change my personality in less than a week?

I consider the problem as I speed down the motorway. Learners are allowed on motorways in Spain. They're the easiest bits really. It's all the intersections that are a pain.

I don't know how I'm going to transform into a calm, grounded person. Meditation? Yoga? I do all this stuff anyway. Fat lot of good it has done for my driving.

"She's gone," the instructor observes. He means I'm thinking. I'm outside the car.

"No I'm not," I say. But maybe he's right. "I'm just annoyed. I want to be smooth."

"Look," he says. "You can be smooth but if you make mistakes you won't pass. If you're rougher but you follow all the signs correctly then you'll pass."

But the mad goat image has stuck in my mind. I don't want to be unpredictable. I don't want to be jerky. My friend's mum who used to drive us back from school drove so badly I always arrived home feeling sick. I don't want to be my friend's mum or a mad goat. But I suppose he's right and the most important thing is to pass now and smoothe up later.

I really want my driving license. It's become all consuming. All I seem to be doing is running back and forward to the driving school.  

So pray for me on Monday... or maybe Tuesday.

Alternatively leave a tip on how I might calm down in the comments section. Gracias! 


Monday, 5 December 2016

A Trip to England: From Londoner to Tourist

"Does it feel funny being back?" my friend asked.

I had been away from England for nearly seven months. Arriving at Euston station after a wedding in Manchester I was blown away by the amount of people. It wasn't just the quantity that was mind-boggling but their speed. Like a flock of birds they changed direction, miraculously not knocking into each other.

When I lived in London I was like that. I sped everywhere, dodging in between everyone without stopping. But after so long away, I felt like a tourist, unsure of where I was or where I was supposed to be going. I stood in the wrong place, I stepped the wrong way, mirroring on comers instead of letting them pass.

How could I have lived here for so long? I wondered. It seemed so overwhelming and stressful. It took me a few days to recover my old pace.

The other big difference was the cold. It was 10 (50F) degrees at night when I left Mallorca. Arriving in Manchester the pilot said it was 0 (32F) outside. I thought I wasn't going to cope. I thought I was going to step outside and freeze mid walk. However I had come equipped and between my sheepskin lined boots and feather puffer jacket, I was surprisingly cosy.

Did I feel like a tourist?  I took photos of the frost and crunched back and forward through the ice like a little kid. The cold seemed like a novelty. I suppose it's fun when you know it's only temporary!

It was great to see friends and family after so much time. There was so much catching up to do. But when someone clinked my glass and said,  'Welcome home!' it seemed quite odd. Was it still home? It didn't feel like it. Not quite.  

I arrived back in Mallorca last night. I've already been for a driving lesson, chatted with my local grocer and called on my neighbours for help with a sticky door. It's 19 degrees (66F) outside. There's not many people about. I like it. I feel at ease. Safe.  It's been less than two years, but it already feels like home.