Good thing no. 1: Handwriting
I’m using Notes on the iPad to write this so the font looks vaguely handwriting-y, and, as such, is quite pleasing to look at. But nothing compares to the pleasure of a pen scrawling across paper, a felt tip scratching out a letter to a close friend, a soft nib of a pencil listing milk, bread and beans in a notebook. I’ve been writing a lot this year, kicked off by morning pages – an attempt to give shape to the chaos of an overwired brain which would leap into action at unsavoury pre-dawn hours. This transmuted into a journal of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown before returning to something more calm and expansive.
Writing has saved me. The once carefully-curved letters and sweet swoops of ‘ys’ and gs’ have been rescued from the jagged, hard-edged lines they descended into. Sentences are considered, sedate once more, after a few weeks in an unpunctuated whirlpool. After the storm, calm.
That’s not to say I don’t still rage. ‘The Missing Ink’ by Philip Hensher* has had me slamming the book down hard on the bed, but I suspect he wanted these reactions. He really is a smug, arrogant sod, but – credit where credit is due – the topic of his book is an engaging and a timely one. How many of us actually put pen to paper these days? I’d even started using a shopping list app, for Heaven’s sake. Messages to the kids or husband texted through, even when we were all in the house. Emails or Facebook messages to friends instead of birthday cards, telling myself I was being environmentally-friendly and saving trees, meanwhile closing my eyes to the horrors that go on in the production of mobile phones, tablets, laptops etc. Perhaps because for me writing had become so associated with marking my students’ work, doling out praise and ‘constructive criticism’ (as well as circling in increasingly firm, hard, tight circles the missing apostrophes and full stops), a pen in my hand signalled WORK, and tedium, and pointlessness. To have resurrected the joy of handwriting – messages on a chalkboard; post-it notes to the dogsitter; even a 3 page letter to a close friend and a poem scribbled in a cafe – that really is a ‘good thing’.
* A review of Hensher’s book is in the pipeline – just let me finish reading it first!
Good Thing No.2: Chatting
I’m beginning to spot an unintended theme emerging here – it’s all about communication this, isn’t it? The rediscovery of the pleasure of just ‘chatting’ for the sheer camaraderie engendered. Not the ‘hometime’ talk which is marked by rushed enquiries and checks about school/work, with responses only half-listened to; the duty phone calls to relatives with one eye on email or the web; and certainly not online talk. This is chatting, with all participants able to see, hear, smell and touch each other – I’ll stop there, but you get the drift. How much do we lose when we don’t see that cast-down glance accompanying ‘I’m fine’? Hear the sucked in breath as a child says he’s OK? Silence itself is a language which all too often we’re just too busy to hear.
Good Thing No. 3: Yoga
Slowing your breath, feeling all those aches in your body loosen, and giggling as you tumble out of a balancing posture.