How I Got in Print for the First Time and Why It Took so Long…

Niamh Brown

NovoPulp 2013/2014 Anthology NovoPulp 2013/2014 Anthology

Although I have been writing fiction seriously since 2000, and I have published articles on websites and blogs since 2007, I am finally in print for the first time this month. A lot of my early writing years were taken up on a 6 book Sci-Fi series that involves a form of commonplace time travel. In order to do it justice I’ve had to write all out of order. It took many years before I could show anyone just the first few chapters. To date I have:

  1. Book One: Second Draft (Rewrite)
  2. Book Two: First Few Chapters + Detailed Outline
  3. Book Three: Two-Thirds of the First Draft + Detailed Outline
  4. Book Four: Sketchy Outline
  5. Book Five: Few Odd Chapters + Outline
  6. Book Six: Few Odd Chapters + Outline

In 2007 I finally had enough of having nothing to show for my hard work and I wanted to be…

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Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 7:38 pm  Comments (2)  

New Year’s Resolutions 2014 by Niamh Brown

New Year Resolutions

click to enlarge

Looking back at the last time I wrote my resolutions, although two years ago now, I can see that some of the themes have indeed started to take root during 2013. It’s interesting to re-read my resolutions over time and see what projects fell by the way-side and what decisions and events changed the course of our goals. What has taken off and what has been left behind. It’s also interesting to see how the ‘to do list’ has evolved and how each halted dream gives us a stepping stone to lift up another idea. The process of learning not to ‘spread my self too thin’ makes an interesting dance of it all.

So without further ado here are my observations of 2013 in hindsight and resolutions to work towards in 2014:

CLOSE THE YEAR: 2013

Employment

My priorities changed a lot in 2013, mostly because I spent all but two weeks of it unemployed. Although I had learnt a lot of lessons in 2012 about reducing the number of projects I focused on, I was still very torn this year. I had to put my fingers in a lot of pies in the hopes that one of them would take off. In the end I felt like I was being pulled in all directions with equal force and by consequence wasn’t getting anywhere. However, after all the struggles and frugality, two weeks ago I landed a job. This was the biggest goal by far that I achieved this year, considering the economy and employment market right now. I have really enjoyed working with the company so far and I look forward to seeing how things develop next year.

NovoPulp

NovoPulp

Click to go to NovoPulp

The next biggest thing to happen to me in 2013 was NovoPulp. After the collaborative book not materialising from my NaNoWriMo group in 2012, I think the opportunity to re-start NovoPulp 2013 was a natural progression when Ted Ewen handed it over to me. This happened around the same time a good friend of mine, Micha Fire, got on board and helped me with the project management side of things. Between us we rekindled the interest in the project and at the time of writing is very close to bearing fruits. The whole team has been a joy to work with and the contributions work well together as an anthology. Although things haven’t always gone to plan, I know I have learnt a lot about the publishing and project management process so I can rectify the issues we’ve had. 2014 should be a big year for this project, launching two books technically!

Homesteading

Hermit Chickens

Hermit House Homesteading was launched in 2013. We invested in equipment and materials to build our own Square Foot Garden and to start raising chickens. Although our gardening attempt did not work out as well as we planned, the chickens have done really well for themselves and have just started laying eggs. It was wonderful to extend the Hermit family this year!

Guardian of the Square Foot Garden

Danish

The next thing I guess has to be Danish. I’ve been fighting all year with the Job Center and the school to get my lessons started again. Ted and I are both attending the same school now, which makes a nice change. We are the only students in this class so far, so we get specialised teaching to our needs. I really like my new teacher and I finally feel that someday I’m going to actually know Danish. For the longest time I wondered if I ever would feel comfortable expressing myself fully in this strange and yet sometimes familiar language.

Bite-sized Blitz

Bite-sized blitz

Click to visit Bite-sized Blitz

This year my drive towards my own productivity system, using a combination of techniques and tools, has taken a huge step forward. I wrote half of the first draft of Bite-sized Blitz: How to Stop Spring Cleaning and Still Keep on Top of Things. This will be the first in a series, chronicling my new household system that removes the need to do big blitzes every spring time, or any time for that matter. I suspect the next in the series will be about how I manage my personal projects. The writing project halted in the summer, mostly to make way for NovoPulp but also because I was changing the tools I used, and the ways I used them, so I decided to wait until the dust settled.

Music

My music took a back-seat this year. I am coming to want to take the next step forward with my music and start recording and videoing it, but until I have the time to put in the practise and prep work to do that I don’t feeling the need to push things. I know it will come at some point, but the whole point of this refocused way of working is that sometimes the things you love have to go on the shelf for a while. It’s better to wait for the right time to rekindle a project than try to force it and spread myself too thin.

START THE YEAR: 2014

Employment

Primary Project: In April 2014 I will find out if I make it through the trial, temporary period and have a permanent job. This will be the biggest factor affecting how everything else pans out. I really hope that this job does continue as it has gone well to date and I’m enjoying myself. So therefore the majority of my efforts will be going into demonstrating my abilities and how I can fit into the company in future.

Danish

Secondary Project: This has to be my week-day evening project for the coming year. Now I have this chance to finally improve my Danish again I have to get as much out of it as I can. I’m looking forward to see how much progress I make in the coming year.

NovoPulp

NovoPulp

Click to visit NovoPulp

Personal Project: Big year for this project. Not only are we going to publish the current anthology on a delayed schedule, but we should be able to adjust our process so that the 2014/2015 anthology will be out by early December. I believe I have learnt enough to make some significant changes to avoid the pitfalls we have had in the last few months. Now that I have cut down drastically the number of projects I focus on NovoPulp will be my number one creative project for the year.

Bite-sized Blitz

Bite-sized blitz

Click to visit Bite-sized Blitz

Wish List Project: When NovoPulp is quiet I plan to spend some time restructuring the book I wrote 2013 with the new techniques and tools I’m using. It would be nice to get this book out this year, but I will see how it goes.

Homesteading

Hermit House Homesteading Corn

Click to see more Homesteading

Now that I am working full-time away from home my ability to contribute to the homesteading is going to be transferred somewhat to Ted; as he can be there during the day when it is light. Weekends of course I can pitch in a bit, but the day to day care has to be handed over.

Hermit House Homesteading Chickens

Click to see more Homesteading

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Note: If you want to know about the terms I’ve used (Primary Project/Secondary Project/Personal Project/Wish List Project) see my Bite-sized Blitz article: How to Handle Heavy Workloads in Bite-sized Steps – Part One.

Disabled Review: Forum, Copenhagen, Denmark – Bon Iver 2012-11-04

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About 6 months ago +Ted Ewen and I brought tickets to see Bon Iver as a warm up gig for the Tull Concert we were to attend at the Falconer Salen towards the end of the month. The fact we could both go for the price of one handicap seat was the deciding factor in the end. When we booked, after we confirmed there was disabled seating as the rest of the hall was standing, it was at a time when we had more income coming in. This was before the shock of my sick-pay being cut in half after 6 months without warning (and was delayed six weeks – the result of which nearly cost us our house).

So when we went to the Bon Iver concert we had no money for food or anything and if it wasn’t for our rejsekort (travel card) we wouldn’t even have the fare to the concert in Copenhagen. We both weren’t feeling that good anyway and I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to spend our limited travel money on going on a cold Sunday night with a chance that we would miss the last bus home and would have to pay 100-150kr for a taxi instead. We decided to go in the end, knowing we had disabled seats and wouldn’t have to fight for our place in the crowd of ten thousand people.

We decided to turn up close to when the concert started to cut short the time in bad seating. We had attended Forum once before in April 2011 to see Jeff Dunham and the whole place was filled with uncomfortable seats. That time we had turned up over an hour early before the pre-show stuff started and we weren’t allowed out the whole time. This meant we were in wooden seating with no padding for around 4 hours and it was so painful by the end I could hardly sit still.

This time when we arrived at Forum the crowd was coming in thick waves, we had to wait in tight packs as we were herded in like sheep and patted down. When we asked security what they were searching for they said “video cameras” and seemed to have nothing to say when we told them everyone had a phone. When we got to the disabled area, not only did we find out for the first time it was a section shared with 20 others (including helpers), but the seating provided was old school hard plastic seats. They were even worse than the wooden seating of the year before as it didn’t support my back as well. The assumption was that I would have a wheelchair so they didn’t bother to provide good seats for the helpers. I saw at least one other woman on crutches in the same boat as I. By the time I had arrived at my seat I was already in some pain just from the journey in the cold and from standing in the queue to get in. So seeing the inadequate seats made me wish I had stayed home. Unfortunately there is more…

The disabled area was fenced off on the lefthand side of the rectangular concert hall. The gig was set up on the other side of the venue and we were about as far away as you could get whilst being in the line of sight of the front stage. There was so many amps, cables, and instruments between us and the band that we couldn’t see much of anyone – except when the lead came to the front. Considering there were nine members of Bon Iver performing this was a real loss.

The acoustics in Forum are also not so good because of the square shape of the building and the flat roof; so there was nothing for the sound to bounce off to give the performance life. It was a shame that what was likely a good show was mutilated by the sterile design of the hall. If we had seen this anywhere else we both felt we would have gotten more out of the evening. Even the lead signer asked the crowd at one point what sports were usually played in Forum, as the layout seemed even to them a little unusual.

One other thing that did not help was that the disabled area was build upon the access path to not only the disabled toilets but also the backstage floor. This meant that people behind the scenes were stomping very loudly up and down behind us, making the floor panels jump and taking our attention away from the show. At one point a storm of people walked into a tent they had set up for the medics and during a very quiet acoustic song two people started arguing so loudly is was drowning out the performance.

The ramp down to the disabled toilet was so steep that we saw a guy in a wheelchair give it everything he had just to get half way back up it. I also saw a lady on two crutches need help to get down the ramp as she was struggling. When the concert was finally over we were escorted out first, which was nice, but then I noticed for the first time their cloak service. This consisted of everyone putting all their coats and bags on an open table where people had to point out their belongings. I mention it because I know sometimes going out for the disabled can require bringing a lot of things. I will say however that there was a fair bit of space in the disabled area. It had plenty of room for those in disability scooters/chairs to turn and manoeuvre. There was plenty of spare room for all our belongings too, so you may just want to keep your bags with you if you decide to brave a ‘must see’ concert at Forum.

What are your experiences with Forum Copenhagen?

Artistic To The Core: Day Three After The Keyhole Surgery

Upper Surgery Bandage

As some of you may know on Monday I under went keyhole surgery to finally determine if I had Endometriosis like my mother and cousin before me. I had a lot of symptom overlap with my Mom so all the doctors felt that I was very likely to have it given my symptoms and my reactions to the medication thus far.

We got up at 5am to get the first bus out of our village but due to the bus getting caught by every traffic light along the way we missed our train and ended up arriving at the Hospital 20 minutes late at 7:50am.

I was quickly taken into the ward to put on hospital gowns (thankfully not the kind that shows your bottom) and the one size fits all stockings that did not come close to fitting me. Once I had spoken with the Surgeon and the Anaesthetist I was wheeled into the operating theatre, where they had me laid out on a table that had movable parts for my arms and legs to go in. We talked about supporting the Danes in the Olympics as they were setting up and once they were ready and the Surgeon put the oxygen mask over me, she gently stroked my cheek as I closed my eyes and eventually went under.

When I came round I was on the ward again. The nurse who seemed to be assigned to me was really diligent and kind. She could tell I was waking up and that I was cold before I had a chance to ask her about it. She brought out this wonderful device that I have never seen before, it was like a hover in reverse: it was attached to a kind of air pillow the length of my bed with perforated holes for the hot air to come through. The nurse tucked this under my blanket and was warm in no time. She also told me later that nearly everyone wants to take it home afterwards and I was no exception.

I looked under my blanket once she was gone and saw that I had two bandages, one over my bellybutton and one lower near the public bone. I was also covered in a yellow tinged disinfectant (which latter at home took ages to wipe off once I realised it was staining my PJs!)

When the surgeon came to discuss what they found she described my ligaments and organs like an art admirer, as she moved around my body in her mind as she described the process. I wont forget her face, nor how she seemed to conduct in mid air as she described my innards. It was clear that this was someone who found deep beauty the workings of the human body and someone who loved her job.

However she also revealed, to my surprise, that I did not have Endometriosis. I was both relieved and disappointed at the same time, as I realised I had been clinging to the hope that after the surgery I could be feeling significantly better.

They did find that there was a Fibroid in my uterus, which is basically a benign tumour. It wasn’t removed because it was not at a stage where it needed to be, but it may have to be taken out in the future if it grows. I asked the surgeon if this might be behind the pain I get but she didn’t think so because of the size.

I got upset because I had been hoping for answers for why the pain, fatigue and mobility issues had been getting worse to the point where I lost my job because the travelling was killing me. The past 8 months I thought I finally had my answer to this, but after the results of the Laparoscopy I felt like I was back to square one again. It brought up many old wounds when my Fibromyalgia was still undiagnosed and my symptoms were dismissed by tests drawing a blank. I felt like I had wasted all their time. Being tried and worn out I burst into tears. The nurse once again responded in lightening speed and gave me some tissues to dry my eyes with and squeezed my shoulder as I uttered the words “I guess I was hoping things would get better now” – which not so long ago would have been an alien thing or me to say, as I had spent so much time under the whip of low self esteem that I often felt I deserved to be unwell.

My mother had also had Fibroids really bad when I had been young and had to have them scraped out, but I was of an age where I didn’t understand it, I certainly didn’t know it was a tumour until the surgeon told me. Having read up a little bit about it, now that I am back at home I have found that it is also possible for it to grow in the pelvis. I’ve had this lump in the crease between the top of my right thigh and the pelvic area for as long as I can remember.

When it gets triggered (either when I’m on my period or by travelling too much) it can send nerve flares all down my legs and my hips. So when I go back to the doctor about the Fibroids I’m going to get it checked out as well, because it does happen to be in the area I get the most pain in. I didn’t think to mention it before because I just thought it was a trapped nerve since it could cause pain even when I’m not bleeding. It maybe nothing but as I’ve realised since going through this process I would rather know the truth, even if it’s not what I expected, than believe something because it had not being fully investigated.

If I had not undergone this surgery I would have laboured under an incorrect diagnosis (once again) that everyone up until this point had thought was correct. Not to mention that we would not have diagnosed the Fibroids and I would not know what signs to look for if it got worse in the future (Fibroids are apparently often discovered by accident when undergoing a procedure for something else).

So as always there was a point to going through this, that silver lining in everything, even if I couldn’t see it straight away. I had written a very different (unpublished) post the day of the surgery as I found there was a great need for the emotional relief and shock to work it’s way out of my system so I could see the whole picture. In fact since I have determined to talk to my doctor about the lump as well as the Fibroid they found, I somehow feel lighter as I know what to do next if nothing else, regardless of what the outcome might be.

If it turns out that the lump is fine then it’s likely my problems have been down to the Fibromyalgia getting worse, but if this is the case then I feel I am better able to deal with that now. I think because there is no illusion of a quick fix, like surgery, to deal with Fibromyalgia I didn’t want to face the the fact that nothing more could be done. This whole process however gave me a chance to deal with it, in case it turns out to be the truth.

In the meantime however I’m just going to rest up. I’ve had strong painkillers for the last 3 days, as getting up and down from a chair or bed, or any motion that pulls on the stomach muscles is pretty darn painful. Today I can feel that even with gravity pulling on my belly button, where they made the upper incision, I can stretch and bend better now.

As always healing just takes a bit of time, but I feel at least I have gotten over the emotional side of it now. I trust that my body will do the rest.

New Year Resolutions 2012

I have being writing up my goals and achievements on this blog for a few years now, although I did miss last years due to health issues. I’ve decided to reduce how much work I do on them and combine it into one post combining the Start of the Year and the Close of the Year overviews. I’m also going to start restricting the number of areas I focus on, so I can get more done in each project even if I cover fewer over the course of the year; to avoid spreading myself too thin.

So without further ado here are my observations of 2011 in hindsight and resolutions to work towards in 2012:

CLOSE THE YEAR 2011

2011 has be an interesting year where a lot of new thing have begun to take form and some more familar things have changed. It started off with a Writing project with my Copenhagen NaNoWriMo group where five of us decided to do a 10 card tarot reading and use each card as inspiration for each chapter in a book. We split up the chapters so we did two each and a very interesting supernatural fictional story evolved. I was responcible for chapters 6 and the final 10th chapter, which took a bit of work to tie everything together and give it room to grow beyond either end of the book.

I finished the final chapter in October at the same time as my 12th anniversary with (and 1st paper anniversary married to) my husband Ray. It has been a very wonderful journey and I love how we have grown together over the course of our relationship. The other major thing to have happened to us is we finally completed the paperwork on all the loans needed to buy the house we love. The contract took 13 months to complete (which is a long time for Denmark).

We are starting to organise our belongings, now that we no longer need our cardboard boxes, ahead of an Idea Paint project in our livingroom that will convert two large walls into white board. This we want to use to design and work out any number of projects we want to do in our studio. The first of which will be a video game in Unity that I will be working on with my husband and friends. This is in it’s early stages but it is certainly starting to take shape and come together. It is certainly nice to have extended the group by another member in the last month 🙂

I have in my job as a System Developer moved into a more Testing and Quality Assurance role this year and it has been very interesting to see programming projects from this angle. Also with the video game I am taking on a more project manager role using Trello. So these, in combination with learning Unity, JavaScript and C# have allowed me to expand my horizons alot this year in my IT career.

I have had also reached a milestone in my guitar practise this year. I first started playing the guitar when I was 14 when I got my first guitar. I played for 3.5-4 years everyday non-stop, bar a few days due to ill health. I wrote 50 songs during this time too. I then stopped playing for over 10 years. I started again in September 2007. I realised not so long ago I have been playing longer now this time round than when I first started playing in my teenage years. So it’s nice to be returning to my former self, even if I don’t play daily like I used to back then.

My husband and I also started to face and deal with some health issues this year which we had been putting off, due to fear of the unknown. I am being seen by a Gynacoloist (as I may have Endometriosis and fertility issues) and a Neuroloist because I am getting more of the werid nerve spasms I talked about in my blog For The Hole Inside Everyone back in 2007 called Literally Losing Control.

Also my husband is waiting on a biopsy result and will be seeing a plastic surgon in January. I find now I have made the move to face these things I am relieved that the process has begun and it can finally be dealt with (instead of letting it niggle at the back of my brain, causing me to dwell on darker fears). Now I spend alot of my day sending myself and my husband good wishes to be well. It has been a long time since I allowed myself to cultivate such feeling of well being towards myself due to issues of self worth. It feels like this is starting to unravel unenough to begin the process of letting go. It will be what it will be in the end.

I have also just started using this month the Pomodoro Technique, to help manage my time and to do lists. It also allows you to track your progress easily and get into a better relationship with time and work. It has only been a couple of weeks but already I can see an improvement on my perception of how much I can really get done in a day. It is easy to feel like you have done nothing all day, when really you have undervalued yourself and your work, and not paid attention to how much you’ve actually squeezed into the day. Sometimes work does not yield concrete and obvious results everyday, sometimes it needs to perculate and you need to graft, before it can bloom into completion.

Speaking of perculation the other Writing accomplishment I had this year was getting the start right at last for the first book of my 6 book Sci-Fi series (it has taken me over 11 years to get it right!) Also, quite by surpise, I found myself writing the start of the third book which I have always been itching to write as it involves some interesting characters at different points in their lives that I find fascinating (hence why I’m writing it heh). I put off starting the 3rd book because I hadn’t finished the 1st, nor really started on the 2nd, but I decided not to let that stop me working on the 3rd book and I’m glad I did. I’ve got the first 2.5 chapters done already and the details of the story is starting to open up in my mind 🙂

START THE YEAR 2012

The first thing I want from the year 2012 is to make our video game a success. My husband and I have tried doing this once before, on a different gaming project, and were hit by a number of staffing and financial issues which caused it to come to a halt. It is now 6 years on from that and I think it’s time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back into the gaming arena. The game concept we have is pretty sound and we are getting interest from people we talk to about it, so it feels like we have the basis for a popular game. In fact I am already at the point where I want to play it heh!

Then the next thing I want is to help our collaborative book to be a success (it is written and just needs a polish before it can be put into print). I want to use this as an oppotunity to learn as much as I can about taking a book from the final manuscript into a finished and book selling in print or in digital form. I also want to learn how to spread the word and market a book both in person, online and through other media outlets. This will be invaluable for when I want to sell my 6 book Sci-Fi series later on when it’s ready.

I want to start having a more motivating attitude towards my daily work routine. I have suffered some motivational issues this year in my job, until I started on the Testing and QA work. This is mostly due to the nature of patching large systems and keeping them functional. Sometimes you get left with a killer case that no-one has a clue how to fix and you just bang your head against a wall for days trying to figure it out. This has been one of my major complaints against coding over this long stretch of my life. Those moments when it all comes to a halt can be soul crushing.

This is why I like being involved in other parts of the development life cycle, where I’m not solely responcible for fixing problems and help to point them out before they are rolled out into production. So I want to make the most of the oppotunities in 2012 that I am given in my IT career to grow in a new directions, but that also transfer my technical skills so they are still relevant and useful.

The other thing I want to do is register myself as a Soul Trader for the work I do in my spare time arround my primary job. This is so that I can finally consider myself an artist, whather I create video games, books or music and whatever else I want to do in the future. This free registration application is the business seed that hopfeully it will grow into something bigger further down the line, or at least teach me more about business adminstration and finance which will be useful for any number of reasons.

AND BEYOND THAT

Here are the new passions I envision will become a part of my life sometime soon, but less likely to be within the next year. This is room for new seeds to be cultivated and given space to grow and perculate in my brain in the background:

I think I have had to admit in 2011 that Danish has been difficult to fit into my life, espcailly now I have a large project to start a business from to deal with on the side too. However, even when this wasn’t on the cards I have been struggling to learn Danish. I’ve decided to live with the fact that my Danish is abissmal when listening and speaking. The perfectionist in me doesn’t want to admit that, as it would have me burn out to do everything expected of me, but I have learned not to listen (in this case) this year.

I know one day I will wake up and find I had dreamt in Danish, or catch myself one day thinking in Danish, but it is not to be right now and that is OK. It will come when it is ready and if I need to delay that day alittle to help put me in a postion to better spend the time I really need learning the language, then that seems equally as worthy a route to fluencey as any other. As long as I don’t give up entirely, taking a break is not a crime. I have to remind myself of that every so often though 😉

Then of course there is the Sci-Fi series. I expect that this will suffer a little in 2012 as the video game will come first and then the collaborative book will come before the series since it is done. However I have great faith that the series is going in the right direction and that I will squeeze in some work on it here and there as I always do 😉

The other thing I expect will be near on the horizon is my guitar and singing practise. I am looking at getting a new Electric Acoustic Guitar so I can start practising with the intent to perform again. I’ve found a Cafe in Copenhagen that supports local artists and you can apply to play there. So I am thinking or working towards that with regard to my musical abilities in the long term.

So that is all I have to report that I can think of, lets compare notes next year! I hope all of you have a great New Year’s (the fireworks have already begun here lol). I also hope you had a great 2011 and that 2012 will be even better than ever.

Niamh Brown
http://www.niamhbrown.com

Occupying My Mind – Thoughts On What A World Without Money Might Be Like

Back in 2008, at the exact time the financial crisis hit, I was moving to start a new life in Denmark because it was clear that no matter how hard I worked and no matter how much I sacrificed my health to be the bread winner, I would never get ahead in Britain. I live with Fibromyalgia and I am slowly losing my mobility and I was told in 2007 to start working part time but I never could afford to. My husband Ray has never been able to get a job in Britain due to a crippling combination of health problems but because I could work just about he was never eligible for benefits and I got no help or support for caring for him on top of everything else. We decided to risk it all and move to a new country in the hope it could provide us both with a better support network and job opportunities. I can say after being here 3 years now we were right.

However when we landed in Denmark and the economy tanked all our plans kind of went out the window and we found ourselves in a strange house, in a strange land with no income and with all the barriers of not speaking the language. I remember feeling really low at one point, really hoping this economic crisis would spark a domino effect that would put an end to the whole corrupt monitory system by making it crash worldwide, putting everyone back to zero if I can quote the movie Fight Club.

I got to thinking what it would be like to really wean ourselves off our addiction to money and consumerism and with the #OWS movement now out in full force campaigning for our rights to equality and justice I find myself thinking about it all over again. This process has showed me how much could be changed about our day to day lives if we didn’t use this kind of pervasive and perverse system. I think it can be handy, even just as an intellectual exercise if nothing else, to try to step outside the money way of thinking to allow mental space for the possibility of something new to grow. Just as science fition often becomes science fact, given enough time. I don’t claim to hold all the answers and there is so much out there I do not know enough about, but here is my 2 cents on the subject in the small hope it might help someone out there in a better position than I to do something about it:

I find when I read discussions online about leaving money behind it is often assumed we will go back to a barter system or complete anarchy will ensue as looters and hoarders steal and damage what they can, leaving others with nothing. Sure there might be some panic as things shift, resistance to change in natural, but if you look at how the Occupy Wall Street Movement has organised itself amongst all the chaos of police state brutality and have achieved things from the library, catering and camps for large numbers of protesters and homeless, organising peaceful events, to providing the political foundation for serious change in our societal ethos through protest. So I feel confident we will not all regress into the darkest of our animal instincts. Sure there will always be that element to our nature, but if society stops creating monsters through unjust treatment and poverty there will be far fewer problems to deal with in the first place.

As for bartering I doubt it will suddenly stop (we still do it now), but it needn’t be the corner stone of our society. We left bartering behind for money as it provided a better system at the time, so perhaps we can leave money aside for something new too. When the financial crisis hit we may have lost a lot of points on the stock market in some computer somewhere, but our ability to produce only went down in respect of how many people were still employed. If everybody who was in work before the crisis hit then went out and did the exact same job the day after the crisis – we would have produced the same amount of tangible goods and services as before. Our ability did not change overnight, what did was our incentive.

Most of us work because we have to, because it is the only option on the table. This is the model of society we have grown up with, so it only makes sense that the rules of engagement with one another would need to change in order to live without money. The trick is how we make sure that the essential needs of all are covered when we no longer have money as our motivation to get out of bed in the morning. I have long thought that even in places like Denmark where a 37 hour working week and 5-6 weeks’ vacation a year is quite common, that we as a people are over worked (although to be fair Danes on a whole don’t blink about taking on part time study on top of a full time job or staying up late and getting up early on a regular basis) When you are tired, overworked and not getting enough sleep it is harder and harder to face a boring job that doesn’t inspire you (beyond the fear of losing it and your home). This is why I think valuing a person’s time should be the replacement: as we say ‘Time is Money’.

I think that if all our basic needs were met (housing, travel, food, garbage, sewage, water, electricity, heating, clothing, internet etc.) a lot of us would change our careers. I remember being told as a child, after I had picked up the guitar and found I had a knack for it (along with my knack for writing), that I could only do this as a hobby I had to do something ‘practical’ for my day job. By practical, my father meant something that would make me as much money as possible. I got into IT because of this and although this career after 12 years is finally starting to pay off in the usual indicators we would use to measure success, it does not inspire me, it does not make me wake up in the morning with such drive and enthusiasm that I feel satisfied with what I do. I don’t regret going down this path but I’ve always wanted more from my career than it had been able to give me so far.

Now imagine a world where we could funnel the natural enthusiasm of people into vocations that would motivate people to do it regardless of the rewards involved, because they were not counting on the results being linked to the roof over their head. When you are doing something you are passionate about, the means are the ends; there is enjoyment in the journey. One of the great strengths of the human race is our variety. There are so many of us on this planet with so many different areas of interest and specialities to cover our large spectrum of needs. For the jobs where we do struggle to find people and that cannot be left in the hands of technology, we can take a leaf out of the prison model but in the opposite direction.

We can value time as our highest commodity. We can offer non-monetary incentives, such as more holiday or a shorter working week in compensation for the reduced satisfaction people may feel whilst they commit to this essential service for a certain amount of time to meet the demand. (This can also apply to the young who have yet to gain working experience, as well as students and those performing community service). The idea you could have more time at home with the family without it impacting on what kind of home you could afford to live in, whilst providing essential services that benefits everyone I’m sure would be popular as you would get people who would prefer more time at home over retraining for something more demanding of their time. Along with this reduced work load the need for more positions will arise in order to cover the time when people are not working due to the perks of their job.

There will however always be people who can’t work in the traditional sense, either because of ill health or the need to care for someone, or due to maternity leave for example. Society should be able to protect them as much as the people doing the most work on average per week. People should no longer be at the fringes of society because they cannot provide for themselves, weather for a short period or for their rest of their lives. We can however create and provide activities that benefit the community and keep them included in society such as, gardening, child minding, support groups, teaching and art, all whilst providing them with the support they need to function.

This allows us to get everyone included in their community; and the more someone is connected to their community, the less likely they are to trash it for no good reason. We need to rethink the kinds of things that make a difference to human beings when profit is not the motivating factor and therefore what we can really do without, so we can redirect the effort into something that benefits us all. Someone may not get paid a lot to write a song, a book or even a poignant post on Google+ for example, but when the right idea comes along at the right time it can affect us deeply and become invaluable to our culture. This should be considered as contributing to society as much as any other position.

And for the rest, what stops them from just not doing anything and still getting everything they need? Simple, if you don’t have any extenuating circumstances that reduces your work load then you need to be involved somehow in the world that provides for you to the best of your ability. If we don’t all pull together how can anyone expect to have their needs met? Whether this is taking a course, inventing something, finding an organization that is doing interesting things and supporting that, creating your own company or group of likeminded individuals, or even providing a local service to your community or building something new entirely – there will always be plenty to do.

However in whatever position you start with you should always have the option every now and then to grow and go in a new direction if you need it. People shouldn’t be tied to what they thought they wanted at 18 but are trapped because they can’t get out of it without losing pay. The key is to get people involved and excited about what they do for the majority of their lives. If they are excited and enthusiastic the quality of their work will go up and they may even put in more time and effort than was required of them.

Also for employers, because they will not be worrying about the budget balance all the time and how to cut it, telecommuting can spread because there is less need to watch over people 24/7 to make sure they don’t waste shareholder money doing nothing or surfing the web. As long as the work gets done to the standard and deadline required of them, who cares where it is done from and how you manage your time as long as you show up when it is really needed? Of course there are some jobs that can’t be done remotely but it can cut down the car dependency we have for a large chunk of office based commuters, which will be greener whether we drop money or not. A Stanford study recently concluded that people were more effective and produced more on average when they could work at home verses the work place.

We should also be an Idea Economy providing places that inspire creativity, research, innovation and technological developments for next Steve Jobs, Einstein or J. K Rowling. These people all went through unconventional routes that led them to what they were most known for. In my writing group I remember one of the members saying ‘I wonder how many books are out there, sitting in draws because they didn’t feel it was good enough’. Too many of our dreams are crushed early because they are not obviously profitable to begin with, even if they proved to be later on after the fact. We need to cultivate human curiosity, experimentation and ingenuity once more.

So how do we make sure all the essentials are met? Well first off if you are working in an essential service you will get the better holidays/working hours as discussed but for things like food and what we call consumer items how do we make sure this is dealt with sanely? Well there is the option of setting limits on what is reasonably expected an average human in your position needs of any given thing, such as no-one needs more than 5 loaves of bread a day or 5 working TVs at any one time or something like that. People can get different kinds of allowances for different things, such as essential allowances to cover the basics that everyone gets and then health allowance for special needs and work allowance for things you need in order to carry out your job and these would be assessed individually based on the position you hold, but should never be excessive.

This still gives an incentive to be in work as your allowances will expand because of your needs as an employee. However the difference between being unemployed and employed should not be that vast. In Denmark they have a scheme called ‘Flextid’ (flexi time) where people with chronic conditions (such as myself) can work up to 25 hours a week and still get 90% of their wage, the difference is paid by our local kommune (council). So it need not be such a huge gap to be an incentive to work, 10% is enough – it has kept me in full time work for over 3 years and I’m trying to wait as long as possible before relying on it, in case I can’t go back to full time work again.

We could also use a smart card system (instead of credit cards) in order to claim goods. We can reuse the checkout lines whenever we go to a store to track what we have taken to make sure we are entitled to it and work out when people have stepped over the line. This is no more than like giving someone a prescription that is to last a certain amount of time. Yes people could use it all up in one day but they can’t fill another prescription until the last batch is due to run out, unless they can provide evidence of some extenuating circumstance (e.g. if there is a fire and you need to replace everything). It probably gets a bit tricky when it comes to food, but we can see such restrictions in stores already where they sell food so cheap that you can only go away with so many of an item at any one time. Again though, if you know you will always have your needs covered it reduces the need to steal to survive. Also if you can’t resell items, say at a local market or on e-bay, then what is the point it taking more than you need when anyone else you know has the same right and access and has no need to go through a middle man. It will take the extraneous monetary value out of products and return it to its previous state where only its usefulness is the key.

Greed however is a human problem and I doubt it will just evaporate overnight, so we need societal structures that make sure that someone cannot significantly raise their quality of life without raising it for everyone else. We need to disperse power so it cannot end in the hands of the 1% again, but can be controlled by the masses without stagnation and delay. However in a world without money we can still have law. If people steal or try to fraud their way into more resources than is their fair share then of course we can still prosecute or alter the rules for everyone’s sake if it’s deemed reasonable. We can use these moments in the courtroom to confront the boundaries in dispute to see if we are keeping up with the times and making allowances realistic for our needs. This allows plenty of room for us to grow in the future in this system and yet still retain it’s fairness.

However a world without money means that the whole nature of law changes too. We no longer have the issue of the guy with the most money buys the verdict they want by getting the best lawyer on the block. Lawyers will no longer be motivated by money, they might want to be successful but it will no longer be the case that Defending is more profitable than Prosecuting, so it becomes a level playing ground again. Lawyers will do it out of passion for justice and equality and not because of the pay. It will be about who has the best skills for the job, not what someone can afford. It will also cut out all the injury claims law firms, it will stop the spread of polices in schools, hospitals and the like that have to cover their ass so as not to get sued and preventing kids from playing games like conkers in case the school might become liable if there was the slightest incident. This kind of mentality can go; there are better things to be spending our time and energy on.

This would be true also of lobbying. If you take the money out of that system then the only real reason to lobby will be if there is a considerable group in society that feel that a change is needed and true debate could be held, rather than be the tool through which the 1% rule the political spectrum. It will take a dedicated group to pass new laws and amendments because they are motivated enough to do it on its own merit. It would allow so many issues to come to the fore that had been pushed out of sight and out of mind for too long.

For example, there would become great need for proactive preventative medical treatment for all, because the longer and healthier someone’s life is the more time they have to give back to society. It won’t just be about dealing with people once their health has becomes critically ill and they can’t avoid it anymore, but doing what it takes to help people stay active and well throughout the course of their life. As well as usual medical treatments this should include fitness and stress reduction in any form that keep people saner and in good health. The emergency room worries should be about the condition of the patient not about if you can afford treatment or what this will do to your insurance premium.

Now about housing: This is big potential for creating jobs. If there is no money you cannot pay rent or mortgage loans. Really the ideal thing would be to say to start with is: whatever house you are in for now is yours. There are very few reasons why someone needs more than one house and they can always be accounted for in allowances. Yes there will be also shitholes out there, but that is where the jobs come in. So many people don’t have homes or the accommodation they do have is uninhabitable or in run down areas. For those with inadequate housing, we just start a list much like a housing list for council accommodation in Britain, except it registers all available housing, monitors their condition; making repairs when needed. As soon as new or renovated buildings are ready they get matched against the needs of those at the top of the list, with those in the most need due to age, ill health or the condition of their current residence, being given priority for the available housing first.

This of course is a long term thing, but there are many houses that are empty that could be used in the meantime, there are many levels unused in skyscrapers that could be turned easily into apartments too. Then when it comes time for a change and you feel like moving to a different house or area, we can use an agency to manage the wishes for those who want to house swap; creating chains that we often see today in the property market except they will not be waiting on banks to approve mortgages, but waiting on the completion of a chain (by the last person getting a new/empty house that does not require someone to leave), so that you can all arrange to move out at once. Again this utilises systems we already have in place, many councils in Britain manage similar lists today for example, except it operates under a new mandate that is practical to our needs when money is not the driving factor. We can also combine this to a maintenance service which comes round each house to fix things when needed, providing a lot of jobs for those handy men and women who can help in these areas.

In the end we need to start catering to people’s needs not what is the latest product a company wants to sell regardless of whether we need it or not, but because they can make a buck off it. I find myself recently really coming to loath the phrase ‘It’s nothing personal, it’s just business’, as if business is the only time it is acceptable to ruthlessly exploit the world and we should all consider it acceptable behaviour. It gives business the image that they should get everything they need and we should all say ‘oh it’s business so of course you can get away with anything you want’ as if the qualifier ‘business’ is some kind of get out of jail card. We have seen what corporations can do when they are exempt from the law. Take money out of the situation, return the power to the people and this kind of unethical modus operandi will run out of steam.

I could really go on forever listing different aspects of modern life and how it could be improved without the money crutch, but this post is already long enough. What is crucial though is that whatever systems we devise to move us away from money we have to pay attention to the new structure and how it could be exploited. We have to remember that there will be a certain group of society that would stand to lose a lot in the example system I proposed above and those so habituated to the greed that comes along with vast fortunes that they have to learn how to let that go whilst keeping things stable for the rest of us. We have to remember the pit falls of the past whilst we design the foundation of our future. We have to safe guard ourselves from what this new system might evolve into, so the money mentality doesn’t just morph into a different form, under a new disguise. It has to be a replacement that can handle the powers that would be created by centralising the commodities market and eliminating money. We have to make sure that we can’t get a divide in society where a small group can be significantly better off at the expense of the quality of life of the masses. We have to limit the divide in society, whilst proving incentive to gain education and experience to contribute to the world, taking into account all the foibles of human nature that might resist such a system.

In terms of stepping stones that could lead us from where we are now to something close to what I have mentioned in this model, might be abolishing interest rates all together. They add fuel to the fire, making an already bad situation worse. I could pay off my mortgage 3 times faster if I wasn’t paying for interest. In Denmark they have a policy that makes all interest payments tax deductible, so I get a third of it back in my wages by reducing how much tax they take out to start with. This is for any kind of loan and it really does make a difference. However this is only the first step in a long line that we need to take. We can’t be fooled by putting a band aid on a festering situation, essentially allowing banks to carry on as normal; we need to wipe the slate clean eventually to prepare the ground for a change that is long overdue.

Finally I just want to link to this video ‘Money as Debt‘ as it shows how interest rates on debt requires some people to become bankrupt in order for the whole monetary system to keep ticking, because there isn’t actually enough money in the system for everyone to pay off all their debt PLUS the interest. Surely this is not a stable model to be working with, but I have faith that we humans are smart enough to outgrow it and see beyond our cultural conditioning that has kept us hooked in today’s economic slavery and find something better and fairer for all.

For The Hole Inside Everyone

Niamh Brown

http://www.niamhbrown.com

Coping With Chaos

I recently had a bit of a realisation into one of my ingrained patterns that I learned as a child and felt the need to write about it. To give some background to understand what I discovered, first it’s necessary for me to skim over what happened to me when I was younger:

At age 9 I graduated from child into adulthood, not because I was ready but because life demanded it. This was the time when my parents split up and due to the perversity of the legal system in Britain at the time (1990) it was decided that my manic depressive father would make a more suitable parent than my now lesbian mother (hence the divorce). The fact I wanted to go with my mother was irrelevant it seems as they never asked me. I was ‘too young’ to make such a decision but not ‘too young’ to take over the role my mother had played now she was gone.

I was responsible for doing the dishes (by hand), sometimes cooking or making packed lunches, doing shopping at the local supermarket, cleaning out the pet cages (we had several budgies, a cockatiel, a rabbit and a guinea pig at the time), taking my younger sister to school and generally keeping the house clean. This was on top of my ever increasing homework load, the hobbies I had such as playing the guitar as well as generally trying to avoid the massive mood swings my father would go through, which would often lead, despite my best efforts, to being shouted at sometimes for hours on end. He would tell me over and over how what I am and do isn’t good enough to meet his high perfectionist standards that even he couldn’t keep. Not to mention that I was suffering from depression and a chronic medical condition that wasn’t diagnosed for another 15 years .

If my father spotted a mistake in anything I did he would have me start over from scratch, sometimes redoing a whole load of dishes when only a few had a little residue left from my first attempt, or keeping me up until 1 or 2 in the morning until I had done my homework to a standard that didn’t reflect badly on him. (My father had in the past taught at the secondary school I went to when I was 11, so I got the impression he felt my presence and progress at the school would be under scrutiny).

It was impossible to do everything he wanted to his standard and within this chaos I had to find ways to cope to keep myself going, as I had no-one to rely on, no-one who could share the burden with me. It wasn’t possible for me at this time to accept I couldn’t do it all, not in a conscious way, I just assumed this was just the way it was so I tried for a long time to be the ‘perfect angel’ (until I reached a point of inner rebellion at least). Looking back I can see what coping mechanisms naturally during this time to help me deal with all this.

Among them were some I have known about for some time, such as when I get shouted at or told off in anyway my mind tends to shut down, my husband calls it ‘going tharn’ where I basically go all wide eyed and can’t think of anything to say even if I have grounds to defend myself with. This allows me to take a mental break, to disassociate from the unbearable reality around me (being shouted at triggers the fight or flight in me) but this has led to in an inability to hold my ground in discussions and get what I need or want.

The other is not so much a coping mechanism but the result of living in this chaotic environment for so long. Because my fathers view was ‘law’, for a long time when I was younger I picked up the habit of always referring to his opinion as my own. If someone would ask me something new I wouldn’t know how to respond, as I would have to ask my Dad about it first (assuming it was a topic safe enough to bring up without it starting a row). Both of these traits led me to the point where it was almost impossible for me to make decisions on my own, as I wasn’t given the space to learn this skill naturally. This is something I have been working on for years now and it still affects me to this day.

So the other thing I picked up that I’ve just discovered was learning how to ‘jugggle’ my impossible work load to make it appear like I was able to do it all to keep my Dad off my back. It’s become clear to me that I have a semi-conscious system for handing all the things I have to do. I have a group of tasks that have to be done on a regular basis by a certain day. These would be juggled along with all the unexpected and one off tasks that come about for one reason or another. I threw all these tasks up in the air knowing full well I was going to drop the ball on most of them and when I had time and energy I would try to recycle through the things I dropped as they became a priority (ie when I got shouted at).

This brought about another habit: when someone brings up something that I’ve neglected that really needs doing (eg one of the balls I had to drop) I jump up immediately to try to fix it. This was the way I had to deal with the fact I had too much on my plate. I did what I could and put out fires as they cropped up. I also realised that I still employ this method to this day, keeping the old wound open in order to deal with a full time job, an exhausting travel schedule, learning a new language, looking after the house, writing, learning new computer skills in my spare time whilst dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. The mechanism was so successful that people often assume I can cope with anything, when actually underneath I often feel like I’m barely keeping it together and any moment the whole illusion will tumble down like a house of cards.

When all this sunk in I realised that I have to start by being honest with myself and to not ignore my pain. It maybe not much can be done staright away, but at least I’m not increasing the problem by ignoring it and stuffing it out of sight, as the effort to do this only increases with time. One of the things I had ‘dropped’ this year was making an appointment with a specialist doctor to try to deal with some of the more severe pain I have on my period.

The nerve pain is so bad I basically have to lie on my back with a pillow under my legs so they can stay bent without putting strain on my legs (if i lie flat it makes the pain around my stomach worse). I have to try and lie there, moving as little as possible, for anything between 6 and 16 hours. If I do move then the pain gets worse and sometimes I can get dizzy or even throw up. Then after the worst of it is over I have low level muscle pain for maybe 12 hours afterwards, along with severe fatigue that can last for days.

However one of the other things I have a tendency to do, related to money and self esteem issues which is a whole other story on it’s own, is dropping my needs and my health, putting them last in the list. I got my specialist referral back in December 2010, but until this week I had not made the appointment, knowing how difficult it is for me to fit them in around everything else without loosing money, time and energy.

When I had my mini revelation, I finally decided to put my health first for once; to stop grinning and bearing it alone. Having finally made the appointment I’m amazed at the relief it has brought, knowing it will be looked at after 17 years of dealing with the pain every month.

I look at all these words I’ve just written and I am amazed at how much emotional stuff can come out of dropping the ball again this week. I had a choice on Tueday between coming straight home and not doing a shop, or a long travel connection after a shop. I wanted to come straight home because my legs were exhausted. I had forgotten that we needed to buy milk and bread as my husband had been without any for the day. When I realised he was facing another day with basically nothing to eat or drink because I couldn’t find the energy to keep that ball up in the air, I went tharn, cried and then finally gave the pain words and let it all out to the man I love. A little nugget of pain surfaced and began to heal. A few days later, once I had more time to digest it (and I renewed my expired refferal) I finally called the doctor to get the help I need. All because I forgot the milk. Funny how life works out isn’t it.

Niamh Brown
http://www.niamhbrown.com

Moving From a Monoglot to a Polyglot Culture

Since I have moved to Denmark one of the cultural shifts that has snuck up on me is the fact that it is quite common for people to mix languages in everyday conversation as if nothing changed. It seems quite normal to hear or read communications in a combination of English, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish or any the many other languages that are used in this cosmopolitan country.This Scandinavian polyglot nature has seeped into the culture, at least in my eyes as an outsider looking in.

I have been working in a Danish company for 2.5 years now and some of my Danish colleagues ask from time to time why I don’t speak more Danish in the office, since I can read well and write OK. Aside from the problems I have hearing Danish as I am deaf in my right ear and also have trouble understanding spoken Danish, as it is fast and often mumbled, the main issue is one of habit.

I come from a country where to speak a foreign language mid-way through a sentence and then jump back into our mother-tongue might be interpreted as pretentious or elitist in some circles. It’s silly when you think about it, as English is a mongrel language, made of stolen words from every language under the sun. We take them and call them English, we don’t think of it as another language; we assimilate words – resistance is futile!

So really it comes down to attitude. Here in Scandinavia language is embraced as it is needed. Danes are used to the fact that to communicate with the world English and German, among others, are valued skills considering Denmark’s location. In Britain we like to export our values abroad and demand it be more like Britain! (Except for the rain of course, but we will probably still find a way to moan about the weather somehow!)

So I’m the only person in my company who can say that I had only one working language before I came to Denmark. The other two people at work who are learning Danish speak English as a second language, as they came from the Baltics and Asia. So they had at least 2 languages before they came to Denmark. English allows you to be so lazy sometimes, but it is incredibly good at describing things in great detail.

So it is nice to be in a place where I can finally use another language for a change, as it was something I was always good at at school; I learned German for 5 years and Japanese for 2 years. Being able to apply it does make all the difference and in the time I have been here I can definitely see that I’ve improved and have begun to assimilate both the language and culture. For example: when I dream and see money, I see kroner now not pound notes.

So I will carry on muddling through, trying to get used to this cultural polyglot norm that challenges me in unexpected ways. However, I know once my husband has caught up with me we will start speaking more Danish at home and that can help. It’s only a matter of time now, I just have to patient 🙂

PS: Don’t you wish sometimes you could just plug your brain into something and just download it all like in the matrix heh!

http://www.niamhbrown.com

What a Little Kindness Will Do….

I had a funny incident this week. I’ve not been very well recently and often this inevitably leads to ordering out for food as I can’t stand up long enough to make a meal and still have an appetite by the time I’m done due to pain. We live out in the middle of nowhere and often people can’t find us and we get the wrong mail sent to our house etc.

On Monday night, which just let me preface is the only evening I get off without having to do anything before the weekend so its a good time for me to get some rest and get an early night, I was feeling partially beat so we ordered takeaway.

An hour goes by…then another 30 minutes.  By this time my phone has gone off about 4 times to remind me to take my pills. I have to take my medication at 7:30pm during the work week so I can fall asleep on time and so I’m not so groggy that I’m a zombie at work and I don’t wake up until I’m supposed to go to bed.  Therefore I always try to take them on time, hence the reminder, but by now I know there’s going to be no early night tonight.

We have ordered from this particular restaurant many times and since they have never been this late before we called them. Then the language barrier kicks in. Although I’m on module 2 in Danish I have a lot of trouble understanding spoken Danish, even words and phrases I already know, as the written and spoken Danish are almost two separate languages, plus I have hearing and memory problems.

The people at the restaurant have no English and try as I might I couldn’t understand a word they said. I strained to hear them and for the first time in my life someone spoke to me slower and louder in a foreign language in the hopes I would understand. (I’ve never felt so ignorant!) The only things I understood were the phrases ‘Do you understand?’ (Forstår du?) and ‘it’s a problem, not speaking Danish’ (det er et problem ikke at tale dansk) after I said I do not understand for the millionth time (Jeg forstår ikke). What made it worse is he had a thick middle eastern accent and I had the feeling that Danish wasn’t his first language either, so Danish was our lingua franca.

Then I heard something I did understand: ‘out of the house’ (ud af hus). As we are so hard to find sometimes we have been called to go outside and wave down the driver so they know where we are.  We say goodbye on the phone and I run outside without my coat in the night with the winter breeze (bad mistake!) standing watching as the odd car went by. Nothing…

Once my legs could bear it no more I came back inside. We call the website we ordered from which is a middle man for tons of restaurants in Denmark (http://www.just-eat.dk). They have live chat support and thankfully we got someone who did speak English. They called the restaurant then explained they had left the food outside, by our camping van…but we don’t have a camping van. So the middleman phones the restaurant back and they agree to send out a new order of food.

Now we have been told by some takeaway places that we are too far out the zone and been refused further orders. So trying not to get annoyed by the fact that someone’s carelessness had cost me a good nigh sleep I try to have compassion for the lad who will get an earful from his boss because he failed to do his job for a regular customer. I do this whilst at the same time a part of me wants to use this minor setback to get frustrated and indignant, when what it really reminded me of is just how full and tight my routine is; how much I pack into my day that such a small thing as a delayed dinner can throw off my whole week. I sit with that until I hear a car pull into my driveway, thinking it may be the last time they come.

Then I open the door. Not one, not two, but four delivery guys greet me with open arms and cheers! They all laugh, handing me a double order of food as they explain that a nearby street with a similar name also has a number the same as ours. We laugh and smile at each other and I realise, with irony, that I can understand what they are saying. I even join in a little.

As I closed the door and tell Ray what just happened we realise two things: they went to the house they had delivered to earlier and picked up the food they left on their doorstep and brought it with the new order. A small gesture of good will to make up for the inconvenience. And the other thing being that they brought all the delivery boys down to see exactly where we lived so they never got lost again.

From that moment on as we tucked into our meals and drank our soda, the mood couldn’t have been more different from the dreaded anticipation and frustration we had felt just moments ago. It amazing what a little kindness will do…

Niamh Brown

http://www.niamhbrown.com

Start the Year: Resolutions 2010

Hope you all had a great time last night, we had a great fireworks display all around us for a few hours. Something about fireworks always makes me feel like a little kid heh. This process of review has been more of a struggle for me this year as the last few days I’ve felt really drained and had a bit of the holiday blues which often happens to me when I have time off as my body and mind figure out it’s OK to crash. So I don’t intend this to be very long but I feel it would do me good (considering how I’m doing) to state my intentions for the year in a positive and healthy manner (instead of worrying how I’m going to make it through the year) So here are my resolutions for 2010:

Writing

I intend not to set hard and fast goals any more for writing as I feel mostly it becomes detrimental and demoralising as my energy and time fluctuates over the year. However I intend to keep to the writers group and to be able to bring fresh work each time, to connect with other writers and start the process of ‘networking’.

Now I’m working in OneNote I intend to work on things when they grab my interest, so this gives me the variety in my writing and keeps things fresh. I have a great number of books, stories and articles in progress and I think being able to be flexible with the topic of the week will help to keep up motivation. I intend to write a little each weekend like I used to do until a couple of years ago when I had a break (due to ill health). Even if it’s just a half hour it will all add up, but the regular routine is what I want to recapture, what I do with that time will depend on what story is mulling in my mind as I sit down to write.

I also want to up my reading more. I heard an interesting point today about how if your reading doesn’t match the content you get via other mediums like film and TV it can show in your writing. So I want to get a greater amount of off-the-screen reading time and use it as a relaxing treat.

Photography

I feel that the act of shooting will be much the same this year as it was in 2009. I’m not going to put much energy into getting new material as I have such a backlog already. This year what I want to do is focus on organising and processing the images I have and revamping my gallery and website online. However because the writing will always come first I’m happy to allow for the fact that this may take more than one year to do. What I need is to set up processes (much like my OneNote conversion in writing) that will make it easier so I don’t get backlogs again. Some of this may require new ways to store the data as it takes up a lot of hard disk space. So to find a system that encourages new work, instead of it being swamped in a backlog that never gets processed. I also want to learn to live the with shots I let get away and be happy with the ones I do get.

Health

This year I want to sort out all the support networks and help from my kommune and doctor so I don’t feel alone with my condition. I want to know my options and to learn to manage my condition better within the Danish system. I also want to find the ideal routine that allows me enough rest time in my daily and annual schedule so that when I do have holiday they are that holidays, and not moments where I let the pressure value loosen to let off only some of the building steam of pressure my body and mind is under.

I want to be able to listen to my body and find a way in my work and home to accommodate for my actual needs. I’m ready to stop over doing it for the greater good, I’m ready to give up the crash and burn model of doing things (the keep over doing it until I can’t do anything approach) My body and mind deserve to rest and be as healthy as they can be. I need to face and resolve that this year, instead of carrying on because I’m in the dark about what I can do and I’m afraid of change.

Work

For work I want to find the balance in my routine that allows me to safely do the Danish courses so that I can interact more at my company. I also want to learn to take proper breaks and if I’m at my computer when I take them to be able to relax and not feel I’m being judged because I’m not working in my break! I have this complex (from my workaholic perfectionist father) that I always feel I’m being watched and judged and not working hard enough. I need to let go of that enough that I can actually rest during the day, instead of feeling ‘on duty’ from the moment I get up until I’ve finished cooking dinner at night. I need to learn to mix work with rest, business with pleasure.

I also want to be proactive in the things I’m interested in promoting within my company with other like minded individuals in areas such as quality control and knowledge sharing, to be involved in my growth within the company. I want to show my employers just what I’m really capable of in these other areas of interest.

Personal

I would like during this year to work out a solution between our landlord and the banks that allows us to start the process of buying the house we are in.

I would like to be able to let go of the mental obstacles in my way that only do harm and have the wisdom to listen to the pain I’m feeling that requires change in order to heal, rather than ignore it because my routine is so demanding I feel that’s it’s necessary. I want to give my body, heart and mind all the space it needs to heal and grow and process what is necessary to move forward. I also want to let go of the identity of the ‘doer’ more, the one who has to do everything otherwise ‘chaos ensues’. Because on the flip side it means when I rest I get depressed as a part of my identity is no longer applicable. I want also to learn to be kind to myself and to give myself the things I need instead of denying myself out of a habitual childhood coping mechanism towards limited funds.

So that’s it. I may add the odd thing if I think of something relevant in the next day or two, but really if I got most of that I would be well on my way. Some of this will come to pass, some won’t, some dreams/goals may change or be dropped, whilst others become more real. Time will tell…

I offer these words for reflection…

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