Black Friday

If I could pick one colour to describe my day, I don’t think it would be black. I think a kind of faded blue is more how I feel today, fairly content and peaceful but slightly washed-out. 
I had a restless night’s sleep, the kind where your dreams feel like a continuation of your day at work, so so that when you wake up it takes a few seconds for the line between imagination and reality to emerge. So there was a strong TFI Friday sentiment when the alarm sounded this morning. 

It must have showed, because as I stopped to buy a coffee at the train station the guy serving offered me a free croissant. I was so confused and suspicious about someone doing something nice that I tried to give it back to him. It was only afterwards that I realised I had probably been vacantly staring at the array of pastries, weighing-up the benefits versus guilt involved in eating one. Either way, the fact I hadn’t chosen it myself, or parted with any money in the process, made the whole experience all the more enjoyable. 

It has been a busy day, and as I type this I’m sitting at Kings Cross station waiting for a train to take me up to Leeds for the weekend. Consequently I’m far too tired to debate the merits and drawbacks of Black Friday, suffice to say that I have had my toe stamped on several times and been poked in the side by someone’s umbrella all while innocently passing within striking distance of the Sales. 

On the other hand, free baked goods and the prospect of breathing fresh Yorkshire air in just a few hours time, have made this not such a Black Friday after all.


On the dangers of women’s magazines

I’m currently sitting in the hairdressers, engulfed in gorgeous scents and beginning to feel clipped and coiffed and slightly more groomed than usual. There is something infinitely relaxing about someone else doing your hair, nowhere to go and no option but to be still, and present, and read trashy magazines from cover to cover. 

Except it’s at times like this I remember how much women’s magazines annoy me and why I never buy them or read them. Today’s case in point: popular magazine title number one featuring ‘society’ section. Roll on tanned, bare-footed beauties lolling on crisp white sofas, casual print of the Eiffel Tower hanging strategically in the background. Who are these people and where do they live? And how will reading this article about Elle and Giselle’s humble abode improve my quality of life or mood? 

Flick forward to be told how wonderful it is to be single, but simultaneously how to please your man in bed, followed by the secret ingredients to having an amicable divorce. 

Give up on title one and attempt slightly less insulting title number two. Which in the first five pages purports to educate me on the benefits of the latest superfood discovery, explain that moisturising is the key to contentment and reveal why exercising is pointless.

I’m not only confused but utterly exhausted. Who knew that having your hair done could be so tiring?

My midweek guide to perspective

Simply the fact that you have encountered a wall is proof that there is a huge wide expanse on the other side.

I have been a bit quiet the past few days. I haven’t felt like expelling pearls of wisdom into cyberspace or complaining about being tired or even trying to notice the little things. I haven’t been able to mainly because I’ve come across a problem which hasn’t allowed me to see beyond it. I have become a tiny sketched character (like that girl off the Snoopy cartoons) standing at the foot of a huge impenetrable stone wall. The thing about standing where I am, means that I can’t tell how high, how wide, or how thick the wall really is. I really can’t see clearly at all.

So today I’m determined to get some perspective, and I want to share my plan of action with you so that all the walls in all of our lives can begin to weaken, and maybe even just fall down. 

1) Remember that nothing ever stays the same. Even when you can’t see what is happening, plants are growing, time is moving, things are evolving. You will never be stuck in one place forever, even if you choose to be, because the environment around you will be changing.

2) You have far more strength and wisdom than you realise. In fact, you might never have realised it until you break down this particular wall, or figure out a way to scale it.

3) The expanse on the other side sounds interesting. I don’t know about you but I’m quite keen to get there. 

Motorways End

The Welcome Break services just outside Oxford felt like a scene from a Brit-flick zombie film this evening. Full of wide-eyed people passing through…no known origin or destination. I half-expected the Starbucks staff to simply stare vacantly at us while we ordered, before rotating their heads 360 degrees, slowly blinking to display only the whites of their eyes and casually completing a cappuccino.

Ironically there is nothing even remotely welcoming or refreshing about these no-man-lands on the edge of the motorway. As we pulled away into the deep black sky, the heating turned to its highest setting, I felt myself wishing the journey away. A string of bright red tail-lights stretched ahead of us, a twinkling barricade between us and our destination.

Striving to find some value in a traffic jam is definitely a challenge, but I noticed that a long drive is a perfect example of how we constantly focus on the destination, unable to enjoy the journey. In those three hours, there was nothing we could do but move slowly forwards, talking openly, and practising patience. Notwithstanding the compulsory game of ‘outwit the SatNav’, obsessively watching our arrival time fluctuating up and down, cheering irrationally when we succeeded in winning back precious minutes.

I have to remind myself that there is always something exciting about travelling, it signifies fresh experiences, seeing new places, visiting people, and the comfort of coming home again, memories made. Ultimately the journey is just as painful or as much fun as we make it.

Wedmin weekend

Word to the wise: ladies, should you ever have a day devoted to trying on wedding dresses, try not to stay awake until two o’clock in the morning, no matter how delicious the red wine or engaging the comversation. Unless the look you are going for is to audition for a part in the Rocky Horror Show, bloodshot eyes and backcombed hair is not strictly “2016 Bridal”. 

On a serious note, shit just got real. I’m wearing white, I’m clutching a bottle of water, this is really happening. Roll on Meringue number one, Fish-tail number two, Mermaid number three. Why every dress has a cake/nautical themed description I’m still not sure. Not withstanding the less glamorous moments involving me shivering in my old off-white underwear, waiting for minions to pull me left, right, tie me in. No breathing necessary. (It just happens to be the coldest day of winter so far).

The minions  in question were MOH (maid of honour) and MOTB (mother of the bride). They no longer need be referred to by anything other than their acronyms. 

Afterwards, we met FOTB (father of the bride) and friends in a local pub where much clinking and insinuating took place. Strategically positioned by the open fire I fielded leading questions about the style of dress I like best. I am absolutely terrible at keeping secrets. Being much more guilty of the classic overshare, not giving any further detail is proving to be a bit of a challenge! 

It has been a really special day which I won’t ever forget. I think for once I succeeded in being wholly present in the moment. Today was of course about the wedding next year, but equally about these precious moments spent with my family. They’re alright that lot.

While I am incredibly excited about the future, there will always be a Cahill-reserved section of my heart.

It’s gonna be…a lovely day 🎧

If gratitude is the key to happiness then today I am full of both. I really love the place that I work and the people I work with, although I think it’s fair to say that like most workplaces it has its foibles and frustrations.

There was a moment this morning when our CEO stood up and announced the creation of a new role for me which constitutes a significant promotion. When I found out earlier this week I was completely in shock. Coincidentally (or not) the news came the day before a significant date in the Buddhist calendar which advocates showing actual proof of practice in our daily lives.

It was a lovely day mainly because of everyone’s kind response to the news. We went for a drink together at lunch time and I genuinely realised how lucky I am. 

Add to that a two hour drive with my sister, singing as loud as we could to one of her CDs (and skipping all the musical theatre numbers), and the fact that I’m now sitting in my Mum’s kitchen in the Cotswolds drinking prosecco, and I think it’s safe to say that days don’t come much better than this. 

Best news of all, now that I’m part of management team at work, OOD (Operation Office Dog) is now well and truly underway. 

Tech, books and covers

It’s fairly windy standing outside a conference venue in Blackfriars as I have been doing for the past fifteen minutes waiting for the taxi which never arrived. 

We had our last conference of the year today so I have spent the day shepherding 300 people around a disused theatre. Being polite and networking for the past twelve hours has left me totally exhausted. And instead of going home to bed I’m now on my way to meet my friends for tapas and large quantities of cava. 

I have one, very quick, experience to share from this afternoon. I was at our networking drinks reception after the event when I came across a guy standing on his own looking at his phone. Being a technology conference this isn’t an unusual sight, but it’s my job to talk to people and get their feedback. So begrudgingly I stopped to engage him in conversation. Half expecting an awkward techie-exchange.

Turns out this guy is the CIO for a huge international aid organisation based in Ireland. So geographically we immediately had something in common, and as it turned out he is exceedingly bright and incredibly connected. At one point I actually had to put my glass of wine on the floor so I could write down what he was saying. 

I am left still thinking about some of his comments particularly around the work they are doing in Syria and his views on the refugee crisis. The old adage never judge a book by its cover comes to mind. I took his email address and I’m so glad I made the effort to speak to him. Sometimes it is far too easy to overlook people based on our own misguided preconceptions. 

First world problems

On my way home tonight I had to stop in our local supermarket to pick up some dinner ingredients. Since we suffer from a severe case of empty-fridge-syndrome this happens on a regular basis and in spite of the fact that supermarkets at rush hour seem to be the developed world’s version of the Hunger Games, I still haven’t learned my lesson.

In London in particular there is a bizarre value associated with doing things as quickly as possible. I have noticed that my usual walking pace has been replaced with a kind of march and encountering tourists who meander around in groups enjoying the scenery has become a regular source of frustration.

Trips to the supermarket are no different. It is not a case of browsing the shelves, but simply of getting in and out again as quickly and painlessly as possible. Today, true to form, I made a beeline for a promising looking queue at the ’10 items or less’ aisle. But sadly speed was not to be the order of the day. All I could do was look wistfully over at the efficient checkout next to me while I waited in line and witnessed a heated debate about plastic bag tax, someone’s credit card being repeatedly declined and an underage girl trying (and failing) to buy a bottle of vodka.

I have a confession to make. I subconsciously started counting the number of items in everyone’s baskets ahead of me. Twelve, eleven, FIFTEEN! What is the point in having a ten-item-only aisle?! Obviously I said none of this aloud, this is Britain so we just inwardly renounce people while simultaneously smiling and apologising to them.

Anyway, along with confessing to my newfound pettiness, I do have a point to make. When did we all become so spoilt and impatient? Does it really matter if you have to wait for an extra five minutes in line, or how many items the person in front of you has in their basket? All you have to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on the television to remember that we are the lucky ones. We have a culture of convenience while millions around the world are abandoning their own cultures out of fear. Taking our personal safety for granted is one thing, but taking our luxuries for granted is another. I’m not offering to spend more time in supermarkets at rush hour, but I am realising how utterly naive and complacent we can all be.

Small bowls deserve to be broken

Early this morning as I navigated my way across a busy platform at Victoria Station, there was an uncharacteristic ripple of smiles among the commuters. Some, catching each other’s eye, suppressed a giggle before staring back down at the ground. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across him, but there’s a Jamaican guy who works at Victoria who likes to go off the typical ‘mind the gap’ script. He tells passersby to cheer up and have a beeeeautiful day, prolonged vowels singsonging out of the loudspeaker.

Oddly enough I’ve never actually seen him, only heard his voice, a catalyst for humour and lightness in a place where the opposite is the status quo. I have often wondered about the consequences of our actions, and tried to unravel the law of cause and effect operating within my life. Would everything have been different if I had turned left instead of right? Forever inhabiting my very own version of the underrated nineties classic ‘Sliding Doors’.

At Victoria, this single person’s voice, or more precisely his determined optimism, has an instant, visible effect on people who encounter him. And I have a feeling that the ripple effects of a single seemingly insignificant encounter are wider-reaching than could ever be evidenced. Perhaps his words have diffused tensions, sending people off into the day ahead with a slightly different perspective, which in turn influences their actions and behaviour towards others.

As I was eating my lunch today I expended a fair amount of energy complaining about the size of the new bowls that have appeared in the kitchen cupboard at work. Unless you are a pixie without much of an appetite, or in need of a finger bowl, they serve very little purpose. Having gone back to the microwave for the third time to heat up my third helping of soup, (still complaining), it was almost as if the pottery itself was so offended it jumped out of my hands. Fast-forward to me, crouched down on the kitchen floor (not a good place for anyone to be), trying to retrieve several white slivers of miniature bowl. Admittedly, the Sliding Doors parallel universe is infinitely more romantic, but confusing as the analogy may be, there’s definitely a cause and effect in there somewhere.

The evil friend awareness appeal

The start of a new week brought with it the familiar sense of autopilot… Wake up (barely), put on nearest clothes (dark colours, safe, no matching necessary), forcibly push oneself into the train carriage, stare at phone, mentally countdown to Christmas. Four weeks to go. Remember that this kind of mentality is frowned upon by my positive alter ego. Look around for something inspiring. Get distracted by couple involved in unnecessary levels of PDA, mentally tell them to get a room. Remember this mentality is frowned upon by my positive alter ago.

Get where I’m going with this? Adopting a positive mentality is no easy feat. It takes constant effort and energy. Today I felt like I have been trailed by an unwelcome companion for most of the day.

I’d like to introduce you to MEF (My Evil Friend). Maybe you have one too. In my imagination, MEF is a male, ungroomed version of myself. Picture oversized glasses, frizzy hair and a crazed look in his eye. He sits hunched on my shoulder, waiting for me to think anything remotely ambitious, hopeful or self-assured, before whispering in my ear: it isn’t true. It isn’t possible. You can’t do it. When I consciously hear him, I tell him to shut up. But mostly I don’t notice, I just subconsciously listen, and refrain from doing anything remotely courageous or challenging.

Call it your evil friend, lesser self, ego, or simply internal negativity, the concept is the same. We’ve got to watch out for its insidious presence. After all, if we don’t recognise it, we can’t fight or challenge it. Making mine into a cartoon has massively helped….and beating him up, or shutting him up, all the more satisfying.