List item number 26 challenged me to ‘Spend a weekend alone in silence – no TV, internet, iPhone, etc – to think, reflect, pray, whatever it is you do’. The challenge came from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Chris, who is currently in training to be an Anglican priest (and can therefore no doubt speak from experience when it comes to this kind of thing).
I don’t really pray much these days – I leave that to my skydiving friends. I’ve never spent enough time thinking (especially when it comes to thinking before speaking), and I’m sure I could benefit from a bit more time reflecting. It was a good challenge.
But, I didn’t pray this weekend either (well, not unless you share my rather convenient theory that to enjoy and appreciate life is to pray – I did plenty of that). I did, however, spend plenty of time thinking and reflecting… and doing “whatever it is I do” which is, of course, writing!
The phone, TV and internet were banished, but my laptop stayed in use only because I can’t read my own handwriting. I found the perfect location for the challenge using Airbnb. It was a beautiful house in Hornsby with the most beautiful sweeping bushland views. I had the run of the joint. Two levels of solitude and comfort, and a roaring wood fire to provide me with the closest thing I was going to get to conversation.
I have to admit, though, I kinda cheated on the whole “alone” part. You see, I’m convinced the dishwasher was possessed. I never touched the thing but it would occasionally switch itself off and on. I can only assume it didn’t like me because it kept swearing at me in the middle of the night (thankfully the other-worldly censors had the decency to beep it all out).
All in all, it was the perfect place to finish my book. It even had an out-of-place folding door leading to a spiral staircase – what more could you want?!
But, did I finish the book?
Ah, patience my friends.
I was stuck in traffic on the way to my retreat when my sister called me. We chatted for a while, but eventually I felt like I needed to hang up and start embracing the silence (besides, my GPS was broken and I needed Google Maps to get me there).
“A million bucks you just drink wine and go to bed early” she says to me.
No confidence whatsoever!
I gave her the only response appropriate in a time like that: “Oh my god we’re, like, sisters!” (That’s the thing we say to each other whenever one of us reads the other’s mind).
In my defence, however, on the first night I didn’t just drink wine and go to bed early… I drank wine, read a bit, tinkered with my own book, and then went to bed at the totally respectable time of ten o’clock.
Aright, it was nine-thirty.
Fine! It was nine o’clock, but I’ve been very busy lately and I was tired!
On the up-side, I did get up early enough on Saturday morning to start working properly on my book. After I got over the strange feeling of living in someone else’s house, it was really a very pleasant place to be. I would have stayed there forever really, although I don’t think the owners would appreciate me shedding unnecessarily-long blonde hairs all over their beautiful Persian rugs until the end of time.
Apart form the book, I also had some other listy business to attend to on this weekend away. I guess I need to explain. You see, the 30th challenge on my list was invented by me, but really that spot was reserved for my good friend Rachael. Rach is not known for her decisiveness, so it wasn’t until after the challenge had already begun that she offered her addition to the list. By then, I had already committed to my list. I accepted Rachael’s suggestion as a “bonus challenge” and set aside this weekend alone in silence to complete it.
Rachael’s challenge was to list 30 things I like about myself and 30 things I do well. Since I was supposed to be reflecting on this weekend away, I thought, what better time?
I can’t be sure of the motivation behind Rachael’s challenge, but I’m sure it has something to do with my self-deprecating sense of humour. I don’t think I’m modest by any means (this blog is evidence of that) but I also don’t object to taking time out for some deeper self-appreciation. It’s something I think we could all do more of. The purpose, I suppose, is not to blow our own horn, but instead to take stock of the things that we like about ourselves – things we could probably do more often –Instead of dwelling on the things we’d prefer to change.
So, at the risk of sounding completely up myself, here is my list:
30 things I like about myself
- I’m a very loyal friend
- I’m a good problem solver
- I’m always up for trying new things
- I’m “loving and giving” just like a Friday’s child should be
- I’m not easily embarrassed
- I’m reliable in a crisis
- I’m spontaneous – why just celebrate a birthday when you can celebrate 364 un-birthdays?
- I’m passionate – if I do something I’m going to do it well (or at least try to)
- I’m organised
- I’m very efficient at my work
- I’m a creative thinker
- I have an analytical mind
- I’m not gullible or easily led
- I’m very family-oriented
- I’m resilient – I bounce back quickly from a setback
- I’m proactive – laziness is not in my vocabulary
- Physical stuff? I guess I like my thick hair
- I have powerful legs (good for running!)
- I have fast-growing, long fingernails
- My eyes change colour, which I think is pretty cool
- I’m very self-motivated – when I set my mind to something you can be pretty sure I’ll finish it
- I have a very positive outlook on life, which I only discovered very recently!
- I never let fear hold me back
- I have strong opinions but I’m very open-minded to a good opposing argument
- I’m honest (some would say “to a fault”, but really I think I’m just willing to be the bad guy sometimes, and I’m okay with that if it means my friends and family will end up better off)
- I’m quick-thinking and decisive
- I’m excitable, and I think sometimes that helps create more excitement for others
- I am capable of admitting when I’ve made a mistake
- I’m a strong leader when I need to be
- I’m a considerate driver (I don’t have much tolerance for inconsiderate drivers, but I’m not one myself!)
30 things I do well
- I think I’m a decent writer 🙂
- I can sew soft furnishings like you wouldn’t believe
- I light a mean fire – thank you Cub Scouts Australia!
- I guess I’m alright at running too – although there’s always room for improvement
- I’m usually pretty good at choosing gifts for people
- I have a Gollum-like talent for word puzzles (my trivia night specialty)
- I give killer massages
- I give pretty good advice too (very little of which I’m willing to take myself)
- I’m a good cook – I can follow a ‘Taste.com.au’ recipe like nobody’s business!
- I can make people laugh
- I can cromulently quote just about any comedy TV series or movie ever made – don’t even get me started on the ‘Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch’ (unless you’ve got time to spare)
- I’m pretty good at my job – I managed to keep the business afloat while the boss was… well, afloat, on a European cruise
- I love having guests and parties and I think I make a good host
- I adapt easily to other cultures and different ways of doing things
- I pick up other languages relatively easily (something I’d like to spend more time focusing on)
- I’m good at explaining things
- When I actually bother to spend time on it, I’m good at yoga
- I’m a sound money-manager
- I am an excellent sleeper – that probably sounds like a weird talent, but I’ve managed to fall asleep standing up and fall asleep on the back of a motorbike – it comes in handy
- Apparently I’m quite good at organising weddings – I haven’t even had to unleash the bridezilla yet!
- I’m really good at the board game ‘Scattergories’ – although I can’t claim to be a “good winner” 😛
- I’m good at folding t-shirts – all those years of folding size 24 undies at Best & Less have really come in handy
- I’m good at making spring rolls – and eating them!
- I’m good at analysing poems and other texts (not so useful since I finished studying)
- When I put my mind to it I’m good at applying eye make-up (Rach – I’m seriously struggling here!)
- Umm… ooh! I can make balloon animals! My favourite is this cute little turtle one
- I’m good at paper crafts like making cards and what-not
- I have a secret talent that only a select few people (i.e. anyone who’s ever visited my grandma) know about – I’m good at making miniatures! You should see the post office we made, oh man… I’ve gotta get back into that. It’s not just for little girls and old ladies, I’m telling you!
- I’m a really good flyer – I just completely zone out and tune back in again at my destination (refer point 19)
- I’m an expert at counting to 30! Haha no that’s cheating… ummm… I’m good at putting together Ikea furniture!
Now, “Eight is a lot of legs, David” and “Sixty is a lot of self-aggrandising comments, Rachelle!” It took me the whole weekend (and then some) to come up with this list and some of the items are dubious at best! I hope you’re happy. I guess I can say that I’m happy – happy that I did spend some time reflecting on myself and not just reflecting on the antics of my book characters. Another tick!
Now, amongst all that lolling around and big-noting myself, there really wasn’t a lot of time for the book. I’m happy to say that I made it to ten chapters before the characters really started to grate on my nerves. That means I’m two-thirds done, which gives me an outside chance of finishing this thing by 30 June. There’s not much more I care to say on the topic except that I’m pretty happy with how it’s progressing and I’m feeling good about plowing through the final few chapters to produce something worthy of being printed onto actual paper. It ain’t Shakespeare, but I think I’ll meet the brief.
And now, because I’ve put myself out there completely, it’s only fair that you all do the same. I therefore challenge YOU, my lovely readers, to reflect, even just for a moment or two, and tell us in the comments below some things that you like about yourself and/or things you do well!