Excavation in Alison Land

By Alison November 2, 2010 15 Comments 7 Min Read

Hello lovelies? Did you miss me? Are you ready for me to spill my brain on to this polka dotty virtual page all over again?
Here I am, back in the land of the living, or more specifically back carousing the hallowed aisles of the world wide web, notable because ten minutes on-line and I am already experiencing the kind of information overloaded fuzzies I get when I find myself faced with long lists of scrumptiousness I cannot wait to share, news I need to digest, apps I want apply, mags I want to read and books I want to download…

From the mouths of babes…

Last week Finley and I went on a date to Cafe Rouge, ( a restaurant chain that  will happily serve Finley a gluten free meal of cheesy omelette, peas and chips followed by jelly and ice cream, unaccompanied by the kind of fuss oft to be found in many a restaurant  who will frequently assure me, when I make enquiries about a meal for a celiac kid, that their menu is “nut free”. Rah!), and never was there a more convivial dinner companion.
There he sat looking handsome in a long sleeved white t-shirt and dark denim jeans, re-arranging the cutlery and listing one by one, the qualities and attributes of each child in his class. And I sat and agreed that Ben was hilarious and Hannah can do good hand stands, and Alfie surely doesn’t eat much, and then we got to Rachel, and he looked me straight in the eye and said “Rachel is special Mum”
“Why Sweetheart?” I asked, knowing as I did, that we were talking about a gorgeous little girl with almost genius levels of academic capability.
“The thing is Mum, you probably think she’s really, really clever. But it isn’t that at all.”
No? Then what is, pray tell, my pint sized little sage?
“Focus, Mummy. That’s what makes Rachel special. She’s completely focused. She doesn’t notice all the noise in the classroom. She just concentrates really, really hard and doesn’t care  about what everybody else is doing. She wants to learn, so that’s all she does.”


Oh dear. That’s where I’ve been going wrong, this past thirty eight years. And don’t I just know it.
I’ve learnt a lot this week. About myself. About why my way of life is causing me endless gyp. About why I feel constantly exhausted. And about why now, having recovered from the yukky abcess and sudden deafness I had last week I have now developed a stinking cold and a spiky cough and writing this post finds me, sitting at nine o’clock in the morning, curled up under my duvet with a hot toddy by my side…
And it all comes down to one thing: FOCUS. I haven’t got any. When my maker was sewing me together he forgot to stuff the focus gene under my skin and instead gave me extra helpings of infinite curiosity and the attention span of a gnat.
Isn’t it a bore?
You see when we flit from pillar to post, touching base, but never really achieving anything, we fail ourselves. When we move around every room in the house, picking this up and dropping it there, wiping a careless hand through the dust and occasionally giving our all to cleaning windows that look in on  a house knee deep in neglect, we fail ourselves. When we list thirty things we want or hope to do, and then move on to do something else entirely without ticking off a single one of our deeply felt ambitions, we fail ourselves. When we eat another mindless “meal” of beans on toast because we can’t summon the energy to cook anything more inspiring, Darling, we fail ourselves all over again.
We deprive ourselves of creative opportunity and we exist in a state of the kind of permanent mindlessness that spends far too much time flitting about and smacking our fuzzy little head against the light bulb like a demented, dying moth.
God love us.
We never reach our potential because the journey from A to B takes a detour around the rest of the alphabet.

Where I’m at…

The thing is this: people change. They grow and they develop. Realisation washes over them and ennui with long term fascinations sets in. How then are we to have FOCUS if we are always shifting the goal posts  further down the pitch?
I don’t know. I’m just like you and I don’t have the answer. But what I do know is this: if we get to thirty eight and we are barely achieving anything by our own standards, then it is time to focus on a whole new path. It must, in the whole scheme of things, be ok to say, I cannot FOCUS on that, because truth be told, it no longer interests me. I cannot be  a great housekeeper, if this house no longer inspires me. I cannot create culinary wonders in the kitchen if routine has it that the supermarket delivers the same old ingredients week in, week out.
It must be ok to say I have reached the end of the road and now I have to take a new path if I am to be inspired enough to have FOCUS.

But where to begin?

We can begin by hushing both noise and obligation. By taking, at least in the short term, the pressure off the need to create and instead spend many an hour lolling about deciding what it is we want to create, and optimising the circumstances we currently exist in, to the degree that they won’t hamper us when we are finally in a position to commit our creative minds to a single task.
For me this means re-assessing my work-life balance. Ceasing promising what I cannot deliver. Seeing out existing commitments and then focusing all my creative energy on identifying what it is I want to learn. What it is I want to be consumed by, now that I am now not who I was ten years ago, five years ago or even last week. Now that I am older. Wiser. Different.
And as always once we have done the internal work that is recognising the need for change, serendipity steps in and starts presenting us with all that we need to move forward.
Last week I switched off the computer and read and read and read. I read a list of old novels I had been aching to read and then I spent a few days reading the kind of books and downloads that asked more of me: books that said here is who you are today, and here, my sweet, is who you could be tomorrow…
1. First up, The Creativity Book by Eric Maisel. Rare is it that I read a book that strikes me as transformative. But this one has been it. A years worth of occasionally daft but always joyful inspiration from a man with a soothing, conversational style I immediately believed in.
2. Focus, by Leo Babutua. Because in my eyes Leo Babutua can do no wrong and this is an astonishing (free) manifesto for the kind of change that can only be brought about by seeking simplicity in the age of distraction. Read and learn.
3. And finally,  Simple Blogging by Rachel Meeks, which is the first e-book I have devoured wholly, certain in the knowledge that it speaks to me as  a Mummy, a blogger, and a woman with quiet ambitions all of her own.

The future of BrocanteHome?

Who knows? What is certain is that I remain committed to Brocante because it is my second child, and thus I am utterly responsible for nurturing it to it’s potential. However I am not who I used to be. Only recently have I acknowledged to what degree my personal interests and development as an emotional  and intellectual being shape what it is I want to write. Not the scrumptious trivia I will always deliver, because Brocante is above all else a scrapbook of all that makes my heart sing, but that which I want to teach. All that I want to learn. That upon which I truly yearn to FOCUS on, while still living a life that satisfies me creatively and doesn’t alienate my lovely, loyal audience.
It’s a conundrum. But what this week has taught me is that it is absolutely right to take stock occasionally, and that  the first step on the route to FOCUS is slowing down and breathing long and hard. Long enough to recognise what it is you don’t miss. To identify that which strikes you as unsustainable or untenable and to embrace all that you want your future to be shaped by.
Today I am going to be doing one of the first exercises in Eric Maisel’s book: creating my personal bookshelves full of what interests me now. There’s no hurry. I’ve got all day to do it. Just me, my books and a china cup full of white tea.
Patience, m’dears. This is, I suspect, what I need right now. Patience.
Won’t you come play with me?


  1. Thank you! You have just summed up much of the craziness that has been going on in my head for a while.
    You're absolutely right – now is the time to take stock of what matters, before we spend any longer on the wrong stuff. Good luck with your soul-searching and please, please, please publish your new reading list – I'd love to see it!

  2. Jenny says:

    Welcome back! I have been having similar thoughts lately, and as a result have started altering habits and rethinking the things I allow into my home or remain in my home. I have been forcing myself to "Do the next thing" instead of going off on 20,000 other "productive" bunny trails to avoid that next thing. I have my work cut out for me to shape my life into the ideal I have in my heart. Lots of culling of habits and things and more lolling around on the carpet with my kidlets and having more reading time and less screen time. Your blog has factored largely into my thoughts as of late, it came along at just the right time. I so look forward to your posts and am inspired each time I visit.

  3. This is a fantastic post.
    I've had a lot of issues regarding making time for myself, taking time to do things that help me thrive lately. Particuarly as a blogger. I've changed a lot of my habits surrounding work/blogging/relaxing and I think it has made me an easier person for ME to be around.
    This post is just what I needed.

  4. Vee says:

    (Sorry that I never have time for filling out the info properly…)
    Alison, I am always here reading each post, but I rarely comment for the reason stated above. What you've shared is valuable. My friends and I often discuss it. We're wondering if there's an epidemic of attention deficit disorder and if we all need meds. I'm more inclined to believe that it is the time in which we live. So much is clamoring for our attention. All the best as you proceed with focus. Perhaps it is, after all, setting an intent for each day.

  5. Jenny says:

    Wow. You said it sister! I'm so going to check out those books. I LOVE your writing and I'm so glad you won't be leaving us any time soon. Phew!

  6. Carlie says:

    Wow. That's totally timely. Just when I'm telling my husband that I'm pulling my hair out mad and spread ridiculously thin. I can't seem to get any one thing done because I'm so scattered over the 14 things I bump into along the way. Off to check those books!

  7. Lorrie says:

    I think part of the lack of focus in today's world comes because of too many choices. We are told as young people that we can be anything we want. Focus is difficult when the world is wider than we can imagine. There's so much coming at us via television, print, internet, billboards, advertising etc, that our minds flit from one thing to another. Learning to focus takes discipline and hard work, being willing to let go of the good for the best.
    I'm in the midst of some of these same thoughts. There is so much I'd love to accomplish and do and be, but I can't do it all. I have to choose.
    Great post, lots of food for thought.

  8. Kay says:

    Serendipity struck me as I read your post. I lay awake last night thinking about what I must do to restore balance to my life, and here you are today speaking directly to all of us facing this challenge.
    Your journey will be followed closely. Maybe we can all share what we learn along the way. Thanks, Alison!

  9. Joann says:

    Alison, as usual, you write what many of us are currently feeling! I also agree with Lorrie that we do have too many choices. Because we're meant for growth and creation, we feel the exhilaration of taking on exciting new projects – but, as Mike Dooley says, while we have infinite possibilities in our life, it's more accurate to say that we have infinite probabilities. There are only so many years in our lives, and therefore only so many things that we can humanly do (and enjoy) – so why not choose the experiences that have meaning for us?
    When we can sit quietly and listen to the voice of our soul, instead of dashing about like a 'flea in a fit', we narrow down our choices to those things that really make our heart sing. Yep, focus! I think it definitely makes for a richer life, don't you? Really looking forward to hearing where your focus takes you! Hugs, Joanne

  10. Hausfrau says:

    Oh, boy. It's as if you wrote this just for me! Because I have so many interests and things I want to learn, I end up getting overwhelmed and feeling bad about–say, not knowing how to do twenty-five different crafts. At the same time, I often find it hard to focus on the various things I love that I already do well! I'm going to read each of the books you noted. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

  11. Valerie says:

    I'm all for evolution and revolution. I've been going through something similar the last year and it can be frightening to wake up and find whole new dimensions of yourself that seem to have sprung from nowhere. But wherever you go, whatever you discover, you're still Alison, deep down and that will always come through! And I can't wait to see it.

  12. Dear Alison,
    First of all, I am really impressed by your boy-o and his insights….very special. I know he is one of your of your focuses and you will discern the rest in your own good time.
    When I first started reading your post, the spirit of it reminded my of my younger days when I would decide it was time for our family to "turn over a New Leaf" or say (after much lovely planning with notebook and pencil) "today is the start of our New Life". But as I read on, I saw that you have the wisdom to go at it more peacefully, layer by layer, which will have more long-lasting results.
    Not that we are ever "there" or that we stop dreaming and doing. And sometimes it takes something big (for me, becoming my mother's full-time caregiver) to make us focus. And even with my life much more constrained in a concrete way, I am always having to rein in some of the creative impulses my mind and heart keep putting in front of me. Beautiful ideas, wonderful ideas….but it is just not the time and I can recognize that more easily now, after many years of going through all that you are. (In fact, I wrote about it recently here http://smallmeadowpress.blogspot.com/2010/10/for-… )
    So you are taking stock at 38, I am taking stock at 51 and so are many, many others. No doubt we shall be doing so our whole lives, but I can tell you that it gets easier and easier. And it is wonderful to be helping each other through it all.

  13. Debbi says:

    Yes. Absolutely! I for one missed you. And I have hardly been on the computer this week, but was so happy to see your posts in my in box this morning. A delightful interlude with my morning cup . . .
    Oh my! That boy of yours! Finley, like Rachel, is special. Very special. Plain and simply, he is a wonderful, precious, precocious, special boy. Aren't you blessed?! But look at his Mother! Nobody expected any less.
    We, too have had long heartfelt discussions over the last week . . . looking into, considering our motives and life's decisions . . . While you have been searching for a pleasant home for Richard's Father, {and I do hope you have had great success, because it matters . . . it really, really matters} . . . we have lost my Father in law. The service was yesterday, we have just returned home . . . and we flit about suddenly undefined, in the oddest way.
    Back to the business of this note, though! You certainly have my blessings to do what you must. You may be concerned that a shift in focus will disrupt your viewership, but I really think {for whatever that's worth . . .} that a change would swing as a pendulum, and eventually resettle comfortably. I honestly believe that we all come here to have a cup of tea with our favorite girlfriend, and the topic matters not. We are simply friends sitting at the kitchen table with you, comfortably attired in our scrubbies, and enjoying the companionship. One thing I can tell you for certain, that is how it is for me. Do what you must! Friends are friends. Period. And you are our very bestest one of all.

    1. Debbi says:

      P.S. A proper letter always should have a post script, don't you think? I really, really hope you're feeling better! I prescribe lemon and honey with that tea!

  14. Megan says:

    This is a wonderful post and once again very timely, I absolutely associate. On the point of your focus shifting I believe change is healthy and often necessary and I completely agree with Debbi, friends are friends period, imagine also the new friends that this refocus may bring. As long as I still occasionally get to sit around your virtual kitchen table with you, I too care not what the topic is. Megan xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content