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Brain Detox – Some uncollected thoughts after week 1

Autumn Brain Detox | Betty Herbert

On one hand, I’m feeling a slight sense of failure. After a week of Brain Detox, I haven’t done any of the big things on my list yet – no wild, spontaneous gestures or trips to an exhibition. I was going to cook H a Black Forest Gateau for his birthday, but then I realised I had no time and that I’d end up creating this enormous cake with only two of us able to eat it, and either the sense of waste or the sense of calorie-guilt would get me.

I tried to take a long walk on Sunday, but Bert fell asleep at the wrong time, and H spotted a boot fair on the way, and so I ended up heading home with an armful of bargain toys, and then having to clear out all the old toys to make room.

That actually felt good though. I’ve been feeling a lot like things are stagnant in my life this year, and while I was thrusting plastic teethers into a dustbin bag I realised it was because I keep telling myself I’m just too busy to do the simple things that I used to quite enjoy, like clearing out cupboards and painting old furniture. I have been deliberately letting go of control over certain areas of my life, and I’m not sure if I like it. Entropy has set into our house, and I’ve been telling myself I can’t do anything about it.

And then there’s been the reading. I have read, without fail, every day. Most days, it’s been a novel (I have devoured Where’d You Go Bernadette?, and am quite convinced it’s a work of genius, although that may be my reading drought speaking). A couple of times, I have bought up all the weekend papers and buried myself among them, like the good old days.

I have written, too: morning pages every morning, and lots of fresh thoughts on how to whip my new book into shape. The reading and writing are intertwined: I always knew that, but this week I remembered it. That’s another false economy of my life recently: I haven’t got time to read. And yet, without the fresh flow of ideas that come from reading, my head has gone stagnant. It’s been no hardship to make time to read instead of turning on the telly. It’s just habit .

I meditate every day anyway, but this week I looked at the sky and took exercise some days too. I’m not sure I got out of breath much, but it’s a start.

Overall, after my first week, I’m feeling the beginnings of a sense of movement, like the dammed-up bits of me are starting to break loose. And, oddly, it’s meant that other things have started to move, too. I have finally done all my filing, which has been cascading over my desk for months, and I’ve bought a better box to fit it all into, too. I went and spoke to a new accountant, and I think I might possibly be in love with her (which is a bit like falling in love with your therapist). I made damson vodka, and the lovely beef Rendang curry I used to make years ago. I have driven a friend to college instead of pretending I haven’t noticed she needs a bit of help.

I feel like I’m coming unstuck, in a good way. I’ve spent this year trying to get back on my feet through force of will alone. I’m exhausted. This has let me be gentle to myself again.

I’d love to hear how your Brain Detoxes are going – email me some words & I’ll get it up online with this post (include any links to your blogs/twitter feeds in your email!) – helloatbettyherbertdotcom. 

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What it’s like to have your book translated into 8 languages

I’ve been promising to do this for ages, and I’ve finally got round to it. For those of you who are interested in such things, this is what it’s like to have your book translated into other languages. Sadly, it involves no globe-trotting on my part.


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