THE HOOLIGANS ON THE BUS
Setting your destination in life by Sara Jordan
Think of your life as a bus that you are in charge of driving, you set the destination, where it stops and who the passengers are. Sometimes you pootle along quite nicely and all the passengers are well behaved but other times some hooligans in the back kick off, causing havoc for you. If you have to keep stopping to deal with these troublemakers, it will make it very difficult to reach where you want to be.
Each person may have different hooligans on their bus. For me there is ‘Fred’ the critical moaner who always wants to say what’s wrong with me, what I’m doing badly and how I could be doing so much better. Have you got a ‘Fred’?
Then there’s ‘Wired’ - the skinny, nervy punk rocker who won’t let me sleep. ‘Bear’, who tells me not to do stuff because it’s too scary. There's also his mate ‘Mouse’, who worries about every little thing and whispers to me everything that could possibly go wrong in any scenario.
In a short skirt, hot stuff ‘Minnie Menopause’ comes tottering along on white stilettos. She switches on the heater of the bus turning it into a furnace whenever she fancies, or throws dry skin, dry fanjo, hair loss and brittle bone worries at me. Sometimes she makes me cry for no apparent reason or get really, really angry.
A few years ago, I was dealing with these delinquents so much, my life ground to a halt. A perfect storm gathered which allowed the hooligans to run riot as I cowered in a lay-by.
Whilst running a family and having a demanding job; the backbone of my life, the unstinting love and support of my parents crumbled, as within three months of each other, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and my mum with Alzheimer’s. Plus, I hit 50 and the menopause was breathing down my neck.
Crippling anxiety and insomnia drove into my life and basically broke me down. ‘Wired’ the insomnia hooligan was the worst to deal with for me. I put so much attention and energy into him, I tried everything to throw him off the bus – hypnotherapy, sound therapy, sleep therapy, anti-depressants, extreme exercise, sex, herbal teas, potions, lotions, meditations and mostly hard core sleeping pills. The more I tried to get rid of him, the worse he got, all that attention made him super strong and powerful, king of the road. It wasn’t unusual not to sleep at all, or only for a few hours. I was exhausted to the bone and when you are tired, anxiety and other testing emotions rise up with ease.
It was a hard, long and difficult process to learn how to accept the hooligans, to stop giving them so much attention and focus on what I wanted to do instead. I started to set small goals/destinations like ‘see more of friends’ which would mean that I would see someone whatever, even if the hooligans had kept me up all night.
Initial difficult thoughts like ‘what if I don’t sleep tonight’ lead on to ‘tomorrow will be terrible, I won’t be able to function, I might collapse’ all of these thoughts ramping up the anxiety like oil on a fire which of course increases the likelihood of not sleeping.
Going on for several years, my bus went nowhere. Everyday was a struggle. I think if one more person had suggested trying lavender spray I might be currently serving a murder charge. I kept focusing on the why... ‘why is this happening to me?’ endless thoughts about the causes without ever getting to the bottom of it and the how….’how can I get rid of it?’ Neither of which helped.
The shift for me in dealing with both anxiety and insomnia came in acceptance. I had some sessions of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that I highly recommend for anxiety issues. It’s a complex set of ideas which I may not do justice to here, so if you are interested in knowing more, please do have a look on the internet, there’s lots of information and lists of therapists who work with it (I've also added a useful link at the end of this blog). The main thing that I came to understand from it is that the more you focus on any issue, the bigger it gets.
I’d been focusing solely on the hooligans for a long time, trying to get rid of them had not worked, they’d just got rowdier and more dangerous and I’d got nowhere. It was a hard, long and difficult process to learn how to accept the hooligans, to stop giving them so much attention and focus on what I wanted to do instead. I started to set small goals/destinations like ‘see more of friends’ which would mean that I would see someone whatever, even if the hooligans had kept me up all night. I would say ‘ok I’m going to the theatre with Jo even if I haven’t slept, I’ll be ok’ whereas previously I’d just said no to going anywhere.
Once a thought, fear or circumstance can be truly accepted a lot of its power has gone. When the hooligans know that what they do is not going to bother you, you are going to keep on driving anyway; they quieten down and sit in the back. It’s a bit like opening a box that you know contains something you’re frightened of, the thought of which is awful, saying ‘okay, let’s have a look at you then! ’and when you actually see the thing, it’s not nearly as bad as your thoughts had led you to believe.
I started to focus and think about what I wanted to do with my life, where I wanted to drive it. Having left my demanding job because of all the hooligans, I thought ‘right, where to now?’ I knew a good destination for me would be expressing my creativity, as I am in essence a creative soul.
Making short films is an overcrowded arena and I’m older than most in the industry by about 25 years. I’ve been plugging away however, and I've made three short films - two of which have won awards. Its small-scale success in the industry but huge Oscar-winning success for me personally.
One of the first things I did was making unusual, one off skirts - I had to wear formal attire when I was working which I found very dull so I made myself a skirt which was plain on the front but on the backside had a picture of a dog wearing a jaunty hat and winking. It was cheeky fun and everyone loved it, I started to make more. I enjoyed scouring for vintage materials and it forced me to learn new sewing skills as mine were very basic (hooligans just can’t get as much attention when your mind is absorbed with something else). Friends and acquaintances started to buy them so I started a small business, called Ralph & Tigs, and although this is ticking along: I knew what I really wanted to do was write, direct and act in short films.
Making shorts is an overcrowded arena and I’m older than most in the industry by about 25 years. I’ve been plugging away however, and I've made three short films - two of which have won awards. Its small-scale success in the industry but huge Oscar-winning success for me personally.
When I was hunched over a bowl being sick with anxiety six years ago, or feeling desperate through lack of sleep, I couldn’t see any destination for me that wasn’t bleak.
Maybe your bus was quite peaceful until the menopause turned up and several new, unwanted passengers got on, if so I hope you stay focused on where you are going instead of getting too involved in their shenanigans.
My hooligans all have a little kick off now and then, none of them have got off the bus. Even as I write this, Mini has turned the heat on yet again, Wired decided not to let me sleep last night, Mouse is a bit anxious about writing this and Fred has told me several times 'it’s crap!'
I just accept that they come and go and we all chug along on the bus together.
About Sara Jordan
Sara studied Creative Arts in Nottingham and pursued a successful career in acting. After starting a family, she moved over to the corporate world of communications, helping clients develop and improve their presentation style, assertiveness skills and personal influence. Although still enjoying this kind of work, Sara wanted to reignite her creativity and now runs Ralph and Tigs, designing and making one-off vintage skirts and, under the guise of FlintSpark Productions, she writes and directs film projects. Sara has also started to make a return to her first love of acting.