Social anxiety


Choice. Do we have it? Do we want it?

This morning, D had to leave home early and I chose not to get up early, too, and join him for breakfast. For my lone breakfast, I chose not to have my usual toast and coffee, and just to have muesli. Later, feeling cold as I sat at my computer, I chose to go outside and sit in the warm sun. I could have chosen to put on more clothes to get warm, but I didn’t. Even when the sun hid behind a cloud and I felt cold again, I chose to wait for it to come out again and warm me up.


Life is a series of choices, some harder to make than others. I often find it harder to make choices than I ought to because, subconsciously, I start to wonder what’s expected of me, or what a normal choice might be, or what someone else would like me to choose, rather than simply what I want. I couldn’t have said at the time, for instance, why I hesitated so much when someone said, “Breakfast will be later; do you want a cup of coffee now?” Later, I worked out why. It was because I was thinking: No, I don’t want coffee but am I expected to want coffee? Would it be the normal thing to want coffee before breakfast?

I was just pondering this thing called choice today when I read David Rory O’Neill’s current blog post, in which he asks, “Why do people choose to live here?” He’s talking about New York, a place that’s fascinating to visit but wouldn’t be my first choice of a home town either. In fact, I remember wondering the same thing decades ago when I visited New York in the middle of winter at -19°C. Fortunately, we’re not all the same and a lot of people choose to live in New York – otherwise it wouldn’t be there to visit.

Choosing where to live is usually a big decision. I made that choice long ago and am very pleased with what I decided. I also chose whom to marry and, as we’ve been together for donkey’s years and still get on well, that was definitely a good choice.

I’ve made bad choices, too, including one that I believe led to me getting social anxiety. But I want to stress that I didn’t know one would lead to the other. In fact, as I’ve said before and will say again:

No one chooses to have social anxiety.

Today I also discovered the lyrics of a song I’ve probably never heard: Freedom Of Choice by Devo. The song ends:

Freedom of choice
Is what you got
Freedom from choice
Is what you want

Do you want freedom from choice? Do I? Do we? I wonder.

Books Holidays

The Social Sandwich, Part 6

This is the sixth in a series of posts describing my recent trip to England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Wales, from writing course to school reunion and more.

As I’ve mentioned, I met several people on this trip for the first time, people I knew only online. Of those, there was only one I stayed with: David Rory O’Neill.

I’ve been proofreading and helping to edit David’s books, which he has self-published after being told by traditional publishers that his books don’t fit any genre. I don’t understand this need to straitjacket books. Why can’t one book have enough variety to fit more than one genre? Is it just so that booksellers know which shelf to put the book on?

I digress. David is a prolific writer. He has published 12 novels and 2 novellas so far, and it sounds as if he has plenty more to write. I agreed to work on one book at first, so the fact that I’m still doing this shows how much I enjoy David’s writing. Naturally, David and I have got to know each other quite well through emails. That didn’t stop me from being a little apprehensive about this four-day stay.

From Cork airport, David and B took me into the city, where I was treated to a very knowledgable tour, and to a sip of Guinness, Ireland’s national drink, and taught my only word of Irish: sláinte (pronounced slahn-CHA), which means cheers, or as we would say at home: lehayyim.

Afterwards, we visited the town of Cobh (pronounced Cove) and saw, amongst other things, a fascinating exhibition about the Titanic, situated where the last 123 passengers boarded the ship on its first and last voyage.

The next day, we had a tour of many of the places that appear in David’s novels, and here I felt rather embarrassed. Because, while I enjoyed reading about all of those places and loved the way they blended in to all the stories, I didn’t remember much about them. The real interest, for me is in the characters and their stories. The places are important, but they didn’t remain with me when I finished reading.

Picnicking in Black Valley, County Kerry
Picnicking in Black Valley, County Kerry

On the following day, B took me to Limerick University, where young people were taking part in a festival of traditional Irish music and dance. They sounded and looked very professional. We were even treated to a solo harp performance from a girl who was practising outside. Then we went for a walk along the River Shannon.

Timoleague Abbey, West Cork
Timoleague Abbey, West Cork
(smiling despite being scared of falling back)

Another day of touring the beautiful countryside and all too soon it was time to leave. On the way to the airport, David and B were going to show me the historical part of Mitchelstown, but that plan was hijacked by an interesting stranger.

As we stood beside Kingston College, a row of Georgian terraced houses, wondering who lived in these houses now, this stranger started talking to us. He told us how he and his wife had escaped Zimbabwe/Rhodesia amidst awful scenes and found refuge in one of these houses, along with several others from that country. Then he invited us into his house and showed us pictures of the place they’d had to leave.

So I missed my tour of Mitchelstown, but gained a fascinating first-hand insight into a very different part of the world.

What a lot was crammed into four days! I will remember the special time I spent in a beautiful country, hosted by two lovely people. Thank you, both!


Two Important Pieces of News

Both involve me but are mainly about others.

Firstly, I’ve been helping to edit a series of novels by David Rory O’Neill. The novels are all connected but can all be read alone. Together, they span over a century and are full of very reachable characters, who overcome personal issues and historical events, keeping readers turning the pages. I love the stories, and sometimes find myself continuing with the editing when I should be doing other things.

The Prairie Companions

One of these books, The Prairie Companions, will be free to download for a few days from tomorrow. This is a wonderful chance to sample a lovely set of novels.


I’ve just completed an online course. I’ve never taken an online course before, so I can’t compare it with anything, but this course was everything I expected and a lot more.

It’s Sally Quilford’s Pocket Novel Workshop. She’s running another one in June, and I highly recommend it. I found it extremely helpful and enjoyable. Sally hands out plenty of information and sets useful exercises. Her expert comments on the exercises provide very helpful advice for all participants.

If you’re wondering about this genre, I did too, once. Until one day when I felt things were getting on top of me and I happened to have a romance with me and I let it take me away to another world. Pocket novels are a form of escapism. Sometimes, it’s just what you need.


Surviving Beauty

I offered to proofread this book. In the end, I fell in love with it and did a lot more than proofreading. I suppose what I did was closer to editing. Not that it needed a lot of editing. The author obviously has extensive background knowledge and has worked hard to weave an intriguing plot round the places and things he describes, with the help of some believable and well-rounded characters.

In addition, this novel tackles a difficult topic that needs to be discussed more: the exploitation of youthful beauty – the sale of children’s images.

David Rory O’Neill blogs here, and you can see descriptions of all his novels on his blog.


There’s going to be a gap on this blog while I catch up with real life. I’ll be back next month.