Oh, a couple of the people I researched go for cryotherapy or kiting on the sea before this. I thought I might smash a crate of frozen lemonade bottles on the floor and stand naked in the gas that escaped. Or hang over the Meare by a rope round my waist hooked over the boathouse clock tower.
I remembered early this morning that goal setting has been around for longer than you might think. Amelita Galli-Curci, the great nineteenth century prima donna, talked about putting on horse blinkers and positively moving forward to a goal, taking them off, waiting for her critics and rivals to start the carping, putting them on again. Less positively she said that when one of her rivals, Dame Nellie Melba, sang for example “Lo, Hear the Gentle Lark” you would think it was about a deafening, bloody big turkey.
I have more than one main goal at the moment, so I have a pad and a fountain pen with my plans for each goal written out. I leave the pad open wherever I happen to finish each evening and go back to it first thing next morning. Most recently I handed in the proofs of My Tutu Went AWOL! A Drag Ballerina in Iraq. Since March I've spent a lot of man hours telling editors not to argue with me about the spelling of camiknickers as I’m the one who has been wearing them onstage for thirty years; or insisting that a muscle boy as big as that can't be used as a body double on the inside cover for the Royal Marine Stacks, as Stacks was on rations in Afghanistan and had bulked down; or can we not mention in the blurb about me trying to confiscate the President of Estonia’s custard creams to give back to the camels? Which nitpicking has at times made me lose sight of the main goal I set when I began the book – to tell the stories I witnessed first hand of squaddies in extremis.
Having a goal makes you first ask yourself ‘why?’, before ‘what?’, ‘how?’ and the inevitable at times ‘will you please just get back on your rocker?’
Set ridiculous goals. Like mine to become a Prima Ballerina assoluta. I set out to get paid enough to live on for dancing the Swan Queen, Giselle and Nikya; and have achieved this goal. True, I ought to have set out to earn enough to buy great swathes of Chelsea…but that's the current goal.
How did I do it?
I kept my mind on it at all times. I spent a certain amount of time each day in the mindset of a leading ballerina from the Mariinsky. When I did ballet barre each morning, I was in a studio being coached by Komleva. When I sat sewing my ballet shoes I gave imaginary interviews about my amazing career. I plaintively recalled serious injury. My terror as each new leading role as given to me. I imagined receiving letters of praise and abuse. I outlined the pros and cons of working with different partners in the company. Perhaps most importantly, I saw myself exalted taking curtain calls in front of a roaringly adoring full house. And, yes, my kidneys nearly packed up through, apparently, the emotional stress of performing Giselle’s Mad Scene and suicide this method-acted way - Mr Wong, chief Chinese herbalist, had to be called in during my acupuncture session to have a tut over my doubtful tongue – but this is also a sign that positive affirmations work.
And a reminder to be careful what you wish for….