Making creativity my thing…

Can I do it? I hope so.. image from Miss Benison

For my 19th birthday I had a fancy dress party. I was coming to the end of a ski season in Les Deux Alpes with Skiworld and costume stores aren’t exactly top priority in ski results…. So as you may guess resources were limited.

Just for fun I set the theme as ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up, when I was young’ – open ended enough to use some imagination and with tin foil and linen being our go to ‘ingredients’ being half way up a mountain, it was an opportunity to get creative.

We had an astronaut, a cat… plausible or not it did not matter. It was just the fun of seeing what our creative juices could come up with. So being a massive Disney fan, and not a tiara in sight to allow me to go as a princess, I used green food dye on a pillow slip and went as Tinkerbell.

Yup, thanks to some green food dye and a pillow slip that’s me as Tinkerbell… Sort of…

But without clothing limitations, if I really thought about it, yes being a disney angel fairy or princess would have been pretty bloody brilliant…. I can remember myself as a young animal-loving me desperate to be a vet.

Unfortunately I saw a James Herriot documentary in which his hand, well, penetrated a cow’s backside to put it politely. And then there was the secondary school tutor who told me to drop Latin and the sciences because I wasn’t smart enough…. So that put an end to my veterinary dreams.

From then on I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be. I went to Loughborough University and studied English, focusing on language and linguistic modules, as well as one in creative writing. I graduated, after having become in the university magazine and I figured actually I might want to be a journalist. So then came my City University, London, masters degree in the field and a job at a national newspaper.

That was fun for a while. But I’ll be honest I found it really draining dealing with the hugely long hours and harassment by the editor of the desk I worked on. It wasn’t rare for me to be working from 8am til 3am. And almost without fail I would be greeted by abuse from the desk editor. You’re only ever as good as your last story in the worked of journalism and according to her I simply didn’t cut it.

So I quit.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about whether my true calling might be in fictional writing, As my Grandma has told my mum (and yes, I know I’m blowing smoke up my ass a little here) ‘that girl has a way with words’.

So I’m dedicating some of my time in lockdown into writing a novel.

It’s gonna be based on a true story I covered as a newspaper hack in Liverpool where I spent some time on the Liverpool Echo during my training. I hope of creating a Jack Reacher type thing, though I could never place myself alongside Lee Child, the bestselling and simple fantastic author.

Jack Reacher, by Lee Child: My inspiration to become a novelist

It’s exciting and scary at the same time and will probably never leave my laptop. But it’s a fun project and I love research, which my idea will require a lot of.

So long story short, and it will be short! I’m gonna give this novel writing thing a whirl and see where I get. Wish me luck! And do get in touch if you’re doing something similar – it’s always good to have someone to knock around ideas with.

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It’s OK to not be ok

Image courtesy of You Matter

I’m a terrible fraud at time, replying to the question ‘are you ok?’ or how are you doing?’ with a false smile and an’ im fine thanks how are you?’

But the truth is I’m not always OK, especially when lockdown is quite literally getting me down.

There’s so much out there – my phone is jam packed with apps to keep myself busy and having recently got back into reading novels (and not just my usual go to of beachy type reads) so I would love to find an online book group.

Just a few of the apps I’ve downloaded

I’ve taken up new hobbies, mindful colouring, writing a short story that will probably only ever be seen by my own eyes and joining in with zoom meditation or yoga sessions.

My Sunday night ritual – meditation through Zoom

Then there’s my course in the science of happiness which is not only teaching me things but by putting it into practice it helps boost my mood.

My next project is to knit a family of penguins (don’t hold your breath!) and today I read a Prima article by Gaby Roslin in which she’s written about the different housebound exercise sites she recommends. So I’m excited to try them.

Gaby Roslin in Prima magazine

Keeping to a schedule has been helping keep me sane as well. I keep a daily gratitude diary (on the thrive app which you can also learn about CBT and do practice exercises).

Organising my life: keeping a schedule and recording what I’ve done

Of course it’s also so important to stay in contact with people. I’ve had some lovely messages from people I’ve lost touch with and I make sure I ring my grandma regularly. Just having a conversation with someone is mood boosting for both parties, even if we have precious little to report! But I love hearing her voice and stories from the past, as well as visitors she’s had coming round to have chats from the front garden gate. My parents have put some garden chairs out so she can sit and chat away with them. It’s a small gesture but if it helps then do it!

In the past I’ve often swept over Facebook notifications but now I’m responding to people, wishing them a happy birthday, or offering one of my hand crafted postcards. Isn’t it wonderful to receive some good old fashioned snail mail?! So do feel free to give me your address if you fancy a bit of pen pall contact.

As ever this has turned into a bit of a ramble, so forgive me. But if you get a chance do check out the latest Prima mag. It’s not one I’d normally buy but it’s full of crafty inspiration.

So if its the only promise you make to yourself is to speak truthfully when someone asks if you’re ok, then that’s a great achievement. It really does help, at the same time as sparking up a conversation.

Let’s make a habit of staying in touch and talking about how our day’s been. Hopefully when lockdown finally comes to an end it’ll be the start of a better way of life.

Exercise, no matter how basic, boosts endorphins, laughter is the best medicine, and we can all find ways to occupy ourselves and be able to tell people ‘here’s what I’ve done today’. Or if you’re feeling down, tell someone. Facebook is so successful because it allows communication.

And right now, that’s what we need.

I’d love to hear from people about how their day has been. I promise to respond to all comments and hopefully make some new friends along the way.

Oh and by the way, Gaby, who is also creating a new structure to her day, recommends the FitBit workout, Alice Liveing’s work out and The Body Coach abs sessions as part of her morning routine. No need to push yourself too far. In my opinion little and often is the greatest goal to have.

And who knows, you may find yourself fitter than before!

My latest project: learning how to be happy…

What really is happiness and how can we practice it?

Most of us know how to look after our bodies – good food, exercise etc. Some of us are confident at looking after our finances (note – I’m not so good at this one..)

But how many of us actually know how to look after our minds and mental well-being?

Now more than ever it’s so important to look after mental health. We’re all in the same boat with the coronavirus pandemic. We’re separated from friends and family, unable to visit any of the places that once gave us pleasure. Not to mention the fear spreading almost as fast as the virus.

Ultimately we are left with our thoughts and trying to find ways to pass the time. And it’s given me time to pause – something I’m not good at, hence my endless to-do lists that only end up making me feel frustrated with myself when I don’t get everything completed – and think about what actually makes me happy.

The truth is I don’t actually know. Yes, I’m trying to stay upbeat and positive and fill my time with more than just sitting watching the TV. But what if that’s just a front to keep myself from sinking into misery and dwelling on my loneliness?

So, as mentioned in a previous post, I have embarked on a free online course on the Science of Well-being that aims to answer the question of what really is happiness? And how can we put it into practice?

Taught in online lectures and reading materials by Yale professor Laurie Santos, it’s a way I can feel like I’m doing something productive, without time pressure – you can take as long as you like to complete it – while also hopefully learning more about myself and putting it into practice.

Yale professor Laurie Santos, creator of The Science of Well-being

I’ve only just started but it’s really quite interesting and with a recommended 1 hour a week, it’s much more manageable than the goals I would ordinarily set out (often failing) to achieve.

I highly recommend it and you can access it here. Keep smiling everyone – there’s light at the end of this tunnel…

Lifting my spirits by being a kid again

If you’re anything like me you probably spent an awful lot of time in childhood longing to be older…. Until you reach that milestone birthday that makes you officially an adult and you miss the younger years.

I’ve often wished I could click my fingers and return to the days of lesser responsibility, when ‘sweet shop day’ was the highlight of the week; by ending it off by watching Friends on a Friday night – the ultimate treat. And when everything could be made better again with a hug from my mum or dad and a bowl of homemade soup.

In this unprecedented time, where going out for a walk is getting scarier by the day, I’ve been finding different ways to keep myself busy. First there was papering with face masks and foots masks (I didn’t even know that was a thing!) and a hair mask.

Then, before lockdown reaching the terrifying level it’s at now, I stockpiled on kid’s board games. They’re fun – helping lift my spirits – and some actually do keep the brain active, like memory games and, believe it or not, Monopoly.

As you can probably tell from these photos of how we’ve been keeping ourselves entertained, I’m in no hurry to grow up!

I’ve also got some more adult things to keep my mind at work, like a mindfulness colouring book and sudoko. And there are so many un-read books in here, plus stacks of semi-read magazines. Next I’m thinking about downloading Zoom. Apparently people have been flocking to the app to upload fitness, yoga, meditation videos – to name a few. Traditionally designed for business conferencing, people are coming together to interact and stay active when we can’t meet together face to face.

Plus it’s a welcome break from housework – until now the only way I had come up with doing something active for at least 30 minutes a day. (You’d be surprised how many calories can be burned just by hoovering the house. I’d love to hear from anyone who has been using the App and any recommendations?

Finally, I have my cat Bruno to play with, because it’s still so important to get outside in the fresh air and I’m lucky enough to have a small back yard.

Have a good day everyone. Keep smiling, keep strong and most of all keep safe xx

Family and friends Vs Coronavirus

The term ‘these uncertain time’ is getting past it’s sell by date.

But it is true.

We don’t know what to expect, or really what to do, other than to follow – If you have an ounce of sense in your brain – the advice given to stay at home.

Mental health has always been the sort of forgotten about killer. And now more than ever we need to look after it. We are isolated from friends, family, neighbours… in some cases, such as mine, even the people/person we live with.

So I set up a WhatsApp group with my family members so we could chat, even if it’s just meaningless blurb, and share photos/videos to try to boost our spirits.

They made me stop crying, they made me laugh, they made me feel less alone. Sadly I can’t share any on here but they’re all over the internet and if you’re struggling or just want a giggle, I’d urge you to have a browse.

As they so eloquently put it during war time – and this really is war, just of a different nature – Keep Calm And Carry On. Carry on living, carry on smiling if you can, carry on contacting people. Just do it at home!

Coronavirus: recovery of a different nature

Well this is not the kind of thing I had expected in my wildest dreams to be writing.
I’m not even going to try and jazz it up with a DM style drop intro or attempt to be smart or witty with what I write.
The truth is what matters right now. We are all being told different things from different places, people and things.
Some sites and papers, mentioning no names, are scare mongering about coronavirus.
I’m sticking to BBC news and official government websites..
A few nights ago we had paramedics round – 7 or 8 hours after I made the call such was the demand–for my fiance. He was given the all clear but the next day our local GP effectively pooh-poohed what they’d said, decided he was indeed showing symptoms, and so we are now basically on house arrest.
We have one flimsy mask each, which we have been told have a shelf life of around 3 hrs. Great. But better than nothing I suppose. I say we have one each – we did, but Stew was sick in his so is now using one of my bed time eye masks instead,
The paramedics told me they have oodles of beds but not enough staff. My best friend, a GP, spent almost an hour trying to get through to 999 for a patient.
Earlier in the week I joined my neighbourhood the 8pm clap for NHS staff. They’re doing everything they can, but as has been quoted on the news, this is more a plague than a virus.
I’m now terrified of touching literally anything. I’ve possibly made myself worse, immune system wise, by going a bit crazy with sanitising our house, but what else can I do? After waiting hours for an ambulance why was my fiance not tested? Why was I not?
We can now no longer be in the same room ‘just in case’.
It seems only those at death’s door are taken notice of and by then it’s too late.
And as for those critically ill but not displaying CV symptoms…. Well, you’re on your own mate. The paramedic I spoke to told me in no meek terms that they’re effectively ignoring all other call outs.
And it still took 7 hrs for them to get to us, with three 999 calls in the interim as things got worse…
Basically I’m scared. For him, for me, for everyone I know and love and for the population as a whole.
And also
I just want a hug.
Stay safe everyone and thank you to those still fighting to help us.

Seeing the small things and getting back into reading

Image from Bretton Woods Projecr

Everyone has something or something to be grateful for. Whether it’s a sunny day sitting in the park with a coffee, or simply being alive and not in pain.

I’m making it my mission to find thing(s) to be grateful for everyday, however big or small.

It’s so thing we did in rehab – 3 things per day – and although I scoffed at it at first, once I actually engaged I did find it quite cathartic.

As pre previously stated, I’m terrible at doing nothing. I love TV as much as the next person, but I’m not a sit around in front of the box type…

So in many ways this blog has been my way of expressing my creativity, I do all the cleaning in the house and I’ve gone back to reading.

Any suggestions or recommendations please let me know!

Coronavirus: Avoiding it my way

L Devine, image from Getty

It’s impossible to pick up a paper, watch the news, listen to the radio or visit virtually any news or social media website without hearing more distressing updates about the coronavirus.

For one artist, however, social media has become a platform of positivity, so she can continue with her cancelled Europe singing tour.

Singer L Devine’s tour was last week cancelled as a precautionary measure, due to the outspread of the disease.

The musician, whose real name is Olivia, has begun her pledge to out-play coronavirus by performing an acoustic session in her mother’s living room and posting videos of it on Instagram.

Next she plans to record shows in the studio, with her full band. She told Radio 1’s Newsbeat: “I thought: ‘How can I put a smile on people’s faces when we’re all a bit out of the loop and keep everyone safe?”

The answer? An “online tour” where “social media sites are different venues”.

So many people have found elements of their lives put on hold as the pandemic has become increasingly powerful, infecting and killing more and more people each day. And I found L Devin’s story inspiring.

In the face of adversity it can be so tempting to just throw in the towel and give up.

It’s the same with addiction. Continuing on a downward spiral can, on the surface, seem like the easy option. It’s why we end up figuratively kicking the people who care about us in the face. We’re sick of being told what to do, even when we know deep down that what we’re being told is correct.

L Devine could easily have just pulled out of the tour altogether. But she used her creativity to come up with an alternative solution. Other artists have done similarly, using YouTube and other sites such as Twitch to make sure they are still engaging with their fans.

Sometimes we all have to make changes to our plans – life doesn’t always pan out as expected or wanted. I certainly didn’t expect my life to take the path it has.

But hey, it’s given me lemons; I’m trying to make lemonade. Coronavirus won’t beat us and addiction won’t be me.

Happy birthday Einstein – and thank you for your inspiring words

Better late than never… happy birthday to Albert Einstein for Saturday. Chap would have been 138 a couple of days ago – quite a milestone.

Image from Wikipedia

One of the phrases that got bandied around when I was at rehab came from him – that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It pretty much sums up every addict, in my opinion.

Every time (and sadly there’s been many) I’ve gone through a detox I’ve come out the other end convinced I’m ‘cured’ and can return to normal social drinking. Glass of wine with dinner, a bloody mary with brunch on a Sunday, champagne to celebrate some special event…

But he was totally right. I’ve tried and failed so many times, so why is it that my brain convinces itself that THIS TIME I can do it?

When real life is too hard to cope with, let your imagination take you somewhere else.
Image from Raquel Dorsey’s Pintrest page

I don’t have an answer to that question. Maybe it’s what the universe has planned for me – if you believe in all that – or maybe I really am just completely delusional. Either way failure is something I need to learn to accept. And if I stop trying I’ll stop failing. It sounds so simple. But it’s not.

My favourite Einstein quote, however, is ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’. When life seems to just be pummeling you into the ground, imagination can take you anywhere you want to be.

I think it’s why I enjoy reading and it’s something I’m trying to get back into – now that I’ve got some much free time on my hands. There’s nothing better than getting lost in a good book. It doesn’t need to be the works of Shakespeare or one of the Bronte sisters’ tomes or anything ‘high brow’. I love a good beach read and it really does seem to have a positive affect on me.

Recovery is such a strange beast. And it’s different for every person. I guess it’s just about finding what works for you. For me, and apparently Einstein, imagination is the greatest way to switch off from the world. Yes, knowledge can get you far in life when it comes to jobs etc. But without imagination where’s the fun? It’s the longest, toughest thing you’ll ever do – life, that is. So we might as well make it as enjoyable as possible.

Now if this isn’t a man who liked fun then who is?! – Image from BBC

I don’t hate myself and I don’t want to die…

“I hate myself and I want to die.” Nirvana

I remember listening to Kurt Cobain sing that lyric during my teenage rebellious stage. My parents hated Nirvana. I loved the band – and not just because I liked their songs but because the lyrics spoke to me in a way that made me realise I wasn’t alone or weird in feeling how I felt.

But breaking it down into pieces; I don’t want to die, at times I hate where my life has taken me, but do I hate myself? Hate is such a strong word. I’ll go with dislike for the time being.

Image from themamahood.com

So as I’ve written about in previous blog posts I’m trying to practice self love. Not easy. Recently I took a piece of paper and split it down the middle. On the left: things I like about myself and my life. On the right: The things I don’t.

The left was longer.

I don’t mean to reel off a sob story – in fact I hate pity – but I suppose I’m having a bit of a pity party of my own. Learning to love yourself is hard work! Especially when Facebook shows you memories from however many years ago looking fantastic and having a wonderful time with the friends you’ve since pushed away. – NB at the time I hated every photograph of myself. Now I look back and realise they weren’t all so bad.

So I looked for some tips and I found this online, on the The Cabin Chiangmai blog:

How to Love Yourself during Recovery from Addiction

  • Understand the disease of addiction. …
  • Understand that your past actions do not define you. …
  • Make amends with the people you hurt. …
  • Take care of yourself. …
  • Plan your future. …
  • Fake it ‘ till you make it. …
  • Always remember that You are Worth It.

I know I can’t fix myself in a day. I’m as impatient as it gets. Anything I want to have achieve I want to have achieved yesterday. If that makes sense.

I struggle with the idea of addiction being a disease. You can’t catch it – or can you? hmm… Past actions, well I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I’ve also achieved a lot.

I have endless to-do lists but that doesn’t really count as planning for the future – right now none of it seems or is possible.

I think the first one I need to work on is remembering that I am worth it. I’m not sure what ‘it’ is at the moment but it’s something. Perhaps it’s just being alive, or actually maybe it’s giving myself another chance. If I listed the things I want to do and then put a line through all the ones I’m afraid of I’d be left with nothing.

I’m trying to make amends – it’s not easy when I’m so ashamed of myself – and I’m pretty damn stubborn. But to anyone reading this who I’ve hurt, I am so sorry. And I know I’m being a tremendous wimp by not apologising in person – part of writing this blog is because I’m trying to build my confidence back up and then maybe I’ll be ready for such confrontations.

Right now I know I’m faking it a lot of the time. For me it’s easier to do the whole British stiff upper lip thing and act like everything is just hunky dory. I know that in the long run that’s not going to help me – tell a doctor you’re ok and they happily tick you off their list.

Catch my drift?

So here goes… my goal for this week is to try to be more honest about how I feel and stop resisting help because I fear it makes me appear weak.