The vulnerable side of creativity

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Today I decided to share my blog on Facebook. It was a scary step. But I wasn’t too sure why it was so scary seen as it has already been out in the public domain for a few months on Instagram. And a public account at that – for all the world to see (well those who are interested anyway!)

I’ve been dwelling on it today and I know why. It’s partly because of the level of intimacy that this involves. Instagram is a step removed. Yes, you can show the world every little aspect of your life, but you can also shape it and edit it to be who you want to be. Facebook however is mainly just made up of my close friends and family. It’s where I’m the me that everyone knows, the old me, the me that I am around my closest loved ones. I am the person people expect me to be. And I’m not sure that this blog is what people are expecting.

Also (and probably more importantly) I needed to make sure that my parents were ok with it first. It’s a very personal, open and honest account. There are things in there that I haven’t shared with them.

We don’t really talk too much about emotions. We always ask that the other is ok, but we don’t really have those deep conversations. Events over the last few years have made us talk more, but we still don’t tend to dwell or delve. It’s as though we know when we are in pain, or suffering, we just don’t need to articulate it. I wasn’t sure how they would react to me ‘airing my dirty linen in public’. So I had to run it past my mum and dad first.

The thing is, despite the fact that we don’t talk that much about deep feelings; they have always been there for me 100%. They’ve listened to me cry, and they’ve caught me when I’ve fallen. They know I’m headstrong and independent, so they support me without question. Then when I fall to pieces, when I’m vulnerable and overwhelmed they pick me up again. They understand. It just always goes without being said.

So, I mentioned my blog off-hand, and didn’t make a big thing about it. They didn’t seem hugely interested, probably because I’m quite a ‘faddy’ person and this was probably just another one of those things. A few weeks later I sent them the link to have a read. When I saw them a few days later I didn’t bring it up, but my mum said at some point that she’s had a read and that she didn’t know where I got my writing ability from. I asked her if she thought it was good, and she said yes. That was all I needed to hear.

She then said that I shouldn’t worry about any negative comments I get online. She’s so intuitive that she’s already picked up on what will get to me. What is hiding in the back of my mind, the thing that might make me give up. She would never tell me not to do something, even if she thinks I shouldn’t, but she’ll be there for me when the times get tough.

So, I’ve finally shared it amongst more intimate circles. I’m still finding my feet with my writing. I’m still exploring. Any form of creativity leaves you open. On one hand I want to be brave, and ‘fake it til I make it’. I won prizes when I was younger for my writing and one of the pieces I wrote when I was around 15 made my teacher cry when I read it out. Then on the other hand I don’t want to be a show off. I’m unsure. I’ve been hiding my writing away in journals for the last 10 years. It’s easier that way. Some pieces I publish aren’t perfect, but I’ll never get anywhere if I wait until they are. Such is the creative process. There is never a definitive end point.

 

Right now, I’m vulnerable. I’m genuinely humble but I’m eager. I want to craft, I want to graft. I want to learn, improve, find my place and learn some more. I want to take all the opportunities I can. I want to enjoy the process, but also try new things and be fearless. Most of all I want to stay true to my real self.

 

Escapism

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In August, I escaped to Cornwall with my boys. For the first time in a while I unplugged completely from social media and went off grid. It was our first holiday with O and we walked on beaches, we carried him along the coast path, we lay in the sunshine and took long lunches. It was bliss, yet I was also wracked with guilt.

I’ve escaped like this once before. In the autumn of 2010 we ran away to Snowdonia. We hid out in our cottage, climbed mountains by day, and got drunk every night. I didn’t post photos of what a great time we were having because in reality, I was broken inside.

Both these times left me ridden with guilt and shame.

On these occasions, I didn’t have a digital detox to consciously take care of myself. In reality I didn’t go on social media because I was too afraid of showing people what I was doing when I should have been grieving, when I should have been supporting my family.

The day we left for Cornwall was the day my mum had her operation to remove a brain tumour. She gave us her blessing to go on our first holiday together. We knew she’d be sedated for a few days and always planned to return after the long weekend, once she was awake. As it turned out she remained sedated over the course of the next few weeks.

When we ran away to Snowdonia in 2010, my little brother had just been killed. I’d stayed with my parents while his body was repatriated from Afghanistan, through the identification, the press intrusion, the post mortem, the funeral planning. But it was 4 long weeks before his funeral could take place. I felt close to breaking point, like I would struggle to carry on.

So I escaped.

Both times, I left my parents behind to face things. It’s something I’m not proud of. They probably needed me but I was selfish. All I could consider was how I was on the verge of collapse.

Escaping, being at one with nature, simple pleasures, helped me to reconnect. Removing myself from our normal day to day world helped me to come back, fresh and alive, ready to face what I needed to face.

It was therapy for me, there is no doubt about that, yet I’ve only just been able to be honest about this.

So now, I’m working through the guilt and the shame, I must make peace. This is my first step.

 

The harder you try to hold on to something, the further it slips away

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We are on the cusp of a huge life decision and it’s filling me with excitement, eagerness and enthusiasm on one hand, then crushing fear, worry and procrastination on the other. I’ve noticed that this seems to be a pattern at the moment. I’m just stuck in the middle a little and I’m trying to cling on more than I should.

I’m craving my body back after over a year of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, yet at the same time I can’t believe how quickly my little boy is growing and I just want time to slow down.

I’m enjoying a more ‘normal’ pace of life, being mindful of the everyday mundane moments, but at the same time desperate for adventure. Reminiscing about days where I could drop everything and head to the mountains, but realising that I am also so fulfilled with my small family and the comfort of the life and home that we are creating.

My mum is back home after her long spell in hospital. On the one hand, she’s up and about, starting to get back to normal, walking, cooking, and enjoying things again. Yet, her speech is still slurred and may never recover, her short term memory is shot so she’s lost a lot of confidence and she may still need to undergo radiotherapy.

Teething, weaning, separation anxiety – every day brings new challenges with my little one. On some days it’s a battle just getting us up, fed and dressed, yet on other days he takes it all in his stride. He’s both amazed at the smallest things, yet super frustrated that he can’t do more.

In all these areas, every day is different. I feel the urge to both embrace the change and go with the flow, yet also to put the brakes on and make time stand still.

And here I am, stuck in the middle.

I find that I’m clinging. The more I’m in limbo, the more I want to try to control. But the more I try to control, the more things change. There’s a paradox right there.

At times like these, all through my life, I find getting outside so liberating. When you’re outside and at one with the elements, there is nothing you can control. You can be prepared, but you definitely can’t control. Especially when it’s wild, and you’re at the extremes, you have to let it flow. The weather, the terrain, your physical abilities and your mental state – each adventure is unique. You have to be present, rather than dwelling on the past or future.

So, now more than ever I’m understanding the place that adventure has in my life. It’s certainly harder to do now, but still so important. So my mission now is to plan where I can, take bold leaps of faith and then go with the flow and adapt where necessary. That’s all I can do.

Why mediocrity is more than ok

This morning I’ve been feeling pretty crappy. Nothing in particular has happened, just a bad night’s sleep and too much Instagram scrolling in the wee hours of the morning whilst I’m up feeding. Factor in staying at home to wait for a delivery and I’m feeling decidedly ‘meh’.

Although, it’s more than that, as I’m certainly not indifferent. It’s a feeling that has been building. I’m struggling with the transition my life has taken. I’m jealous of other people’s adventures. I’m feeling a bit trapped and the old ‘what am I doing with my life?’ questions, doubts, procrastinations are dominating my head this morning. I can’t make decisions, I can’t focus and I feel a bit frustrated. There are so many things I want to do, so many ways I want my life to be, so many decisions to make. It’s terrifying, and overwhelming and just too much. It’s also nothing new. This is the way my anxiety is. The only thing that’s new is that I recognise it now. I don’t realise straight away, it kind of has a habit of creeping up on me. But I do eventually notice the niggle and the doubts, the feeling I just can’t shake, and that’s the most important thing.

In the past I used to default to making grand plans when I felt like this – arranging big holidays, extravagant purchases, challenges, acting on impulse – but it didn’t help the feeling to go away. That’s the thing, acting out of jealousy and frustration won’t generally lead you to what truly matters. I’d generally be acting on other people’s ideals, expectations or circumstances. But, through trial and error over the last few years, I do know what I need to do to get through, I just need more of a gentle hand guiding me there. It’s not glamorous, or particularly revolutionary but I have the three things written down on my phone.

It seems basic but it starts with just getting one simple little thing done. Today I made hummus. It’s super easy to bung a load of stuff together and blitz, but my lazy arse side can’t be bothered with the mess of cleaning up the food processor. Especially when I’m struggling with the meaning of life and what the hell I’m doing with mine! But just doing this one small thing, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Not that you can call it cooking, but making something from scratch rather than buying something gives me such a sense of accomplishment (granted on a small scale). Generally it will give me momentum to get a few more things done.

Next I write down three things that I’m grateful for. When jealousy creeps up, or a sense of feeling lost in this world, it’s super easy for me to wallow. In an ideal world (and this was much easier pre-baby) I’d wake up and list three things that I’m grateful for in my journal every morning. Now it’s less of a pre-emptive strike and something I turn to when I know I need it (which is often a bit too late but I’m working on it!). Now, my life is full of abundance but my mind has a funny way of tricking me into thinking that I’m lacking. Social media has a big part to play in that (but that’s a story for another time). Once I’ve written down my gratitude list, everything feels lighter and clearer.

Finally, I get outside. I may not be able to go far today as I’m stuck waiting for this delivery, but even out into the garden is enough to clear my head. Fresh air, being closer to nature, seeing beauty in the small wonders – it never makes me feel worse. Nature is my medicine.

We spend so much time inside our own heads – that’s why the most important lesson you can learn is that it’s only YOU that can make YOU happy.   Those who have been dealt hardship upon hardship have proven that you can still find happiness, by being grateful for even the smallest of things.

Today may not be the day I climb a mountain. I may not see an Instagram-ready sunset or be full of profound, motivational wisdom. But I’ve made peace with this and I’m feeling grateful for today in all its mediocrity.

If I haven’t done anything else today, at least I’ve made hummus.

#OneHourOutside

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So, the number one thing that helps me keep a grip, when I’m losing my mind, is getting outside.

Most days I get out for a walk (on my lunch break while I’m working) or perhaps an early morning run. But our more exciting adventures are limited to the kinder summer months. I always find Nov-Feb, when the clocks have gone back and the days are super short, to be a really challenging time. I miss the daylight and can see really clearly the effect it has on my mood. I know I’m not the only one.

I was really excited then to stumble across this fantastic initiative from Splodz Blogz (OS Get Outside champion). #OneHourOutside challenges everyone to spend an hour outside each day throughout the month of November.

So, rather than fantasising about moving abroad to get me through the dark winter months, I’m going to give this a try and spend #OneHourOutside every day in November.

Granted, I’m on maternity leave, so I do have the luxury of not being confined to a working schedule, a 45 minute lunch break on an industrial estate or a 3 hour daily commute (unlike my poor husband). But I do have a small child in tow, and that is more than enough challenge in itself!

I’m also as guilty as anyone for keeping to things I know and those within my comfort zone, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get some fresh ideas for how to make the most of time spent outside – see here for ideas from Splodz Blogz – involve the little one, and see where it takes us.

Some of the things I’ve got my eye on trying are:

  • Park run on a Saturday morning (& volunteer too)
  • Walk up a hill and take in the view
  • Make use of our fire pit and cook dinner outside
  • Followed by a TV free evening watching the stars
  • Take a flask of tea, wrap up warm and have a picnic outside
  • See if the boy will find it entertaining to watch me do a spot of gardening to tame our jungle (I may need to employ the services of grandparents to babysit for this one!)
  • Go to a buggy bootcamp
  • Collect pine cones to make into Christmas decorations
  • On a weekend, take a trip to the beach (it’s miles away but hopefully traffic will be less crazy in November)
  • Forage for mushrooms

I already know I’ll feel heaps better by the end of the month, but equally that it will be tough on those cold, dark, rainy days. Especially when little O has kept me up all night (the times when I need to get outside for nature therapy the most!)

I’ll be sharing my daily experience on Instagram, if anyone would like to join in.

Here’s to an exciting November full of outside adventures!

P.S. This photo was actually taken in November last year in Scotland!  So it’s not all rain and darkness 🙂