Resistance

Two weeks ago I signed up for Effy Wild’s Book of Days Programme.  It’s an art programme in which participants use mixed media to create an Art Journal – at the end of the year each of them should have a book (or a number of books) which journals their journey through the year.  She teaches how to bind your own book and cover it – and she demonstrates different techniques for decorating it.

Now, for those of you who know me well, I’m sure you’ve spotted a number of flaws here.  Art, for one.  Weekly journaling, for two.  Commitment for three.  And that’s not even all of them!  I last did ‘art’ at school in 1973 (Tech Guy wasn’t even born then) and I don’t remember doing particularly well.  I have two sisters – one was ‘the musical one’ and the other was ‘the arty’ one.  I was the eldest!

I have done crafting.  When I was suffering from depression, making cards helped me through it.  So I can cut out paper and shapes.  I can trace pictures.  I can stamp and I can colour in the images.  But ART?  (On my face I am currently sporting a frown and a mouth that is twisted into an expression of disbelief and doubt!)  I don’t think so.  Plus, my crafting is clean.  I don’t do mess.  Double sided tape instead of sticky glue.  Pencils or felt tip pens instead of icky paint that might mess my tabletop or, worse, my hands.

But all these lovely ladies out there on the interweb tell me that I can do anything I choose.  If I want to be an artist I can be.  I’m told I should play, have fun, engage my right brain.  Well, I am extremely left brain.  I like common sense, logic, being in the box.  Too much right brain leaves room for ‘getting it wrong’, for ‘not being as good as others’.  I’m not very good at that.  It scares me.

So I signed up for Effy Wild’s Book of Days Programme.  And I love what she does.  I love what she produces.  I love the amazing pages that all the other participants produce.  Art from the Heart.  And I despair.  How will I ever be able to do this?  I know nothing of paints, papers, which goes with what, how to get the desired effect – or even what the desired effect is.  And with this in mind I signed up again.  This time for an art class at a local college.   Eight weeks to get a feeling for painting and sketching.  ‘Do I need to bring anything with me for the first class?’ I ask.  Just some pencils and paper.  Aaargh!  What type of paper – watercolour, cartridge or something else?  What is the difference anyway?  What kind of pencils – colouring pencils or just graphite?  2B or not 2B?  That is the question.

Perhaps you can see where my problem is.

I bought a book to start my Book of Days.  A gorgeous, spiral bound, square, hardback book.  I opened it to begin and here’s where the brick wall appears.  That same imaginary, impassable wall that plants itself in front of me when Tech Guy goes online to update our finances – or worse, when I go online to update mine.

Resistance.

It’s not futile.  It’s bloody hard and it’s annoying.  It’s disabling and it’s disempowering and it eats at your soul – this invisible bully who laughs when you begin to reach out for that joy.  Who seems to be able to put things just out of arms length – just outside your comfort zone.  And when you stretch that far the voice gets louder.  ‘WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?  EVERYONE WILL JUST LAUGH AT YOU, THERE’S NO POINT TRYING, YOU’LL NEVER BE ANY GOOD ANYWAY’.

And in writing this the realisation occurs that the point is not to be any good.  The point is to enjoy.  If like me, you grew up in a family culture where nothing you did seemed good enough – where getting 99% in a test didn’t get praise, it got the question ‘what happened to the other 1%?’ or when colouring in was criticised because you coloured out of the lines – you may have developed the defence of thinking that if you don’t try, you won’t fail, because the only thing that’s important is getting it perfect.  And if you can’t make it perfect then you’ve failed.  But if you don’t try, neither will you succeed.  So move the goalposts. Ask, ‘can I undertake this experience with nothing in mind other than enjoyment?’

This is my challenge for my BOD spread this week – to convey resistance and to consider how to break through it.

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Well, I brayered acrylic paint.  I drew and cut out a picture.  I sizzixed some letters and printed and cut out others.  I tore paper and stuck it down (with my fingers) and I painted on my hands!!!  Then I drew and stuck some more.  And this is what I got.

Book of Days – Resistance

And guess what?  I didn’t die.  No-one told me it was wrong.  I am happy with the result  – and I enjoyed it!

Bring on tomorrow’s art class!

Letter to Amy

from The Wisdom of Avalon Oracle Cards by Colette Baron-Reid

Today I pulled one of the cards from my Wisdom of Avalon Oracle Cards deck and came up with The Owl – deception and wisdom.

Reflection suggested to me that the owl (like any animal) has an innate wisdom – it does what it does and it doesn’t do what it doesn’t do.  So, if it was a person, it wouldn’t think ‘do I need to eat this mouse, or will it make me fat so that other owls think I’ve got a big bum?’  Nor does it not try something because it’s worried that if it goes wrong other people will mock it.  The fledgling owl doesn’t say ‘I’d better not try to fly because I might fall, or miss the branch when I land and then I’ll look stupid or foolish’.  He’ll starve if he doesn’t learn to fly, or eat that mouse.  And so, he makes mistakes.  And he learns.  Until one day he jumps from the branch and soars – and when the time comes, he lands.  The mistakes are what have taught him what he needs to be an owl.  His wisdom is that he inherently knows his purpose.

Maybe he has an advantage over us mere humans.  He doesn’t have language or the concept of comparisons.  Oh, he can compare a rabbit and a mouse and recognise that the mouse will make a good sized meal, but the rabbit might just be a bit much to handle, but he doesn’t think that he’d better go for the rabbit because then he’ll have the biggest and the best.  He goes for what he needs.  He knows that when he needs more, there will be another mouse.  He doesn’t worry that when he catches his mouse some other owl is going to come along and say ‘well, you didn’t catch that properly did you?  You should have soared a bit higher, dived a bit quicker or looked for a mouse that was the right kind of mouse’.  He knows that in the end he has his dinner and that’s what he needs to do.

The lovely Amy Palko is currently suffering some angst over her blogging.  She feels that she’s not doing it often enough, well enough, big enough – in fact, she’s not even sure that she should be doing it at all.  And there’s that horrible word ‘should’.  She is comparing herself to a standard that she believes is ‘out there’ and feels that she is not meeting it.

So Amy, I believe that your purpose is to shine your light.  To illuminate the way for others.  If you do that through regular blogs, infrequent blogs, long blogs, short blogs or no blogs at all, that’s fine.  As long as you continue to do it.  Follow the wisdom of the owl – be yourself and do what you need to do.

I Believe 10

From the Heart by Robin Davis

I believe that it’s not always easy to speak your truth.

I have been encouraged by the many articles I’ve read recently about authenticity.  About speaking one’s truth, about holding space for what is important and sacred for you, and about maintaining one’s integrity.  I want to be in a place where I can do this.

I believe that authenticity is a huge part of self love and self care.  I believe that it is about understanding what is important to you – your values, your dreams, your principles – and holding space for these things in your life.  Holding space by making sure that there is time to incorporate these things, by valuing them sufficiently that you carry them at the forefront of your mind and by respectfully giving them priority over what others might think.

But, I also believe that others, too, have the right to do the same.  We all have different perspectives, opinions and values, and we all have a right to express these in the way we live our lives.  I believe that I have a responsibility to respect the values and opinions of others – not necessarily to agree with them, but to hold them in an open hearted way that allows me to embrace all of who they are.  I want to be able to understand that their experiences of the world are not the same as mine and that as a result of this, the things that they find important may be different from mine, and that the way they express these values and perspectives may not be the same as the way I do.

Finally, I believe that words and behaviour can be used in a manipulative way.  They can be used to hurt and wound.  When someone causes you to hurt, it is human nature to lash out and try and make them feel pain too.  You want them to experience what you are experiencing.  You want them to know and understand how badly you feel.

But sometimes it seems that there is a fine line between speaking what is true for you as a means of self care and authenticity, and being hurtful.  This is something I experienced this week.  I was hurt and wanted explain my feelings based on my experiences, but also to understand where my friend was coming from, but I could see that my words were hurtful – and this was something that I did not intend.

I believe that there must be a way to speak my truth, to express my perspective without disrespecting others who feel differently.  I wish I knew how.

Intention

A day late – but here nonetheless!  I didn’t get round to writing my intentions for the week yesterday – because I was too busy doing them!!

My intention was to make a card to congratulate Awesome Daughter Number Two’s partner on his graduation (which happens today) – Congratulations Craig!  And to make two birthday cards – one for my sister and one for Tech Guy’s sister.  I intended to send off my post to the luscious Kathy from Bliss Habits, who most graciously invited me to submit a guest post for this week’s topic of Resolve.  Well, I got all of those done yesterday – would you like to see one of the cards?  Check out the end of the post!

It’s Tech Guy’s birthday on Saturday, but we’ll be away on our holiday and Awesome Daughter Number Three will be away on hers by then – so we will be having a Birthday Day for him on Wednesday instead!

I have embarked on a gluten/wheat free diet having read that it’s a quick and painless way to eat more healthily – well, it’s not quick and it’s not painless – but more about that on Wednesday. And I intend to persevere with this way of eating, with all of it’s challenges.

I still intend to publish posts for this week – on Wednesday and Friday – in between shopping, cleaning, laundry and packing, so it’s going to be a busy week!

My last intention is to come to the end of the week without stressing and to make sure I pack my journal so that I can remember and work through the challenges and lessons that will come up next week, because I’m sure they’ll rear their heads!

Have a great week yourselves – what are your intentions?.

Gratitude Friday 4

‘House Sparrow’ – photo by Richard Blackburn

Ok, I swore that I’d never do this – but there are so many things in my life that I am grateful for today, that this is going to be a list!  And since I’m no song writer, it’s not ‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…..’.

So here goes:

The view from my sofa that looks out over our bird feeders and all the birds that come to them.

The cat sitting at the window watching the very same birds!

The gift of language so that I can write these words.

The buzz of the bees as they hover over the Californian lilac outside the kitchen window.

Gluten free muffins.

Three awesome daughters.

One amazing husband.

Sunshine and raindrops.

Books.

Satin ribbons.

The first cup of coffee in the morning.

The last cup of chamomile tea at night.

Poppies and aquilegia.

Freshly laundered sheets.

Mike Oldfield.

Freebies in the post.

Fabulous friends.

Oh, and you guys for your support and encouragement!

These are a few of my favourite things!  What are you grateful for this Friday?

Aquilegia (Granny’s Bonnets)

I Believe 9

I believe that sometimes in the spirit of self love and self care, we need to cut ourselves some slack.

I am tired.  Over the last few days I have struggled to sleep at night.  The energies around during the run up to the full moon upset my sleep rhythms.  I have a desire to produce quality blog posts and at the same time be available to spend quality time with Tech Guy on his days off work, or with Awesome Daughter Number Three who is now on school holiday.  I have made a commitment to producing three blog posts a week and have been asked by the wonderful Kathy Sprinkle to produce a post for her website, Bliss Habits, which I am totally delighted to do!  In addition I have been planning for a week’s holiday, organising the production of a variety of greetings cards and preparing for a graduation.  On reflection it doesn’t seem like I’ve got all that much to do, but when my body and head are crying out for sleep that doesn’t want to come, it becomes a mountain.

Awesome Daughter Number Two, Tech Guy and Me!

Yesterday Awesome Daughter Number Two graduated from University.  We attended a lovely ceremony and watched so many young adults preparing to move on to the next stage in their lives.  Beautiful classical architecture surrounded us.  Families dressed in their finery, bedecked with cameras to capture the moments.  Pimms being served on the lawn, followed by a departmental reception to celebrate the achievements of their own students.  Mortar boards flying.  Proud parents.

Then out for a celebratory dinner.  Joined by other family members, grandparents and best friends.  Wine, food and conversation flowed.  Plans made for the summer to come and reminiscences about times past.

But this week, it’s all taking its toll and as a result I am completely washed out.  I have enjoyed, or am looking forward to each and every one of the above activities, but because I have been so tired they have become more difficult than they should.

However, rather than beat myself up about all the potential failures, I choose to be kind to myself.  I choose to prioritise and order my tasks, to do the important ones and to leave the others or find a way of making them easier.  Today I show myself some self love and cut myself some slack.  I’ll be back tomorrow energised and ready to go!

embrace of a rose – http://www.ladiesat11.com

This post is published as a contribution to Amy Palko’s Beautiful Beliefs Project.  If you would like to know more about Amy’s Beautiful Beliefs Project, then click here Amy Palko or on the box – it’ll take you straight there!

Intention

‘Remus’ – photo by Karen Blackburn

My intention this week is to honour my blessings.

Recent reflections have shown me just how many blessings I have.  My wonderful Tech Guy, three awesome daughters, two cute kitties and a beautiful view of my bird feeders out of the window!  My (newish) blog has been well received and I’ve been asked to write a guest post for one of my favourites, Bliss Habits.

If you are reading this, then you’ll see that this blog is a fairly recent venture.  It was inspired by the lovely Amy Palko who began a writing project inviting us to share our beliefs.  Finding that my first response was too long to fit in her comments section, I began a blog of my own.  Now this all sounds fairly straight forward, but I have hankered for many years to write.  Only, I never knew what to write.  Creative writing was not my bag – I don’t feel that I have sufficient imagination (however, based on the changes that have taken place over the last few months, that too could change!), but I knew that I could write academic essays.  I loved the idea of blogging, but was hampered with thoughts of ‘what do I have to say that is of any value?’ or ‘who would be interested in anything I have to say?’  Well, Amy’s invitation must have hit the spot because I decided to try.

I have read copious books, internet articles and blogs about ‘finding yourself’ – because I have felt over the years that this is what I needed to do.  What I found was that the thing I took most comfort from was realising that other people felt exactly the same way that I did.  It seems that it’s fairly common to feel that you’re ‘not good enough’, not slim enough, not rich enough, not smart enough and I came to the conclusion that if so many people felt like this then it must be a human condition rather than truth.

With this in mind, I began examining my beliefs – picking them apart – looking at where they came from, what their results were and how they impacted on my life.  I have been inspired by articles by other bloggers and life coaches and. as I have explored my emotions, feelings and beliefs I have come to better understand myself. I have realised that while they all combine in a particular way to result in the uniqueness of me, they are not unique to me and I realised that if I can be inspired on my journey by others, then perhaps my experiences would be equally important for someone else.  As you can imagine, this journey of discovery is an ongoing process.  My beliefs are opened to question every day.  I jump to conclusions and make judgements just like anyone else does, but now I can recognise when this happens and explore where it comes from (although sometimes I choose not to go there because I’m not ready yet!).  This work has given me freedom.  Freedom to begin accepting that I am enough.  Freedom to begin accepting that I have value.

And so this week, my intention is to honour my blessings.  To appreciate Tech Guy; to tell my girls that I love them and am exceedingly proud of them; to cuddle my cats (when they’ll let me); to feed my birdies and to continue to share my journey in this blog with love and integrity – and to thank you for sharing it with me.

Blue Tit -
photograph by Richard Blackburn

 

 

Gratitude Friday

Last week I talked about recognising what the important things are in amongst all of the angst of a distraught daughter.  Well this week there has been a huge turnaround.  On Wednesday I heard the four words we all long to hear – “Mum, you were right!”  Now, I understand that as Mums we are pretty much always right, but it’s nice to have it recognised!

“Ok,” you ask, “what were you right about?”  Well, all through Awesome Daughter Number One’s challenge to land herself a permanent teaching job, I have maintained that whenever she is turned down it’s because the perfect job hasn’t yet come up for her.  Perhaps the age of the children don’t fall into her preferred age range (she likes to teach eight year old and above), the geographical location of the school would make it difficult for her to commute, it might have classes with a high number of children, or she might find it difficult to get on with certain of the head teachers.  I have always been sure that the perfect teaching position would come along for her and asked her to trust that it would happen.  I know that when you feel like everything you have worked for is conspiring against you that trusting is the hardest thing to do, but that is the time you most need to do it!  And so “Mum, you were right” signalled the end of this particular journey for her – a job in a lovely school, with the right size of class, the right age group and, what sounds like, a lovely head teacher.  All right!

On top of this, Awesome Daughter Number Two, who has also had her challenges – four years of working a job to finance her way through University and many hours in the Lab or the library has resulted in a Class 2:1 Honours degree in (wait for it…) Biomedical Sciences specialising in Physiology!  Another BSc in the family!  She graduates next week and I’ll be there, heart swelling with pride!

Then, as if all this wasn’t enough, Awesome Daughter Number Three came home with an envelope full of certificates!  The Lower School prize giving takes place during school hours and parents don’t get to attend, and so, unexpectedly, she came home with seven Merit Certificates, a Gold Award (one of only six in her year) and a Certificate of Achievement for a project that she and a group of classmates took part in over the year to investigate the efficacy of a Biomass Plant and which they presented to two sets of judges!

How can I not be grateful for the blessings I find in my daughters!  I love that they are so much more than I was at their ages.  They know their own minds.  They know how to think for themselves.  They seem to know exactly who they are.  They are all building successful lives of their own.  And the amazing thing to me is that they come to me – for advice and support.  Equally amazingly, they highlight to me many lessons that I need to learn (usually unwittingly) and so, while I am able to support them on their journeys, they support me on mine.

 So, Thank You girls.  I love you!

Quote adapted from Laurel Atherton

I Believe 8

Photograph by bell wether interiors

I believe that we are meant to be happy.

We were born happy and I believe that we are meant to stay that way.  Unfortunately, layers are put on top of this – expectations, societal standards, parental/family influences – and it’s easy to lose sight of where our happiness lies.

My Mother, for the 51 years I’ve been alive, seems to have been permanently in a bad mood.  She complains all the time, is very negative, imposes her own standards on others – and objects when they aren’t met and appears to delight in nagging my Dad.  He puts up with it – even seeming to accept it – and I’ve always wondered why he never left such a nagging woman who seemed to find fault in everything he did.  But then again, she seemed to find fault with everything I did!

So I spent my life trying to be the person I thought I should be based on her standards.  Actually, I believed that her standards were the only standards.  Her dominance was so far reaching that I had no conception that life could be any different.  I got a job when I left school and met the man who became my husband.  I had a daughter.  All the things a girl like me was expected to do.  I knew I wasn’t happy.  I shifted furniture around the house.  Bought stuff.  Got into debt trying to sort what was wrong.  Then suddenly, like one of those focus pull cameras, my perspective changed and I realised that the one thing that was wrong was my marriage.  It took three years and another child before I plucked up the courage to announce that I was leaving – and even longer to tell my mother!  Once I had moved out, I was on top of the world.  I was 32 and a year into a four year Psychology course at University and I felt like I had the world at my feet.  But the remnants of the expected standards were still there, and because I felt that I could never meet them, my work suffered.  I gained my honours degree, but at a lower class than I expected.  By now I had met my soulmate and things should have been wonderful, but we were short of money, struggling to find jobs and then within two years of graduating we had a baby.  A hungry baby who didn’t like to sleep!  Five of us were squeezing into a one bedroomed flat – life was not easy.  All I could see were the things that were wrong.  We moved into a bigger house (provided by our local authority), but the area wasn’t the most salubrious and there were times when we didn’t like to go outside – incidents with guns, knives and baseball bats occurred among our neighbours.  And so we moved again.  A lovely big house with room for us all, in a nice neighbourhood.

But I couldn’t see it.  Still all I could see was what we didn’t have – the highly paid jobs, the nice cars.  Then depression reared its ugly head.  Treatment sorted it and I went back to University to study Nursing.  I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse and went into a job that I enjoyed, but Tech Guy was travelling lots for his job so we moved to the town where he worked and I transferred to another hospital where I felt excluded and undermined.  My health deteriorated further – both physically and mentally and once again I was not meeting the expected standards.  This time medication didn’t work and the depression didn’t shift.  I lost my job.

And found my life.  When I re-read the above I realise that my life has never been as bad as I’ve made out, but I was unable to see it – I was so busy focusing on what was wrong that I was unable to see what was right.

I hadn’t been able to see that we always had a roof over our heads and food on our table.  We may have been five living in a tiny flat, but we were a family together.  I was unable to appreciate how lucky I was to have three beautiful, clever, funny, loving daughters and I believed that I needed ‘stuff’ to make me happy.

When the medication I was taking for my depression wasn’t working I realised that I would have to find some other way to get better – and so began my spiritual quest – my journey to find myself.  I understood on some level that things could be better – I just had to work out how.

I searched for like minded people on the internet.  I explored my psychic side (with not a huge amount of success) and bought loads of self-improvement books.  I tried affirmations and I bought (still blank) journals.  I had tarot readings and Reiki and Angel Healing treatments.  Then, one day I had an experience that taught me that I could trust myself, that my judgement was ‘good enough’.  If my judgement was good enough then maybe I was.  I found out about Gratitude and began looking at the good things in my life.  I tried keeping a journal, but it kept falling by the wayside – it felt like I was just writing lists of the things I should be grateful for rather than actually feeling the gratitude in my heart.  But slowly, as I allowed my heart to begin opening I could feel this gratitude.  I still compared myself to others, but was able to use this in a constructive way – they may have had a big house or fancy car, but I had wonderful days with my Tech Guy and was home for my youngest daughter during school holidays.  I was learning to appreciate the birds, nature, the sunshine and the rain.

As time went on, I realised that I was no longer depressed.  Things still get me down – usually about lack of money, but not that ‘black, hide in my bed, run away from it all’ kind of down, and it is relatively short lived.

Over a period of three years I have formed questions that I’m now beginning to explore and find answers to.  Answers which are helping me to be comfortable in my own skin and which I am allowing myself to write about.  I am coming to the conclusion that, more often than not, I’m happy – and I’m happy with that!

This post is published as a contribution to Amy Palko’s Beautiful Beliefs Project.  If you would like to know more about Amy’s Beautiful Beliefs Project, then click here Amy Palko or on the box – it’ll take you straight there!

Intention 3

Reflecting on my Gratitude post last week, I have realised that I live so much in either the past or the future – in my ‘stories’ – that I miss much of what is happening now.

At the moment I am sitting in a coffee shop while I wait for the car to be repaired – I don’t know what is wrong, but I’ll worry about that when I do!  I love the ambiance of this coffee shop.  It’s cosy and always feels friendly.  It sits in what was once Montrose jail and still has the three-feet thick walls, low doorways and recessed windows.  There is a stone floor and lovely old beams support the roof.  I can hear the low thrum of conversation and snippets of them as the voices of the people around me occasionally rise or burst into laughter, and I can smell the scent from my chamomile tea and the beginnings of today’s home-made soup (sweet potato and red pepper).  I walked here in a roundabout way from the garage, doing errands on the way and I can feel the tingle of my muscles not used to moving so much.  I feel the softness of the cushion that I’m sitting on and I enjoy the flow of my pen as it moves across the page recording these thoughts.  Outside, it’s a beautiful warm, sunny day and the cool water that I drink is refreshingly welcome before I have my tea.

All of this is in the ‘now’.

With this in mind, my intention this week is to stop and smell the roses.  To bring myself back from future or past, what might or might not have been, and focus on what is in front of me.  Right here.  Right now.

Will you join me?

Rosa ‘schoolgirl’