Autumn Mornings

Last September we got a puppy. She turned our lives upside down (mostly for the better – who can resist a happy puppy face in the morning and when you get home from work?) but probably the biggest change she made is that I now actually HAVE to get up when my alarm goes off in the morning. No more snoozing. No more lying awake but savouring the warmth of my duvet. I am not a morning person but I have actually found that, once I’m up and out, I genuinely enjoy my morning walks with the pup. Hubby and I alternate the morning walk so we both get alternate days where we can be a tad more lazy/slow to wake up. But on my walking days, even when it’s raining, it’s nice to start the day with some fresh air. I can listen to my audiobook or some season or mood appropriate music to set me up for the day. Sometimes I blog as I walk (like I am now) with breaks, of course, to throw a stick or chase my playful not-quite-a-pup-anymore, or just to watch her revel in the general joy of being a dog off the lead. It’s lovely.

But…

Now we are getting into autumn proper and winter is creeping it’s way toward the northern hemisphere, our morning walks are happening in the pitch black. I’m not so much watching the pup playing as I I am watching a disembodied LED collar trace circles round the park. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this time of year – the boots! The scarves! The autumnal food and music! It’s my favourite. And I still enjoy stepping out into the crisp morning air. But, this morning, as I walked, I couldn’t help but pen a realistic portrait of how I felt…

A Pause, A Ponder And Some Poetry

After a brief, unintentional hiatus, I’m back and trying to figure out how on Earth to balance a busy day job and a more-hectic-than-usual home life with the writing life I crave. During the summer lull, I had managed to start to create time during my days to write or at least play with ideas for writing. I had been posting regularly on the blog and creating regular content for my bookstagram account, both of which grew in followers and engagement. I was loving having the time to enjoy my creative life. And then the new term started. I was utterly snowed under within a matter of days and, even on the evenings when I wasn’t having to bring work home with me, I was so shattered and anxious from the accumulated stress of the work day and then the waiting housework that I had no energy for writing or taking photos, even when I could have found the time. So all of my creative pursuits fell by the wayside. My journal pages stayed empty. My notebook gathered dust. My latest blog post aged slowly in its corner of the internet. My bookstagram started to stagnate. And I felt guiltier and guiltier for not managing to summon the energy for these creative pursuits; for not managing to do it all.

I’ve still not managed to pull myself out of that particular guilt rut and I’m starting to realise it maybe runs a bit deeper than I’d thought.

It’s frustrating to feel I’ve lost the momentum that I had started to build – it all feels a bit ‘one step forwards and two steps back’. But I can’t deny that my brain – which is doing all sorts of unpleasant things right now – needed a break. Juggling all the many aspects of life (wonderful though most of them are) is exhausting sometimes. Occasionally, some balls are going to slip and fall. Sometimes it will take a while to recover them. And most of the time I know that’s ok.

I did manage a little flurry of bookstagram posts last week which I actually wanted to share here as well.

Last Thursday was National Poetry Day and, as I’m a huge poetry lover, I wanted to take the chance to share some of my favourite poets/poetry collections. So following my pause and my ponder, I present you with some poetry recommendations:

First up is the fabulous Nikita Gill whose poetry is a poignant reminder that though we may be inconsequential in the grand scheme of the universe we are each as miraculous as the stars. Beautiful, lyrical, empowering poetry.

Next up is Nocturnal by the oh so talented Wilder – I absolutely ADORE this collection. Not only is the poetry thought provoking, moving and beautifully written, but the book is exquisitely designed with accompanying illustrations by the author. I devoured this when I first got it and turned back to the first page for a reread as soon as I’d finished. Simply gorgeous.

Another favourite poetry collection of mine is Chasers Of The Light by Tyler Knott Gregson – simple and elegant, these appealingly presented typewriter poems show the power of poetry to capture poignancy in the smallest moments.

I fell in love with Amanda Lovelace’s poetry with her first collection – the princess saves herself in this one – but for me, her second collection – the witch doesn’t burn in this one – is something truly remarkable. Raw and empowering, Lovelace uses not just the words but the form of her poems to raise a call to arms at the same time as inviting you into the embrace of the sisterhood. This collection raised the hairs on my arms with its power and the connection it offers.

Last but certainly not least in my poetry favourites is this exquisite book from Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris – the illustrations are absolutely stunning, seeming to live right off the page, and combined with the wonderful collection of acrostic poetry celebrating the natural world bring back all the wonders of a childhood spent in the garden and exploring the woods. Filled with nostalgia, hope and marvel this collection is the antidote to our hectic digital lives. You’ll want to wander in the great outdoors from the first page.

Do you have a favourite poem, poet or collection of poetry? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments as I’m always on the look out for new poetry to enjoy.

Network Error

The ever so lovely tiggsybabes shared this image on Instagram earlier this week and oh how I laughed…and laughed and laughed and finally cried. It rang so true for me at the moment! My mind is definitely an overloaded internet browser right now, with poor connectivity, multiple network errors and more frozen screens than I care to count. I’m also pretty sure there are some secret tabs open in the background somewhere, all running important programmes that I’ve forgotten about.

Inspired by Tiggsybabes post to try and have a little fun with my current chaos, here – for your amusement – are my many brain tabs:

  • I would like a nap.
  • Why aren’t Time-Turners real?
  • If I could do magic I would be able to clean my house without getting up off the sofa.
  • Shoot…I was supposed to…that thing…nope, it’s gone.
  • I really need new boots.
  • I still haven’t read Lord Of The Flies
  • Oh, that book looks good!
  • I should really stop buying books.
  • I need to plan my reading interventions.
  • Did I pick my printing up? Where did I put it?
  • I’m going to make a real effort to eat more healthily…I wonder if there’s any chocolate in the house.
  • I wonder what my daemon would be…
  • Note to self: kitchen roll doesn’t go in the fridge.
  • What day is it?
  • How is my meter reading lower than last month…?
  • PUPPIES!
  • Autumn is the best. Look how pretty the leaves are!
  • Wearing jumpers makes me happy.
  • I’d like a nap.
  • …where is that music coming from?
  • Coffee Shop Writer

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    There is something endlessly appealing about sitting and writing in a coffee shop. Sinking into the words as the gentle percolation of humanity bubbles around you. A low hubbub accompanied by the smell of coffee and pastries. It’s not something I often get the chance to do so when the opportunity arises it feels like a real treat and privilege.

    It’s the atmosphere I love most (although the rich, coffee shop coffee certainly adds to the experience) but I also love the opportunity to people watch. The grey haired gentleman sat by the window, reading a paper and sipping his americano. The two friends catching up in the corner, two tea pots and two empty hot chocolate glasses cluttering their table – a testament to their long conversation which has no sign of breaking up any time soon. The mum with her children peering at the pastries on the counter, noses pressed near to the glass which holds all the cake, wide eyed in anticipation of the coming sugar! The one or two scattered individuals, including myself, who sit tapping away on keyboards – I wonder what they are writing. Catching up on emails, maybe. Writing an article or a blog post or even the next great novel.

    In this little corner of this little town, people are creating and loving and living. So am I. And isn’t that the most wonderful thing?

    x

    Solvitur Ambulando

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    “Solvitur ambulando” – it is solved by walking – or so the saying goes. A phrase and concept often attributed to Saint Augustine, it has arisen again and again in everything from the works of Henry David Thoreau, to Louis Carroll’s “What The Tortoise Said To Achilles“, to becoming the adopted slogan of The Wander Society (a beautiful and mysterious society which I strongly encourage you to explore). The idea that we can resolve something by walking is probably more commonly expressed in the, rather less poetic, phrase ‘walk it off’. But where ‘walk it off’ is often used in a dismissive, sometimes scornful tone, delivered to suggest that we are making too big a deal of something and that we should just get over it, ‘solvitur ambulando’ instead extends to us an invitation. The idea that ‘it is solved by walking’ opens up a space for us to wander with our problems rather than fight or ignore them; it provides the opportunity to get them out in the open and see them in the light of a wider perspective.

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    I am currently holed up in the heart of the Machar Peninsula in Scotland, with my husband and our dog; we have come to escape the chaos of home renovations and the general busyness of life. We have been enjoying lazy mornings and long walks and it is bliss.

    After a few weeks of high anxiety, the peace and quiet we have found here is a balm for the soul. And as we have walked I have felt the tension in me ebb and ease away. It isn’t that walking has magically cured me of anxiety. But the act of walking and the opportunity to be in nature has been soothing, as it has given my anxieties perspective: an understanding that even if that worst case scenario happens, the world will continue to turn and the trees will continue to grow and the rain will continue to fall. And that is beautiful. My anxious worries shrink to a more reasonable size with every step, the end of summer rain washing some of the accumulated grime of stress away.

    Living somehow seems much easier when you’re standing on a forest path, on the edge of a mountain, overlooking a loch.

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    Taking advantage of the calm and healing offered by being out in nature doesn’t have to happen in a remote Scottish forest though. I really to encourage you to wander however and wherever you can. Wander to a local park; sit in your garden and let your eyes wander; find a tree on a nearby street and let your eyes and hands wander that little world; look up at the sky and let your mind wander its immensity.

    If you do, however, have the means and opportunity to explore further afield, then do so. Sometimes we need to put ourselves in a different environment in order to break a cycle of thoughts or feelings. Sometimes we forget that we are a part of nature, and being in  nature can reconnect us and ground us in the universe in a way nothing else can.

    Let the sky and the trees and the very ground remind you that you belong in this world, you are meant to be here, you are as worthy as any other part of nature.

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    Dreaming Seriously

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    For a very long time I have wanted to be a writer. Wanted to be but never thought I would actually be one because I thought that in order to be a writer I would have to get published or be paid to write in some capacity or another. And I figured neither of those things would happen for me because I assumed my writing would never be good enough. So I continued to daydream about ‘being a writer’ without really doing anything about it. I didn’t even write as much or as often as I wanted to because I couldn’t see the point. It felt self indulgent to write for myself so I continued with the odd blog post here and there, the odd scribbled poem in my notebook, and random snippets of ideas that never became anything more.

    And then I had an epiphany.

    I couldn’t even really tell you where it came from, or exactly when I became conscious of it. I suspect it had been building up in the back of my mind for some time. What I realised was that the only thing I needed to do in order to be a writer was to write.

    I know, I know, it seems stupidly simple. Or maybe it just seems stupid, I don’t know. But I suddenly accepted that I could write just for myself and call myself a writer. That I could write without it being my job or career or providing any sort of income and call myself a writer. That it was the act of writing that would make me a writer and not anything else.

    I also began to recognise that if I wanted any hope of writing becoming my career/job/source of income then I would need to get better at it, need to get into the habit of building it into my day and committing time to it. And in order to do those things I had to start writing.

    Once I had this moment of enlightenment I was full of all sorts of ambitious goals for myself. I would write every single day, without fail! I would get up an hour early to write! I would write at least four blog posts a week, finish a writing a novel in a month, write and publish a poetry collection and produce some short stories! I was not especially realistic and after 3 days of trying to get up early to write and either failing completely or getting up but just being too tired to write, I also realised I was going to have to make this work for me.

    I’m still working on a regular writing routine, but what I have been able to do is write far more regularly than ever before. And I’ve loved it! I’ve seen increased engagement on my blog, I’ve written over 11,000 words of the novel that’s been in my head for six years, I wrote and submitted some poetry to an independent publishing house and, in the last week, I wrote and submitted my first paid piece of freelance writing and was invited to be a contributing blogger for a local not-for-profit mental health organisation.

    The act of acknowledging myself as a writer is the very thing that triggered opportunities where others might see me as a writer.

    I don’t know where these opportunities might take me. I don’t know if writing will ever be my full time job. But I do know that by taking my dream seriously it has started to become a reality.

    A Hundred Tiny Pleasures

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    There is so much joy to be found in little things. This is a fact that seems to be popping up in front of me on a regular basis at the moment: in the final chapter of Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive he lists just that – reasons to stay alive – and for the most part they are tiny every day pleasures; in a bookshop in Bristol I came across a little box filled with little cards each of which had on one side a simple but appealing photograph and on the other a small pleasure; in one of my favourite writing companion books, The Five Minute Writer, the activity I came across this week was to list as many tiny pleasures as I could think of. It’s a message that comes up in podcasts and blog posts, novels and research papers, TED talks and tweets: it is the little things that make a happy life. So I decided, rather than completing that writing activity in my notebook, to list my tiny pleasures here. Sometimes we need reminding of where those tiny pleasures can be found so I hope this list helps you find some of your own. I plan to come back and add to this post whenever I think of more. Tell me your tiny pleasures in the comments.

    Freshly washed bedding.

    Walking in the sunshine with a slight breeze playing across your skin.

    The joy of a puppy running through long grass.

    A long hot shower.

    The smell of a bookshop.

    A new notebook.

    A book that makes you laugh out loud.

    A book that makes you cry.

    Summer evenings in the garden.

    The feeling of accomplishment that comes with creating something – anything – new. (It wouldn’t have existed without you.)

    Fresh flowers.

    Music that gives you goosebumps.

    That certain slant of morning light.

    The peaceful silence of a sacred space.

    A child’s laughter.

    Sweet, fresh watermelon.

    The smell of freshly baked bread.

    A handwritten letter.

    Poetry that speaks to your soul.

    A whispered “I love you”.

    An unexpected compliment.

    Knowing you made a difference.

    Rediscovering a childhood favourite.

    The steam rising from a cup of hot coffee.

    The sweetness of chocolate as it melts on your tongue.

    Standing on top of a hill or mountain, looking down on the world.

    The sound of a stream bubbling in the country side.

    Walking through a forest when no-one else is around.

    The moment of silent solitude after you shut off the car engine but before you get out.

    Fingertips grazing bare skin.

    The crackling of a real fire.

    The smell of woodsmoke.

    Mum’s perfume.

    Laughing until you cry and your belly aches.

    Reading something that seems written just for you.

    Unexpected quiet moments.

    Walking barefoot on warm sand.

    Sunset skies.

    Moonshine on water.

    The reflection of mountains in a perfectly still lake.

    Reuniting with friends.

    Having your hair brushed or played with.

    Unusual cloud formations.

    Watching fish swim.

    The elegance of ballet dancers moving in perfect unison.

    Reading something so immersive you forget you’re reading.

    Finding someone you can be silent with.

    Felling the intricate power of your own body.

    Homemade soup.

    Finding the perfect gift for someone.

    A good night’s sleep.

    Getting to finish work early.

    The cool quiet of caves.

    Lists.

    The first time you hear birdsong in spring.

    Blossom trees in full bloom.

    The texture of tree bark.

    Being able to see the stars.

    Countries where the air smells of spices.

    Watching a sleeping dog dream.

    Finding the perfect pen.

    A cold drink on a hot day.

    Finding the perfect position in the bath.

    The smell of Christmas.

    Singing at the top of your voice.

    Meeting someone who you feel instantly comfortable with.

    Philosophical conversations at 3am.

    Losing track of time.

    Sitting round a bonfire with friends.

    Chunky knit blankets.

    Comfy boots.

    Oversized sweaters.

    The colour of the turning leaves in autumn.

    The taste of parkin.

    Scarves.

    Finding a bargain.

    Old leather.

    Libraries.

    The sharp and sweet taste of fruit dipped in chocolate.

    Sitting down after a long day.

    Curling up with a book whilst it rains outside.

    The magic of thunderstorms.

    The smell of petrichor.

    Discovering a new recipe.

    Whimsical art.

    Finding someone who loves the same books/music/films as you and gushing together for hours.

    Putting the finishing touches on a newly decorated room.

    The ache in your legs after a long walk.

    The smell of the circus.

    Driving alone at night.

    Snowfall.

    Rainbows in waterfalls.

    Finding the perfect Pooh-stick.

    Successfully skimming a stone.

    Days with no plans.

    The first page of a new notebook.

    Finding trousers that fit perfectly.

    Exciting socks.

    Old typewriters.

    Really great hugs.

    Stone cottages with roses growing round the door.

    Realising you are not alone.

    Work-Life Imagined – Career Visioning

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    We spend so much of our lives working. Sometimes we just take a job that will pay the bills but, if we are lucky, or if it is in our power to do so, we can create opportunities for career development that will enable us to earn a living doing something we love. I’ve been in both these situations and I’ve recently found myself, once again, considering what it is I really want to do. What do I want my working life to look like? Where do my passions and skills lie? How can I create the career and life I imagine for myself when I’m daydreaming? I decided I wanted to share a bit about my process for career visioning on here but I’m going to indulge in a bit of reflection on my career journey so far first. This may end up being a bit of a rambling brain dump to begin with (which is part of my process) but if you’re interested some steps for career visioning but not my personal career history, feel free to skip the first bit and scroll doooowwn!

     

    From Front to House to Head of House

    Whilst I was in college, I had a few different part time and temp jobs: waitress, sales assistant, admin temp, and dance teacher’s assistant. When I left college, not sure what I wanted to do with myself and in need of money for rent, I started my full-time working life as a receptionist/administrator, and had several different roles of this ilk with the same company. Along side these pay-the-bills jobs, I was volunteering with a few different youth groups and projects. I found that I loved working with young people and the variety of jobs in this area interested me, so I took the plunge and decided this was what I wanted to do. I started looking into qualifying as a youth worker and with the support of my friends, family, and colleagues, I decided to embark on a Youth Work degree with The Open University.

    To this day, I consider this one of the best decisions I ever made. I was still working full time and studying independently around my working and volunteer hours. It was hard work and I knew it was going to be a long haul (6 years in total), but it was so interesting and rewarding, and the OU was such a great institution to study with, that I knew I’d made the right choice. When I reached the third year of my degree, however, I was faced with a conundrum: I had to be working a minimum of 16 hours per week face to face with young people in order to qualify. Fitting that number of volunteer hours around my full time job was going to be nigh on impossible. If I wanted to continue my degree, I had to find paid work with young people.

    One of my degree mentors, who had become a great friend, knew of a job coming up for a Lead Youth Worker at an ecumenical youth work project. I thought I would never get it but she convinced me to apply and, to my great surprise and pleasure, I got the job. The next three years were challenging, fulfilling, and (mostly) the best kind of exhausting. But as I reached the end of my three year contract I was once again faced with impending career change. Youth work funding across the country was being pulled; projects and youth centres were closing left, right, and centre; and, much though I loved the job, all the evening and weekend work was taking a lot of my time away from my friends, family, and lovely fiancé. I decided I wanted to find a way to continue working with young people whilst also freeing up more time to spend with the people I loved, who were working ‘normal’ hours. And that’s how I ended up doing the one thing I always swore blind I would never do: working in a secondary school.

    I had to get my 16 year old inner-self to pipe-down in order to pursue this path. In spite of the fact that I have always loved learning, I was not a fan of secondary school – the best day of my secondary school career was the day I left! But it was the obvious solution and I actually decided that it was perfect for me because it would give me the chance to make school a little bit better for the young people who, like me, did not enjoy being there. So after a lot of applications and a handful of interviews I secured a post as a pastoral head of house and I was thrilled. I was convinced this was it: the start of my actual career.

    It didn’t quite pan out the way I expected.

    Just one year into the job, I found myself in a very unhappy place. I was stressed to high heaven because the workload was so demanding; the emotional intensity of the role meant I was sleeping terribly and spending the majority of my evenings in tears or a high state of anxiety. There were things I loved about the job. I loved working with the students and being able to provide them with support that they struggled to find anywhere else. But I was coming to realise that this was not healthy for me and that I needed to make a change.

    And that terrified me.

    I had just come to the end of six years of hard work to graduate from my youth work degree, there were barely any youth work jobs around and I felt completely unable to continue in a school based pastoral role. What on Earth was I going to do?

    The answer arrived in a somewhat serendipitous manner. The school I was working at was looking to introduce a new role: HLTA in English. I have always loved English as a subject, adored reading, and enjoyed writing for pleasure. I kept thinking this could be something I could do. Something I would enjoy. Something I might be good at. But the post was only temporary and I wasn’t technically qualified, having done nothing related to English since I left college, not having either a TA or HLTA qualification, and having no experience of providing academic support. However, the school had had two rounds of  unsuccessful interviews and when I expressed a passing interest to my Deputy Head he said to leave it with him whilst he mulled it over. After a bit of back and forth and several conversations which I won’t bore you with here, I was offered a one year secondment to the HLTA post. Nervous about a role that was very different to any I had done before but feeling I had nothing to lose (and excited at the prospect of a change from the emotionally draining pastoral role), I leapt at the chance and a few months later I took up the post.

    This is the job I still hold today. It is the role I have held longer than any other in my working life. It has offered me more opportunities that I would have anticipated and I have LOVED the variety, challenge, and development I have experienced through it. In this role I have qualified as a HLTA, undertaken a nationally recognised leadership and management qualification with ILM, taken on an additional role as Whole School Literacy Coordinator, and worked with the most amazing team of people. I have been given a huge amount of freedom and flexibility to develop the role and experiment with new forms of intervention and academic support. It has had it’s ups and downs but this job has been the right one for me for a long time.

    But lately, I’ve been itching for another change.

    I find myself increasingly disillusioned with our education system. So many top-down changes and demands are forced on our schools and – with the best will in the world from passionate, dedicated, and talented staff – it feels increasingly difficult to instil a love of learning, and share passion for your subject in creative and engaging ways, as well as checking all the necessary boxes. That is a whole conversation in and of itself (and not one for right now) but I also find that I’m contemplating what other opportunities I want to pursue for myself, and whether I will be able to find them in this role.

    And this is where career visioning comes in. (Finally, I hear you say!)

     

    Imagine The Work-Life You Want

    If, like me, you feel yourself wanting to make changes to your work life but not really being sure what you want that to look like, I suggest starting by reflecting on your own work/career journey so far, then using the prompts below to explore what you might want to change. Please note that I offer this only as a process that has been useful to me, and only as a starting point. I’m not a career or life coach, and I definitely don’t have the answer for reaching that dream – in fact I am still in the middle of figuring this all out for myself – but I found this helpful for reflection on my own career and in identifying possible areas I could pursue.

    I sat down with pen and paper (computer, tablet or phone would work just as well) and considered the following:

    1. Identify the things in your current job (if any) that you enjoy – think about your team/company/area of focus as well as aspects of the job itself.
    2. Come up with ideas for how you would change your current role if you had the freedom and opportunity to do so – would you take on more responsibility? Less? Do the hours suit you or would you want more flexibility? Are there areas of your current role you’d like to be able to give more time to?
    3. List the things (in work or otherwise) that you would like to do more of – are there any skills or knowledge that you’d really like to pursue or develop? Do you have any hobbies that you secretly would like to be able to make a living out of?
    4. Daydream your ideal work scenario – what does your dream work life look like? Part-time? Self-employed? Moving to a bigger company? Working from home? Do you want to continue in the same area but a different role or do you want to do something completely different?

    Take your time considering these areas and answering these questions. Maybe jot down initial ideas then leave it for a few days and come back to it: do you still feel the same? Has anything else occurred to you? Do this a couple of times. After you’ve allowed yourself time and space for reflection consider your gathered ideas and look for threads of connection.

    Is there anything you’ve identified that you could develop in your current role? If so, consider talking to your colleagues or line manager about whether there might be the opportunity to pursue this as part of your professional development. If it seems like there is nothing in your current role you could develop, look for any crossover in your answers to the other questions. Are there any areas that clearly emerge as having captured your interest? Are there any career/job possibilities that spring to mind which would incorporate this?

     

    From Daydream to Reality

    Getting these ideas together is all well and good but what do you do with them now? This is the tricky bit, partly because everyone’s current reality, and everyone’s daydream, will look completely different. Maybe your daydream is only a few steps from your current reality and all you need to do is widen your network, pitch an idea to your boss, or explore undertaking a training that would help you achieve promotion. On the other hand, maybe your daydream is a world away from your current reality and achieving it will involve retraining, or even going back to school. I am well aware that for many people, pursuing a daydream career seems impossible.

    Getting from A to B when you’ve got bills to pay, a family to provide for, or limited opportunities to undertake further training can seem like an unbridgeable gulf. I know myself to be very privileged when it comes to the opportunities I have had and continue to have, but even though I can see where I want to get to, I struggled to imagine how I might get there. I need the full time wage I currently earn and achieving my dream work-life seemed to require more time and/or money than I have to give.

    I had to acknowledge that if this was something I truly wanted, I would have to be in it for the long haul. I would have to find a way to create small stepping stones to get across that gulf and accept that it might take years to reach my end goal, if I got there at all. So that is what I’m doing.

    I don’t have the answer. I don’t know if I will get there. I’m not even sure exactly what my stepping stones will look like, although some are starting to take form in my mind. But I do know that, whether it works or not, I want to put my energy into trying to create the work-life I want for myself. I want to live by the words of Henry David Thoreau:

    “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

    Have you achieved your dream work-life or ever gone through a career change? What helped you get there? Say hi in the comments and share any pearls of wisdom!

    Happy dreaming.

    Finding Happiness

    Today is International Happiness Day. I have been thinking a lot about happiness recently; I think I am generally a happy sort of person. I have a wonderful life and there are many things in my everyday that make me very happy indeed. I also sometimes feel profoundly unhappy, for no discernible reason, and subsequently make myself feel even more unhappy by berating myself for feeling unhappy in the first place. I am surrounded by happy people, but I am struck by the fluctuations in their happiness too: one of my very dearest friends has recently suffered a blow which is causing her deep unhappiness, whilst another has just experienced what will probably be one of the happiest moments of her life. Happiness is a strange and intangible thing which can both live inside the darkest of times and can dominate whilst unhappiness resides within it.

    I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the many small things that can be little happinesses in themselves and that can contribute to a bigger happiness. I believe these little everyday happinesses are fundamental to our ability to cope when we are faced with unhappy events and moments. I believe that everyday happinesses are different for everyone but that they DO exist for everyone. I encourage you to create a ‘happy list’ of your own, to help you find comfort when it seems there is none. For now, I’ll leave you with a snippet of mine:

    – Watching a puppy chase it’s tail or run to its hearts content.

    – Laughing until you cry and your sides hurt – especially if the thing that made you laugh wasn’t actually that funny…

    – Reading something that speaks directly to your soul.

    – Receiving one of those really great hugs that feels like it’s squeezed all of your brokenness back together and finding that afterwards you feel just a bit stronger than before.

    – Seeing spring flowers begin to emerge.

    – Hearing a certain song that you just can’t stop yourself from singing and dancing along to.

    – Dancing.

    – Singing songs from musicals at the top of your voice.

    – The smell of that particular moisturiser that reminds you of mum and makes you feel like a child again.

    – The taste of risotto that reminds you of dad and makes you feel like a child again.

    – Toast with lots of lurpak, cut up into small squares, because that’s how gran used to make it.

    – Knowing there are people who love you no matter what.

    What are some of your everyday happinesses?

    The Joy of A Moment

    Yesterday, I walked in the spring sunshine with snow swirling round me on a wintry wind. I watched my spaniel companion try to catch snowflakes in her mouth and leap amongst the tussocks with sheer joy and abandon. I had taken my kindle with me because I was so engrossed in my current read (A Thousand Perfect Notes by C G Drews), and so I walked through two worlds, alternately losing myself in the music woven into the words of the story and revelling in the beauty of the snowy, sunny, spring world around me. I had the works of some of my favourite composers playing in my ears, the twining melodies and harmonies lifting me from the inside and somehow heightening the many and varied beauties around me. All these little, everyday things, in which I found such delight, came together, as I reached a small rise at the edge of the field, and I felt a profound moment of joy and peace.

    In the chaos of everyday life, and particularly through the struggles of coping with mental illness, it is so easy to forget what an exquisitely beautiful place the world is, and just how miraculous it is that we exist at all. As the height of that poignant moment passed, and settled into a quiet contentment, I found myself wishing I had a way to catch that peace and carry it with me, a way to hold it inside me somehow and bring it out when I needed it.

    I have a lot of joy in my life. I am exceptionally lucky in my friends and family, my love and livelihood. And yet I sometimes lose myself. I become mired in worry and fear and an unfounded conviction that life is just too difficult and I can’t do it, despite evidence to the contrary. I have come to realise that this is one of the reasons I write – one of the reasons I want to write more: so I can capture those moments of joy and peace, and so hold on to them. So I can capture those moments of panic and fear, and so let them go. Writing has the magical property of allowing me to do both.

    I have recently been practising (albeit sporadically) mindful writing, a concept I discovered through the book ‘The Joy of Mindful Writing’ by Joy Kenward. I have found it invaluable in helping me focus on those small moments and recalling past joys. I have found that the exercises help me feel centred – in a way that other mindful practices have not – and have the dual benefit of getting me to write and getting me to engage in some meditative practice. If you’re looking for a way to combine creativity, particularly writing, with mindfulness, I would highly recommend giving this book a read.

    I really just wanted to write this today as a reminder, both to myself and to anyone who happens to be reading, that there is joy to be found in the everyday, even when life is hard or the world seems dark or you just feel lost. When you notice it, do what you can to catch it and carry it with you.

    Wishing you all a peaceful week.