Merry Of Soul

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,

Say, could that lass be I?

Merry of soul she sailed on a day

Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,

Mountains of rain and sun,

All that was good, all that was fair,

All that was me is gone.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,

Say, could that lass be I?

Merry of soul she sailed on a day

Over the sea to Skye.

We’re up in Scotland for a break away from all the building and DIY chaos at home. A little cottage in a little village, nestled in the midst of the Machar peninsula is just the ticket after weeks of plaster dust and builders in the house.

I had the Skye Boat Song (specifically the Outlander theme arrangement) in my head for the whole journey up here.

Scotland and I have a long and beautiful history. Many of my childhood holidays were spent in various Scottish locales and my memories of this beautiful country are filled with joy and wonder. It has always felt like a magical place to me. Even more than that, it somehow feels like home.

I love the wildness of the landscape.

I love the Celtic history, culture and folklore.

I love that it feels like a world away and coming home at the same time.

I’m so happy to discover a new part of Scotland with my love and our happy little pup. It was a fair drive up so for now we’re curling up in our cottage with books and food and nothing to worry about.

Happy Monday and ‘merry of soul’ indeed.

x

In This Moment

Outside my window… the sky stretches wide and blue overhead, streaked with wisps of white. The air is warm and still. The street is quiet. A summer weekday morning lull has settled over the neighbourhood. There is a white butterfly flutter past, stark against the red brick of the house across the road.

I am thinking… that I should probably get on with the work I have to do but I’m enjoying taking a moment to relax so I’m going to ignore that nagging should, just for a little while.

I am thankful… for the school holidays and the opportunities they give me. For the incredible friends and family I have around me. For the opportunities that are presenting themselves and the support from those around me to take them.

In the kitchen… there is currently complete chaos as the whole room is about to be ripped out and rebuilt! That’s the work I should be doing…finishing packing it up…just a little bit more lazy time first.

I am wearing… black treggings and a rust t-shirt – comfy clothes for a mooching round the house kind of day.

I am creating… a novel, a blog series, a collection of poetry and short stories, bookstagram content – so much of my creating these days is in writing form. It feels new and exciting and I love it.

I am going… to get around to packing up the kitchen…really soon…honest…

I am wondering… if I can squeeze a nap in somewhere today.

I am reading… Notes On A Nervous Planet, The Summer That Melted Everything, A Wrinkle In Time, Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince…this list goes on and on.

I am praying for… for calm.

I am hoping… for a smooth kitchen installation over the next couple of weeks.

I am looking forward to… a trip to Gladstone’s library with my mum in a few weeks time.

I am learning… that sometimes we have to accept uncomfortable truths and unpleasant feelings in order to deal with them and move on.

Around the house… it’s all very chaotic! The kitchen is in disarray, the dining room is piled high with boxes containing the new kitchen, the lounge currently has old furniture we’re getting rid of waiting to be collected later today, the main bathroom is tile-less and covered in plaster dust ready for its own makeover…I’m trying to focus on how fabulous it will all be when the work is done.

I am pondering… the direction I want to take.

A favourite quote for today… (I’m cheating and using a whole poem…)

One of my favourite things… is curling up under a blanket with a good book or a good film and forgetting the world for a bit.

A few plans for the rest of the week:

Finish packing up the kitchen.

Take some photos for bookstagram.

Watch some TV.

Read some books.

Nap.

A peek into my day…

This Is My Church

I have had a strange and convoluted relationship with religion. It was not a particularly prominent part of my upbringing; we went to church at Christmas for the carols and that was about it. It was only when I was in my final year of secondary school that I began to give religion and the idea of God any real consideration. I made a friend to whom faith, religion, and a relationship with the divine was very important. She invited me into that world. A place I had never explored or even considered before. I quickly felt it to be my home.

I went from being someone who had always felt a little on the outside, never quite fitting anywhere, to someone who felt warmly accepted, even loved, and who was surrounded by friends. It was a dizzying experience. Being with those people felt so different from what I had grown used to. Don’t get me wrong, I had had friends but I never quite felt like I had found my people, never quite felt like I fit comfortably within my friendships groups. And here, suddenly, I felt a sense of belonging that I don’t think I had even realised I was missing. Not only did I meet a whole host of people who were friendly, welcoming, and interested in me, but they gave me space to ask big questions: questions I didn’t even realise I wanted to ask! A whole new realm of possibility, not just for my own immediate life but for what I knew of the world, opened up before me.

It was exhilarating and I immersed myself in it entirely.

I joined worship groups, I went to church every Sunday – sometimes twice – I spent all my free time with this new group of people, I started reading the bible hungrily, I went to Christian camps and festivals and I volunteered with my local church. I attended regular bible study with the youth group and within a few short months I was preparing for confirmation. When I look back at it now it all seems to have happened so quickly but at the time I was so swept up in the feeling of acceptance, that everything I was doing felt right.

Shortly after this whirlwind introduction to the world of the Christian church I entered a difficult period of my life. I was grateful for the faith I had found because it gave me hope and something to turn to. After an finishing college, a year later than planned, I began my first full time job working for the CofE administrative offices in Manchester. My relationship and involvement with the church had changed, mostly because all my friends had moved away to university and I found that I felt vulnerable attending church without them, but it was still an important part of my life.

I spent the next six years working for the church in different capacities: receptionist, property and finance administrator, and finally Lead Youth Worker for an ecumenical project. Over that time, my perception of and relationship with the church changed a lot, as did my faith. I sadly found that the more involved I became the less welcome and accepted I felt. I found myself increasingly uncomfortable in church services, whatever the denomination, and I had more and more questions and doubts but they were met with far less acceptance than they had been when I was newly discovering the religion.

I would like to clarify, at this point, that some of the best people I have ever known are committed Christians and/or people I met through the church and I am forever grateful for their presence in my life. I met my husband through a church youth group and if it had not been for my foray into faith through this particular path, my life would look very different indeed, and I think I would have been considerably worse off than I am now, in all sorts of ways.

But it reached a point where I felt increasingly uncomfortable in churches and in many Christian circles. I encountered so much hypocrisy, which still saddens and frustrates me greatly because, again, I know the church as a body (or rather as several bodies) to be full of wonderful, good-hearted individuals. And yet that hypocrisy was there and it did not sit well with me at all. I was made, on too many occasions, to feel that my faith was inadequate. That my time for asking questions had passed and I should now accept and believe what the church told me, however ill it sat with my soul.

And I couldn’t continue to do it any more.

So I left.

I left my church related jobs and voluntary positions, I stopped attending services, I had already stopped reading the bible except when necessity dictated and I rarely prayed anymore. I felt a mixture of grief and anger. I felt betrayed, tricked by what seemed like a false sense of security and acceptance laid out before me when I had been vulnerable with a need I didn’t recognise.

I still felt that I had faith. I had had experiences over those years in the church that had convinced me of the existence of something far greater than myself. That unknown and unknowable force that I had felt touch my life did not fit with the God I had been told about but it felt like what I somehow inherently felt God to be, so that is what I call it. I felt like what I had thought was my faith had been stripped bare, taken back to this tiny nugget of something, fragile but full of life and possibility. And I decided to sit with it. To prod it and poke it with questions, to allow myself all the doubts I had been told to deny, and to wait. To give this little thing the time and space to grow.

And grow it did. Into something beautiful and powerful and flexible. Something that grows and changes as I do but that holds me as an anchor. And the church in which this faith has grown? It is the world. My faith has grown in the brilliant summer sun over golden grasses swaying in the wind; in watching the Milky Way wheel over head in countryside far from city lights; in an unexpected downpour that soaks to the skin; in the crescendo of music in a darkened theatre that raises the hair on my arms; in the soft skin and milk smell of the newborn children of friends and family; in the incredible, resilient young people I have had the privilege to work with; in the sunsets and sunrises, in the laughter and the tears, in the hopes and dreams and fears of a life lived fully and to the best of my ability. It has grown in allowing myself the space to know my own mind and recognise when my heart tells me what is right and what is wrong.

It isn’t perfect. But it’s true. This is my church. And truly anyone is welcome here.

Dreaming Seriously

IMG_9352.JPG

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.

Our Own Unexpected Wisdom

img_3901

This past year I have been mentoring a student, meeting with them at least once (often twice or three times) a week, to support them with their studies and help them work through the various stresses and anxieties that were proving to be barriers to confidence and success. It has been an incredibly rewarding process, though stressful at times. It has been a real privilege to watch this young person grow in confidence and find that they do in fact have the strength and resilience to face challenges.

I saw them for the last time this week. Their exams are over and it’s time for the start of the next, exciting chapter of their life. I was honestly a little sad to be saying goodbye. I’ve spent so much time thinking about and worrying over the best ways to support this student, that suddenly not having to do it anymore is a strange feeling – I keep thinking I’m forgetting to do something!

I was really touched, then, when at our final meeting, my lovely mentee presented me with a box of chocolates and a cuddly fox, which she informed me was the next best thing to having a Daemon (we’re both fans of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials). More moving than these thoughtful gifts, though, was the card she gave me alongside them. Inside she had written a lovely thank you message, but the thing that moved me to tears was that she had listed everything she felt I had taught her.

My first thought was: Wow, you were actually listening!

My second was: I didn’t realise I was so wise.

My third was: I could do with remembering some of these for myself…

As I read the list they had written, I felt so happy that they had taken these lessons from me. I also genuinely found myself realising that some of the lessons I had worked so hard to make them hear and learn, I’m really not all that good at paying attention to for myself.

So I’m going to share that list here, in the hopes that I will do better at remembering these lessons myself, and that maybe there’s something here for you as well.

Things I (apparently) managed to teach my mentee and need to remember myself (in their own words):

  • I CAN do things, even though it might seem hard.
  • Things are hard but do get better.
  • To acknowledge my own worth.
  • It’s okay to reach out for help.
  • Other people are allowed to care about me, and do.
  • To be me no matter what everyone else thinks.
  • I am important!
  • To be strong and independent.
  • To do what I want to do.
  • It’s okay not to be okay.
  • To look after myself.
  • To read as many books as I can. (This one I’ve got down…)
  • My anxiety is not me.
  • To be selfish sometimes and that is okay.
  • Stick up for what I believe in.
  • ‘Alot’ is not a word. (Good to know I managed to teach some English in there somewhere!)
  • 5 hours sleep is not enough.
  • Reading always helps. (This I know to be true.)
  • Harry Potter is amazing! (This too!)
  • To have faith.
  • It’s okay to trust people.
  • We are all human and make mistakes.
  • Resilience.
  • Magic can be found in everyday life.
  • To try, even though I might fail.
  • To have a day off sometimes.
  • It’s ‘should have’ not ‘should of’.  (This one is ingrained in my brain from repeating it so many times…)
  • Poetry! (And not just the stuff on the exam!)
  • The Quibbler podcast is amazing! (It is.)
  • Keep reading. (I’m sensing a theme…)
  • Sleep and eat!
  • To keep trying and trying.
  • Change doesn’t happen overnight.
  • It’s okay to show emotions.
  • Sometimes you need a book, a hot chocolate and a cosy blanket. (Most times, really.)
  • Life is going to get exciting.
  • I am not a disappointment.

 

Have you ever discovered you’ve imparted unexpected wisdom? Which bits of your own advice do you find it hard to follow yourself?

A Word For The Year – 2018

IMG_5880.JPG

Another year gone. Another twelve months of highs and lows and everything in-between. The years seem to be flying by ever more rapidly and, as always, there is a strange mixture of excitement and melancholy as one year ends and another begins.

As with the last couple of years, I won’t be making any resolutions but instead I have chosen word that reflects my intentions and hopes for how I will choose to live these next twelve months. Last year, I chose ‘Nourish‘ as my word to live by. I wanted to nourish myself and my relationships with others and, whilst I can’t reasonably claim that I was driven by this unswervingly all year, it was definitely something I came back to repeatedly and it helped me to refocus when life became overwhelming.

This year, my chosen word is ‘Serenity’. This word choice was inspired by the well known and loved Serenity Prayer and so encompasses more than just its inherent meaning.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.”

In choosing ‘Serenity’ to drive my year in 2018 I am actually choosing (or maybe seeking) all the things in the prayer: serenity, acceptance, courage, and wisdom.

Turning 30 in 2017 made me increasingly aware of the many expectations I have, both of myself and others: expectations that are not always reasonable and that can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. I feel the need to continue developing my self awareness, to be able to recognise when I am holding onto things that I need to let go of, and to be brave enough to make a change (or stand up an demand one) when it’s needed.

I’m looking forward to whatever excitement 2018 has to offer and ready for whatever challenges it might bring. I wish you all a happy, healthy, prosperous year.

Whatever The Weather

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur.

We’ve gained a family member in the shape of the most beautiful springer spaniel puppy; I’ve been more poorly than I’ve been in a very, very long time; my less than lovely anxiety beastie has been going a bit haywire, causing me all sorts of exciting issues when it comes to, you know, functioning; an work has been busy, busy, busy and I’m starting to come to know more of the challenges of my new role.

I’m not going to lie, some days have been really, really difficult. Some days it has felt like it is only my skin holding me together. I have felt lost and vulnerable and scared and wondered what on Earth I am going to do.

And then I realise: I’m already doing it.

Difficult though it can be I am doing it. I am getting up every day and, even when I feel anxious and panicky, I am living my life. Even though my proud streak makes me delay longer than I should, I am asking for help when I need it. And through all the hard, horrible, dim, grey days, there is always a little sunshine. There is my wonderful husband who knows just when to hold me quietly and just when to distract me and make me laugh; there is our gorgeous puppy who, even though she can be mischievous and is SUCH hard work, greets us every day with complete adoration and has brought even more love, fun and laughter into our lives; there my fabulous friends, who are always there with a kind word and a hug; there are my incredible colleagues, who are beyond supportive and make my job a joy even on the crappy days; and all my amazing family, whose love, support, wisdom, and understanding is abundant and invaluable.

So this half term week, as I balance rest and relaxation with puppy training and quality time with hubby, I will keep finding that sunshine. I urge you to do the same.

Even the tiniest glimmer is still a light in the dark and I’ve never known a star shine alone.

Here are just a few of my sunshiny stars:

In Turmoil

This morning I woke up in a sudden and unexpected turmoil of doubt. I don’t know where it came from or what exactly I’m going to do to tackle it (6am is just no time to be faced with a sudden realisation of all the things you don’t know -at that time, no one is awake enough to deal with that kind of shit). It already feels like a difficult day but this popped up on my timeline: a beautiful bunch of tulips and a hand made card from the young leaders I trained 4 years ago.


 I still carry this card with me every day. It normally lives tucked in the back of my planner but this morning I got it out and I’m looking at it right now. I have, and have had, so many people in my life to lift me up when I am down and I’m trying to hold on to that right now. 

I might come back and share more about what plagues me at another point (although at the moment that feels more than a little self indulgent and potentially whiny) but for now I just had to acknowledge and thank those people who love, support, and encourage me every day. ❤

A List of Lovely Little Things


It’s been some time since I did an appreciation post for the little things in life but now seems like the perfect time. I’m currently holed up in a beautiful little cottage, just outside Oxford, for a weekend with some of my favourite women in the whole wide world. It’s a quite Saturday morning and all but the baby amongst us (and her mum, I suspect!) are sleeping soundly. I am awake and full of contentment, mulling over all the wonderful little things that make life so lovely. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Conversations with like-minded people.
  • Laughing until you cry and your sides hurt.
  • A real log fire.
  • The quiet stillness of the countryside in the morning.
  • Baby smiles.
  • Baby laughter.
  • Baby cuddles…(there’s a lot of baby worship going on here!)
  • Good books.
  • Good food, especially nibbly finger food.
  • Climbing into a bed made with freshly laundered sheets.
  • Waking up after a good night’s sleep (especially when you don’t have to rush to get up).
  • Knowing it’s the weekend.
  • A message from someone you love.
  • Knowing you’ve done a good job.
  • Learning something new.
  • Helping someone out.
  • Knowing there is so much to look forward to.
  • The smell of fresh flowers.
  • Watching flowers open from bud to bloom.
  • Surprises from friends (or strangers).
  • Realising that you take more joy in life that you ever have before, and feel positive that joy will only increase.

And that’s just a few of the little things making my life lovely right now. 

What little things have you noticed recently that have made you smile and appreciate life just that little bit more?