It’s #TimeToTalk, Now

It’s easy to be too busy

Or say

It’s not the right time

To worry that you’ll make it worse

So you accept their fumbled

“Fine.”

It’s hard to find the moment

For hearing truth

And depth

But really we’re just finding excuses

To keep ourselves

Deaf

To all the pain that gathers

When people can’t speak

Truth

And have to keep it bottled up

For fear of hurting

You

But what happens when you leave it?

When you let the silence

Grow?

What if their pain is your pain too

But not asking means

You’ll never

Know?

So let’s all breathe together

Hold hands and take

A dive

Into conversation

With neighbours

Strangers

Friends

And lovers

Because

Now

Is The Time.

  • JH

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

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It’s #TimeToTalk Coping

Image found here.

This is a post I shared three years ago that I thought was worth re-sharing, with a few tweaks.

I’ve mentioned some little things that can be helpful in coping with bad days. There’s one thing in particular that I have found helps me cope with anxiety and ward off depression. The arts. Any and all.

I love to dance, and beating the hell out of a dance floor can be a real release for pent up negative energy. I always leave dance classes feeling better than when I arrived.

I love to sing. Belting out tunes from my favourite musical or album of the moment is a very cathartic experience. Especially when driving. I’m not sure why. Somehow being in my car I find I can make a lot more of a racket than I would anywhere else.

I love to listen to soothing music. Enya is and always has been my go-to relaxation artist. Not only is her music beautiful, ethereal and calming, but it also has a strong personal connection to my mum. Hearing that music takes me back to being a child when she would help sooth away my nightmares. It helps.

I also love to write and draw and doodle. I journal. I write poetry and stories. I draw patterns and dream-scapes. Focusing on the pen and the page helps me to let everything flow out of me. I recently developed some rules about my journal. I don’t put negative things in there. I still put them down on paper but I get rid of it. I don’t keep it. I don’t want to hold onto that negativity. I used to find that my journals ended up being very negative and I hated that because I never recorded all the tiny good things in my day to day life. This way my mind is redirected towards the positive in my journal and I know I am collecting happiness rather than negativity. I still allow myself to put the negative down on paper but I then have to let it go. Tear it up, screw it up, bin it, burn it. But let it go. This is a very personal choice but I find it works well for me.

How do you cope with negativity in your life?

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

x

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:

While The Wind Howls

Outside the window, rain pummels and thunder rumbles. But in here it is warm and dry and quiet. An autumn medley of our favourite tunes plays softly through the house, and the smell of baking pies envelopes us in mouth-watering warmth. The world seems to settle. Our cosy home is filled with memories and promises; the bricks and mortar we bought have slowly taken on something of ourselves.

With the leaves turning down the street, our door closed against the storm, the tastes and smells of autumn bubbling in the oven, and the music of our happiest times playing through every room, it finally begins to go quiet behind my eyes. The comfort I’ve been missing in my busy days settles over my shoulders and across my brow. In this moment of peace, I am overwhelmed by my blessings and I see the depth of joy in my life.

For some it is adventure in the great wide somewhere that calls and lifts them. To escape to the new and the beauty of the unknown. But for me the greatest adventure has always been in this: in coming home. I cannot help but wonder that in the vastness of the universe, on this beautiful jewel of a planet, floating amongst the stars, there is a place that is so inherently me that it brings silent solace to the chaos of my busy human mind. As if, while the wind howled outside my door, the universe leaned in, wrapped a bubble of quiet warmth around me and whispered ‘this is for you’.

Making My Own Happy New Year


Champagne was popped, glasses raised, fireworks burst, and a chorus of ‘Happy New Year’ waved off 2016 and welcomed 2017 with open arms. A lot of people were glad to see the back of 2016: it was a difficult year for many, in many different ways. It certainly had its up and downs… Whilst there was much that was good for me personally last year, 2016 did not end happily. On 28th December, my family was greatly saddened by the sudden death of my beloved Grandad. He was a remarkable man with a character almost as big as his love for motorbikes, Yorkshire pudding, and, of course, his family. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him, not least because he was the sort of man with whom you couldn’t even have a passing conversation in the pub without him leaving some sort of lasting impression. I have spent the last few days reminiscing with family, sharing stories and going through old photographs. It has been bittersweet at times but I am eternally grateful to be part of such a close, loving, and supportive family.

It would be easy, at this time, to sink into sadness and dwell on our loss. But I do not think that is how he would have wanted us to live and it certainly isn’t how I want to live. I would much rather live and love and laugh in happiness, even though it might be coupled with heartache – Grandad so loved to laugh and his terrible jokes would keep us in chuckles constantly.

With that in mind, I have resolved to make this year a happy one, in spite of some of the sad and difficult times ahead.

I say I have ‘resolved’ this but it is not a New Year’s resolution. It is really more of a choice. A statement of intention. You see, I no longer make New Year’s resolutions – they’re too easy to give up on after week one and only become a source of guilt. Instead, last year I chose a word to inspire the kind of intentional living I wanted to focus on for the year. Last year was ‘adventure’; this year is ‘nourish’. I also set some goals and aspirations that I want to work towards – not the kinds of things I’ll feel bad about if I don’t quite manage, but things that I care about achieving and that will enrich my life. I find this a much more positive process and one that really does stick with me for the whole year. (If you struggle with New Year’s resolutions, I really recommend you try it.)

I chose the word nourish because I sometimes find myself getting overwhelmed, rushed by all the ‘should’s and ‘must’s that bombard us every day. It’s tiring and distressing and unhealthy to feel so much demand from these abstract ideas and expectations. I want to dedicate more time this year to nourishing and growing all aspects of my life to be what I want them to be, not what the media or society or anyone else tells me they should be. And more than that, I want to take more time to enjoy my life and all the wonderful people, opportunities, and ‘things’ I am blessed with.

In keeping with my chosen word for the year, my goals are centred around ‘nourishing’ the things I care about. Whilst the things I care about are many and myriad, my goals are few. In fact, just two:

1) To develop a more regular practice for writing, mindfulness, and self-care, in order to help me manage my anxiety and develop the skills and interests I enjoy.

2) To try to find a more balanced routine for managing our home (I’m terrible for letting chores mount up until I get frustrated and feel overwhelmed by it all), and to declutter to more easily enjoy our lovely home.

Whilst there are many other things I will be investing time and energy in this year, such as spending quality time with friends and family, finishing the decorating we want to do in our house, training for my next (and final!) dance exam etc., I’m hoping these two personal goals will be nourishing for me and, as a result, will enable me to nourish the other areas of my life: family, friends, community, and work.

I had no real idea what I wanted to say when I sat down to write this post, only that I needed to put into words some of what has been buzzing round my head. To express in some concrete way my intention to be happy, and find positivity, even when there is sadness in my life.

Whatever you felt about 2016, whatever position you find yourself in as we begin 2017, I wish you the Happiest of New Years.

How I Fell in Love with Reading

  
Last week I shared the questions we had been asking students at school, to celebrate world book day. I promised you my answers so here they are:

1) What is your first memory of reading?

Honestly, reading has been part of my life since before I can remember. So much so that there isn’t a specific memory that sticks out because reading just was. I have many memories, all blurred together, of reading with my mum, my dad, and my gran, in particular. Bedtime stories were the norm. Morning stories were the norm. Mid-afternoon stories were the norm! 

I remember Mum reading Tubby and Tootsie to me and my brother in the car when were parked up somewhere, early in the morning. Mumhated that book but she still read it with all the enthusiasm necessary to make telling a story an enchanting experience…which is why I asked for it again and again!

I remember sitting with all my cousins, cosied up in the duvet on the big double bed in the spare room at my gran and grandpa’s house, eating toast squares and listening intently as Granny read aloud from The Children of Cherry Tree Farm for the umpteenth time. We all used to imagine what it would be like to have a squirrel for a pet or to meet a wild-man named Tamylan living in the woods nearby. 

I remember Dad reading bedtime stories as he tucked me in for the night. I couldn’t tell you what story, but I can tell you how safe and loved I felt in those moments. Strong hands tucking my duvet in. Deep soothing voice intoning whatever my chosen story was, or speaking of clouds to lull me to sleep.

I have so many precious memories around reading but it wasn’t just the books and the stories I loved, it was the experience of reading with people I loved that made it so special.
2) What is your favourite story?

I don’t think I could answer this question if I tried! I have so many. But I suppose what I love is the story where good wins; where things aren’t perfect but people are happy anyway; where truth is discovered; where corruption is challenged; where evil is overcome; where love is found; where different worlds and times and cultures come alive and dance off the page. My favourite story is the one I can get completely lost in.

3) What book(s) have you read that you think I should read?

This could be a very long list… I’ll give you a few but this is by no means an exhaustive list!!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Harry Potter

His Dark Materials

Jane Eyre

Winnie the Pooh

The Night Circus

Mist Over Pendle

Bird by Bird

To Kill A Mocking Bird

I Capture The Castle

…I’m going to stop now or we’ll be here forever.

4) What book, story or character has changed your life?

(Why did we make these questions so hard?! They’re killing me!!)

Again, I could list so many and for so many different reasons. I’m going to try and restrain myself and just mention 2. Firstly, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a really important story for me because its ideas of difference, identity, and mental health just hit home. Although my personal experiences were nothing like Charlie’s, I could still empathise so much with his character. His story spoke to me. Secondly, Mist Over Pendle as this was the first book that I remember being really enchanted with the language and the crafting of words. I think this is where my appreciation for beautiful writing, not just stories, began.

5) Is there a place you would like to visit, or a journey you would like to go on, based on a book you have read?

Lots probably, but the one that springs to mind is Prague, which I have wanted to visit since reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It just sounds like the most amazing place and I’m dying to see the astronomical clock!

6) How did you fall in love with reading?

I guess my answer to question 1 answers this one too! I fell in love with reading through the love of stories and books my parents and grandparents shared with me. Through the experience of togetherness I had when being read to or read with, I came to love stories for just that: an experience. Through the wide range of stories told to me, and books I was introduced to as a child, I came to love them for the words and the worlds they contained. I continue to fall in love with reading everytime I pick up a book; the look and the feel of the book itself, the smell of the pages, and the enchantment, wisdom, and illusion that unfolds from the letters printed within. (Who knew you could create such beauty from black squiggles on a page?) 

How else can you travel the world and beyond, or see into the minds of great thinkers of the past without leaving the comfort of your home…or even your bed?! Books and stories are such an incredible gift and I thank all the people who have brought, are bringing, and will bring these things into the world. You are truly magicians. 

I’d love to know your own responses to any or all of these questions. Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Happy reading. 😊

 

Spending Time

  
This morning I am having to go into work later than normal, due to a doctors appointment which I couldn’t get outside of working hours. Normally this would mean me having a lie in and enjoying an extra bit of sleep. (I’m very fond of sleep!) Or it would mean me waking up early and worrying about the doctors appointment. However, I decided that instead of having a lie in, and instead of sinking myself in worry, I would get up at my normal time and just enjoy a leisurely morning. Best. Decision. Ever.

It might seem strange (I know it does to me) since we have just had a weekend in which there were two lesiurely mornings when I could have done everything I did today, but there is something different about a leisurely morning before you have to go to work. Somehow that time is more precious. It shouldn’t be, but it is. 

I was able to get up and do half an hour of yoga (something I always say I’m going to do anyway before I realise that I prefer sleeping). I managed to eat breakfast sitting at the table instead of rushing and standing next to the kitchen sink (a small thing but amazing how much of a difference it makes). I could take my time getting ready for work and even painted my nails! 

Even then I had some time left. So I sat and did a little bit of work (funny how productive I felt in the quiet and comfort of my own home) so that my day when I eventually reached work would be well prepared for. I did a little bit of reading and have even managed to write this post for my much-neglected blog.

I ended up with just over 2 hours of ‘free time’ this morning that I don’t normally have and I got so much done. It’s the nicest 2 hours I have spent by myself in a long time. Reaching the end of this time I feel calm, productive, content. I feel a strange sense of achievement. I actually get quite a lot of time to myself; I usually get home from work before my husband and I only work during term time whereas he works full year, so I get a lot of me time during school holidays. It seems, however, that I am not very good at using that time wisely.

It was half term just a week ago. I had a full week to do what I wanted, to rest and recharge and do all the things I always say I wish I had time for. But by the end of that week I didn’t feel rested, I didn’t feel like I’d done the things I wanted to, I didn’t feel like I had spent my time well. Honestly, I felt exhausted. I had somehow spent most of the week rushing and worrying and yet not really doing anything. Then I felt guilty for not doing what I ‘should’ have done. What a waste. 

So what is the problem here? I often say that I don’t have time but in reality I do, I’ve just not figured out how to use it in a way that feels fulfilling. The problem is that because I think I don’t have time, when I do get an hour or so I see as ‘free’ I end up spending the whole time worrying about the things I think I should be doing, or trying to decide which or my pastimes I want to fill that time with: Do I want to read? Write? Draw? Dance? I really should go to the gym. Maybe I could do some exercise at home instead? Yoga? Dance workout? But I really should vacuum. Have we got food in for dinner? I need to go to the shop. I should clean the bathroom first…and then that lovely hour I could have had is gone and nothing  practical or pleasurable is done.

So I am resolving to stop worrying about how I spend my time, and to remind myself that all the time I have is as precious as this morning’s 2 hours.

Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils

  
Oh, hello stranger. Fancy meeting you here! It’s that time of year again, summer is over, first week of the new term is done and I’m back after a summer holiday blog break.

2015 has brought me a truly lovely summer filled with all sorts of exciting things. Here, let me show you…

   
There was sunshine(!) and walks around lovely places. An epic anniversary celebration at the posh picnic concert at Tatton Park. (Being serenaded by the fabulous Hallé orchestra whilst eating fancy food, finished off with fireworks and pomp and circumstance is definitely they way to celebrate!) There was also a traction engine rally at Astley Park! (Yay merry-go-round!)


There were more lovely walks and peaceful places, as well as lots of time with my gorgeous and adorable godson and one of my very best friends.

    
There was a fabulous (albeit exhausting) three day drip to London with hubby and the in-laws in celebration of lovely sister-in-law’s 30th birthday. Lots of fun was had by all, and afterwards, we slept.

 

There was an incredibly exciting trip to Chester Zoo. We saw all sorts of beautiful creatures – my favourite was the red panda!! So cute!
 

There was discovering new places, including a magical fairy den!! There was blackberry picking and canal walking and to finish it all off an absolutely awesome concert featuring Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear and Sufjan Stevens!

Over the course of the holiday it is also possible I may have developed a teensy obsession with Instagram…or more accurately, bookstagram.

Yes, I am now one of those people who takes posey pictures of their books. Yes, I do sometimes feel a little ridiculous whilst setting these shots up. But I regret nothing because LOOK HOW PRETTY!!
   

Ok, so when I say teensy obsession I may have been underplaying it…still no regrets though!

 

I have always found books to be calming; not just to read but to look at and be around. Turns out, looking at pictures of books is equally calming and taking pictures of books is oddly satisfying. It’s my new favourite hobby! I am officially a bookwormdancer.☺️

Another favourite thing to do, that I have done more of over the summer, is to write. Not for blogging or any other purpose but just for the sake of writing. Another very satisfying pastime that I sincerely hope to keep making time for.

And so here we are. September again and whilst a large proportion of my school working friends are mourning the end of the summer, I am secretly cheering inside because, lovely though the summer was, I now get to go back to a job I adore, with people I admire; I get to buy stationery and school supplies (because that’s what you do in September) and most of all it means autumn is coming! *cheers* Bring on the jumpers and scarves and boots and bonfires and hot chocolate and soups! Autumn is the best time of year.

As always, I hope you are well. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils, if only I knew your name and address. Hey, it’s the thought that counts!

What was the best bit of your summer?

What I’ve Been Reading

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I shared, back at the beginning of April, all the lovely books that I had read so far in 2015. I thought it was time for an update. 🙂

I seem to be going through phases at the moment; one week I’ll be reading up a storm and get through 2 or 3 books, the next I won’t even get halfway through one. Whichever state I’ve been in I have still managed to devour a good number of books, all of which I have enjoyed. So here’s the list of my reads from April-July 2015 (in no particular order):

1) The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

2) The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman

3) Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson

4) Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe –  Benjamin Alire Sáenz

5) The Coincidence Authority – John Ironmonger

6) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

7) The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman

8) The Looking Glass Wars  – Frank Beddor

9) All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

10) The Innocent Mage – Karen Miller

11) The Awakened Mage – Karen Miller

12) Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham

13) Earth, Air, Fire and Custard – Tom Holt

14) The Chrysalids – John Wyndham

15) The Soul Trade – E.E. Richardson

16) The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin

17) All That is Solid Melts Into Air – Darragh McKeon

18) The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

19) The Witches – Roald Dahl

20) The Glass Books of The Dream Eaters – Gordon Dahlquist

21) The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

22) Where The Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silversten

23) The Tempest – William Shakespeare

24) DNA – Dennis Kelly

25) Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn

26) Very Good Lives – J.K. Rowling

27)How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

I really did enjoy every single one of these books, however my absolute favourites were The Knife of Never Letting Go, Ella Minnow Pea, Where The Sidewalk Ends, Very Good Lives and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

The Knife of Never Letting Go and Aristotle and Dante both moved me to tears (for completely different reasons) and are both beautifully written books with fantastic characters. Very Good Lives was a super quick read and is full of pearls of wisdom; a real manifesto for first world living in the 21st Century. Where The Sidewalk Ends is just a wonderful collection of Shel Silverston’s poetry and made me smile so much. Ella Minnow Pea is, quite frankly, a work of genius. As well as being a great story it is just incredibly clever.

So there you have it. My reading update for 2015 taking me nicely to 43 books read so far this year. I’m slightly behind the 50 mark I was hoping to have hit but I’ve got a few weeks of summer left to catch myself up and a couple of long haul flights in October should help as well! 🙂

What have you been reading lately?

Happily Thriving

  

Hello, lovely people. It’s been quiet over here recently so I though I would share a little update as to why that is…

When I started this blog it was because I needed something positive to focus on. At the time, although my life for the most part was awesome, I was struggling majorly with anxiety and was in a job that I had wanted for years but which turned out to be too much for me to deal with. I wanted to build something which would shift my focus back to the good stuff and would help me ‘thrive in the chaos’. It was part creative endeavour, part coping mechanism.

I now find myself in a very different place. I am no longer in that job, but in a new one that I never saw myself doing and completely adore now I’m doing it. Go figure. I am allowing myself to be much more settled in my life and therefore able to enjoy the happiness I have been blessed with. Anxiety is still something I have to deal with but it is, thankfully, occasional rather than every day. I don’t need something to focus my mind back on the happy because I’m just there, most of the time.

I can’t tell you how great that feels!

It does mean that I have not been posting as regularly as I intended to, but that’s ok. I had a little moment of guilt when I realised I had let weeks slip by again without even my supposedly ‘regular’ Monday post. Then I realised it didn’t matter. This was always a space for me to share things as and when I wanted or needed. It still is. Maybe one day I’ll start posting more regularly again but right now I’m busy enjoying life and trying new things. I’ve been reading more than I have over the past few years (there will be another what I’ve been reading post coming soon), I’ve been learning new things, doing more crafty stuff (which I have missed!) and I even started playing around with doing some writing. Maybe I’ll share some one day.

For now, thank you for liking, sharing, commenting and following along with my little rambling corner of the internet. I may be quiet but I’m still here. Happily thriving. I hope you are too.

Image found here.