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.

Being Emotionally Honest

This week was Mental Health Awareness Week and all week I’ve been wanting and meaning to write something to share with you, my lovely readers. But I’ve had a funny mental health week and have just not quite been in the right frame of mind. I’ve felt edgy, restless and anxious, as if something is bubbling just under my surface. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.

When anxiety starts to prickle like this, I try to acknowledge the feeling. In the past, I used to work hard to ignore it, or would make myself feel guilty about it, which only made things worse. It has taken a surprising amount of effort to reach a point where I can allow myself to just feel what I feel, without judgement. Like much else in life, there always seem to be ‘should’s and ‘must’s crowding in, making me feel bad about my feelings, wants and needs. But by acknowledging the truth of what I’m feeling, without trying to tell myself I should feel something different, I’m far more able to deal with those emotions. This is true of more than just anxiety.

Emotions are human. And as humans we experience a full spectrum. It’s no good trying to repress what might be seen as ‘negative’ emotions. If you feel angry, be angry; if you feel resentful, be resentful; if you feel sad, be sad. These aren’t necessarily pleasant things to feel but feel them we do. If, when one of these emotions crops up, we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be angry, or we should be grateful, or we have no right to be sad, we are denying some of the truth of ourselves. And the real truth is that you can’t force an emotion away. You can pretend. You can try to bury it in falsehood. But that emotion will still be there and, if you let it, it will fester.

Like a festering wound, a festering emotion can make you very ill indeed. You have to let the ‘bad’ stuff out if you ever want to heal. One of the things that I used to worry about a lot was how my emotions might make other people feel. When something or someone made me angry, I didn’t want to be angry with them in case it upset them, especially if that person was someone I loved, who loved me, and who I knew probably didn’t mean to make me angry. When something or someone made me resentful, I didn’t want to behave resentfully towards them, and when something or someone (or often nothing) made me sad, I didn’t want to show that sadness because I thought my privileged life meant I had no right to be sad. But by being so focused on what other people might feel in response I put myself in some really dark and painful places. And the thing is, allowing yourself to feel what you feel isn’t about rubbing it in someone’s face. You don’t have to take the festering wound and smear it on the person who accidentally gave you a paper cut, or whose success distracted you from what you were doing so you accidentally gave yourself one.

It takes a conscious effort but I will now (most of the time) deal with those emotions in one of two ways: I will acknowledge it out loud or in writing, just to myself; or if it’s really eating at me, I will speak to a friend or family member who is outside the situation and, as honestly as I can, explain what I’m feeling. These acknowledgements are usually prefaced with lots of ‘I know I’m really lucky to have X, Y and Z, BUT…’ or ‘I feel like I’m being a bitch/ungrateful/overreacting, BUT…’. With the effort of being honest about my feelings, to someone else in particular, comes the need to qualify that I know I speak from a place of privilege. The process at the moment is still partly one if seeking approval for what I’m feeling, which I hope to move beyond eventually. But this has been a huge step forward for me because I used to keep everything I considered vaguely negative bottled up inside. I would not allow myself to be imperfect in my emotions. I would not allow myself to be human.

What I have found is that once I have acknowledged whatever it is out loud, I either feel better immediately and am able to move on, or it gets me to a place where I can then address the person/situation with a greater degree of honesty and clarity. My feelings will usually have subsided to a point where I can express them in what feels like a reasonable and healthy way. It’s a work in progress and sometimes it still takes me a while to realise I’m letting something fester, but I can feel the difference this has made to my emotional life.

I’m also getting much better at self-care and making time every most days to check in with myself and have a moment of honesty. Some of my favourite ways to do this are by reading, listening to a podcast, taking photographs, writing and journaling. Here’s what that looks like currently:

Reading:

The Self Care Project by Jayne Hardy

Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Circe by Madeline Millar

(I know, I know, four books at once seems a lot. I always tend to have a lot of books on the go because I’m such a mood reader!)

Listening To:

The Happy Place

The Guilty Feminist

Harry Potter and The Sacred Text

The Quibbler

Made of Human

Photographing:

Books

Nature

My dog!

Writing:

Poetry

Blog posts

A young adult fantasy novel…

Journaling:

Quotes

Doodles

Tracking sleep, mood, steps

Daily gratitude

This Mental Health Awareness Week, and beyond, I encourage you to be emotionally honest with yourself, make the time for self care, and help continue the conversation about mental health, whether online, with friends and family, or even with strangers.

What do you think is important for maintaining mental health?

Wisdom for the Week

Image found here via Pinterest.

Now coming to the end of a busy second week of the new school year, this quote seems very apt! After the luxury of a long holiday it can feel like a bit of a shock to the system when the working days and weeks are flying by and it seems I barely have time to eat and sleep, let alone anything else. But reading is important. Reading teaches us things and reminds us of things we know but might have forgotten. Reading takes us out of ourselves and helps us reflect on ourselves. Reading is an adventure and a quiet space to rest in. So we must make time to read, no matter how busy life gets.

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.

Procrastinating

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I have always been a talented procrastinator. Excelling at putting things off, I am the master of the last minute.

Lately, I seem to have taken my procrastination skills to a new level; I am somehow managing to procrastinate away my free time…

On those occasions when I have the time to sit and read my book, write something, make something, DO something, I seem to fritter away my time with nothingness. I scroll my Facebook and Instagram feeds; I read endless articles about the incompetency of our government (and irritate my social media friends by sharing said articles…); I spend time gathering the notebooks I’m going to write in, the pens I’m going to use, the books and pictures that inspire me…and they sit in a pile next to me whilst I scroll through Twitter and Pinterest…

Something isn’t working. I’m not allowing myself to unplug and do the things that I really want to do.

Part of the problem is this weird sort of anxiety I have about not doing these things well enough. I want to write, but I don’t think my writing is that good. Of course my writing would be better if I just got on and wrote! I want to read but sometimes find that I’m not quite in the mood for *that* book, and I really shouldn’t start a different one, or I know I’m tired and will probably fall asleep after a page. You see reading actually makes my brain relax and stop it’s daily whirring, and when that happens I find it hard not to fall asleep. But if I fall asleep now then I’m not doing all those things I could be doing with this precious free time…

And so the cycle continues.

Letter to Father Christmas

Dear Father Christmas,

For Christmas this year I was wondering if you could add an extra day into the week? Or maybe just an hour or two into each day? I’ve really been quite good and this is a very selfless present to ask for because it would benefit EVERYBODY. Even you. I bet you would like an extra 52 days in the year to check who is naughty and nice, finish building toys or even just to put your feet up for a bit.

I just find there is simply not enough time to get through all the things I want/need to. Here are the things I hoped I’d get through today:
Finish the lesson plans for my intervention week
Collate the resources for said intervention week
Do a food shop
Trip to John Lewis for fairy lights (because it’s always necessary to have move fairy lights)
Cook something nice for tea
Read through the requirements for my portfolio
Read some of my book
Watch something Christmassy with the hubby
Plan tomorrow’s lessons
Do some exercise (since there’s no dancing at the moment.)
Update the (long neglected) blog

If course I had to go to work etc. as well so I managed to do about three of these things in the end. I think you see my point.

So, a bit of extra time stuffed in my stocking this year would be lovely, thank you.

Best Christmassy wishes
J. xx