It is Spring Again!

Photo by Alaric Duan on Unsplash

‘It is spring again. The Earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.’ 

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Today is the first day of Spring, here in Britain. The leaf shoots are just emerging from my apple tree, the winds have quieted, and I thought it would be a good day to reinvigorate my blog.

The last year has been busy for me with both ups and downs. I have been working. I published a couple of books under a pen name just to prove to myself I could do it. I am working on the reception at a local tourist site which opens again for the season next week. My children are all grown up now, and living their own lives, so I thought it was time to spend some focused time on things I want to change about my life in the coming years.

To that end, I have decided that my blog will have a bit of a change of direction.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have spoken with women who are of a certain age – usually aged 35 and over – who think that their life is more or less over. They have given up on any dreams they might have had to focus on their families. And now their children are older they feel lost. They might have tried and failed to make the changes that they want in order to feel fulfilled. They might feel like no matter how hard they try they just can’t seem to make it work. I turned 48 in January and this has been my experience for the past thirteen years. I have swayed between hopeful and hopeless like a never ceasing pendulum, suffering from depression, anxiety, and despair. I just couldn’t see that I was making any real progress.

When I was a child, like most children, I was very creative. I loved to make things. I wrote stories, I made books full of pressed flowers, wrote poetry, I would knit clothes for my soft toys, I painted, coloured, made weird sculptures with straws, sewed misshapen bits of fabric, cooked mud pies in the drain in the garden, kept a diary, read books in all kinds of genres, loved dressing up, pretending, and sang and played to my heart’s content.

At the same time, again like most children, I also had many difficulties. I was abandoned by my alcoholic father and by my stepfather, my mother struggled to bring us up on her own, we had little money, I was bullied at school, I received little love and affection at home, all of which led to being stuck in a destructive cycle of abusive relationships as an adult. My only brother eventually took his own life when he was 24. I retreated further and further inside myself.

Most lives are a mixture of these two sides of the coin. We might say they are good and bad, we might say they are just life and its accompanying challenges. I suppose life would be dull and boring if we didn’t have anything to overcome, nothing to fight for.

For the last thirteen years I have tried to improve my life and overcome the psychological issues that were affecting my mental and physical health. It usually felt like I was standing still or going backwards. Yet there was movement. It was excruciatingly slow, but like a turn in the tide that you can’t really see up close, I can now look back and see that there has been a lot of improvement and lately it seems to be picking up speed.

Over these years, I’ve read blogs, met and been inspired by many women in a similar position. Women who are trying to improve their lives, take care of themselves and their families, and find fulfillment. I’ve noticed too that often women hide huge parts of themselves, perhaps for reasons of privacy or embarrassment or lack of self acceptance. It is usually obvious to me as a reader and empath how cautious and closed many women are. We often present a sanitised, prettier, version of our lives even as we hint at secret suffering. There are parts of my life – failures, stupidity, darkness, ugliness – that I don’t want other people to know about. But I am beginning to realise that it is perhaps these things that most need to be shared. To say, hey, this is me. I am a creative positive useful wise woman, but, at the same time I have all this other messy stuff in me too.

I have also been helped by hundreds of self-help books and articles. I feel I ought to be embarrassed to admit it. This is a much maligned genre. You either love it or hate it. But, for people like me who were damaged as children and who were unable to seek professional help they have been a real lifeline.

So, back to this blog. I have decided to share some of my ongoing experiences in trying to lead a more fulfilling life in overcoming my issues and making the changes that result in a real difference. I hope to continue to rediscover that vibrant playful child I once was. I am going to be as open and honest as I dare. Some of the subjects which I will be covering include creativity, relationships, finding fulfilling work, home life, sexuality, femininity, self-care, psychology, and personal development.

I think we can prove to ourselves and to the wider world that we are never too old to change our lives, to blossom, bloom and find a way to make a difference however small. It is my dream to eventually create a community of like-minded women who can help, encourage, inspire and support each other in our quest to lead more fulfilling lives.

So, I don’t know if anyone is still around here reading blogs. I do hope to reconnect with some past readers, as well as meet new ones.

I wish you all the blessings of spring, or whatever season is turning for you in your part of the world.

Kim xx

Station Eleven ~ Emily St John Mandel

 

This was a book I took to Brighton in the summer. Borrowed from the library after a recommendation from Sarah (read her enchanting blog here).

I’m so glad I chose this to read as it was an engrossing journey from start to finish, though it raised many questions. The story-line follows the events as the world’s population is ravaged by an infectious disease leaving only small groups of survivors to weather the subsequent collapse of civilisation.

The focus is less on the cause and details of this apocalypse than the after-effects and new meanings it brings to relationships between people and to their things. Objects we might give little significance to in our current world, a paperweight perhaps, or a couple of science fiction comics (from which comes the title) take on a whole new value in this irrevocably changed world.

I loved the way the author played with time throughout the novel. It was masterfully done, and I can’t imagine the kind of planning that went into crafting the constant to and fro between the past, present, and future. And also the way a minor character comes to the fore to play a key role at one point in the novel then recedes or disappears again at another point. The most consistently main character is Kirsten. She is a child at the beginning of the novel, acting a small role in a play of Shakespeare’s King Lear. After the apocalypse she joins a travelling group who perform Shakespearean plays and musical entertainment for the small settlements that have evolved out of the dying civilisation.

The author Emily St John Mandel was extremely courageous to attempt such an ambitious tale. It is not a long novel, but it is intricate and daring. At no point did this novel feel like a work of fantasy. This scenario is a real, if very unlikely possibility. Can you imagine a world without electricity or electronic devices; no cars or planes or the vast populations and the complex infrastructures they uphold including the food system, but still knowing what we know? It is horrifying to read about and to imagine, yet there were elements of it that were appealing. Life might not be better, but it is simpler when surviving is all you have to think about.

Inscribed on the front of the caravan in which the travelling group tour from settlement to settlement are the words ‘survival is not sufficient’, a quote from a long forgotten Star Trek episode. What is sufficient? What does make life worth living. What would be worth saving? Despite my sometimes love often hate relationship with technology, computers, the Internet, and mobile phones, like the characters in Station Eleven I know I would miss them. And I know I too would turn to books (I’d be lugging around a suitcase full of ’em), art, poetry, music, dancing and friendship for in these I find meaning in what often feels like a meaningless world.

It was a thought-provoking read and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Berry Weird Weather

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Blackberries

Autumn Leaves

These photos were taken a few weeks ago as the summer turned to Autumn. We’ve been blackberry picking and leaf collecting and appreciating this beautiful time of year.

Today however, it feels like we have gone back to summer. Now it is hot and humid as I sit reading the news about impending ex-hurricane now storm Ophelia. It should not get more than a bit windy where I am in the UK. Poor Ireland is forecast to receive the strongest winds and rain.

Right now here the light is a very strange yellow hue and everything is quite still. There is no birdsong. The humidity is high and I have a summer dress on in mid-October with the windows wide open, while all around me the ground is covered in fallen leaves. I remember the days when you could rely on October to be scarf and gloves and wellies weather. It’s weird to say the least.

If you want a giggle to cheer you up this odd Monday morning the Irish humour over hurricane Ophelia on Twitter is hilarious and had me in stitches.  ‘Always look on the bright side of life’… and take care xx

 

Brave Enough to Say Goodbye

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”

~ Paulo Coelho

Thank you to Fimnora, from Quantum Hermit, for kindly inviting me to take part in a further challenge to post a quote for three consecutive days.

How many of us, I wonder, continue to carry around with us the weight of our past. The people we once knew, old regrets, painful memories, and wishful fantasies of the dreams we ache for. All of this can become a burden. We sink and become smaller under the weight we carry around with us. Lugging this great boulder of distress up every hill it is no wonder we are exhausted most of the time and fall prey to illness and unease.

My past is not who I am. I don’t have to carry around that pain anymore. I can choose to live lighter.

All these people I see, passing me on the street, at the shopping mall, or the supermarket, heads bowed under the strain of their existence, faces sagging under the weight of their suffering:

“The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet black bough”
~ Ezra Pound.

We have got so addicted to our sad stories that we have forgotten how to be free. I want a future not restricted by a me that was hurt, abandoned, addicted, grieving, desperate. That person does not exist anymore. Each minute it is as if we are born anew. Look at the summer rain sliding off the deep green leaves of the geraniums, look at the cat, legs splayed on the carpet leisurely cleaning herself, look at what is happening here right now, because here the past does not exist.

What is it we have been resisting saying goodbye to? To old ways of being, old ways of thinking, old relationships that were not meant for us, old tattered dreams? Perhaps if we can stop carrying all this surplus emotional baggage around with us, well, then there may be room for life to fill us with new and better. I know we cling to the old and familiar stories because they feel comfortable, even though they are heavy and they cause us pain. Moving forward into the new and unknown is scary… but isn’t that what life is all about? Life is continually moving on, an infinite star-dust river moving inexorably onwards. Evolving. you can flow with it or you can get stuck on every boulder and try to swim backwards against the current.

If you would like to take part in the challenge, just post three of your favourite quotes consecutively on your blog and link back so we can all come and read. And do pop along to the Quantum Hermit blog and read some of Fimnora’s wonderful stories. Take care x

Seize This Very Minute

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“Seize this very minute;

What you can do, or dream

you can, begin it;

Boldness has genius, power

and magic in it.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

And my third quote is this one from Goethe. Because it is something I need to be reminded of every day. I think we could all do with being reminded. We have an obligation to follow our dreams and to make them happen. So let us all be brave and bold! 🙂

If you would like to join the challenge just post 3 quotes consecutively on your blog. Thank so much again Jane at Writing and Stuff for inviting me to take part in this challenge, do stop by her blog to see her inspiring words and beautiful photography and art.

x

The Future Depends On How We Treat Our Children

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My second quote in the challenge is this one above from Alice Miller.

It has become a part of our culture, it seems, to habitually humiliate children. I don’t think most people are even aware they are doing it. I know I’ve done it myself in the past.

I see parents slapping their children’s hands away from touching something in a shop; I see restless children ignored and pushed and pulled against their will; told in fierce tones to ‘Be Quiet’, ‘Sit Down’, ‘Sit Still’; punishment pictures put up on social media; I’ve seen screaming struggling children literally dragged into schools, while parents and teachers talk over them as if they were not there; I’ve seen young children shouted at in schools for mixing paint colours and forced to stand alone outside classrooms for the crime of looking out the window. All this and sadly so much more.

There was a time I would get irritated with my children when they interrupted ‘adult’ conversation. I didn’t understand that they just want to be part of our world. They love life. Life is exciting and sometimes they just can’t contain that excitement. Isn’t it wonderful that they are bubbling with zest for life? They want to be seen and heard just like the rest of us. They look up to us. They want to be like us. Maybe we could try being the people they deserve us to be?

If you would like to join the challenge, post 3 quotes consecutively on your blog and if you wish you can nominate others or as I prefer to leave it open for whoever would like to join in.

x

Wildflowers and Hope

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Good Morning to you all 🙂 I am feeling hopeful today.

After my last post I had the most smooth running and productive day ever. Surely that can not just be a coincidence? I have made some new plans that seem to fit better with where I want to go and one of those is to go back and finish my English literature and creative writing degree. I started it in 2010 but had to put it on pause when I began home educating Jay. He has just turned 16, and while we will be continuing with home education for a while longer, I don’t feel I need to invest quite so much time.

Other than that, I have been in the kitchen making sauerkraut and oodles of vegetable paella using this recipe. As well, as long hours in the garden pulling weeds and trying to prevent the courgettes, lettuce and beans from being devoured by the pesky slugs.

I also wanted to join Fimnora at Quantum Hermit for her Monday Music Medicine Show – so sorry for being a bit late. But here is my choice of song for the week – maybe the intro might make a good theme tune?

The No-distraction Challenge

Okay, so I am going to invent this personal challenge to help me to overcome the frustrating habit of frittering my life away. Do you know what I mean? I make plans, set goals and intend with every fibre of my being to work towards them, at least a little every day. But do I? Do I heck! I usually spend the majority of my day responding to minor teenage ‘emergencies’, or baking less than nutritious goodies to eat (but they are delicious), or glued to some film or two, or sorting out paperwork or organising the fridge for the gazillionth time or…

It’s time to stop.

I don’t know about you, but having been blessed with this one beautiful life, I want to cherish it and fill it with the best of me, and make stuff, and help others to the best of my ability. Currently I’m not even coming close.

So, some ideas how I can reorient my focus towards that which I want to do:

  • Get organised. Arrange your life so everything has a system. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ is not anal or controlling, but actually frees you up to live the life you’ve always dreamed of. A system for keeping your house clean and tidy, a system for blogging, a system for creating, a system for meals, a system for work, a system for paperwork etc. and stick to them. It will take time, but you will be better off in the long run.
  • Write lists. But not lists just for the sake of it. Lists that you will actually use. The bullet journal is a fantastic way to plan your day-to-day life.
  • Set a schedule for getting things done. A time for email, a time for browsing, a time for blogging etc. etc. A time for everything.
  • Explore exactly what is important to you. What do you want to achieve? No matter how modest your goals, you do have them. Being in denial and telling yourself you like going with the flow, is really just saying you’re happy to be controlled by circumstance (an excuse for giving in to the fear of using your personal power – and you are powerful!).
  • Set a new year’s resolution – ‘I hereby make this the year of self-discipline’. (Or a half way through the year resolution will do) Set goals and work on your integrity by determining to stick to them.
  • Announcing your plans can help you hold yourself accountable. No matter that you’ve failed in the past. You may fail again, but after that, one day, if you keep going, you will succeed. Blog about your progress, it will inspire others and help keep you motivated and on track.
  • Picture your ideal life. Write yourself a letter describing it. Who do you dream of being? Who would you spend your time with? What work would you be doing? How else would you spend your time? It is fun to dream, and your imagination is a magical tool that cannot work unless you put it to use.
  • Identify your major distractions – for me this is baking, cleaning the fridge and watching films on Netflix. Nothing wrong with any of those things but when I’m not finding the time to do the things that really matter to me, they have become a problem.
  • Identify those things you love that give your life meaning. The kinds of things you will remember when you’re too old and frail to get out of bed. Some ideas: playing with your children, walking by the river, writing that book, learning to draw, planting a garden, starting your own business, volunteering, creating your own recipes or learning new things.
  • Don’t worry if you fail. I often feel like I am taking one step forward and two steps back, but if I get down and disheartened about it that is what will hold me back, not the failing itself. Failure is just an opportunity to correct your course and carry on. Don’t be a wimp.
  • Once you’ve identified your goals, break them up into small manageable tasks to put on your to-do list and take action towards them. Every. Single. Day. Even if it is only one small thing toward your goal, that will give you the momentum you need to get going and keep going. If you fall off the horse get back on again.
  • Know that it is never too late to change your life, no matter what your situation or the events of your past you can make a success of your life. It may not be in the way you at first expect, but you must start on the journey and the way will become clear as you go.

Do you have any more ideas to add to my list. It is not exhaustive, and I appreciate all the help I can get. Here’s to making dreams happen!

Bells and Ribbons

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Once a year, in our nearby town of Chippenham, there is a folk festival. For the late May bank holiday weekend, what seems like the entire folkish population of Britain descends upon this quiet market town and brings it to colourful musical life.

Thousands of costumed ladies and gents camp in the parks and fields around town and regale us with folk dancing in the streets throughout the weekend. Huge marquees appear along the river filled with handmade crafts and gifts, and there is much food and drink consumed along with all the merry-making. A jollier friendlier bunch of people you will never find.

Emily’s 13th birthday fell on the Saturday of the festival weekend this year and we had a lovely day wandering the stalls, eating pizza and cherry cheesecake/toffee fudge ice-cream and marvelling at the dancing and vibrant costumes on show. The weather, for once, was fine, making this the busiest festival that I can remember. It got a little cramped squeezing past thousands of people along a narrow river bank but everyone was in good humour and enjoyed themselves nonetheless.

Wet Weekend

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Well, I think I have finally got rid of the infestation of mites that I have had in the kitchen for the last week. What a relief. Psocids they were I think. Harmless, but barely visible to the naked eye, which made them almost impossible to eradicate. However, I think mission has been accomplished. Phew! Even so I still feel very icky about using anything from the kitchen and have been eyeing everything with a magnifying glass just to make sure!

I have had a strange couple of weeks, not been feeling great, lots of annoying things happening, but I am usually one to look on the positive side. I haven’t been writing or painting much lately, and when I don’t make something on a regular basis I get angsty. It niggles at me all the time… I should be doing this right now… go do it. Do you get that? I should listen to that niggle more.

Today is a very quiet day. Emily is on a sleepover at a friends, Jay is tired from a long bike ride, meals are cooked, laundry and dishes washed so I think I might spend the evening writing and painting. It’s always hard to get started but once I start I never fail to enjoy it. I have been trying and not succeeding very well to impose more of a routine on my life. I am so easily distracted by the activities of my children: looking for lost things, helping with this or that, watching another youtube video that Emily insists I simply must see. Whole days can disappear in this way. I’m not very good with the boundaries on my time. It is nice to be needed but I have trouble with saying no.

On Friday I made apricot and white chocolate flapjack which is an excellent recipe and one I’ll definitely make again, though I didn’t have treacle so used maple syrup instead. Usually when I make flapjack I burn the edges and the whole thing is too chewy, but not this time. 🙂

What else have I been doing? Pottering about in the garden for the odd few minutes between rainstorms; watching that old classic Terms of Endearment which I last saw about 20 years ago. Shirley MacLaine is great in it and there are so many memorable lines. Emma to her young son: “Okay, you’re allowed to say one mean thing to me a year, that’ll do until you’re ten.” I was watching it and thinking, they just don’t put that kind of effort into film-making these days. Maybe they do and I just don’t notice it. But the acting and the script are just so good in that film.

Oh, and I have been reading this book: If You Can Talk, You Can Write, which explains the rather talky blog post today. I still feel awkward writing on my blog and I’m trying to get more relaxed about it. This book helps, I recommend it.

And I think this is a young blackbird that has been hopping merrily about the garden in search of worms.

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