Ever feel you might be cooking yourself in slowly boiling water without realising you left the cooker on? You shout for help but the people you call can’t hear.?
A hand reaches in. It isn’t who you shouted for, but you feel this pure and honest friendship from someone you least expected. Up you come for air, and the world makes sense again. You just needed somebody to hear you, to matter enough to be rescued.
Because you do matter. We all do. But being your own advocate is so often the hardest job. Often we are so busy hearing our own negative thoughts and conditioned responses in our self deprecating belief system, we forget we might be wrong. Actually, what if, all around you, there are real people bigging you up, believing in you and willing you to succeed?
I often get asked why I don’t just do my art work and have a simpler life, not traipse about with bags of brushes and paint. Simple. How would I ever spend time with the most amazing people if I did that? And how, would inspiration and ideas flow between us all? The gorgeously creative people I meet, inspire me as much as I hope they are inspired; and we are growing a community of friendships as well as creating confident artists. And that is how and why we all keep each other afloat, in our pot of lobster soup, bubbling away and hanging onto the croutons..
But , we all feel abandoned by something sometimes.
Especially when we feel nobody is properly listening.
Especially when our life map has turned into a soap opera.
For ten months my battle with the nhs has raged on, causing much travelling to hospital ( an hour away) over ten times in one month, three stays this year alone and an operation which has taken five yrs. too long. And still it continues. But, as you know, it’s part of our story, and our journey here by the sea. What has been the hardest part of this recent chapter is being heard. New gp’s, a different area, fewer coffee pals! And the sinking feeling of going nowhere with ever decreasing energy.
We all need to be heard, no matter how hard the conversation is. And it might be the most unlikely ally that becomes your rescuer, your friend or your spirit hoist. The big old hand that plucks you from your despair, smashes your boredom or challenges your bravery can be from the most unlikely source and to not feel gratitude would be pretty mad. I am blessed with a cornucopia of fabulous friends, most of whom live nowhere near us. But often the true hero is someone we might never even meet.
One message in particular lifted me at just the right moment with a kind thought or two. True friends are simply people who get what it is you need and give you unconditional love at the exact moment you are breaking into pieces. If you live every contact that way you build your reserves of self worth brick by brick until you feel whole again.
In a world where everyone wants to find a blemish and create the perfect background, why not pause and consider. how one small message or conversation you make time for, can make so much difference to another’s life. Imparting a sense of warmth and belief can then spread to all the people that that person comes into contact with, and that renewed grounding, calms and strengthens others. The butterfly affect. Cheers D.G
As you know, this place, Skye blue house is an ever-changing Ark, on this clifftop and our latest little addition is taking our minds off things somewhat, with his ridiculously cute nature and doe eyes. His name is pumpkin. I might actually be a bit in love.
He is however, making it very difficult to get any work done! Yet another creature to distract in the house of pets and panto rehearsing, paint and peculiarity…But…a very wise friend of mine, Phil said to me once that some of the best artwork created, can be in the cracks between the real things that happen in our lives. When we aren’t looking. The inbetweenie times, when you might be walking through a room and stop for five minutes, while the kettle boils, or scribbling on your napkin in the cafe while you wait for a friend. We can take the pressure off our bossy brains and let the flow back in, if we make every moment an open opportunity rather than a tedious task. These seedlings can turn into great forests. So between clinic appointments and trips to referrals I’ve done some artwork that finally got finished and set up a few new meetings for the community interest company I am building. Letting go of expectation and the imagined voice of criticism, or comparison has paid off.
If things are going pear shaped and the wolf is at the door, prowling and growling we can also allow the energy of the pain we are in, to fuel our creativity in a constructive way. Keeping your hands busy and your heart occupied soothes your mind and gives you your voice. In turn you are a stronger you, ready to take on the world.
Ten minutes here and there, half an hour in front of EastEnders, and lifting the pressure off one perfect piece at once, changes the dynamic of your endeavours to play at your own volume.
There is always something you can do
And It is never going to be quiet enough
So make the most of every opportunity
What you can achieve in short bursts is sometimes an accumulation far greater than one great big plan.
I’m not alone. Women Artists throughout history have struggled with their combined roles as artists and mothers, wives and home makers. Often, we wait until the chores are done and the dinner is made, the kids are clean and in bed, or in school, the real stuff is done, before we allow ourselves the freedom of creating. Because, and I know this because I brought up two stepsons before Leah, made the perfect home, survived a rollercoaster marriage and held a teaching post at the same time; all the while I kept feeding my art in my sketchbooks and journals, on paper and in presents I gave away. I spent a huge chunk of my life, and still do, thinking and caring about other people. (sorry guys, I know there’s a few of you too)
Creating in the zone and turning off the time, the shoulds, the agendas, is utterly liberating and terrifying and wonderful. ( But when fully immersed, one never thinks about the ironing of school shirts or buying chicken feed…)
These pieces have all been completed over the last few weeks, bit by bit in the evenings between cooking tea and bedtime
So we have to learn to grab our tween times with a much passion.. Waiting for the perfect studio, unlimited blank paper and no annoying interruptions.. well, highly unlikely .. ever. But your art and dream can still breathe, grow and find its way, in the gaps of your real life, not instead of it.
It, I, my drawings still existed. The living breathing artwork in you always matters no matter when you let it out, what route you take and how old you are when you finally fold your last pile of laundry
It takes faith in yourself, your abilities here on the planet and the bigger picture you fit into, to jump. from feeding your dream to letting it loose…
It is never going to be better than everyone else. Let it go. let it go.
From here on in we are going to do a monthly diary on this blog page as well as our new seaside community art page blog Sea Sparkle. We hope you can sign into both and spread our ideas and joy!
So, we are now on Instagram as well if you want to say hello on there. Liz at the beach hut. And you can see our groups or Artwork on facebook- Liz at the beach Hut or Sea Sparkle.
Right now I have a panto to help with…. Oh yes I have….
Lots of love and keep creating. Love Liz at the beach Hut. xx
Once upon a time there was a magical garden.. full of real life fairies….who made real life fairy houses and believed in the power of their sparkly imaginations…
Most fairies know that the best magic is somewhere between what we see and what we believe… …
Hiding in the laundry…
Behind the flowers at the fishpond…..
But especially in the magical old hut at the bottom of the garden…
So, despite, every other grown up thinking they were a tiny bit mad.. one big person decided to make a new village slightly closer to home.. just in case any visitors happened to fly by..
After two years of .. er….mishaps.. there were plenty of mosaic pieces to pick from….
So with patient neighbours and a big hammer they began smashing and sorting…
A fairy path was picked out with different stone slabs as well as treasured shells, seaglass, marbles, stones and other magical finds.
A rare and deliciously indulgent zone was entered into, on and off for a few days, in the gaps between children and animals who needed food and attention, and the body parts could relax in a rare moment of heat from the sun.
After a little bit of internet inspiration……
Tiles were covered in broken china, and an initial plan of colours and design attached with waterproof tile adhesive..
Next the tiles were grouted with weatherproof stuff!! And then the village was patched together with areas of fake grass, coloured stones from the garden centre, to make paths and rivers, and painted in places to create pebbles, rocks and grassy banks. The paint used was acrylic and the coloured shed paint stuff used for the garden path. This all took a while to do, but by doing things properly.. getting each section into a seperate colour, texture and knowing what your plan for a design along the way gives a better finish and confuses the fairies a lot less.
There is a beach with fishermen…
These little folks, collected by a well-wisher were donated to The Beach Hut lady last Summer at St Abbs Summer Fayre!
A Circus with animals, optical illusions and a glittery tent. We are sure this becomes a den of iniquity after lights out…xx
There is a Park with trees, picnic tables and a bridge over the path..
A playpark with a pool and fountain, a glittery elf and a ladybird convoy…
A duck-pond with benches and real ducks….
A church, with a green man and fairy gravestones..
Various houses including a shell house and the woodland pixie’s house. Already there are signs of life….
There is a bus to get about in…
And a gate for well meaning non-fairie folk…
And a fairy hill..
The grown ups and small people around here are waiting for visitors -winged or not..
This is a village which will keep on growing.. Night and day xx
A few more details…
Re-painting Aldi fairies !!! , Tiny tiny tables and a bridge for beetles!
For anyone you know, care about, or look after with a pain related illness, a widespread arthritic condition, fibromyalgia, M.E. or similar long term “chronic” symptoms.
Most of us would probably agree on one or two things.
The term chronic is an unhelpful and misleading phrase, which lumps people together who simply have had an illness a long time. Chronic reads tragic, a bit sad and not quite figured out. The n.h.s, due to its inability to treat the whole person, fragments their parts to far flung departments, the more parts going wrong, the more departments acquainting themselves with a version of the person they treat for 30 seconds.
Nobody ever seeing the whole picture and joining up the dots.
When your body doesn’t work it leaves you frustrated, and struggling to know where you slot into a world you could previously easily move about in.
You either sink or swim. And frankly some days the tide is against you.
Pain and immobile joints are exhausting. Being tired and feeling like you have flu, without the runny nose is common feeling, some days rendering you unable to lift limbs or keep awake until teatime. You know it will be different tomorrow, and you hold onto a fluttery butterfly of hope that the pain volume will be back down a bit. Those days are the toughest and might make your person sad. It is also really hard to describe the level of intense pain you have, to anyone who hasn’t felt it themselves. Similarly, if you look relatively ok, being believed and understood can be tricky. If your person has mental health or social anxieties as well, they might struggle to articulate the circle of needs they have and how people around them might help.
Feeling you can’t mange physically can be very isolating. Seldom is there support for the feelings this can create. Whilst we try to create that in a practical way, it is different behind closed doors. Your partner and your children know you so well that they might not notice your day to day changing needs, or have the ability to understand them. Some friends might not see you in six months or a year and can’t be blamed for not knowing your deterioration and escalating needs. Check with your poorly person exactly what they are going through. It is a sure thing they haven’t wanted to bother you with the details.
Illustration depicting a road traffic sign with a pain relief concept. Blue sky background.
You can guarantee your person doesn’t tell you a fraction of the times they are in pain. Not even close. So when they do, the Gods just turned the switch to mega-high and now, they need you to listen.
If they have a you to listen/help/share and support, then they are really really lucky.
It is incredibly hard for your once independent loved one to ask for help. Nobody likes to feel they can’t be superhuman. But being human can sometimes feel like an enormous struggle too. If they ask you to help it might have taken a lot of biting back of their dignity and sense of self. Be kind and don’t stick an arrow over their heads reminding them of what a big favour you’re doing.
Please don’t make your person feel guilty if they can’t make an arrangement, climb a hill, drive to a venue, stay awake past eight pm, or in my case sometimes even get from my car to the school door. Some days our bodies are letting us down badly, and to feel we somehow let down other people because of it, is a load too heavy to carry. ( Especially on crutches!)
Hands, hips, knees, spine.. Every day can be a lottery, especially when it gets cold and damp. I am time limited with painting, to the sunny days and months.
If your loved one uses a wheelchair, it can be a whole other set of issues. Being looked down on can feel like you are being ignored or bypassed when decisions are made. In crowds it is really hard to be pushed slowly like you have lost your va-va-voom and watch life zoom past you. Be aware of your friend or partner if they sometimes need help to get around, it can make them feel less than the person they used to be and humiliated to ask for support.
Having to ask repeatedly for help is really tough. You kind of need someone to know, and not to dramatise it. If you can help someone, just be a subtle superhero.
Without good support, I have seen people stop asking for help, creep slowly into their shells and stay there. In winter, when pain gets worse and bodies play hard ball, this can lead to people becoming terribly isolated and introverted. Then depression hits and you know how hard this can then be, impacting on health even more.
If the person has a carer, especially if it is a younger person, they are connected in a way you might find hard to understand. Little things are big things to a person who can’t bend/walk/stand for long/use their grip or put their own shoes on. Quite rightly that carer needs support and their own space, but your friend will have a gap in their abilities to achieve certain things that they are used to getting help with, if that carer is away for a while. It might take much longer for example to get dressed, get the pets walked and fed or clean their shared home. The carer too has massively mixed feelings about their charge. Whilst carers can get a break, the guilt/co-dependence and shared care people have in their micro universe is tricky to unpick.
Your friend will simply be grateful you still see them as them, without the chipped away bits, the essence of who they were before disease or illness struck.
For someone in pain, everyday activities they used to take for granted are like mountains and therefore it is incredibly important to respect how they still keep themselves tidy/organised and want to do normal stuff. And achieve their creativity or work.
For example. It will be painful and arduous to Hoover carpets, get to the back of a bath or under toilets, under kids beds to clean out the mouldy plates. It will be very hard to carry laundry, sometimes carrying food to dinner tables, making beds or doing up buttons and opening jars. Any help is good help, as long as the assistant doesn’t make their mate feel guilty or that they need to ask. My best friend just grabs things off me and organises my fridge. Another put my entire post barbecue leftovers in Tupperware, housed all the cushions in the bunker, folded the chairs and stashed the wine bottles in the recycling. All tasks which would have taken the most part of a day to unpick.. She did it in twenty minutes whilst ordering me to drink tea.
Your person is probably over compensating in some ways, because they can’t do other things. Let them. It’s their way. And their gift. Sometimes they might not say the thing they wanted to, or ‘be’ the person they hoped they would be that day. All a person in pain and illness wants, is to be treated with respect and to be quietly supported. If and when they can show their love back, it is almost certainly with utter gratitude and a deep deep relief that they have you in their life.
To my friends now and in the future, thank you. I am very lucky to have you, and (most days!) my small person is my absolute rock. Creating an environment which welcomes folk in need of a bit colourful distraction is the start of our journey. I wanted to share this as I am in the position of both being and supporting disability in different ways. In the act of helping in whatever way we can helps us too, and makes us choose gratitude over giving in.
See you soon. Look after yourself and each other xxx
There is a feeling of inadequacy in certain circles if you aren’t going at a rate of knots and cramming as many experiences and selfies in as you can , you aren’t doing life properly .
On holiday in Spain recently, madam and I watched as Montserrat was viewed , not in awe through the eyes and ears of its spectators , but through a couple of thousand phone lenses . In the cathedral chapel , a precious choir of Angelic boy’s voices , who only sing for a few moments per day in solemn and beautiful prayer was drowned out in clicks and buzzes as the stretched out arms of selfie sticks , rose above the crowds to ‘capture ‘the magic .
Once sated, the crowd , en- masse, shuffled into each other to escape , whilst the singing was still continuing, and began queuing for their next picture … to kiss a statue .
It’s true .
There were very few who were actually really there .
So it made me think about how we have to be more than tourists in our lives . There are moments everywhere to be appreciated and knock us out in wonder, to balance out the worst (in most… ) situations, if we look hard enough: and trust in something bigger than ourselves .
Some of you will know that my small person can struggle with certain emotions, as a young carer and just generally .. !!! I recently posted this on my fb page :
………So today I was at my at my wits end.. a strop from madam , whilst I was in the wheelchair , her refusing to move … lashing out at the wheels , quite quite horrible and embarrassing , at a sacred site in the rain …😫… oh dear … but ….. tonight 💕an elderly Irish man came up to us at dinner and said .. I just wanted to tell you both how amazing , and brave and inspiring you are. ( he got a kiss ) and a little faith and equilibrium was restored . When the chips are down , even if one person sees things, and your loved ones the way you can … well .. that’s enough for me ♥️♥️♥️ xxx
I posted this, not to receive the ..(very, very appreciated !!) comments, but to remind myself that I had substance still. I was more than the sum of my legs in a wheelchair or on crutches, and wasn’t an ‘imperfect’ parent because I couldn’t do what other parents (look like) they can do. And to notice that moment and celebrate it. I may never see that man again, but his kindness will stay with us always.
I had got us to Spain for heaven’s sake and up a mountain in a cable car . Maybe the disco would have to wait until I get some new joints, but there is always a way to have fun.
We stayed to hear the choir, whilst being bumped and jostled . It was incredible .
Fruit is clearly made for making faces.. and at home we watch as our starling feeds his wife and babies at our kitchen window ( and someone else’s babies too I think ! )
And we will carry on noticing when nice things are happening under our noses .
You are lucky . You might not know why yet . In an art class recently one of my wonderful group was making a word picture . I asked him to think of his favourite person . I wasn’t expecting it to be me. I was humbled that the couple of hours given to my group had netted me that honour. Every day someone might see you in that way.
Remembering that you might be the only person someone sees today and something you say to them might wake them from their doldrums or turn their world on its axis .. simply by you noticing them ..it’s a powerful reason to notice your own good qualities and the small but wonderful things only you can do .
Many of our community classes love to see their artwork on line and celebrated on our Facebook pages . It is lovely to see finished projects and pull together a series of finished art projects .
But sometimes people and classes need to be quiet.
Contemplative……………, of the moment and about the moment …………. Some days photos aren’t needed. Some days the process and the company is enough, and provides a safe and assured space to just be . Some artwork never goes on the wall .
It’s enough to be fully in a moment and record that moment it in a way that will stay in your heart – in whatever makes the most sense to you. I love a good selfie, and you know I am attached to my camera like a third arm! But for us, they capture more than a pose … Our pictures capture all the patch-worked fragments of the magic we couldn’t paint / photograph or write about at that time. And when we see those pictures they will come with a soundtrack and a sensory record of what daft conversations or creative experiments we were in the middle of.
Share everything you feel you want to, never let it feel repetitive, but most importantly, slow each precious moment down to a snails pace for future joyous repeat performances.
Every day I feel the need to apologise for something or other.. Usually for reasons I have conjured up from my perception of other people’s feelings..
No idea why!! But We ALL do it..
It’s human, and so so tedious!! We spend our lives being good parents, friends, work colleagues and children, and most of us strive to do good in the world. Yet, somehow, all the wonderful, creative, kind, selfless things have bypassed our self -back -patting buttons and our focus crashes into… the slightly odd conversation with the distracted friend we met..(Must be our fault), the letter we haven’t written yet, the cupcakes the school expect, the dust not swished, the family feud not resolved..
Negative voices get in the way of a peaceful existence. That’s a little bit of a waste of precious head space.
In my work as community artist and in mental health, I have seen firsthand how quickly negative self talk can destroy our abilities to function, let alone create. We can literally paralyse ourselves.
The creative process works best when our brains are free to explore and intuit, rather than stiffly attempting to produce under the harsh scrutiny of our own, or another’s glare.
For most of us, this inner critic began in the classroom when we decided at five or six that we couldn’t draw, and this belief became conditioned in us from an early age. We were then categorized in school and out into bands or grades, creating was about ‘having-to’ draw like a photograph or else you were rubbish at art.
It is wonderful to be able to draw, and to acquire the patience, dexterity and focus to copy a photograph. But not everybody can do that.
It is clever to be clever and intellectual and have such great ideas that corporations pay huge amounts for concepts and installations.. But rarely do artists make livings producing and sustaining these works, and not everybody understands (or chooses to) understand them… There is a lot of Art out there….
There is a feeling surrounding ‘making’ that it is an exclusive domain of the already talented. However, Being at peace, Creating Art and learning craft skills are not mutually exclusive. They are all very much interlinked and they are your tools to learning how to communicate a, to yourself and b, to those around you.
Play first!! What our groups focus on is what young children do. To understand materials and explore the potential without judgement or (and most importantly) without expectation of an end result. Letting the therapeutic experience of being amongst friendly people of different backgrounds, building confidence and leaving judgement and worries at the door.. Lets the creative genie in. And then anything might happen. There is teaching. There are exemplars and inspirations to follow if you want to. But it’s a choice and a starting point.
The blank sheet of paper metaphor for life is the stumbling point for so many creative and inspiring adventures we could take. Guilt for more worthy things instead, fear for not being good enough flank either side of our poor little brains.. Then we think…”What’s the point.”
Easier to dust…..
Except, you don’t make friends by dusting, or chat through the feelings you’re going through or learn something you might actually love doing and benefit from .
The first creative endeavors you twiddle with when you start exploring are never going to set the world on fire.. Who cares! Starting somewhere is the important part of the journey. I still have feelings of guilt every time I step into my studio. But here what I’ve learnt. Those feelings are normal, and ok because it means I care about the people in my life and I have a conscience. However…
What about… If you Feel the guilt and do it anyway….
I now know; that everyone in my life who matters and who has stayed with us on our journey/met us on the way understands that we (mini me and I) are as we are. Juggling disability/single-mumdom and life in the wilds/childhood traumas/village life and days where limbs don’t work. ……They know that our hearts are firmly on our sleeves, and we value our extended family of friends to the moon and back, so lapsed contact is usually for a good reason. I am getting better at sitting still occasionally, and not giving all my time/money/stuff away. Actually not leaving my artwork until I am too knackered to give it the attention it deserves; because I am realising that a guilt free, better-rested me, is able to ultimately create more authentically, and connect more deeply.
It is so worth challenging those guilty feelings and asking why and who makes you feel that way?
TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER… It is ok not to be glued to the demands of replying to other people by email or message. They chose to communicate at that moment.. You choose when/if you want to reply. Pick a time that suits to do that stuff and have a list, or you’ll get lost in technology land.
It is so so easy to get trapped inside your house. Even for the most confident person, self talk will flood in and take over. It is ok to be anxious after illness, but getting to a creative and easy going space will do wonders for your heart. SPEAK TO SOMEONE YOU FIND INTERESTING AND COMPLIMENT THEM. Immediately you are not defenceless, you are powerfully giving, and can save the world with your loveliness…Have no expectation other than to keep breathing…
TRY SOMETHING YOU FEEL DRAWN TO, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE ELSE SAYS; There is a nagging thing in your head that you know you want to do. Do you really want to be wishing you’d tried in twenty years? If it’s your parent’s voice telling you not to.. (That’s a whole other post) but it’s their guilt/ fear and anxt they’ve passed to you… Feel the guilt and do it anyway, then stop feeling bad because ….nothing bad will happen (there are exceptions to this obviously… but I am assuming I have a certain calibre of audience!!)
Nobody has it perfect before they start.. If you wait until it all comes together before you step outside/breathe life into that project or plant that space… the day will keep magically getting further away. When we put our house up for sale last year, it sold in a week, we had 12 weeks to move a lifetime of home/teaching possessions , buy a house, ( we didn’t know where,) find the money for a mortgage and I wasn’t working as I had retired from my teaching job. I was literally winging it….It took an enormous amount of belief..
I felt a bit guilty. I had visions of having to saw my crutches in half to fit in the cardboard box I was certain me, my child, our dog and two cats would be living in!!
But I also had a massive amount of faith in it being ok. And it was in the end through sheer grit that we sunk everything into getting here and making it happen! Our friends are thankfully now able to visit an actual house and not a cardboard box, and one by one the have-to’s and musts are being zapped to make room for want-to’s and love-doings… I’ll post updated pictures next time. If you can think it… anything is possible. Pop the guilt balloon. Come and play. Share what makes you tick, and you might surprise everyone, not least yourself.