The light around here has been incredible recently.
As I Flip through Facebook posts recently, I have loved to see the many walks my friends take and the things they see along the way, things that my legs don’t get to. Some of these things I saw before my body stopped playing, some I may get to one day if I win the lottery, and some of them I will never see. All of the above are ok with me.
We can travel the world to see the most glorious of sites. We can trek up mountains to see a new perspective we yearn for. Potential and adventure is wonderful. But if limitations are set, it doesn’t mean that life has to be less stimulating.
If circumstances change the rules, as they have for everybody at the moment, our fun radar has to look closer for things to appreciate. And for inspiration.
I got asked by a woman over the phone, filling in a medical form how many buses I could walk. ( length of) without stopping, and with sticks .. If you’ve never tried answering that one give it a go. I can walk 2 buses.
But, walk two buses, take a photo or two and then walk a couple more. You can get somewhere, or to your car, and then a little further… And then moments as incredible as any rare truffle are waiting. If your deely boppers are on.
And if that has to suffice until surgery or vaccinations happen it is a start.
The new normal looks different for everyone!
For some the routine has stayed reassuringly familiar ……..
And others of the more active variety have been growing like weeds…
And art has been created in the spaces created like little yawns in the day… where children or animals are sleeping, eating or otherwise occupied .
Next year will be a big birthday for me, and although I could probably still get asked for i.d without make up, due to being partly of the faery variety 😉 It will mean that, including teaching in America at 20, I will have been teaching art for 30 years. It has been a rollercoaster, not least for health reasons. But always the best part, the only part that mattered was giving something to kids that they did not have before.
My first teaching job was in a tough school. some of the kids (and staff) were hard work, and I was going to work full time whilst looking after two young stepsons and a big house. I was keen and sparkly, but at the time, was being knocked in more ways than one, both at home and at work.
Now I think that girl was amazing. Then, I taught my socks off in a blur. I didn’t know what the kids saw. But I knew I gave them everything because I always will. And I loved their inspiration as much as creating with them. Eventually the politics of that post got too much. So I moved schools. Before arthritis got the better of me and I taught in high school for 18 years.
Out of the blue last week, I received a message on facebook from a great big bearded man, who I didn’t recognise. The picture showed him on his wedding day. He just wanted me to know, he said, that I had been an amazing teacher. That he still remembered what I taught him 20 years ago, and that he still tells his niece about being taught art by me. How incredible. This was not something this man needed to do, or gained anything by doing. But I did. And how lovely to gift those words to someone years after they knew you. In a time where our identities are in question because we can’t be fully ourselves, always speak kind words when you think them.
Thankyou to the wonderful Mickey. Keep doing those little things, especially in your own home. The universe and your wife will thank you! I know I do.,
This poem was written for all of you who take the time to read this, for your heart and for your own self care.
In amongst the day to day routine keep an eye out for flashes of colour, a chances to reflect on the details when the bigger picture get too overwhelming. Savour every colour. They are only for you.
Children and seasons will change, so will this situation. For a long time my mantra has been to keep going. Clichéd maybe, but sometimes it is all you can do to put one foot in front of another.
Or one bus
Something today matters for a reason you don’t even know yet.
I am so proud of my groups, friends and some of the community helping one another to stay positive. To see artwork, share your Ideas or experiences with us.. go to facebook, liz at the beach hut and sea sparkle.
One day last week I found a pair of new knickers hiding in the drawer. Saving themselves for an occasion worthy of their debut. For a fleeting moment I almost put them back and then didn’t. And all day, because of my discovery , it felt like I was wearing diamonds..
Often we keep our finest indulgences for such times that we feel they are more deserving than right now. And we create subliminal rules for our hoard. -A magical time in the future, when the perfect us will appreciate and deserve luxury, and step into the limelight to a roar of wolf-whistles…
Our nicest clothes, our best cups and saucers, our Christmas toiletry sets , indulgent hobbies we will do- one -day- when -we- have- time: even friends we promise we will catch up with one of these days -all are placed in a box marked future.
Precious, abstract , future bubbles…… Thing is, such perfect time capsules do not exist; because the tides of life just keep sucking us back, against the shore of good old fashioned normality and remind us what and who we are, and what else is in the flotsam..
There is no perfect . Whether in your longed for acceptance of self image, in the mysteries of your family , your crazy circle of friends, or the situation we are all in right now and how that impacts on the immediate world you had.. A lot of our choices are out of our control because they are too enormous. But what we can do, is choose some of the smaller things to keep or lose.
We have our bodies, in all their states of health and shapes and sizes and the choice in how to dress and celebrate them..For many of us, our clothes have become a uniform; whether through comfort, suitability for lifestyle or because they don’t suit us as we change in age or outlook. But sometimes, we simply forget what is under the pile, always choosing to skim from the top. It can be amazing to find what we used to love, or how good a well worn garment feels on your skin
Every day comes with its surprises at the moment. Today, bumping into an old friend was literally overwhelming and so poignant and lovely. Neither of us could speak but the silence was crammed with a thousand words which we both understood. I know it will keep me going on days when I hear no voices other than a pup and a grumpy pre-teen. So much emotion in those few seconds, and an elixir of wellbeing, much needed.
The now is all about seeing what is under the surface and try to still hear the music
Keeping good clothing and never wearing it is like advertising lunch for critters and a bit like keeping a freshly made loaf of bread and waiting two days for the first slice. Sometimes at the back of our cupboards, are gems that are perfect now. that still fit, that are desperate for daylight
Because, come the time to use your perfect China, the cracks may have appeared in more than just the saucers. You should eat well, off the nicest plates and savour each morsel.
Take yourself on a picnic while the sun shines and your legs work.
Bear and I discovered that was just what the doctor ordered, when the day was dragging and my hands hurt too much to keep drawing. Ginger beer and a fresh socially distanced prawn sandwich , a few doggie hugs by the harbour, and a chat with a lovely old couple, and the sun came out literally and metaphorically .
Things are losing their importance more than ever. We can’t ease our stress with travel, or quick fixes. Internally we are battling with a fight -or- flight response versus the desire to sink -into- the -sofa- with- a- cushion- over -our- ears. Anything written about being in the moment might sound cheesy, but it really is the most important defence mechanism in your arsenal. Our Stuff should be enjoyed, have a place to be stored properly or shared with others. Loved or left go. We are living through a time where our values are changing, our perspectives are distorted like looking through a glass.
Stand still and see what is right there as your own personal gifts.
Children and animals teach us to live in the moment
This strange and frightening pandemic is creating huge uncertainty. And causing everyone different concerns, and fears. Not knowing what will happen in this story is becoming frighteningly familiar now. It is understandable that we feel angry or sad. The loss of the contact with others, pleasurable activities, financial security, freedom to choose, is a grieving process. But because it is ambiguous, there is no finality, we can’t put anything to rest.
To deal with Life right now, it is essential to limit the time spent catastrophizing on what may or may not happen. Things change all the time. including the rules on what can or can’t be done. As these things are out of our control, all we have is what we can do for our immediate world and , find the magic of everyday life, whenever we can. This doesn’t mean we don’t care, it means we care enough to keep going.
Don’t save your Sunday best for Sunday
We didn’t know how lucky we were before. All those adventures kept for the future that are now much harder to plan for..
Life has stopped going in a straight line, and is more like a plate of spaghetti with more twists and turns than Sherlock Holmes. So now, more than ever, we have run out of excuses to save our best for a rainy day. Today’s rainy day is merrily chucking it down and we have little choice but to get out and get our feet wet. The time is literally now.
Treat your self like you would want to be treated at the best hotel (In place of actually getting to one). If you were manager what would you say about a room with crumpled clothes or toppling boxes , and its effect on your customer’s well-being?
My clear out has begun in earnest with a huge clear out of paper teaching resources and old paints etc. Teaching creatively is changing and hanging on to paper teaching resources is becoming harder. Most people I work with have their own equipment and we are on regular zooms.
However, There is no danger of us ever becoming minimalist
Just let’s be more organised hoarders!!
Let’s chuck out old drainpipe Trousers, which will never go over our bottoms again, outdated slogan t shirts, most things with acrylic on the label, anything not loved, useful as hell or utterly fabulous or worth a mint ( ha ha) books we will never read, shoes that are too tight or too boring, broken things, things that should get fixed but never will… All got to go.
Let’s make do and mend a bit more
Things require attention and the more you have the more time they take up. It is far more rewarding to spend time fuelling a pet or a skill than a shopping habit. And slightly less waste disposal.
Personally of late I have had this constant feeling that I’ve forgotten something. Has anyone else felt that the lists we had whittled down to a fine art before, have gone out of the window, and even the days of the week are confusing now !!
The simple fact is, most of the normal, planned activities, groups and connections are on hold.. So the requirement is to just be. And it is the hardest thing in the world to step away from the conditioned responses we have to our feelings and our desires. Our guilt to please the people we have already created a link with, on our journeys so far. To move away from should and towards couldif you want to, that takes courage. We are so conditioned to our structures, our ways and our safety nets, and feedback from other people. These responses validate us. If you have stopped working, you might be losing more than just a wage. People around you every day remind you you’re still alive. Now you have to do that for yourself.
This virus has changed things in strange ways. With far more emphasis on your own personal wellbeing, you will be able to potentially reach out your new found skills and resourcefulness like ripples in a pool into your future. Right now, tread water, steady your breathing and clear your mind as well as your cupboards. Swimming alone is scary, but opens up a whole new peaceful horizon .
Time to take the arm bands off
We are a resourceful lot. Perhaps finding out for the first time what exactly we are made of. What still fits and what we’ve grown out of . Or who.
Are there people around you who you expected to be in contact with and who have disappeared? Is the new world looking a little lonely?
It has surprised and bewildered me how the playing field looks right now Some players in the game have walked away, off the pitch or are sitting on the bench. Some have moved to another team altogether. But I know the team that we have now are the ones we are blessed to have. And those that have gone before, have been important chapters in our story.
Perhaps it takes a pandemic to know who you’re tribe really is. Who has phoned you recently? Responded to your Facebook posts, asked you on a zoom date, left soup at your door? Sometimes we need to let go of the old Christmas card list and be aware of who is showing up now. With an open mind and a willingness to see the glass half full, you might be surprised.
To simply be, ok with your quirky bits, immersed in your own ideas, is your permission to be positive while the world does what it does. Whether blending in…
Or standing out…
Most people yearn for a different version of themselves in some way. It is what advertisers rely on and the diet industry swells its coffers with. But as necessity overrides luxury, it gives us a chance to see what we already have, and what , if anything, we really need. Under current circumstances, enjoying ourselves feels a bit sinful, but in actual fact, with limited access to the network of well-being services at your disposal, support groups, social groups and shops! there is no better time than now to stop being so self critical and celebrate the details of the unique collection of things we already have.
A friend of mine never ceases to amaze me with her self nurture skills. She meticulously plans out her outfits , and in particular a fabulous pair of shoes , does her hair and make up and is a catwalk dream. Only, her audience is a zoom group , and in her day to day life, she is struggling with several medical and psychological issues. She hardly leaves her house. On our zooms, she chats from her bed.
It would be so easy for all of us to give up trying. Instead; giving yourself a few small moments of fabulousness will become an intrinsic part of the you going on your journey recorded for future generations as the hero you are. .
In the absence of a network or a way of life which gives you compliments, you must make your own..
We can’t know what this story will become . We aren’t used to not getting what we need quickly. Our seasonal adjustment disorder has gone wonky, with virtually no normality to Summer (apart from the changeable weather) It is tricky to feel grounded by the things which made us feel safe before…
This of course is different for everyone. But at the same time, is exactly the same for everyone. We need things in our peripheral vision that give us hope. If nobody else can do that for you, you owe it to yourself to grab your best knickers, and stop over thinking. The only way to make sense of the biggest things is to go into battle with a steady hand, and good pants. Surrounding yourself with what you alone love.
You know who you are, what you can do, and what you’ve always wanted to do . Now, there’s slightly less reason to worry what anyone else thinks of that. And make it happen.
Trust your gut
Consuming and then having to find space for more and more things is a distracting cycle. And somehow doesn’t feel important any more.
The diva, her pal and I went on a road trip at the weekend. We went shopping for a couple of gifts for various birthdays before the rules state we can’t drive more than five miles again, we had treats in food places certain to leave us sugar tongued and bloated . Delicious. I sat in the cafe while the girls looked in the shop next door . Every second of it was special. Already in the country, there are places where people are not able to do this. Already it is getting closer that an going an hour away could become a universe.
There was an intensity to the day. The Starbucks was a minefield of masks and form filling, door codes and queue stickers… The atmosphere wasn’t condusive to staying a long time, food given out in paper bags, no listening to jazz or wiling away the hours on a laptop with a cappucino.
But still, the sun was warm on my face through the window. I wrote this to you. My coffee tasted delicious and my cinnamon roll felt devilish and doughy and stuffed a gap in more. than just my hungry belly I wore trousers I should have worn on the beach. A dress bought for a holiday, twice cancelled. Thankfully it still fitted.! Small blessings. Good job Starbucks is so far away.! It is more important than ever to make things count wherever we can from our knickers to impromptu picnics on the park, as the girls did with their pizza and chips on the swings last night. Packed into paper bags like Deli food. Memories are cemented by fun versions of the usual stuff..
There is a feeling in the air that these normal experiences are not to be taken for granted. We ate lunch out and dragged bags and weary bodies into the car, grateful, tired and very aware that this wasn’t going to be repeated for a while.
Entering an Autumn cautiously and feeling grateful, we are mindful of the difficulties that these experiences are now attached to. Having looked forward to our trip, I have to say we are equally pleased to be safe at home. Find new pants if you feel a bit pants; the maddest pants you can find and flounce in them like there’s no tomorrow. Even if nobody ever sees them. Before your knees go.
If things don’t fit today, don’t wait until they do. A pile of things in your peripheral vision waiting for when you are smaller, healthier, fitter just gives you a headache.. Charity shop or dump them.
If like me you have a degenerative condition, or something affecting your immunity, time is always your nemesis.
Covid or no covid, there are rhythms to your day and year which affect how little or how much you can get achieved, with a body that won’t play nice. Sometimes it feels like a race to complete as much as possible on a sunny day, with the clock ticking on the seasons and the unpredictable weather. Flare- ups and immobility go hand in hand with the cold. So having less stuff that requires attention is important.
Although here at Skye Blue House, life will never be minimal
Finding ways to minimise tasks or get help with hard to do jobs is essential too. I am at the moment, indebted to my new gardener, chopping and cutting things my hands won’t manage, and many offers of doggie walks with Bear. This virus doesn’t get dibs on being resilient- ask anyone with arthritis!Go on.. Put on your best hat on. The winds of change might blow away everything away tomorrow….
but then instead, let your hair go free
The future you will buy new clothes, meet new faces, learn different skills. and be eternally grateful you held your nerve right now whilst looking fabulous. The future is an unstable ground to build a plan on. But it will still be there hazily greeting the morning sun. The irony is, the more you make of this moment, and it’s set of limitations, the wider your path will eventually be.
This painting was recently finished for Mum. After my Stepdad passed away. It is a fantasy place of lots of different bits of Greek islands they went to. Although she knows she can’t go back, it will take her there with him whenever she sees it. It, like everything we need to do now was achieved bit by bit, until it was complete. With painful joints, a final outcome was the top of a mountain I knew was there beyond the clouds. And yes, swearing is fine too.
Stay safe and keep your dreams fed and alive. Style it out and trust what you already know
What we don’t hear, we make up. What other folk don’t tell us, we tell ourselves. The human brain is like a empty pool. We can clear it out, and make it shine , but sooner or later it gets filled right up again with stinky old rain water, slime and frogs… read self destructive old ways of thinking, slimey left brain doubtfulness and the clammer of not only poisonous frogs, but a whole pond of unwanted dirge. Especially if you can’t vent your issues in the pub just now..
Unless you say nice things to those closest and to yourself.
Unless you become your own personal pool cleaning system…
How will your kids, friend, neighbour know you love the way they wear their hair, that you think they have a kind heart, that their gentle spirit is uplifting and makes you feel calm to be around. What if nobody ever told us that the lines on our faces outline our best features and illustrate our unique stories ?
Kindness, compliments and praise are contagious. and practicing gets easier, the more you do it. So if you are able to offer up your feelings of awe, love, inspiration to someone, they will take that gift, feel better in themselves and share it . Turn the mirror round.
Some things need to be said to those you care about. ‘You are doing brilliantly, you look amazing, your creativity is awesome, I love you.’
The gaps where we wait to hear those things are like chasms in a time where a lot of people are on their own… And no contact makes those things even harder not to hear.
Say them. Say them a lot. Our childhoods in the 70s and 80s were huge voids of things not said… our schooldays were chock full of compliments we never heard from teachers. Many people I know now as adults were never told how good they were at their art and were never able to nurture their unique style.
Let use this time to start saying what we mean. And stop saying mean things. Let’s forget about the digs, the critics, the gaps where love should have been. If someone hasn’t told you the thing you long to hear.. you have permission to say it to yourself, and to mean it.
Rules to live by
Stop watching other people. The worst thing you can do is to compare yourself to someone else at the moment. People are all interpreting the current rules and their acknowledgement of them, in a different way. Your life is as meaningful as theirs. Just cherish your routine in every way you can. Anyone being unkind or unfair is throwing their fears at you. Don’t play ball in this particular game.
Stop thinking that there is a magical vat of advice that will make things better or easier in a magazine, video or app. Nobody has the answers except for you, for you. Look closer to your instincts and your skills. I had a pile of magazines that I subscribe to, next to the bath. I kept meaning to read them. You know how it is. you never quite get round to those nice things you promise yourself once the chores are done.
And then you finally have all these hours to fill …. And suddenly, you read all these magazines, with the advice you had waited so long to absorb.
And you read and you think. It’s all the same advice. Everything you should say to yourself but don’t. We already know a lot of the best ways to self care. But, I know, and you know we also like the pictures.. and the smell of new magazines! .
We have the skills and the intuition and the fundamental stoicism to get through anything. If we look to what we learnt so far, in life, but also in this strange, twilight time; remember what our grandma taught us.
Stop imagining the image that others have of you. People will think what people will think. Who cares? You cannot control others opinion of you, so why bother? It always strikes me as strange that anyone has the time to think about anyone else’s existence. Isn’t it better to put our energies into our own camp?
Stop getting rid of things. Charity shops are going to be seriously inundated. Who knows where or how we will shop in future? Just keep your stuff! Change it up. Add bits, decorate stuff, put it in a zip-lock bag marked ‘when I’m a size 10’. This saves you buying it when the stress of all this turns you into one x
Stop eating in ways that hurt you.
By now, there aren’t excuses for eating the foods that make your body hurt. But it can be tricky to maintain an allergy free, virtuous diet when you have less money coming in, or significantly diminished places to shop. Vary what you eat, and use your instincts for what you need rather than a generic diet plan. Better to have a few treats during these times than deny yourself followed by overdoing it.
Forgive or forget . (Others) Sometimes in hard times, we all assume people who are not in contact are too busy , or the mind fills in the answers to our questions by telling us negative stories about where relationships are at. Truth is, mostly they are exactly the same. Dealing with the day to day has scuppered some of the usual communication channels.
More often than not, those who have cared, still do. So if the absence is mutually felt, someone has to make that connection, maybe it could be you. Except, occasionally, there is a feeling you can’t shake. Listen to those few times the relationship expiry date is up. You deserve to be treasured.
Make use of what you have now . Trying to get any work done whilst schooling your child is like splitting yourself down the middle. As soooo many of you will know at the moment. So don’t. Find your gaps to create at other times, and be present for the time you are having together. This won’t be for long. Mine is growing before my eyes. And yes, is nearly as tall as me. We still need to be us as well as parents though. I carve a netflix and drawing session first thing into the day. Our whatsapp groups have followed with their own art based on weekly ideas and mini tutorials.
Make use of who you are now and like who that is. Someone said to me the other day, that we were so lucky, he and I, not being too affected by all this. It is impossible for anyone to know that for you. Frankly, we are all affected. And it isn’t always obvious what the fallout is. If your network isn’t there for you, be one for someone else. Be one for yourself and speak up if you need help.
Trust your instincts . A blog post in itself. Use it for purchasing impulse stuff. Are you ever going to use that bargain mini cupcake making machine from the middle aisle of your supermarket? If things aren’t being used in the home now, they probably won’t ever be!
Turn off the internet and shouty tv. Most of the important news information can be sourced directly and succinctly on a sensible web page. That way, you can hear the birds at the same time.
Don’t believe your inner critic, who probably has waited for a time like this to haunt you good and proper . He or she is the little voice that commands you to be more, do more, feel less, speak differently, wear different clothes, stop expressing yourself, or indeed express yourself more because that’s what is expected.
Sometimes it’s hard enough fighting your own battles, without feeling the pressure to jump into someone else’s fight. It doesn’t mean you agree with the person who started the thread..
Eat the frog first. Great life rule… Please don’t eat an actual frog. but the point is, you get the biggest, hardest task achieved before you settle into the more comfortable routines of the day. Get all the irritating things which take time done while you are awake for example first thing…., and at the same time. For example, chop all the fruit and veg for humans, animals, all the meals in a day at once in the morning. Don’t re-visit the same job over and over. The boring bit of the day can already mostly done by nine in the morning. Then you can focus on projects, government approved dog walking and shouting a conversation over the fence…
Make a plan of meals while you unpack the shopping. This saves thinking about meals all week, and stops you forgetting what you bought . My daughter says, it is now like we have a strange round the world restaurant.
Treat your house like someone else is having you to visit. How would they make it feel for you? Today for the 90th day I will still put my make up on, light incense, brush crumbs off the sofa, make my bed and wear perfume. In the absence of outside you got to be your own deli, your own independent cinema, spa and source of soul food.
Learn to be ok with being ok. And it takes time to be ok with that. For our whole lives, it feels that we aren’t meant to feel happiness in times of trouble, or until we have earnt it. Right now, who feels they have earned a good night in? or a glass of wine, time to potter in the garden, or an online spending spree on ebay, or even just to soak in the bath and feel relaxed.? We are so used so doing these things as a reward for hard work, we were in danger of waiting until we were 90 to ever use that bath oil. The thing is, life doesn’t work like that. Take it from someone who knows. I was going to climb mountains after my divorce.. but my bones had other plans. The time is now to be you. Enjoy your health. Enjoy your surroundings. If it helps, pair up all your socks first.
Supporting a cause and a campaign is worthwhile and we like to feel part of a wider tribe. It can be reassuring to feel less alone, reassurance that what we feel is justified, and heightens our life experience. Many people jump, and keep jumping onto the next headline however, and often online platforms are filled with the extremities of our rage and sorrow and anger. There is a pressure to paint a rainbow. And painting rainbows is wonderful. But you should wear your own colours with style, not squeeze your colours from the tube.
To be thought of by others is a gift. But I wonder if a lack of comment on particular issues makes us seem uninterested in them? I, like many just choose not to get into the current debates. Because I work with people who are vulnerable, there are certain things I choose not to discuss.
What we say, do and give should be authentically us. And only what we feel comfortable sharing. It is more important to learn what we can from our experiences, and teach those skills on, than to dwell on the negatives of the past, or immerse in how unfair life is.
Good friends have empathy and compassion. Anyone saying ‘me too‘, every time you speak, might need to hear a little better.
Some things are better not said. Or just not shouted about all the time.
Facebook or Instagram pictures are wonderful for sharing the edited highlights which show no matter what life throws at you; you can choose a positive recall on some of the tough times.
Because what you do at the point of being asked how you are, is to find a few things you are grateful for. When writing your diary, listing a few things which sum up the best parts of the day paints a picture which starts to become positive. Sticking pictures of images which make your soul glow, even just celebrating somewhere that you see every day. Soon these images become your memories.. It sounds cheesy, but be grateful. Tell people what is good. Tell yourself what is good. Stop and look at the day.
The things that hurt, make you curl up in pain, stop you being who you want to be, whether there’s a pandemic or not, are still there. They still hurt. They still stop you in your tracks, make you sad, angry, frustrated, make you stupid tired, lonely, scared. ….
But they don’t define you. You’re not your pain. You’re not the way you feel about what is going on in the world. It isn’t obligatory to tell strangers your political views, your top ten records or holiday destinations fifteen days in a row. You are your smile, your laughter lines, your wonky fabulous view of the world, the snapshots that conjure up little moments of magic, the traits that your friends love. And those things are what your kids and friends see in you.
All else is fluff.
Hold on. You got this, and you are so much stronger than your inner voice thinks. Eat your greens, sleep long, breathe deep, love deeper, laugh at the random thoughts of small people, create lovely things and celebrate all parts of you. Loving what you have around you, doesn’t stop you wanting more from the future. It just means stepping into it with grace and dignity.
Yesterday in the middle of our government approved dog walk around the block, I saw something quite out of this world. My daughter had already raced off home, bored of the slow pace, and I was left watching the horizon.
I watched in awe, as ten, playful dolphins, danced and swirled around each other in a huge circle, leaping clear out of the water, time and time again. It was mesmerising. Yet I was alone to see it and my daughter had disappeared. Guess who had no camera that day too! In all the time we have been here, I had missed every sighting of every sea creature, every time!!
In these magical moments, our eyes are our camera and we absorb each moment more intensely as it presents itself for us. We do this so that we can both remember it and tell someone else. As somebody who loves to take photos, it was all the more special to capture a rare and beautiful memory and savour it for the usual desperate scouring of the sea’s riches. Then my neighbour appeared, and socially distant, we stood together watching and oohing and ahhing. Somehow, an experience is more real when shared.
Human beings need to share. For so many of us, there is thread of intimacy missing in our days right now, little shared experiences over cups of tea, a hug with a friend, knowing how people are getting on, planning local events, marking moments with others.
And there will be people reading this, agreeing that some folk overshare their lives, their dramas and their intimate details, especially in times of internet tourism. It can be very difficult to work out who the real person is underneath layers of posts and ideals, designer personality traits and public expressions of extreme emoji filled emotion..
We all act out of love or fear most of the time. And if someone is annoying you, think about what either you or they might be scared about. Extreme emotions are mirrors reflecting only our true selves. So we had better like who we see above the bathroom sink.
The small daily creations we achieve must be marked and seen in some way. In recent weeks, our issue with schoolwork was magnified because there was nobody to show it to. A convoluted method of downloading 52 pieces of maths, english and art onto a memory stick, posting it to the teacher, was worth it for her feedback.
Because humans need to be seen, heard, celebrated, liked. The tiny precious moments that most people take for granted, all day every day in families and in relationships, are possibly harder to capture and share now. Especially if (like mine) your family aren’t online! Thank goodness for the daily gratitude and love from fur and feathers.
Perhaps right now you might be experiencing a little of this frustration. are you having amazing ideas, but have nobody to tell them to? Are you making delicious meals, but have nobody to eat them with? Is your inner critic making you uncertain about your daily choices? Now is the time to give it that voice a boot. It is thoroughly understandable to have extreme versions of your emotions right now. Feel them. Just don’t believe the ones that sound like your horrible old aunt that never liked you. Treat yourself like another person would treat you, a person that loves you like the sun shines out of your bahooky.
Part of recording and sharing our photographs, is sharing the amazement and joy we feel . Instinctively as humans when something wonderful happens we crave a soul to bounce it off. If you are surrounded by family, mirroring each other’s experiences in a positive way, and sharing over the family whatsapp, you are very fortunate . It is very rare! Now, more than ever, our tribes are scattered, and our shared experiences are online, in letters, in conversations. I was quite touched that my mum said she would write in her diary, 500 miles away, that I saw dolphins. For the few minutes I was describing them, she saw them too.
This situation is making us draw on self resilience and for some people, there isn’t anyone there. We have only the reserves we have bottled on sunny days. Keep opening those jars. It doesn’t ever run out.
My friend Lorna is an inspiration to us all. Throughout a lonely lockdown, she has carried on baking for her own film nights, and has given herself the permission to still experience celebration, even though she is alone. Our shopping too is centered around food these days, and saving on petrol, choosing certain smaller food supermarkets, that feel safer, has enabled a restaurant menu at Liz and Leahs! One of the nicest things has been to share meals that would otherwise have been lost. Leah has become very creative in the kitchen with an egg- egg salad, french toast, scrambled eggs.. and her favourite lockdown thing she says is soup for lunch on cold days, at the table. We have even managed a couple of meals outside.
My gratitude for our network has been enormous recently. We are very much alone here, a long way from family and long term friendships have been tested by distance and disability. We have an incredible online circle but as many of you will now understand, it isn’t quite the same as sitting on the sofa laughing at the tv. together. In recent weeks, this has been even harder on a very personal level.
This week, after a short battle with cancer, we lost my stepfather Dave . For a few weeks before it happened, we knew what was coming, and we were a long way away. We had to watch from the side, while life did what life will do. A few people knew, but facebook doesn’t hug you. And when you and I and all the other parents Aunties, Uncles, grandparents out there are managing a daily survival routine, you don’t crumble, you can’t crumble. Even though you want to.
When the time came for him to be at peace, the distance from relatives got so much bigger. So many of you will be reading this and understanding the pain of separation from loved ones, in times of both joy and sorrow.
When we are really sad, when life happens, it is essential to let your loved ones know you are there. Grief and sadness, flooding memories and feelings of pain and anger will course through at different times for each person. Nobody will know the exact right thing to say. Or when you’ll need it most. That’s ok. If you are feeling overwhelming sadness , tell someone this; that all you need is for them to sit in your bucket with you. When pain, or fear or any emotion which has gripped your brave heart is overpowering; you don’t need to be told how wonderful life is outside the bucket.
You will come back to yourself soon enough. What you really need is someone in your bucket with you. Just being there in the water.
Lorna reminded me of those chads we used to draw in the 80s. peering over walls, peering out from under duvets, over buckets.
Grief has to be sat in sometimes, to feel the loss of someone dear, and the pain of the unfairness of it all. People that love you do so for all your rollercoaster emotions, powerful, beautiful, funny, strange, colourful and they know that you already see the world beyond your bucket. And being under a cloud for a while will only make the rainbow brighter.
Human beings need to be. It is a reflective time for us all, and we will have times of great sadness and great comfort. Don’t judge each other. The switch on your phone or the tv is there for a reason. Feel what is the right thing to do in your heart. And most importantly, don’t judge yourself.
Too many others will do that for you! In recent months and weeks the money put aside from art classes (£5 A week!) and any sales; to build a space for helping others was taken from our kitchen. And the grass I had grown from seed into a lush green carpet for the fairy garden, has been sprayed by someone with weed killer. We have been tested. But we aren’t giving up on anything that we believe in. The abundance of creativity and hugs will just burst out some other way. We hope the person who does these things can see it might feel brave doing these things, but it took a lot more courage escaping our former life to build this one.
We have carried on being and doing. Drawing, playing, watching the magnificence around us and waiting until such times as we can hug those we love.
For those of you who read this, consider yourself an essential part of our family. We always have space around our virtual table. Let’s hope it’s not too long until its a real one ! For those of you who commented on our facebook page this week, Thankyou. xx That meant a lot xx
From our hearts to yours, keep filling your buckets. Liz and Leah xx
Sometimes life stops you in your tracks. But sometimes it’s a handy way to look at the view while the lights are on red. To take a moment to see who you are listening to. Is it your own wisdom, the intuition you were born with or the mumblings of other voices ?. Everything we do comes from a source of love or fear, and the option you have is choose to absorb only those who want to share the former.
It can take a long time to unravel the conditioning of a lifetime’s habits, a familial pattern, a marriage, a community belief system. But if a structure starts to jar, and prevent your creativity shining through, perhaps it’s time to regroup. Close your head to the noise everywhere around you. Break life down to its component parts and change, if change is what you seek, one breath, step, or thought at a time.
When we moved to a tiny place to start over, I made deliberate choices to simplify things financially and pressure wise. It isn’t easy to do this and it is a hard thing on your own. But at every junction, a new skill or resource, friend or doorway appeared when we least expected them to, and there was always enough. (That isn’t to say things haven’t been a challenge.) but there were very few moments to doubt that there should be trust in the bigger picture. And our abilities to navigate life’s ‘B’ roads.
This was us three years ago today. Before building our new home here by the sea.
You look back at things you do sometimes and wonder. How did I get here? How did I manage that? The house was only on the market one week. generally the best things we do in life are things that happen through a sense of pure will and determination, perseverance and intuition that it is simply what has to be done. We get our heads down and get on with it. finding a drive fuelled by a belly fire.
The night before News Years Eve our favourite place to stay told us last minute they had a cancellation. Already nearly ready for bed, we were at the time struggling to get a 2nd hand charity- shop games console to speak with and work on the TV. It was driving us both a bit doolally. Out of nowhere a text arrived from the b and b . It was a lifeline out of the doldrums, an injection of adventure we both needed. The house suddenly became a mad frenzy of hovering, packing, sorting out animals and arranging the details with neighbours..
We made it happen in a couple of hours and more that, nothing dreadful happened because it wasn’t in the plan. Sometimes the plan appears to be no plan. But we know deep down, there’s been a plan all along.
But I believe there is more to it than that. Looking out of the window at the garden, it’s so hard to believe that there will ever be blossoming plants and grass that never stops growing. It happens like magic. Just as our kids grow… And keep growing and changing, non matter how much we keep a snapshot of their baby faces on the mantle piece.
What we do with the time and resources we have then becomes a matter of not only trust but personal intuition. Right now, she’s cleaning her room, but she doesn’t know she’s doing it. My girl is ‘looking through’ some old toys, and thoroughly enjoying the process of re discovering, memories and finding lost treasure. There is singing, that’s a good sign.
Making a creative – being go from a to b, in a straight line can cause huge stress, and disarm their natural instinct to tweek, nibble at, shuffle around and sidelong glance at a project before jumping in ; And almost put out the fire of passion before it has begun. These spectrum based qualities can become clearer once labels start being given, especially when diagnosed with various types of autism. But this can take years. We know instinctively if our children need more variety in their learning, or a work better with a hat on, or sitting on the floor.
How many times a day do you rebel against yourself? Or someone else? This time of year, with the pressure of change and renewal , being better, living better, morphing into a new version of the old creaky us, can create lists of to do which hang heavy. The thing is, these lists aren’t created out of badness, their heart is in the right place. For instance, making new crafts, eating better, finding new love, clearing out the garage…its just.. all good, its just.. a big old excuse always comes up . We will always as humans want to do the opposite of what we tell ourselves we should.
Its actually not the worst thing we can do. Making excuses, being a little bit different to the expectation makes it far more likely to find a way of living, loving and being that is really you. I Was the kid in school dreaming out of the window of running across the fields out of he window, wearing nothing but a tutu and a huge straw hat.
In order to get the most out of ourselves we need to feel we are cheekily being slightly bad at the same time. Life should definitely not feel like we are colouring by numbers. Dry January should surely wait until such months as we are outside enjoying the spring sunshine (not needing a warm fire and moonshine)
I could have been only seen as a dreamer, But somehow, the gaps between the dreaming, when no-one was looking enabled productivity and studying. Squirreling away multiple projects and coursework at once until such times as a ta dah moment was needed. Reading through a leaflet for the village hall fair competition I came across recently, I was gobsmacked at hw many prizes one child could win with a few sticks of corn, potato printing and plasticine ‘Morph’ people in a shoe box.
And when at college I after bashing away at a project all morning in a flurry of paper and sticky back plastic, I was told by a student teacher , that the ‘mess’ was not the outcome of a perfectionist , as I was explaining I was; I took great delight in finally showing her the finished sparkling object.
Nobody should judge your process. And your process is special to you. No matter what it is you are trying to acheive. I am finding more and more that with arthritis in my hands, the limit for specific tasks is short.. So working with that, I might paint one area of a picture, and then using a different technique ( and hand movement) maybe work on something which doesn’t need a pincer movement! In a way working within your health restrictions, creates a different way of thinking and maybe new skils to try.
In reality this looks like various random piles of things. To paint a whole wall in one go is too painful, so there is some paraphernalia waiting to be completed in the hall.. slowly but steadily getting its Spring facelift. Many ideas have late have hatched little design chicks in Skye blue House. Some are harder to make than others, so need a blast of energy and a rest, some need passion and a breathing space from their grip and some are old friends which can be tinkered with and finished between the crafty imps of art which tear but fill your heart. 😊
Such is the tug and the drama and the pain of needing a physical body to make what we crave. Almost every activity needs some physical dexterity . But not finding it easy doesn’t mean stopping altogether
It is so easy to forget who we truly are. Especially if illness or fatigue creep in, when then destination we work to reach seems to get further away. Just like a never ending horror hotel corridor. Your tropical beach will I promise await you.. perhaps you just have a few things to organise first. But if you can see yourself there, you’ll be there. With an extra large tequila sunrise in your hand.
A strange things happens when people see you happy, especially when we shouldn’t be . When the odds look like they are stacked against you, but you strive anyway..Distracting your pain or temporary immobility with your permanent rose coloured specs. You will notice that your life becomes a story book..Witches and trolls will thwart your progress and joy. (banished as they are to their own lands of permanent misery) and their barbed comments will chip off your varnish . If you let them.
Forgetting to trust the process which has got you this far safely and creatively. lowers your resilience, stops you making, opens up your heart to hurtful jealous noise and ultimately proves your doubters right. If you start to see the creative unfinished processes waiting to be completed as shabby, you let other people’s negativity, pour doubt on your story.
Its not shabby. Its Shabby chic.
Having questions and consistently being aware is good. Seeing yourself through the judgement of others isn’t. Be grateful for this negativity though. Because it reminds you how much we can all do to use our obstacles as reasons to push further on our journey.
Bits fall off, bits gets broken. bits stop working. You can still be seen. Find the right people, find your process, find your passion and a way of showing it. If weeks and months have to go by with piles of half finished work waiting for warm weather, more money, finding your muse.. ITS OK..
For me, I have found that I have to creep up on finished tasks, by doing several at once. this not only gives an element of variety to the job, but stops it feeling like one huge mountain. If you can get past the ‘one- thing -at -a time- rule’ which is drummed into us from an early age, it can be liberating to challenge several tasks into bite size chunks, until they all get done. Its what we do in daily life anyway, why not throw in a few things that we love too? Stir your pot of homemade soup while listening to a story tape, paint a strip of wall every day until you finish the whole house, keep chipping away at your beautiful ideas and keep them alive.
And never stop believing that your instinct is 100% right and what you must do ..
Because, if you don’t, who else will ?
At our most taxing time, a time when I was literally frozen by fear, and by another’s control, I did the following. Every time I had an idea, a dream, a sketch of a plan to make a new life, I drew it and put it in an old carpet bag. I thought of the bag as a kind dragon that I had to keep feeding. Pop the morsel of trust and instinct in its mouth and it would keep growing.
This kernel of knowing you have it in you, is what keeps you safe, creative and moving forward. Every aspect of our home and the life we have now has come alive from seedlings in that bag. The big friendly dragon is more likely now to be a chicken or a soppy collie, cat or guinea pig. But even they have their own self affirmations in their bedrooms…
Stay cosy and warm, especially if you live somewhere cooler! and use the time to gather resources, potter, paint and plant those seeds.
No matter what your background, culture or situation, you might respond with an impact filled emotion to these amazing buildings, which could go one of two ways! Certainly, you would imagine that anyone creative enough to build their life outside of the flatpack universe, must have a certain amount of strength, energy and help to achieve such a lot of work.
If you wear bright colours, you paint your face, your sticks, your house, ..or around here …your path; you may find that you are seen as not really being that unwell . Can you hear your own doubting public !! ? You hear many things when you don’t always look unwell. That’s ok.. It is a choice to make. to not look ill. When a condition begins to darken the edges of your ability to manage normally, you either give in, or you let yourself be the real you. Trying to repeatedly prove to anyone you are actually unwell, is another level of frustration you don’t need. Wear a badge, hold up a placard but find the bit inside that still exists as the rainbow you.
Some people choose to wear their faces like this… let them…
Even medical professionals struggle to understand how someone can really be in pain, but still move enough to do positive things for themselves, and especially continue to do things for other people. In fact, often serious conditions are masked and overlooked when you have another chronic one that you are coping with over a long period of time. It used to make me sad, or angry or frustrated. Now I realise, that they are all part of a big wheel of never ending paperwork, and you aren’t that important, unless you make it your business to be. Quietly, calmly and consistently. And continuing to feel valued and worthwhile helps stop you sinking into that feeling of non existence !!
The reality is, you can get more done when you ARE feeling worse sometimes; especially if you know you won’t always be able to . You get things done despite your pain, not because you don’t actually have pain. You have no choice. For short bursts you can achieve amazing things.
A knowledge of your limitations creates a determination to push them further. Eek out a tiny bit more energy and drive until the job is done, even if it takes all night, or ten minutes every day. You tell yourself you can do it.
You stop thinking one negative opinion matters, you remember all the people cheering you on and offering their stories and admiration in return, or telling you how you inspired them to do similar.
You figure out and stick to the things you need to make life work- warmth, adapting your environment, lots of light, human touch, avoiding toxic people and food and spending time with delicious versions of both.
You keep your vision clear in your mind and don’t waver.
You stop telling yourself you are a fraud for being wonderful with a disability, a mental health issue, being in a wheelchair blah blah. And worrying that someone will catch you enjoying yourself and tip you out into the gutter.
You take up the offers of help you felt too proud to take up, and realise you would do the same for your friends in a heartbeat. And definitely will again one day.
You look around and ask yourself whether you are 100 % in this version of you, even if it isn’t gong to be permanent. Which means having only the clothes and things around you that you can wear, bear, or that make you feel like you aren’t waiting for another life to begin. Who knows what shape you might be in future? Who knows what you’ll be in to? But if things make you sad, or make you perpetually feel like you’re waiting for a train to come for a station to the future. Tumbleweeds will knock you off your bench. And you might miss the great town you’re already in.
I say this as someone who, currently can’t bend one arm, walk or wear my vintage dresses because they get tangled in my crutches. But. I am still me. I’m not chucking them out. (sorry!) They are mostly stored on a rail in the attic where if medical science catches up with my head and super vet takes on humans, I will shimmy down my ladder in my retro polka dots one day. or… my daughter may wear them to the prom. Either way. It’s ok. They aren’t taunting me when I open my wardrobe (s) ! I like my linen floaty stuff just as much.
Resting up in hospital gave me time to get creative. I recycled all the medicine tubs on the ward to paint watercolours in, and spent a lovely time chatting to a wonderful lady next to me whilst tinkering away at these posters.
These few months have been many things. I thought they were simply slow and painful at times, too cold to be in my beloved garden and to feel sun on my bones instead of these sticky pain patches! But on reflection each step has been plentiful, gathering momentum towards projects all over the place.
Research for The Eyemouth Art Trail has created new friendships, unearthed a host of local information of local artists in the area, which I will chat to you about another time, and Artwork made which will be used for various things related to the campaign.
My community Art group have worked away at various projects over the winter, despite their own challenges, and we are developing a new relationship with a partner community group, who are lovely; and understand our needs as an entity! This is so exciting. People who can adapt when the teacher for the first children’s class ends up in hospital instead….. well they are more than ok in my book.
Winter has been drawn on and written on, when the joints have allowed, before spring comes and more time can be spent outside. Almost every weekend plan that was made was changed by various friends, they themselves having different complications, and that was ok too. So, this inside- the- house bit of time for us was two months of preparation and of making new connections, facing the realities of what this new set of adaptions all means. But also enjoying the freedom of not caring what the imaginary little judge on my shoulder thinks.
Kicked that little monster to touch.
We gather habits, patterns of behaviour like we gather clothes and books. Thinking we will get the same from them as we always did. And they sit there in our lives staring at us, taunting us with their lack of commitment to the actual person we need too be now.
Perhaps, without actually getting rid of anybody, it is time to ask who, in your current version of your self is bringing you a squeaky tea trolley of tea and biscuits? Or wine? Or who you feel like sharing your leftover Christmas stash with! x What things do you do that make you happy? If you are unwell now or if you were to be in the future, what would give you most pleasure to have around you?
Keep what and who you love close by and be grateful for what you can do, what you can achieve in a day and what your influence does still bring. Shove everything else in the attic. Keep smiling. Spring is coming xx