Autumn hides the cobwebs just as spring brushes them clean;
Subscription to the promise of a new you yet unseen.
Starting fresh sounds simple, leave the ghosts behind.
Clear the debts from credit cards, from lovers, heart and mind.
Open up the blinds again, paint the rolling view,
Truly understanding what it feels to know your you.
Hold your nerve a little longer, time is still at play
You got through the hardest part, first few steps, first day.
All the courage you require is curled up in your heart,
Every move in this game now awaits your hand to start.
Who could squeeze their life inside a tiny little room? Make their food with dolls house plates, a bucket and a broom? Trust in friendships lasting from another place inland Feel that even far away, their hands are in your hands?
Looking past the clutter, seeing what’s beyond. Pushing through the brambles to the lilies in the pond. There’s a view beyond the spot we stand on in the rain. There’s another path beside this bumpy, strange terrain.
Keeping safe your mindset when the noise is getting loud, Standing still and centered in the roaring gush of crowd. Slowing down each racing breath, finding space inside, Moving air to crushing lungs where fear is trying to hide.
Starting life in places new, without an anchor firm, Centres you from deep directions, ones you’ve yet to learn.
Sometimes taking one more step beyond our comfort zone Further than we ever dared, far away from home;
Distils every drop of courage, cleaning jewels of fate Suddenly where once were walls, there’s an open gate. Suddenly where once was distant; brush it in your hand. Suddenly no longer dreaming, walk on soft green land.
Take this moment look around, all the steps so far, Nothing vital left behind, perfect as you are. Friendships travelled with you, words and thoughts and line, Breathing slowly when you feel, nowhere close to fine.
Every gloomy hurdle, every battle won, Finds your light the brighter, closer to the sun. For every moment conquered, everything you feel
Shapes the life you’re made for, every dream made real.
Since I can remember I have had a feeling that the universe can contract and expand on the turn of a card, a moment’s fortune, a wind change.
There are times where everything and anything is possible: the whole whole world is at your fingertips. You can do and be anything . Not simply in this life but beyond in all directions . A deep dive into a connection on a cellular level.
Sometimes the journey is so smooth we wonder what the catch is. Sometimes to simply stand still involves an awful lot of running on the spot. It feels never ending. We wear out many pairs of trainers.
It feels like one stupid challenge after another . It feels like there isn’t enough power left to achieve even a bit if it.
We need to be grounded.
And it can feel almost impossible sometimes, to have patience and faith in who we are.
This is no vanilla life. I have performed to thousands, and felt kinship with something bigger than all of us, lugged boxes of paint to tiny halls and felt something just as awe inspiring in teaching art with incredible people; lived in a 13 room house and been deeply lonely yet created a wonderland of fairy lights in an Edinburgh one bed: travelled the world seeing famous sights yet most gripped with wonder at the tiny hand holding mine after ten years of waiting for my angel to appear. I have seen New York at midnight, soaking up the atmosphere of a jazz club, thinking at the time I’ll be back soon. And then life got in the way. And the big things we think we can choose, aren’t so easy to just hand pick.
There is much I could tell you about the tribulations over the last few years. Of those who didn’t appreciate Artists in a traditional place, of those who use control or try to dull your shine. But this is our happy space, yours and mine; and quite frankly it doesn’t belong here. Thankfully, with our zoo family and belongings in one piece, albeit in storage, back of car or in a selection of tiny boxes; we no longer need to close the curtains mid afternoon, because we held our nerve and travelled quietly to a different universe.
You forget.. all the little things you know, when you are used to functioning in your spot on earth. Places you get food, places you put your rubbish, post your letters, buy your guinea pig hay…Tip the floor a little, slide a few hundred miles and see if the same rules apply, the same shops exist, the same customs surprise, delight or horrify you ! We might all drive on the same side, but I am sure the roads change shape. In a new territory with a co-pilot intermittently checking a snap map and her messages, it was easy the first few days to feel like we were on Mars! .
But there was no doubt it was ever so pretty. ! Once we had figured out how the ferry worked and how to feed everybody the rest sort of fell into place….
A different view around every corner kept us driving that little bit further .. from a quick pit stop at Blackpool sands on the road through Torcross.
Followed by a drive through Kingsbridge and onwards, ever tempted to pull over with another beautiful view…The vista is beginning to open up once more..
Picture perfect Salcombe with its crowded slow squeeze of an arterial main town road to drive you and your car bonkers! Next time we’ll take the private jet. 😉 but the riviera yachts : how like the vintage posters we’ve loved for years!!.
Kingsbridge, Torquay, Paignton and back to Dartmouth; every stop a different energy under a blue sky.
And behind the scenes….
What they didn’t tell you about the old woman who lived in a shoe; was that she was only in fact 19. The shoe was a chalet in Dartmouth and there was so much daily messy zoo funk, that she spent most of her time, carting bin bags in a wheelie bag and cleaning in ever decreasing circles She just looked 100. !!
All along, at every stage; underneath piles of boxes, sleeping on an air bed in my living room, both of us having to whittle our existence down to a teeny percentage of our stuff, our selves, not having anyone apart from our closest friends to tell our plans to, we kept the light on in our dream. Belief and trust were fed; and we smelt the coffee every day.
Doors may open, they may close, cards are dealt. When all is bleak you get more thinking done, or more creating done. You use it for planning or stopping. Nature abhors a vacuum. Once you make a big life change, in it comes; whooshing back in, possibilities, smiles from strangers, new things appear to see and explore. Our movements feel freer, like a holiday us. When I was asked why I wanted to move, my answer was, I needed to be more Liz. For all of us, our surroundings, our climate, our needs are our daily fuel.
Only you can know what makes you happy. (or what doesn’t )
Our feelings become painted over, like layers of armour. Daily pain, tolerating bad behaviour, or sadness or fear. Sadly, we get used to a version of ourselves, we think is us. My daughter and I knew changes were coming.
Change can be scary, but it can and does, gain us friendships, experiences, joy, and love. With a little patience to ride the waves of all this, the card games are exciting and different each time . I sit right now in a not quite knowing what will happen next space. In trust for what we’ve done so far, in what is to come. And that’s alright with me. Doing nothing? No thanks..
If you can see it, you’re a step closer. I am coveting this Moggy we saw , a beautiful very old lady! As some of you know my first car was a Morris Minor , a turquoise police car called Marmalade. One day, if I wish reeeeeeaaaaaalllly hard…!!!
In fairness, I am already pretty happy….
So as the journey continues its path , and as loved ones are missed, art supplies are stored, and classes are on hold; know that there is still eating well, exploring to do, and finally a little freedom to enjoy, fun as well as the frustrations; and with all these eggs being cracked, it’s promising to be one hell of an omelette.. xxx
Travelling anywhere now feels like such a blessing. Grateful for every new avenue that opened up, we all yearned for so long to be, not only; anywhere-but-the-village; but anywhere-but-the-sofa. The world had closed it’s pathways, as we peered through windows, marooned, masked and frightened, shrouded in uncertainty as to how we might ever explore distant shores again.
Time inevitably stumbled on, pandemic, what pandemic?
Here we are now in Antalya, Turkey . And as far as we can see, there isn’t a mask in sight, There is no social distancing and no body parts have been sanitised.
It is quieter than expected here. The British school holidays haven’t begun yet, impacting on how many older children there are here. A bonus in swimming pools to oneself!
This is an all exclusive offering all the usual facilities, a very smart and organised hotel. It is beautiful, one of the cleanest and friendliest hotels we have been to. And it is is enormous. There are several pools, the hotel has its own beach and jetty, and there are even a selection of hotel cats who are allowed on the furniture.
Nobody has body swerved us in a queue or ducked away from a tickly cough. It almost feels as if, life has pretty much gone back to normal for a traveller. Only of course if you travel with mobility issues: you are often still faced with exactly the same old problems.
This holiday began well. Newcastle Airport was brilliant. The lady at the car drop off offered to take our trolley in for us, the desk wasn’t open but the staff offered alternative seating and the assistance service was as usual kind and efficient. The man pushing the wheelchair even waited for her majesty to choose perfume in Duty Free. (no, not me) Now that’s beyond his usual job remit!) .
Just like Covid19, an illness, pain or a disability can be invisible until it isn’t. People easily make snap judgements on your demeanour and your look and often don’t know you are sore. Yes, that’s a compliment in a way, but it is a constant red herring. The invisible smiling armour you must apply can wear thin very quickly as fatigue and pain begin to creep in. Travelling is way harder with mobility problems.
Maintaining your own style, your personality, your way of keeping organised is essential for anyone’s self respect. Which as we all know is a full time job you have to make look effortless. While most people are contemplating their airport look, the newest novel, the newest sunglasses ear buds and phones, your average immobile person is hoping not to miss their flight as they navigate the airport obstacle course. And still attempt a smidge of dignity after being wheeled about the concourse, riding the conveyor belt of chance and loss of personal control.
However, the important thing to remember is not the cards you got dealt, but how you play your hand. Managing being in permanent pain, being unable to simply do what others around you can, takes all your will power not to be sad about. Feeling powerless can be a choice though. To travel happily, one must accept our changing needs and how to best accommodate them.
Unless people know you, if you look well, you might look like you can manage.
When I first got ill, it was confusing. Even family ignored the level of pain I was in and the various and contradictory diagnosis I was receiving. If you don’t have an obvious fixable thing that can be operated on, many people believe you are simply making up your illness. Auto immunity conditions, rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, lupus these are real and they really do hurt. Operations leave scars, scrape bones horribly, leave us needing more support as joints deteriorate. Unfortunately much of the change is internal and tricky to fully fix. At best we create a damage limitation plan, at worst if we aren’t careful we can easily give in to its decay. For me that was not an option. (Although some days are far far harder)
Somehow, accidents and operations are easy to give empathy for. The stealthy, creeping deterioration of disease is a greyer area. It is hard to describe how I can’t walk more than a few feet sometimes, and with warmer air and another day I might get around the block with my sticks and our dog, Bear. It isn’t very sexy having an arthritic condition. Almost without warning your day’s potential changes; from looking not too bad and covering all with a smile to a sudden crippling fatigue leaving you stranded in pain, and making you want to weep. But it is true to say, the weather helps and a holiday was essential.
So, we arrive here having requested assistance at each side of the journey. The airport assistance had pushed me with one hand whilst pulling another man with his foot at breakneck speed through the airport. Whilst she ran to keep up. He then tipped me out at baggage reclaim. Once we had finally found our cases, sadly trundling about last (as we were first on) , we made our way to the door, having been told a rep would great us there and help get us to the hotel. There was no rep, it was midnight, hips had seized up, and everyone but us was running towards a coach.
The distance was horrendous, far longer than I can ever walk. But to add to the pain, a coach of waiting tourists, an anxious child running back to me every five minutes to check and the knives in my hip bones, found me eventually in my seat in tears. This wasn’t how I intended to start my holiday.
Having to ask for help is the worst thing when you actually need help. At your lowest, the absolute last thing you want to feel is that you have no power left, no dignity, no ability to care for yourself. Unfortunately, some of these things can be true, and what you need more than anything is a mind reader who knows your needs before you do, sees you as a real person still and does not make you feel guilty for asking for help. The trickiest of ages for a carer is a teen . Without going into detail, let’s say their heads are elsewhere and the world only includes their own image. A natural stage indeed but travelling with one relies on a travel structure as well as teenage hormone fluctuations.
On our way to the hotel There was no actual rep, just an envelope thrust at each party. Perhaps this was the new normal? Maybe things would be alright once we could finally unpack.
Once in the hotel, despite having organised a disabled friendly room, one near a lift, in the main block, we were told it was (vague hand gesture outside). We were led through acres of garden, the walking sticks making little difference to our young bellboy, to a very far away building at the edge of the complex. The young lad pulling our cases was nice enough, but it just felt like again, I was apologising for being slow or unable and it was agony. The moment the door closed was the last straw for us both . This room if it was kept would be a prison- too far from anything to enjoy. Cue a meltdown of epic proportions ( both) although mine was rather less blasphemous) and a promise that this would indeed not be our holiday spot.
But it was one o’clock in the morning and, “Yes, I know we can’t fold t shirts into cubby holes, and put our make up on the counter, but that can wait a couple more hours; now stop shouting and go to bed.”
The next day took another six hours to rehouse us. What that meant was not being able to properly access medicine, toiletries and swim stuff, and not relax into the holiday. And that isn’t good enough. Because there are thousands of spaces in this hotel, and (from what I could see) very few people with additional mobility needs. This had been booked due to the proximity to facilities, and I had specifically asked for assistance support. She had to get special permission to be out of school as a young carer too.
The new room was exactly what we needed and finally we could get settled in. Any complaints fizzled out as the staff throughout the week were attentive and polite.
Drawing attention to what can go wrong for a traveller will. I hope, make organisations better listen to us. Luckily, on this occasion it was tiny details in the big scheme of things which could have improved our experience massively. The holiday company booking us were asked all the right questions and knew specifics.
For example, there is a steep set of stairs here to the low pools and beach. Although the hotel has every available amenity; most involve walking. There aren’t very many accessible poolside loos, meaning one must plan for each potential route each day. As a self service all inclusive, it would be helpful to have ways to carry food to tables in the restaurant, or to make accessing the various food and drink spots easier for anyone not able to traverse the resort. To enjoy an evening drink in the room involved a complex system of separate ice, mixer and vodka, and a (not always) compliant assistant. Although a little sugar bribery goes a long way ..
Tracking down our rep by phone eventually, we asked for trips suitable for low mobility guests. Initially before he met us in person, he said there were none. ” Only if you can walk. ”
It is easy at this point to just give up. But lying in heat all day doing nothing is not our thing. So we met the rep in person and he got more of an idea of our situation. We booked an excursion to various stops in one day, including a river cruise. By the end of the day, I truly could barely move, but we saw enough sights to justify the pain, and managed some discount shopping too.
The hotel offered a spa service with several types of massage. When letting them know I needed a gentler type of massage, they insisted it would cost double because it was a special child’s massage because I am disabled. I cancelled that reservation. Paying double for half an experience seems daft. So instead we went to a traditional Hamam and had the full Turkish Bath experience. I declined the hot stone extra that could fix my arthritis for an extra £35 euro.
A few tips on travelling with health or mobility issues
It goes without saying that most people managing an illness or disability have to be fairly organised. Or they have a carer who is. Making sure everything you need for the day is not only packed but accessible. If you were your carer what would you give yourself?
Traveling is a great way to discover different areas, cultures, and cuisines. When it comes to traveling with mobility issues, planning a trip can feel overwhelming; however, it just takes some planning in advance to set your travel concerns at ease.
Plan in Advance
Call your airline, bus, trains, and hotels ahead of time to discuss your special accommodations and figure out what amenities are offered. By calling ahead, you’re able to gain more information and be proactive about preventative issues that could occur.
Factors to consider
Reserve a seat ahead of time
Call and discuss disabled accessibility of platforms/lifts/facilities
Request a seat close to the bathrooms
Ask about storage for any special equipment you may have
Questions to ask when finding a hotel to meet your needs:
How are the rooms set up?
Is the bathroom accommodating to prevent potential falls/slips?
What in-room guest services are offered?
What additional amenities will be provided to ensure your stay is as relaxing as possible?
Additionally, consider what special equipment you’ll need, the stamina and needs of you or your caregiver, and the accessibility of sites; planning these factors prior to your trip will help eliminate hiccups.
Traveling with mobility issues can seem overwhelming when you think about all the factors at once; however, when you take the time to plan in advance, you’re able to accomplish one item of your checklist at a time and successfully plan your trip.
Knowing what help you need to ask for can be hard. Especially if you look relatively OK, sometimes pain and limitations are not so easy to see. But a break away from it all can be possible for you.
Making sure your holiday team are briefed to enjoy all aspects of your trip.
Travelling full stop relies on several things for the monkey and me. Planning, belief, patience, acceptance, and a vision of an an end goal.
To have a mobility problem can affect your sense of self. But letting those fears win is losing your ticket to adventures and possibilities. Yes, you might need help, but you can chose to how and what to accept with gratitude and know it does not lessen you as a human being.
A kernel of power still burns inside on your pain days, frustrations when you can’t access freedoms like you perceive others can, will pass and new avenues will open.
Those initial hours in the resort could have been the undoing of all the hard work of getting abroad for the first time in four years. But so too these things will pass. And each day thereafter staff were aware and helpful. Managing to get around the resort with the help of the photographer, even resulted in some pictures of us, for once not looking cold and windswept!
We all need to remember that we can make things happen if we really want them. Everyone needs help sometimes, and by letting others help you; it becomes so much more possible for them to see what you are giving to and being in the world. Pain might be your constant companion, but it can sit and wait while post Pandemic life gets a chance too.
Many readers will identify with the painful to watch Versus Arthritis adverts on television . Asking viewers to pledge support for those in severe chronic pain. For those suffering a myriad of fatigue inducing symptoms. I imagine these adverts are met with a variety of responses. Each according to life experience. If illness for you has come to mean an easy, specific and named condition, with a sociably acceptable set of treatments, this no-mans land of auto-immune symptoms will make no sense. Those of you with friends or relatives who have arthritis , may become interested, hoping to gain insight and understanding.
Perhaps you are untouched as yet, and believe the afflicted to be exaggerating. Perhaps you feel a few twinges and you have already begun to feel less mobile, a little weaker, and not so certain your g.p. understands your needs. How much worse does it get? What happens then?
And for those affected personally with a degenerative condition, a body that is consistently affected by weather, a slave to daily fatigue and is aging years too early; maybe your heart breaks just a little bit to see that pain, because you know it yourself and live through it every day.
Living with disease and pain is exhausting. And debilitating in more ways than just your illness.
Bad enough are the daily rituals of pain-easing strategies and positive, life affirming reminders on the fridge, when you can’t now reach the bottom shelf, but sometimes more crippling is the lack of understanding by many employers, friends, colleagues and even family of how to live with and even love with the cards you’ve been dealt .
Unfortunately, it is often those closest to you who can lack belief in the validity of your pain, or why you can’t join in family activities. Employers might lack the understanding of how to incorporate chronic pain into a hard working professional’s life, and therefore write them off as lazy or ‘milking the system’.
A lack of effective financial support, twinned with a lack of information to guide the affected in the workplace, can create a lack of respect for our still beautiful and resourceful bodies and imaginative minds that still desperately want and can give something valuable to the world.
Do you tell ?
Ironically I often see people desperately trying to prove themselves still able, by achieving double the output of creativity, in half the useable time of an average person; before weariness once again steals their daylight hours.
And although we educate our children in schools, in a plethora of differentiated ways, owning our healthcare needs as valued adults seems to be a different matter. In my classroom for example, a movable trolley with wheels, spaces between desks to navigate my sticks, an ergonomic chair and access to the lift would have saved my early retirement .
Without support to maintain a normal work/life balance and earn a competitive salary, those with a chronic condition are often forced to rely on disability payments or p.i.p.
This does two things. It labels people as permanently unwell, and keeps them in a state of limbo. As an ‘ill’ person , they might feel highlighted under their disability or condition before they are themselves, their old, ‘professional’ self . It can be incredibly difficult to convince the world out there ( and ourselves) that you can be both a, suffering from a degenerative condition and b, you still want to be, or are able to be the same or even better version of YOU.
The second thing that disability payments (or the equivalent) can do, is to minimise the quality of creative life you might get to live after your illness. An artist wanting to make money after being struck with a chronic and degenerative condition had better make A LOT of money at once or not at all. Because sometimes, making small amounts can cause more hassle than it is worth. This is of course, ludicrous. As a consequence thousands and thousands of amazing people who still have incredible creativity to offer the world, are stuck. Stuck earning too little to live on with the usable hours of their day or week. Having to declare any profit on a piece which might have taken months at an hour a day and then potentially losing financial support because they might be deemed able to work.
Sadly, sometimes, others are stuck being dependent on caregivers at home who might not be treating them properly, either emotionally or physically because their illness is not taken seriously, or they become stuck in a cycle of believing that because of their illness, their life force has also diminished. As parents our needs often come last on the list. But truly, unless you take decisive action to get as well as you can, your dependents won’t have the best of you, the rest of the time. Your life force is still there . It just needs a nap.
When you feel in pain, are tired and your va va voom has disappeared, it is almost impossible to tell yourself it will be OK. Prepare a box of nice things, a book, whatever food you love, new pj’s etc. Wrap a couple of presents for yourself. When the day gets really rubbish it’s there as a gift. The white knight might come charging, but in the meantime be your own.
When you live with chronic illness, you are often looked over as unsociable or underachieving because you can look well. That is until you move, or bend or try to walk.
For many people it can put an end to their chosen careers or dream path. Not only because their energy has diminished but because others see their failure and think it is best for them that they give up their crazy ideas. At best this might be justified as being for their ‘own good’. If we see pain, we often feel the need to just stop, not continue and give up for an easier life. But sometimes, your continued belief in your dream scares and intimidates people. How can you still have the audacity to do a brave thing in your condition when they haven’t? We know people react out of love or fear. That’s their fear talking. There is no room for a different, braver version of you. And the longer you’ve been ill, the wearier you will be. It wears you down. It takes an enormous amount of resilience to look past your pain, or your illness, the negativity of others and see yourself still sitting there.
Of course, there are other reasons that domestic situations might be difficult. If you need help with more specific issues click on my blog here :
Imagine a kindly hand in yours, telling you please be brave. On the journey through pain management and recreating a new life there are so many blind alleys to go up , promises and pastures new, magic fixes, gurus, and snake oil. Or you could drown in daytime tv and wine, buy new outfits you might wear if you could only bend your arms a bit more. Or like most of us, swing from one extreme to the other, like a giant pendulum until you rest on where you’re meant to be.
In the heart of it all is your key. The only key you need to navigate and know what you need. How to eat, what to wear to be comfortable, what makes you happy, what you have to offer and who you are, You.
On my journey to this page, I have battled heads of teaching departments, g.p’s, psychotic ex husbands, surgeons, solicitors, the weather and less than sympathetic relatives. But the biggest battles have been with the deterioration of a pandoras box of connected diseases- glandular fever, meningitis, arthritis, endometriosis and lupus. All of which have ebbed away at my energy, my career and my ability to live a pain free and operation free life
But. Those battles, the lack, became my drive. For my sense of self as an Artist, a single mother and a human being; I kept putting one foot in front of the other and vowed to create something every day. To that end for ten years since Escaping, I have written 100 blogs posts, ( today is my 7 year Blog Anniversary)❤ written 40 poems, drawn 200 illustrations , taught hundreds of community art groups, supported individuals and groups in the pandemic, completed hundreds of drawings, paintings, prints, cards and products. And I don’t think I’ve even started.
And I have learnt
Our bodies are telling us loudly what we need. Keep moving towards those things. Keep communicate those things to your doctor.
Know your rhythm. Completely be ok with it, even if the rest of your tribe think you are bonkers. Today is Happy day. Happy day is the first day of the year when there is enough sun to be outside for more than five minutes. I’ve waited six months. The cold is my kryptonite and grips my veins until I cry. So I did too much today. And it was worth needing to rest all afternoon. (which is often my rhythm anyway) At least there was Achievement too!
Accept your uniqueness. Having a chronic illness of any kind can feel like a ticket to a club you don’t want to be in. Let those that love you know what it means and concentrate on what you can do.
Accept help without feeling like you are helpless. There are plenty of positive ways to share skills.
Let go of activities taunting you because you can’t do them anymore. Who needs to paint on rice anyway?
Eat your greens, take a shed load of vitamin c and keep warm. Wear lots of thin layers and use heat patches.
Don’t be alone in a world that has become so isolated, but has so much potential. If you are housebound, volunteer as phone befriender for the elderly, find a local group or if you need support in your pain, locate a pain clinic. (These are groups set up to help find ways to manage and understand pain, and meet other people)
Rest. When you need to. My dog and cat now get grumpy if I don’t, as we all pile in a heap together.
Talk to someone if it hurts, if you’re sad, if it’s a bit rubbish. We all need that. And they might need it too.
And obviously, the most important thing is to make some art. Or create, or sew, or cook, or felt, or knit, or grow tomatoes or ANYTHING you can see taking shape outside yourself that expresses joy. Re-wire your brain in this meditative way as often as possible, listen to story tapes, not news, music not noise.
This drive to let the work blossom gives a perspective to my physical pain, and allows me to empathise with others in the same situation. Working together has been my joy. Without the groups and individuals there would be no Liz at the Beach Hut. We inspire each other. Being alone in pain is no use to anyone, but being silent amongst friends is a blessing. Press the link to the next page to see a selection of some of my own work, some of which was achieved on crutches (five years) , with a face full of skin cancer stitches and with a combination of early onset arthritis and lupus.
It took my health providers years to finally unpick my particular selection box of goodies, and along the way, I missed school exams, college terms, weeks of work, almost a lifetime of fatigue, joint problems and pain and digestive problems. I have had 18 operations and endured a ten year fertility battle with multiple losses. It took the longest time, but I refused to give up. It was simply because I wasn’t the norm, an easy fix, and I didn’t always look ill. When it was suggested I take early retirement because I was on crutches, when I wondered if this body would stop me moving forward, I let momentum and trust take me to the next destination. It has taken me far longer than I imagined it would, as a healthy twenty something leaving Edinburgh Art College. But I now know, that my journey to get here has been rich and rewarding, a parent, a teacher, artist, writer, and a person who exists.
If you rustle up a pan of eggs and one or two go a little wonky, who gets the bad eggs? Who gets the perfect ones?
When you have a choice to give or keep the best of things where does your heart go? Does your head agree? Do you find conflict there?
Don’t all eggs taste the same ?
We recently visited a favourite charity shop .
Ten years ago the man who ran it helped us rebuild our home.
From bin bags of ridiculously bargain priced build- a- bear treasure , for a wide eyed little girl, to cosy patchwork blankets, and spotty teacups , wellies and mittens, story books, props to draw from in art classes ,warm woolly jumpers , and glittery vintage handbags at a fraction of what they should cost.
Steven saw us coming and saved us lovely things. He quartered the till receipt. And smiled his lovely big smile as he loaded our bags into the car . He made us feel like we were special and that money changing hands was less important than us having these new shiny belongings.
And as we absorbed and marvelled at this incredible warmth, we realised that it not only radiated to us, but to every one of the customers and strangers entering the shop. Like an octopus with supersonic peripheral vision, he juggled new and old faces, their questions, needs, and deliveries with the same joy and kindness. Steven was just kind.
When we moved house, most of the belongings we no longer needed were returned as donations to the shop, and it occurred to me that plenty of loyal customers must circulate their things, feeling as we did that it a gave a little of the positivity so freely given by Steven himself.
Then sadly, a couple of years ago, after being out of the area for a few years, I heard that Steven had passed away. This legend I’d always imagined saying hello to another day, popping in next time we visited the town, enjoying another wonderful rummage in his Aladdin’s cave, this lovely person was just gone.
Tragically Steven’s smile and energy masked his underlying health conditions and a weakened heart . Hearing this news felt like there was a gaping gap in the universe where his enormous kindness and thoughtfulness helped so many people .
Why am I telling you this now?
Yesterday we went into the shop for the first time in about five years. It was quiet and neat and tidy. A lovely lady asked if we wanted the light on in the changing room, and was attentive and helpful
At the desk with our purchases , she enthused about how nice they’d look. I took the opportunity to say how sorry I was to hear about Steven, their colleague. The lady nodded and breathed deeply. This smiling welcoming woman was Steven’s mum. We talked and I told her how proud she should be of all the joy he brought, the lives he impacted on and I probably only knew a fraction of his legacy. She gave me a hug, both of us barely holding back the tears. But, rather than sadness, it was joy she felt.
She told me that conversations like this one, (because I was not alone in my impromptu affection) A lot of customers loved her son; and knowing she was still living how he lived was her tribute to him, and how she could get up each day and feel him with her. She was a wonderful lady, of course she was, she had to have been. And we were sad to leave that day.
In life we are thrown the challenge of every possible personality type to try to understand, appease, blend with, help, teach, parent, care for, love, respect or fear. People don’t come with rule books and often wisdom; so innate in the young is lost somewhere in the middle of our complex lives. Within homes, friendships, work situations, we can battle on, trying to impress those who have chosen to look the other way. People who for their own reasons try to dull our light.
Sadly, we can often find pivotal relationships some of the hardest. The big ones are the make or break of our foundations, which we either model our behaviour on, or endeavour not to mimic. These relationships should be the glue in our lives. The mortar to our bricks. There is often a sense of power in the mix somewhere. It is no surprise then, how hard it is to walk away.
Positive energy is infectious.
Unfortunately so is the opposite
Once the floodgate opens to negative flow, you don’t want to stand underneath.
Just as good stuff grows, so does the bad. Affecting us physically and mentally..
My studio ceiling recently spring a huge leak in the storm. KP has spent days scrubbing away at the black ceiling. Horrible stinking mould spread in blossoming storm clouds and it stank. The damp air crept into bags of art materials and fabrics. Without his intervention and no nonsense attitude with bleach and gloves, the mould would have killed everything in there.
Positive and negative energy from human beings is not dissimilar. Would you rather stand down wind to a bucket of mould spores or a packet of wild flower seed?
So let’s reflect upon the often very difficult decision to redirect our good energy. The shedding of harmful characters in our lives, even those we might be related to , who perpetually feel the need to squash, scar , crush, and undermine us, wrapping their beliefs up in love. Those who mask bad behaviour as love.
A healthy respect for another’s existence and ways is a wonderful thing. Providing space to flourish and develop as a human being is how we begin , how we then teach, write, get out and do things and establish another generation of grounded humans. As an adult, we get to re create some well walked paths, especially if they weren’t as solid as they could have been. Now, if a battle ensues when you look nice or have a new idea, or create a piece of work or express an opinion: causing doubt in your own beliefs and identity, are you sure its you that needs tweaking?
Love does not judge. We can spend our lives trying to attract the attention of a ”loved one” or an audience still crammed into plastic school chairs. Waiting for the moment when all our frantic waving and performing, on the literal and virtual stages of our lives , is met with loud clapping sounds and roses. Waiting for the loudest clap of all from the ones whose backs are turning to leave. We can wave until were not waving anymore, we are drowning.
Love isn’t rationed by your worth. Appreciation of you is reflected by the company you keep, not the stick you bet yourself with. You were put here to have choices. And to believe in them.
Imagine not lugging around that feeling of not knowing if you’re good enough. (because somewhere deep down, you really know you are). Of trusting yourself and your choice of company because you realise most people are kind. And some are wonderful.
We often don’t notice the kindest souls, the shining lights, the inspiration right under our noses because our minds are spiralling off on tangents about a tiny fraction of the company we keep ( possibly with the biggest ability to steal our thunder and joy. ) At the root of many of these waspish hurtful relationships is a common thread. We want to please these people the most. We are in that nativity inside a cardboard costume, jelly-like, reciting the line we’ve practiced 100 times to all the neighbours and all our patient pets. And euphorically searching for a pair of eyes in the audience squeezed onto those tiny chairs , when we remember our words and want to validate our moment of glory.
Why don’t we notice the discrepancies? Because important relationships are meant to provide a mirror for all that you are. They might not agree with you, or approve or even like what you do. But they should respect your life and what you add to theirs. If an adult hasn’t been taught these fundamental skills, it can sometimes be like being parented by another child. You may find that a person meant to be in your corner is unfathomably jealous or angry when you get shiny and show your colours. Contrary to how it feels, this isn’t to keep you safe or crush your spirit intentionally. Although this might happen anyway. Fear drives others to halt our flow of joy.
They see you, but they choose not to let you know that. And all a child wants (needs) is to be seen. Recognised as part of something difficult to describe, safe, loved. Without judgement, a parent (or care giver) sees and nurtures that light. The opposite of this is a sort of resentment and pushing away. A jealousy maybe, or inability to connect. A child cannot solve this riddle, and internalises this struggle as a personal failure.
Sadly, without a willingness to understand ourselves or others, the status quo remains, worsens, and becomes toxic. If a solution can be found through mutual effort, it is obviously of benefit to everyone. But, changing a conditioned behaviour, or a belief is sometimes incredibly difficult. Ways of perceiving can go back generations, and if you asked why exactly you aren’t allowed to wear those clothes, be gay, go to church, dance on a table, climb a mountain, start a circus, write a novel; the answer would be vague. Because the belief isn’t theirs. It has just always been there. Like the smell of boiled cabbage.
Fixing anyone causing sadness in your life isn’t your responsibility. If it keeps harming you, and you feel you have ticked all the strategies, choose you. Years can go by trying and failing, waving more frantically . That old adage of there’s no pleasing some people is very true. Sometimes, you’ve done all you can.
Sometimes doing more is perpetuating a vicious cycle . And to do the turning away yourself starts to heal, not only you, but them too. Our own responsibility lies in breaking the negative pattern of pain and not creating more.
The trick to happiness is gratitude. Closing a door is very scary to start with. But on the other side is so much more. Without unhappiness getting in the way, there is space to savour people, taste, light, beauty, ideas, and new shoes. Carry this with you. Be kind first to yourself in a way that you haven’t been given. An exchange can be given to a stranger in a word or a glance or a gesture. Or you may find it in a lifetime of acceptance and listening with one lovely soul. Trust your instincts to know who has your best interests. Surround yourself with good people.
When you know your own kitchen you make the best eggs.
And when life enriches our world with positive people, we too become richer. A way of thinking that builds us, not breaks us. It gives us strength. If we are positive even when we are scared, amazingly it still works, vulnerability creates action and becomes catching, other doors open, your tribe will come along.
Ten minutes in the company of someone like Steven, was a true blessing. His kindness, and selflessness was unique. Making someone’s day with your own particular magic wand is never wasted. There are amazing people out there, who can change your life. I know Leah and I won’t be alone in feeling so glad to have known and been inspired by this lovely man.
Get back on stage, no matter who is watching. Blast your words from the heart, share your ideas, share your creations, share your skills. Trust someone. And see what happens. Look up. It might be your audience have been there all along .
The thing is with eggs, that like life, we all mess up getting the perfect centre. Look a little closer and there’s enough to go round. Mix it up. Add in something extra. Better to scramble with everything you love thrown in. Share and enjoy xx
As we look past the storm damage and the winter garden, bereft of it’s colours and usually dug up by four giant paws …
We could be sad and ponder all that was lost, and is gone: lament the landscape of change.
Or we could take a moment to celebrate all that has been and the journey through this last year, the people we met on the way, the new friends, the furry feet, the help we prayed for and received miraculously.
The beach hut is a movable feast. It goes where we go, for as long as it needs to be there. We all have a beach hut spot in our hearts. Who knows where ours will go next.
Skye Blue house was named after our beautiful Skye and the Blue of the sea and my daughter’s eyes, of all things sacred and beautiful in nature and in art.
Latterly life might have thrown a few curve balls, with health and weather, goblins and ghouls; but in our time here; we made fairy gardens, and a pond, had chickens that laid blue eggs, had garden parties, grew lettuces and fruit, painted a lot of furniture and made a lot of art.
Life is a series of moments strung together with spiderwebs of time. Every day adding brushstrokes to the painting of our life. The point isn’t to finish the picture, but to keep painting.
Happy New Year wherever you are, and love and blessings from all of us here ❤