Mind the infant

Image.pngNo, I haven’t completely forgotten about my blog but the poor thing does get neglected from time to time. It’s a crime I am definitely guilty of. I vowed at the beginning of the year that I would write something for my website at least once a week and typical to any new years resolution it fell apart somewhat quickly. Despite that however, I am still writing various bits and pieces even if life gets in the way.

Working a full time job while trying to write on the side can be tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I know nothing worth having ever comes easy and I am old enough and bold enough to know that I respect my writing enough that I will always have it be a constant in my life.  That’s partially the reason the tattoo is there after all. A not so subtle reminder to remember what I always fall back on, to acknowledge the times it has got me through and to strive to keep connecting with people through words. Trying to convey  similarities in experiences and finding common ground and understanding with people is one of the reasons I love writing. I think if we all spoke honestly we’d probably find a lot more common ground with others but that’s another post entirely. So while I enjoy writing, and it’s definitely a massive part of who I am, you still have to go to the desk and write, even though there are times when you would rather not. Discipline with this has been an issue for me in the past with writing. I think that’s why it took me until age 27 to have the light bulb moment where I realised how influential writing has been to me since the age of about 8.

Aside from work I had been away for a break to Kos, Greece in June. It was a fantastic holiday! I hope to have that piece in the Evening Echo shortly so I won’t speak too much about it here.  I think the main reason the website is always pushed to the back burner and particularly in the last few months is because I am working on a book. I started “Growing Pains” in March of this year and although still very much a work in progress it’s something I am excited and terrified about all at the same time. The book is going to be a collection of poems. That’s all I will say for the moment because it is still an infant in my eyes and is no where near ready to face the big bad world! Writing a book isn’t something I had ever thought I could do until a year or so ago and particularly when I completed a writing course on memoir. Something else planned for that too but I think it will be a much bigger animal or at least a very different one!

With that in mind I am going to end this post and get back to the infant!

 

 

Storylines – Who the hell are you?

Something I have been hearing a lot about lately is how as humans we latch on to certain aspects of ourselves to form an identity and create a storyline for ourselves. I think the point of creating the storyline is to then help us to make sense of our lives, the path we are on and to bring some kind of knowledge and understanding into what is otherwise a confusing time on earth. We think we need these storylines to get through life because without them… who are we? Not having that sense of identity can be very unsettling and off putting so we continue to create and weave this tale so we can feel more comfortable in knowing who we are.

Taking myself as an example, I was once in a counselling session and was explaining how I felt about grief. I felt like I was stuck and that I wanted to get to the next part but something just wouldn’t let me. I had no idea what that thing was. If I tried to pinpoint or visualise it there was nothing there. That next step was a part of grief I hadn’t reached before, acceptance. I knew I was ready to accept it and move on. It didn’t mean I was forgetting, it just meant being a bit more at peace and allowing myself to live without always being dragged back to the loss. It transpired that the reason I was subconsciously not allowing myself to move forward was because I didn’t know who I would be if I didn’t have the burden of grief to carry with me. The loss had been a huge part of my identity from the age of twelve so here I was in my late twenties wanting to move on but not knowing why I couldn’t. It made perfect sense to me and I had never had that realisation before, they were right. I had no idea who I was without that loss as it had formed such a huge part of my life and there was something about that that was a little unsettling. I think we like to think that we all know ourselves inside out and that we always know exactly why we are the way we are but the reality is sometimes you don’t, and what’s more is, that’s ok.

There are parts of ourselves that we think we have to be all the time because without that feeling, activity or experience who are we? I can see it happening a little now to myself with migraine because they have become more prevalent in recent years. My mom said to me the other day when I was thinking out loud about something and I worried how it might impact on my migraine and my mom responded with but you don’t even know if you are going to still be getting them then, they may stop. My response was dismissive in a yeah… sure kind of manner because migraine has become part of my identity now but that doesn’t mean it will be this dominant forever. Things shape and mould us but don’t have to define us. Instead of sticking to my old storylines I am going to try and create some new ones, or better yet, not write any and see what happens. Not knowing everything about ourselves and where we are going can’t be that frightening.. can it?

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Images – Bing Images (2009 Lisa Slavid)

 

 

Listening to Silence

It’s funny when you stop and listen to silence jus how comforting it can be. When you stop flooding your mind with music, noise, advertisements, radio, thinking and other people’s opinions. Just at that moment before you fall asleep at night try not to pick up the phone and just be. Be with your thoughts, your ideas, your realisations, your lessons, your interpretations. Those few minutes before you fall asleep, at least for me, is one of the nicest moments of the day. You can relax, feel safe from any of life’s challenges, rest and then take them on again the next day. The momentary breather from the pressure, social and professional. The limbo between today and tomorrow.

Manual

There’s no rule book or instructions.

No safety kit or guide.

No step by step approach to “win” at this thing they call life.

You screw each part together.

Hoping it will fit,

And when it falls to pieces.

You promise yourself you won’t quit.

And finally you think you’ve built it.

It looks and seems just right.

Until you place a book upon that shelf,

And realise again, it’s too much to one side.

Knock knock, who’s there? Headspace!

In today’s society we are all constantly bombarded with images, messages and communication from every angle. It becomes normality to the point where we feel as though we can’t function without it when in actuality generations of people survived just fine. With work pressures, families, friends, relationships and social pressure it can be difficult to just remember to take ten or fifteen minutes to stop. Stop working, stop thinking, stop worrying. Eventhough we should naturally be able to switch off these days of course we may need the help of an app! And the one that I love is called Headspace.

I have downloaded and deleted Headspace about three or four times in the last few years but this time I made a pact with myself that I would keep it. I have a tendency to get caught up in thought. They start as a fleeting image and once you engage with that thought it very quickly becomes real in your head and that is difficult to reign back in whereas if you never let it get that far it’s much easier to manage. The concept of headspace is simple. There are a series of meditations that are aimed to help you become more aware and mindful and the range of topics covered is vast. They vary from stress, depression, anxiety, sleep, relationships, balance, motivation and focus to body scans, restoration, pain management, sports, everyday tasks like commuting, cooking, the list is endless. Each package varies in length but is usually for 30 days on the basis that you listen to one a day. Each session is ten minutes long with an option to reduce to five minutes or extend to 30. I try to do it three times a day, first thing in the morning before getting up, after work and before sleeping. This time round what made me do it was trying to manage migraine. I found myself more anxious after getting one which loops back into triggering it from time to time so I am making a conscious effort to try and be aware of my mind and body and how they are interacting with each other.

The app itself is very user friendly. It’s not overly serious as the topic of well being, particularly mental well being, can be daunting for some people so it’s a very approachable app (if an app had personal traits!). The concepts and imagery are simple but incredibly effective and slowly build a series of tips that you can incorporate into your daily life and over time helps you to build a greater sense of self confidence and assurance to help you manage whatever difficulty you find yourself having. As well as the meditations themselves there are also a collection of animations which help to visualise the tips that are being taught. As well as the packages within the app there are also daily minis which change everyday and discuss a new area or look at mindfulness through another scope.

The biggest lesson I have taken from both counselling and apps like Headspace is to always observe thoughts and don’t engage with them. That’s not to say that you ignore anything which needs to be addressed but is a massively useful tip for those who manange anxiety on a daily basis. Be warned though it takes practice and maintenance. I tend to dip in and out of these routines when I feel better only to find 6 months later that I have fallen off the wagon for lack of a better phrase. Our natural instinct is to engage with thoughts and either argue them off or feed into them but this app has definitely had a positive impact on me and I can only encourage others to use it too. The app has a free section which gives you a taster of what it’s like and costs about 12 euro a month if you pay monthly but is cheaper if you purchase the annual subscription. For me it is an investment and so far it is the nudge for me to just take ten minutes to sit down, stop thinking about what needs to get done next, stop focusing on what could happen, stop rushing and racing and just be… just for a few minutes a day. You never know you might love it! For more info see https://www.headspace.com/

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Image – Bing images and Headspace

Restart

She traced her steps back to where it had all started. That night when she met him for the first time. She had no idea that the man she would meet that evening would have such an impact on her and for the better. They had sat in a wine bar drinking a bottle of red laughing at anecdotes, sharing stories and learning about each others’ lives. She was so cross with Lily for setting her up on a blind date and it was only after two days of not speaking to her that she gave in and reluctantly went. She felt silly now at how annoyed she had been.

Six years later and she sat in that same wine bar except this time she was by herself. She ordered a glass of red and contemplated if he would take her back. She would have given anything to hit a restart button and make different choices. All she could do now was wait and every second was agonising…

Emma

Soft, gentle, beautiful,

Flakes gracefully float.

Laying a quilt as fresh as white linen,

She whispers a caution and utters a quote.

Tucking us in she warns us,

Be fooled not by my beauty.

I may seem all sweetness and light,

Underestimation is my ally.

Hush now child and wait for tonight.

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Bruises

Purple punches on the skin like berries perched upon a branch.

A sample so sweet, a flavour so bitter, an aftertaste like a broken heart.

Brownish blue scratches turn to stitches sown in patterns to the quilt.

The mirror has no time for excuses nor for the regret or the guilt.

 

Then there are the layers beneath, the shield before the heart and soul.

They will heal you from within like a guiding hand on a broken throne.

Although the pain will still be felt the bruises they will fade.

You’ll pick the berries from the branch and savour the strength in each taste.

 

Roots

You only see the surface, not the roots that grow inside.

The mask that covers the cracks and the secrets we like to hide.

But roots are the reckoning force to which we all cling.

We cannot become who we want to be without first looking within.

They ground us in so many ways both physical and not,

but roots too can weep, deteriorate and rot.

Ripped up by some trauma, they dangle amid the air.

Unfamiliar territory, unscathed, unprepared.

But watch ever so carefully and watch them over time.

They won’t do it boastfully, they’ll trick even the sharpest eye.

Gradually those roots of yours will morph back to the ground.

A little different to before but with new strength once unfound.

Some day you’ll show the surface and the roots alike.

They’ll become the driving force, your ambition and your pride.

 

Gutter rain

I was in town earlier today doing a few bits and pieces. The usual errands that can only get done on the weekends. I came out of an internet café after printing some work to find it raining pretty heavily. I threw my scarf over my head and made a dash for my next stop. About 5 seconds into that dash I abandoned the idea and found the nearest porch I could stand under until it calmed. I stood there for about five minutes lost in my own world and my own worries. I faced the opposite direction that I had been looking and spotted a homeless man sitting in a doorway. The rain was beating down on top of him and he sat their motionless. In that moment my heart went out to him. Sometimes a look, expression or glance can describe a pain that no amount or arrangement of words will ever do justice to. The pain was visible all over his face. For a few moments I just stood in my shelter still waiting for the rain to ease. I quickly grew impatient but could not bring myself to pass this man. I gave him the few euros I had in my purse and offered to get him some tea or coffee. He was almost afraid to look me in the eye. As I stood there for a moment the rain began to spill out over the gutter and landed straight onto the side of his face. It was awful and perhaps I am just more aware of the homeless issue now seeing as it is in the media so much more and because I work in the sector but it puts things in perspective.