I wonder when I will ever learn? Yesterday four of us ran the Sunday service at our church. It was a very high energy morning because we are drama group and we have lots of ideas. The service was great and we got some amazing feedback. But then I crashed. I’ve just had an email from one of the others involved and she crashed too. We were both exhausted from it all. It was not just the morning doing but all the prep beforehand. I should know by now that this happens. That adrenaline high followed by the anti-climaxed crash. It happened to me in the summer after I had finished the WWI project with Gwrych Castle. Both things were amazing but both things left me afterwards exhausted and with the “never again” feeling.
But what did I learn from the summer? I learned that I need to take care of myself, give myself some self-care. Not because there is no one who will care for me, but because only I know what is best for me. Only I know how I feel at that moment. So yesterday
after stripping beds off from three sets of Airbnb guests and putting on a load of washing I went for a bath. You may wonder why I did not go for the bath first. Well one area of self-care for me was that I needed to have those rooms stripped, bins emptied and to be in a place to be remade when next I got some energy because it gives me peace of mind. My husband did offer to help but I knew that even if he had done it I would still have had to go and check that all was done as I would like. Sounds controlling. Maybe it is but I know it is part of my self-care.
Once the washing was on and husband and dog were out on a long walk I could run a bath and relax into it. After the bath I read and read. Broken only by making supper and watching Dr Who and some journaling before I went to bed. I did not engage with messages that came through. Even though I did read them. Replies have waited until today. I was in bed by 8pm with my book and asleep by just after 9.
This has always been my way of self-care; a hot bubble bath, a good book and early to bed. I resisted the chocolates and the glass of wine because even though they hit the spot at the time they cause problems with my stomach and I don’t sleep so well. Again I wanted long self-care not an instant hit.
Regarding self-care I think we can often read books or blogs that tell us we must do this or that for self-care and, much as I think these things full of great ideas, I think each of us must decide what works for us. As I said in a talk I did during the service yesterday “nothing can be forced upon us unless we allow it but the only way we can know what are things we want to allow into our lives is just to slow down a bit and work out what we want or not want.” We can be moving too fast at time and not know what it is we want or do not want. For other people self-care might be climbing a mountain, going for long walk, going to the cinema. The list is endless but we need to each decide what helps us out and not get swept along with doing what we think we ought to do.
It is great, open and honest and something, I think we should all be doing – being open about our mental health issues. I do have a few Facebook friends that are totally open about what they are going through too. But what I have noticed with my friend’s post and with my FB friends is that they have all been diagnosed with a something. I think this helps. With my friend in his post too he works in an office environment so can take time working from home, etc. But what about all of us who have not been diagnosed either because of not having gone to a doctor, not found a professional who sees the problems and who can’t take time out.
This isn’t a gripe and a “poor me” but I do think it is harder. I work from home and some of what I do I have to keep going with – like the Airbnb stuff to keep the house clean and have beds made up for guests. This does give me freedom from not having to work 9-5 too so it is swings and roundabouts. But I do find it harder, when I can hide away at home and then put on my brave face when I go out, to be able to be open and honest about how I feel. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. There are also people who work in environments that may not understand or be sympathetic. A friend of ours with borderline personality disorder who worked in sales was given sympathy but still expected to meet his targets in high-pressure selling.
So how can those of us without a diagnosis, who have stepped out of the normal working situations or who are not in a sympathetic work environment deal with this? At the moment I don’t know but I know that I am trying harder to be honest about my mental health even if it is to have lower expectations of myself in what I can and can’t do, to be honest about how I am struggling to cope with all the changes that have gone on in the last two to three years – us moving, changes in my children’s lifestyles, all the new people we have met and new things we are doing. So when I have a meltdown because my husband has taken longer than I wanted over doing some household job or other I can say calmly, once I’ve regained my thoughts, “it’s not you but just this on top of me still coping with the changes”.
I’ve a project I’m doing that I know I should not have taken on. I need to finish the project. I need to finish it because it is the right thing to do. Yes, I work on that “right thing” but I am now downscaling what I’m doing with it, realising that I can’t get the help I expected due to other people’s commitments, and that actually I don’t have the emotional energy to get it sorted. So I will finish it but I will be kind to myself and again realise that little things like the household jobs taking longer could cause me stress but it isn’t them it’s just life.
So what I have decided is even if I can’t be open and honest to others as my friend has been in his post I can be open and honest to myself, kind to myself and say that even though I don’t need pills and therapy I do need space and time.
I am feeling that what I am doing with a lot of what I do is restoring boundaries – in people’s lives with the creative writing; with the volunteering at the castle; hopefully
with stuff I am going to be involved in with Abergele. But yesterday I learned too that I need to restore the boundaries in my own life. Boundaries must begin at home. And with this it was literally at home!
As you know we rent two rooms on the top floor of our house via Airbnb, work of mouth and I also have a contact in the local hospital where we have had a series of doctors and nurses come through. Often with the doctors I struggle but yesterday I realised it was me not them. Ok so it is them to a point but I let them be. This is my home and I have a style of how I want to run it and I have not been clear in that. This came to me yesterday when a Pakistani lady doctor came to book the room. She had very definite ideas of what she wanted and was very firm in letting me know. I found myself feeling uncomfortable about this but bending to what she wanted because she was the ‘customer’! Hum where did that come from?
When she had gone I chewed over my feelings about what she had said she wanted and realised that, if she came for the 6 weeks she wanted to stay for, that I would be spending most of that time cross. Well that’s silly! But I realised too that I had been doing this with
some of our other guests; giving in to what they wanted, not standing up and say ‘not in my house’, allowing them to set the pace. We have a lady staying this week on holiday who was here on holiday last year and as I was going through things for her she said “you’re very laid back about things and very welcoming because of it” which is lovely and how I want my home to be. But with some of people, especially the doctors, I have been more than laid back. I have been a push over. I have let them set the pace and have been cross about it.
Being laid back doesn’t mean I don’t have boundaries. I have very clear boundaries but realised I am often afraid to show them because I want people to like me. It was very hard last night to send a text to this latest doctor to say that I didn’t think it would work out between us for 6 weeks. I was so nervous sending it, but I did. She gave a short reply which was not rude at all. I did a review for a place we stayed that actually I didn’t like and felt it was overpriced but I felt so bad leaving it. What if she doesn’t like me? The point is neither of these women liked or disliked me. They were just people passing through.
As with doing work on restoring the boundaries at the castle where people do not like it because it means places they have always walked are now blocked so it will happen with me that there will be people who don’t like it because I have changed. But as with the castle being restored to it’s former glory so I will be restored to my true self.
But also in being able to set my boundaries clearly without fear so I can encourage others to set their boundaries without fear. I will not be doing workshops, volunteering, renting rooms in my house, in a manipulative way to get my own needs met but will be able to do it in a way that encourages, restores and elevates others – even if sometimes that will mean saying “you shall not pass“!
Ok so I know April isn’t over yet but where did it go? This month was to be my quiet planning month – which actually I have successfully done – on the whole. I have workshops planned and ready to go. I have advertising sorted and sent out to whoever I can think of. Actually as someone said to me it wasn’t so much a quiet month as an unstructured month where I had few time restraints – at least on the days I had at home.
Mind you I did fit in a friend’s hen do which because it was back where I use to live was a whole weekend away for me. Then said friend got married on 20th. It was a lovely wedding filled with much emotion – which will be saved either for another blog or to be kept in my private journalings.
Someone asked me about how to journal. I find that a hard question because I just write. I write as if no one else is going to read it and let my thoughts flood through. I had a great time of journalling over the hen weekend and came to some great realisations. Ok this might seem obvious to many but I have finally realised that
I am only one person
I can only do so much
if I want to do things well then I have to work out what is important to me what really grabs my heart
I am not as young as I would like to think I am
I have commitments that I cannot get out of – home, family, dog
Airbnb will keep me busy but also free to explore
Ok so not rocket science but it still led me to saying No to things, or rather not so much no but actually stepping down from some things so I can put my whole energy into a few things. I normally hold on to things so that I don’t hurt or upset people but then probably am not as committed as I should be. Whilst I journaled I looked at the things that gave me life and made me buzz. The things I’ve said I do not have the time to do are not bad things, are not things that I think are great and hope they come to fruition but they are things that I know I do not have the time for. Interestingly too as I journaled I saw that the things I was keeping all fitted together even though to begin with they looked separate. This would not have come about if I had just tried to think about it.
Maybe it is because I’m a writer that I have to explore my thoughts via writing? I don’t know. All I know is that by the end of that weekend at the beginning of April I knew the things I had to put my energies in for the next year. Oh yes not the next month or so but the next year. This has been such a help in planning the workshops I am going to be doing, doing the advertising which I find tedious and also filling the rest of my month.
Interestingly too after committing to these handful of things that I felt were interconnected they then went and got even more interconnected with people from one set of workshops giving me openings to take the other project to another level.
Rather than repeat myself I am going to copy in bits from my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table newsletter which show what the plan for now is:
Three workshops for this new season, all of which I’m very excited about and am looking forward to starting.
Tuesday starting 9th May (not 6th June) for 7 weeks – Releasing the Legend Within at Llandudno Museum, Gloddaeth Street, Llandudno LL30 2DD from 1-3pm A writing for well-being course looking at archetypes, journeys and being set free to be who one knows one is deep inside. £2 per person per session
Wednesday fortnighly starting 3rd May for 5 weeks – Write your life story at Gwesty Glyndwr, Marine Parade, Pensarn LL22 7PR from 11-12.30pm. £5 per person per session. Email to check dates. Always room for more and great tea, coffee and cakes at Gwesty Glyndwr.
Thursday starting 11th May (not 8th June) for 10 weeks – Creative Writing Group at Gwrych Castle, Abergele. Two chances to come and write in the Countess’s Writing Room – afternoon workshop from 1.30-3pm and twilight workshop from 6.30-8pm. Booking is essential as there is only enough room for 8 people in the writing room. This term I plan to be looking at questing and sagas. Cost £7.50 per person per session (£2.50 going to Gwrych Preservation Trust). Under 18’s welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.
I have been asked by Mark Baker of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to get involved in a year long project called “Gwrych Castle and The Great War: People and Place” which will be looking at The Countess of Dundonald, others who lived and worked on the estate and lived in and around Abergele, and how live was just prior to the First World War, during and then just after. The First World War caused the greatest change for the landed gentry in history.
It will be an amazing project with three phases –
Researching the period, hopefully getting in touch the relatives of people who lived and worked in this area during this time, taking their oral histories, copying diaries, photographs, etc.
Taking this material and holding a series of writing workshops to explore and unpack the material and turn it into plays, poems, short stories and maybe even a novel, with the help of various writers and writing groups in the area. Which will take us to
Taking the plays and turning them into performance pieces which will be held in and around the castle grounds at the Midsummer Open weekend in June 2018.
Of course all this is subject to gaining funding. So even though the project itself will only run for 12 months I am already working hard to secure funding. A long and arduous task!
If anyone is interested in finding out more about this project and getting involved please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I can give more information.
So in my journalling it transpired that I really did want to immerse myself in this but I had to then sort out what else I could do and what I would have to put on hold for a while.
It’s not just the blossom on the trees or the bud of new leaves, the singing of the birds chatting each other up or the primroses appearing, the clocks changing or it feeling warmer. The caravans have started to arrive in the caravan park I walk the dog past and the small animal zoo has opened again. Life is springing up all around.
But also I still see the remains of Storm Doris and the destruction she caused. The fallen tree I still have to climb over, the branches scattered in the park, the red tape around the trees made dangerous by the storm. It reminds me of my life. There are so many new and exciting things going on here. The doors that are opening
are amazing and I am using my degree to its limits with the projects I am becoming a part of – both paid and voluntary. But there is still in my life the remnants of the storms that I have endured; a missing person here that I’d like to tell, a reason why we’re living here not somewhere else, the pains, stresses, and sadnesses that I carry even though this glorious awakening.
It does feel like spring has come to my life with the workshops, the projects, the challenges of different cultures with the Airbnb. I can truly see our vision coming to life and it is amazing. But there are times when I wonder why I feel sad and low and then remind myself of the storms that have passed through. At times it feels like they block my path and slow me down and that the climb over them is too hard. But climb over I do because the openings and new growth that are happening in my life are too good to stay and dwell on the storm. But as I acknowledge the fallen tree and step over it and walk around the scattered branches so I must acknowledge what has gone on and not try to walk as though it is all as it was.
For the land this spring is different because of the destruction that passed through but it will rise into new growth and so will I.
For a week of mornings whilst out walking the dog as I walk past the park there have been a group of daffodils who’s faces are turned toward the sun, expectant of the day to come. I kept meaning to bring my camera and take a photo because they said so much to me about looking to the source of light and being expectant and ready for the day. Of course I forgot and now they are gone. It looks like someone has picked them. We have loads of daffodils in and around our park and often people pick them to take home. I hope these expectant daffodils have gone to a good home.
But it got me thinking – how often are we expectant for something, looking to the source and then get snatched away from it? At my church this Sunday we’re doing a little play based around Matthew 23:37 where Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem to him like a mother hen gathers her chicks. A mother hen will spread her wings wide when she sees danger and gather all her chicks under her wings to protect them from attacks by birds of prey. She is willing to give her own life for her chicks. I think so often we think of God as someone we go ask things from and “look to expectantly” but don’t let him cover us from attack/being picked/disappointment. This verse, and many others in the Bible, do say about God being there to protect and support during times of hardship and distress. I’m not sure there are any, or maybe a few, that say He’ll make the bad times go away yet too often the Christian message is “God will make things wonderful and life will be great” and then wonder why people fall away when life doesn’t work that way, when prayers don’t get answered, people don’t get healed, we get “picked” after diligently “looking at the source”.
I’ve just seen a post from a friend of mine who talks about life’s realities sometimes not living up to one’s expectations. With the things I do – the room rentals and the writing workshops – so often things don’t turn out as expected; I don’t get as many coming to the workshops as said they were, or those who come take things off in a totally different direction, or with the rooms people say they are coming for a certain time and then change their minds. We have just had it with the rooms that a couple and a single person both said they were going to be staying for a while. The single then decided that what she was doing here wasn’t for her and left and then the couple found a flat to rent quicker than I’d expected. For both sets of people this is great news, and I am really happy for them, but what it also means is that things have to lived up to the expectations that I had. Things are changing. It felt a bit like I was looking to a certain way of life and then got “picked” and its all change again.
So we need to be willing to accept the changes, go with the flow and also be kind to ourselves and accept that this can be exhausting, and like the daffodils can bring about major changes in our circumstances. And be willing to just hide under the shadow of His wing.
Now I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but it seems relevant again – at least for me for now.
Most Christians, and many who aren’t, will know the story of the Footprints in the sand; where there are two sets for a while then only one and the person says “where were you Lord when I was struggling?” and God says “I was carrying you.” And it is to encourage Christians to realise that when they cannot go on God carries them. A great metaphor! But why footprints in the sand?
As you know we now live by the sea and most days the dog and I go to the beach for a walk. Sometimes we get sand to walk on, other times we have to walk on the grass and stones above the high tide level. I have noticed, after being here for a year, that the revealed sand is constantly changing. There are streams and rivulets that go across the sand. Last summer I knew where each of them were but now they have moved. Some are deeper, some going a different way, some gone. Even today there was a change between a place I could cross which the sand has now moved around on and it isn’t there.
Which is where I get back to the “Footprints in the sand” piece. Yes I do think there is something there about how God does carry us but I also think that it is in the sand because footprints in the sand get washed away twice a day and as fallible human beings we quickly forget what God has done for us. Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about trusting God and about struggling with trusting God and yet I still want to walk in my own strength through things. So we have only been living here a year – exactly today we got the keys 🙂 – and I now run a successful room rental via both Airbnb and word of mouth, and am running workshops in various amazing places. Yet I struggle to trust that God will provide – work, participants for workshops, money, people to stay in our home. Because of workshops and also with room rental bookings not all coming via Airbnb there can be times when people cancel due to change of circumstance or ill health. I have noticed that these things happen when I have projected how much money I should be earning that particular week/month and have started spending it in my head. It is like God then says “excuse me, but you’re trusting in yourself and not in me” and I have to have a rethink. I want to be self-sufficient but God is saying I have to be God-sufficient. It happens again and again because I am so bad at learning my lessons. But I’m getting there 🙂
So I think the reason that the it is “Footprints in the Sand” is, one because we forget when we cannot see the evidence, but also because we need to walk in trust with God all day every day so that we can make those new footprints with Him every single day – like I do on the beach with my dog each day 🙂