I was pondering this as I started to write an update for my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table mailing list. I started with “There have been four fantastic workshops over this past week …” and go on to talk about the new well-being one I’m doing at Llandudno Museum, the restart of the Memoirs one after it’s Easter break and the two that I am now doing at Gwrych Castle. But it got me thinking “what makes something a success?” and Why am I saying these workshops have been fantastic?
Well to me they have been and it’s not me putting in lots of hype to get people to come. I have not had great numbers – 4 each week at Llandudno, 4 at the Memoirs one, 4 at the afternoon Gwrych one and then 2 at the twilight one. Looking like my number might be four 🙂 Perhaps I need one of my friends who are into meanings of numbers to look into that 🙂 For me doing the workshops is not about numbers but about connections, growth, encouraging people. For me I was encouraged at the afternoon one at Gwrych when I had one lady come back from last time – but also do have another lady who will be joining us next week from the previous set of workshops. At the Memoirs one the group are sharing details about their lives to each other and one came in with a brochure for another relating to something they spoke about a fortnight previous. Networks and friendships are being made.
Every time I do a group I learn more about myself, about how I do when people challenge my way of doing things, of working with people, doing group work, and setting out and planning the workshops. I still love learning about myself, witnessing the changes that have gone on, seeing that I am reacting differently. And I learn about other people – some things I read wrong, some right – it is all part of the journey.
I always have to go back to my reason behind why I set out to do writing workshops, and the diversity of the writing workshops, in the first place. My reason all has been – and has been in a lot of what I do in my life – to see others reach their potential. I’m not doing it in that self-sacrificing, being walked over sort of way, but in a way that I hope I reach my potential too. I love the writing I hear and see. I love being able to see someone grow in confidence as they write. I would love to see some get published, others reach a place of freedom, others understand their self-worth. Reaching potential is not a one size fits all. Which again comes back to “what makes something a success?” For me that would be for each to reach their potential and grow beyond that.
So many of us have had to find our own roots and wings due to circumstances beyond our control, and often beyond our parent’s control. As I find my roots settling down deeper into the soil of North Wales, and especially this lovely little town, I feel my wings getting stronger. I am learning that to truly fly you do not have to travel the world but can stay in a small area but be truly free. But that is for a different blog 🙂
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 email@example.com 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.
Matthew 25 tells a parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. In the tale all ten of them are waiting for the bridegroom to turn up. It seems that this bridegroom doesn’t come at the time expected. In fact he is very late. Five of them had come without anything extra just in case and others had come with more oil just in case. When he did finally arrive the ones who had only got enough oil had run out but the others had enough left, though were reluctant to share. What struck me today was that all ten had come prepared but some were more prepared than others.
I am just starting a new project with my church and have been pondering it and how it will fit in with the other things that I do and want to do. How often do I take just enough because I am hoping it will be over quickly, or that I can get someone else to carry it for a while?
Last weekend I had a fun trip up to London to catch up with an old friend, see Moominland and see my daughter. Even though it was great fun it was still a very long day. Then on the Sunday I went to help out on Gwrych Castle open day, which again was enormous fun but tiring. Then in the week I had a meeting, a workshop every evening and every day, and a couple of other things going on. A very full diary. This weekend thankfully it has been calm and quiet, and last night husband was away and I had no guests staying. I am almost recovering. When I was in my 20s and 30s I could have breezed through this, but now it has taken a whole week to recover and I still feel a bit exhausted. I had enough but nothing left over.
I often wonder if not just church but the world helps us with this. Youth and the energy of youth is worshipped almost and the wisdom of the grey hairs not so much. But where are the teachings about slowing down, about knowing when your oil is running out. In fact in churches I’ve been to there has been much preached on making sure you always have that extra oil. Yes I totally understand that, but I need to know what I now need to cut out so that I have oil left over.
I do think this is as much about knowing your limitation as about making sure you have something in reserve. I wonder what the reasoning was with the five virgins who didn’t bring spare oil to wait? Maybe they’d given it to someone who didn’t have any? Had helped out a neighbour? Been somewhere else beforehand whilst the “wise” had been sitting and waiting? Maybe the “wise” had just come straight from the oil seller and so were able to carry some spare? Maybe the “foolish” had back problems? Didn’t have spare money?
I often push myself harder than I should because of concerns about money, about a job needing to be done, about helping and supporting other people, lots of other reasons. Take last weekend – why was I so busy? Because I wanted to see my friend and Moominland, and then was asked to help at a place I have fallen in love with and want to support. The things I do I do because they are things I love, ways I want to help and support others, things I get asked to do. All valid reasons.
So are we too harsh on the “foolish” virgins? Maybe we need to all be aware that too often we get swept into the role of helping, supporting, being there for others and just get too busy. Perhaps we need to pray more and do less?
It is fine for me to come as I am with my woundings and hurts, my bits where I say and do the wrong thing, etc but what about others? How willing am I to have people who are hard work, mess my life up, over step my boundaries about? What about the couple we had last year staying in our house who wrote the awful review? Are we happy that they come as they are? Ok so we learned from them but actually we’d have preferred them to come a bit more sorted? What about the person who cuts us up when driving? Who abuses a child? Who like Karen from The Moorside was broken and lied? How happy are we for people to come as they are?
I think it depends often on our relationship with them. Ok as Christians there is this thing that we should love everyone as God loves them, but we don’t. I can forgive my children anything because I love them fiercely and still have that mother-tiger protective care element. I can forgive my husband most things because I have chosen to like and love him and forgiving him is my gift I can give him. Many of my friends I can forgive if they are snappy, hurtful, do stuff I’m not sure I like, but that’s because there is some bond between us that makes us friends. For me to not allow them that space to come as they are means I have to break that bond of friendship. There have been people that were my friends that I have had to do that to, who’s “coming as they are” has been more than I could cope with and for my own emotional well-being I have had to make a space between me and them. Does that mean they should change? Not necessarily.
We all put on different faces and show different sides of ourselves when we meet. This isn’t hiding and being something we’re not but this is knowing that we do need to behave differently with different people. When we have people staying here who are similar ages to my children we don’t speak to them as we would Ben and Tabitha. We speak to them differently. Every man who comes through our house I do not behave with in the same way I would behave with my husband. In fact last weekend we had 3 different sets of people to lunch and each meal was different. We acted differently and I suspect the people who came acted in a different way too. This isn’t them “covering up their scars” but is them being true to themselves in the situation they are in.
I think we do need to be willing to accept our scars as much as we accept other people’s. A bit like the love your neighbour as yourself and you have to love yourself first. So we need to be able to know we have scars, reveal them wisely, don’t be as we think we should be – because often that means we are false to ourselves anyway and people can feel something is not right and avoid us anyway.
I think we are to be true but be wise. Not everyone wants the raw version of us. We often don’t need to see the raw version of ourselves. But also we must not go around pretending to be something we are not. My crazy story is what has made me me. As I told someone today I’ve made some crazy decisions and have survived. I must say that it is surviving those crazy decisions that has made me – with my scars, my story and my glory 🙂