Leaving With Grace

DSCN0826 (1)I was a volunteer at a local restoration project. I was working very hard. I had reached a point where I was tired of doing it all for nothing. The Christian expression that a friend uses a lot is “the grace had gone”, which means the love, the joy, the being able to put the work at the castle first, not needing rewards apart from the joy of being, wasn’t there any more. It meant I was getting grouchy about it all and wanting to see wrong in it and everyone there. My husband said that it is psychologically proven that when people want to leave something – a job, project, relationship, town, etc – they find fault with it. But you see I didn’t want to leave not liking it there. I can see the castle from my study window. I also walk my dog in the grounds. I did not want to stop looking at it, stop going there, stop encouraging other people to go there. I didn’t want people to hear my bad mouthing it. So what to do?

Well, being a Christian, I spent a long time in prayer over how I would resign my post. Yes it wasn’t just that I was a volunteer but that I had a key post. I tried to not do anything and to say I was busy in the hope that they would get mad at me and ask me to leave. It didn’t work. It was time for me to grow up and take control. In the end I did manage to step down gracefully and leave as a friend. It does mean at times that I am called back to help – with events, with late evening lock ups, can still run my writing groups up there. It means I can still walk there, see the people involved and have a chat.

Then the other night I was at Dan Snow’s History Man event at a local theatre. At the end dan-snow-a5-2019-dates-lo-722x1024of every evening he always shares something on the local history of the area. Well one of the two places he picked was the castle where I used to volunteer. And he especially picked out the young man who runs the Trust and is the driving force in the restoration. Because I had left with grace and kindness, when I saw it and the things Dan Snow said about it my heart swelled with pride. Not because I had been a part of it but because I knew the person being honoured. I was proud of him. He is my friend. I was proud to hear him honoured. Proud that the place I used to be very involved in was one of only two places singled out in this area for Dan Snow to talk about. All this came about because I grew up and left with grace not with anger.

I am hoping I can take this onward as a life lesson for whatever I do next.

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Just Say No

For those of us old enough that phrase will conjure up the cast of Grange Hill telling us to

no
Poster from Grange Hill’s campaign back in 1986

“just say no” to drugs. But actually we don’t teach people to just say No. This has come from an email I received from a friend who gets a lot of pressure from her family to help when in fact she has a demanding home life too. Her counsellor told her to tell them she couldn’t because of her demanding life. That got me thinking. So if my friend didn’t have things that drained her physically and emotionally then it would be ok for her to support a member of her family that she feels is expecting too much? I’m sure that is not what the counsellor meant but it is easy to think that.

Why can’t we just say No? Why do we have to put in excuses? My husband and I have decided to block out one weekend a month, to just say No to seeing other people. It is hard because we have a wide range of friends who like us and we like and want to see. Already this year we have had to change one of the weekends to fit in a birthday party. At the moment we are changing not losing that free weekend. But it is hard to say No. With myself and my writing I am trying to block out writing days and to say No to other things. It isn’t easy.

So I say “No because this is my writing day/weekend with my husband/I’m seeing my kids”. Why can’t we just say No?

So I am going to try a little experiment, and maybe get back to you and let you know how I did. I am going to say No without explanation. I did try with a coffee invite that I received today. It isn’t that I don’t want to see the person but it is because I am feeling tired what with winter lurking about still, that January/February feeling, and just want to do nothing for a bit. I didn’t say that I did just say “Can’t make the dates you’ve suggested but can do X if that works for you”

Do we always need to give a reason why we say No to something? Discuss [GCSE question for January LOL! ] 

Self-Care

2017-06-05 12.10.09.jpgI 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

Troop to attention with jerry and lorraine.jpg
WWI at Gwrych July 2018

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.

DSCN0819 (1).JPGThis 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.

How to be honest

A friend of mine shared an email he had written to his place of work to explain how he is struggling with mental health problems. You can read it here  – A Personal Message to Friends and colleagues.

It is great, open and honest and something, I think we should all be doing – being open 800px_colourbox9264852about 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 core-value-open-and-honestenvironments 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. walk-away-in-love

Choose Life

Moses repeated the words God told him about the Jewish people’s having a choice life-spirit-feature-imgbetween life and death, blessing and curses. The apostle Paul said Jesus came to take the sting of death away. This poem on Velveteen Rabbi’s blog post this morning, says it all for me about how too often we choose death. For me not only are the gunmen responsible for deaths, the terrorists responsible for deaths but we all are. We are in a world that allows guns – ok so in the UK and Europe we don’t have the same gun laws and the US but we still have guns; young men in inner cities with guns because of fear and need for power, farmers with guns to shoot rabbit, vermin, etc, Policeman carrying guns because there are gun crimes. We live in a landscape that gives rise to fear and hate, for the need to control, for the need to be seen. Too often we choose death not live, we choose to put the other down rather than raise them up. We choose to fear rather than trust, to see the bad rather than the good.

Each time we fear or need power, don’t trust and don’t accept, we are choosing death empower1over life. Yes we need to stop gun crime. Yes we need to stop stabbings. But we also need to stop fear and disempowering others. If we gave people a voice, some place to speak, gave them power without the gun, maybe that would help them choose life over death.

 

Here’s Rachel’s poem

Prayer-after

I loved and grieved from the day you claimed your free will,
Knowing that you too would open into infinite love and grief,

Knowing how your hearts would bloom with gratitude and hope
With every child’s every first, and lament every child’s every last,

As I do and always will with My children’s every first and every last
In the raw and wild cosmic dance we began together in the garden.

What else could I do? You must become what you must become,
Like Me infinitely becoming, infinitely capable of love and grief,

So I clothed your shimmering lights in skins and hid in plain sight
For you to seek and find Me amidst life’s sweetness and sorrow.

How fast your lights flickered underneath: your second son’s blood
Cried out to Me from the ground, too soon returning earth to earth.

The guilty wandered the land howling, pining for peace and safety
Denied by the very violence that condemned the guilty to wander,

Setting in motion also the vicious whirlwind spinning through
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas. Where next?

I did not mean for you to live like this or die like this – in fear and terror,
In trauma’s torrents, in shrapnel showers turning streets into killing fields.

You still can choose life: the free will your ancestors claimed for you
Remains yours even now, and still I gasp with loving pride and worry

With your every first and every last, grieving the countless innocents
Returning to Me in My own image too soon, bloodied and bagged.

But still you choose death. Aimlessly you wander the land howling,
Pining for peace and safety that senseless violence steals from you.

Choose to be My love, My strength, My intuition, My prophets, My beauty,
My healing hands – My living essence in this bloody and weary world.

Only then will this cruelest of your roulette wheels stop spinning red.
Oh, how I long with you for that day when you truly will choose life.

 

Claimed your own free will – Eve’s “defiance” in Eden claimed human agency for all her successors (Genesis 3:6-7).

Knowing … bloom – An allusion to the Tree of Knowledge and humanity’s “opening” into the knowledge of love and loss.

You must become – God describes God’s self to Moses as אהיה אשר אהיה / Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, “I Am Becoming Who I Am Becoming” (Exodus 3:14). We who are made in the divine image are also called to perennially become.

Clothed your shimmering light in skins – Because the Hebrew words for “skin” (עור) and “light” (אור) both are pronounced or, Zohar teaches that Eden’s first humans were beings of light, before God made us garments of skins. Even so, our skins cover our light, which we still can see if we look carefully.

Your second son’s blood… returning earth to earth. Humanity’s first murder – Cain killing Abel (Genesis 4) – spilled Abel’s blood (דם / dam) to the earth (אדמה / adamah).

Wander – Cain, after murdering his brother, was condemned to wander the land without peace (Genesis 4:14).

Setting in motion also – From Cain comes not only the first murder but also the rhetorical question – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8) – that continues to reverberate through the generations, and also the first “Why?” (Genesis 4:6), which teaches all future generations the possibility of teshuvah / return and repair (Radak Gen. 4:6).

Whirlwind – An allusion to the סערה (storm) from which God answered Job (Job 38:1). The storm’s circular shape resembles both a roulette wheel and a gun’s rotating cylinder that conveys bullets.

Choose life – “Choose life, if you and your progeny would live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Aimlessly – The indiscriminate shooter, the nation’s inertia.

My love, My strength… – Seven emanations of the divine, corresponding to the seven lower sefirot of Kabbalistic tradition: chesed (love), gevurah (strength / boundaries), tiferet (balance), netzach (endurance / momentum), hod (beauty / gratitude), yesod (foundation / generativity), malchut (indwelling).

Roulette wheels stop spinning red – For the gaming tables of Las Vegas and the ultimate gamble: walking the streets safe and unafraid.

14 stanzas – 14 for יד, the yad (hand) of God: we now are the hand that must act.

332 words – 332 for לבש, lavash (clothed) in divine skins that cover our light.

 

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Evan Markus

(cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi and to R’ David’s website; feel free to reprint, with attribution.)

Boundaries begin at home

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

boundaries-quote-no
From  https://greendoorrelaxation.net/2015/06/13/setting-boundaries/

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

boundaries-brene-brown-quote
From  https://greendoorrelaxation.net/2015/06/13/setting-boundaries/

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 gandalfothers 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“!

Where did April go???

Ok so I know April isn’t over yet but where did it go? This month was to be my quiet hello-april-images-1planning 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 how-does-journaling-help-addiction-recovery-drugrehab-us_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

  1. I am  only one person
  2. I can only do so much
  3. if I want to do things well then I have to work out what is important to me what really grabs my heart
  4. I am not as young as I would like to think I am
  5. I have commitments that I cannot get out of – home, family, dog
  6. 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.

journaling-quoteMaybe 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.
The Project
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 –

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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 grwycheducation@gmail.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.

Will try to do another post soon 🙂