Ch..ch..ch..changes…

A close-up from my recent vision board. The way these 3 quotes are right next to each other is true serendipity

I’ve been thinking more about change and started writing last night, but it felt and looked wrong somehow so I began again this morning. A year ago, maybe even more recently, I’d have spent hours agonising over re-writing, perfecting the grammar, dragging out of myself what I thought I wanted to say like bent, rusty nails from old floorboards, instead of simply changing or deleting. Yesterday I just read it a few times, thought s*d it, and deleted it so I could start again with a clean page (well, computer screen…). Maybe this is what change looks like sometimes: the willingness to ditch something that’s no longer serving you. Part of me is terrified of change because the familiar is known, even if it’s not the best place for you; uncertainty feels very risky and scary. That old caveman bit of my brain is most definitely in charge a lot of the time, fight/flight/freeze always just below the surface, but you’d be hard pressed to notice if you met me in person.

However, there’s also a tiny bit of my (brain? mind? soul?) that’s so weary of hiding and keeping quiet, of feeling unseen, of squashing down her needs all the time, and it’s trying to make itself heard because it desperately wants change. Not having much success, mind you, but trying nonetheless! I’ve previously likened this to being a Borrower in reverse: wanting to be seen and heard, instead of being quiet and unseen. Is this the start of some kind of personal evolution? A suggestion that change isn’t to be feared, but rather something to be approached with curiosity? My friend, Juliet, touched on change in this week’s Psychologies’ InstaLive on Instagram. She invited us to be curious about our state of mind and being, both during and after the creative task that she set. The task is to think about a guiding word for the rest of 2020, maybe changing from the one you’d chosen at the start of the year. This year has changed tremendously in so many ways from previous years, and from what we expected/planned in January, and those guiding words we may have chosen simply don’t serve us now.

I suppose it’s the ultimate about face: you’d planned, or looked forward to, all sorts based on previous years’ experience, and perhaps chosen your guiding word based on those assumptions, but instead we’ve all had to make totally unexpected changes very quickly. One thing we spoke about at Deborah’s Impact Club this week was about what change we’d made. For some it was simply an accountability exercise, for others it was about actual changes they’d made, or had recognised they wanted to make. I’m consciously planning and incorporating little changes in my life now, to see how I manage before I make the bigger ones, although that tiny part of my brain that’s longing for change keeps pushing for more, sooner. Dare I let it out? Is it wise to do so? Is it just some sort of rebellion against years of no real change, resulting in a mad desire for big change? Well, I’m the last person to know!!

Being creative/artistic/innovative is one way to make changes, maybe the best way, and what I’m turning to after years of denying I was creative. Perhaps change is necessary when you’re engaged in creative pursuits, maybe change and creativity are two sides of the same coin. There’s a sort of curiosity at play when you begin a painting, write a poem, turn wood or stone into new forms, cook, or create music. Very few creative pieces end how they start out; they tend to evolve, almost organically. That’s change at its finest, purest form, I believe. Maybe creativity and change are meant to go hand in hand: the spark of an idea that grows, shapes, takes different paths constantly, until it finds what and where it’s meant to be. Nature doesn’t resist change, it simply alters direction, tries a new path, and mostly survives, even if it’s in a different form. If you’re not sure what I mean, go and find a tree that’s more than a couple of years old, somewhere it’s been exposed to the elements day in and day out. Chances are it will have bent with the wind, adapted its shape to remain firmly rooted whilst also changed. When a tree meets a stone wall or other immoveable object, it grows around it. It doesn’t try to resist or stop growing at all, it simply changes tack.

The apple tree in my garden has bowed down with the weight of the fruit, changed its shape to cope until the fruit has ripened and been picked

What could you change this week? If big changes makes you a bit uneasy or scared, why not make little changes, as I’ve started doing? How about changing the type of book or newspaper you read, try some herbal tea in place of your coffee, cook something very different from your usual fare? Some of my little things are becoming bigger gradually, and I hope that I’ll feel more confident in making the bigger changes soon. Could you tell me about your changes? Message me here or pop over to my Instagram, @yorkshire_wellies. I’d love to see/hear what you might come up with, or how you’ve managed changes in your life!

Shift + Ctrl + Alt

(Daughter’s bedroom undergoing big changes from pale to much stronger colours!)

It’s officially the school summer holidays now in the UK, even though my children have been home with me for eleventy seven weeks already! Considering the ratio of school work done to computer use for gaming is about 0.000001:100, they’ve actually been “on holiday” for all eleventy seven weeks!! The head of my son’s school reassures me that the work portal will remain open all summer at least and not to worry, so I could “shift” my attitude a bit, “ctrl” the amount of gaming, and “alt” (alter) what we do through the summer. I admit to being rather slack during these weeks, not enough housework or encouraging the children to do school work and get outside, but I bet I’m not the only parent. Lots of other things have slid as well – not been to the allotment for a while, spuds hurriedly shoved in the garden, the house is an eyesore inside and out, etc., etc. – but I feel a sea change coming this week. Despite feeling annoyed that I’ve not done the things I’d planned at the start of lockdown, for missing so many opportunities to improve parts of our lives, it’s not too late. Maybe we needed all those weeks of nothingness in order to settle into new ways, to defrag our brains from the previous way of doing things, and find new paths for ourselves.

Football training is back on, there’s talk of matches soon; my daughter’s friends are beginning to play out; I’ve been for a socially distanced meal in a friend’s garden and SD walks. The new (better? different?) way of living takes a bit of getting used to, that’s all, and sometimes your brain protests at that. After all, the notion of change upsets that old limbic bit of your brain, suggesting that it’s bad, you’re not safe, making you anxious and inclined to dig in your heels against the unknown. If we didn’t accept change, nothing would change: adaptability to changing environments and the ability to create change are what’s kept our species going so long. I know people who are changing their ways of working, have pivoted their businesses or started something new, taken the opportunity of the changes all around them to strike out in a different direction. Doing different things does feel ‘wrong’ somehow, but that’s only because you’re having to move onto another path, make a little detour. Maybe you’re working differently with what you already have: shopping from the cupboards and freezer to put together a meal, using up food in creative ways instead of throwing it away, or re-purposing items to use differently.

My friend, Juliet, set us just such a challenge last week in her Psychologies InstaLive. She spoke about using different media to create a piece of art, suggesting alternatives to paper, paint and brushes. How about ‘painting’ on an old tea towel with a fork and some food colour? Or try ‘stitching’ with grasses onto a piece of kitchen roll? You could cut up some old jeans and use various objects around the house to experiment with bleaching the colour? (* PLEASE do this last one outside or in a well-ventilated space, use rubber gloves, and supervise children!) Below is my effort, using part of a cardboard box, plants from my garden, and garden twine and wool to stitch them in place.

The second picture, below, was taken the morning after, and you can see how the greenery is dying, changing state. I felt it was important to show this, to remind me about things changing, that plants die, change state, and move on. It also reminded me of the idea of making ‘art for the bin’, where you simply have a go at something, without much of an idea, recognise that it’s just the process of making, and then chuck it away. It’s hard to preserve this kind of art without resorting to chemicals or whatever, so maybe it’s good to enjoy what you’ve made right now, take a few photos for posterity and then bin it, put it on the compost heap, and use that experience for creating your next ‘thing’.

‘Shift + ctrl +alt’ is all about change. It says ‘shift’ your thinking away from what doesn’t serve you anymore, change to a way that helps you, that moves you in a different direction. ‘Ctrl’ doesn’t always mean literal control of everything in life; maybe it’s being aware of what can reasonably be controlled and what (or who) is actually needing to change. Rather than resisting and trying to control everything rigidly, loosen that control and guide yourself (or others), be open to some flexibility. Finally, ‘alt’ could be read as either ‘alter’ or ‘alternate’. Try and alter how or what you think or do, your brain is plastic and always receptive to growth and change. Follow a different path when you go for a walk, swap your meals around, be more aware of what you think and try to challenge your brain. Alternate is a regular change between one thing and another: alternating between different coloured socks, choosing one supermarket over another. Why not go for a walk on alternate days of the week, if you find it difficult to go every day? It could soon become a good habit, and you could always change it up again! If you are finding eating healthily is hard, why not promise yourself to do so every other day, small changes like this are easier to slip in, without your reptilian brain getting too worked up and alerting you to perceived danger!

So what would you like to shift, control, or alter/alternate this week or soon? I find these things hard, I’m just beginning to learn after a lifetime of doing otherwise, not a life coach by any means! It’s important for me to see all this written down, like a coaching session to myself, a reminder or gentle nudge to do (and keep doing) these things in order to grow and change. I’m curious to know how you feel/think about this, do let me know via the comments!

Continue & keep the faith

Well, after waxing lyrical about different sorts of creativity last week, I’ve not done as much as I’d planned then. Note that I’m NOT saying “I should have…”, because that word’s now considered akin to swearing! Instead, I’m viewing it as a slightly delayed start. This is actually working in my favour because I did different things, and have had other ideas, which I may not have done had I continued with my original plans. Maybe that’s the Universe gently nudging me to take a different tack this week!

It’s taken a while for me to really understand (and believe) that accepting and embracing change is essential, especially as our usual way of life has altered quite radically in the last few months. I’ve got used to these changes, but hadn’t truly accepted them. Instead I’ve been impatient for quite a lot of life to return to “normal”, simply because that state was the one I knew and understood, even if I didn’t really like it; it was comfortable. And there lies the rub: comfortable is all very well, but it’s often only useful when you’re choosing a new bed or pair of jeans. Have you thought about what comfortable can do or, more precisely, stop you from doing? What if scientists, artists, writers, makers, and thinkers since the year dot hadn’t stepped out from behind their comfortable? My husband is re-decorating our daughter’s bedroom and she’s chosen a strong colour for the walls. It’s very different from the pale colours we’ve often used, but a welcome change and it will look fab when it’s done, with new soft furnishings and finishing touches. Our daughter isn’t much into conformity and that’s refreshing!

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In Deborah‘s Impact Club last week, Barbara Nixon spoke about and encouraged us to think about what holds us back or gets in our own way. Although the focus was mainly to someone’s business or job, I feel that you could explore these elements from a creative and whole-life point of view, too. She asked us to consider when we last did something that made us a feel a little scared, and how we could do those things more consciously, more often, in order to stop our brains shoving us back into our comfort zones. What if you decided to paint that vision in your mind, and show someone? Or enter that writing competition when your inner critic keeps telling you it’s totally pointless? When the doubts, fear of failing, or lack of focus sneak out from the caveman bit of your brain, it takes effort (often great big buckets of it!) to persevere, to trust in what you’re doing or trying to achieve. I feel totally hypocritical writing this as I bet I have several PhD’s in those very things myself, BUT I believe I’m a work in progress and I’m feeling much more positive this week!

This leads me to a couple of words I’ve chosen for the rest of this year, part of a challenge set by Juliet in last week’s Psychologies InstaLive: FAITH and CONTINUE. Spookily, I’d just chosen these earlier that day, as I’d not done so in January and it seemed a good idea at that exact moment, so I had one of those goose-walking-over-my-grave moments when she mentioned it; it was like I’d done the challenge before she’d set it!

For me, faith means faith in myself first and foremost, believing in the things I want to do and discrediting my imposter syndrome and self-doubt. It means accepting whatever the universe sends my way, that these happenings aren’t random but meant to be. It’s taking a leap into the creative unknown, which is often terrifying for me, and trusting that it will be exciting and fulfilling. Continue says I’m still here, I have ‘stuff’ to do, that the creative journey I’ve finally begun isn’t a finite one. It also means not going back to the drawing board, not leaving my creations unfinished because I’ve given attention to the negative inner critic, but completing what I start. I see Faith and Continue as two sides of a coin; you can observe them separately but they are part of the same, bigger thing.

Faith and Continue fit very snugly into Juliet‘s creative challenge from yesterday’s live video, which is to look at ‘painting’ using backgrounds, mark-making media, and tools that differ from what you might traditionally use. How about using the inside of a cereal packet as your background, used tea bags as paint, and an old make-up sponge for a paintbrush? Or using a stone (tool) to pound some leaves or grass (paint) onto an old tea towel (background)? It’s about looking differently at what’s around you, being curious about your surroundings and how you could use everyday items in an unusual way. Having Faith in the process and trusting that, as you Continue through your comfort zone and out into your creative zone, what you’re making is valid, worthwhile, and unexpectedly beautiful. If you really don’t like what you’ve made, firstly silence that inner critic (perfectionism is a blooming killer!) and use that piece simply as practice for something new. Then try something different, explore what you think didn’t work so well, use that piece in a different way. Maybe you could cut it up and literally re-use the bits in a collage for instance. The piece below is one I made earlier this year, in response to an art challenge. It’s acrylic paint onto watercolour paper, using found objects from around the house to create different effects. There are prints from pegs, bubble wrap, and a doily, amongst other things. I’m still not keen on it, but I’m being brave and showing you anyway as an example of what you could do. This was the first time in years that I’d done anything like this, so it’s a good exercise in accepting that it’s good enough.

Repurposing things works the creative bones of you and encourages you to look at objects with a different eye. It’s also good for the planet as you’re giving something a new lease of life, and it’s money-saving, too – what’s not to like?! I have some old bedding that I’d like to turn into cushion covers, some new-to-me little side tables and a couple of our bookcases that are crying out for a new paint job, and all the while I have my new vision board in sight. The thing on it I like the best is the quote below, which I feel sums up pretty well what I’ve said this week. Have a bit of a think, and then have a go at something a bit different this week. I’d love to see what you let yourself create!

Trees, Weather, & Creativity

I went for a wander with my hubby and youngest child today for some much-needed fresh air and sunshine (and even the teenager went off to play footie with some friends for an hour!), although we got rather soggy due to some sharp showers near the end. Even managed to persuade the hubby into posing for a bedraggled family selfie!! We felt much better for getting outside and I love it when it’s blustery; it literally blows away the cobwebs and invigorates me.

As a child (and even a teenager), I loved going to the top of Castle Hill (a local landmark in my home town) and being buffeted about by the wind, even during thunderstorms! It’s my favourite place to be: you feel like you’re on the top of the world, no wonder Bronze-age people settled there. I wonder if any of them took the time to look around and just ‘be’? Was there time for them to wonder about the nature of things, to have a few moments of mindfulness? Were there trees around then, do you think, did Bronze age children climb them or friends arrange to meet under them?

Today I managed to take some good photos of my favourite trees as I love the changes that happen in between each time I see a familiar shape. Got some great ideas brewing for how to use them! Why not do something similar yourself? Maybe you could photograph the same tree once a month for a year, or take some paper and crayons out to do some bark rubbings (carefully!). You could bring home a handful of different leaves, and then draw each one in a few different ways, and try to identify the trees they came from. My friend, Juliet, of The Curious Creative Club did her first Insta live for Psychologies magazine this week, and invited those watching to take part in a mini challenge to do something creative inspired by trees and to share the results. People have written poems and all sorts!

Holmfirth Art Week was due to happen this week, but it’s obviously been postponed, and they’re also doing a virtual art challenge (here) for anyone to join if they wish. So, you see, there are always opportunities to challenge yourself and try something creative: go wherever the feeling takes you, whether it’s a photograph, a doodle, baking biscuits or learning crochet from online tutorials. Which leads nicely into talking about the online coaching/self discovery courses/people I’m currently following (Psychologies, A Life More Inspired, DO Impact Club). They’re all different, but similar in the sense that they encourage you to explore ways in which you could change your approach to life, and maybe do things you’ve been putting off, or feared you couldn’t do for some reason, maybe to provide some accountability to help keep you focussed. It sounds like a lot, but it isn’t really, you can dip in and out of these things, and take from them what works for YOU. If these aren’t for you, how about Open Learn or Future Learn, or ask your local adult education colleges? Even in these strange times, online learning is still happening, and it could spark real life interests and creativity in you!

This coming week brings some family creativity in the form of my hubby decorating our daughter’s bedroom, a much-delayed project that’ll soon be finished; said daughter has chosen the colour for the walls and is on with the grand design for the finishing touches. My son is often less willing to do the sort of creative things that he simply thinks of as drawing or painting, but now he’s showing an interest in how we could change his room around; new colours and furniture, which IS exploring his creativity and it’s good for him. Cue yet another Pinterest board with bedroom ideas; some of these boards are getting out of hand! I read something FrankAndFeel said, about paying attention to what you Pin. She was referring to Pinterest, and what she’d noticed about how/where she saves those beautiful images. Instead of saving something to her home decor board, she saved it to ‘One Day’, which sparked her curiosity about the themes we (as Pinterest users) come back to time and again. What do these images mean to us? How do they resonate? There must be something that pulls us – why else would you find you’ve saved the same image half a dozen times over?! She describes these phenomena as “digital maps of our desires”, and suggests that even if we profess to not know what we want, our sub-conscious certainly does! I believe that this concept feeds back directly into our own perceptions of creativity, so maybe we could sit back and think about this, or go for that walk and really look at our favourite trees, take note of what chords are being struck inside us, and choose to make something of that barely submerged creativity? Go on, give it a go, and let me know what you find out…