Wobbles, WOW Wednesday, and Weekends

More time to cook at the weekend: Mediterranean roast veg and salmon, with buttered Pink Fir potatoes – delicious!

Hello, folks, how’s your week been? Did you all benefit from the extra hour last night?!

It’s been a busy week all round, and only got the time to breathe and write this afternoon/evening (Sunday). I’m in the third week of a new job, still finding my feet and feeling like the new girl, and this week has been hectic. Friday was the busiest by far, with staff off work ill or on leave and hardly any of us to man the ‘phones, which barely let up all afternoon! I was also feeling anxious about what hours I was scheduled to work this coming week as it’s half term here, and hadn’t been able to catch my line manager to organise. By the time I got home, I was really wound up and having a massive wobble, wondering if I’d bitten off more than I could chew, and whether I should just pack it in and accept that it’s too stressful for me. However, once I was in my pj’s and had relaxed, I felt a bit more positive about it all. Maybe it is too stressful for me and maybe I won’t last, but I can also have a more positive outlook, accept that I’m only 3 weeks into a new job, I can give it more time, and learn to ask for help! Wobbles don’t have to mean that your limbic brain is allowed free rein to bring you down completely: you can have that wobble and know that it’s probably based in fear or tiredness somewhere, and that it will pass shortly.

One thing I don’t often need help for is cooking, and I’m glad I had more time for it this weekend. I’m very grateful to come from a family where both my parents had a love of good food, were very creative in the kitchen, and taught us how to cook at an early age. They had both travelled, my dad in particular as he was in the Merchant Navy, and we ate truly international cuisine before it was usual here in the UK. I’ve had a spell of not eating well until recently, and it’s definitely affected my health negatively – you really are what you eat! However, I’m pulling myself out of it now, and am getting back to eating well more often (although the littlies are now demanding noodles in cups-style instant meals on the days I work!!). Jana Shirley runs a fab programme aimed at women, which guides and supports you to make permanent, healthy changes to your eating patterns and overall lifestyle, without it feeling like a slog, or like every other programme, well worth a look (link here).

You can’t see them all, but there are 5 veggies in the filling, sweet & regular spuds in the mash, and broccoli to finish – veggie heaven!

At this time of year, with clocks going back and the nights drawing in, we’re naturally drawn to comfort food, and larger quantities of stodge. However, as we’re getting less daylight, maybe now is the time for loads more veg to up our vitamin and mineral intake, and possibly act as a little buffer against the lowering of our moods that can happen during the darker, colder months. I’m sure you all know wrinkles for adding extra veg to your meals, and I don’t want to come across as bossy, but it’s so easy to do and well worth the extra peeling and chopping! I love seeing a plateful of riotous colour: the bright green of broccoli and kale, the rich, deep purple of red cabbage, sunny orange carrots, and zingy red tomatoes and peppers. Even when you’re at your worst, it feels like eating a rainbow, and you can almost feel the goodness zinging its way through your body!

Bright vegetables ready to roast, could just dive right in!

Our weekend at home has also consisted of furniture moving and dejunking on a large scale, as we’re having joiners in this week to install new fitted wardrobes. I’ve known what date they were coming for a while, but we’re still lastminute-dot-com in emptying the rooms for them to work!

Old wardrobes demolished, 24 years old and still quite sturdy really!
What an amazing brain she has!!
My daughter’s interpretation of some of my art work

As we cleared the first room, my daughter’s creative handiwork was revealed on the walls and old bookcase; in a way it’s a crime to get rid of and paint over it, but I took photos to remind us years down the line. She doesn’t hold back with her creativity, and I’m proud of that ability – need to take a leaf out of her book, I think!

Last, but definitely not least, WOW Wednesday had its second real life meeting this week, and it was so good to see some of the others whom I’ve not seen since March! We even had cake, as Lynda made a delicious date and ginger one to share with us all. WOW Wednesday has really been the making of me: it’s given me the confidence to start doing things I’d given up on due to good old comparisonitis, anxiety, and imposter syndrome. The amazing people who comprise WOW are worth their weight in gold, and have a fabulous range of experience and skills. It was lovely to have a gentleman this week in the shape of Angela’s husband Nigel, who’s a brilliant artist – check out his work on Instagram! It’s great to be part of such a diverse group of lovely people: we learn from one another, we accidentally network, share new resources and ideas, and show off each other’s achievements.

As we head towards the end of October, Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night are close but likely to be damp squibs compared to last year. We could moan about the loss of communal bonfires and parties, or we could create a special night or two in our own homes, and deliberately make it different, make it stand out for positive reasons. If you’ve never done it, you could have a go at pumpkin carving and stick some tea lights inside, or hollow one out for a food or floral display. Make some chocolate buns, and decorate with orange buttercream and chocolate sticks to represent a bonfire. Maybe you could find a creepy film and watch it with the lights off, curtains drawn, and loads of lighted candles to add to the spooky atmosphere! Whatever you do, enjoy the difference instead of yearning for what’s not happening – take some photos and tag me on Instagram to share, if you like!

Overflow

Have you ever watched a sink or bath overflow? How did you feel watching the surface tension of the water break as the water crept or gushed through the overflow pipe or over the edge and onto the floor? It fascinating to watch, especially if the tap was on slowly, so that the water level creeps up gradually, unnoticeably, until all of a sudden it’s spilling over the edge. It’s insidious, and if you walk away from a slowly filling bath, thinking you have plenty of time before it’s full, the filling takes you unaware until it’s suddenly done, and more so, and the water’s cascading over the edge, leaving you with lots of mopping up.

A tap that’s on full seems to demand closer attention: we know it’s going to fill quicker, so we pay more attention, ready to turn off the tap when the washing up bowl’s full, but sometimes we’re not quick enough and it still overflows. Either way, the container fills to the brim, and once it’s overflowing we often panic, rushing to turn off the water and clear up the mess (like when my son ‘forgot’ about his bath running until we saw water dripping through the kitchen ceiling!). Maybe that spilled water has just dampened something, or perhaps it’s caused serious, irreparable damage that will cost a lot to repair.

My washing up, still unfinished today!

Our minds, bodies, and lives are very much like that bath or washing up bowl, being filled up with the water of people and situations, and just as prone to overflowing, whether it creeps or gushes. The overflow might not be a big deal, just a little spill to clear up, but all too often the metaphorical water-damage can cause serious problems. I think the trick is to pay close attention to those ‘filler-uppers’ and the speed with which our baths get full; and also consider how hot or cold the water. Like Goldilocks in the fairy tale, we each have a water temperature that’s just right. We don’t want to be in a tub of water that’s too full or empty, too hot or cold. As our life baths fill, maybe we could also pay attention to the temperature, so that we can adjust it.

What could this look like for you? Maybe the cold things are the rational, physical – connected with your work, money in the bank, fixing the car, meetings you need to attend. The hot things, the more emotional stuff, might include the pressure you feel under at work, the drama at home created by your teenage child, the stress involved when caring for older, sick relatives as well as your partner and children, maybe your long-standing mental health issues. Each of these physical and internal bath-fillers has a different rate at which they flow, some are a little but constant trickle, others gush alarmingly but for just a minute or two.

Not quite a tap overflowing, but the relentless rain had a similar effect in my poor garden

If your bath of life feels ‘wrong’ for you, could you consider what’s filling it, or the rate of flow? Can you find ways to turn off the tap so that you can get in and actually enjoy the bath instead of just being anxious about the water level? Can someone else help to turn off the tap or reduce the flow? What could this look like practically instead of my metaphors? Maybe the long hours in your job are some of the ‘gushers’, and you could reduce them, or at least pause in the middle of the day for a proper lunch break (imagine this as turning off the tap completely; even if you have to turn it on full blast later, at least there’s been a break long enough for you to draw breath). That slower flow of caring for your poorly mum is still inexorably filling the bath despite the slower speed: can someone watch the bath for you for a while? In real life, this might be asking for or accepting help from others in that caring role so you don’t have to constantly watch the bath (or help your mum).

We need to be able to enjoy the bath we’re pouring, and life isn’t about watching it all anxiously and clearing up the spills afterwards. We need to be in the bath, surrounded by all the warm water, feeling the bubbles, and maybe also a bit of grit in the bottom, and not thinking about what we can’t control about the bath. Yes, the water will cool down, and we’ll get wrinkled the longer we’re in it, but we can pour out the cold water and add more warm, and who cares about a few wrinkles?! It’s fascinating to watch your fingers and toes get squashy and wrinkled – it shows you’ve been in your bathwater a long time, enjoying it instead of just watching, anxiously, from the outside.

So I invite you to be mindful of the things filling up your bath of life that you can control a little, get into the water, and really be part of it instead of being a spectator. You could literally run a bath for yourself and imagine the amazing parts of your life going into the tub along with that gorgeous bubble bath that you’ve been saving for a special occasion. There’s a sort of ritual in filling the bath, adding essential oils or bubble bath, getting your towel/clean clothes ready, that’s calming and even necessary. Think of the preparation as a form of mindfulness, a slight untangling of the thoughts in your mind: focus on the sound of the water running, the feel of soft towels, or listening to the sounds of the radio or podcast you’ve chosen. Get into the water, perhaps play some music, and actually feel the water and bubbles, think of them as the things you love and enjoy, and try to let anything else wash off as you rinse off the bubbles. Everything can be suspended for now. Listen to the music you’ve chosen. Try to slow down your breathing and feel the water swirling gently around you. Maybe you can smell the fragrance of the bubble bath in the steam.

Once you’ve done, as the water drains out and you rinse the bath, maybe you could imagine some of the stressors going down the plughole with the water, and you can let them go for now. Stand back and take stock of the empty bath and decide how you want to control the metaphorical filling up in the future. Keep in mind the speed at which it can happen, especially if you take your eye off it, and try to build in your own little mechanisms to prevent overflows. Take regular ‘baths’ to immerse yourself in the flow of your life, let yourself get wrinkled as you have a soak, enjoy the bubbles and the silly stuff, top up the cooling water when you need to, and really listen to the music!

Have a good week, and do let me know how you get on if you try this for yourself!

Unfinished Symphony

Still more to do on this little painting…

This week, I’ve realised how many incomplete jobs I have waiting for me, far too many to count!! From not-put-away or not-sorted-for-the-charity-shop clothes, financial tasks, cleaning jobs, DIY things, the list feels endless. On top of all those are the things I want to do, all the creative and artistic stuff, which inevitably end up at the bottom of the pile, never to be seen/done for ages, or done in a rush if I’ve a deadline to meet! Where do I even start?! Do you have weeks like this, or (like me) does life feel like an endless list of unfinished chores? Fear not, even the most disorganised of us (even me!!) can get on top of all this chaos!

Sometimes I look at my home and life, and despair that they will ever be something like organised and tidy, so I sink even deeper into anxiety and depression, can’t tackle anything, and then things get even worse, very vicious circle. I know I’m at the bottom of it at the moment as I look around our downstairs rooms, which are open plan so I can see it all at once – every single surface is covered with clutter! However, even when I feel such despair, I can sometimes still force myself into starting the process of clearing up, even if I don’t believe it will get better. There have been times when I’m actually in tears whilst I’m working, feeling so ill and past it that I’m lucky to not have been shipped off to the ‘funny farm’!

Totally unedited photo of my sofa, full of all the books I’m reading, plus other clutter!!

So where do I start, will I ever get tidy, will I feel better, I hear you ask, whilst tutting at the photo above…? Or are you thinking wow, someone as bad as me…? Trust me, this is just the tip of the iceberg, definitely not sharing any further photos until the place is much better!! There IS hope, and things DO get better, even when you have mental ill-health issues, when it’s all been left so long you don’t even know where to start, or simply when you’re part of a busy household and it’s ‘normal’ mess and clutter. I know it’s been said before by better people than I, and it sounds very trite, but you need to think of it as eating the proverbial elephant – a little bit at a time.

Have a quick look at all that mess critically, even it’s hard to do, and decide which is the most important. Have you got clean pots and pans, and a clear space to cook and eat? No? Then that might be a good place to start, even if it’s just enough for one meal. You could do more after that meal and clear all your washing up. Maybe the next morning clear your entire table, even if it takes all of that morning (bites of the elephant, remember?!). Trust me, I’ve been there soooo many times, and I really want to be at the point where my home and life is relatively organised and tidy, and I need to do it for my mental state and so that my poor children have a cosy home where they can find their own belongings!

Even if you’re feeling terribly overwhelmed, and whether you’re doing it alone or with help, you can pace yourself whilst neither giving up nor working yourself into an absolute state; again, trust me when I say I’ve been in both of those places! If that table clearing finished you off tonight, then stop, but be firm, have a word with yourself, and complete it in the morning. Then clear the last bits, clean your table, and finish it off however you’d imagined it: clean tablecloth, jug of greenery or flowers, candles, set for the next meal, or whatever. You could take a photo as a reminder that you CAN do these things, even when you’re not feeling well; it could act as an incentive if you feel that you can’t do anything.

A ‘before’ photo of my table a few months ago, and this was after I’d started – dreadful!!
And after, polished and twinkly lights on!

I feel very exposed putting these photos in here, but I want to show you all that however bad things get, you can get yourself out of the mess, whether it’s literal as in the photos above, or other aspects of your life. They can take a long time to tackle and change, and a lot of effort, and there will be plenty of occasions that you really can’t do anything to help yourself, and you’ll be beating yourself up about every blooming thing you get ‘wrong’…and so on, and so on… Clearing my table above took most of one day, and there were loads of clothes on the chairs as well; I kept breaking off to do other things, and my heart sank every time I came back to table, feeling like it was endless, like the Aegean stables that Hercules could never get clean. However, I did get it tidy and clean, and it stayed that way for some time, before the clutter began to creep back. Now it’s worse than the first photo above, so I am dealing with it this weekend, so that we can sit and enjoy our food without all the clutter staring at us accusingly!! I have so many creative ideas bursting to get out of my head, and onto paper or other media, that I have to create space for myself to do them, so clearing the table is vital for my creative endeavours as well as for us as a family.

So, I’ve been brave and vulnerable enough to share my mess (house and head!) with you, in an attempt to show that you can overcome and finish things, and going public might help to keep me accountable to myself. How about you? Can you share your unfinished work with me? Have you got a story to tell, a triumph, or some hints and tips for the chronically unfinished and untidy?! I’d love to hear your stories – post a comment, message me here or on Instagram, or pop over to my shiny new Facebook page and talk to me.

Have a great weekend, and I hope that I might have inspired you to finish just one of your unfinished symphonies! xx