Sun, Sea, And Fear…

Beautiful Newquay!

After several months, maybe more, of various sorts of stress it was wonderful to spend last week in Newquay (Cornwall, UK, for international readers), and get outside in that marvellous coastal fresh air! I’ve wanted (needed?) some sea air for a LONG time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

There’s something about being near the sea that’s very different from other outdoor environments: even in a coastal town with traffic the air is somehow cleaner, fresher; the light is clearer by the coast, no wonder so many creatives and artists feel drawn to places like Newquay in order to paint/draw/write/make; and being so close to the sea itself is truly awesome, in the proper use of the word. Renoir, Monet, Hokusai, Turner, and so many others depict raging seas, catastrophic storms, or heroic sea battles, whilst Turner and Monet, plus artists such as Beryl Cook, have also immortalised more ‘seaside’ images of our fantastic coastlines.

Many a poem has been written about the sea, from Samuel Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘, to John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever‘ (one of my favourites!), and Ariel’s song from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest‘. As with artists, there’s something that pulls writers and poets again and again towards the coast, that digs deep into the heart of island people who have a love and healthy respect for the beauty and power to be found at the edge where land and water meet.

Almost tropical!

I have the sea in my blood, as do many Brits I suspect: my dad and his father were both Merchant Navy men through and through, spending all their working lives on the sea, and both grew up near the sea; and my other grandad spent time in the Royal Navy during WW2. Some of my best days out/holidays as a child were spent by the sea – although we went many places, the sea definitely had me even then. However, as a poor swimmer and a fearful child in general, the sea has also always held a tiny dread for me: what if I get taken by the current? what happens if the ship sinks? and all the other nightmares we tell ourselves as scared little children, when we can’t swim, or we’re far away from home.

Part of that fear is totally normal and healthy, of course. It makes us cautious of getting too far out of our depth when we’re paddling at the seaside or taking our first sea swim. We wouldn’t last long if we disregarded the lifeguards’ or RNLI advice on how to be safe on the beach or out at sea. But that fear also grows disproportionately, and stops us from enjoying ourselves in this best of environments, can result in us being terrified of exploring even safe areas of the coast, frightened to have a dip in the sea (although in our often-cold seas that’s sensible!), or taking a boat trip.

Last week, during our trip to beautiful Cornwall, I was very brave (for me) and did things I’m usually fearful of doing. We went to Go Ape one day (a tree-top climbing adventure setting) and I clambered about on rickety rope and wood paths between the trees, 20 feet in the air. I was terrified at some points, and came close to panic at going further along the worst stretches, but had to continue so that my 14 year old (who’s also rather nervous of similar activities!) wouldn’t see just how scared I was. It was an important lesson for me. Firstly, that logically I knew I was safe, being tethered by a harness and strong ropes, and secondly that I could manage long enough to show my son that we CAN do hard or scary things, at least for a short while!

Eek…!

Second Big Thing was going out early one morning, alone, to sit and paint in Newquay harbour. I’m getting better at calling myself an artist, but perfectionism still gets the better of me and insists that I’m not really, and that I have to do the work over and over, to practice before doing the ‘real’ piece. I’ve also had a lifelong fear of being alone, so just leaving the guest house and walking to the harbour, even in daylight, was a Big Deal! Well, I sat there in the cool air, drew a few basic lines in pencil, and then PAINTED STRAIGHT AWAY!! I know it’s a normal thing, but sitting there, drawing straight from life, no second chances, trying to capture the changing light and the way the sea was gently rolling in and out, drew me in and I forgot that I’d gone out alone, no one was holding my hand and telling me it was ok.

The view…

…and my version

My third Big Thing last week was actually going INTO the sea to swim around a bit with a lovely friend who moved down to Newquay several years ago. She’s a big advocate of stepping out of your comfort zone, of trying something different, and of sticking two fingers up at fear. On more than one occasion, she said to me, “What would you do if you weren’t scared?” Spot on, my friend! I’ve spent large parts of my life so far being too scared to try: in case it goes wrong; in case no one likes it (or me); what if I don’t like it, and all the rest.

Glennon Doyle speaks about doing Hard Things, whatever that looks like for each of us. In a similar way to my friend’s comment, she encourages us to try a little bit more, to face that uncertainty, and to accept that, yes, it may well go wrong. So what? Didn’t kill you, did it?! Most importantly, did/do YOU like it, and do you now have the confidence to try again, to push a little further?

That’s what this week has taught me, or rather opened my eyes to – that the things I’ve always feared aren’t as bad in the doing as in the imagining of them. I know I’ll slide backwards – progress isn’t linear, after all, but I’m choosing to believe that I am moving forward much more than I’m moving in reverse. My week of sun, sea, and a tiny dose of fear has been just what I needed to re-awaken my creativity, and inspire me to write, make, draw, and paint.

To this end, I’ve appropriated part of our garage as my dedicated art/creative space. Hubby’s stuff and cluttered shelves have been sorted/tidied/swept as needed, I have a couple of re-purposed filing cabinets to store a lot of my art materials, and have moved in an old table to work on, and even got brave enough to put fairy lights on hubby’s motorbike to soften mechanical look of the garage! It’s a work in progress, and I’ll post some more, updated photos next time, but starting the work is the Big Thing. I felt a little fearful in taking up space – literally and metaphorically – as I’ve absorbed a decades-old message of women being small and quiet, but that little voice in my heart is speaking a bit louder, boosted by the lovely Juliet and the others at WOW (see Juliet’s site for more info if you fancy joining us!)

New art space taking shape…

…means glamourising the stuff I can’t move!

What is YOUR summer gifting you this year? I wish you the courage to face your little fears like I’m trying to do – and I think succeeding a bit, too! – and the excitement and realisation that it IS worth facing them, because on the other side are wonderful things!!

Let me know via the comments – I’d love to know what you all think!

You can join me over on Instagram, too! Find me at yorkshire_wellies.

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

Summer Breeze

Hello again, welcome to August and belated happy Yorkshire Day from my little corner of it! August weather is different from July; it feels fuller, somehow, like it’s breathing more deeply whilst there are still long days filled with light. The days can be warm and close, nights not much different unless there’s a breeze. These days instantly bring to mind Seals’ and Crofts’ song, ‘Summer Breeze‘; even if we don’t grow jasmine in Yorkshire you can close your eyes and almost smell it.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time outdoors this week with those summer breezes, which has been wonderful despite the raging hayfever that’s the payoff! A group of us from our WOW Wednesday accountability group met up at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the day it re-opened (Wednesday, very apt!), and it was so good to see them in real life, instead of via a computer screen. I even managed to get to my 10,000 daily steps in well before tea time! I’ve really let that daily target slip a lot during lockdown, and felt quite anxious about not meeting it for a while (all the “shoulds” trying to bubble up to the surface!). I let go of that sooner than expected, a sign to me that I’m realising that some of these things that we beat ourselves up about don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.

WOW Wednesday on tour!

I spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon in the garden, pruning the apple tree back and other tidying jobs. I know, I know, winter’s the time for pruning fruit trees, but it had become a real liability to itself and that part of the garden, so the deed was done. We filled a large shopping bag with the apples that were worth saving (big enough and not eaten or bruised), so some good has come out of the ruthless cut. There are also some bigger twiggy branches saved for kindling next winter. I feel there’s a parallel here with the way you might choose to cut stuff out of your life that’s not serving you well, in order to make your life healthier for you; the pruning may hurt, and makes things look and feel worse for a time, but you come back stronger, bearing more fruit, and having deeper roots to weather storms, just like my apple tree. Have you noticed anything like this if you’ve made what a drastic change somewhere in your life? Let me know how it felt, and whether it led to permanent changes for you.

Before the chop…
…and after!

I’m currently reading ‘The Source’ by Dr Tara Swart as part of my ongoing revamp of my life; it’s an excellent read that sits half way between a scientific book on how the brain works and a coaching/self improvement book. As a psychologist, I find the neuroscience totally fascinating, and it’s well-blended with examples from her practice, and ways to put this knowledge into action in your own life. She talks about brain plasticity, how your brain is still capable of change at any age, it’s not just the province of babies and children. Dr Swart suggests ways to practise stretching your brain in order to effect positive change amongst its neurons which, in turn, can affect your life as a whole, thus enabling you to change any areas in which you feel you are lacking. I’m aware that I’ve previously mentioned books I’ve read and courses I’m following, and it might come across as all theory and no action. My friend, Juliet, of The Curious Creative Club, once told me it was time to do less reading and more ‘doing’ (think I’ve said that before, too, memory of a goldfish!), and I am ‘doing’ as much as I’m reading, it just takes time and I’m daring greatly in little ways for now. I’d love to hear about any books you’ve read that you found profound, meaningful, or plain helpful in any way; I’m always looking out for my next good read!

I’ve got a few hours a week delivering for a local florist (another way of being outdoors), which means I have to talk to complete strangers when I deliver their flowers, which is a big thing for me. Maybe showing up needn’t be the grand things you see your friends doing; maybe, for now, it’s getting comfortable talking to strangers, going to unfamiliar places, doing things just outside your comfort zone instead of miles outside of it, until you’re ready to up the ante. Michelle Cowan, a fellow WOW Wednesday-er and sales/growth expert, has introduced me to an up-and-coming graphic designer (another ‘stranger’ for me to talk to!) to work with on a logo for Yorkshire Wellies. This enterprise will be more than a blog before long, so I’d like a new identity for it all, and it’s exciting and scary in equal measures!

As part of improving/changing parts of my life, I had blood tests done yesterday for coeliac disease and iron deficiency – prompted by my suspicion of problems tolerating wheat-based foods and other issues. Coeliac disease runs in my family, so it’s worth doing. I’ve felt quite poorly over the last few weeks because of eating so much bread and pasta, it’s such a relief to cut it out again – roll on plenty of ‘real’ food! Summer’s a good time for me to get into the habit of eating well, when I fancy salad, fish, veg, and loads of water. I feel so much better when I eat this way – more alert, less lethargic, and generally better all round. Consequently, I feel more positive mentally, more creative, and much more open to change and new ventures. I’m also taking advice from another WOW member, Sue Salmon, a medical herbalist, on how to improve my gut health, which brings me neatly back to Tara Swart who speaks about gut instinct or that inner voice, as does Juliet in her recent blog post. I’m ready to listen to my inner whispers again, and get out my paints, find a book to write in, or finally get going with my sewing machine again – can’t wait!

What are you going to do with your August? Have you managed to book a little holiday somewhere, are you taking a break from working from home, or maybe you’re going to do a bit of life stocktaking and look ahead just into the autumn? Do let me know!!

Blue Yorkshire skies!