Puddles

I was shopping for a gift for my soon to be eleven year old nephew on Saturday (I failed miserably) – a surprise he said when I asked what he wanted – I suspected as I held up the nostalgic board game ‘Game of Life’ that had I bought it this may well have been a surprise for him – a surprise that it wasn’t a)Money or b) Football related or c) Electronic in some way. I put down the game that held many fond memories of earlier years with my kids when board games had been semi forced upon them but almost always entirely turned out to be the best times! I’m sure my nephew too would enjoy the game once he got over the shock of a, b & c but confidence was not on my side as I replaced it and left the toy shop for the safety of something far more appropriate with ‘sport’ in the shop title.

I veered off my initial shopping track slightly, ending up in (of course) a clothes shop eying up another pair of skinny jeans and internally wondering whether the dark navy high waisted pair I held up were in fact any different to the … dark navy high waisted pair I was currently wearing…. along with contemplating whether I was now too old for said skinny jeans. Opting for a couple of casual tops (in the sales I might add!!) I queued up to pay.. trying to divert my eyes away from those items placed purposefully near the counter – did I need a new pair of gloves or a pack of five black socks perhaps?

A child ran past and I hear her mother raise her voice. Come back, she said. The child of about seven had long dark chocolate brown pig tails, huge brown eyes. Defiant, she took a seat away from her mum and her smaller sister followed suit. Mum was clearly exasperated and this was probably the nail in the coffin after no doubt a tiresome day out shopping with her two young daughters. She’s so naughty said (I presumed) Gran. Right, fuelled by this fire…. that’s it, mum shouted. This is going back. She held up a purple and pink unicorn shaped pencil case and tossed it on the shelf behind her. Fake wailing came from the pig-tailed child along with much pleading. No, insisted mum. And then she said something that I thought was just a bit odd to be honest. She said.

You are acting…. You are acting LIKE A CHILD.

I’m a parent and I’ve been stressed with my kids… so I am not in any way judging mum but to accuse the child of…. acting like a child was totally perplexing. Not least to the child, who was looking at her with huge confusion.

Mum didn’t give in. Unicorn shaped pencil case stayed sadly behind. I heard the (now real) cries rise as they left the shop and I stepped up to pay.

As I continued to walk around the shops, searching… the mums words echoed in my head – acting like a child. What did it mean to act like a child and how did we learn to stop acting like a child? Was it wrong to act like a child? Even now?

I don’t know who made up our education system or parenting rules but looking at our adult population I’d say something has gone drastically wrong with most of us who are now ‘grown ups’. We’re mostly anxious, rushing about, no time to talk, not eating properly, drinking and smoking too much, depressed, always looking for something better, discontent, materialistic. In competition.

I wondered what would have happened had we not gone to school and not been boxed off to be just like everyone else? Or if we had still gone to school for our education but… had not been boxed off like everyone else.

My brothers at school were always referred to as daydreamers. I remember this vividly. I was the ‘good’ one (rather ironic now!).. I knew looking out the window was not the behaviour expected at school. How I wish now that I had spent more time day dreaming about my future rather than doing what I thought was right. I was told by my careers teacher that I’d possibly ‘make a secretary’. As a good pupil that is what I went on to do. Shit. I wished I had spent more time day dreaming instead, I may have actually planned out the stuff I really wanted to be and do… an actress, a writer, a singer, a painter, a photographer. Instead I went with expectation… I signed up to a YTS course (yes I am one of the few!) and I worked for £27.50 per week, learning how to do office work.

I can’t pretend that I have not done well out of it, I’m in a good job (I’ve worked bloody hard for it!!) but what if I had allowed to be a child…. and day dream?  What would we do if perhaps we hadn’t had the ‘childish’ behaviour knocked out of us?
We might still jump in puddles. We’d laugh a lot more. We’d play fight. We’d tell jokes. We would use our imagination, a lot. We’d make up stories. We’d draw pictures. We’d learn from each other and from our environment. We’d keep trying new food and we’d say what we didn’t like. We’d pick up sticks and look under stones. We’d still have amazing instincts learning what was good and bad. We’d read what we want. We’d seek out to learn about subjects that interested us. We’d run when we aren’t ‘supposed to’. We wouldn’t be defined by stereotypes. We’d still write down the lyrics to songs. We’d fall in love and out of love and wouldn’t be shackled by the expectations put on us by society. We’d say what we saw without being embarrassed. We’d talk about our feelings without thought. We’d be expressive. We’d embrace difference. We’d be truthful. We’d be ourselves.
It might seem far fetched that we could be adults while holding on to our innate instinctive child behaviours but I for one would rather walk down the road and be able to jump in the puddle, laugh out loud and be in awe of the water jumping in globules around my legs…than be what we have become – avoiding the puddle, sensibly walking on, quietly. 
I’m off to get my wellies!
Happy Sunday to you xx

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Every day

This week saw world mental health day and I was amazed at all the posts from so many people with quotes and anecdotes. What struck me most was that for the other 364 days of the year I rarely see these posts about mental health.. theirs or anyone else’s. Social media is full of pretty and smiles and going out and holidays and money and sunshine. Social media is a constructed picture of perfectness.

I’m not advocating we all have to start talking about how rubbish our day has been but it is interesting that we usually only share what’s socially acceptable.

It’s great that world mental health day gets people posting but it’s something we need to be doing and talking about every day. Like if we had a sore throat. Because until then those of us with our ‘issues’ are going to feel alienated and freakish no matter what other people tell us. Everyone needs to normalise mental health for it to be ok and easy to talk about.

So for world mental health day this week… I’d like to ask that along with spreading the word. Reach out. Be there. Listen. Talk. Share.

Every day.

Lots of love to you this Sunday x x

 

 

 

 

Silver linings

I felt really disappointed one day this week. The reason isn’t important but I woke with a pit of disappointment sitting at the bottom of my belly. It was my day off work so I considered skulking around. Instead I saw my trail shoes and put them on. The dogs, excited as ever, pulled me up the hill with the red brick houses and I took a turn up the narrow one track road seeing the horses graze as usual standing expectantly at the gate. My heart and also my legs were feeling heavy, the hill was stretching out my calves, without thought I found myself forming a slow jog. The dogs got excited and ran gently along side me.

The hill continued to stretch ahead with no break but I gritted my teeth and kept going eventually getting to the top and I then with new energy let my legs easily run away at their own pace, faster, down the steep hill. At the bottom I’d generally do a loop left but I had gained some momentum and no doubt serotonin levels had risen from the exercise so instead I took a right and added another mile on to the run. The dogs panted as they continued to jog gently alongside, occasionally looking up at me as if they were asking – what are you doing?! We ventured up a track that I had found a week ago over a small hill where flowers had been laid (for someone, I thought) and bearing left I crossed a wooden bridge, passed a farm house with a red telephone box outside and looped back towards home.

Dealing with disappointments for me generally means that I tend to ignore what the disappointment is, this time I really made myself focus on what I was disappointed about, every time my mind tried to get me to stop thinking of it and pushing it to one side, I made myself think of it again and in the end I managed to make a lot of sense of why I was feeling like I did and I managed to deal with it a lot quicker than I would have normally because I made myself focus in it.

Generally I’d have buried this disappointment down in my the soles of my feet and it’d have bit me on the bum in a few weeks/months sometimes even years later because I’d have tried to ignore it. It feels far easier in the short term not having to face up to emotions, disappointments, rejection, change. No wonder a lot of us decide to run away from what’s facing us in the hope it’ll turn out ok. Problem is those niggles rarely go away. Anyone who hasn’t dealt with a problem knows this. It just comes back.

I suppose what I was reminded this week was no matter how much we try to protect ourselves we will always face disappointments and challenges, we could lie in bed under the covers or we can get our running shoes on.. we can ignore what hurts or we can find a way through, we can concentrate on the dark clouds or we can search out the silver lining,

Happy Sunday xx

I will, always.

I’m into Whitney Houston at the moment.

I was driving along to meet my very gorgeous friend during the week and had ‘I will always love you’ on LOUD! I drove through my small town towards the traffic lights passing the painted white houses and the restaurant with the blue chairs outside.

And Iiiiiiiiii will always love you…..I SING out loud, I even dance a little in my seat Also in those few seconds I have my usual little day dream while singing. Though this one was an extension of my normal one. The daydream is the one where I have had secret singing lessons and all of the sudden I can actually sing because I do know I can’t sing even though I sound like I CAN sing when I’m singing along. I know I can’t because I’ve done that thing where I’ve pressed mute during the song and I actually then hear my cat like screeches rather than the Whitney esque tone that I think I sound like.

Anyway, in my little day dream I’ve had some singing lessons and I’ve applied for X factor secretly and I get to audition for Simon and I go through the story in my head and the fact he rolls his eyes at my age and then I start to sing and the whole judging panel smile in awe of this Welsh beautiful perfect sweet voice and they get up on their feet and the audience is dancing and it ends with a standing ovation. In addition, in this little day dream, it’s televised too and I imagine the faces of my family and friends watching me on TV, shocked at my new singing talent.

We all have these daydreams right??!!

Anyway I drive towards the traffic lights, I’m so excited to see my mate – we haven’t had a proper catch up in months and she’s one of those that just makes you feel good inside, you can cry with, you can laugh until you almost pee yourself with, you can talk politics or talk lipstick with. I’m singing along and I’m going through the X factor dream and I catch myself thinking, I’m happy. I’m feeling happy.

I am happy much of the time I’m sure but I rarely catch myself knowing and recognising that happy feeling in my belly.

BANG!

The whole world stops for the tiniest of seconds and there it is.

GUILT.

This won’t be pleasant to read but I say it as it is – a voice comes into my head and immediately tells me off. Don’t you remember your daughter has died?… it says. Don’t you remember you are a bereaved mother? How can you be happy? How could you feel happy? Don’t you remember??

It feels like my life has stopped, it really does.

It feels like a breezeblock has been placed on my head and it has the word GUILT painted on it.

I can’t hear Whitney any more as my happiness drains from my body through my feet making a dart for the car door, I almost forget where I am but I realise I’m at the traffic lights and it has just turned green, my concentration is poor for a portion of that second because I think I can turn right but just realise in time I can’t and I have to give way to oncoming traffic. Because I’m distracted away from guilt for that split second, I gain a little bit of energy and I have slightly dented GUILT because I had to remove focus from it to concentrate on driving. It’s all it takes, it has taken many years of practicing to get here but I have just gained the upper hand against guilt because I have taken away it’s power by focussing on something else. With that I gain momentum and I kill the last bit of guilt by turning up the volume to the highest level, imagine myself back on the X factor stage and continue to sing (using that term very loosely) out loud along with Whitney.

And I… will always love you, ooh…..Will always love you…You….My darling, you…

I will always love you. We always will love them. Those we loved who aren’t here. We will always love them. We are also allowed to be happy.

Guilt 0. Happy 1.

Happy Sunday XXX

Destiny

My mind constantly hurtles from one concern to the next…. am I doing a good job? Do I spend enough time with my dogs? Can I stop Brexit? How do I stop thinking about mushrooms and Trump? Or more random things like does the sign on the motorway telling people to drive responsibly make any difference?? to…should I get a piercing? (I’m sooo in the throws of an almost mid life crisis).

It also jumps from one idea, this week’s is I’d like to become a photographer… (if you know me you’ll know I’ll probably end up doing it!!)… just signed up to a 10 week course since writing this first draft!……..or maybe I should be a counsellor… or write that book.. . Or actually turn that idea into a business.. …

I get a new job and I’m always wondering is there something else better out there. I move house yet I still get new property alerts.. . just incase! I can be impulsive yet careful… risky yet risk averse. My mind is rarely on pause.

I give myself a hard time quite a lot. I often feel I don’t quite fit in to my surroundings because I’m always wondering what’s next, is there something more?…what else could I do rather than stand still??.. but I’ve learnt my inquisitive, impulsive, busy, sometimes risky mind has led me to many many happy times and life experiences too that I’d never ever give up.

The road to where we are standing right now is the most complex narrow windy full of potholes journey that we could ever imagine. Yet we are very much programmed from school to all be the same and with that I think many of us lose our individuality, conforming to what’s socially acceptable in relationships, work and beyond.

We are programmed to believe power, exams, money, security are what’s important. Most of us are paying a large proportion of our wages into a pension pot, when people my age are destined to work until they’re at least 67. We, on average, are only expected to live until we’re 77!!! What the actual hell is that about??! Working hard and saving hard (which therefore renders us mostly skint now) for, if we are lucky, ten years of life away from work that to be frank is not going to be at the time in our life when we are likely to be feeling as well as we do now!!

Our destiny has been written out for us, unless we choose otherwise. Exams. University. Money. Power. A big house. Being in a relationship just because. Newest car. Design labels. Being the busiest. Having the most important job. Are these the most important things in life? I am not saying the opposite is true either or that some of it can’t make us happy ….it’s just about choices. Knowing there’s a choice.

Caring, kindness, making the effort, making time, sharing, empathy, loyalty, loving, being fair, witholding judgement, make people laugh, positivity, be in love, make a difference. Care for each other, our planet, our animals, nature, the environment. These are so important too yet are rarely taught in school or set out as things we should aspire to be.

The foundations of being a successful happy human will never lie inside a wallet, house or a car…its the essence of who we are that’s important, choosing our own life path …make your own destiny.

Happy Sunday x x x

Gremlins

**This post contains swearing**

 

I like to think of myself as a positive thinking person despite spending  about 30 years living with anxiety. Actually make that my whole life. My first 15 years were spent being petrified of what my dad was going to do next… get another gun out.. lock us in the house… hit us… throw something at the wall… torment us… smash something… shout.. lock himself in his room for 3 days….(I’ve revisited and considered deleting this bit of the blog ten times but decided not to) …so those 15 years then led on to a life battle with anxiety and looking back it’s not hard to imagine why. I rarely talk about that abuse in detail. Ridiculously I still even now worry about repercussions. Crazy.

I spent ten years from about 16 to 26 fighting debilitating panic attacks… mostly on my own. I had really got to grips with my anxiety thanks to amazing books and my work at Women’s Aid…until I lost Tes… having spent the last few years in a war with A I’m beginning to feel more ‘normal’ but it’ll always bubble.   I like to think I’m a fighter… trying to make the most of every day. Getting up every day after losing your child is really hard. Walking around with a permanent pain the size of a boulder inside your chest is exhausting but I’ve managed it and I’m proud of that strange achievement.

But… I caught myself this week walking around just going to do some shopping and I caught it.. that bloody voice in your head that’s not happy you’ve managed to keep going…that you’ve managed today…. do you know what it was saying??!.. you’re such a fuck up.. . you’re so fucked up.

For a few seconds my subconscious mind nods along in agreement but I stop in my tracks and question this voice…Excuse me?!? Fucked up. Who are you calling fucked up?!? What even is fucked up and more importantly why the hell am I telling myself horrible things about me when there’s enough of that going on in the world without me adding to it.

So.. just a little reminder really to watch out for that gremlin in your mind that tries to ruin your day or tell you you’re not good enough … watch out for it and when you hear it .. well…tell it to fuck off and remind yourself 3 good things about yourself and kick arse for the rest of the day!

Happy Sunday.. x x

Sticks and stones..

Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me.

I can’t imagine who came up with this saying, surely sticks and stones may hurt my bones but that’ll heal however words could hurt me forever is more apt?!!!

I am not minimising physical abuse in any way however during my 15 years at Women’s Aid, women often stated that the emotional abuse was far more difficult, demoralising and long-standing than the physical side.

In a week where I have been called ‘a disappointment’ (which I probably did deserve) it got me thinking about words and what we say to each other, whether we realise the impact of those words and more importantly how little time we spend talking face to face.

Talking is disappearing fast, when’s the last time you picked up your phone to speak to someone and have a long conversation. On the radio this week it said we are spending over 11 years of our life on gadgets. 11 years!!! I don’t think we can fight this phenomena nor do I want to, technology can be amazing – however we probably need to start fighting to keep our language, our words, our expression, our books, our letters, our conversation, our time.

With this in mind I want to relay a little story that may seem insignificant but it was a short moment this week that encapsulated how words and time can change someone’s day.

I was driving to a meeting, I’ve been going through an ‘e-bay’ phase lately. Selling all that stuff that I’ve bought either without trying on or when I was feeling ’hopeful’ about my dress size, anyway I had a couple of packages to send and needed to get to the post office. I usually end up in those larger post offices – perspex screens, talking through a sliver of space, large queues, people frustrated at the wait, minimal chat. However, as I drove through a little village I noticed a shop/post office which I have passed many times and decided to pop in there.

It reminded me of my village shop when I was little, a tiny space of a couple of square metres but packed with the most gorgeous stuff, cards, cushions, drinks, food, home made cakes and even jars of sweets. No perspex, no barriers, one side for the shop and one side for the post office.

There was only one woman working, I was second in the queue.

The lady in front was at a guess in her late 70’s, she was obviously local as they chatted easily. The shop keeper was one of those warm gorgeous people, lovely red long hair, softly spoken, kind. I realised very quickly that I was not going to be ‘in and out’ of this post office as I normally would. They chatted while money was withdrawn and I stood half-wishing that I had gone to another post office at this point. I looked around and read the posters in the shop – local fundraising events, community meetings, sport events, it would be impossible to feel lonely in this shop – it was clear it was the absolute hub of the community. As the pair carried on talking the tiny shop now had another three customers waiting behind me and that basically filled the shop. The money was counted out and I looked at my phone and saw I had plenty of time to get to my meeting thinking I was next in the queue and I’d be on my way in a few minutes.

The lady put her pension money away and got out a shopping bag. Can I have a few things she said to the red-headed shopkeeper? Of course, she replied and moved from post office counter to shop counter. Oh god, I thought. How long is this going to take?!!!

The red-head was up and down in the fridge, measuring out sweets, discussing cakes, comparing pastries, reading out the sell by date on the milk, ordering newspapers. Eventually it seemed the lady had finished what seemed like a weekly shop for eight people. I can’t lie that I wasn’t a tiny bit frustrated, we aren’t used to being kept waiting are we these days – everything is ready in a minute. However the time spent between these two people was really beautiful, it almost made me cry and right there I thought – we don’t do enough of this any more, we don’t stop and talk and really make time for people.

The shopkeeper packed up the shopping and offered to carry the bag home for the lady! The lady refused and said she’d be fine. Finally, the interaction seemed to be coming to an end when the lady decided she wanted one more thing. Some beef. Ooo that beef looks nice, she said as she pointed at some pre-packed slices under the counter. I’ll have one of them. I kid you not that the shopkeeper brought every packet of sliced beef (about nine of them) on top of the shop counter and asked the lady to pick out which one she’d like. Ooo, I don’t know the lady said and then started to play the game – eenie meenie miney mo!!! The shopkeeper just stood there smiling. The lady finally decided on one pack and with it started laughing, really laughing – belly laughing at the whole scenario. I turned around and the whole queue started laughing quietly too, including me, because her laugh was so infectious it was impossible not to.

The lady left with her shopping, still laughing and saying goodbye to us all, the shop-keeper came back to the post office side and looked at me apologetically, smiling, I’m so sorry about the delay. Please don’t be sorry, I said – and found myself adding – it’s so nice to see people actually spending time on others, speaking to them, helping them, we don’t do enough of it and with it reminded myself that the words we speak and the time we spend with people is what is remembered and what’s so very important in life.

Happy Sunday to you all

Xxx

stone