Pause

I was talking to a dear friend, last night via FaceTime. We hadn’t connected with each other for months. Our schedules just didn’t coincide. But now, as the outside world slows down, we managed to connect and spend an hour or so catching up. With her living out in Washington State and me in the North of England, over the last ten years of our friendship, we’ve managed to stay in touch pretty well. Sometimes in person too.

We both feel that what is happening in the world now, with the pandemic is awful and worrying. But we both recognise a shift in the pace of life, that this has brought about too. Closing our doors, literally to the outside world, not going to work, not socialising with people face to face, has meant a change in behaviours. We’ve gone within and have started to appreciate all those little things that were right under our noses all along. We’ve started to experience gratitude for the lives we’ve created and are still able to enjoy.

For me, this time has given me the space to purposefully lean into my creative practice. I’m not pushing it, striving for productivity like I have in the past. And I’m not beating myself up when I don’t happen to complete my to-to list for each day. I mea, whenever have I managed to complete that never-ending to-do list? But still there’d be that voice at the end of the day berating myself for what I didn’t accomplish instead of congratulating myself on what I did do. Now I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator and it feels weird but it also feels right. I’m settling into the self-isolating with my family, and trying to take better care of myself. I’m fixing my own oxygen mask first and that feels weird but right also.

Things are not good at the moment. Especially when I do venture outside for the essentials and see the empty shelves in supermarkets. Also when people seem to not understand the concept of social distancing and still stand up on my arse as if we’re in a packed train carriage. Step away from me, man. I want to shout. Use some common sense. When I have to be out there, it soon annoys me with how some people are reacting, and my panic levels start to rise as a result. This is when I choose to walk away and find some space in nature. Walking outside is still possible and so is going into the sea. Thank goodness. Small mercies, I’ll gladly have for now. Out in nature, watching the waves, listening to the birds, seeing buds bursting on branches, my mind soon calms down, my breathing deepens, and my smile reappears.

So yes, things are not good at the moment with the Coronavirus but things could be a lot worse. And I think things, the situation and the way society operates at the moment, are going to get a lot worse before better. Here in the U.K., each day sees an increase in the number of deaths from the virus as well as the number of confirmed cases. We haven’t hit the peak yet, as we’re lagging behind such countries as Italy and Spain. And this isn’t me wishing the worst on us or anyone else. This is me being real.

Spending time catching up with my friend, was needed and beneficial for us both. Yes we caught up with what’s been happening, but we were also able to see each other. See that we’re okay and send out hopeful vibes that one day we will meet again. Who knows what the future holds. Who knows how this social isolation will end, if ever. But we can have hope and we can make the best of a bad situation. Gratitude helps immensely here, believe.

Lizard

There’s been signs but I’ve chosen to not pay attention, to not listen. But now I’m taking heed and acting accordingly.

Coming down our street there was a van packed up with the sign ‘By-Safe’ splayed across it’s backside. Okay I get the message.

I pulled the Lizard card today from The Wild Unknown, Animal Spirit, oracle deck. The Lizard is sensitive to the subtle, almost like a sixth sense; hearing what is yet to be spoken, seeing what is yet to be seen.

The Lizard’s energy and essence can be quickly worn down by big crowds, lots of travel, bright lights and over stimulation. The Lizard has shown its face today to tell me it’s time to pull back, to go within, seek my inner artist and start that creative project.

As I said, I was feeling the signs. This week saw me cancelling planned events and activities in relation to my nature projects. I’d started to self-isolate and have the inclination to draw my family in close. Not just for our own safety but for other people’s safety too. How do I know that I’m not carrying the virus? It’s amazing how much one person can stop the spread of the Coronavirus by self-isolating sooner rather than later.

Usually, the belief is what can one person do? In this case a hell of a lot. I’m working from home. I’m turning inwards and listening to my soul, my inner wisdom and I’m hanging onto my creativity.

To Panic, or not to Panic

“Giving clear and consistent information to public at the right time on #coronavirusis vital. Governments’ media strategies must reflect the importance of that. This is not a run of the mill political issue. @scotgov will set out advice to the public in an orderly manner.March 15, 2020

Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) on Twitter

Here is the U.K. there is mass panic. Panic buying. Panic spreading of misinformation. Panic induced inability to act.

Our U.K. Government doesn’t have a fucking clue and it is down to voluntary created community groups to look out for and support the vulnerable individuals in our society who might succumb to the corona virus and die.

I’m trying to keep things on an even keel and reduce the risk of catching and spreading this dangerous virus to all those I have been or come into contact with. But it’s difficult when this menace is unseen and deadly.

I’m moving towards self-isolating myself via working from home and having virtual meetings. But this is all useless if I continue to send my child to school where we all know illness can spread like wildfire.

Our Government continues to fail in taking action and issuing recommendations because it’s first priority is economics rather than human lives. It is ill-prepared to handle this pandemic and our NHS is under financed and resourced to take the ongoing and on coming strain. This is not a pessimistic mentality. This is our reality.

I send out virtual hugs and love today as I wish you to stay safe and vigilant. Look out for each other and make sure those who are vulnerable and alone are not feeling alone and that they know you are there for them. This is the time we pull together and be there for each other.

Let’s all try to do the right thing for once.

Her Hands

1. Her hands. I remember her hands. Calloused and worn. Working hands. Like mine. Her nails were pretty. Always had some length on them. Even if discoloured yellow. I blame the onions. Or tobacco. Her hands would take mine and squeeze them. She was there for me the squeeze said. The patting wrinkled light beige coloured hands. I’m here for you, they said.

2. I can just still catch her voice saying Sheree. It was a Geordie twang and not. It had an undertone of music. Of laughter. Of a joy for life. It was beautiful. Like she was; inside and out.

3. I haven’t forgotten her potato fritters. She made the best potato fritters. Golden discs of potato fried hot until edges crisp but centres, soft and buttery. I do make them now. In the oven. For health reasons. But they’re not the same. Nothing. No food tastes the same as she made.

4. I remember the beat of her heart. The way she’d pull me in for a cuddle. I could lay my head on her ample chest and listen to the hearty rhythm. How my arms circled around her warm plump frame and how I just melted into the moment, into her flesh. I was home and nothing else mattered.

5. I haven’t forgotten the arguments. The harsh words said. The way I dismissed her wisdom, her thoughts and feelings because I thought I had grown. That I knew it all. I’d lived in London. Had a profession. A standing. She returned to her village as a widow with two kids, needing the help of her parents. What did she know?

6. I know she ran from grief. Or is that me?

7. Grief is just love with no place to go.

8. But I remember her hands. Warm and calloused. And always giving.

At the desk

Today, I’m up at 6am. We return to school after half-term break, and after the school run, I have an outdoor meeting. So my time is spoken for during the day. So I get up early, to come to my desk, and write. I ‘m working on putting my priorities first for a change. And don’t get me wrong, no one puts pressure on me to put their needs and wants first. No, no one has to do that because I do it myself. It is I who thinks I should be and do everything to everyone and bend in so many different directions and ways to make this happen. And when I don’t I’m racked with guilt and think I’m a bad mother, wife, friend, human being even.

For now, I’m changing this record which has been on repeat for far too long. I’m changing it up and sticking on the record which is called, Sheree’s priorities. It’s a sound that takes some getting used to. It’s a sound I might want to turn off straight away as it’s too needy, to hesitate, too demanding, too vulnerable. But I persevere through practice. Through turning up at my desk each day, sitting my arse down and picking up that pen and facing the uncertainties, I know I’m strengthening a much neglected muscle. And it feels good to find and use those muscles I didn’t even know I had.

And this morning, the music of that priorities record, that new release, is so growing on me that I find myself tapping my feet, swaying and singing along to the sweet sweet tune of creativity.

.

The Centre For Life

Yesterday we took a trip to the Centre for Life in Newcastle, a Life Science Centre which was showing a whole heal of exhibitions and films about space and time travel and the night skies. We rocked up there not knowing what to expect but we weren’t disappointed. I can see how the entry fee would put people off, as it’s kind of steep, but really if you’re being savvy which we weren’t really, you could stay in there all day, take a packed lunch and get your money’s worth. As it was we were in there for nearly 5 hours and we hardly covered the place.

It’s a place where your inner kid can roam. I suggest you take some kids along with you because then you have no choice but to get down to their level and look around the experiment stations, the brain exhibitions, the play stations and the displays with wonder and curiosity.

The best part for me was sitting in the Planetarium with my head right back so I could watch the night sky to its fullest on the dome screen. The presentation on the stars and constellations and our universe was so amazing. And I just found myself, like a kid again, exclaiming ‘wow’ at every new image and cool fact. This is the second time this year that I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the night skies and I’m sure it’s not going to be my last as these happenings are working to open up a door inside me which always said I was too stupid to know anything about our universe or life beyond us. But maybe it was a case of just not giving this field of knowledge and research enough attention. It’s science right? And black girls don’t do science! Wrong!

Well I’m learning now and I’m definitely not too stupid to take it all in and run with it.

Miss Ella touching a piece of the moon

Toad Bible

Our teak sideboard housed the Bible. A small leather thing like a black toad. I think it travelled across miles of ocean lodged in my father’s chest. It didn’t actually croak but shook and I swear I heard it breathing when I ran passed the sideboard into the glass cabinet shattering the patterned glass into tiny pieces. I spent my entire childhood picking up those pieces of glass and adding them to a jigsaw box. In all the hundreds of years we were trapped in that maisonette, with the shaking sideboard with the breathing bible, we never could afford to replace that glass. 

The Weekend

It’s been a busy weekend. I’m not sure if it was planned that way or if it just creeped up on us. But it was definitely a family kind of time. And as I start getting ready for turning in with a good book ( more to say here as I share my reading for the month soon), I do so with a contented smile on my face.

For the last few months, the weekend has come and gone with nothing to show for it. Yes this is prime time to rest and recover from the week. But it is also important time to reconnect with those closest to me. My peeps. And this can be done inside or outside the house. The important thing is to make the time. And to be honest, we haven’t been making the time.

I feel the difference, now at Sunday night, of enjoying a weekend where we have made time for each other. We’ve been to a basketball match as a family. Met up with friends for rollerblading. Went on an evening excursion to look at the dark skies. It was cloudy though but still a learning experience. And then today, having granddad round for dinner, was the best way to round it all off.

We’re not made of money and probably couldn’t do all these activities every weekend. But it wasn’t so much about what we did or where we went. It was all about spending time with each other.

I’m grateful for what we did this weekend as well as how we were. Doing and being together has set me up for the week ahead with a smile in my heart.