5 things …

#decemberreflections2017 day 13 – 5 things about me

1. I’m still in my pjs and dressing gown today. Just don’t give a hoot.
2. When I was about 8 or 9, I used to dress up like Miss Marple right down to the tasseled shoes.
3. I have a PhD in Creative Writing but don’t crow about it as the nasty people tried to take it away from me. But failed.
4. My favourite colour is red like my core, my inner wisdom, my soul.
5. I’m a Queen.

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ten: four

1. The roof opposite holds the snow steady.
2. Our central heating blows out slow white smoke.
3. I don’t seem to be able to get warm.
4. I switch the Christmas lights on to create some cheer.
5. Slow is the pace for everything this morning.
6. Let me make peppermint tea and spend half an hour curled up with a book.
7. No school today even if we are up in time. To the doctor’s instead.
8. We slide along the street all bundled up.
9. We sit. Her small chubby hands small in mine.
10. Our deep brown eyes meet and smile.

Today’s reflections:

Hard to get going this morning. Tiredness and sickness and just plain ready for the holidays to kick in which would mean we’re off the clock.
Still coming down off my time away with #shiftingloyalties and still trying to process it in a way to move forward. Safe spaces for women to connect and nurture each other are in decline making these spaces even more precious when you find and experience them.
Dreaming of Iceland, and when am I not. Planning to go back in January for the #northernlights ahead of going back in June for the #creativeretreat I’ve created for women. Details can be found on the website if you’re interested. Only two spots left. Payment plans are available too. Just get in touch. Enjoy the rest of your day, we’re sending our letter to Santa later 🤗 #icelandcreativeretreat #womenscreativity #empoweringwomen #womenssafespaces

Discovery

#decemberreflections2017 – day 11 – I have discovered that I would be lost, lost I tell you without my visual journalling practice. This practice grounds me, centred me, plugs me right back into the core of me. I have been lucky enough to share this practice with different groups of women this year. I hope to expand this reach in 2018. Did I mention I’m running a creative retreat in Iceland where visual journalling will be at the heart of this adventure?
Only two places left. #discovery #womenscreativity #empoweringwomen #creativeiceland #icelandretreat

The Challenge of Doing Nothing

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#decemberreflections2017 – what I found most challenging this year was to do nothing. Self-care. Stay still rest. #challenge #womenscreativity #livinginthisworld

Shifting Loyalties

I’m getting ready for the off again. Remember my time in residence on a canal boat with idlewomen? I facilitated a visual journaling workshop for women while there which was really inspiring. Well off the back of that, I’ve been invited back as a guest speaker/ presenter at their informal conference for women in Lancashire next week.

Shifting Loyalties is a gathering of women. Establishing in 2016 in collaboration with Silvia Federici in 2016,
for a week we’ll be living together near Pendle, a place known for its persecution of women as witches in the 1600s, utilising the space to have critical conversations and self-organising against society’s treatment and representation of women. This is an opportunity to share stories and experiences at the same time as becoming empowered as a sisterhood to make change, internally and externally.

All week I’ll be sharing my visual journaling practices through workshops and a drop-in room hopefully inspiring and encouraging other women to explore and adopt this creative practice for self-care and self-awareness.

I’m pulling together my resources and materials, gathering journal prompts that I feel will be accessible as well as beneficial for us to dive deep within safely and effectively when I realise that I could be a witch.

Witch. I really haven’t considered it before but I’ve got witchy tendencies. I believe in the Divine Goddess. I worship the natural world; Great Mother Earth. I observe and honour the Wheel of the Year, sensitive to the seasons and rituals as we cycle through the year. This year, during Samhain, I spent time at my altar conversing with my dead ancestors.  I look upon this path I’m on as magical, empowering me to grow, change and heal.

I call myself a Wild Soul Woman who listens to the wisdom within; my intuition and instincts. This is where my power lies. Maybe this isn’t the mainstream way of thinking and believing. But this is my truth.

The Witch was feared because she ( and sometimes he) lived “outside” the natural order. They represented a different way of living that challenged the status quo. Self-contained and self-possessed, they were a threat that could not be explained  and had to be eliminated.

Unfortunately, witch hunts still happen today in such places as Africa and India where old women are killed on the mere accusation of being a witch.  It saddens me that women who know their own power and worth and self-determine their lives, are persecuted and destroyed.

I’m hoping that my time at Shifting Loyalties will clarify my thoughts and feelings around this realisation at the same time as strengthening my voice in speaking out. ‘shifting loyalties is another beginning…’

 

how to find your voice as a writer

One of my enduring memories of living in London, from my early teaching days, is the icon red bus. Coming up Streatham Hill and terminating at Telford Avenue, where I was lodging, would be the 59 bus, my lifeline in and out of the city, in and out of school in Lambeth Walk.

Those were my bachelor days. I had fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a teacher in an inner city London’s school where the kids were predominately black. I was giving something back to the system at the same time as changing kid’s attitudes about what they could become in life.

Today, I revisit London as a freelance writer and artist for a masterclass titled How to Find Your Voice, with Gary Younge, editor-at-large for the Guardian. I’ve been reading Gary’s articles for years, and have recently dived into his latest non-fiction book, Another Day in the Death of America. I’ve always admired Gary’s words because he doesn’t mince them. His writing is strong and bold. He has the courage to say what other people are not saying about a range of themes including race, America, killings, inequalities, South America, whistle-blowing etc.

I gave up teaching full-time, after coming back to the North-East, in 2003 to pursue a more creative life. In the short time I’d been teaching, the landscape changed so much that I wondered where the teaching had stopped and crowd control had begun. I fancied my chances in the creative wilderness so jumped without a net in sight. With nearly 15 years of hustling under my belt, I’m still questioning what the dynamics of my voice are. What is the purpose of my voice? Hence being drawn to this workshop with Gary Younge.

We do not have just one voice. We have a myriad of voices. Many voices for different contexts, shifting our register and tone depending on what we are trying to say; why we are saying it, when and to who.

Gary Younge recently interviewed Richard Spencer, leader of the emerging Alt Right in the USA for a Channel 4 documentary titled Angry, White and American. He received a lot of flak for giving this racist man airtime, people arguing that this interview was giving him a platform to spread his hate. Gary was of the mind that if you give this kind of man enough rope he’d hang himself. In his opinions, he thinks Richard brought the rope and gallows himself, exposing the absurdity of his thinking, forcing anyone thinking of joining his Nazi bandwagon to think again.

The workshop was illuminating. Things I knew already, but coming from Gary gave them added weight. We all have a unique voice and it’s our duty to bring it into the world. We should write what we want to write without thinking about what other people think we should write. We should get our voices out there and not even bother about checking back in with the reactions. Because we cannot control how anyone else is going to read our words, hear our voice. We can only control our voice; what we want to say and how we say it.

I had the opportunity to ask Gary what he thought was the purpose of his voice. His individual voice. His answer was simple and something I didn’t to hear. He said those words and they dropped right into my gut and got cosy and warm. As those words were welcomed home.

The purpose of his voice is trying to shift the lens. Simple. He’s in a position with a platform, which many people like him would not occupy. He uses his voice to shift the lens on the world to foster understanding and hopefully change.

Trust your voice. Trust your lens. I trusted myself when I left teaching and journeyed into the unknown. I’ve trusted my calling to becoming more creative everyday. Now, I’m getting out of my way to trust my voice.

Each day I am peeling away my former identity to live a more powerful, purposeful and authentic life. I’m a Goddess Queen holding a light, becoming self-aware and self-loving, becoming a wayshower for others.
The purpose of my voice is to shift the lens. It always has been since childhood when I questioned everything my father told me to do. I’ve known this but have been too scared to claim this. Thank you Gary for reminding me. It’s my voice and I own it.

“We younger negro artists who create, now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame,” writes Langston Hughes. “If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If coloured people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.”

New Practice : Ten@Tuesday

I’m planning to share my new practice with you, just on a Tuesday, even though I’m completing this task everyday. This practice came to me first via Alisha Sommer and her beautiful writing and photography. And this practice came to Alisha via Marie Howe being interviewed on On Being.

Within this podcast, Marie Howe talks about the power of poetry and the sacredness of the every day. Sacred space is there always just waiting for us to stop and pay attention. To stop and hold space for the now.

I love the thought of this. I love the idea of gifting ourselves the beauty and grace of our present moments. All we have to do is slow down and listen. Slow down and observe.

Marie recommends to her students to write down 10 observations of the actual world each day. No metaphors, no comparisons, just detail the world as it actually is. Simple. Engage the senses and be up close with the world around us. Be present.

After embarking on this practice for a few weeks now, I have to say it hurts, sometimes, to be so present as the tendency is to look away. To want to distract myself and move on. Get moving, get producing. But at the same time as the pain and is the simple joy of being present. There’s pain but also happiness to be found in being present. And this is amazing. Try is yourself and see.

Marie Howe calls this ‘a gift of holding sacred space.’ And you’re doing this for yourself, no one else, just yourself. I claim this as self-care to the max.

Each Tuesday, I’ll share my 10 observations. Feel free to share yours too, here with me.

learning to change 


Over the weekend, our clocks went back. We lost an hour and gained the darkness. Usually at this time of year, I go into a bit of a slump. With the night’s drawing in so does my mind and emotions. I get a bit grumpy as this is the way I’m supposed to act. I’m not supposed to welcome the dark, to enjoy the dark, I should be reaching for the light, or so I’ve been lead to believe. But this year, I sense a change. 

This November I plan to go within, deep within. Cosy up and settle into my new home at the same time as explore my internal darkness. I’m looking forward to the rest, to the reduction in the pressures to perform and show up. I’m looking forward to just being. and don’t get me wrong, I’ll not be idle. I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy, to be getting on with behind the scenes. But allowing myself to rest and to take care of myself, is a change, is an advancement for me that I will continue to cultivate as I reap the benefits of such. But of course if these plans get disrupted, I have also learned to be flexible.

This time last hear, I was knee deep in curriculum planning, marking and examination preparations. Self-care amounted to getting to bed before 10pm and most nights that wasn’t achieved. Things weren’t really going to plan and I was constantly knackered. What I can take from that time now is my ability to be flexible, to not make a fuss but to just go with the flow because I learned that it was me and only me who was hurting. It was me and my unrealistic expectations that was causing the ruckus, not anyone else.

I carry this nugget of knowledge with me now, when my best laid plans go up in smoke because of unforeseen circumstances. I become disappointed and hurt and yet I also see that these things happen and I’m more adept at being centred, rooted in myself but still allowing my trunk to bend, and my branches to sway in an unexpected wind or storm. These things happen, it’s nature. It’s how I perceive and handly these changable circumstances is the development, is an indication of my growth as a human being.