December

I’m happy to see this month come around even though I can’t believe that we’re hurtling towards Christmas and the New Year . Where has this year gone?

I’m glad to see the back of November after far too many visits and hours spent in hospitals and doctor’s surgeries.

We might be moving toward the shortest day of the year, but I’m feeling the light in more ways than one.

New moon on Tuesday and my intentions are already set. To shift my energy, my outlook, my state of mind through going deeper into my practice.

I’ve been in my retreat cave for a few months now, withdrawn from IG and Facebook for months. But it’s only now as we turn towards the dark further, do I feel more unhinged and released from the public realm and demands.

I mixed colours today; went through a 40+ box of acrylic paints, mixing them with white gesso to create new, more muted tones. And I’ll not lie, I was singing to the little paint pots I created. This simple act fed my soul. I was so grateful for colour. I could have stayed there all day just mixing and enjoying the colours that came to fruition.

I can’t wait to make some swatches of them as well as start painting with them. Using them each day this month is my plan as a means of deepening into my practice and retreating further into my cave.

Have you set any intentions for the coming circle of the moon? For the last few days of 2019? Please share if you have.

5 Problems with Social Media

I’m currently on another social media hiatus.
After my last three months absence, from November 2018 – February 2019, while away I left Twitter and Facebook, I’ve been posting once or twice daily on both my Instagram accounts. I was posting about my #100daysprojects as well as my personal adventures into nature. Things were going well, but I knew a burnout was coming. I was being too prolific and focused. I knew, from experience, that I would run out of things to say. So I called the hiatus before that point, but by the time the end of April came along, I was ready to go.

I value the connections I’ve made through Instagram. I enjoy witnessing what others are doing. I take the time ad energy to cheer them along on their journeys. But at the same time, I’ve my issues with social media and these are what they are.

1. Social Media can be a distraction.

I find that social media can be noisy and distracting. So many people are doing or offering great things and telling everyone about it. And it can mean, I spend my time watching them instead of watching what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s just another way to procrastinate and take me out of my own creative flow.

2. Social Media can be damaging for the self-esteem.

I’m not stupid, and I know people post potted, designed versions of their lives and journeys but that doesn’t stop me from falling into the comparison trap. Sometimes, I see other people’s brightly photoshopped lives and feel paralysed. No amount of effort or time or talent could get me to this level, so why bother, I think. So I do nothing.

3. Social Media can be toxic.

I’ve met some good people on social media. Good people who now support me through Patreon, or through reading my writings and posts. But one reason I left Facebook was because of the negativity and arguments and harm that was showing up on my feed. There wasn’t much love coming my way or being circulated around. I saw a lot of hate and it was affecting me, physically and mentally. So I had to go for my own sanity and well-being.

4. Social Media is not the real world.

I know if you’re living far away from loved ones that social media is a great way to stay connected. With the photos posted you are able to ‘see’ them and feel as if you’re not missing out on their lives and happenings. But this isn’t the same as living in the real world. Nothing can beat having face to face contact with friends and family. And sometimes, we use social media as a substitute for making more of an effort to connect with our people physically.

5. Social Media is controlling our lives.

Being on social media takes time and effort. We post our loves and hates, we post our joys and worries, we post our dreams and successes. We invest a lot of our time and energy and love into platforms that are set up to leach our personal information and money. They profess to be fostering community but really they’re keeping us locked into the vicious cycle of being mindless consumers. Yes I’m still on Instagram and yes I know it’s owned by Facebook. But I’m looking for a way to leave all social media and still be connected with my peeps around the world. One possibliity is here, blogging and my website. I’m trying.

Studio Notes

I’ve been thinking, how come no one is signing up for Studio Notes anymore? What have I been doing wrong?

Once I investigated, I found out that I’d switched off the join up form. I pressed pause and forgot to press play again.

So let me formally invite you to sign up to receive my bi-monthly newsletter where I share personal insights and news. Studio Notes are where I take the time to share something I’ve been pondering or working on. Sometimes I might send you back here to the website, sometimes I’ll send you to other people’s websites, to places I’ve found inspiration and sustenance.

If you don’t want to hand over your email address then consider checking me out on Instagram, the only social media platform I’m on now since I closed all other accounts ( there’s a blogpost in there to follow soon).

I have two accounts on Instagram, my personal account and my art account.

I look forward to connecting with you in other places.

Plans for May

I announced on Instagram the other day my plan to go on another social media hiatus in May. This is something I periodically do as a means of self-care. In the past, I’ve left it too late before taking a break and I’ve been left rolling in the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. I’ve been burnt out and rendered speechless with nothing productive to say.

I’ve learned from this experience, I’m planning my retreat ahead of schedule, when I’m still in a good position and enjoying the experience. I’m taking a rest while the going is good. And there’s a voice saying to me, I’m a fool for going now, for leaving the party early so to speak. Things are getting exciting, I’m making connections. I’m also receiving a lot of support for my #100daysproject. I go silent and I will loose all momentum, all exposure etc.

My sanity and health is more important. I take breaks from social media as an act of self-care. The time away gives me the time and space to go within and listen more carefully to my own wisdom. Going dark on the internet, gives me a chance to create without distractions or comparisons. It gives me space and permission to breathe.

I’ll still be posting here as well as on Patreon and sending out Studios Notes during this time as I feel as if I’m just getting started with this blogging malarkey.

This break is coming at a time when our new project is beginning, which involves more Black, Asian and ethnic minorities getting out into the British Countryside. I’ll share more details soon.

My Creative Year in Review – Part 2

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In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year is split into two part,  part one here) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

July offered up the opportunity to share my practice with others as I became one of the women in residence with Idlewomen for a week on a canal boat. This was such an amazing experience, one I was most thankful for as I got to share my love of visual journaling with other women who were in need of a safe space to explore their own voices. I also felt reaffirmed in my desire to support women, particularly black women in their relationship with the natural world.
Hence me putting feelers out there on social media about who was interested in the creation of an Iceland Creative Retreat.

August was downtime as I took the family for a tour of Southern Iceland. It was lovely to return with the family and witness them fall in love with the country just like me. The only problem is now is that they want to return so it might mean I don’t get back there alone ever. But it’s not really a problem as I love sharing my experiences of Iceland.

After the summer break, in September, I came back to business with planning a visual journaling workshop just down the road from me. I also completed an important draft of the chapbook focusing upon black women’s bodies in society due to be published with Culture Matters in 2018.

October was a month of upheaval and change as we were forced to move house and downsize. But it was really a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to declutter, to become more minimalist as well as to prioritise my creativity. As a reaction to less time, I made time to blog more consistently through the move.
I started my next creative non-fiction project around the theme of death. More to talk about around this soon.

November was earmarked as a period of time to settle into the new home but that didn’t go to plan as I did withdraw from social media again but I was still beavering away behind the scenes. I was interviewed by Amanda Fall from The Phoenix Soul, as part of this digital magazine’s Truth Tribe Interviews. I had a soft launch of The Iceland Creative Retreat and filled half the spots. And then I enjoyed a women’s gathering in Pendle Lancashire called Shifting Loyalties when I enjoyed the challenge of sharing my visual journaling practice with over 30 women all at the some time. To be there, to witness this transformation in creativity made my heart sing.

December was time to wind down and get ready for the holidays. I took the time to explore December Reflections on IG hosted by Susannah Conway. With a much needed rest again from social media, I spent the time gained to read as well as fire up the creativity with completing Tara Leaver’s Practical Intuition course to create my own Iceland Oracle Deck. This fed into #IcelandInsights where I am sharing text and images each day in January in relation to my love of Iceland. There are more Oracle Decks in the pipeline for 2018.

So on reflection of 2017, on the whole, was very productive and successful in terms of moving forward with my voice as well as increasing my courage in being present as my authentic self. I hope to build upon the gains made here into 2018. I have learnt that the downtime and rest is just as important if not more so than the productive times. In these quiet moments, conversing with myself, I am learning to listen and observe more deeply and truthfully.

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1. Re-entry into my everyday after being away is harsh.
2. The sun glows low.
3. We walk the shore alone and smell the waves.
4. My everyday life is full of kinks.
5. The terns dance within the foam.
6. Strong black coffee steams.
7. Luther Vandross ‘Searching’ on the radio.
8. Emails plying up as is the washing.
9. Box set bingeing late into the night.
10. Not ready to start it all again tomorrow.

becoming whole 


I’m on a social media hiatus. I do this from time to time as part of my self-care routine. If you’d asked me what self-care was a few years ago, I’d have said a spa day in some posh hotel. Something beyond my reach. I now know self-care as something different. There’ll be other posts on that this month. 

I’ve popped in here today to remind myself about authenticity. This month is the time and space I need to get back to me. To keep on trucking towards my true self. But I also know that I resist the work I need to put into becoming my authentic self. I know that through the action I take, and refuse to take, I’m diluting my becoming. I’m slowing down my progress along this path to wholeness. 

Why? For a number of reasons really. The most strongest reasons include fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of eliminating excuses. Fear of failing. That’s it the fear of trying and subsequently failing. 

And yet, here’s the thing. Everyday I fail by not reaching for my wholeness, for not investing in myself to be the best version of myself. 

Each day I fail to fulfill my true potential, my whole authentic self because of this fear of failing. Therefore, what would I lose if I invested in myself more consistently? What would I lose if I did everything within my power to support my progression towards wholeness? Nothing. 

However, I could gain so much in the process and progress. I could gain myself. I would be/coming whole. 

Me, Myself and Social Media

 

I popped back onto social media the other day to announce that I’ve decided to take another month away. I didn’t make this decision lightly, I mean, I’m trying to build up my business here and what kind of business will it be if not being marketed within social media? However, once this decision was made, I felt a huge pressure lift off my shoulders.

I don’t like who I become when I’m on social media. A friend on Facebook asked me a series of questions in relation to this comment, which I will attempt to answer here. Thank you, Kim for giving me the prompts to dive deeper into my relationship with social media which has been brewing for many years now.

I think a little bit of history is needed first, to illustrate where I’m coming from.

Prior to May 2015, Facebook was my social media of choice. I posted personal details, images and happenings but most of the time I used it to raise my profile. Through this social network, I gathered many friends and associates. Some I knew in person, while the majority, I had accumulated through the years of being a freelance writer. They were my colleagues and growing audience.

I had a thriving blog, where I shared my writing, my practice and my processes in an honest and open way. I’ve always felt that the writing world is a realm of mystery. Through public postings, I had hoped to breakdown some of that, making it easier for others to follow their dreams of becoming writers. I had a large following. Some posts being read by over 500 people. This popularity spurred me on to write and share further. My ego was in the driving seat here, for sure.

This life I created all disappeared after being accused of being a plagiarist via Facebook. This I have written about in detail in my book, rubedo. Through these allegations, I experienced the very vicious side of social media. The anonymity, the mob mentality accompanied with the lack of accountability meant that people said things about me that they wouldn’t dream of saying to my face. This is the beauty of social media; if you’re not using it, it using you.

For a time, I withdrew from public. I needed to heal and to find a way back to me, the authentic me. With creativity being my crime, creativity was also my cure. I started to put my toe back into social media, through Instagram. This was safer. I could share my images without anything coming back onto me. Through different online courses, I re-entered Facebook, but through closed groups only. Protection was my focus. Protection from further scrutiny and attacks. Protection from being hurt again.

Fast forward two years, I’ve come to understand my relationship with social media better. I find it beneficial for me and who I am becoming to take breaks from it. It started as a weekend, then a week and then a month.
I feel blessed to feel part of a community on social media again. I might have less ‘friends’ on there but I do know that what I’m putting out there is coming from the right place. The right place for me, from my authenticity. And if people are connecting with me on this basis then I’m happy about this. Grateful for this.

However, when things start to get on top of me, such as too many negative posts, too many hours spent mindlessly scrolling through feeds, and too many thoughts wishing my life looked more like someone else’s, then I feel it is time to take a break.

There are times that I find social media a distraction; as an illusion but which I’m buying into every time I go on there. I know each platform of social media has their different benefits and drawbacks, yet, I feel at times that there is a constant scrolling through feeds but without really taking anything in. But I think I continue to do so because of that fear of missing out. I continue to do so because I’m not sure how I’d be able to connect with people around the world.

There are the distractions, the happenings, and the glorious technicoloured lives that I wish were mine. There’s the jealousy and the envy. The need to be seen and not be seen. There’s the need to share the good stuff happening in my life and in the process collect the likes, loves and shares. There’s the constant swirling around of news about injustices, inequalities and violence within the world, with comments and shares but which really don’t create change in the real world. This frustrates me.

Yes I’m all vulnerable and authentic out there in social media but this is still just a slice of my life. There is little room to get to know the person, really, deeply on social media. That would take too much effort. And really does anyone see any value in doing so? I do. I miss the face to face experiences of talking to someone, really talking to someone when I spend time too much time on social media instead.

At present, I attempt to show all sides of me. The highs and the lows. But when I get into a funk, I don’t want to be seen, I don’t want the witnesses. But what that really means is that I don’t want to see myself. I want to hide from myself, and being off social media makes that so much easier. And then not so. There aren’t constant updates. There isn’t the need to put voice and an image to my life. I can just be in my reality 24/7 and hopefully through this process of silence and solitude, I can work myself through my funk.

In the first couple of weeks of being off social media, there’s a pattern of taking a photo and thinking straight away, ‘I have to share this on Instagram.’ If this is the only reason I’m capturing this moment in order to post it on social media, then that’s sad. This isn’t the way I want to live my life. I want to pay attention for me to be. To enrich my life, not for likes or comments on social media. Not for validation or recognition. I want to feel whole despite of this, not because of this.

I want to know in myself that I have created something of worth, because I think so, I feel it, not because someone on the internet comes along and says so. It’s about fostering that self-knowledge, self-belief of my own self-worth, independently of what anyone else says or thinks.

I know I still do things in this world for a reaction. To gain recognition, validation and acceptance. Much less than before but that itch is still there. Having time away from social media, aids me in weakening this need for someone else’s approval, at the same time as strengthening my belief in me being good enough just as I am.
Social media is addictive. Addictive in fostering desires for other people’s lives and not appreciating our own lives. In the past, I have used social media mindlessly, using it to fill a void within myself.
At this point, it ceases to be meaningful and becomes an added pressure, an added space in which to perform in a certain way, to a given standard.

I’m attempting to no longer use or be used by social media in this way anymore. I’m hyper-sensitive to the signs. When things start to slide this way, this is when I go on hiatus from social media. I take myself away from that arena, dive deep into my own life and continue the work on myself, away from public scrutiny.
I do come back out again but wiser and stronger each time. Changing in the process, growing and becoming the best version of myself through the process. This is self-care.

When I re-enter social media, I feel more safe and secure and stronger even in feeling that I’m showing up as me. I can once more expand in my own way, knowing that there will come a time when I need to contract again. I accept this cycle, it is part of life. My aim is not to avoid it. As I’ve mentioned before, if I knew of a way to do what I want to do and not be part of social media, I would take it (answers on a postcard would be greatly appreciated. Nevertheless, my aim is to show up in authenticity in the virtual and real world simultaneously.
I live and learn in the practice.

A Decision

“Life purpose is not a given —it’s a decision.” Eric Maisel

At the end of April, I declared to the world that I was taking a break from social media for the month of May, maybe longer. I didn’t say this to garner attention. I said this because I think it’s rude to be in conversations with people and then go silent. I was just letting my friends know the score; I was having a break.

I am having a break. I need a break. Something, in the past, I would have ignored. I would have just kept on trucking. I was the strong, independent black woman. I earned that label not because of who I was but what I did. I was super productive. I was everything to everyone. You wanted it, I’d get it for you. I was always trying to prove myself, to them, to others, to myself. Not anymore.

April was a hell of a month for good and bad reasons. April is the birth month of my children, so those were the happy occasions. A time to celebrate two beautiful people. But in between those dates, fell Woodland Leader training, project planning and implementing, launching the website and a whole heap of illness. Not for myself but for my mother in law. And that situation continues. But something had to give after that month of trials and tribulations. Emotional drains and scars. And it was me.

I’d spent the month propping everyone else up at the same time as fulfilling my own hopes and dreams and I just got burnt out. It got to the point that I had no more to give and didn’t want to give. One morning, I thought it would be a lot easier to not wake up at all. Of course I did face the day and the next as I’m that strong, independent black woman, right! But I had to release some pressure, cut myself some slack and coming off social media looked like a good place to start.

Now let’s get one thing straight, I don’t spend hours and hours on social media. But it is a constant stream of connections and conversations for me. At times, and I wish it wasn’t, a space for validation too. There was a time back in 2015, that I turned my back on Facebook and only went back to it because a course I signed up for was delivered through a Facebook group. I didn’t really get into Instagram until September 2015. Then I saw it as a good way to get the creative juices flowing again through sharing images. Words? Words were still scary for me. Off limits, came with too much baggage and damage. And twitter, well twitter was twitter.

However, the people I have connected with through social media have helped me immensely. And they might not know that. But they’ve helped me believe in myself again as well as the common good of humanity. I ‘thank you’ my online community. I do class you as my friends. And because of that, I know I can take the time to step away from social media.
No way do I see this as taking our relationship for granted. But more so of cherishing our connections to the point of feeling that I’m not really contributing anything if I’m struggling with myself. I feel that it’s okay with you if I have to step out of the room from time to time to retain my sanity. I know you’ll understand and support my well-being. I know I would do/be the same way with you.

It’s been 10 days since my last posting on social media. Some of those days have been a dark drag. I did lose my way there. Today is the first day, I am able to get out of bed at a decent time, and greet the day with a smile. I am letting go of my stresses a bit more. I’m factoring into my day meaning oportunities. I’ve gotten back into the chilly embrace of the sea. She was needed. Today, I’m appreciating the light a bit more and being grateful for the life I live a bit more.