Things I Know About Starting Over

Work in Progress

In 2015, when the shit hit the fan, I had to change. My whole life was in tatters and I had to find a way to live again. But live on my own terms. Live true to my soul.

For decades I’d been on the production trail. Do do do. Produce produce produce. Because I’d eventually I’d get to the promised land. I’d be successful, famous and accepted.

What I know now from having to start over is that there is no end point. There’s only the journey. I’m in a constant state of becoming. Becoming a better version of myself. But I will never be complete or perfect because that state just doesn’t exist. It’s a fallacy we’re fed to keep us keeping on. The desire or promise keeps us working with our heads down, selling out our souls for very little rewards. We think we are living the life we want to live but really, we’re living the life ‘they’ want us to live. The system, that is.

Now, I’m happy with less. Happy to work small. Happy with little ripples I create because I know in my heart that this is the authentic me at work. I know now, what I do, I do from the heart. I do in service to others with no expectations or need for anything in return. Living my life on my terms is my reward. And that’s enough. I’m enough just being me.

A favourite quote …

It’s difficult to pin down my one and only favourite quote as I love so many. I use quotes as inspiration, as thought points, as guides.

At the beginning of each Studio Note I send out to subscribers, I include a quote, to set the tone, to ease into the topic of discussion.

Toni Morrison is always a favourite writer I quote because it was her book, The Bluest Eye, where I first found myself in literature. Before that, I always had to identify with the white female lead in the story. I found myself wishing I was something I was not; white, blond and blue eyed. In The Bluest Eye, I found myself, a little black girl growing up in a cruel, racist world, thinking if only she was white, then she’d be loved.

My quote isn’t from The Bluest Eye this time but it does touch upon this topic of self-love; my focus this year as my word is LOVE for 2019.

“In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Juggling Balls

A new month equals new focus. Reflecting on the month gone and planning for the month ahead. Already, I feel as if I’m juggling so many ball but I know I’ve been carrying them around for a while. And I do pick them up gladly, it’s just some days I feel a bit overwhelmed.
It’s sometimes difficult to keep a handle on everything, to engage and move things forward. It always cones down to time and never having enough of it to get everything I want done, done. And then when there might be a window of time, I don’t have the energy to complete any task. Times like these are about keeping the faith and believing in the process.

Projects on the go NOW: ( Part 1)

1. Arts Council Funded creative project with writers around the First World War.
2. Heritage Lottery Funded project with Muslim girls around the First World War.
3. Developing Living Wild Studios as a creative business. Need to update/ rejig the website first.
4. Facilitating a creative retreat in Iceland this June. Planning schedule and securing two more people.
5. Stocking Folksy Store to sell my paintings, prints and collages.
6. Complete the writing and developing of my first e-course around visual journalling.
7. Explore my Iceland landscape abstract photography and paintings.
8. Develop my self-portraiture project through further research and practice.
9. Return to my Flaneuse research to feed into an offering in Paris. Research trip needs to be planned.
10. Start the planning for a women’s gathering in The Highlands through a research/self-appointed residency in March.
11. Start responding to the writing prompts from Eat My Stardust.
12. Listen to the second recording from Liberated Lines and write.
13. Complete final draft of poetry chapbook and send to Culture Matters ASAP.
14. Start the research and writing for my next full collection around our relationship with the land.
15. Continue with my self-directed study around seeking the Goddess.
16. Complete my Creative Journey Facilitator Training with Lisa Sonora.
17. Return to my developing creative non-fiction memoir around death.
18. Complete research around further grants and funding for women’s well-being projects.
19. Continue research for social enterprise – air on skin (working title) to encourage more ethnic minorities to develop a relationship with Nature.
20. Start self-appointed residency – North Sea Writer-in-Residence.
21. Return to second recording of Wild Soul Woman Facilitator training and respond with notes.
22. Get more sleep. Drink more water. Get more exercise. Eat more greens.

My Creative Year in Review – Part 1

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 will be split into two parts) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

January came in cold and dark. The ideal time to go deeper into my practice of hygge. During my winters walks #TheHealingPeopertiesOfTheSeas was conceived as a one day symposium all about our relationship with water. This has still to take place but the concept is out there and can be found on IG  and Twitter. Holding this idea throughout the year has meant that I’ve been curating short 10 second films around water. These will be available to watch and add to during 2018.

February was the beginning of my exploration of voice. Having been chosen to take part in an Arvon foundation residential course for writers wanting to make change happen, I met a whole heap of interesting people who supported me on my journey of claiming and using my authentic voice around the theme of my body in the environment. This led into further publications of my creative non-fiction poetic writing here. I was also exploring my voice through painting by completing Painting the Feminine with Connie Solera. This was another opportunity for me to embody my multi-layered identity, providing the tools and techniques to support my self-expression.

March saw me return to Iceland as part of a self-directed residency with The Westfjords Residency. To spend an extended amount of time in an isolated village miles from a major town was testing. I questioned what I was trying to achieve by doing this, in terms of my creativity as well as my life. It was unsettling to some extent as all my usual boundaries were missing and for a while there I did flounder. I also experienced some racial abuse while in Reykjavik which made me question my relationship with the whole country. March was definitely a learning curve which manifested in a deeper love of Iceland which meant before I left I made plans to share this love with my family.

April was another month of learning as I not only completed a Woodland leader training course in the Highlands of Scotland but I also went live with my new website and brand name Living Wild Studios. I’d procrastinated enough and it was time to be seen, showcasing all of my creative adventures under one roof.
It was a scary time but one that I wouldn’t change as I went with my gut and created a beautiful website I’m proud to call my home. It’s varied and dynamic and changing to reflect how I’m changing.

May seemed to have gone in a blur. I know it was a time of disrupted plans due to Alan’s mam being in hospital for an extended stay. It was a time of sticking close to home and putting my family first and foremost. But I did try to keep moving forward with Living Wild Studios as a business, extending my reach through social media. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this month as I was trying to operate in a way that wasn’t being authentic to me. I had to explore my relationship with social media, with the pubic arena at large and withdraw to do so. This was good for me, for my sanity.

I continued my social media hiatus into June. I felt I was just settling into my own space and voice by the end of May so wanted more time away from distractions to listen within. This was an important month for me to dive deep into the Creative Facilitator Training I had started with Lisa Sonora this year. I had been building up a resistance to the course as it wasn’t as I had thought it would be. I expected more. But then I realised that this is an experiential course and I get out of it what I put into it. All along I’m using myself and my experiences and beliefs as the learning examples so in order to learn and move forward I had to be more engaged. A light bulb moment which saw me returning at the end of the month to social media to share my visual journaling practice, the foundation of my creativity, much more extensively and thoroughly than before.

ten:three

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.

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.

years of marriage 

My husband, Alan and I have been together longer than I can remember, yet I’m still surprised by the turn of events, sometimes. At these points, I have to chuckle.
Alan, annoyed,  has said that I mine our lives for writing material but I do believe it’s not just my story to tell, so I do shy away from writing about our marriage as it is, while in the thick of things.
This relationship, when two individuals come together into a partnership, does play a significant part in my life and to not explore and reflect upon it in within my writing is denying a part of myself. As well as living a lie, as believe it or not, marriageland is not all hunky dorky.

During the years we’ve been together, Alan and I have experienced the rough with the smooth. They say a couple’s relationship changes when children come along. And that much is true. There’s had to be a lot more understanding and communication and patience. And sometimes it hasn’t always been there. 

I’m not offering marriage guidance here as I’m not an expert is marritable bliss. I only know what works and doesn’t work for me/us. So we’re still in the thick of moving house. This follows on the back of months of ill health, cancer treatment and hospital visits. You don’t realise the calm within your day to day until it is disrupted. You don’t realise the love and companionship and trust within your relationship until it has disappeared.
This isn’t a post about Alan and I spliting up, far from it. But it is a post about holding on and appreciating what you have when you have it. It’s obvious but sometimes we fail to acknowledge it, fail to act upon it, fail to live it. 

As we settle into our new home, the time and space has arisen to speak my needs and concerns to Alan as well as to check in with him about his needs and concerns. We’re still part of this dance, growing all the time as individuals and together. But it never ceases to amaze me as you hold a crystal up to the light the myriad of shapes and colours and delights that are revealed.