Saturday, 28 February 2015

February: a new beginning?

When I realised today was the last day of February, my first thought was: thank goodness! Traditionally, Februrary has been my least favourite month, but this one has surprised me. I have been plagued since the start of the year with a deep-seated fatigue I can't quite shake, but February hasn't decimated my mood like it normally does. I haven't allowed myself to indulge in my usual "I hate Feb" thinking, but instead tried to be as aware of my thoughts as possible and change them as soon as they started to take me there. I am finally coming to understand that I am responsible for what kind of February I experience, not some random, mysterious, outside force!

One thing I did that I am really happy about this month was to introduce Quote of the Week. I find an inspirational quote, make a poster (very primitive at the moment, see photographic evidence!) and then stick it up by the front door late each Sunday night, so that everyone sees it first thing Monday morning. There's not a great deal of interest from the rest of the family yet, but I am loving it and I suspect interest will grow as it becomes a regular feature and the signs become more creative and beautiful. I am also secretly hoping that it will become a family tradition that perhaps my girls will come back to some day with their own families. In the meantime, I am enjoying the joy it brings to me each week.

Another thing I'm hoping to do is a calligraphy workshop and then I can use the elegant, modern script that I see popping up all around Instagram for my posters! I've loved calligraphy since I took a class in high school, but have never prioritised revisiting it until now. Last year, I finally got around to pottery (another lifelong creative ambition), so maybe this will be the year for calligraphy. I found a place that runs classes. It's very hipster, which, frankly, at my age is rather intimidating, but that's where I'm looking to go this year: anywhere that scares me a little, takes me out of my comfort zone. I know that's where the magic happens -- and I'm ready for a little magic! Bring on March….!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Excellent Women

Sometimes there is just nothing for it but to pick up an old Virago Modern Classic and devour it, and being in the depths of gloom that are a British winter, Barbara Pym's Excellent Women will bring a much-needed slice of humour and comfort as well as a tantalising peek into life in a small English village in a world largely gone by, but whose echoes will still be all-too familiar to many today!

I had never read anything by Barbara Pym before, but had been hearing her name for years. I saw this copy in an Oxfam Bookshop and snatched it right up. I'm a sucker for their covers, but I was also feeling grim that day: unloved, exhausted and, frankly, taken for granted! No doubt misguided and brought about largely due to the weather and a long run of back-to back viruses in the house; nonetheless, the book felt like the perfect antidote.

And so it was! Even the title is marvellous and hints at what lies within, which is basically a beautiful and quietly funny observation of the life of Mildred Lathbury, a woman heading rapidly toward spinsterhood. She is the daughter of a clergyman and, as such, well-versed in coping with "most of the stock situations". She has a wry talent for seeing the small but telling details and treats us to very funny vignettes of life in post-war Britain.

Here is one example: "The sight of Sister Blatt, splendid on her high, old-fashioned bicycle like a ship in full sail, filled me with pleasure." That line made me laugh out loud. On another occasion: "But as I had been at home in my village and she had been in Torquay the acquaintance had never prospered." Oh, how I wish people still spoke this way!

Pym is also brilliant at nailing the small truths of life that we never think of until they are pointed out to us and then we realise, "Oh, but that's exactly it!" How about these gems: "I began piling cups and saucers on a tray. I suppose it was cowardly of me, but I felt that I wanted to be alone, and what better place to choose than the sink, where neither of the men would follow me?" Or: " My thoughts went round and round and it occurred to me that if I ever wrote a novel it would be of the 'stream of consciousness' type and deal with an hour in the life of a woman at the sink." I think all of us can relate to her here!

And I will treat you to one last observation that will perhaps resonate more with British readers: "Did we really need a cup of tea? I even said as much to Miss Statham and she looked at me with a hurt, almost angry look, 'Do we need tea? she echoed. 'But Miss Lathbury…' She sounded so puzzled and distressed and I began to realise that my question had struck at something deep and fundamental. It was the kind of question that starts a landslide in the mind." And that last sentence really sums it up -- there are little rituals and mainstays in small, English villages that are not to be taken lightly and Barbara Pym has teased them out majestically. You will be well occupied by a few hours in her company!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Return to Joy

Wow, it's sure been a long time since I was last here, almost a year. I have missed it terribly, but knew that I needed to take a break and figure out what it was that I really wanted to share. I also needed to tackle my health issues in a new way, which took up a lot of my time. I was diagnosed with severe heart failure at the beginning of 2012, which rocked me and my family to the core, but I was not ready to check out just yet and as I lay in my bed for weeks on end, heavily drugged with medication from the hospital, the one thought that my addled mind kept circling back to was: I have work to do.

The past three years have been what I thought were the beginnings of that work, but now, with hindsight, I realize that that work actually began many years ago when I first started training to practice energy medicine. It was my first foray as an adult back into a space of authenticity. When we are children we know instinctively who we are and what matters, but as we grow up and become conditioned by the world we live in, we forget so much of that. Clearly, some part of me had realized that it was important to get back to that space, but my internal conflict about who I was "supposed to be" as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, etc was so fierce that I didn't make it. I believe my heart failure was the result.

When we are not our authentic selves we lose our joyfulness. At the beginning of 2015, I chose the word JOY as my theme word for this year. I love theme words, as opposed to resolutions, because they have the ability to continually bring us back into the space we need to be in. Last year my word was CREATE and, unwittingly, I created much more than I had planned to! I worked fiendishly hard to keep my mind in check and not let it run off in unhelpful directions, I learned how to throw pots on a wheel (a lifelong ambition!), I learned how to cook and eat an Autoimmune Paleo diet to reduce inflammation and "clean up" my body from the inside out and, mostly, I learned that when I honour my own needs, life flows much more smoothly for me and everyone around me.

I decided the best way to honour those lessons is by being my genuine self. So bear with me while I find my voice again and I will share what I have learned, what is important to me, what's worked and what hasn't, including recipes to inspire you to use delicious food as medicine and plenty of book reviews because, well, books are my one weakness! So, I hope that you will join me and along the way pick up some things that will inspire you, lift your spirits and help you move into your own authentically joyous space.