The New Normal

When this all began, there was so much talk about the strain on all of us. Everyone was talking about how we had to accept that our mental health might take a dip and a dive and that it was okay to feel anxious or down. No-one expected too much and we all filled our lives in any way we could. We took each day as it came.

Some people took to arts and crafts, baking or exercise. Others took up online courses and extra projects. Some just caught up on much needed sleep.

Now, life’s gradually returning to a new kind of normal and if you’re anything like me, you’re suddenly convinced you should somehow feel normal again yourself. Like it’s a switch we can flick on when life gets challenging and off again when things get better.

Here’s the thing – I still feel sad and tired, all the time. I’m missing my life before Covid-19, but I’m struggling to accept how far off a return to that exact way of life really is. I feel like stubborn teenager, sticking my heels in and adamantly waiting until things go precisely my way. I don’t want to settle for half-normal.

I’m looking at pictures of friends filling their diaries up with plans and getting out and about. I’m watching people at work throw themselves into planning for the next few months at home (because this working from home thing seems like it’s here to stay). I’m seeing people embrace the gradual relaxing of the rules and head back to beaches and shops. And I’m doing the most unhealthy thing I could do:

I’m directly comparing how I’m doing to how everyone else seems to be doing. I’m convincing myself that everyone else is fine and that I should be too. I feel like I should be full steam ahead back into work and socialising and my old routine and everything else that comes with it. It’s like I’ve decided Covid-19 isn’t a justifiable reason to feel ‘not quite right’ anymore.

Soon, I’ll probably find I do start making plans and accepting the new normal. I’ll ease into it over the next few weeks and before long, I’m sure I’ll start to feel myself embrace the way things have to be. But there’s no pressure or rush to do so – It’s only me putting that pressure on me. Which is no-doubt just making me more tired than I already am.

So, for anyone else who needs to hear it: It’s okay, to still not be okay. We’re still living through a global pandemic. And if anything, this strange return to a new kind of normal is likely to be the most mentally challenging part of the whole thing. Don’t put any additional pressure on yourself!

Breathe, cut yourself some slack and still feel free to take each day as it comes. You’ve got this.

I just don’t feel right

This will be my third try at a blog post. I’ve been trying and failing to write over the last few weeks: I had this grand idea that I’d start writing daily throughout this global pandemic. I was going to call the chapter ‘A blog a day to keep the blues at bay‘. But every time I put pen to paper (or started typing, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as romantic does it?) I was unhappy with what came out.

I guess I wanted to try and write truthfully about how this time is making me feel, to get it off my own chest, but also in the hope that it might help someone somewhere to read that this time’s got us all feeling a bit out of sorts. If you’re feeling odd and mentally vulnerable, you’re not alone, I promise.

But whenever I tried writing I found myself trying too hard to cover all bases: To reiterate that I know there are people who this pandemic is affecting in worse ways than I can even imagine and that I know how lucky I am. And I am lucky. I’m so grateful for this beautiful, safe house and garden and the fact I can work from home and that my work is so fulfilling and that I have amazing family and friends…

I just don’t feel quite myself. My shoulders are constantly tense and my jaw too. I find myself sighing all the time and every day just feels like a bit of an uphill struggle. I’m trying so hard to be positive, but I just feel a bit down in the dumps.

I miss myself. All this time indoors is giving me heaps of thinking time and that’s what I’ve realised. I’m missing old me. I keep thinking that a younger, ‘funner’ Bronwen would have done better in this situation.

But I’m always looking back and always wanting to go back to being the person I was and today the penny has finally dropped: Looking backwards isn’t doing me any good…

When I was at university, I missed the care-free girl I left behind in Chelmsford, who loved her high school boyfriend to pieces and spent all her time singing. Nowadays, I miss University me, who wrote fun blogs and could stay up late and was more up for a good time. I bet some day, I’ll miss this me. Whoever this me is. And I’ll kick myself for all the time I spent dwelling on how a previous version of myself would have handled things. 

Yes, I’m more tired nowadays and a bit more careful, but I don’t worry any less that’s for sure. I can try and tell myself that I used to be care-free all I want, but really I’ve always been a worrier.

And so I guess it’s no wonder Covid-19 has got me feeling a bit iffy. If anything, I’d expect to be less calm than I am. I’m still getting up every day, showering, brushing my teeth and getting dressed. I’m still eating plenty and getting out for walks and staying in touch with family and friends.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack during this time. It’s so hard when we’re constantly exposed to perfect images of how everyone else is handing things, but I for one need to remember that I’m doing okay doing what I’m doing. There is no right way to deal with a worldwide pandemic, we’re all figuring this out one day at a time. AND I’m just Bronwen. Not past Bronwen, not present Bronwen, not future Bronwen, just me. Still me… Just a little older and maybe actually a little wiser too?

Week Forty-One

This one’s for my Mum and her sisters, my aunties. I love you all so much.

The theme of 2019 has definitely been ups and downs. I’ve had months full of happy memories and positivity and other months that have been huge struggles. Whether it’s been my mental health getting me down or things going on at home. I don’t want to write a super gloomy post, but it’s felt like every time I was picking myself up again, something else has come along and knocked me down.

The above dedication goes out to my Mum and my aunties at a hard time for all of us. My Mum is going to be away from home for a long time and she probably won’t be home for Christmas and for me personally, worries about her and her sister and heart ache over missing her already have me feeling like the uphill climb that’s been 2019 just got steeper. But, this week, I’m reminded that life’s too short and we should be grateful for every little thing we can be.

Is it just me or, in this crazy adult life, isn’t a Saturday with no plans the best thing ever? I’m grateful for this moment right now. Sat with a cuppa, in our cosy living room, typing away to a blog I love to type away to. Dave’s stuck on a record by Greta Van Fleet and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I am. (It’s actually pretty awesome.) I’ve got Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sat next to me on the coffee table and a hot water bottle to cuddle. I’ve got candles lit and I’m wearing the cutest socks (which a group of my loveliest friends bought for me for one of my birthdays).

It’s been a mad few weeks. Between long days at work, band practice, the stuff going on with my family and the social stuff too, I’ve not done as much nothing as I’m doing today in a while.

It’s not all doom and gloom: To give you some of the highlights, since I last wrote:

Dave and I went to our nearest zoo from the new house. It’s ZSL Whipsnade and I highly recommend a visit. It turns out it’s the biggest zoo in the UK. We walked over 7 miles just wondering around and it’s great because there isn’t really any set route or paths to take. You just kinda get through the entrance and go on your own adventure. With regular pit stops for coffee and food between amazing animals, it makes for a great day. You feel like you’ve properly escaped. The animals’ enclosures are huge too and although this means you don’t necessarily get to see them all, it’s good to see that they’ve got so much space to roam. The zoo is properly focused on conservation and not just on guest satisfaction.

Dave and I also went to see Rodrigo Y Gabriella play at The Hammersmith Apollo. They were AMAZING. Such good performers and musicians and eeek. I’m a big fan!

Damballa Collective had our second gig which was at a lovely pub in Camden called The Golden Lion. I was still so ridiculously nervous and I was full of cold, but it was still great fun and I think we sounded good! We got paid in roast dinner too, which is the best thing ever.

I went along to an Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk to talk about Gifts in Wills and as ever, the event was beautiful (even on a very rainy Sunday morning) and I met so many inspirational people.

I drove up to Sheffield with my little sister to meet two of the members of one of her favourite metal bands. I’m still not convinced I’ll ever like their music, but they were really great guys and they made such a huge effort for their fans that day and it was actually a lot of fun to road trip up there together. We went to a really cool bar and I had the most amazing street food I’ve ever had.

I also met a lovely friend in Cheltenham for the day a couple of weeks back. We started with breakfast, had a stroll around the shops, saw the famous mechanical clock blow bubbles, wandered down through the parks and the older, prettier part of town and went to Cosy Club for a very yummy dinner. It was the bestest day.

I’m sure there’s other stuff I’ve forgotten too!

In summary, my heart goes out to my family, life is precious and not to be taken for granted no matter how busy and stressful it might feel at times and I’m so grateful for all the happy memories I continue to make and for today: A day of calm among the chaos.

Week Eleven

About this time last week I was stood in the middle of a nearby field, with my Mum, in a state of complete and utter panic, having walked for an hour or so (in circles) and having lost all sense of direction. I was absolutely convinced we’d ended up miles away from home and I had no idea how to find our way back. It was very windy and a little rainy and I was cream crackered and when I rang Dave, my world was ending.

He found us in ten minutes. Yep. Turns out, we hadn’t strayed far at all and I’d gotten all in a tizz over nothing. Story of my life.

Right now, one week later, I’m safely curled up under a blanket, with an orange juice and lemonade (branching out from the usual cup of tea!) and I’m over half way through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I hope I won’t get myself in too much trouble with Harry Potter fans for saying, I’ve struggled with this one so far. It’s picking up now, but the first half was a bit of a slog.

11 weeks ago I resolved to do a lot of things. I know one of them was to snooze my alarm less and that has gone well and truly out of the window (perhaps this week will be the week!). Another was to join some fitness classes and no, that has not happened. BUT this week I might start wearing my Fitbit again and at least take the stairs when I can. Dun dun dunnn.

I guess the resolutions that were most important to me were the ones that involved me rediscovering music: Music has always been so important to me. And yet, it has gradually dropped out of my life since I finished my Music and History degree in 2015. I only really listen to music when I’m driving. I barely ever play my piano or ukulele anymore.

This week, I’ve been working on two new covers on the ukulele! YES I HAVE. And I’ve been working on two new originals at the piano. I’ve also created a playlist for music to listen to at work.  Don’t ask why I hadn’t done that sooner… Who knows!? But now that I have, it’s great to be able to switch the office noise off for a bit now and again and get properly in the zone.

I feel stronger today than I have in a long time and I know lots of things have contributed to getting me there this week. My lovely team at work for one. My organisation last Sunday and the to do lists that I stuck to. The brilliant day spent with one of my best friends yesterday, wandering the Museum of London and catching up over dinner.

I can’t help thinking that music has literally given me strength though. This blog is called ‘Singing Goodbye to Butterflies’ after all. I always feel invincible after time spent singing. The feeling’s like nothing else.

All’s left to do now is find a choir or a band to join. I need to get working with other musicians again. I want my music mojo back.

I hope that whatever your passions are, you can make the time to pursue them. Because life often gets in the way and we simply shouldn’t let it.

Putting the world to WRITEs

This blog had an about page when I first set it up. Eventually I deleted it, because I thought people would be best placed to find out about me, and about the blog, by just reading it.

In my about page I described the blog as a series of colloquial, honest diary entries. I guess that’s what they are. I’ve written in my diary since I was… well, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write in my diary. And when the idea for the blog came about, it was because I’d written a diary entry that I thought I’d like to share with the world. That diary entry became my first blog post.

I’ve always had that urge to share how I’m feeling. I remember being little and writing diary entries, then ripping out the pages and hiding them in a place where I knew my mum and dad would find them. I hoped that they would find them and read them and understand how I was feeling. I always felt like I could put stuff down better in writing.

I guess this all occurred to me today, because I woke up anxious and I’ve gone to write in my diary. I was typing away when I realised I’d written to my diary a lot recently and I hadn’t written a blog post in a long time. I sincerely hope I’m not finally going to want to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself after all of this time. I truly believe a problem shared is a problem halved and I would never encourage anyone else to keep all their feelings buried deep down inside. I hope that’s not the case and I don’t think it is.

I think it’s less about not writing here and more about writing there. In my diary, I can write the doomy gloomy stuff without worrying the people I love. Because I’m fine. There’s just some stuff that’s better off on paper, than in my head. It’s refreshing to be writing at the moment without worrying about how it’s coming across or even thinking about it. Life’s busy and time spent writing in my diary, is pretty much the only writing time I’m getting. So, it’s simply become a choice of one or the other for now.

So, here’s a kind of open and kind of honest holding post. A post to say, if you’re new here then this is what my page is all about and you’ve got some time to catch up before I carry on. A post to say, if you’ve been following my blog all this time, I will be back! And to highly recommend writing to all of you. Because writing how I’m feeling has always done wonders for me and at the moment, I don’t know what I’d do without my diary.

Proud

Another post already!? Can you believe it?

I remember when I went through a phase of wishing and hoping and dreaming of my blog becoming a massive hit and me being given my own column in a hugely famous magazine. I went and read all these posts from other bloggers about how to gain a following and how to keep them captivated.

Keeping your followers captivated. Rule number one. Write consistently and frequently. One day, the same day, every week or something like that. Every day if possible.

My inspiration comes and goes. My blogspiration comes at the most random times and goes again in a flash! I admire all of the bloggers and writers out there that have deadlines and meet them. I honestly don’t know if I could ever actually write in such a regulated way and I suppose I’m just grateful for the small following I do have.

Right now I feel blogspired because I’m ill and mopey and yet I just stuck some music on, grabbed my book, got tea and within a few minutes, perked myself right up! I just caught myself smiling and I felt this overwhelming sense of accomplishment and happiness.

My throat hurts and I’ve got a cough. Isn’t that just the most annoying combination!?Apparently this is the week everyone gets sick. Monday was National Sickie Day. Unfairly named I’d say, seeing as the vast majority of people probably are genuinely ill and are not just faking it. After all, we’ve been cold for too long. We need spring.

I tell you what though… Dave’s been nagging me to have Lemon and Ginger tea when I’m full of cold for years and I don’t like lemon so I’ve been ignoring him. Until today that is. Today I’m drinking Pukka’s Lemon, Ginger and Honey tea and my goodness he was right all along! The ultimate cold buster. It’s a shame he’s not here to tell me he told me so.

Smiling goofily at my laptop right now’s got me thinking, it really is the little things in life. What makes you feel proud might seem to someone else not to be an accomplishment at all. But that’s why we should never ever compare ourselves to others. I think that’s why I wanted to write. Just to say I’m proud. And you should be too, of whatever little thing you’ve overcome today.

Today, I feel proud because I’m home alone and I’m unwell and I’ve no idea what I’m cooking for dinner and usually my butterflies would be fluttering, but instead I’m smiling. Hooray to that!

Yoga, Tagine, Prosecco and a Shark Tale

I made it to my first yoga class! And I’ve been again since and I’m already looking forward to going again this week. I’ve found me a truly wonderful class. I’ve been to a few yoga classes before and found that they’re all different. I think it is worth taking the time to find a class that really works for you and I am very pleased to say that I think I have done just that. The instructor is amazing and the session left me feeling refreshed and renewed both times.

Life’s been busy, good busy.

This weekend has been a good’un. Friday night I headed to the George Tavern in Whitechapel with some people from work. It’s a live music venue and the musicians who played were all so talented! ‘Friend of Dave’ was a beat-boxer equipped with a maraca and a harmonica and you would not believe the textures he created all by himself. He played feel good tunes that put smiles on everyone’s faces. ‘Austrumkalns’ were a Latvian ensemble. They are a flautist, cellist, violinist, guitarist and percussionist and they played Latvian folk songs. They were beautiful. They even planted Latvian dancers in the pub to get everyone on their feet. I had one of them ‘must mentally capture this and store the memory vividly forever’ moments. The headliners were ‘Erin Black and the Devil’s Hand’ who were fantastic. Every member of the band was super talented, all introduced individually at the beginning of the set. They had every single person captivated until the set ended and everyone darted out for their last trains home, myself included.

Saturday I met a good friend for lunch in Kensington before heading over to the V&A for the Opera Passion exhibition. I highly recommend the Lebanese restaurant we went to (Comptoir Libanais), which I believe is part of a chain. I had halloumi and tomato and a lamb tagine and loved every single bite. We finished the meal off with a mint tea and a hot chocolate (hot chocolate for me, of course) and then headed back out into the rain to get to the museum. The exhibition itself was brilliant. No spoilers, go check it out if you can! I’d never been to the V&A before. Going to have to go back. So many things captured my interest on the way through. May need more than one visit. I had no idea how humongous it was.

Another lovely friend of mine came to stay last night. We had a proper girls night and it was simply lovely. Highlights include listening to Sam Smith’s new album, popping open a bottle of prosecco and face masks.

I’m curled up on the sofa with a cuppa right now. Shark Tale’s on the TV and it’s just coming to the end credits. Car Wash is playing, you know the scene?, and I’ve just turned the volume up. I think once I’ve finished writing this I’m going to have chicken kievs for dinner. I’m going to carry on reading Lauren Graham’s autobiography while it cooks. It’s based around her time spent playing Loralai Gilmore in Gilmore Girls, it was a Christmas present and I’m loving it. It’s a lot of fun.

I’ve started learning a Katie Melua piece on the piano, so I ought to get a little more practice in tonight too. I’m pretending like it’s not Monday tomorrow. What is it about Mondays? I’ve butterflies just thinking about it. In this case though, we’re really truly in it together. We’ll all struggle through Monday morning and we’ll all be alright once we’ve had a cup of tea or coffee or two.

Kind of Blue

I’m in for a quiet Friday tonight and I’m so relieved. I’m curled up all snug under a blanket. I’ve a glass of red wine on the go which is warming me from the inside out. I’ve candles lit and music playing and Dave’s said the T word. The T word being takeaway. There’s no going back now; we’ll be ordering in no time.

This week’s been a big’un. Plenty of ups and downs along the way. I am absolutely knackered tonight.

Monday morning was the worst morning. And not just cos it was a Monday. It was pouring down with rain and the train was 25 minutes late. And while I stood there on that platform, feeling miserable and defeated, I decided this week simply wasn’t going to be my week.

I know that sounds crazy. Why let a bit of rain and some train delays hold you back? I was equipped with an umbrella and a big coat so I didn’t even get that wet.

I can’t speak for everyone living with anxiety, but I know that for me personally, mornings are the hardest. I may tell you that when I’m singing or writing or doing anything I love, the butterflies go away. In reality the only time they really do go away is when I’m asleep. Leaving sleep behind is hard for most people. I’d sleep all day every day given the chance. For the first couple of hours of a day, having just mustered up the oomph to get up and at ’em, every little thing counts. A bright and funny news story can make a day. A train delay can break a week.

Monday wasn’t the only difficult morning. I hit delays on the trains again yesterday morning and then eventually my trains were cancelled all together. This morning, my rear windscreen wiper broke. Or I guess I should say, I broke it by turning it on when it was frozen stiff.

I cooked some great dinners this week though and I suddenly feel so good about this whole cooking thing that I’m thinking I might actually start using the recipe books we have had for ages but not used yet. I find cooking incredibly stressful most of the time, but I’m getting there. I’m feeling inspired by my best friend who recently moved out and who cooks simple, quick, easy, healthy meals from Joe Wick’s books almost every night and seems so happy for it.

Other highlights this week include finally getting to season nine of Friends and still not knowing any spoilers. *touches wood*, going for a wintry walk with Dave, buying a yoga mat and finally having time to paint my nails.

This evening I’m feeling super creative despite being so tired. I want to do a zillion things at once. I am so close to finishing my book. But I haven’t even made a start on the colouring in my ‘mindfulness colouring diary’. I’m also glancing longingly at the piano and ukulele every so often because as per, I just want to sing my heart out. First thing first, order food.

Still twenty-something, still lost, still smiling

Old habits die hard.

Life still feels as complicated as ever.

You can tell life has been a little crazy because long gone are the days of blog posts written every Sunday without fail, always about lazy days at my parents’, roast dinners and good books and sunshine or rain.

Funnily enough, I actually did spend this Sunday just gone at my parents’. I slept in till eleven! It was amazing. My mum made me a bacon buttie and a cuppa. I nipped out to see my best friend and her other half and when I got back the whole house smelt of roast chicken and potatoes and it was glorious. I chilled with my brother and checked in with my sister. I stole a good couple of bear hugs off my dad. Before I headed home, full of food and love, I watched a kid’s film with my parents. It was raining almost the whole day which was a disappointment to my mum who’d asked me to bring my bikini in the hope we could take a dip in the paddling pool. However, I loved the fact it rained. My old home felt that much cosier because of it.

On the Saturday, I drove back to Essex and then straight down to the coast where some of my friends and I went to an ‘Escape Room’.

If you haven’t heard about escape rooms, I highly recommend you look them up. The one we did was super scary. ‘The Cabin’ is just off a shopping street in Southend. We were trapped with a supernatural creature, which we were told could only move in the dark. The lights went on and off through out and there were clues all over and we had one hour to banish the creature and find a way out. We failed miserably, but hellish as it sounds, it was such good fun. Not all escape rooms are scary either. For those of you who don’t know, there’s a Harry Potter themed one and one where you rob a bank!

The rest of that day was spent battling with wind and rain, drinking coke floats, eating them amazing donuts you always get at the seaside and playing crazy golf by the sea.

Right now I’m sat on the sofa in our flat, listening to Rag ‘n’ Bone man, who by the way, is simply awesome, no denying it. Dave’s just got in from work and tonight we’ve nothing planned besides fighting over who gets control of the music and who gets the comfier sofa. Makes a change. We intend to make the most of the nothingness.

Life’s been the usual emotional rollercoaster and it’s been far from simple, yes. It’s not getting to me though! I’ve been through the normal ups and downs.

The working weeks are crazy. I’m always in a Mond-aze first thing Monday morning. I may love my job, but that doesn’t stop the return of the alarm clock being a shocker. We promise ourselves early nights from that moment on and yet every evening flies by and before we know it, we’re going to sleep much later than intended.

As time goes on, I think I’m finally beginning to realize that regardless of gender, personality, job, lifestyle, mental health, all twenty-somethings are feeling a lot of the same things. Obviously we’re all going through our own individual bits and pieces, but we’ve a lot in common with each other too.

We’re living the best years of our lives of course, but that doesn’t mean we’re not all scared and unsure. Swept up in the craziness of all that is modern day life, we’d be crazy not to feel a little bewildered.

Whenever I stop for too long to think I find myself second guessing, doubting, panicking. Good thing is, I’ve not had much time to stop at all. I do think I’m finally coming to the terms with the fact that I never feel like I’ve got both feet on the ground. These are the years to fly right? I’ll find my footing again eventually and then I’ll wanna be right back where I am now.

It’s complicated

We, people in general, tend to overcomplicate things. Life’s fairly simple when you think about it. We’re born. Some things go wrong and some things go right. Some of us are lucky and some of us are incredibly unlucky. Some people like us and some people don’t. We make friends and we lose them. Then at some point it all has to end and most of the time people are sad to see other people go, regardless of what we may have done or not done, because at the end of the day the loss of life is simply sad.

This isn’t coming from a place of complete randomness. Life has felt overwhelmingly complicated recently.

When I nipped quickly into the Paperchase at London Euston a couple of weeks ago to grab a diary because things were a little crazy and I needed to keep track, I was just excited to be back from travelling, to be rolling on with work and to have so many fantastic plans ahead.

This week I’ve done nothing but wish life was simpler. I’ve felt like I’m losing track. Suddenly work feels like my whole life and as much as I love my job, I can’t help freaking out about all the important things I don’t have time for. The days haven’t felt as long as they did in the beginning and there’s not enough time and everything’s been a muddle.

Then out of nowhere, today has been simple.

I simply slept for as long as I needed and then rolled out of bed at 11am.

Dave cooked a not so simple, very impressive breakfast but I helped where I could and sipped tea when I couldn’t.

I sat outside and read my book and then I got too hot and moved indoors. Then I convinced Dave to walk round to McDonald’s with me and we bought McFlurrys.

We don’t feel like cooking, so we’re simply ordering in.

I feel like today has done me the world of good. Stepping out of the craziness of it all for just a little while has put my feet back on the ground again. I feel like I’d been swept up in a flurry of madness and now I’m back on solid ground.

Not only does this remind me of the value of slowing down once in a while, I now feel like a complete wally. From and outside perspective, looking back, life’s been simple really.

I have got to stop over-complicating things!