Week Twenty-Eight

WHERE IS THE YEAR GOING!?

I knew 2019 was going to be a big’un. I never could have prepared myself for how much of an uphill climb the first half of it would be. I said there was to be no stressing when my birthday party came around and I don’t want any of the amazing people who came to be disappointed or sad. I certainly don’t want my parents’ to feel like all their efforts were wasted. It was an AMAZING night! But honestly? I spent the whole thing feeling very anxious and went to bed crying at 1am because I was so frustrated that I hadn’t been able to enjoy it.

Now, here I am in July and my anxiety feels like it’s finally under control again and I’m absolutely buzzing about life! It feels like everything is coming together. A lot’s going to change over the next couple of months.

I remember New Year’s Eve 2011 very clearly. 2012 was going to be the year everything changed and I knew I wasn’t going to like it one bit. I went to bed early and when it got to midnight I cried. I was right; I didn’t enjoy the changes at all. Going off to university turned my whole world upside down. If I had known back then, that life would always be full of change and that I was just going to have to get used to it, I’m not sure what I would have done. Decided this life wasn’t for me and I was going to live under my duvet for the rest of it? Probably.

I’ve come a long way since then. I am prepared for the fact that the next couple of months may throw me off a little, but I’m also just super excited about EVERYTHING.

Where to start?

Well, today I have a jam session with my new band. YEP, MY NEW BAND. I’ve been really down about my voice ever since studying music at university if I’m honest. Being part of that music department made me feel like a very small fish in an extremely big pond and I never really shook that feeling. If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that I’ve repeatedly pledged to get back into singing. I was going to join a choir or find like-minded musicians to work with, but I never kept that promise to myself. I just couldn’t seem to find the oomph.

I work with this great guy who, over the last couple of months, has gone and given me my music mojo back. He didn’t really give me a choice in the matter. He rocked up at my desk one day and told me about this new collective of musicians he was pulling together. He said it was Jazz, but not Jazz. And kinda classically influenced, but not really either. He said he thought I might fit right in and before I knew it I was at the studio with him. It took me over half an hour to sing my first note.

Now, I’m away! We’ve had our first gig and, although I was super nervous, I managed to successfully sing every note and, although I might not have sung as well as I know I can, I was so proud and happy when we finished. Mostly proud to be working with such a talented set of musicians. The guy from work’s a ridiculously talented drummer. We’re playing with an AMAZING classical guitarist and FANTASTIC saxophonist and WE ARE DAMBALLA COLLECTIVE. Plug over, but I’m so excited. Can you tell?

That aside, we’re also moving home! (Providing our references all go through fine and they decide they think we’ll be able to pay the rent each month.) We’re moving in with a friend, into a much bigger home in a lovely village with loads of pubs and a big common and it’s going to be so lovely. And best of all… I can walk to the train station… waheyyyy. No more sitting in traffic every morning!!

Anddd finally, I passed my big qualification at work and now I’m officially qualified to do what I want to do. The world is now my oyster on the career front and I’m really excited to see where work life takes me from here… That’s if I’m not too busy touring with Damballa Collective of course.

All good things.

Life’s more challenging than ever before. Particularly for a worrier like me. But I’m making sure to take deep breaths when I can and I’m taking moments here and there to make sure I’m doing okay. I am doing okay. And next week I’m off on holiday. What better way to look after one’s mental health than to spend a week in the sun, with a good book (Miles Davis’ autobiography being my current book of choice… I’m only 3 chapters in, but I am loving it!) and an amazing friend? Eeeeek!

Bring on the cherry blossom

I’m a winter girl through and through but my goodness am I ready for spring now. I’m so excited. No can do though apparently. Have you heard the ‘Beast from the East’ returns this weekend? Please no!

The Beast from the East! The last time I wrote, it hadn’t even hit us just yet! I’ve always loved snow. I couldn’t have hated it more by the end of that week. It’s not really the snow itself. I don’t mind trudging through it or sticking on the extra layers. It’s the fact that when it snows in the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom grinds to a halt. So many plans cancelled. So many journeys disrupted.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though…

Friday night, at the tail end of this traumatic week, it was still snowing. I hated knowing I couldn’t go out even if I wanted to. I couldn’t stop thinking about that dinner and cinema trip that never happened, the shopping spree never had, the girl’s spa weekend that we’d had to call off! So, when two crazy friends of mine booked a cab and told me they were off out into town for drinks despite the weather, I couldn’t resist. SNOW, WHAT SNOW!? Yeah! Stuff you snow! The snow certainly didn’t stop us from having a truly FAB evening and I’m so glad we went.

The snow may have called off the spa trip that me and some of my friends had planned, but we weren’t letting that ruin our weekend either. We gathered together armed with face masks, olives, chips and dips, prosecco and comfy pants and we had a lovely time together anyway.

Sunday morning the snow was gone. I was so unbelievably happy. It’s been over a week since that glorious day.

I have since watched the last episode of Friends. Yep, I’d never seen the last episode of Friends before. Yes, Dave and I did buy the box set when we moved into the flat and have just now finished watching it chronologically from start to finish. Yes, I did sob into my glass of red wine for the entirety of the episode which, by the way, couldn’t have been more perfect.

I’ve started reading George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo’ and I’m a massive fan already. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2017 and yet, I’ve seen surprisingly varied reviews. Personally, I’m not surprised it won the award. I’m currently on team 5 star. I’m only half way through, so this may not be my final verdict but so far I find it to be imaginative, captivating and absolutely bonkers, in a great way.

2018 is flying by, but it really has been a good’un so far. With more exciting plans on the horizon I’m feeling positive.

I simply have to finish by paying tribute to the incredible man that was Stephen Hawking. I’ve seen so many different Hawking quotes used to pay tribute to him today and seen so many people trying to sum up his magnificence. I think the best way we can all pay tribute to him is by letting the life he led serve as inspiration to us all: To live life to the full and to never give up. R.I.P Stephen Hawking.

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.

Let go of the familiar and embrace the new

I was super happy and excited but goodness I was nervous. A small part of me was just rationally worrying about the new job itself. Whether I’d be able to do it, whether the people would be as nice as I hoped, whether I’d impress like I wanted to.

I was also having nightmares about being late on my first day. Nightmares that varied from stressfully realistic and scarily weird. I had one in which I kept trying to get through doorways but random people in my life would be standing in them telling me it wasn’t safe and by the end I was shouting (luckily just in the dream) at the top of my lungs that they had to get out of my way because I had to get to work! You don’t have to be a psychologist to figure out I was very scared I’d be late.

Most of me was simply just terrified about the change from unemployment to employment. Even with 7 days a week free to do as I pleased I felt like time was going too fast and there was never enough of it. How would I cope? How would I find time to do the things I love? How would I keep in contact with all of my friends and family? How would I sleep and eat enough? How would I live!?

Commuting for the first time was a strange experience. When I walked onto the station platform singing quietly to myself at 8am, I felt like I was walking into a school assembly late. Everyone looked miserable. Everyone was sat or stood in silence. Everyone seemed to glare at me as I walked past. Pretty girls looked me up and down like I didn’t belong.

Of course, half the issue was that I was so tense and uncomfortable. The minute I walked onto that platform I forgot all about where I was headed. All I knew was that I felt small and unsure and this was all new and I wasn’t sure I liked it and a big part of me wanted to run back home to bed. I was more nervous than I knew and it didn’t take much to knock me off balance.

However, from the moment I got to work onwards, my first day ROCKED. Everyone I met was super lovely. I really enjoyed the work I did and the more I found out about my role the more I knew I was going to love it. My team took me out for lunch.

There came a point when I realised where I was, both physically and just in life and suddenly a big goofy smile spread from cheek to cheek. I was in my favourite city, working in one of them fancy office buildings, wearing fancy office clothes and doing a job I already took pride in and loved. This change didn’t happen gradually. I didn’t go through a period of adaptation. Maybe you aren’t supposed to. Maybe the reason I’ve struggled with change so much in life is because I’ve always had too much time to think about it. This time was like no other. I’m not being dramatic. Literally, one minute I was panicking. I felt like I was spiralling, losing control, time was running away with me. The next minute I realised I was calm and I settled into the swing of things and before long it was like nothing had changed at all.

I’m another 5 commutes down now and its not strange anymore. If the pretty girls are still looking me up and down I’m not seeing them because I’m too happy and confident to notice. Or my head is in my book which I’ve already mastered the art of reading wherever I am.

It doesn’t feel like I’ve just been through a change. 3 days into the job and everything is second nature. It honestly feels like I’ve been doing this for years and that is strange and wonderful all at once. Life never fails to amaze me.

Learning to be all kinds of happy

I’m sat on the sofa by the window, getting blinded by the sun but refusing to shut it out. I’m two chapters from the end of Harry Potter so when I’m done writing, I’m finishing it. Then I’m rewarding myself with a cream egg or two before taking a deep breath and picking up the very important looking paperwork that came in the post from my new employer.

Yes, I got the job! EEEEEEEK!!

If I’m honest, at first the news left me feeling all kinds of mixed emotions.

I was happy at first, goodness I nearly cried on the phone while she was telling me the good news and I’m surprised I didn’t deafen Dave when he called to congratulate me, but then almost as fast as I’d felt happy, I felt tense and uncertain again.

I found myself trying really hard not to get overwhelmed. I couldn’t relax for days. I know now that I was so happy when she rang, but I was scared too. Not scared of starting the job, but scared of letting myself be happy about it.

That probably sounds like lunacy to some of you. I just got a job I know that I’m going to love in the city I’ve always wanted to work in. Life’s moving forwards in a brilliant way, but sometimes even the positive emotions are scary. We try to suppress them because letting any emotion take control, even a happy one, means losing ourselves a little.

We worrier warriors spend a lot of our time trying to control our emotions, trying not to let the anxiety take over, but for goodness sakes, if you’re ever given a good reason to act like the crazy, excitable, over-emotional person you are on the inside, then go for it! Scream from the hill tops if you have to. Let the happy tears run wild. Don’t try to keep it in. When it finally dawned on me that I had no reason to be anxious, that everything had fallen into place and that I was in fact ridiculously happy I cried, I ran around like I’d eaten too many blue smarties and I haven’t stopped smiling since.

 

Mind over matter

Recently, my beautiful cousin wrote a blog on mindfulness. (It’s well worth a read and the link is at the bottom of this post. I’ve also included the link to a mindfulness meditation video which helped me heaps.) And I mention it because even more recently I discovered just how practicing mindfulness can help. In the spirit of being honest, when I first read my cousin’s post I underestimated mindfulness. I didn’t think it was for me. I thought meditation was a thing I’d struggle with in many ways. Then, one down day last week left me feeling particularly shaken.

I truly believed that I’d hit the bottom. Considering how well things were going, I can’t quite believe how pessimistic I felt. I was tired of being anxious and I wanted to give up and I felt hopeless and I was convinced that every day of the rest of my life, I’d be miserable. I’ve felt all of this before, but this time the thoughts were scarier, more consuming. Perhaps all of the anxiety I’d been feeling over the last couple of weeks had been smothered in a way, by all the good stuff I was feeling. Then it burst out. I was exasperated by the fact I still felt anxious when the past couple of weeks had been so truly amazing.

In the end I rang The Samaritans and they stayed on the phone until I was out the other side. I didn’t call them because I believed I might kill myself. I called them because I didn’t know how to explain how I was feeling rationally and I didn’t want to panic family and friends BUT I felt like if I didn’t get it out, talk about it, I would be giving the feelings more power over me. The Samaritans were amazing and if you ever need them, you can call them 24 hours a day on 116 123.

24 hours was all it took before I was practicing mindfulness on my bedroom floor for the first time and feeling like I could go on. I hadn’t truly felt like I was in control again since the phone call. I had pretty much decided that I was going to carry on feeling that way and I’d just call The Samaritans every time I felt like that for the rest of my life. Laying flat on my back, on the floor, listening to a mindfulness video, I discovered the power of being in the moment and coming to the realisation that we have power over our minds, not the other way ’round. It honestly took ten minutes of being mindful for me to believe in myself again. Since, I feel stronger than ever. I highly recommend it. I only wish I’d believed enough to try it sooner.

What’s also amazing is that once I’d been mindful I finally felt I could tell people around me how I’d felt. I told Dave, I told my brother, I took control back and I moved onwards and upwards.

Right now, I’m sat on an actual sofa (because we have one actual sofa now) and I’m looking at our beautiful living room (that now has house plants in it, including a wonderful cactus called Patrick) and I’m smiling hugely even though it’s all grey and gloomy outside. These last two weeks have been far from miserable. Believe it or not despite my emotional all over the place-ness, they’ve been great.

I’ve applied for lots of jobs and despite having heard nothing yet, am still feeling determined.

I’ve started writing my first ever song and I’ve been keeping up the piano practice.

I finished Jane Austen’s Persuasion and I thoroughly enjoyed it… It made my heart sing.

I bought a foot stool and can now reach the top of my new wardrobe.

I’m getting to know the new area. I’ve been ’round to the local shops and been into town a few times now and it feels more like home every day.

We’ve had more wonderful friends over to visit. Two brought flowers with them. One brought Christmas crackers along because why not? One brought yorkshire puddings and helped us to make our first flat Roast which came out really well! I feel more blessed every day to have the friends I do.

Dave and I have been out for dinner and been to the cinema, been record shopping together and we’ve started working through the list of films we’ve been meaning to watch for ages and without setting off anyone’s cheese allergies I have to honestly say how lovely it is to be in the same place and actually be able to spend time together and do actual couple things. So yeah, he hasn’t driven me crazy yet, but watch this space I guess.

One film we watched was ‘Hidden Figures’, which I have to give a special mention to before I go. It is simply phenomenal. I cannot believe that I did not already know the stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson and I’m so glad I do now. The film is eye-opening, uplifting and inspirational. Watch it whenever you get the chance.

http://speakingtheunspokenword.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/be-mindful-about-your-mind.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p_yaNFSYao

10 reasons to read more

One – Reading is for everyone. Okay, so you read one book by Dan Brown and you can’t handle the suspense, or decipher the intellectual gobbeldy-goop. I’d disagree with you when you said you didn’t enjoy it, but I wouldn’t judge you for it. Maybe you’ll say that means reading isn’t for you. Except there are millions of other books out there, all different. There’s one out there somewhere that’ll get you hooked. I know it.

Two – It’s fun and easy. You can claim that reading’s too much like hard work, but when you start reading you’ll realise it’s not. In fact, I feel more brain dead after a netflix binge than I do at the end of a book. Stick with it, the more you read the better your brain gets at it. Eventually, with perseverance and a little patience, you’ll forget to try. The story will come alive before your eyes.

Continue reading “10 reasons to read more”