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 Thirty-Six

Oh heyyy!

So, the house move has gone surprisingly smoothly for me. Especially considering my inability to accept change, close attachment to places and things and general emotional-ness.

I was super emotional when we eventually said goodbye to the flat, but in my defence, it had been one of those weeks anyway and I was due a good cry. Also, it was so super strange seeing the flat all naked and empty and knowing it wasn’t ours anymore.

I think what’s made the move so much easier is that our new place literally ticks all the boxes. Life’s so much easier with a washing line and a designated cupboard for bedding and towels and under bed storage and a station nearby. And the house felt so homey so quickly too! The owner has decorated it so brightly and it was funished with a few bits and pieces before we even got all of our stuff in.

And my goodness do we have a lot of stuff! How two people can own so many things and have kept them in a 1 bed flat for so long I do not know. It’s also not until you try and pack your life into boxes you realise how fragile literally everything is! From kitchenware to ornaments and frames, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of bubble wrap!

September 1st came around and the new house was sorted and the next few gigs with the band were confirmed and that autumn chill appeared from nowhere and I got my boots out andddd I saw that Primark have their Disney Christmas tinsel out already and I feel so much brighter.

THIS is hands-down the best time of year. I can’t wait for the first trees to go orange and brown and the first crisp frosty morning and the first time I get all wrapped up in a snug coat and scarf and the first hot chocolate on a chilly evening! I know September might have a few summery days left in it yet, but I live for autumn and I’m so excited!

Week Thirty

The BIG THREE O!

How far we’ve come!

And I don’t just mean this year.

In a few weeks time, we’ll be moving out of this little flat and moving into a new home. This little place we’ve called home for two and a half years, will soon be someone else’s home and we’ll be settling ourselves into a new one. I’m a little emotional about it already, can you tell?

That said, when I remember just how hard the move to this little flat really was for me, I feel as though I’ve come a long way. Chapter Three was one of the most open and honest chapters I ever wrote and it was written at a time when this place felt too new and strange and unfamiliar to be called home. Now, I’m as emotional as I am because this place really is ours.

This makes me feel all kinds of soppy and gives me hope that this time, this move, I might just be okay.

Today I’ve another jam session with the band! The novelty is never going to wear off… I am never going to be able to say that without ruining all of the coolness by squealing! I’ve got a horrid cold, so who knows how I’m going to sound, but I’m still rocking up. I feel like, worst case scenario, I can sit in the corner and munch while the rest of the guys write and play. I’ll just watch in awe and contribute when I can.

This week will be my first full week back at work after my holiday and I’m actually quite looking forward to it. As per, I’m really excited about the return to routine and all things normal.

The holiday was FANTASTIC though. I cannot recommend Kefalonia enough. The people are lovely. The food is AMAZINGGGG. The itself island is so beautiful: The towns of Fiscardo and Assos which weren’t touched by the 1953 earthquake and the cities of Sami and Argostoli which had to be rebuilt. The coast is stunning and the sea is stunning. So much so that I went for a swim! Yes, the Bronwen who is terrified of the sea and anything to do with it, wondered off the beach and right into it like it was as easy as pie! The sea looked like a swimming pool it was so clear! Who could be afraid of that!? Once was enough though, second time around my mind wandered too often to whose habitat I was in and whether I was welcome…

We stayed in Skala and I’d definitely recommend Skala too. It’s small enough that you get your bearings fast, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars and shops to grab your souvenirs in. It feels very safe and super chilled, but lively in the evenings. It’s basically the best of all worlds. We loved it.

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!

Week Zero

I’m curled up on the sofa at my parents’ and I’ve spent the whole day in my PJs. The Christmas tree is twinkling and the living room is super cosy.

It’s odd isn’t it? This week between Christmas and New Year. No-one knows which day of the week it is. Our New Year’s resolutions don’t need putting into action until January 1st so we’re all in limbo.

Some people strip the decorations down, find places for all their gifts and spring clean a few months early. Other people cling onto Christmas for as long as humanely possible; cooking turkey everything, leaving the decorations up, watching Christmas films, eating chocolate and being extremely lazy. Others among us sit in traffic and battle the crowds to browse the sale racks for bargains. I myself fully intend to treat myself to some new jeans, that don’t have holes in, asap. Many of us have family and friends to visit and find ourselves doing the rounds. The parents among you have to find ways to entertain the kids until the school term starts again. I do not envy you. Some of you have had to go back to work already. Ugh. Poor you guys.

New Year’s Resolutions are a funny thing. Why do we feel we need to improve ourselves every year? Why are we so hard on ourselves and why should this year be any different from the last anyway?

Ridiculously, I always imagine I’ll have sooooo much more time when the new year begins. For example, this year I’m telling myself that I’ll join a couple of fitness classes, sing more, join a choir, find a rehearsal space for songwriting, make my lunch and take it into work every day, study, get out more, stay on top of the laundry and cook proper meals. I’m resolving to do all of these things despite the fact that I struggled through November and December barely finding the time to buy Christmas presents or paint my nails. Supposedly, in January, anything is possible. No wonder we all end up feeling sad and deflated when the 1st Feb comes around.

I also want to worry less. How I’ll manage that with so many goals to achieve, who knows? Most of all, I just want to worry less about what other people are thinking. I cannot read minds, so why do I waste so much time trying to? What even is the point? It’s irrational and oh, who am I kidding?

These will be the good old days. Regardless of whether I worry too much or I make time for all of the above, I want to remember that. I want to remember to make the most of every moment because time is flying by.

HELLO CHAPTER FIVE!

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.

Another year older

I’M FEELIN’ 24.

And ‘what does 24 feel like?’ you might ask. Well, I guess I actually do feel a little older.

If I really think about it, I realise that even in the last week or so I’ve done many things a younger me would have been too scared to do. Silly things like carrying birthday cake on the tube and sorting my cars MOT out, to important things like representing my team at a work event and going on a hen do weekend without freaking out. And yes, the prospect of having to carry a birthday cake on the tube would have been absolutely terrifying to me a couple of years ago: I would have gone over and over all the ways in which carrying birthday cake could lead to disaster and probably decided I best not take the risk.

WHAT IF I WERE TO DROP IT, FALL FACE FIRST INTO IT AND SPEND THE DAY COVERED IN CHOCOLATE?

WHAT IF I GOT FUNNY LOOKS OFF FELLOW PASSENGERS?

WHAT IF I GOT ATTACKED BY HUNGRY PIGEONS?

Oh, how far I’ve come.

In some ways, I’ve barely grown up at all. I still can’t wear high heels. I’m currently listening to Avril Lavigne’s Goodbye Lullaby on vinyl. I still don’t like gin and tonic. I’m still terrified of spiders. I’ve never used an iron in my life. I still hate cooking chicken. I still hate cooking full stop.

Anyhoo, in case you can’t tell, my birthday has left me feeling reflective and reminiscent (oh my, how time is flying by). It’s also left me feeling very loved and extremely grateful. A massive thank you to everyone who posted on facebook, sent cards, celebrated with me and helped to make it so special.

The celebrations started with some awesome work colleagues and wayyy too much prosecco. I also went out for a lovely lunch with my family. I highly recommend Cote Brasserie in Chelmsford if you’re ever over that way… Superb service, lovely food and a free bottle of champagne to say Happy Birthday! My sister came into London to meet me on my lunch break on the actual day and we spent a really lovely hour up in the Sky Garden. I went for a wonderful dinner with some girl friends later in the week. AND some time soon Dave and I are going to be climbing the O2 in London which is admittedly a little nerve-racking, but VERY exciting too.

We had another bank holiday this week and I’m oh so glad. The hen do was absolutely amazing and if I’d had to go back to work on Monday I’d have been super mopey.

Instead I spent Monday sat in a park with a lovely friend I hadn’t seen in OVER THREE YEARS, in beautiful sunshine, eating ice cream and sipping coke.

When I woke up for work yesterday morning I was super sleepy. However, once I’d sat at my desk and had a cuppa, I must say I felt pretty refreshed and I’m actually quite happy to be getting stuck in again.

This Friday night I think Dave and I might finally go see Avengers: Infinity War. Saturday I’m looking forward to catching up on life admin and giving the bathroom a proper clean (see! That’s something I’d have never said two years ago). Sunday I’ll be seeing the family again, which will be lovely jubbly.

Going into my 25th year thinking, life’s not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. In a way I think I’ll never leave my younger self behind, not really. I’m always going to love Harry Potter and Disney in general. I’m always going to love cocktails and prosecco and a good boogie. And I don’t think I’ll ever really like cooking. I guess that’s where that saying comes from. The one that says you’re as young as you feel. TOO RIGHT.

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.