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 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 Fourteen

Hoorayyy. As week fourteen draws to a close I cannot help smiling. I’m off to see my Dad and my sister as soon as I’ve hit publish and I’m so looking forward to a roast dinner.

It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve made so many amazing memories. In the true spirit of chapter five, I’ve chucked myself head first into everything!

Since I last wrote, I’ve been to see George Ezra at the O2. HE WAS AMAZING. I’ve been to a 1920s themed Speakeasy Festival in a big old house in Cardiff and then literally walked down memory lane, towards the city centre, bare foot, with my heels in my hands. I went along to see one of my best friends perform with her fabulous Technicolor choir and enjoyed a good boogie with her and the choir afterwards. I’ve had numerous pub lunches and dinner dates (my favourite things). I went along to a uni friend’s hen do and partied two nights in a row. TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW I TELL YOU. (And I was exhausted come Sunday… how my 18 year old self ever coped with freshers I will never know.)

Most of these things were in the diary and in the approach to all this craziness I felt apprehensive. I wasn’t certain I was in the right frame of mind. There’s still lots going on that I can’t share with you all and I’m still spending a lot of time feeling the impact of it all. I’m so glad I pushed through though. I could easily have opted for a night in my PJs or a day with my head in a book. But as much as I love nights in and book worm days, sometimes getting out of the house and spending time making brilliant memories with amazing friends is what’s going to get you through.

These few weeks have been about me remembering that you can allow yourself to get out and enjoy yourself, without feeling guilty for ignoring the stuff you’re feeling sad about. In fact, it’s really important to compartmentalise. We all need to remember that. Being able to go out and enjoy yourself doesn’t mean you don’t care enough: You’re not ignoring things, you’re just putting them to the back of your mind when you need to. Because parts of your life can be fantastic while others fall apart. That’s just how it goes. And if you try to feel everything, all the time, sooner or later you’ll explode.

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.

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.

Hey there Chapter Four

I love my job, but going back to work after the Christmas break has been SO INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

I think it has something to do with the fact the weather is all doom and gloom. That and the fact it’s a whole ‘nother 11 months or so until Christmas comes around again! The holiday ads are out in force and I’m not surprised. I’m perfectly happy right now, curled up on the sofa with candles lit and music playing, but I still can’t help wishing I were on a beach somewhere sunny.

I’m looking forward to this weekend heaps and heaps though. I’m window shopping with one of my bestest friends on Saturday just like back in the good old days. I’m at a girly sleepover Saturday night with more besties. Sunday is Dave’s day off so I’m hoping we’ll have a wonderfully lazy day together.

Familiarity is my friend this year. I hope that this year, nothing changes. I could really use a year spent living in the same place, doing the same job. It’s been a long time since I finished a year in the same place I began it. Don’t get me wrong, moving forwards, progressing and evolving as a young person is great. But you have to admit, there’s something comforting about adventuring and exploring and always knowing that home is waiting right where you left it.

It’s January. We’ve a cupboard full of chocolate and a whole year ahead of us and this year, I’m focusing on the here and the now. The future can wait.

Everyday’s an adventure

My first few weeks at the new job were great. Unsurprisingly, life just got better when I wasn’t stuck in the flat all day everyday. As you’ll know if you read the last post, I adjusted super fast to the new pace of life. Once I was on a roll I just kept rolling. I still love my job. The people I work with are lovely. I love the work we do. I love how much my brain hurts at the end of a day and how much time I get to read now I’m a commuter.

Just over a week ago I got back after an incredible two weeks spent travelling Europe with one of my best friends. I can’t even begin to tell you what a great time we had. From walking miles through cities and mountains, to boogy-ing the night away with new friends from all over the world, it was literally one amazing day after another.

Now it’s back to every day life, but it doesn’t feel everyday. Everyday feels like an adventure somehow. I’m getting the bus every day this week because something’s wrong with the suspension on my old little car. This is an adventure in itself. Today the moody bus driver tried to tell me off for not signalling him right. I put one hand up and waved and he nearly drove straight past. He stopped a little past me, in the middle of the road so I walked very tentatively up to the doors. He opened them but only to say ‘You waving at me!?’ whilst imitating my wave like it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever seen accompanied by a fake cheesy smile and everything. He wasn’t very happy, but he let me on in the end at least.

Right now I’m sat on my bed with the balcony doors as wide open as they can be and the heat from the laptop is still almost unbearable. I’m not complaining though. I feel like I’m still on holiday in this weather. Passenger is playing from my Spotify, unsurprisingly. I’m about to pick up the book I’m currently reading, which I think I might finish tonight and I can’t stop admiring the bedroom carpet which I hoovered for the first time since we moved in. It’s the little things eh?

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.

 

An honestly good week

I set the bar high with the honesty thing and I’ve been fretting ever since. Every post that popped up on my Facebook timeline this week, had me second guessing myself. An article titled ‘What anxiety actually is, because it’s more than just worrying’, had me closer to pressing delete on last week’s post than ever.

There are people who suffer much worse than I do. Maybe I’m being dramatic. I’m such an attention seeker. What if I am just stressed? What do I know? What was I thinking posting that? 

Before I go on I just want to thank the people who reached out to me this week with words of encouragement. You restored my faith, made me feel incredibly loved and I cannot tell you how grateful I am.

So, here we are. The post is still there and I’m taking a deep breath, flopping with a cuppa on one of our blow up chairs and I’m writing another one. If I’m being honest, it’s actually been a really good week. HOORAY.

Dave and I headed back to our parents’ houses last weekend.

Sunday was my Granny and Dave’s Dad’s birthday.

First thing in the morning I joined my mum in the kitchen. I sat on one of our kitchen stools, drinking tea and chatting happily away to her while she fried bacon for sandwiches. I was so happy to be back, to have slept back in my old bed, to see mine and Dave’s parents, to see the rest of my family, to have caught up with a couple of friends. I felt grounded again.

Mummy Maggs cooked a beautiful roast and we all had a slice of beautiful birthday cake and then my granny gave me a lot of invaluable advice on living on my own and cooking for two. (BIG TIP – Bulk buy meat, separate it into freezer bags and then freeze it in perfect portion sizes for defrosting and using whenever you like). She made me feel so much better about everything.

I stole as many hugs off everyone as possible and then later in the afternoon I headed over to Dave’s to wish his dad a happy birthday and to join him and his parents in time for the EFL cup final.

Sunday night was when the nerves caught up with me again. It was time to face another week at our new flat.

Monday was actually a good day. Last week I’d let my perfectionism make me obsessive about cleaning. For the majority of this Monday, I banned myself from housework, I sat with my lazy clothes on, watching films and successfully chilling out.

Tuesday my dad came over. He was a star. He got straight to work on setting things up for us before I’d even put the kettle on. He did lots of technical stuff and all I know is now all the light bulbs in the flat work, I can have a shower without the water going cold, we have TV and internet, we’re all set and I’ve started searching for and applying for jobs! My dad and I had a great day and playing the host made me feel more at home than ever.

Wednesday I made my first trip into town. I got horribly lost trying to find the car parks but managed to stay fairly calm despite the confusing one way system and all the buses I nearly collided with. Once in town, I was in my element. I bought a few bits and bobs we still needed, grabbed a costa coffee and then headed back home feeling accomplished.

Thursday one of my bestest friends came to see me. I spent the morning sorting and cleaning, had a proper breakfast and lunch for the first time all week and then embarked on a stressful journey to go collect her from the nearest tube station, in a place where it appears London drivers like to whizz round beeping their horns willy nilly. Once she was here, having her here made me so ridiculously happy. We made more travelling plans, booked our eurostar ticket and booked into our first hostel, watched gossip girl, caught up on life and then I cooked an AMAZING lasagna. The second drive back to the tube station was much less scary. It’s amazing what a little familiarity can do.

Nearly there, I promise…

Friday I enjoyed my first ever proper relaxed lay-in in my new bed and I knew I was making progress, starting to feel properly settled. My auntie came over for the day. We caught up over a cuppa, a maintenance guy dropped by to take a look at one of the windows, we headed into town for lunch and all in all, had a wonderful day.

This weekend has been Dave and I’s first proper weekend in the flat together. It’s been fab. We ordered takeaway on Friday night. Last night we cooked steak and made sweet potato wedges and shared a bottle of red wine. We did a food shop. We made a want/need list of things we still want/need for the flat.

All in all, it’s honestly good news. I am bounding forward into my new life and I don’t currently want to run back in the other direction.

I’ve already rambled on too long, but before I finish up I just have to say that the also honest truth is that good week, or not, I battled with anxiety every day. But that’s okay… For me, a big part of living with anxiety is accepting that it will be there with you every day for the rest of your life. That there will be times when it effects you more, or less, but it will always be present. I used to spend every day trying to overcome my anxiety all together and it always left me feeling disappointed and weak. What gives me hope right now, is that I’m here at the end of another week, smiling hugely, living on despite it, actually enjoying myself and feeling strong and proud for that reason.

What I’m saying is, if you fight a fight of your own every day of your life, be proud, stay strong and keep smiling. You’re a hero and you’re not alone.