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 Fifty-Two

As after most Christmases, the arm of the chair that I am sat in is piled high with books: The new 2020 diary I got for Christmas, Fearne Cotton’s ‘Calm’, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (I’m on chapter 8 and loving every second), and a very thick pad titled ‘642 things to write about’ (which I cannot wait to start working my way through). The Christmas tree is twinkling away next to me and the TV is on. Three different cooking shows have been on in the time I’ve been curled up here and I am now very hungry for something yummy.

Since starting my new job at the beginning of December, life’s been a little chaotic, very stressful and also all kinds of exciting. (The lead up to Christmas was as magical as ever and although I’m nervous about my new role, I am also very excited to get stuck in.) I am so relieved to have made it into Chrimbo Limbo.

I could spend hours reflecting on 2019. I wish I could have been more prepared for everything the last year would throw my way. I spent a year in which I resolved to try and worry less and remember that these will be the good old days, worrying too much and carrying the weight of the world around with me. At the risk of sounding super gloomy, I was tired a lot and stressed a lot and sad a lot, even at times when I would have expected to feel most happy.

But I’m grateful for all the great memories I have too. Paris in the winter, Soho with one of my best friends, a trip back to the 1920s for a night in Cardiff, a holiday in Kefalonia and an escape to Happy Place Festival. Performances with the band and a move into a new home. A visit to Casino Royale and many a laugh at Tim Minchin live.

And I am looking forward to 2020. It’s strange, but I almost feel like a year full of so much worry has led to me finally feeling like I am capable of worrying less. This year, big stuff came our way and for once in my life, the majority of my anxiety was actually rational; the butterflies made sense.

Now, I feel like I might be more determined than ever before, not to let the small stuff stress me out.

I’m taking 2020 as it comes. I’m expecting a year much like this one, except this time I feel much better prepared. Ups and downs are a way of life and it’s like I’ve learned to surf the waves finally. Or I hope I have. Now, that’s a very Bronwen-esque metaphor if ever there was one and I guess that’s a wrap on Chapter Five. 52 weeks, one year and a whole load more life lessons learned.

Be back soon.

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 Twenty

It’s late in the day for a blog post, I know. As the weekend comes to an end, I’m feeling particularly melancholy and blogging always makes me feel chirpier, so here we are.

It feels like Sunday evening came around very quickly. It feels like only a few minutes ago, I was rolling out of bed (post- eurovision lie in was a necessity) and getting to work spring cleaning with Dave. The flat needed a good tidy and we rewarded ourselves with a lovely lunch out, so it’s been a good day all in all. I just can’t believe it’s nearly over.

I suppose, there’s still time. Time to get a real wriggle on with the studying. Time to chill and have dinner. Time to curl up with a movie and probably fall asleep in the middle of it.

Week twenty was a great week, if only because we were back to routine and that’s always a bit of a relief after a hectic few weeks in a row. That and the fact that the weather has been so beautiful!

This week I felt a little more on top of everything on the work front. Bank holidays are great, but I’d only just really caught up at work after Easter and then May came around and threw me off track again.  I needed this full five day week to get back on track. I had a very productive and equally lovely working from home day: I spent it working out on the balcony and cooked turkey dinosaurs at lunch time.

In other news, I started reading Adam Kay’s ‘This is going to hurt’ this week and I’m flying through it! I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a full 5 stars from me! The book is hilarious, but also eye-opening. Reading it is so enjoyable, but at the same time so frustrating. Basically, the book contains lots of Adam Kay’s diary entries from when he was a junior doctor. He helpfully translates the medical language and he’s brutally honest. It’s terrifying actually, to hear about the challenges our NHS staff face every day and the lengths they are pushed to. When reading it on the tubes, I felt like getting everyone’s attention and reading extracts out loud to the carriage just to raise more awareness.

I saw two of my best friends and caught up with my sister this week too. A good week is a week that contains multiple catch ups over food and drink…

My sister and I went for dinner on Thursday, which was lovely as ever.

Friday night was spent at Las Iguanas with one of the friends, numerous cocktails and tapas. She brought me the loveliest necklace for my birthday (which happens to be on Wednesday… And I’m going to be 25… EEK!) and we had a wonderful time catching up on life.

Yesterday, I drove to Salisbury to see the other friend. Escaping London was the absolute bestest. It took me ages to get past Heathrow and out the other side, but once I was away from the motorways and off onto the A roads in Wiltshire, I immediately felt happier. I whizzed down the roads, fields for miles on either side of me, until I reached her lovely flat. I was so happy to see her: It’d been way too long! We got a really yummy lunch in town and then did some shopping. I’m relieved to say that I successfully purchased my costume for my birthday party next week…

I can’t quite believe I’m going to be 25! I feel like this is it. This is the best age to be. I’d quite happily pause here for a bit. Determined to celebrate this year. For a few years in a row, I’ve not really made a thing of my birthday. I’m a stressy host anyway and getting everyone together always feels like a huge ordeal. A huge ordeal, that I will have undertaken by the time next Sunday comes around! I’m getting all my friends together this year, for a fancy dress party. Everyone’s coming as something beginning with ‘B’ and so far, I’m more excited than nervous. I just hope everyone has a great time and I can get my 26th year off to a strong start. Absolutely no stressing about hosting allowed. See you on the other side!

Week Fifteen

I’m wearing my sunny day t-shirt (under my biggest fluffy jumper because it’s chilly despite the sunshine) with my oldest, comfiest jeans. I’m munching on Bitsa Wispa in an attempt to satisfy the sweet tooth I’ve woken up with. I’m smiling because sunny Sundays are my favourite thing and I’ve already had three cups of tea today.

This week’s been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been as scared as I was when I woke up Wednesday morning to take on one of my biggest challenges at work. One of my biggest challenges at work, in the midst of all the challenges going on outside of work. Understandably I think, I’d been feeling nauseous for days in the build up and I’ve never been so exhausted as when the day drew to a close. I tumbled into bed without even taking a moment to think about how things had gone.

When I woke up on Thursday, I was still tired and had made the mistake of scheduling in a working from home day, thinking I’d need time to unwind. Turns out, a whole day in on my own was not what I needed. I felt lost and sad and lonely and I knew Wednesday had gone well, but I couldn’t feel happy about it.

Friday, I was buzzing. A challenging week at work had been a huge success and after another night’s sleep I was actually feeling restored enough to enjoy it and let the pride kick in. I AM SO PROUD. It also helped that I was back in the office, surrounded by people, with a to do list as long as my arm.

Yesterday was a good day all in all. I was super excited about the fact Dave and I had no plans this weekend and I could do what I liked. We watched movies, I read my book. Late in the afternoon, Dave and I went to the shop to get some beers in time for the football and then… I spent a good chunk of the evening crying my heart out! Just like that, it came out of nowhere and Dave and I ended up on a late night walk talking everything through. I went to sleep still trying to process everything and then I woke up this morning to find life didn’t seem nearly as bad again and cooked a fry-up with a massive smile on my face.

All of that said, perhaps emotional roller-coaster doesn’t quite cover it!?

Today I genuinely feel fine. I’m looking forward to date night with Dave tonight. We’re off to see Captain Marvel and we’ll probably grab dinner first. Where we’re going for dinner is yet to be decided. Best get our thinking caps on now or we’ll be overwhelmed by the choice later.

So relieved that we’re on the approach to the next bank holiday of the year. A couple of four day weeks in a row sounds like just the thing to me.

Life’s been full of challenges recently. I’ve been taking on new things at work. I’ve been out of my comfort zone in every day life. I’ve been rocking up to hen dos and birthday celebrations without knowing what to expect or who’s going to be attending, making new friends along the way. I’ve been making big decisions, talking about adult stuff like mortgages and my career…

I feel stronger and more terrified all at once, every day. And I feel more grateful every day. Grateful most of all for the amazing people in my life who give me the confidence I need to get up and at ’em, whatever the new day might bring.

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.

Week Nine

Monday morning I rolled over to grab the tv remote, turned on the news and snoozed for ten minutes. I rolled out of bed and into the shower. I didn’t have time for a cuppa (because of the snooze – so worth it on a Monday morning) and I headed straight to the station once I was showered and dressed.

Pause there – I have to mention the weather.  The weather in England, was unheard of at the start of this week. In England, for three days it was t shirt weather. It was unseasonably warm and bright and sunny. The daffodils came out and everything.

Monday night, I got home, Dave and I cooked dinner together and then we watched TV until I fell asleep on him and had to go to bed.

Tuesday evening I met one of my best friends for dinner and we chatted away about books and music and exciting upcoming events (including one of our best friends’ wedding, eek!). My Gourmet Burger Kitchen burger was amazing and I journeyed home with my head in my book and smile on my face.

Wednesday was a normal working from home day. I did two loads of washing. I cleaned the bathroom and kitchen on my lunch break. I was in my element with the sun shining and the windows open and music playing. Another bud on the orchid that I have successfully grown, flowered beautifully. (Yes, I have successfully gotten an orchid to flower! Am I a real life adult now?) I played piano before dinner and then Dave and I cooked steaks and watched Oceans 8.

Thursday evening I met my sister for dinner which was super lovely. We had the best of evenings and I hope we’ll meet for dinner like that more often from now on. Sister time is golden.

Dave and I stayed at our friends’ on Friday night. They’re the best hosts ever and it was super chilled and super fun.

Saturday afternoon, once Dave and I were home, we just chillaxed. I read and snoozed on the sofa. We had chilli for dinner. We watched Goodfellas, which I totally agree is one of the best films ever. We drank wine and didn’t clock watch. I love not having to watch the clock on Friday and Saturday nights!

Right now, I’m sat on the sofa trying and failing to eat hula hoops, because I’ve put a face mask on and it’s dried too much for me to open my mouth. I woke up with a tummy full of butterflies and I felt like my head might explode. But I knew exactly what I had to do: I opened up the notes app on my phone and titled the note ‘Things that are stressing me out’. Then I wrote everything down until I felt better. I had a chat with my Dad which cheered me up no end. (Shout out to my Dad!). And now I’m committed to an afternoon of relaxation to make sure the butterflies are behind me.

I’ve always been more than happy to natter away openly about my anxiety and the challenges I am facing. The problem with writing a personal blog is that there is often stuff that happens in life that it’s not your place to share with the whole world wide web.

When I wrote at the end of Week Four, I mentioned that the year had gotten off to a tough start and I couldn’t really say anymore than that. I can’t really say anymore than that even now.

What I will say is that I’ve come to the realisation that normality is underrated and routine is not to be taken for granted. When things are ticking along just fine, we often find ourselves complaining we’re bored, but we don’t realise how lucky we are. Because when life turns upside down, you’ll find all you want is for life to go back to being boring again. 

I’m so glad March has come around. Spring in on the way and things can only get better.

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.