A rainy day in the Lakes

Recently it’s felt like the world doesn’t go much further than the stretch of canal near my flat and the handful of shops/cafes I’ve been venturing into as the world begins to open up again. I’m so lucky to live somewhere where I can wander to my favourite bars, bakery and coffee shops (and to have spent the majority of lockdown elsewhere with access to a garden and lovely woods), but the city centre completely lacks the kind of green spaces that always calm me down and make me my happiest. A few weeks ago we had the dreamiest weekend away near Hardcastle Crags and this weekend whilst feeling restless and bored on a Saturday evening booked train tickets to Windermere for the next morning.

It was such a wonderful lil day trip, despite being rather busy – just to see different people boarding or leaving the train and to get that feeling of going somewhere or arriving home again made me feel so much more hopeful and content. Seeing the countryside and different towns and villages through a train window, clambering up a hill and feeling the satisfaction as you reach the top and heading out onto lake Windermere on a lil boat was all just so so lovely. We had the best ice cream at The Little Ice Cream Shop, which I’d definitely recommend making a trip to if you’re either in Windermere or Hawkshead. Windermere is a busy town and doesn’t quite have the same kind of charm as more rural areas of the Lakes (it definitely feels more like a lil holiday seaside village) so I was worried we wouldn’t be able to get any walking/exploring in but we stumbled across a route out up to Brant Fell View Point – a wonderful lil walk that wasn’t too exhausting (after months of very minimal exercise…).

I’m feeling very grateful to have been able to see more of the world again – it’s so easy to get caught up in feeling restless, especially without a car to get out exploring with but getting back to Piccadilly station feeling exhausted, in a satisfying leg achey kinda way, yesterday evening has left me feeling so much brighter!

Books For Bad Days

Hello! With grey rainy days and the mixed feelings that come with lockdown easing, I’ve seen lots of people on my timelines feeling a bit down or struggling at the minute. With this in mind, I thought that I’d quickly share a few reads that I’d recommend for those days when you need a pick-me-up, some perspective or an escape from whatever is going on in your head. Whilst they’re three quite different books, they’re all ones you can dip in and out of and (along with a sugary cup of tea) help me to feel a lot calmer on those days when your mind feels like an overwhelming place to be.

First up is Liv Purvis’ The Insecure Girls Handbook. I truly can’t recommend this book enough for those days when you’re feeling a bit shit about yourself, whether it’s to do with your career, body image or the FOMO that comes from too much time scrolling on Instagram. Liv chats with women who are doing amazing things to empower women across the globe and these varied perspectives and insights mean we can all find a bit of ourselves within this book’s pages. With a relaxed and friendly tone that never veers towards preachy, this book is one you’ll be grateful to have on your shelf on those days when you need something other than your inner critic in your head.

Next is Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. You’ve probably seen Charlie’s beautiful illustrations over on Instagram and it’s not surprising at all that this book won Waterstones Book of the Year in 2019. I can’t quite convey how lovely this book is to own – its’ pages are filled with the most beautiful drawings and it’s just so soothing to flick through and to read. The messages inside are hopeful and keep a childlike feeling of curiosity. On a difficult day, it can be just the kind of thing you need to be reminded that there are gentle and wonderful things in the world.

Finally, I’m finishing up with Emma Mitchell’s The Wild Remedy. Emma talks openly about her struggles with her mental health and beautifully conveys the ways in which nature helps to ground her and keep her going on the difficult days. Her drawings and photographs are the perfect antidote to city living, if you’re craving a bit of green space, and the little details of life on her daily walks or drives through the countryside always give me a brief but lovely escape from whatever’s going on in my own world.

If you end up picking up any/all of these books I really hope they make the rough days a little softer for you. And remember to support independent bookshops as much as possible with your purchases, as they need our support now more than ever.

The first week

It’s been just over a week since I made a terrible attempt at packing (forgetting all of my makeup and most of my clothes) and left our flat in Manchester. The evening of my last blogpost, where I decided I’d write weekly about what I’m grateful for, saw the U.K go into lockdown. In the days following we’ve seen case numbers and deaths due to Covid-19 continue to rise and so many have lost both financial security and key support systems. Being away from those I care about, particularly if they’re going through a rough time, has been difficult. But I also feel so lucky that there has been so much to be grateful for mixed in – it’s both strange and reassuring that those realities can sit side by side. I know everyone who is sharing on the internet is grappling with the uncertainty of what to post – the good can feel almost insensitive right now. But, as so many have pointed out, looking for and feeling that good is all the more important when everything feels so uncertain. The celebration of the small things by others has really helped me to feel less alone in the midst of everything that’s going on – glimpses of people’s afternoon walks or the cakes they’re baking or the books they’re curled up with…

Over the last week there’s been so much to savour – there’s the obvious things, like evenings filled with bird song and wood smoke and skies that drip gold. There’s the message notifications from friends, sharing a poem they think I’d like or checking in to see how I am. There’s the way people all over my timelines have opened up and showed kindness to each other and the reassuring ways in which working from home has kept an element of the familiar, even if it’s the relief of finishing up for the weekend and staying in bed for longer on a Saturday.

There’s still the pangs for friends I won’t see for a while, moments when my chest is tight with panic and I just want to be with the people I worry about the most. There’s sadness that I’m not going to see the blossom in Didsbury Park at all this year or have the birthday party I’d hoped for or explore Amsterdam with my favourite people… But there is still so much good.

Blue Skies Are Calling

Today I braved the cold and sat outside on a bench in the winter sunshine whilst I ate my lunch. I watched the steam rise up from my chamomile tea, rifled through a book bathed in natural light, forced myself to tune out the traffic a street away and listened to the birds flitting around in the branches above. I also received a lovely message from a friend, a message that reminded me how far I’ve come and how much I’ve achieved that my younger self would be proud of, a message that also reassured me that there’s other people out there in the world treasuring these glimpses of the end of winter, these snatches of sunlight. Later on in the day the sunset felt longer, the sky more molten and then more pink and I felt so much relief at the visible signs of the days elongating.

It’s been a strange day. A strange day with some beautiful moments.

Self-care for the sake of kindness.

Yesterday I found myself in a situation where my anxiety, which had been building up for a long time, became unmanageable at the worst possible moment. One of my initial reactions was to be frustrated with myself for not having taken time out during the day to mentally prep, for not having been able to focus much on self care over the past few days so that I could be in a positive state of mind for the evening. And as I wrote yesterday’s blogpost, it got me thinking about all the ways in which we see self care and whether we perceive it in a positive, helpful way.

Plenty of people have talked about how self care isn’t all face masks and bubble baths and it’s definitely true – self care isn’t always pretty. It can be tedious and exhausting and hard work. But last night I ended up thinking about how even when self care isn’t just about things like skin care and candles, there’s still some underlying issues in a lot of what I see online.

A lot of people talk about self care as doing what makes you happy and quitting things that no longer serve you. There’s the obvious limitations that crop up when confronted with these ideas – having to pay rent or bills or look after your family etc. But there’s also this idea that self care is always about maintaining “happiness” and “positive energy” which I think can be unhealthy – we can’t self care ourselves to happiness and constant happiness isn’t sustainable. This idea of using self care as a way to achieve a life devoid of negative people and thoughts and feelings is toxic in itself. Self care shouldn’t just be a fix for the bad stuff, it should be a tool to help you through it.

Sometimes that means self care works in more subtle ways – accepting that you didn’t have time to be mindful or go for a walk during the day and that maybe things didn’t go as planned, but learning from it and being kind to yourself rather than critical and frustrated. Taking the stairs rather than the lift because you don’t need to anxiously stare at the same ‘flaw’ that you’ve already checked several times that morning in your bedroom mirror. On a day to day basis, these aren’t necessarily ways in which I feel like I’m practicing self care. But they stack up and they’re important. And in many ways they’re more successful than the times that I go for a walk with the sole aim of feeling better – I’m looking out for myself without trying to self care away my feelings.

The ideas I’ve talked about are often expressed in lovely Instagram posts and quotes that we see on a daily basis. I get that, for the most part, they’re about making sure you prioritise your self and your wellbeing in a world that can be cruel and exhausting. But seeing these quotes day after day can slowly, in my experience, make you feel like the goal in taking care of yourself is to be constantly happy and in the past it’s left me feeling frustrated when I’ve not been able to fix my sadness with the right self care.

When it comes down to it, I think I’ve realised self care isn’t about happiness. It’s about kindness. It’s about making the world a little softer for yourself, especially on the days when you feel like crap. It’s not about doing what makes you happy, it’s about loving yourself enough so that when the happiness comes around, you’re able to let it in.

Making my mind a kinder place to be.

Today I had an interview, not for a job, but for something else that I really cared about. I also had a day where waves of anxiety made me feel lightheaded and nauseous. And those waves got worse and worse whilst I waited to enter the room, heart pounding and slightly shaking and wishing I could think a little clearer. It didn’t go well – I felt like I rambled aimlessly, struggled to answer questions and didn’t get my points across well or ask any of the questions I’d been hoping to ask. I left and felt embarrassed and frustrated with my anxiety and sad that it constantly impacts my life, even when the rational part of my brain is telling me that I’m safe. If I’d just been able to slow my brain down a little, things probably would’ve been okay.

I arrived back home and felt defeated and sad and very much done with the week. And I tried to accept that it’s not the only opportunity out there to do the things I care about, that I’m still capable and will get there eventually. But it can be really hard to struggle so much with a mental health issue that sometimes feels impossible to control. I think I find it particularly difficult because up until recently I didn’t realise how much of an impact anxiety had on my life, how much it’s snatched away from me and tainted. Whilst I’ve made so much progress with other areas of my mental health, I’m suddenly hyper-aware of how much anxiety is deeply rooted into how I approach and experience life…

Hopefully I’ll be starting more therapy soon – I’m nervous to have a different therapist and to begin to tackle some of the work that I so desperately need to do. But I’m hoping that it’ll feel good to start being more proactive with my mental health again. And until then I just need to learn to accept that I’m living with something that makes things harder but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure or wrong in any way – I just need to prepare for it, learn from it and continue to prioritise looking after myself and my mind as much as is possible. And I’m also going to try and balance every negative thought I have about myself with another, more positive one (or at least more neutral) in the hopes of making my mind a kinder place to be.

Tomorrow’s post will lead on from this one a little – it’s going to be about approaching self care in a realistic and healthy way, rather than adhering to mantras that don’t take into account the obligations, limitations and nuances of people’s lives.

January Blues

It’s Sunday evening and I’ve had the whole day to relax and read and write and relish in the quiet of January. And yet, as often happens whenever I have no plans or obligations for the day, the day has stretched on in a fog of not feeling able to think clearly, of restlessness and a constantly overwhelming sense of anxiety. I think it’s felt worse recently – the new year and decade stretches ahead, lacking shape and certainty. I try to see this unknowingness as some kind of magic space – a future I can go ahead and create and do anything with. But with my mental health and with the constant onslaught of news stories that make me ache for the state of the world, it can be hard to not just feel scared at the thought of the future.

It’s not that things are bad right now – there’s so much to be grateful for at the moment, so much of my life which leaves me overwhelmed with surprise and love. I’m still learning that I can have space in my heart for all of that and still be scared, still struggle. Still learning that it doesn’t make me ungrateful or unappreciative or incapable of seizing all that life has to offer. I think it’s important to recognise these feelings and try and work my way through them, make space for them and treat myself with kindness when they’re heavy in my chest.

I’ve been thinking on ways that I can feel better – planning for days in the future so I have plenty to look forward to, savouring a good cup of tea or the view from my living room window as traffic snakes into the city, rearranging my bookshelves and relishing in the fact that I have a space to call home and so many wonderful things to read. But sometimes even trying to pick out a book that won’t have content that makes me feel worse seems hard and sometimes I think I just need a healthy distraction. And so after a think about what I could do to try and combat these January blues, I’ve decided to give blogging every day for the rest of the month a go. One of my ongoing anxieties is whether I’m good enough to write, to create content, to share it with the world. To do this feels like a good way to try and combat that whilst giving me the soothing promise of time to reflect as each day passes. In the same way that my weekly therapy sessions used to be a time to breathe and let everything out (pls can the NHS hurry up and give me more therapy sometime soon), I’m hoping these posts can do something similar – recently I’ve been struggling to write poetry or even just the journal entries that I used to do so much of (scrawled in various notebooks that are now stacked up at the opposite side of the room) and so I’m hoping a slightly different format will do me some good. We’ll see.

musings about a book i can’t quite regret

It’s not been three months since the first few copies of a little pink book found their way into cardboard packaging, into postal vans, into different houses and different people’s hands. I let them out into the world with the knowledge of the fact that I’d outgrow the content – outgrow the desperate desire to quickly put something together that made the shit before it worth it, to make the fight to get past it all tangible. I’m not sure I anticipated that feeling coming around as quickly as it did. I haven’t dared glance through a copy. Can’t quite bring myself to want to edit everything with it, cut out most, fill the rest with new ideas and new pieces and new formats. But I’m working on accepting that that’s part of creation, that that’s a sign I’m doing things and working in the right direction – rather than floating through with a soothing idea of ‘one day’ getting around to something I’m relatively proud of. This blog has been stagnant, my willingness to try and create has been non-existent and the crippling insecurities have come back in full force. I’m trying to remember they’re likely always going to be present to some degree and that approval seeking is only worthwhile when it’s from myself.