Poetry and stories

 

Nothing else does quite as much for most people, not even the other arts. We are a wordy species. Words are the wings both intellect and imagination fly on. Music, dance, visual arts, crafts of all kinds, all are central to human development and well-being, and no art or skill is ever useless learning; but to train the mind to take off from immediate reality and return to it with new understanding and new strength, nothing quite equals poem and story

Ursula K. Le Guin

It is difficult to put into words ‘inspiration’, but this quote jumped out of me from a blog post talking about the importance of imagination in her book Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week. It inspired me to keep reading and writing and being imaginative. I instantly experienced flashbacks of being read to as a child and my Dad doing all the voices for different characters. My imagination is now important to me as a means of meditation and reflection.

I love this statement.

 

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Why did it have to be this way? You thought, if only…

I had stayed on at school to complete A-Levels or if only I had won the lottery by now and have more free money to spend.

But I didn’t stay on after GCSE’s because I was exhausted by the school system and being let down by those who should have had my best interests in mind and I needed to get out. I jumped straight into a full time office job and undertook NVQ’s, at that time they were highly respected by Employers (now not so much but how was I supposed to know at 16 that in the future an NVQ would stand for nothing?).

But I haven’t won the lottery, but I am debt free and always been and I still managed to buy a home at 24 years old. One of the few to gain from the recession rather than lose out.  How was I supposed to know at 24 that should I need to move before I have enough capital and after the markets recover that I would be blocked from moving and have no access to mortgages?

Why do I feel now that I should have stayed on at school or need more money – because I am ready for a new job, but a job completely different to anything I have done before and need training for.  Because I need some spare money to pay for a qualification while also continuing to save that house deposit and replace the car. If I had pursued an A-Level qualification I could be in a better job already and taken more seriously by my employer – but would that really have made a difference? Who’s to say that the A-Level I chose at 16 would be relevant to what I need now for the job I really want.

Why does it have to be this way? Feeling stuck and downtrodden professionally?  Does it have to be this way – no, I can choose whether to save my savings this month towards a qualification or a new house or car.  Maybe I could rotate each month and win in all rounds, taking just a little bit longer to get there.

Why do you think you are the way you are?

A number of factors have contributed to who I am today, both positively and negatively. It goes right back to childhood and all that I have learnt along the way of growing up. I believe that every aspect of my character has a light and dark side, I shall try to take each aspect in turn:

I would stake that my thoughtfulness and consideration for others comes from my Mother. She brought me up to be mindful of other people and not to be self-centred, she is a very giving person. I also watched how she worked (she was an administrator at my secondary school) for others and recognise that in professional development I have become a people-pleasers. I am trying to reduce this tendency because trying to please everyone all of the time is exhausting and at my expense.

My creativity comes from my Dad. From a very young age he got me involved in making things and fixing things. It is no wonder that since having my first car and now my first home I do a lot of DIY and very practical minded. On the other hand I have so many ideas of what to make that I can flit from one thing to another before finishing a project and they mount up at times.

I am cautious when trusting new people, and probably if I am honest established friends as well. This goes back to school experiences. Over and over again I was proved wrong to trust that peers meant what they said. Superficial comments, compliments in particular, I found to be false and because of the repetition of those experiences since primary school and especially in secondary school I struggle to trust what people say and find it difficult to accept a compliment. Bizarrely I find a criticism easier to accept as it is more believable. In recent years I have worked hard to overcome this flaw, through counselling and personal development.

I’m not sure where my ‘bar of standard’ came from; I’m told I set it far too high for myself and too low for others to meet. I am hard on myself and the quality of my work – I’m not a perfectionist but my standard is high – if I do something it should be done properly and in detail. On the flip side I am poor at completing housework!

I daydream a lot and indulge in films and music most of my time whether I am at work or at home. This again comes from school experiences. My world feels safer than the real world, I can achieve detailed escapism through visualisation, meditation and writing. I can imagine myself inside a book as a character and the same in a programme or film. I pay attention to the characters and who plays them, I also pay attention to other characters actors play to find a pattern in their work. I’ve been accused of not living in the real world and having a passion for something meaningless – but I cannot help it, it is just how I choose to switch off and mentally escape.

My determination, stubbornness and fickleness come from my family and mostly likely, my star sign (Taurus). I am traditionally bull-headed, I can dig my heels in over something I have faith in (or something I really want). Determination stems from wanting to prove people wrong about me, I hate being predictable but invariably am. I compromise a fair bit as I am a peacekeeper and hate confrontation or arguing.

Why do I think I am the way I am?

Because life experiences have shaped me and my own desire to be a person I want to be have led me to what I have learnt and made of myself.

If you could write a book on any topic, what would it be?

Looking through the library there are already books on every subject – food recipes, gardening, self help, horror, fantasy, romance, childhood, adulthood, films, music, history – our choice is exhaustive.  However, when recently diagnosed with rare food intolerance for deadly nightshades I found it difficult to track down reliable reference books and information, less alone any dedicated cookbooks to help me learn how to manage an interesting menu without sacrificing enjoyment.

I decided to start writing a blog about my experience, sharing how I have adapted traditional recipes to become nightshade free.  Among that theme I used the space to share general inspiration , acts of kindness in my community and local travel information. A bit of a confusing space but a variety of information.

If I could write a book on any topic what would it be?

All about nightshades.  Explaining what they are and where to find them in your garden (or supermarket) and how to exchange them for safer options.  I would share my favourite recipes in a simple format and beautiful photographs.

Perhaps this is something I can start now? Perhaps by improving my blog with better photographs (remembering to take them as I cook would be a start) is the first step to becoming self-published. Maybe my multi-million pound book deal is already waiting for me?

If this has interested you (hang on, just what are ‘deadly nightshades’?) then hop over to A Girl From Devon and go straight to Delicious Balance!

What’s the most delicious thing you’ve tasted lately?

A raisin.  Starting to practice mindfulness started with learning to be completely in the moment. The first exercise is to eat a raisin.

The raisin was small fitting perfectly between the tip of the index finger and thumb.  It was squishy to press and returned to its shape when released. The skin was shiny in some aspects and dull in other aspects; all the ridges and bumps changed its surface from smooth to crumpled.  This raisin smelt sweet. At first there was no smell but upon closing the eyes and sniffing deeply, there was a scent.  A sweet subtle aroma of spice and warmth along with memories of summer picnics in the school playground.

I placed it in my mouth gently. There was no intention of biting and chewing immediately, I let it lay on my tongue for a while. I sucked briefly and its flavour began to seep out. Its sweet bitterness, seeped through the skin, slowly I bite down and the juices were released.  Its grainy texture separated across my tongue and its flavour exploded across tantalising taste buds.

And then it was gone, travelling down my throat to my stomach to end its purpose.  This has been the most delicious raisin I had ever truly tasted and appreciated.  It lasted only a matter of minutes but the impact of mindfully eating that small raisin lasted hours.

Short Story: Mirror Image

First it was slow, then a violent force ran through the house and everything started to shake, your first reaction was to…

Grab Megan and make sure she stayed close. It was pitch dark, which was odd because it was the middle of the day. For weeks scientists and astronomers had been warning the public of a meteor shower but it only every appeared to be small-fry. This was different; in the space of three minutes the sky had turned black, not night sky black, but obsidian black. The temperature had dropped to below freezing, cracks of frost fracturing across all the windows, breath hanging on the air in front of your face and taking forever to disappear. Every sound ceased, birds remained in the trees in silence, the neighbourhood cats ran under cars and back into houses, silently. All the dogs stopped barking, the silence was deafening against your ears.

The ground continued to shake violently, was it an earthquake? No cracks appeared, no tidal wave came from the coast just five streets away, in fact we could no longer hear the waves hitting the shore anymore. Silence. People started to gather in the street asking questions that nobody could answer. All the power was out, no TV or news feed accessible, all mobile networks closed down too, no way of communicating.  Rushing to the car with the intention of racing to find out if my parents were ok, the engine wouldn’t start. Instead the bonnet began to heat and the aluminium caved inward, the tyres exploding.  I jumped out and grasped for Meg, she cowered in the footwell.  Just in time she jumped out and we ran. We ran down the street, running 2 miles down the tree lined road that were all standing straight and still. The pitch black street where no streetlights gleamed. Reaching their house, mother at the door we bolted straight inside.

Nobody knew what was happening, how long it would last or what lay ahead of us. At least we were together, as a family.  Three humans and two dogs huddled together under the table in the kitchen, eyes wide shut and holding hands and paws. Waiting.  Waiting for whatever this was to be over. Then a bright white light came from nowhere outside. The light didn’t fill the room like sunlight or torch light, it only shone downward into the garden and across the sky. It did not illuminate, only shone. Everyone held their breath and held hands that little bit tighter.  Minutes passed that felt like hours, when the light vanished and daylight reappeared. Birdsong returned, we climbed out from under the table and went outside.  Everything appeared to be the same and untouched.  Then we noticed every road sign was written backwards, things normally on the left were on the right and vice versa; the world had been flipped like standing in a mirror.

Just what had happened? What lay ahead for us?

What are your strategies for staying positive?

Mindfulness meditation. Whether it be three minutes of focusing on my breathing, to guided meditations that take me to different astral planes; mindfulness meditation completely forces my mind to calm down and clear. Making a piece of jewellery works too, the level of concentration required to control beading patterns or looming is effective at making me focus and then wonder where the last hour went.

A daily gratitude journal. I adopted the practice of writing a list of 10 things I am grateful for, when I arrive at work. Starting there makes me approach the day more successfully, more calmly and more objectively. I take things less personally if they happen to be negative. I just go back to my morning list to remind myself of my blessings that day. It is amazing how far reaching that list can be – from clean water to shower in, to having a pen to writing with and friendly colleagues.

Jars. I fill a jar beside my bed with a post it note at the end of every day describing briefly what my favourite part of the day was. It is mostly filled with notes about my dog. I have a Jar of Joy in the living room for post it notes recording those extra special moments, not daily, only the very special moments like the time I went to see Take That live, or finally seeing Judi Dench on stage – in the flesh! I have a third jar at work – the motivation jar. Full of positive quotes to delve into should I hit a slump in my day and need a little boost. It saves a lot of calories compared to a consoling chocolate bar at 3pm!