It's still January!
There is still time to do January/beginning of the new year things - refresh, reset, renew, retreat, reinvent, reconsider, revive...
I took a few days retreat to myself after coming back from my trip to the cities. I'm lucky I can plan my own time but if you have a busy life/home/work schedule can you find an hour, an evening. a day or a weekend to have to yourself?
All those re- words! Meaning again. (It's Never Too Late To Start Again is the title of a good book by Julia Cameron).
What needs refeshing? The water in the flower vase? The paintwork? Your memory? My wardrobe needs refreshing.
I wish I could reset my sleep pattern to sleep at the same time as the rest of the world! It would be so convenient. I am working on it. A Wim Hof Breathing Method and Meditation video helped before bed last night
What would you like to reset, and how will you do it?
A subscription? I need to renew the back of the shed and my travel insurance. This is turning into a to-do list! But I don't mean it that way - I am just thinking of it as a prompt for slightly different ways of looking at things. You might also renew your commitment to something. Or to someone.
Since I went on Katrina's marvellous retreat in January 2017 I have realised the value of retreating from the everyday, and intend to explore it even more. (See Katrina's blog here). There are humdreds of types of retreats or you can just invent your own.
Not the wheel please - is there any area in your life where you are doing that? We can reinvent ourselves to a degree. When I found the courage to call myself an artist my life changed. When I stopped calling myself a wimp I got stronger.
Sometimes I have to reconsider what's feasible, or a decision I've made which I am unsure about.
As nature miraculously revives the garden I have to revive my interest in caring for it. Perhaps you would like to revive an old interest - something you loved to do as a child? Something you love that's got crowded out?
Maybe one of these words speaks to you.
As a beautiful finale to the festive season we went to Scottish Ballet's The Snow Queen last night.
(Scroll down on their webpage for excerpts with the wonderful Rimsky Korsakov music.)
Even the journey there was magical with snow on the Arrocher Alps and there was bright frost and moonlight on the way home over the Rest and Be Thankful.
I am both rested and very thankful! I watched the ballet all over again at breakfast - it's on BBC iPlayer. I was able to see all the detail I couldn't see very well in the theatre.
I've been writing about feeling a bit nervous about my plans for 2020.
Among other things I plan to finish editing my novel, live for a month in Venice, and start work on a big solo exhibition. 15 - 20 large paintings. Date is being decided....
No pressure then, as they say!
Strong is my word for 2020.
Sometimes I don't .feel strong. Sometimes I scare myself with the ideas I come up with!
Like when I had my first exhibition.
I was working at beautiful Beningbrough Hall and looked at an exhibition of paintings in the gallery there and thought I could do that. (I hadn't painted for years.) So I went to the administrator and said, diffidently, Do you think maybe I could have an exhibition here one day? Vaguely thinking a year or eighteen months away, knowing the gallery got booked way ahead. There's just been a cancellation for August - I'll put you down said Ray. This was May.
I came down the stairs from that office feeling a bit shaky and thinking What have I just done?
The exhibition was a great success and I painted and exhibited for the next twenty years.
Can you think of a time when you were thrown in at the deep end, or jumped in yourself as I did, and found that actually you could swim?
Scary, but exciting...
It takes a little, sometimes a lot. of courage to make a new start, write on a fresh page. paint on a blank canvas.
Today I slowly took down the Christmas decorations - it always makes me a little sad. I had a very comfortable and cosy time preparing for the festive season - it felt like a time to indulge myself and relax, to take it easy, to just be. I am replacing the Christmas things with other winter decorations - I still want that hygge feeling and the weather is dull and wet and the days are still short and dark.
I have some big plans for 2020 and I'm feeling a bit nervous about them today. Will I find the energy? Have I over committed myself? What if....Self doubt creeps in - no, rushes in!
I couldn't think quite how to finish this post, and as I was scrolling down through the categories to decide which one to put it under, I realised some answers to my fears were in there.
Let me explain. I started from the top of the list -
Live Simply - well yes, I need to remember that is what I am trying to do. That grounds me a little.
Simply Beautiful. I do have some beautiful ideas for 2020.
Simply Bin It. Could I just throw some of my fearful thoughts in the bin?
Simply Chill. Yes, I need to chill by doing something else for a bit (I listened to Private Passions BBC Radio 3)
Simply Christmas. Well I am saying goodbye to Christmas 2019 which was lovely, so of course I feel a bit sad.
Simply Do A Good Deed. I could distract myself by thinking of one....
By the time I had got down the list I was already feeling better!
Perhaps this strategy would work for you if you need to change your mood/restore your confidence/find a way out of a mild panic?
I'd love to think so...(the list is on the sidebar).
I finally filed the post under Simply Live, because that is what we must do with 2020.
Live it to the full.
Have you heard of G bombs?
It's a list of foods to boost your body's immune system. I keep it in my purse and make sure I buy something from every category when I am food shopping.
Do you have any other tips for avoiding the dreaded lurgie?
Mary mentioned hand washing, which I have to confess to forgetting quite often. As children we had to wash our hands before every meal. Wiping doorhandles and light switches with disinfectant now and then is probably a good idea too. While travelling on public transport can be a hazard with people coughing and sneezing, being out in the open air going for it maybe counteracts the risks! Though city air may be a risk in itself....
It really fascinates me the things we seem to have to do to make ourselves do things we may not feel like doing, and I've always been a carrot person.
That's why this video which I linked to recently appealed. (She gives particularly telling examples towards the end of her talk.)
Lists, reward,s stars and stickers and smiley faces and thumbs ups and pep talks motivate us in ways we are only beginning to fully understand, both psycholoigcal and physiological.
Social incentives - when I say here on the blog I will do something I almost always do! Even though you are not checking up on me, and wouldn't know whether I had really done it or not, I do do it. Immediate rewards - I feel so silly putting a sticker on a chart like a three year old - but it gives me that tiny dopamine reward that keeps me going, and charting my progress seems to satisfy a deep need in me to be moving forward, to be getting better.
It makes me understand why Facebook is so successful (and addictive for some). They have grasped all three factors and exploited them to the full.
So, with the help of a sketch of a Christmas tree on a bit of paper stuck to the fridge and a sheet of 24 stickers (thank you M) I have had a very productive day. The adult me still feels I should be able to do it without this silliness, but another me laughs and says - if it works, whyever not?
And I know i will get a double hit when I put that 24 sticker on the top of my tree!
I loved the thoughtful comments on yesterday's post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.
A few weeks ago, on a day when I was missing him particularly badly, I found a page torn from a notebook with a poem written on it in Barry, my late husband's handwriting. Because of where I found it I know it must have passed through my hands since he died in February 2016, but somehow it didn't register with me then.
This is the poem, by Mary Elizabeth Frye. I expect many of you know it
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
It felt like a timely gift from him.
Just a day or two later I cnanced upon this poem by Rumi
I died as a mineral
and became a plant
I died as a plant
and rose to animal
I died as animal
and I was human
Why should I fear?
When was I less by dying?
Barry's ashes are scattered here where daisies grow and on the shore with flocks of birds all around, and on the day of gentle autumn rain when I wrote this post, these poems comforted me.
This is the only December 2019 I will ever have. There is a climate crisis, weather to contend with, and here in uk a terrorist attack and an election fill the airwaves and newspaapers with disbelief and angry words.
How, we might wonder can we have a great December?
I think if we spend most of our energy on managing the things we do have control of and thereby creating little oases of peace and sanity and even joy, we can help balance our lives and the lives of others too.
I have limited influence, but I plan to use what influence I have!
I am thinking inner and outer. My inner world - my menatl health, my home, my loved ones and the outer - the wider world of politics and civic duty and responsibility.
If you wanted to do a comprehensive plan for December the book Your Best Year Yet by Jinny Ditzer could give you a useful framwork, but I thought I'd take it more lightly here, and try to look at small and simple things I can do each day to make December happy and healthy and with regular sparks of joy both for me and for others.
Inner. I started the day with six rounds of Wim Hof breathing (I like New Slower Wim Hof on YotTube) - makes me feel full of energy, and today I'm checking that I am stocked up with things should the weather worsen.
Logs - tick, firelighters and matches - tick, tinned food and storecupboard items - tick, salt for icy paths, snow shovel accesible - tick, torches and batteries - need to look at, candles - tick, thermals - tick (Heat Gen clever fabrics are brilliant). The freezer is seriously depleted. I've never really got on top of meal planning...plenty here to keep me busy then. What would you add? Have I overlooked something vital?
Outer - Planning a letter to the local paper about public transport connections. I have too often watched my bus fly past just just as the ferry touched land!
What will you do today to make your December happy and healthy?
Do share! I and so many readers here have got great ideas from all the comments.
I love looking after my little robin in the cold weather.
No comfortable feel in any member? Well my toes tingled after my frosty walks
There was shade, or at least interesting shadows..
And some starshine and brilliantly starry nights - the kind that take your breath away.
True, there were no butterflies or bees but fruits aplenty
and flowers and leaves in coronation Wood,....
and birds, including my favourite
Thank you for your poem Thomas Hood.
It reminded me that November was pretty wonderful.
Quick! Review your November before it fades forever.
And if your November wasn't very good, it's maybe worth taking just a little time to figure what you can do to make December better.....
because here it is!
I heard this poem by Thomas Hood read out on radio 3 the other morning..
No sun - no moon
!No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
Now I can identify with that (though for me it's more representative of February) but the optimist in me - or is it the contrarain? - thought I've had a good November with probably most of those things in it and I looked back over November's photographs and came up with...
Quite a lot of sunshine! And a beautiful new moon (but no photo)
Morning coffee on a frosty table
And raking up leaves at noon.
Dawn captured in a beautiful shot by Heather
And a dusk walk on the shore path.
A beautiful dusk skyline in Christmassy Edinburgh
Warmth from stacking them, carrying them and burning them!
And cheerfulness and healthful ease in a pop-up bar in Edinburgh's Christmas Market
And this is taking so long I will have to finish it next time!
I hope you had a good November x
A great little Ted Talk here.
Would you agree?
Can you apply her three steps to change something you want to change?
..to make the most of my winter.
Keep garedening. Pruning, tdying, weeding, raking, pottering - not leaving it all till spring.
Keep moving. The gardening eill help. It's all too easy for me to hibernate and barely move!
Travel (big plans afoot!)
Think up a really good word for 2020.
..things I plan to do this winter.
Do something I've never done before. No idea what yet!
Check out when the winter meteor showers are and put them on the calendar.
Donate surplus Christmassy things in good time.
Lie in the hammock and look at the Milky Way, even if only for a minute ot two!
Plan menus for visitors well in advance.
Is your list coming along?
Make at least one recipe from each of these books which I bought because I loved the titles and the images. Still do, but maybe I'll love the recipes too!
Go for a walk in the dark. Or on a bright moonlit night.
Find a sauna somewhere nice.
Make a north point in the snow.
Go to Scottish Ballet's production of The Snow Queen (tickets already purchased!)
Take a day 'off' to re-read Eowen Ivey's The Snow Child - preferably a snowy day. I have done this each year for several years now - food laid in, hot drinks, no housework, pausing every now and then to watch the snow fall...
To embrace the cold outside (great health bennefits I am told...)
To enjoy being snug inside - woodburner/candles/cushions and throws.
To eat great food and not put on weight. Quite a challenge.
To enjoy every minute of the run up to Christmas and totally ignore the hype.
I plan to make a list of twenty things......
...put off asking for help even when you know you really need it?
And then finally ask and find it is freely given and wasn't a big deal?
We think we ought to do everything ourselves, don't want to be a nuisance or a burden, are afraid of looking foolish because we don't know how to do something, or we dread being told no and then we might die of embarassment. Somehow it is very hard to say the simple words Would you help me with this. (For some weird reason I can remember how to say it in Swedish but find it sometimes almost impossible to say in my own language.)
I have an eye condition which means that in certain light I don't see very well and I have had to learn to speak up and ask for help on many occasions. I have found that people love to help. I have never been refused help when I have asked for it (and I do know that no-one actually dies of embarassment!)
So I turn things around in my head and ask myself If someone asked me to do this would I think they ought to do it themselves, or they are a nuisance or stupid? In all likelihood I would think they must have a reason for asking and I'd probably be happy to help if I could.
There's also perhaps the idea that to ask for help is to show weakness but knowing what courage it sometimes takes I prefer to think it shows strength to be able to ask for what I need.
What do you think?
First snow on the tops means it's time for the orange and cinnamon candle. Love it.
The click point is a phrase from Marie Kondo, meaning the point at which, in your tidying and clearing. things are just right.
I can recognise my click point in different aspects of my life and know what it takes to get there and just how far I can stray from it without feeling that it has gone forever!
In the house it's when it is just clean enough, just orderly enough - not perfect (that way madness lies) but just right.
A bit Goldilocks - not too clean, not too dirty, not too messy, not too ordered, not too little stuff, not too much. With helpful routines (who would have thought I would love routines? Thank you Fly Lady!) I can be content with how things are in my home.
Everyone has their own click point.
Do you recognise yours?
In my body I know when I have good energy, when I am eating well - just enough, mostly good things, when I am moving enough, when I am getting enough rest. In my mind the click point is when I am not too stressed or anxious, but in the flow (another great phrase) and moving easily through my days.
All this takes attention and experimentation....and time. That's what me time is for me - there's another phrase! - taking time to figure out what's best for me and seeing that I do it. And knowing that what is best for me is in all probability best for those around me too.
It's a clear frosty morning and what will be best for me now is to take a walk down to the shore before breakfast and take some photographs to share with you later.
Have a great day!
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)