Sunday, 1 October 2017

determination

Last week, I went hiking yet again in Wales. I look forward to it for months (we're fortunate enough to be able to visit twice each year!) and it's usually over too soon. This time, however, I was ready to come home - a combination of my impending move, poor health, and too much time spent with my parents with no TV/wifi/radio for distraction.

The week did solidify my goals though. I was determined to hike some mountains (the doctor told tell me I shouldn't be alive and functioning, but I wasn't going to let that stop me), and now I'm determined about my future. Namely: that I want to save save SAVE for early retirement, so I can escape to the solitude of the valleys someday.


I make a bit of a joke of it, and I'm not serious enough yet to have a savings plan or to be investing or have a figure in mind, but I know that ultimately I want that to be my goal. Even if I don't manage an early retirement, choosing where I live and having the financial resources to be able to do what I want would be a great privilege. 

So. I still haven't shaken the frugal bug, and I might have put the No Spend Challenge at a distance, but personal finance still takes up a big chunk of my thinking time.

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I hope you've also had a great week! Blogging is going to be taking even more of a back seat for a while; I'm still plodding through life stuff and it'll be a while until I'm back into the swing of things. Until then, please remember to speak and think kind words, to yourself and to others~

Sunday, 17 September 2017

burn out /// field notes #15

Sigh. Not so long ago I was determined I didn't have enough chainsaws in the air right now. Turns out, I really really have enough sharp metallic life-threatening objects flying around my head. Turns out, I've been running on empty for a loooong time with little more than determination and will-power to keep me going.

Turns out, I've burnt right out.

My doctor isn't quite sure how I've done it, and I'm not quite sure how I've done it, but the past two years have been a slow descent into the you-shouldn't-be-alive zone. I'm still ploughing onwards, but I'm now very likely to need a nap by 10am. And another at 3pm. And then I'm ready for bed at 8pm. Climbing the stairs tires me; walking around the supermarket is my limit some days.

But! let's skip the pity party and focus on some positives from this week:

1. I attended a scary international multi-day conference at which I understood maybe one in every three words spoken, but I don't think I looked like too much of a fool and I kinda started to enjoy it. Or maybe that was just the free food and museum setting.



2. A local family approached me for a regular babysitting job, which is cash I desperately need right now. I just have to make a good impression this week, so no pressure.

3. I paid my water bill! And got a refund on my electric bill! And I figured out a new budget! (I still haven't paid my Council Tax, because we're in a bit of a stand-off, but shush brain, it's gonna be OK).

4. After returning to normality (AKA my desk and routine) after the conference, I got stuck back in to cataloguing medical and healthcare-themed photographs including some weird research into light therapy in the 1930s.


5. And, most importantly, I am now legally bound to purchase my first home. Holy crap.

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So it's been a bit of a week. In light of... life... I'm reverting back to the ol' Sunday-only post schedule, and anything else I manage is a bonus! I hope you have a wonderful, successful week - please don't forget to speak and think kind words to yourself and to others~

Sunday, 10 September 2017

creative frustration

It's Sunday again! Let's pretend this week just skipped Thursday altogether, because it was a stressful (but equally satisfying) day for me, and the time I had allotted to write a blog post just... seemed to vanish. My mind is on the topic of writing, though, because it's autumn - so, on with the show...

-   -   -

I really enjoyed Kristen's #FridayFive video about the ways that writers can stay creative (other than reading and writing as much as possible!) I'm thinking a lot about this because... well, NaNoWriMo is approaching (in the distance) and every year I try to convince myself that it's not a good idea to participate. Yet every year I try to churn out 50,000 words of fiction - and there's nothing to say that 2017 will be any different. This year, however, I'm at least trying to be sensible! In summary, Kristen suggested that our creative juices could be aided by:
  1. making time for hobbies (other than reading and writing!)
  2. continue learning
  3. surround yourself with inspiration
  4. get out of your head
  5. make time for relaxation (again, not by spending time reading - is there any other way to relax?!)
I feel like I've been following these pretty well already: I recently started walking again and I'm joining a choir; as an archive cataloguer I'm always researching and learning about random historical or geographical things. And I definitely make time for relaxation (sleeping counts as relaxation, right?!)

But I'm probably still letting myself down. I must be, because recently I've just been more and more frustrated that I can't seem to create anything decent. Perhaps I'm just lazy; perhaps I'm uninspired.

Going forward, I hope to carve out more time for hobbies and volunteering, and I'd love to begin duolingo again during my commute. Once I'm in a more stable environment (i.e. not surrounded by packing boxes and suitcases), I'll be able to create a place filled with inspiration. The one thing I feel I can change right now is getting out of my head.

I write lists and plan lots, but still struggle with all those thoughts whirling round in my head. Buying my first home, moving back to my parents, and changing jobs has proved a mite stressful. A journal would certainly ease my recent tendency to wake at 2am and just lie waiting for the dawn chorus, some hours off. It would also count towards that relaxation goal.


Something that I need reminding of before I start (and whenever I pick up that diary, in fact) is that there's no need for it to be read ever again. Nothing needs to be perfect; nothing needs to be omitted, and similarly not everything needs to be included. Writing a diary matters in the moment. If you have the guts to read through your journal a couple of months later - because apparently that's good for ~personal growth~ 'n all that jazz - then I commend you. But old diaries tend to contain some thoughts and feelings that can only induce a cringe or two, rather than put events and development in perspective. I need to remember: just write.

And while this started as a tactic to stir up my creativity again in time for NaNoWriMo, I did mention at the beginning of this post that I was thinking about writing "because it's autumn". Autumn means November, yes, but also diminishing daylight, dwindling vitamin D reserves, and miserable weather. And whilst I'm looking forward to autumn, in a way, this year, I am very aware that this time of year isn't great for my mental health. (Is any time of the year good for my mental health?!). Writing is the creative therapy my mind probably needs at this point in the year. (And yes, this is proof that I do link each and every post back to the theme of mental health! Well done me for being consistent, at least).

All that's missing before I start is another notebook. You know, because in my vast collection of notebooks there isn't the perfect notebook for journalling... (I mentioned recently that daily journalling is a huge commitment for me but, let's be real, a beautiful notebook would definitely change that. Ahem.)

-   -   -

Is anyone else out there struggling to find their creativity in time for NaNoWriMo? Or do you have some sense and are resolutely avoiding it this year? (If so, teach me your ways!) And who else collects too much stationery??

I hope you've had a great week. Until next time, remember to speak and think kind words and write a little if you've time~

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

what i read: august 2017

Looking through my read list, August was a busy month for me. And I know why: because I was pretty miserable. As readers, I'm sure most of us retreat into fiction when we're sad. I read a whopping 7 books this month. Maybe I could chart my mood and mental health through book stats...

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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Having read her later novels, I was saving Gillian Flynn's debut for a time when I wasn't living alone and, therefore, wouldn't be so easily scared in the middle of the night. If you've read Dark Places I'm pretty sure you can appreciate where I'm coming from. I didn't wait, however, because the draw of Flynn's writing was just too much. And I was not disappointed. Whilst Dark Places sticks more in my memory, her debut novel was just as chilling, clever and superbly written. I raced through it and was then (predictably) disappointed to have finished.


The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse
If I'm honest, I picked this book up based solely on the cover (and because it was free from the book exchange at work... heh...). And, continuing the theme of honesty, I didn't love the story - I thought it was a little predictable. However, I was still quite drawn to the characters and did care about their conclusions; Kate Mosse definitely crafted an atmosphere of damp, desperate, small-town life. And although I was less interested in the snippets of the taxidermy handbook that are interspersed with notes from the killer, I wouldn't mind trying my hand at taxidermy one day...


Ratcatcher by James McGee
Ugh, was this a disappointment. More than a disappointment. This almost become a DNF (which is saying something, coming from a girl who always finishes a book). The characters lacked depth, the mystery didn't appeal (and was fairly predictable), and I never got a good feel for the setting. I found the pace too slow: the mystery took a while to form, and the climax was dragged out and filled with so much lengthy explanation that I skimmed a few pages and still found myself bored. I found myself seriously questioning the validity of all the glowing reviews littering the back cover of this book...

The Parliament House and The Painted Lady by Edward Marston
I've read a Christopher Redmayne novel or two before, and liked the setting and Marston's fast-paced yet detailed writing. These two novels - which I read entirely out of sequence, yet still found perfectly enjoyable - were quick reads and didn't leave much of an impression. But I would certainly read more in the series. The chapters are a good length, the plots always move along nicely, and the mysteries are satisfying with some history sprinkled throughout.

 

In A Dry Season by Peter Robinson
The Inspector Banks series was recommended to me by a colleague, and this - supposedly the best in the series - was definitely gripping and quite deep. Going beyond merely murder mystery, Peter Robinson writes about more than just police procedure: personal and professional lives, as well as wider topics such as art, literature, history, architecture... I felt that DCI Banks was very much a real person and that the settings and subject matters were very well-researched. If I'm honest, the historical fiction stance to this story helped its appeal - the contrast between present (or rather, 1980s? 1990s? I had a little trouble dating it) and the past (WWII) storylines helped the pace, as did the multiple viewpoints - but the overall conclusion disappointed me somewhat. I'll give Inspector Banks another go though!


The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
I loved this. Loved this so much that I'll be writing a separate review sometime soon (and yes, the definition of 'soon' will probably be very flexible...). But, right now, know this: it made me emotional and confused, and made me yearn and shy away from the 1940s setting, and I actually miss the characters. I struggled when deciding whether to give it 4 or 5 stars (I plumped for 4, but it deserves more), and I will be reading this again (possibly before the end of the year, which is really very soon for me to re-read a novel!)



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Happy Tuesday! I hope the week is going well! I started a new job today (so this is a scheduled post) and it's set to be a busy week.

What did you read in August? Any books I should squeeze into September?

Until next time (Thursday? Getting back into this routine is tough...) please remember to speak and think kind words, to yourself and to others~

Sunday, 3 September 2017

wrapped in cotton wool

Hey! It's Sunday again! But not the Sunday I thought I'd be posting on, because last week I took an unexpected break. Turns out it was just one of those weeks when - due to my own poor planning - there just weren't enough hours in the day to write as well as... live. That, coupled with a lack of inspiration and changing schedules, just pushed blogging off the end of my (long) to-do list.

But I'm back! And I guess that tiny hiatus contributes to my current state of ~wrapping myself in cotton wool~

So I guess I'll go home
Into the arms of the girl that I love
The only love I haven't screwed up
She's so hard to please
But she's a forest fire
I do my best to meet her demands
Play at romance, we slow dance
In the living room, but all that a stranger would see
Is one girl swaying alone
Stroking her cheek
(A perfect example of how Lorde's new album left me in a pool of emotions. If only I could write half this well. If only.)

-   -   -

This summer hasn't been the best. Actually, this year has been a complete mixture of highs and lows. I've reached a point where treating myself with the utmost kindness seems the only way to move forward through the weeks - these endless weeks, it seems, of waiting. (Solicitors, man. Solicitors and banks and all their paperwork. I hate it.)

We all know I'll never shut up about self-care. But it's central to my mental health and, therefore, to my life. What does this new season of self care look like for me?

Living back with my parents. It's not something I particularly wanted to do; it feels like a step backwards. But I was miserable renting, and so I stuck it out until about 3 weeks until the end of my tenancy and called it quits. I'm still waiting for the documents that will move my house purchase forward, but until then I'm living it up in my childhood bedroom once again - with low stress, a safety net, and wifi.

Walking. Lots of walking. Now I'm back living with my parents, the open countryside is right there. And I'm taking advantage of its calming influence.



Taking the time to cook. The kitchen in my rented house wasn't really suited to extravagant cooking sessions, so although I have less time to cook at my parents', I'm enjoying it while I can. And introducing my parents to vegan meals...

Focussing on my physical health too. Medical appointments and blood tests, hurrah.

Through some fortuitous timing, I'm about to pick up some of my old hobbies! I'm all set to join a choir (or two) and will hopefully be volunteering with the local Beaver Scout group - as well as babysitting once again. Serving others brings me a lot of joy (and helps me self-esteem).

Oh, and there's this:
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I hope you've had a good week in my absence. Until next time, please remember to speak and think kind words~

Thursday, 24 August 2017

what's one more chainsaw?

As if I don't already have enough on my plate, this weekend I'll be applying for a new job. Yes, another one.
I sent this email to my parents on a Thursday afternoon following a chat with my manager, before spending the weekend (supposedly) with my parents. Instead, I spent the two days piecing together a job application from the various self-reflection essays I've written over the past couple of years - most recently in April for the job I only just started 6 weeks ago. Those essays were once the bane of every job application I submitted, but they've come to be my favourite part: reflecting on all that I've accomplished and learnt is incredibly reassuring; it boosts my confidence no-end.

Once upon a time, I knew of a person who, whenever she was stressed, overwhelmed, and struggling, would apply for more jobs. At one point she was working four professional jobs: one full-time office job, teaching a couple of evenings per week, weekends on-call, and flexible copywriting from home. I've come to see the same trait in myself.

let's do all the e-volunteering!

It's not so much money worries (though those aren't going to subside in the next year or so), but being busy. Adding to my CV and boosting my confidence. Proving that I'm capable of this and more.

The problem, however, is that too often you don't notice how many chainsaws you're juggling until you say "oh, just one more" and end up losing a finger/hand/the ability to remain sane on a Tuesday afternoon.

I've tried to be sensible about it, but I know that I frequently over-estimate my capabilities. Now that my job is not manual, I have more energy; I'm still sleepy by 9pm but I can take on another responsibility.

The job that I most recently applied for is actually only a secondment from my current (new) permanent job. I’ll be working on a specific project, the topic of which suits my bizarre interests perfectly (the history of medicine! the weird and wonderful ways people were ill, treated and died in the past! hurrah!), with a tonne of responsibility and just as many experiences and new skills to add to my CV.

This year, I've definitely graduated from piecing together a living (manual, fairly low-skilled job, tutoring, cleaning, babysitting) to focussed career woman. I still don't know quite what I want, but with each new stressful month pushing me to fill my days in different ways, I'm more motivated and my focus is narrowing onto what I want to spend my life doing.

And, I'm certain, just one more chainsaw won’t push me over the edge. I hope.

-   -   -

Happy Thursday evening! We're less than 24 hours away from the start of a Bank Holiday weekend - and after a day off today I'm actually looking forward to spending Friday at work?! This week I took some major steps towards easing (for want of a better word) my mental health; a busy long weekend sounds good to me right now.

Until Sunday, please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and others~

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

treat yo' self. everyday.

Every day is a new story. ~Treat every day as a celebration~. Allow yourself one present each day. Make sure you have some to look forward to every day.

You know the drill. But it does work.

In the middle of July, with the days stretching into the yet-more depressing distance, I was in a bit of a funk. And by ‘bit of a funk’ I mean I was crying in public, in private, at work, and – accompanied by what I imagine is the harrowing keening noise so often referred to when a mother cradles her dead child in a disease and crime-ridden historical novel – at home. In fact, my neighbour knocked on my door to check I was OK. To which I said, why yes of course, because that was half an hour ago and suddenly my mood is completely reversed.

But anyway, I digress.

My message is this: if you have a different, positive thing scheduled each day, it will become bearable. Enjoyable perhaps, but let’s not stretch it. Last week my ‘different, positive’ things were:
Monday: work (because I really like my job) and a big helping of my favourite super-quick dinner
https://www.instagram.com/p/BT4LyuIgw4h/
Tuesday: a night spent at my parents’, including a lovely walk
Wednesday: Craft Circle during lunch at work (this wasn’t so much something I looked forward to, as something I was forcing myself to do in order to be social)
Thursday: volunteering at the library!
https://www.instagram.com/p/BX-Iy0HgYLQ/
Friday: a documentary, with copious amounts of tea and chocolate
Saturday: cooking and reading
Sunday: cycling and visiting my parents
By breaking everything down, the week flew by. We’re already onto Tuesday again somehow.

I’ve seen people urging others to treat each day as a completely blank canvas; a new book waiting for a fresh plot arc and a little character development. I’ve heard that you can restart your day at any time; you can restart it by taking a shower or a nap or just by deciding it.

But for me, the Twin Peaks clip wins every time though:



So I hope this week (which I'm certain will fly by) is off to a positive start. And if it's not, figure out something to look forward to and power on through! What's in your schedule that will make this week a little more enjoyable?

Until next time, please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and others!