Zentangle

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I found these four artist’s cards yesterday with some of my first Zentangle drawings.  I made these almost two years ago while in a mental health respite centre.  They are dated and given titles on the reverse.

6/11/15 Mourning into dancing (bottom right)

10/11/15:

Every tear is precious (bottom left)

Growth is messy and beautiful (top left)

Beauty in the Now, not Yet (top right)

I was in respite on an important birthday for Eldest.  Hope felt hard to reach, hard to hold on to.  The guilt of my daughter going through this milestone birthday with a very poorly mum.  It wasn’t hospital, at least.

Through a haze of sorrow, I found there was immense tenderness within me. Firstly, towards Eldest – this helped me find the energy to make a trip into the local town and buy ingredients for birthday cupcakes topped with her favourite American candy, (Reece’s pieces and Reece’s peanut butter cups!)  A support worker took time the evening before her birthday to help me make them.  The conversation was gentle.

On the day, we opened presents in my small respite bedroom and I was able to take some leave for the morning.  I was there to hold her hands while she had her ears pierced, and to buy her some pretty silver studs.  A landmark celebrated, not as we would have hoped, but together.  For better, for worse.

Compassion towards myself was beginning to grow.  I can see it now in the Zentangles.  I knew that this was a time of tears, of mourning, of mess.  I felt it deeply, but I knew there was the capacity for beauty in me, in the way I was living this illness.

 

Today, almost two years later, I met staff newly recruited to the community perinatal mental health team here in Devon.  As part of their induction, I had the opportunity to talk them through our story of postnatal illness and beyond, and to help them reflect on how a mother’s mental health impacts upon the whole family; dad, baby, siblings.  When I talk to staff, I use a photo-story, with pictures of both my beautiful girls as babies and as they have grown.

Finding the Zentangles was the right timing; growth is messy.  Today it felt beautiful.

 

 

 

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The power of play

Definition of Play

‘A physical or mental leisure activity that is undertaken purely for enjoyment or amusement and has no other objective’

playtherapy.org.uk, 2017

orbeez

I first started thinking about this post when I bought Little One some Orbeez

Playing with Orbeez is about as pure as play can get.  It’s sensory, it’s fun, silly and ultimately quite pointless.  But that’s the point…

Initially I bought Orbeez with educationalist, adult thinking.  Mindful, sensory play after school to quieten the noise of a day’s overload.  Science!  Experimenting with liquid, solids, estimating volume, tipping, pouring.

But you know what some of the most fun things to do are?

  • Squish Orbeez between your fingers
  • Put your feet in a washing up bowl filled with water and Orbeez
  • Tip Orbeez from a great height and watch them bounce all over the kitchen
  • Pipe a single Orbee at a time out of a plastic piping bag

(I’m aware that these are also Science but they didn’t come out of that ‘child must learn something’ motivation!)

I have laughed along with Scary Mommy and her puzzlement about why her kids are obsessed with Orbeez (check out the YouTube video!) but I am also learning a lot for myself by observing the way Little One approaches her Orbeez time.

In our increasingly pressured world, we need time for utterly pointless play – especially us adults.  It might not look like a washing up bowl full of Orbeez for you or I (although I would recommend trying it!)  It might look like putting on some boots and kicking Autumn leaves.  Making some jelly (or Jell-O USA buddies) for your kids’ tea, just because it’s Tuesday.  Swimming in the sea for fun rather than for exercise.

Whatever you choose to do, try taking the adult objective out of it.  Do it just because it’s pointless, and fun.

History into future

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I made two skeins of t-shirt yarn today.  A task to do from home in my personal assistant role while my friend is away.  I save the fronts of the t-shirts for a blanket project my friend has in mind, and the backs are destined for crochet yarn.

There will be remembrance of history – a different time and space in life – in her blanket project.  There will be the creation of a new story in beautiful things made of t-shirt yarn.  I am grieving for this friend as she continues to endure a long and exhausting season of pain.  I am humbled by her ability to see a future of beauty.  I am encouraged by the vision she has to create new from old.

Images from ‘Big Hook Rag Crochet’ by Dedri Uys

It’s slow, mindful work producing t-shirt yarn.  The fabric is sliced almost to the top in equal sections.  Turn the fabric through 180 degrees, slice every section in half – stopping just before the top.  The corners of each section are rounded off, until a long single string of yarn emerges.  Wind the yarn gently around your hand into a skein.  I want to buy some beautiful brown paper luggage tags to label the yarn in length and width.

It’s slow work unravelling my history to make something beautiful for my future.  I’ll be pondering the lessons I could learn from t-shirt yarn.

 

 

This connected life

I have a WordPress mentor – even though she may not know it yet! Somewhat ironically, here in the online world through Barb’s let it go coach blogs I’m learning a huge amount about the power of disconnecting from the internet.  In our screen-free times we can unexpectedly find kindred spirits, just by being present. And yet, there is community right here too, in the web.

It seems only appropriate at this point to remember the exuberant ‘Thanks Tim’ (Berners-Lee) tribute to this crazy new connected world…

What delights me about this film is that I remember what so many of us Brits loved about the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony – it connected us with real stories of real people, and celebrated the madcap wonderfulness of this little island we call home. This flash-mob performed by the all-volunteer cast of ‘Thanks Tim’ invites onlookers to share the moment, to share the excitement.

Now, I’m holding my hands up – today has not been an entirely screen-free day: clearly I’m here on the laptop writing! (and I’ve used WhatsApp & nhs.net email while in a car park)  However, in the main, my phone has been lost at the bottom of my handbag. So today there were some really uplifting moments of human connection.

I dropped off yesterday’s batch cooking with one of my dearest friends.  On my to-do list for the rest of the morning (typed on Google Keep, of course) was email chasing, Facebook group moderating, long-overdue texts to friends who pop in to my mind before I go to sleep.  But on my heart was to sit on my friend’s bed, bring her some breakfast and just be present with someone who I love to bits.

Keep list abandoned, I had some time to walk to the high street in the autumn sunshine. It still feels so warm here in Devon on days when there is rich September sun and blue sky. I’d got my outfit wrong for the temperature (cowl-neck grey knitted jumper and black leggings) and so decided to browse the Hospiscare charity shop.  I was laughing with the shop assistant about the fact that I’d had to wear my running trainers to the school run with this outfit, because I have no shoes except flip-flops and a pair of Fly wedge sandals. I managed to find a pair of red suede pumps for £3 and a Jaeger jumper-dress with a red trim for £6.  It was really nice to head off to my lunchtime meeting without the running trainers!

Google maps (I know!) found me a great route on the country roads to my meeting venue.  As I was driving over a humpback bridge and up a huge hill, there was a guy with his thumb out for a lift.  I was fiddling with the volume on the car radio to hear the Google directions, and didn’t really register him at first.  Husband might have something to advise about this – but I pulled over and asked him where he was heading.  He just needed a lift ten minutes up the road on my route, so the poor guy climbed into the back seat (Little One’s car seat was in the front passenger side) and over a serious amount of detritus in the foot-well.  He was a chef who’d had an unexpected night out following a private function and needed to get home to collect his car.  We had a great chat about Eldest’s ambition to bake cakes & patisserie professionally, and he was so enthusiastic about the potential to make a career of it.  He really brightened my day, and gave me a hug and a huge thank-you when I had to get out of the car to let him out of the child-locked door.  I carried on my journey with a smile on my face.

The meeting venue was just beautiful, right by the river Plym.  It was in full flow and we could hear the rush of the water while we talked about the development of the ‘We are Family’ course for parents of young people with psychosis.  It was one of those meetings where we were really tuned in to each other’s perspectives and there were brilliant ideas about how to make the course a true space for peer-support.

Little One was crying when I picked her up from the playground.  Tears rolled down her cheek as she huddled in the heavy rain-storm (welcome to the Devon weather).  She was worried that we wouldn’t be able to play in the park on her scooter as I’d promised.  I had no coat, the new shoes on… but there was a kids’ “Mr Tumble” umbrella in the car, she had her showerproof coat on, so I reassured her that of course we could get the scooter and she could have a spin in the park.

I stood in the park, in the pouring rain, in my red shoes with the tiny yellow spotty umbrella.  More moments of humour and connection as the mums and dads passing ‘complimented’ me on my choice of rain-wear.

So I guess the lessons learned from today are twofold:

  1. Prepare your outfits adequately for the vagaries of the weather
  2. The internet can serve you well as long as it helps you to truly connect with your fellow human beings

Mr Tumble

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation on a conker

chestnutpod

Alien in form

Clinging, gnarled and spiked, to the tree-branch

Deep softness of silk within

We looked inside when you were just a teardrop seed

Now your skin is hardened, polished

Mahogany

Smooth and cold in our palms

Treasure of autumn slipped into our pockets

 

 

Dhal, happy tears and sequins

Yesterday was the last day of the girls’ summer holidays.  We planned an outdoor pool swim at Exeter University (Little One in her wetsuit!) and a vegetarian lunch in the city centre.

Sitting in Herbies cafe I felt a rush of emotion. I looked at my girls and blinked away the happy-sad tears. This was the space where I had begun to truly find my love for Little One three years ago. The space in which I became a mummy again.

Back in those days we would arrive early, after the “Jumping Beans” dance session at Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre. The same waitress would greet us with crayons, a colouring book and a smile. She would bring a red wooden booster seat which made Little One feel so special. I would have the lunch special: warm, comforting dhal spiked with ginger and chilli.

Yesterday we had other plans for the dhal. In our car park we had found a young girl curled up on flattened boxes, shrouded in a grubby white blanket.  My girls were very shocked and upset, so I suggested to Eldest that we could ask if she’d like us to bring her some food after our lunch. We took back a warm foil box, a paper bag of fluffy naan bread and chatted for a few brief moments.

I can’t even begin to imagine the circumstances that had brought her to sheltering in a car park.  On the way back to the shops, I held my girls’ hands that little bit tighter. When we returned we were relieved to see another stranger sitting down with her and talking about her appointment with a housing officer later in the week.

Shopping for an Autumn outfit for each of the girls, I smiled at their different personalities evident in their choices. A ‘Millenial pink’ batwing cropped jumper with shoulder studs for Eldest (when did pink re-enter her consciousness?) I didn’t tell her that batwing was a favourite of mine at her age!  A maroon sweater with gently gathered shoulders and a heart made out of reversible sequins for Little One. She spent a happy half an hour smoothing the sequins up and down with her hands. Deep, sparkly gold in one direction and muted, matte gold on the other.

On our way home I dropped a card at Herbie’s for the waitress we met three years ago. I wanted to thank her for being a special part of my recovery. For helping me to build memories of myself as a good mummy, not a depressed one.

Thank you, Herbie’s – we will be back.

Finely tuned

I was talking to my husband a couple of nights ago.  I reflected on the ways that life seems to need a bit more fine-tuning for me than the average bear.

fine tuning

I’m enjoying it though, you know, the fine-tuning.  Sitting down with my Google calendar on the cusp of a new term, and making sure there is space.  Space to book in a day for oddly compelling jobs, like sorting out the crap drawer (we all have one… the random keys, Blu-Tac, tape-measure kind of drawer).

Space to swim in the river Dart or the sea down at Jacob’s Ladder.  To take a flask of peppermint tea and rest by the water’s edge.

Fine-tuning this term has meant resisting the temptation to take on a few more paid hours.  To recognise that Eldest has both excitement and challenges coming up as she starts high school, and she may well need her mum more.  She sometimes talks about her fears of me becoming unwell at the start of a new academic year – it’s such a season of change.

But this year the change is good.  It’s a change in my expectations of myself, a willingness to leave space and embrace it.  Two Septembers ago I was afraid of the space, driven by a fear that – at 40 – I was pretty much at the last chance saloon in terms of finding a career.

This September I’m at peace.  The work will still be there when the time is right.

 

Ullswater

 

Outstretched arms tanned by the peaty water

Bracelets of sunlight gold

Caress of swaying reeds

IMG_0002.JPGThe fells slumbering giants

Encircling

Rain-mist falling on closed eyelids

IMG_0001Deep stillness

 

Upturned clouds in the water

The only sound the ripple of each stroke

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