THE BIGGEST LESSON I LEARNED FROM DERREN BROWN’S ‘HAPPY’

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Towards the end of last year, I finally read Derren Brown’s book Happy: Why more or less everything is absolutely fine. It was a long time coming. I’d heard Derren speak during his book tour back in 2016, and I learned so much from that short time that I’ve been shouting about ever since; namely, that I’m most definitely a frog.

Why, then, did it take me well over a year to finally read the book itself? I don’t really know, but I’m glad that I did it.

It’s a pretty academic book, so it’s not a light read, and there was certainly a good chunk that wasn’t particularly applicable to me, but I was interested to see what I would draw from it without trying too hard. I may go back to it again, and I’m sure I’ll learn more when I do, but this time around there was one thing that stood out to me above all the rest.

It doesn’t matter where you go, you always take yourself with you.

It might sound obvious when you put it like that, but the meaning behind it has been a bit of an a-ha moment for me. When I look back on my life, I can see periodic moments when all I wanted to do was get away, to escape to somewhere interesting and leave all of my troubles behind. I think we’ve all been there?

What Derren opened my eyes to see, is the reason those trips never tend to live up to the expectations – because I’m always there.

No matter how exotic somewhere might look in the pictures, how many restaurants are there to sample the local cuisine, how much time you can fill with activities you can’t do at home, you’re always there with yourself.

With the same baggage and annoyances and thought patterns that you deal with everyday. You still have the same memories and the same mood swings and the same likes and dislikes, so putting you in a different place on the map can wind up being rather underwhelming.

I had a first-hand experience of this concept recently, albeit on a much less impressive scale. Every year around Christmas my local town hosts an ice rink, where my favourite cafe pops up to offer their most delicious wares, and I made it my mission to go.

I was excited. I envisioned a cosy warmth, buzzing with the joy of the festive season, twinkling lights adding to the atmosphere to create the most idyllic mince pie I’d ever have. By now I’m sure you’re not surprised to find out that it didn’t live up to its expectations.

In the end, there was just me, who doesn’t really get into the festive spirit, with Sam, who I see every single day. We were just in a different place. We weren’t suddenly overcome with Christmas cheer. Hot chocolate was just the same as it always is, and having spent the previous few days together we weren’t overcome with thrilling conversation.

So, as I sat in that rustically decorated cafe, watching the skaters zoom around on a December evening, I was struck by one clear thought – Derren was right.

And, y’know, that’s OK. And it’s really good to know, because hopefully now, when the desire to jump on a plane and escape to someplace far away inevitably comes to call, I can look at it with a knowing fondness, before allowing it to pass me by.

Now, I don’t mean that I’m not going to travel in the future, or head on adventures, as I’m sure I will. I just hope that when I do, I’ll be planning an adventure for me, one that I can truly enjoy, just as I am, instead of trying to leave it all behind.

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TURNING 28

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Becoming another year older doesn’t really hold any of the same feelings that it used to. I’m no longer gaining in independence, or receiving the right to do something I was previously too young for, but turning 28 has given me the opportunity to reflect on having been 27, and when I look at it, I feel that it may have been one of the most transformative years of my life.

I didn’t expect that, you see. I thought these years would be much of the same. That 27 would be like 26, and 28 like its predecessor in turn. Really, it’s not the age that’s of importance, but it does provide a handy little bookmark to define these periods of time, and assign the experiences within them with some kind of label for easy reference.

I come to be 28 perhaps the most content with myself that I have ever been, and I believe that I’ve got 27 to thank.

27 gave me the space to really evaluate myself, and how I put into practice the things that I believe in. It taught me what’s good for me, and what isn’t, and gave me the confidence to address it all.

It allowed me to reinvent myself to highlight all of the things that are most important. It helped me to re-evaluate my priorities, and cut out a whole lot of the mess.

27 was for making life simpler. For using all the things I learned about myself to calm my heart; from adjusting my surroundings to re-framing the way I spoke to myself. It was for embracing the natural, and learning to listen to the nuances that tell me how I’m really doing.

27 was for making boundaries. For giving, forgiving, and learning when to say no. It was when I learned to put myself first, and when I decided that being selfish is one of the most valuable things I can do.

27 taught me how to embrace change. It taught me how to allow myself to be carried with the tide instead of resisting it, and with that lesson came peace.

Now, becoming 28, I feel I arrive here with an unexpected level of stability. I feel firmly rooted, and gosh, does that feel good. I am so grateful for 27, and the countless things I have learned and will carry with me, and I am ready for 28.

I don’t think it wise to plan or predict what 28 might bring, but instead I will be prepared to welcome whatever comes in these next twelve months with an open heart and the trust that I can be a good enough version of myself throughout it all.

WHY I’M BREAKING UP WITH SHOULD

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It came up in my meditation recently, and I saw a whole article written about it the other day… the issue with the word should.

I couldn’t tell you how much I can relate. How many times do you say to yourself, you should do something? For me, it’s all the time. I should eat better, I should do the ironing, I should go to that event, I should work late.

The question is, why? Why should you do something?

Now that I’m taking the time to think about it, I believe my shoulds come from my impression of what I expect society, or colleagues or friends, would expect me to do. They’re projections that stop me from taking responsibility for my own decisions because of what I think other people would think. But who the hell knows what anyone else would think? Would it even matter anyway? And I’m a grown up, so I can decide whether I want to do something or not, regardless of anyone else’s thoughts on the matter.

What I do know, though, is that my shoulds aren’t healthy. They cause me to spend a lot of time telling myself I should go to that event, even though I’m not feeling up to it. It causes me to feel guilty if I clock out a little early from work one day so I can spend some valuable time with my nearest and dearest, or if I lie in a little late because I don’t want to get up feeling groggy.

So I’m breaking up with should. I know it’ll take some time and a lot of effort, but I’m going to try to remove should from my vocabulary and replace it with more constructive words.

If it’s something I need to do, then I’ll say ‘I am going to…’. If it’s something I want to do, then ‘I want to…’. If it’s something that I don’t want to do at all, but maybe I’ve already committed, then I’ll give myself permission to be true to myself and call it quits, or try to re-frame it in my mind and maybe feel like doing it after all.

I’ll make the effort to listen to the underlying feelings that cause me to tell myself I should do something. What’s there? Guilt? Obligation? The reluctance to do something deemed negative by ‘society’? Whatever it is, I’ll look for it, take the time to understand it, and then re-frame it.

I’m hoping that, in letting go of should, I’ll feel less weighed down and more confident in myself and my decision-making.

What do you think? Do you tell yourself you should do this and that? Do other people tell you that you should do things? I’d love to know your relationship with the shoulds in life, and what you think about my plans to let them go!

TRYING MY HAND AT MODERN CALLIGRAPHY

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While I’ve always been creative, I’ve never been good at art. At school it was one of my least favourite subjects, and aside from a drawing of a converse trainer that I spent hours over in my teens, it’s not something that I’ve been particularly interested in.

Creatively, I tend to favour a pair of knitting needles or a sewing machine over a pen and paper, but I’ve been feeling like I need more of an outlet, and ink seems to be where it’s at.

It might have something to do with the bullet journal inspiration I see on my Instagram and Pinterest feeds, and it’s definitely been helped by Amy’s foray into calligraphy signage, which I assisted with back in the summer. Whatever the motive, my mind’s telling me it wants to write and draw, and I’m here for it.

As is typical with any new year, I wanted to start mine with some fresh paper. I’ve purchased a dotted notebook for my bullet journal (which I might share more about some other time), a lined notebook to house my general thoughts and musings, and a plain page sketchbook to get creative in.

I don’t know anything about calligraphy, aside from what I can make out by staring at other people’s work, and what Amy told me about ‘downward’ strokes being heavier, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway, and see how I got on.

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To be honest, I’m pretty pleased with my first efforts. I whipped up this happy new year message, labelled my sister’s birthday gift and headed up my index in the most fancy way, and I’m feeling pretty proud.

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This is something that I’m planning to practice, and I definitely need to work on my central alignment, so I’ll be getting out my pens on the regular to see if I can develop some skill.

I’m also planning to look for an online course or video tutorials, so I can learn the techniques instead of just playing it all by ear. I had a good, albeit short, run with Skillshare last year, so I think that may be my first port-of-call.

Do you know any calligraphers I should be following? Have you tried it out yourself? Got any tips? I’d love to know, if you want to drop me a comment and start a conversation!

REVIEWING MY END-OF-2017 GOALS

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Back when I was taking part in Blogtober, I wrote about 5 things that I wanted to do before the end of 2017. Now that we’re into the new year, I thought it was time to look back on them and see how I got on…

 

HIT MY TARGET OF READING 26 BOOKS

I did this right around Christmas and I was super happy to do so. I even fit in a 27th before the year was out and it was a good one! I really enjoyed stepping up to this challenge, and I’m definitely going to set myself the same for next year, though I might up it to 30 or so. Reading has become really important to me this year, and I know it will teach me a lot in 2018, too. If you’ve got any book recommendations, please send them my way, as I’m always on the lookout for new titles to add to my to-read list!

 

TEACH SOMEONE SOMETHING

Naturally, this took the form of knitting, as it’s one of my favourite things to do and I think I do it quite well. Back in November I ran a table at my WI’s craft meeting, and taught a whole load of awesome women how to finger-knit their own jersey necklaces. It went down really well, and I hope people continue to enjoy their new skill. And on top of that, over Christmas, I taught Amy how to knit socks. I think she knew mostly what she was doing, but it was really fun to have a mini knit-a-long of our own over the festive period!

 

BAKE FROM MY TRUSTED BE-RO RECIPE BOOK

This was an instant tick, not long after I wrote the original post, when I rustled up a blackberry and apple crumble. I didn’t have much fruit, so it ended up being a very flat crumble, but it tasted much better than it looked and we devoured it in no time. Usually I also make the Christmas cake from this recipe book, but as we were travelling for Christmas, and we’re the only ones that really eat Christmas cake anyway, I decided to give it a miss this year. I’ll definitely be turning to it in 2018 to rustle up some of my childhood favourites, and maybe to give chocolate eclairs another go!

 

ENJOY A WARMING DRINK AND MINCE PIE AT THE CALVERLEY PARK ICE RINK

Another goal achieved! Sam had a few days of holiday left to take in December, so he booked off a long weekend and we spent one late afternoon doing exactly as I’d planned. The mince pie was a total hit, and there’s nothing like a hot chocolate on a chilly winter’s day to make you feel cosy.

 

WALK 150 MILES

This seemed like an easily achievable goal when I set it, but I think I underestimated how difficult it is to motivate yourself to take a long walk when you work from home and it’s cold and wet outside. I definitely didn’t walk as much as I’d wanted to, and it was only thanks to a last-minute round-trip into town on New Year’s Eve that I actually hit the target at all. I did it, though, and it’s taught me that I really want to focus on this in the new year. Getting outside is good for my head and my soul, and I need to remember that at those times when I feel like I just can’t be bothered.

2018 INTENTIONS: CONNECTION

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I’m not really one for resolutions these days. I’ve realised that they just don’t serve me, and that’s a-OK. Instead, I’m looking to the year ahead with intentions that I hope will bring more positivity and contentment to my life.

Last year my intention was balance, and the year before was focus. This year, it’s connection.

I can’t exactly say why I’ve chosen connection to be my 2018 intention, but I know that it just feels right. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the fact that last year felt like a blur, and in being more connected, I’ll feel and experience more of the moments. Time won’t slip me by so much. The more I think of it, though, the more connection comes up in all areas of my life.

I want to be more connected to my work. To feel passion and impact and be part of something bigger than just me.

I want to be more connected to my hobbies, carving out time for the things that bring me joy and taking more opportunities to create.

I want to be more connected in my relationships. To be a more attentive friend, family member and partner.

I want to feel more connected to my community, to have people to say ‘hello’ to when I head out for a walk.

I want to be more connected to my body; the way I move it, and the food I use to fuel it.

I want to be more connected to the environment, living ethically with intention and making the effort to change my harmful habits.

I want to be more connected to my state of mind, conscious of what I consume and all of the ways it can affect me.

It’s not a particularly tangible thing, living with more intention for connection, but I can already feel how it’s going to be something powerful. I’m two days in, and I’m mindful of paying more attention on the phone. Of spending time over my meals and acknowledging what I’m putting into my body. Of keeping the TV off and giving myself the space to do something more creative instead.

I don’t know what 2018 will bring, but I’m ready to meet it with everything I’ve got, to be present in the moments, and to live with one thing at the forefront of my mind – connection.

Do you have any intentions for 2018? Are resolutions more your style? I’d love to know how you’re thinking about the year ahead, if you fancy sharing!

THE BEST OF DECEMBER

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December has pretty much flown by, and with it, the last of this year. For me, this has been a month of preparation. I’m getting ready for the new year, and all that it will bring, and I am excited!

I’ve also spent a lot of time with the people who matter the most. Knitting dates with friends, and more family time than I’ve had in recent memory have come together to create a wonderful end to 2017, which has been good for my heart and my soul.

Here are the best bits…

Launching three new winter warmer knitting patterns at Knits Please.

Drinking all the hot chocolate, with some knitting or a good book for company.

Waving my Mum off as she starts on her new life adventure.

Enjoying a mince pie at the ice rink, just as I had planned.

Finishing my 26th book of the year and immediately picking up my 27th.

Getting started on Christmas celebrations early with my extended family.

Taking an impromptu trip to Hastings on a rainy afternoon, and enjoying a delicious lunch with my Dad.

Seeing The Last Jedi with my two best guys.

Enjoying breakfasts and dinners out of the house on many, many occasions.

Being present for Benjamin’s first Christmas.

Looking back, it’s been a corker of a month and a fantastic way to end the year. I couldn’t be happier, and I look forward to much more of all of this in 2018!