Category Archives: wellbeing

Keeping busy

It’s been mad hot here – and I mean mad – I don’t ‘do’heat – I am a coolio character who is sent into a tailspin when knocked off a very narrow spectrum of temperature tolerance.  I have a sneaky irritating condition which is exacerbated by fluctuations in weather, so I am trying desperately to stay cool.  My newest companion is a nine year old rescue dog – Reggie, who is frustrated too by the rising temperatures because it interferes with his walking schedule. Getting Reggie is the best thing I have achieved in a long time – less a rescue by us than a rescue of me by him.  I missed walking a dog since having lost Digger, missed the casual engagement with the local dog walkers, the daily interaction that brought the outside in. But we are back – and Reggie is settling in grand, a little heartbeat at my feet.

 

My other achievements in the past few months have been to include three new product ranges into my Etsy shop – to keep up interest!  I was considering how to use my card illustration to create another income stream, and have designed three different sized notebooks which incorporate my card design and inspiring quotation. I have taken life lessons from writers, musicians and philosophers for decades, and so share some of my favourites.  A further project is now available on Amazon too – a heftier volume featuring a selection of my card designs as a book to share on the coffee table – no note pages in this one! All the books are also available via the site at Blurb, but I have a few copies at Etsy which I can send out signed.  A further project in the pipeline should be with me soon –  a smaller production featuring design and quotation- more to follow!

Notebook

Fully illustrated notebook Modestly bites

Link to purchase ‘Modestly bites’ on Etsy    etsy.me/2NeDTnb

Three notebooks

Fully illustrated notebooks with full page illustration inside

mod bites1abcdef

mod bites1abcde

mod bites1

…Oh and before I forget I was delighted that one my designs is now up and running at the Urban Outfitters splendid site—-sweet!

Circle of Life

Circle of Life by anipani

 

Link to Urban page   bit.ly/2NbhKpU

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Reggie

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Brief encounter

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It isn’t rare to have an encounter with deer here in the Highlands of Scotland – and in our village at Kinlochleven they frequently come down to the river, or sojourn on the green for a short while. I have been taking out my new rescue Patterdale morning , noon and night – we are more often out than in, and yesterday evening we met a beautiful young stag . He had arrived on the green just as we did, bounded onto the bridge and leapt over following the line of the river.  We caught up with him – the light was still hanging around although it was past ten at night – the village was quiet. Reggie and I stood rapt as the young stag was totally still in our presence. It was as though he had invited us into his space. And then he bowed his head to eat some grass – I bowed mine back – and we mimicked one anothers gestures twice more. Reggie was as quiet as a mouse – no barking, no growling, no pulling – just a three way dialogue of enjoying the meeting. Extraodinary. And uplifting – my spirits are needing more of this.

The place I want to get back to

is where

in the pinewoods

in the moments between

the darkness

and first light

two deer

came walking down the hill

and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,

this one is okay,

let’s see who she is

and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,

so quiet, as if

asleep, or in a dream,

but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came

on their slender legs

and gazed upon me

not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look

and look and look

into the faces of the flowers;

and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life

bring to me that could exceed

that brief moment?

For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,

not waiting, exactly, just lingering.

Such gifts, bestowed,

can’t be repeated.

If you want to talk about this

come to visit. I live in the house

near the corner, which I have named

Gratitude.

(c) Mary Oliver

 

Good days, bad days

 

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From W.B.Yeats poem

 

It’s always been like this. And hard to accept that the challenge is to get up every day and face what is ahead. Easier for some than others, and that in itself is a difficult consideration to process – that my life has always had the comfort and ease of being born in this century in a first world country – there is guilt in feeling any dismay when there are problems of hunger and terrorism affecting millions every  day.  First world guilt paralyses me. I end up chasing my own tail and trying to find some meaning in life through my relationships with the family I love and through the creative endeavour I call work but which is really play.

I cannot stop weeping – the tears are inside, I could cry that river if I ever dare to open that floodgate.  Recently I made a small decision which affects everyone around me, and has brought me to realisations of my own. For the past couple of decades (almost) I have taken prescribed medication to control the symptoms of a neurological disorder – the meds help to control disrupted pain signals, but they are in the anti depressant family.

It’s complicated – of course – what’s me, what’s my stage of life (menopause), what’s the condition, what’s the meds?  So I am simplifying things a little, now I have less familial duties to fulfil. The meds are gone – first a euphoria, a feeling of connection with the world that has been dulled somewhat – but accompanying that lightness of being are emotions that rattle around like a toy railway train out of control – is this me?

Who knows? This is a territory I haven’t explored for some time and I think there’s some rocky roads ahead, but walking boots on – I mean to try.

 

When love is not enough

..

d walcott

but it helps.

I received a message from someone in my family today which has shaken me.  As a lovely young woman , she has been dealing with the challenges of depression and anxiety , and recently has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  And I don’t know how to help.  So I will tell her my story.

You see, when I was her age I was exhibiting symptoms of depression too, working in a pressured environment and wanting to perform like Adele on a good day ( albeit in the print packaging arena ). I set my standards high and I worked to reach them.  A few years of having my foot hard on the pedal resulted in what my G.P.  diagnosed as a ‘breakdown’. The world was different then and because my boss didn’t want me stigmatised at work by that diagnosis, he could only give me a week off.  I needed more, but I needed the job too. I saw a counsellor weekly and worked on my thought processes.  Eventually I caved in to the work pressure and resigned. I was lucky as I was newly married and ready to throw myself into raising a young family.  It nearly broke me.

I wanted to be happy, and knew I had everything I could have asked for – a home, a loving family, two beautiful sons – and yet I could not function at a level I felt comfortable about. I was tired , not just mildly sleep deprived, but absolutely buggered. Every day was a huge effort to continue the daily requirements . Shopping and cooking were chores that felt like Sisyphus carrying the rock up the mountain.

I was prescribed Prozac for depression – I felt depressed but not worthy of having depression because what could I possibly be depressed about?  Prozac didn’t suit me, or rather it suited me too well, but everyone else thought I had disappeared. Which I had, I felt like a lumbering cow, just grazing on life. Nothing touched me. I came off it.

A further visit to a new doctor and a new prescription – this time Venlafaxine. This suited me better, the symptoms of depression were alleviated, but this led to me discovering a deep well of unfulfilled need within my life.  I ended up making a huge life change – leaving my then husband and making a new life with a new partner.  ( It happened like a thunderbolt and shocked the family, but ultimately it was a necessary change – and everyone worked hard at making the family unit stay strong. I continued to co parent with their dad, and managed not to disrupt their schooling, staying half the week with their dad, and the other with me. My mum and my brother were brilliant at being there too. The boys flourished and are now 24 and 21 and I couldn’t be prouder)

A diagnosis of fibromyalgia by my G.P.  helped me to understand that my coping strategies needed tweaking. I had for years battled a diagnosis of depression – now I understood I had a reactive depression to a condition which had been masked by the very medication I was taking. When I came off the drugs, my symptoms flared, and it was during a flare that the correct diagnosis was made. So knowing I had something which I could investigate, acknowledge and understand was part of me helped me to put into place the conditions by which I could most easily manage the condition.

It is becoming more accepted now in the same way that depression is less stigmatised, but unless it is experienced, or someone close to you has it the full impact is not easily acknowledged by others. My experience of having it was dealing with the knowledge of diagnosis itself – it sent me to investigate books written on it, blogs, forums – anywhere where I felt vindicated. I wanted to make sure everyone knew I was not imagining it – it was real. That didn’t happen really. People don’t want a relationship with a bag of symptoms, they just want to relate to you.  And I had to learn that some people got it , whilst others didn’t. Close people don’t always get it. I tried to shield my bad days from my sons – I wanted them to see me strong, and capable. In the end, as they got older I had to share with them that sometimes I couldn’t do what I wanted to for them, or with them.  They were brilliant and loved me anyway.  They didn’t understand, they just accepted me for who I was, and didn’t make me feel useless. Although I was pretty useless. They still say I am weird but that’s a different story. I found things to occupy myself with, that I could cope with, or put down and come back to. I managed to set my standards lower in certain aspects – housework suffered, decorating was off the menu, the garden became a self supporting area of interest.

One of the hardest aspects is still there – committing to social activities is difficult, because when it comes around, it may be impossible. Now I have managed to find a balance of not turning everything down, and knowing it will take me a couple of days to recover. I have limited my social life probably more than I have needed to, but part of that comes from having had a life spread over two counties for the past decade or so.

The reality is I cannot help my family member – I can’t take away her symptoms as much as I would want to. I only want her to know that it isn’t the thing that defines her. I came away from looking at the internet about Fibro, avoided the forums, refused the group sessions offered at the doctors, because I didn’t want my focus to be on my condition. I wanted to understand what it meant for me and then re focus my energies on the activities that meant something to me and to my family.  I have learnt those things over years, and it is hard learnt sometimes. I have suffered in silence more times than I can remember, and sometimes not so silently!  I constantly have to remind myself not to resent others for not being more considerate sometimes. I have to remember to tell them how I feel in the moment , that no matter how much I may want to so something, it is sadly unachievable for me. And sometimes I have to remember to challenge myself and test my limits. I have surprised myself on occasion.

I still feel a fraud. That is my problem. I feel a fraud at life. I challenge that thought because when I look at the reality, it isn’t true. I still have to have that conversation though. On a regular basis.

 

Everything is interesting.

marcus Aurelius.jpg“What education should be about is endless curiosity about the nature of the world. I’d make Philosophy and Human Behaviour a compulsory subject. I wouldn’t bother to teach History; I think it’s pointless. History is just the record of human crime. It’s battles and murders and pogroms, but there’s a secret history and that’s the record of human goodness. The little acts of kindness aren’t recorded anywhere. Little deeds of altruism: The lady in the baker’s shop who runs after you saying, ‘Here you left a fiver on the counter.’ That sort of thing is never recorded, but that’s what actually keeps the world going.”  John Lloyd  ( writer of Q.I fame)

Fact : John Lloyd has more baftas than Judi Dench  !!!!!!!!!

Now I will let you know that I don’t agree with him about the pointlessness of History simply because it creates so much enquiry in me, but about everything else I have read about this man, I have a new hero.  A colleague John Mitchinson  on Q.I wrote “He has a proper philosophy, and he thinks about things in an astonishing amount of depth.’

And his philosophy? – a self confessed Stoic ( another reason to adore the man) he has summed up the necessities of life in three phrases, the first being ‘Be Kind’ , the second being, ‘Be Kind’ and the third being ‘ Be Kind’. Got to love that man.

And this is not a man who has not known unhappiness, hard work, or depression. Much like the rest of us. But this is a man who has worked tirelessly at the BBC to bring us laughter to lighten the load, and worked through his own demons by using his brain to stay curious. That was his way out of depression if I am reading it right.

“I feel really sorry for people who have no working philosophy. People don’t know what to do when they get depressed, or unhappy, when they feel they are belittled at work, when they feel their life is pointless. Where do they go? Unless you’re a happyclappy Alpha course person . . . That’s why it’s so easy to get mullah’ed into fundamentalism: because of the certainty.”

And if you want some more reasons to consider Mr Lloyds brilliant take on life – to remain as curious a creature as it is possible to be, then I recommend you fly across to this link which tells you more about the man than I can, inasmuch as it is a testament to his philosophy, his intelligence, his humour and his humanity. And I don’t even know the man.

Just brilliant stuff

Learn even more about him via a great article in the New Statesman by Helen Lewis, Article on John Lloyd by Helen Lewis

And finally – in the spirit of John LLoyd and with a nod to the illustration here is a thought from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations that is worth a moment or two of reflection in a busy day, a busy world.

One type of person, whenever he does someone else a good turn, is quick in calculating the favour done to him. Another is not so quick to do this; but in himself he thinks about the other person as owing him something and is conscious of what he has done. A third is in a sense not even conscious of what he has done, but is like a vine which has produced grapes and looks for nothing more once it has produced its own fruit, like a horse which has run a race, a dog which has followed the scent, or a bee which has made its honey. A person who has done something good does not make a big fuss about it, but goes on to the next action, as a vine goes on to produce grapes again in season. So you should be one of those who do this without in a sense being aware of doing so. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.6)

 

Simply Human

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On National Women’s day I want to say something. It’s not radical, it’s not clever, it’s not even controversial – at least from where I am. And that is the point. I am writing from a position of privilege , I have been educated to the same standard as my brothers, I have worked in a male dominated industry and been accepted as successful within my career, and I have a marriage which is traditional in values but recognises my strengths ( and my weaknesses).

I want to say thank you – to all the women and the men who went before me and worked quietly in the background to remove barriers in the system.  It’s not perfect, and I myself worked hard two decades ago to change attitudes within the company I worked. But the change has been remarkable in my lifetime.

The challenge for our society – U.K – is different now. It is to accept the equality between genders and to understand that equality retains the opportunity for difference. It is to accept responsibilities and duties that are incumbent on everyone to work hard, and to embrace challenge together, both in the workplace, in the community and in the domestic arena.

I would like to see less commodification of sexuality, which starts at birth now – the baby vests that promote the princess in the female , the five year old pageants, the sexting of teens.  Do grown ups that have sex really need to display this sense of rampant horniness in the everyday and in the inappropriate age groups of the tender young.

I don’t know what a day can do to promote the values of women – I don’t even know what they are. My values are different to my friends, let alone those who think I am ridiculous. I just want a world where we can be confident enough to have a dialogue with one another beyond gender, race, abilities. It’s a bit of dream but we have arrived at a place undreamt of by my female ancestors.

My illustration for a challenge at Redbubble provoked me to produce the illustration above – it has man and woman side by side, potent with possibility.( and available here  redbubble and  at  Society6

 

On a final note I defer to the poet laureate Wislawa  Szymborska, succinct and brilliant .
It’s a political age.

All day long, all through the night,
all affairs–yours, ours, theirs–
are political affairs.

Whether you like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin, a political cast,
your eyes, a political slant.

Whatever you say reverberates,
whatever you don’t say speaks for itself.
So either way you’re talking politics.

Even when you take to the woods,
you’re taking political steps
on political grounds.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and above us shines a moon
no longer purely lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
And though it troubles the digestion
it’s a question, as always, of politics.

To acquire a political meaning
you don’t even have to be human.
Raw material will do,
or protein feed, or crude oil,

or a conference table whose shape
was quarreled over for months;
Should we arbitrate life and death
at a round table or a square one?

Meanwhile, people perished,
animals died,
houses burned,
and the fields ran wild
just as in times immemorial
and less political.

Moments in time

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There we were – back in the Highlands of Scotland, the weather playing its part and cooperating with us, and it’s a trip worth sharing.

I stress fairly easily – my children will vouch for that – so I have had to find coping strategies over the years to help be from having a meltdown.  This is one of my best – to focus on something very ordinary, get right in and personal, look at it carefully, consider its history, its place in  the world. Photograph it. Suddenly you’ve opened up a whole door of perception – the perspective has changed, and the world has tilted just a little in your favour.

Sometimes its elusive – I can’t find the right key to unlock that stratagem, but it’s still a great player in my box of tricks. I suppose the modern parlance would be to call this ‘mindfulness’. I don’t mind that. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, call it whatever, I will keep it close.

I have made these images less than the resolution needed for printing so they don’t get copied and used by some nefarious villain willing to steal them,  but if you are really wanting to have them decorate your walls , then shimmy on down to Society 6 , link here Society6 page and you can navigate to various formats from there.

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