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The times they are a’changin

Tock-tick!

& miraculously!… (actually mechanically) with a quick flick of the wrist. Hey Presto we’ve turned back time. To find we’ve earlier darker evenings.

No matter that the turning back time ritual takes place  each year in UK it makes many people disorientated. That’s hardly surprising for it occurs when nature is already heralding a change for the colder seasons. And we’re humans not machines, unlike time pieces, we’re not so easily adjusted.

One of my time pieces depicted here, doesn’t keep time anymore. With it’s zany numbering it never accurately told time. Always Dylanesque. It’s a keepsake, reminding me of its maker and also I guess that measuring time needs the occasional disruptive and zany take.

In my ‘Songs of Praise’ blog I suggested the darker evenings were an atmospheric time to reflect and write. The return to longer hours conjures memories of crafts done by the fireside at home. There’s no doubt writing is a craft and not the easiest for some!

Those of us old enough to remember using (and making) coal fires will know that as a focal point of our homes, fireplaces served both practical and symbolical uses. Images of sitting near a radiator just  don’t comfort in quite the same way.

Mother Nature would have got us to the darker evenings in her own sweet, slower way, but that’s humans for you always manipulating nature. Not that I think that’s all bad.

So at least for a week or two ‘she’ allows us a lighter hour in the morning. And what  spectacular Autumn mornings we’ve had.

November already! And just a short sprint to mid-winter festivals.

Because this is a blog about wellbeing, and I referred in my earlier blog about simple pastimes that aid my wellbeing; good friends, songs and how a dissenting religous upbringing gave me much to be happy about..

…bear with me while I tie those two notions; ‘wellbeing’ and ‘dissent’ together, as I relate a recent experience in my quest to remain well.

In my desire to reduce use of medication I’ve been prescribed for many years I agreed for my GP to refer me to a psychiatrist for advice how to do that. I was 99% confident I was mentally well and therefore not intent on seeking assessment for that.**(check footnote)

The 1%  doubt?…. I do think having once been acutely mentally distressed and receiving a diagnosis does even though well, allow self-doubt to creep in. It does for me especially when I encounter things that seriously test my sense of perception, at those times I can quickly become emotionally aroused, filled with self-doubt, distressed, and disorientated because I can’t match thought with feeling…..

Feelings like….stomach churning, dizziness, forgetfulness, a pounding head…and then feeling ‘down’, emotionally, drained; wrung out like a wet cloth.
That’s how ‘stepping’ in, and then out of the psychiatrists office on this occasion left me. And with a prescription for increased medication!

I’d been discharged from  CMHT for years but I’ve visited the same building for different services in the interim.CAB etc but it’s not been triggering. Although seeing people in the waiting area there who are acutely unwell is never a pleasant experience.

So what has a dissenting religious upbringing got to do with that? For me its because it helped me develop an inner strength when stigmatized for my core beliefs. Alert to other similar instances when ‘gaslighting’ occurs. And a drive to voice any injustice in creative ways. Experience shows that addressing them directly at ‘source’ is not always a safe option or wise when mental health is in doubt.

Time will tell how this current assault on personal truth pans out. It did knock me off course but the reassurance of friends, very much appreciated, helped me regain composure sufficiently well to draw upon my inner wellspring of self belief, to declare I am mentally well.

Lily.P

** my view on psychiatry are personal and I know many do excellent work, I’ve experienced some good practice.  Medication has it’s place and I do not ‘pill shame’ or advocate anyone stopping medication without appropriate support. I was however recently able to attend the relaunch of Sorteria in Bradford and the Soteria Network  are a useful resource for anyone who does seek support reducing or coming off.

 

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Songs of praise

 

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So, in among the Autumn season, with all it’s mellow vibes and vistas, the slow turning of Summer hues edging into Fall’s more glorious gold and amber tinged days.
Blood red & burnt orange berries (so plump and plentiful this year), the rustling leaves, and blustery days,… I get the ‘call’ to go to church.

I hasten to add I’m no longer a Christian nor was I ever a traditional church goer. My upbringing though firmly of Christian tradition was the dissenting kind.
I am pleased that it was!
(But that’s another blog story) to be told when turned back clocks will suddenly make our daylight hours much shorter.

So why or what ‘called’ me to church earlier this Autumn? … I’m not sure. Maybe the memory of the harvest hymn with it reassurance….”all is safely gathered in”. The gathering together of people for other than material needs?

I went to a faith school as a child, and there learned to love many of the things which at home I’d been told I ought abstain from! But I loved Harvest Festival, I loved the old hymns, and songs of praise in daily assembly. And so did my parents when I sang hymns for them at home possibly reasoning that ‘true’ Christians saints could well have written them…”For all the saints…”

Church buildings? …I was a little fearful of them when young especially the gargoyles but not these days, now I embrace the iconography of dark and light, the cherabim, seraphim and gargoyles alike.
I like the musk or myrrh incense, polished wood pews, mosaic stained glass windows and that rather musty smell.

At the start of Autumn I attended church and though none of the old hymns were sung it was lovely to have a live music  trio to play the newer ones. New tunes, a newer dogma for a different era of belief. The sermon was more like a public talk, and the prayers led by a young female member not clergy. I liked the fellowship that happened halfway through the service when everyone circulated and greeted each other, “peace be with you” and shook hands.

I’ve a regular visitor who comes to my home after attending their Sunday morning church service, and we do sometimes lapse into songs of praise or …nursery rhyme after our hastily assembled corner shop lunch offering.

Mr Kipling still does ‘fancies’, and Del Monte, their fruit cocktail, which probably aren’t full of vitamins, or health giving but they seem to aid the snooze factor, because soon after eating we doze off in our respective chairs! We are after all well over a certain age.

And then on waking a sing-song before we bid farewell.

It happened this last Sunday, I’d thought to cancel the visit as I wasn’t too well, but low and behold a dose of “Love divine all love excelling”…and other old hymns, together with an interchange of simple pleasantries with “my good friend”,* perked me up.

A ‘taste’ of former days when sans landline, gadgets & digi devices people popped by, and ‘entertainment’ was spontaneous….often accompanied by corner shop bought fodder. Angel Delight! Anyone remember that? Or Spam…when spam only came in cans with a key! None of your ring pull modernisation..

I love many of the advances we’ve made technically and gastronomically!
…but I hope we can still hang on to enjoying face-to-face times with good friends along the way.

Lily.P

* “my good friend”.My visitor who I’ve known 30+ years  (we were only on “good morning” terms back then, as part of our respective daily commutes) always greets me this way.
Most other friendships don’t need this kind of affirmation, for it’s taken as read, but I still find it pleasant, and one of an earlier era where quaint was welcome.

Springtime in the countryside

Spring lambs, Daffodils, and a cheeky Muscovy Duck

It’s such a beautiful time of year to explore the countryside.  I find spring is good for my soul!  After a long winter it’s finally here (although still cold!)

I went on a beautiful country walk this morning around Ilkley Moor,  and what was most memorable were the beautiful daffodils of differing shades and spring lambs kicking their heels and wagging their tails whilst suckling milk from their mums.    I felt joy at these precious sights, and forgot about other things for a while.  I was in awe at the  delicate beauty of the flower, and captivated by the energy and playfulness of the little lambs, who radiated happiness! 

Nature isn’t  a panacea for all my woes, but I found today very soothing and I feel refreshed.   On  Saturday evening,  I visited Golden Acre Park and fed the ducks.  (Rock and Roll!:))  There is a Muscovy Duck there who is such a confident character,   I read a couple of local birding blogs, and it seems others have had encounters with him,  apparently he’s bitten a couple of people.  I would say he is a cross between a goose and a duck, he has the cheek of a goose.  I enjoyed his company.

#springtimeinleeds #soothingnature

 

 

Friday Sketch Club at the Aubrey and Stanley Gallery in Leeds.

The Friday Sketch Club is a fantastic resource in a beautiful building, the Aubrey and Stanley Gallery at the University – just up the Parkinson Steps.  They provide the paper, pencils and a topic.  I find it cathartic and soothing.  Yet I haven’t been in ages.

I always told myself that I was “crap at art” – I think I’ve said those three words to myself over and over again since school days.  I probably have etched a superhighway in my brain telling me this.    However…

I now often challenge this thinking and understand that our appreciation of art is subjective.  Poetry is written from the heart, no matter how eloquent, or not, the wording may be.  Creativity doesn’t feel so soul enriching when it is restricted to the elite.  I like to think that it is not about the end product but the process – for myself at least.

Allowing myself to be creative can feel very nurturing – and a catharsis at times.

Friday Sketch Club – Aubrey and Stanley Gallery        The secret Lives of Sculptures

The Maquette of the Levitating Woman  (Model of a sculpture – The real one is in the University grounds)  by Quienten Bell – to See if you can capture the fluid lines of the drapery and the dream-like figure in your sketch today.
levitating-lady-scultpure

My Sketch  levitating-lady-sketch

 

A final note:  I actually started writing this blog post eight months ago! I had stopped drawing and other creative activities as I felt I had pressing issues which should take precedence.   However in retrospect I can see that it was especially important for me then,  to keep activities which made me feel happy and in the moment. Keeping my spirit alive really is important for me to stay well.

I found this draft and for me it is a reminder for me of the importance of Joy.

Writing on the wall

Short on motivation or inspiration for something to write about?  I often am, I start drafts then abandon them.

If that happens I find using a pictorial and/or photographic image that I own might act as a prompt, or alternatively there are many on the internet that inspire me.

Here I’m using a photo of an ‘art work’ I did in the early stages of recovery from ‘breakdown’. Which was long before smart phones, it’s a polaroid…..fading fast.

As one of the last people on admission in the soon to be closed psychiatric hospital, I along with others had been asked to create art ‘on the wall’. Not previously known for my ‘art’ skills, I chose words.

The photograph helps me to remember the sheer determination and slog  it took to recover from the experience of ‘breakdown’, the kindness of some, in this case a male nurse who helped me, and though heavily medicated, the inner voice that helped me be bold enough to write an indictment on the wall of that particular establishment. It felt good, it still does!

I wasn’t making a statement about the staff, for most were kind but was a statement against a society and an institute that uses both invasive and psychoactive medication as the first line of treatment. I think since then there has been some progress in using complimentary and alternative treatment, and much of that change has come from the activism of those with lived experience, often called ‘survivors’. People who continue to tell their truth whether it’s ‘writ’ large or small, in text, verbal or pictorial.

And the writing on the wall? What does it mean? A ‘google’ search might give you an approximate translation but the interpretation of the art is yours and mine.

Sue.

When Mother’s Day is difficult.

Mother’s Day will soon be here, on the 26th March.

For many of us this may trigger difficult feelings.  There is an expectation, less so now I am much older, that on this day we give love and appreciation to our mothers. Mothers are wonderful.  Facebook will, no doubt, be flooded with pictures of mothers alongside glowing tributes.

The media is abound with adverts depicting a harmonious but busy family life.  This sells goods:  Christmas presents, washing powder or gravy powder – you get the picture.

I would never resent anybody who has such a loving relationship, I say embrace it and cherish it.   By all means, show it to the world, dig out those photos and share away. And for those who had a loving (or not so) mother who has passed,  I’m sure the day is both bitter and sweet – a chance to remember and yet a reminder of such a loss.

But what about those of us with more complicated relationships or non-relationships? We may be a daughter, a son, or even the mother?  Should we lay low?  Should we be ashamed? Would a day off social media would be a good choice?

In reality there are many who are estranged or have difficult relationships with family members. Adverts do NOT represent reality for all.  Social Media often reflects the good times, rather than the more difficult times.

What I am trying to say is that if you feel this way that you are not alone.  The charity Stand Alone aims to support people who are estranged from a parent, a child or another family member. The charity works with people of all ages: Students who are without family support to senior citizens who still struggle with the difficult relationship they have/had with a parent. They also support parents who may struggle with relationships with their children.

You are not alone.

Stand Alone runs support groups for adults who are estranged either from their parents or children.  The groups run in Sheffield, Newcastle and London.  (Not in Leeds at the moment)

It’s okay to have a complicated family life, it’s not easy, but you are not alone.

Finding a voice

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A series of upcoming presentations found me feeling somewhat apprehensive, they’re not my ‘thing’. If the topic I have to discuss is something I’m not enthusiastic about, I also find presenting it nerve racking. I strongly dislike feigning enthusiasm for something my ‘heart’ isn’t in, If I’m obliged to do it, I suffer physically with anything from headaches, to an upset stomach.

With the hope of learning a few tips on how to ‘act as if’, the topic was the ‘best thing since sliced bread’ I signed up for a voice workshop.

I didn’t have the expectation that one or two lessons could help me completely overcome my reticence, or that I’d become an actress overnight. The class teacher however was an actress and an experienced voice coach, who gave me just the right amount of complimentary and encouraging feedback. She thought my existing use of voice and body was effective for the task.

.’Have you ever done ballet? she asked, as I performed a particular arm movement, part of the warm up routine for the workshop. It possibly being 50 years since I’d done a demi-seconde or an en avant, and now being more of a sugar plump, than sugar plum fairy! ……..I thought she was just trying to be kind, she told me however, that many people, including herself, found the arm positioning didn’t come naturally. I can’t say her compliment had me thinking……. ‘I’ve possibly a latter day career as a ballerina in the offing’, but the amusing thought did cheer me up.

Whereas I care less these days as to what people might think about my appearance, it is still a morale boost if someone pays a sincere compliment.

Having done the preliminary warm-up stretches, the teacher wanted me read some set pieces aloud. As an aid to finding good breath control while reading, she first asked me to do what she described as breathing ‘movements’. I found the idea of breath work being movements, preferable to some breathing exercises I’ve previously experienced at similar workshops, where having been directed to breath ‘properly’, I’ve held my breath a bit longer than advisable!

One of the readings was a poem, and though the location of the workshops was in a leafy laned, backwater of LS6, the poem transported me via sea-going vessels to more exotic climes, and to returning home again through the choppy waters of the English Channel.

Here it is,,,,,,

Cargoes‘ by John Masefield