Browsed by
Tag: creative

Surviving February: 6 Actions to Take When You’re Ready to Make a Change

Surviving February: 6 Actions to Take When You’re Ready to Make a Change

Hello friends. It’s been two weeks too long since I’ve visited this wee corner of my life and while it wasn’t something I had intended on doing, it just felt right to ease myself in to 2018 rather than going in guns blazing. I feel like January is the month for ideas but February is the month to start actioning them. January is a time to give our dreams the wiggle room to grow, to ruminate on those thoughts that have been niggling in the back of our minds, slowly pushing to the forefront so we can give them our full attention. It’s a time for reflection, reflecting on where we are and where we want to be. Mostly, it’s a time to spend dark evenings curled up by the fire with empty pages spread out before us to capture all the wild and messy daydreams that tumble from our sleepy brains. Those blank spaces can provide us with more energy during the winter months than any fire can.

Most of our fantasies may be fantastical in the darkness of winter, most may never see the light of Spring but there might be just one that could slip through the cracks. One good idea is enough to eclipse all others and while it might take a little longer to see the idea become more than just that, there is nothing quite like the feeling of that lightbulb moment. So while I might have been a little absent on the blog, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the words I write here and the content that I share. I’ve been mulling and mulling about where I would like to see this space go, how I can push myself further creatively and go beyond writing as a hobby. The winter nights are for nothing but for imagining a fresh start in the Spring, am I right?

Now that we’re in February we would be forgiven for thinking that Spring is on our doorstep but sometimes the shortest month can feel like the longest. What’s good is that we still have time to plan ahead and start making sense of the scattering of possibilities that have been swimming in our head all winter. There is still a whole month of stillness left before Spring arrives and our bodies bend towards the sun and in to distraction. So I’m telling you to utilise these last dark hours and use the opportunity to focus on what you truly want for the rest of your year because you’re capable of anything and now is the moment to push yourself further.

Is there an idea that you have been secretly coveting? Do you get butterflies when you think about it but quickly convince yourself that it’s not possible before getting too carried away? Let February be the month of shutting the fearful voices out and embracing the butterflies. Let it be the month for ACTION. The best ideas are those that make you feel sick to your stomach and if it’s all you can think about then the scariest possibility would be to deny yourself the chance to step in to the light of a new opportunity.

Of course this is all easier said than done and it you would be perfectly understood for crawling under the covers until the bluebells start showing their wee heads but you would only be doing your dreams a disservice. Choose to surround yourself with positive reinforcements that will only encourage you further. In case you’re in need of a little inspiration, I’ve listed some of the actions I take when I need help in making a step towards a change. Right now I have a notebook of scribbles that might turn in to something and that in itself is pretty exciting. Let’s go February.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

6 Actions To Take When You’re Read to Make a Change

Listen

Podcasts are all the rage right now of course and one that I keep going back to for guidance when I need it most is Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker. It’s a podcast mainly aimed at creatives but there is a huge range of topics that are incredibly useful depending on where you feel you need the most direction. Another great one is Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert (she of Eat, Pray, Love fame) which is a friggin’ joy to listen to in a bath on a winter’s night. I find myself just roaring out in unison with Elizabeth and her guests and feel ready to take on the world after an episode. Right after I dry my hair and moisturise of course.

Watch

‘In to the Wild’ is a movie I re-watch during the moments when I’m in need of a good kick up the ass. It never fails to bring a bit more perspective to any tough choice I’m currently having to make. Also the soundtrack is off the charts (Eddie Vedder you absolute LEGEND).

Read

There are enough motivational books out there to shake an insecure stick at but you don’t always have to stroll to the self-help aisle in order to feel inspired. One of my favourite books that I can rely on for some self-reflection is Walden by Henry Thoreau which I first read while I was in Africa for the first time. It was the reason why I fell in love with the natural world (second was David Attenborough) but mostly it engrained in me a sense that we have more power over our choices in life than we give ourselves credit for, one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. If you’ve already read Walden then anything written by Brené Brown is sheer inspirational gold dust. The woman is a motivational wizard. 

Do

While February can still invoke the temptation to hibernate and stay under the covers, the ever-so-slightly brighter mornings and evenings are the perfect encouragement to brave the fresh air and start wakening yourself up again. At some point this month try and take yourself on one of your favourite walks alone, preferably somewhere that’s close to any water source be it a river, lake, sea or puddle (NB: puddles may not encourage that much inspiration). Leave the headphones behind so you’re not creating a barrier between yourself and the world around you. Walk at your own pace, listen out for new sounds that you would normally ignore and look for signs of Spring. While focusing on your surroundings you’ll be surprised at the amount of new ideas that will pop in to your head and those moments of clarity will embolden you further when making decisions that might have seemed scarier while sitting at home.

Write/Draw

Some people are good with their words and others need the visuals in order to map out their plans. I’m a bit of both so when it comes to the blog, I have a notebook full of potential blog posts, ideal locations for photos, people who I would love to interview. These notes could be a list broken down in to categories (just call me Monica Gellar) and others are mapped as a brain storm with offshoots when my head is buzzing with too many thoughts that I need to see the bigger picture. These notes can sometimes be a load of nonsense but it is such a good feeling to see my ideas streaming from my pen and trying to put them all together.

Attend

If you’re planning on making a leap or big decision then you need all the encouragement you can get from peers who have made the jump before you. Networking is a Generation Z term that has been beaten to death but making connections with people who are in your field or are related to the choice you’re about to making is more rewarding than any other action I’ve listed above. Finding your tribe (that’s right, I said it) can be tricky but there are resources out there to help you find it. I’ve found Instagram to be a huge source of inspiration and I have created friendships (both online and offline) that have helped made this blog what it is. It’s how I found out about the Assembly Gatherings, a seasonal event run by Mel Wiggins that acts as a haven for creative women seeking inspiration. It’s where I found my tribe (said it again) and it’s an environment in which I can connect with like-minded women, bounce ideas off them and bask in encouraging words. By immersing ourselves in knowledge through gatherings, workshops or classes we are dipping our toes further in to our own potential. Want to start a blog? Connect with other bloggers. Want to start your own business? Search for similar local small businesses and find out how they did it. Allow yourself to be guided by those who you believe are on the path you want to be on and get climbing.

What Not To Worry About #44

What Not To Worry About #44

Happy Tuesday pals!! It’s been a chilly few days here in Belfast with the snow arriving and characteristically playing havoc with everyone’s lives. I secretly love how people suddenly lose the ability to talk about anything other than the snow and each conversation includes a rotation of the following:

“Did you get snow where you are?” – My Mum

“Mind those roads” – My Dad

“Traffic was mental this morning!” – My colleagues

“Thon road is like an ice rink!” – My country friends

“It’s fairly coming down out there” – My boyfriend

“It gives it to snow all night!” – My little sister

“Ye daren’t leave the house if this carries on…” – Me

Everyone I know becomes an expert meteorologist overnight that can judge the severity of the snow based on the shade of white the clouds turn. While this can be a little irritating (especially when the drama can reach apocalyptic heights – it has snowed before people!), the sense of excitement can be contagious and can encourage festive magic to spread across to even the Scroogiest of Scrooges. On Friday it felt perfectly acceptable to blast Christmas music all day long (the office was practically empty anyway!) as we spent most of the day with our noses pressed up against the windows gazing up at the torrent of snowflakes.

On Saturday we woke up to a blanket of white and I was practically giddy as we drove down to Murlough Bay to walk along a snowy beach. The air was icy but it felt wonderful to walk through the dunes with our coats wrapped up to our chins, spying a few snowmen along the way before reaching the sand. We walked along the waterline, taking pictures of the beach and the snow-capped Mourne mountains towering above us while we still had sensation in our fingers. Feeling thoroughly frozen, we sought refuge in Mourne Seafood Bar in Dundrum to warm our toes and our bellies. We sat beside the log burner which thawed us out in no time and I ordered seafood chowder which, although advertised as a starter, stuffed me to the brim along with the pint of Guinness I washed it down with.

I begged Andrew to take us the scenic route through the mountains to Armagh where we were headed to catch up with family. He eventually relented under the agreement that I would pay for any damage if he was to slide right off the mountain (another snow drama queen). It was worth the risk because it was a winter wonderland up there. Spelga Dam looked like something from a Christmas card with the evergreens dusted with snow alongside the water which was turning gold as the sun set over the mountain. Who knew Ireland could resemble a Nordic paradise?

On Sunday there was more snow and more pictures and more delight from me as I watched the sunrise from the country lane by Andrew’s parents’ house (who are always so dumbfounded by my glee at the scenic views they are spoiled with). After a walk with friends, I headed to Downpatrick for an afternoon of pure magic. I have spoken about Mel in the blog before and the Assembly Gatherings she organises for the creative women who are craving connections with other like-minded souls. I attended my first Gathering back in February and it filled me up with so much inspiration I felt capable of just about anything.

This Gathering was for the festive season and was focused on finding time for ourselves before the whirlwind of Christmas consumes our lives completely. We were told to gather in the hills outside of Downpatrick at Laura Bayley’s farmstead where the roads were just a little bit dicey in my new wee Polo! After a white-knuckled drive I arrived when everyone was just sitting down to dine in Laura’s stone barn that had been beautifully styled by Grace & Saviour (an Instagrammer’s dream!). We ate the most delicious organic food cooked by Laura while I forged connections with the new faces around me (and put faces to Instagram handles!).

After being stuffed with amazing food, we shuffled in to another room in the barn where we learned about organic chocolate from the lovely women of Nearnógs. We learned how to identify tastes within chocolate and were even given some truffle balls to take home with us which we rolled in our favourite flavouring – yum!

Having been well educated in deliciousness, we braved the bitter cold to go out to the nearby wood to forage for materials to make our own wreaths – you know I love to make a wreath! Janice from Gathered Threads showed us the best pieces to search for while the sky above us turned a crimson pink and the light started to fade. We had our very own workshop to work in after the sun went down, turning a bunch of ferns and evergreens in to something beautiful (if a little rustic in my case!).

As the temperature plummeted we gathered around the firepit and drank hot chocolate to keep warm. There was a gentle murmur of shared gratitude amongst the group as if we all felt the weight of such a golden afternoon and weren’t quite ready to let it go. Eventually we had to head on home to save us losing toes and fingers but I am still feeling the weight of that afternoon and have been carrying it around with me to keep me going during this crazy season.

The wreath is hanging above the fireplace too 🙂

And here’s a few worries I am letting go of this week:

Getting frustrated at Andrew when he is sick – I have zero sympathy when it comes to colds and flus but it turns out some guy actually went out and conducted a study to actually prove that men suffer worse than women when they have flus! I’m still dubious but maybe I should be a little kinder when it comes to sickness, just in case.

Having it all figured out – there is so much pressure to know exactly where you are meant to be going and what you’re meant to be doing but in reality a lot of us are winging it most of the time. What’s encouraging is to know that even some of our personal idols feel the exact same which was why I just loved reading this article. Joanna Goddard is someone who I have looked up to since I started reading her blog Cup of Jo a couple of years ago and it was great to know she’s as personable in real life as she is through her words.

Blue Planet – the series finished last week and it ended with a pretty ominous message that the plastic crisis is severely affecting the world’s oceans and all that live there. This is a very real problem that affects all of us but we can do something, even little things to help improve the future of the world’s oceans. Find a few tips here if you want to find out how you can help too.

Not reading enough books by women – I have read a lot more books written by men than women; not because I prefer the words of male authors but because it is so much easier for a male to be published than female. John Boyne wrote a great article on why he thinks women are better writers than men and how often he encounters men who write for the prizes rather than for the connection with the reader.

Not staying in a tree house – sometimes you just want to run away and live in a treehouse and live up high above the ground. Or even just pay a load of money to stay in a fancy adult version! Check this piece out for some serious treehouse-envy.

Have a great week! 

Things To Be Proud Of

Things To Be Proud Of

“That’s it for another year” is a phrase that is spoken by every person on this island once the Christmas festivities come to an end. I said it myself today as I slowly packed away our tree and decorations and sadly realised I won’t be seeing tinsel for at least 11 months – we need to find more opportunities for tinsel! It can also feel a little rushed when we’re frantically buzzing around trying to see all the relatives and friends we can so that when the moment does arrive where we can finally put our feet up and appreciate the music, decorations and festive tipples, it flashes by us and we’re left wondering where the days have gone.

 

I’m back to work tomorrow and although I have thoroughly thrown myself in to life as a lady of leisure (I made soup AND brownies today!), I’m a creature of habit and miss the routine of a working week albeit not really the working bit. However, what the last few days of doing pretty much nothing has enabled me to do is to reflect on the year that has passed me. A New Year brings half-assed resolutions which some of us (me) will never keep and make us (me) feel like failures by February. While it is a healthy thing to look ahead and give ourselves goals which will give us the motivation to get through the rest of winter, I like to take a moment to look at the things I’ve already achieved before I’ve decided it’s not enough.

 

This year saw a fair bit of change for me. Andrew and I moved in to our first home together which I love and after years of living abroad, I finally feel settled and happy in Ireland. I also got a new job working for a big finance institution which again was so far removed from what I was used to but an opportunity I felt I couldn’t pass up. In between these changes, I’ve also had up’s and down’s – skiing the French Alps, a hospital admission, friends getting engaged, family loss, seeing Copenhagen with my little sister. There have been days when I have felt lost and alone and there have been days when I have felt so much joy I could burst. The dark days can feel unbearable but it’s having the ability to push through them in the knowledge that it’s all temporary. As the wondrous Leonard Cohen wrote,

 

“There is a crack in everything, 

That’s how the light gets in”

Yes, 2016 was a year of changes and no doubt 2017 will have a few more in store for me but I want to take a second to give myself a pat on the back for a few things. Things that have scared me but instead of shying away from them, I have relished in the challenge. Here are a few of my own for this year…

The Blog

An obvious one! But the one that stands out from everything. Writing a few posts a month has taken a lot of dedication but above all bravery because there is no scarier thing than sharing your words with others. It wasn’t so much the judgement of strangers I was most afraid of but those of the people who knew me which is why it took me so long to share the blog on Facebook. How wrong I was because when I did decide to share the blog with friends and family, I got the most amazing feedback! What I thought was just rambling nonsense was in fact an important message for some people and while I still don’t see myself as a writer by any means, I do have so much more confidence in what I’m trying to say. It has also led me to other bloggers from NI who I greatly admire and have been able to take so much inspiration from. I will be blogging away in 2017 but 2016 will be the year I laid my heart bare and I will always be hugely proud of that.

 

New Industry

I have a degree in Ecological Science so a career in a financial institution is not exactly where I saw myself going so when I interviewed for the job and walked through the sleek offices and past the people in suits, I felt a little like a sell out to say the least. However, in this part of the world there are few places where you can climb the career ladder while learning a vast set of skills so I felt it was an important move. Nearly 6 months later I still feel like I’m getting to grips with the corporate scene but massively grateful for the benefits it’s given me. I’m now volunteering weekly at a local school, taking part in mindfulness classes on lunches and yoga classes after work – I have the whole work life balance down! It wasn’t all easy for me but I’m proud I took the leap of faith because it’s introduced me to a pretty great career.

 

Health

Getting older with CF is a little scary to say the least so fitness is not an important but a necessary part of my life. I was hospitalised in June for the first time in three and a half years and although that was a great achievement to have been out of hospital for so long, I found it very difficult to be away from Andrew. I promised myself that I would concentrate more on health and less on trying to pretend that I’m just like everyone else because as frustrating as it can be, I’m not. Luckily my good buddy Gareth opened a gym in Belfast a few months ago and he took me under his pumped up wing and flung me in to PT sessions. I am by no means a natural gym-goer so it took me a few weeks to get used to the shame of not being able to lift the teeniest of weights but after a while I started to see some changes. Not just in my muscles (hello back muscle I never knew existed!!) but also in my lung functions which stayed in the high 70’s most of the year – woop woop! Just call me Arnie guys.

 

Skiing

We went skiing in January which was my second time on the slopes (the first being 12 years ago!) so needless to say I was bricking it when I put on the skis. I hadn’t realised what I was doing until we hopped off the gondola and were clipping our boots in place while staring down the most beautiful mountain I’d ever been on. What the feck was I doing?! I should’ve booked lessons!! Off I went with my knees quaking and pretending to Andrew that I was grand and telling him to go on ahead when in actual fact I was wondering how to get back on the gondola again. I carried on though and after a few hairy moments I remembered how much fun it was and how amazing it felt to glide through scenes that were straight from a post card. On the fourth day I even braved a black slope with Andrew and his friend Simon which was basically a glass bottle. I was terrified and amazed I managed it but I felt like a champion so for that I am proud.

 

Creativity

Now I know the blog sort of falls under creativity but writing aside, I’ve also been taking the last year to flex my creativity muscles which, like my back muscles, I didn’t really know existed! I’ve always been interested in making homemade products and my Pinterest is clogged with ideas so eventually I pushed myself in to making a few candles. Once I realised how easy it all was I branched out in to soap, lipbalm, exfoliants, body butter and next thing I know I’m drowning in essential oils! I decided to hand out a few in Christmas hampers this year and they went down a treat so I now know what everyone will be getting for birthdays this year!

 

So those are a few of the things that have made me chuffed to be me this year. I will be making a few intentions for the year ahead but looking back on the past year has allowed me to appreciate the little things I have achieved and knowing what I can do differently.

 

Please let me know what you’re proud of doing in 2016 and the accomplishments (little or small!) you’ll be taking in to the New Year! Let’s bring as much positivity in to 2017 as we can!