30 Ways To Self-Care When Life Has Kicked You In The Proverbial Nuts

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Self- care is about self-worth. I want you to remind yourself that you are the one who held yourself through that time your heart was broken into 1000 pieces, and yet you still turned up for work. You were the one who stood up and faced the music when others could not. You are the one who dragged yourself to the shower of the morning of the funeral, the wedding, the day they died and then got other people cups of tea. You, who went to work, who fed others, who got into bed to lie sleepless in the dark. You who fed the cat and wondered if you might kill yourself today or tomorrow. You who turned up for others over and over again. Today is the day you turn up for yourself. If you can do all of that, you can do some of these to recharge your soul.

  1. Ask for help. Mental health, cleaning, shopping, physical health. There is someone to help.

  2. Clean your space. Maybe it is just the coffee table but that is better than nothing. Start there.

  3. Eat for nutrition today. Not calories. Ask your body what it is craving. Whatever it needs is what your body is lacking.

  4. Have a shower or a bath.

  5. Schedule in tasks for the week ahead. Put them on your phone as reminders also.

  6. Play with an animal. If you don’t have one, go to the dog park and one will come up and say Hi to you.

  7. Read a poem. This one works.

  8. Make a playlist of upbeat tunes that make you sing and even better, dance.

  9. Burn a candle. Scented or not. Either way, it’s the lighting of intention of your new self-care.

  10. Get a massage if you can. Even a back and neck from the mall shop helps. Sometimes loneliness gnaws at our soul, and we are skin hungry for touch.

  11. Potter with plants. Potted or in the ground. Either works. Prune, feed, water, tidy.

  12. Go somewhere busy and sit with a coffee and watch life around you. Witness the Sonder. *“Sonder” is the profound, individual realisation that each person you meet is living their own life, that each person has their own world fitted with their own personal worries, pains, pleasures, ambitions, routines. It is not an official word but it is a lovely descriptor and can remind you that everyone is doing going through ‘stuff.’

  13. Drink calming tea. I like black tea but some people recommend chamomile and peppermint tea.

  14. Go to the water. Watch the waves, watch the boats, watch the sun glinting on the water, swim, drift, float. There are two types of mental attention in life. One is “directed", which is when we are focussed on a task such as driving a car, or walking on a busy footpath. They other type is “involuntary” which is when we we are in an environment outside our ordinary habitat, with enough familiarity that it poses no threat but enough interest to keep the brain engaged". It is this state of "drift" that water encourages. We've all felt it. Staring at the sea, like one of Melville's hypnotised "water gazers", everything seems static, yet gently changing. Instead of the stress of addressing electronic data or dealing with the millions of different images we see every day, we're presented with a view where change is subtle and slow – a sailboat, a seagull, the incoming tide. "Drifting takes us into the default-mode network: the network that's active unless we are paying attention to something. In other words, it's basically 'online' until we call on other areas of attention. And the default-mode network devours huge amounts of glucose and a disproportionate amount of oxygen." 

  15. Buy an indoor plant or two. They create wellbeing and they improve air quality.

  16. Reread your favourite childhood book.

  17. Cook something that takes time. Each step is a meditation. Each step is more flavour and wellness.

  18. Make a meal plan for the week so you know you will be nourished.

  19. Clean out your workbag or handbag.

  20. Plan your day for tomorrow.

  21. Tell someone how much you appreciate them and love them.

  22. Write your priorities for the week and schedule them.

  23. Reframe your mistakes and see what you learned from them.

  24. Turn off your phone for the day and unplug from the network for as long as you need.

  25. Put away those things that annoy you every time you walk past them. They are eye irritants.

  26. Make a list of things you would like to do one day - travel to Iceland, learn French, see the Kremlin

  27. Make a list of things to do now - put away washing, sweep the floor, open the mail.

  28. Write a letter to yourself with everything you have learned so far in life, and what you would tell your younger self.

  29. Clean up your inbox and run a computer clean on your machine.

  30. Ask someone who makes you feel energised and inspired to lunch or dinner.

Be kind to yourself, use inner dialogue like you would talk to a cherished friend, and above all, laugh, often and always. Because the one thing I can tell you about life is, it goes on.


Stop romanticising trauma and writing

I read an article today about a poet who plagiarised another person’s work and managed to get a book deal out of it until someone recognised a poem written by another and a whole shit storm happened.

Yes, that’s terrible and rude and lazy and more but this post isn’t about the plagiarising of the words but the plagiarism of the experience.

One of the phrases in question was:

Ramshackle girl

spitting teeth

in the sink. I trace the

foreign topography of

my body, find God

in my skin.

Which was “inspired” by a poem, written by Rachel McKibbens, who wrote about childhood trauma and her memories. Her words are below.

Hell-spangled girl

spitting teeth into the sink,

I’d trace the broken

landscape of my body

& find God

within myself

Her poem was a response to the awful trauma that involved mental illness in those she loved including her mother and son.

A poem is a reaction. It is a raw and real response to what is happening to you physically and mentally and is always deeply personal. It can make you feel less alone, contented, fearful, and the good ones can make you cry and learn them by heart, because you feel understood.

What I found troubling about this poet’s decision to plagiarise the poem, besides the obvious, is her taking on the other experience of the writer. She is dismissing the pain of a childhood of abuse the author suffered and she has invalidated the experience of the author exploring her life with a mother and her son having schizophrenia.

I read poetry on most days. It is my touchstone and it is a powerful tool to help me become a better writer. It is also something I like to read. Little dream like moments that swirl through my brain. I always have more evocative dreams if I read poetry before I sleep.

I have read a lot of the new what I call “Tumblr” poets. Few are amazing, many aren’t so amazing. What I enjoy is the real and the raw, and those that reflect the authentic voice and experience.

To steal Sylvia Path or Anne Sexton’s words, is to wear their coat of depression for a while but then having the privilege of taking it off when it gets too heavy. It is entitled and dismissive of the poets experience.

What this poet was really saying when she stole the other person’s work is “Can I borrow your trauma to get a book deal?”

It’s appalling and it’s happening more often. Do people romanticise trauma and writing so much they will plagiarise to succeed? It seems so.

Drawing On Creative Inspiration

There is a time of the day when I am filled with creative possibility.  It's usually at night, after dinner, having the last cup of tea for the day. I have so many ideas and worry I am running out of time and I am low on talent to create them all. But inspiration is a wonderful thing and I love mooching about the internet finding new things that people have created.

Of course, I wish to do things that are beyond my skill set, such a create notebooks like José Naranja, whose work is exquisite.

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Or I wish to draw like Lily Mae Martin, who can pretty much draw anything. Her work is both pensive and optimistic, as though she sees the world as it really is but pushes on anyway.

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Or create a home filled with the scent of coffee and copal, fairy lights, plants and magic, where you can borrow books and take a spell for something that's troubling you.

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Perhaps I could create collages like this one by Rocio Montonya.

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Maybe write a poem like Mary Oliver.

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Amidst the pain and sorrow in the world, there is also so much brilliance in the world. While I doubt I will ever draw or create like Lily Mae Martin or Jose Naranja, or write poetry as well as Mary Oliver, I can appreciate their talent and in the meantime, I can create a beautiful home, a magical garden and write a novel, so that's a good thing. We all have something beautifil to share inside us.

Happy weekend to all the creative bugs out there. xx

 

 

Nourish The Deep Roots

I have been in Deep Work mode on my book and TV work, surfacing only to tend to my indoor plants and new garden beds. Gardening is healing, humbling, and it is hard work. Each morning after gardening, I wake with heavy arms, sore hips or knees groaning in protestation, with that pleasant ache from being useful.

I have broken fingernails, and my old sneakers smell like dead carp. I'm a catch, I'll tell you that much!

I have been watching Monty Don and Garden Answer videos on Youtube and reading how to winter prune my pomegranate tree. I am looking forward to feeding the ferns in a few weeks and watering in the new yellow Angel Trumpet Tree. It is soulful work, and a productive meditation. I plan books, TV show ideas, character arcs, and poems while I dig and weed. 

It feels like important work. Encouraging the bees and butterflies to pollinate in the Spring. Creating shade for bugs and rest tops for snails. All God's creatures and so on.

I am what my younger self would consider boring now. I like to nest, and feather, nurture and muse. I like to create and shore up. Sleeping is a sport in which I now excel. My life is slower but deeper, filled with words and flowers and warmth and order.

Yesterday I was wishing for Spring, so I could see my garden become more exciting and abundant. Then I read a quote by Rumi. 

"And don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous."

This is also me. My life looks quiet and slow and somewhat boring, but underneath it all, the ideas are riotous!

Sending nurture and love.

 

 

Deep Thoughts About Deep Work

I have been thinking about giving up writing because I have no self-control. I was also thinking of getting checked for late on-set ADD. I had to force myself to finish my personal writing work. I would find distractions and excuses everywhere. I would clean the microwave, lose hours on social media, anything to run away from my writing. Time to bring out the big guns and get a self-help book.

I like self-help books, particularly the ones that are prescriptive and with formulas, you can apply to you every day. I didn't want to unpack why I was avoiding my writing, instead, I wanted to know how to stop the bullshit.The bullshit antidote came in the form of a book called Deep Work. It's by a huge dork called Cal Newport, who is a computer scientist and seems like a bit of a tool in his TEDx talk and I hate TEDx because they don't pay their speakers, but Cal's book isn't tool-ish, which is great news for everyone.

If you are struggling with committing to your work and living in the shallows of life, and need help, then this is the book for you. 

Here are my top takeaways from the book:

1) Social Media is a networking tool and nothing more. People who see it as something more in their life clearly need to get a life. Take a 30-day break and see which ones you miss and which ones you're missed on. This will tell you which ones matter in your life. BUT remember they are products, owned by companies, designed to sell to you and sell your information to other companies with products.

Also, I realised I'm a tool on social media.  So I unfriended myself with Facebook and keep it now only for my gorgeous and private writing group which I run and love. Twitter was taking up too much of my time, as I tried to be clever and pithy, endlessly scrolling, but really avoiding writing pithy and clever dialogue for my book characters. 

Keep social media for networking purposes only and don't log in unless you have to, and I mean really have to! I promise, you're not missing anything in the general feed. 

2) Put more thought into your leisure time. God, how often did I sit and scroll looking at shit on my phone? Don't answer that, because it will hurt me like a punch to my colon. Finding ways to get the most out of your leisure time is personal. Some people might like to garden, or do craft. I like to read, and if I want to be a craftsperson in my writing, I need to read more. In a week, I have read three books, because I'm not scrolling in a vacuum of echoed, irrelevant content, wishing I was doing something better with my time.

3) Respect your time. This isn't just about social media, it is about using your time properly. This week I have written a huge tender, taken on a new paid job, edited a 50k manuscript, and written a treatment for TV show, because I showed up and respected the time I had allocated to work. And I did work in this time, without any distraction. No phone calls, texts, messages, no internet besides for research reasons if needed, and I set myself up for success. Coffee made, water bottle on the desk, some snacks, and a quiet space. It is kind of embarrassing how easy it was and how long it's taken me to commit to this style of work but my output is the evidence that it works.

4) The work you do at night is shit. I would often work at night, and it was usually always shit. Tired thoughts, distracted ideas, messy structure. No wonder I wasn't inspired to keep working. By deciding to not work at night means I am giving myself permission to read or I am allowing myself to take a break and watch Killing Eve and become obsessed with Villanelle. I am refilling my well.

5) The less information I am exposed to, the more I am learning and mastering my craft. The other day I was getting petrol, and I could hear someone was talking about the weather. I looked up and there was a TV, attached to the pump. I knew it was cold. I was outside getting petrol. Why do I have to be informed about everything all the time? Turn it all down. The radio, the news, the internet, social media. You have so many wonderful thoughts and idea everyday, but how can you hear them over the din of information clamouring for your attention.

I do think that social media has damaged my attention span but this week has also shown me that I am able to repair it if I set my rituals and routines up to do the deep work. I actually found myself wanting to go back to my work for the first time in two years. It was exciting and that felt like a freaking miracle!

I recommend this book if you want a solution to your concentration issues but like anything, it only works if you work it.

Good luck!