Holding Still

I don't really remember the point at which I started to lose my voice. It came on gradually, a sort of sinking sensation that built in momentum till I felt like I was dragging round a concrete block all the time. The effort of carrying this metaphorical breeze block took over my ability to communicate and for months I struggled to step away from this desperate need for silence. I didn't want to share pictures, words or thoughts. I put off meeting people or going online for anything more than a 30 second update drop and out. 

holding still

In the face of too many deadlines, a double house move and evolving family dynamics, I'd crumpled and I simply didn't want to play anymore. Old feelings of inadequacy began to creep in and I felt numb about everything. I realise now that I had entirely burnt out and spent months wanting to be entirely swallowed whole by the deadening weight of it. 

Somewhere in this void though someone said something that cut right through it all and spoke directly to me. Sat in an auditorium, comforted by the dark invisibility of being part of an audience, I sat up sharp.

"I realised that most of my fear was based on my own shame, not actually how others see me".

The speaker was Lisa Congdon and she was describing her path back from burn out. In doing so, she unwittingly begun to map out mine too. Lisa talked about the vulnerability that comes with sharing your creative life, about not feeling like enough and about how losing your own curiosity at the world begins to make your creativity shrink. It was at this point I nearly stood up and asked "Can you see me?" Yes, I wanted to speak and what's more, I wanted out of No Man's land. 

Selfcare and I don't enjoy a particularly healthy a relationship. In fact I like to think of us as bickering siblings that enjoy gentle moments of harmony in between the mini battles and scuffles to be free of one another. Most of the time, I'm trying to be a half decent Mother (and Father) while juggling a freelance career. When I looked up from burn out I saw gaping holes in my personal and professional life. I saw my own health, both physical and mental, was in dire need of some tlc. I no longer wanted to bury every bad emotion I felt along with the good ones. I wanted to heal. 

cooking

I started slow. Really slow. I finished up deadlines and didn't rush to replace them. I hung out with a few friends. I started cooking again. I bought some new cookbooks. Then I bought some more cookbooks. (If I'm honest, I'm a little out of control on the cookbook front). I made a list of life admin that can no longer be ignored and I felt ok about addressing it all at last.  I let in things that scared me only once I'd stopped feeling scared. I even called my Mum. 

getting to know the garden

So my plans for this Summer are now simple: make friends with my garden, do a little DIY. I plan to watch my daughter throw herself on a Bodyboard for an entire afternoon and not be making a single list in my head while she does it. I'm going to read a book. Maybe two. If I'm feeling extra crazy, I'll draft some articles I've been longing to pitch.

It means the podcast will be quiet for the whole of Summer while I focus on time with my daughter and myself. I'm sharing the season finale this week and I'm really excited about signing off and dreaming up the final details of the next bunch of episodes. Giving myself the space to dig in to those thoughts and ideas while off a publishing cycle feels pretty good now I've made the decision.

It's time to hold still. 

Holding still doesn't have to mean lack of progress. I've come to realise that sometimes the greatest gift we can bestow on ourselves is time. I'm looking forward to giving us some. 

With thanks to the supremely talented Laura Williams whose post, My Home, reassured me that this slow is a good healing slow. Thank you for your beautiful words Laura. 

 

// End note:

If you've been feeling the kind of overwhelm or numbness that impact your ability to work or create, I would like to once again highlight Mind whose resources and support are vital to those of us battling every day demons xx

 

Be The Lorelai You Want to See In the World

I realised I had a Gilmore Girls problem when the 8th person at the school gates commented that I was perky the other morning. I'm never perky at the school gates. Ever. I smile. I hold doors open for others. If forced, I can cope with polite conversation. However, if it's 8.49 am you can usually count on my looking slightly fraught and muttering curses about lack of coffee as I run screaming with my child towards the gate. It's kind of my *thing*. 

So the comments about being perky made me pull up short. I was snappy in conversations suddenly, rambly when given a free rein and the random cheering for nothing in particular was just distressing to all involved I suspect. I knew the root of the problem: Lorelai Gilmore. 

I need coffee

A few weeks ago, Netflix announced that the comback season of Gilmore Girls was due for release and added the entire back catalogue. Overnight, my timelines transformed to rejoicing about buckets of ice cream (that don't exist in the UK), crushing on Luke and quoting those epic put downs. Except this time round, most of us are mothers, holding down jobs and running a household. Whereas last time I felt solidarity for Rory and her college angst, this time I looking at Lorelai like my last hope in single parentdom. 

It got about 4 episodes in when I muttered to myself "See? Lorelai would *get* me" and really that's when I should have known it was going down a slippery slope. You see, I don't get to feel that cool as a Mum. Very few of us do really. It's a lot of bodily fluids (mostly theirs) and tears (let's not dwell on whose) and carrying of THINGS. In Gilmore Girls we jump right in at the less angsty teen part to a girl ready to be the change she wants to see in the world and her Mum with a pretty impressive wardrobe. They eat ice cream together and bond over the male species. They have a better friendship that I have with most of my girl chums quite frankly and they do it all as daughter and Mum. If I had to pick a future relationship with my daughter when I'm flying solo, I'd take that one because it feels like a team when you watch it. They are each others emotional reserve and when you're single parenting it's the thing that can often tire you out the most in my experience. 

Now I'm not saying it's all believable. It's not. I've yet to see either perfectly formed Gilmore Girl take exercise and they've devoured more burgers, fries, ice creams and full fat coffees than I have in a life time and I'm still only on Season One. You know what though? If I'm finally going to sit down and rest after months of moving and stressing, I'd rather get entirely lost in fantasising about being a cool single mum. Why? Because right now there's some terrifying things happening in politics with women who seem to have birthed from Mordor itself. The media has lost its mind over women who do or do not have babies and paint in their eyebrows when the economy appears to be in free fall. I'm not ok with that. 

Lorelai

So I'll take a Lorelai right now because I'm fairly sure she'd hand me a giant coffee at the school gates and tell me if there was toothpaste down my top. 

Return to the Wild

When you're tired out from moving house and feeling creatively low, driving 4 hours might not seem that appealing at first glance. This was me on Friday morning, breaking down the last of the cardboard boxes and journey planning for a getaway with friends. As I typed the postcode into Google, I let out a small groan and started to reconsider the icebox of local sausages, cheese and gin already stowed in my boot. 

What if I told you though, that at the end of that long drive would be a long track......

farm track to The Damson Cabin.jpg

.... that led you through an orchard where sheep left their wool on their favourite scratching post....

Wool on the scratching post

... and tucked into a meadow was the most beautiful cabin?

The Damson Cabin

I've just returned from a magical time away with friends this weekend at The Damson Cabin, a beautiful cabin located in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. When a group of us wished for a weekend away to celebrate a birthday, we all agreed it needed to be inspiring, soothing and if at all possible, remote. The answer came courtesy of Canopy and Stars, a company who specialise in properties with a little more.... character

What I love about Canopy and Stars is their commitment to helping travelers reconnect with nature and experience a holiday that's a little wilder than your average hotel stay. The choices of accommodation are pretty varied, meaning you can find a slice of adventure that suits you or your family's needs pretty easily. The cabin was typical of the sort of thing you might expect to find from a Canopy and Stars property, with a wood burning stove, fairylights to accompany evenings on the porch and eco features such as solar power. 

We spent our time treating one another to delicious meals, using lanterns to light our suppers and blankets to warm our legs as we sipped morning coffees on the porch. When we fancied stretching our legs we found easy walks through woods, orchards and meadows that gave way to stunning views across the Worcestershire hills. 

meadow walks
Worcestershire hills

Ambling back through the farm on which the cabin is located, we stopped to make friends with some of the local characters and all sighed happily at the roses in full bloom, the textures and above all, the quiet. 

farm friends

Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away from the world and let in just a few brilliant, bright and warm women who make your heart sing. When I recall moments from this weekend I think of smiles, time to indulge our crafts and the endless supply of favourite bakes we shared, gladly. Gatherings in which every participant wishes for the greatest of happiness for their fellow travelers are extremely nourishing for the soul. 

As are the oatmeal cookies and cream teas. 

Oatmeal cookies and scones

What's more, somewhere, in the midst of all this celebration of our friendship, creativity and the beautiful surroundings, I even found time to learn something new....

Learning to crochet

 

//// ~ Notes from a blog post:

Pattern- Tenbury Hats & Mittens, Kat Goldin for The Crochet Project

Yarn- The Plucky Knitter Primo in Classic Rock & Bottle Blonde

Damson Cabin via Canopy and Stars, booked and paid for by all guests. Loved and adored by all. 

When Your Adventure Takes a New Turn

Sometimes you plan an adventure and with the best plans in the world, things go awry.

Getting ready for adventure

My carefully laid out podcast schedule took a tumble this week when one of the previously recorded interviews returned from my producer in a slightly sorry state. Sat amongst packing boxes and a half empty suitcase, I dithered. Did I throw everything to one side and start over? Did I have time to rework something I'd already recorded or did I start something from scratch? 

In the end I came back to an idea that's pretty central to this space. A Playful Day is about having a playful spirit, creating something, having an adventure and giving yourself time to enjoy that. Right now, I'm in the middle of my own adventures. I am speaking at Blogtacular tomorrow in front of some of the world's best bloggers and I'm truly honoured to be there. I travel back to Dorset afterwards to continue packing my house up to move into our Forever Home by the sea. Broadband is going to get sketchy and yes, there's still a few deadlines tucked in there. 

So I flipped on some music, packed my suitcase and put London firmly in my sights. The podcast will be making an appearance over the next few days but the schedule has gone a little awry. I'm a firm believer in waiting until the story is right

So, I'll be back. With more adventures. 

Adventurer

Just give me a few days to see these ones through ok?

~x

Make a Little, Every Day

My creativity is such a barometer to my mood. When I make, I feel good. There was once a time when you would never see me without a pair of knitting needles in my hand. I started learning to sew clothes for my daughter and a few months ago, got a loom. I have hand embroidery half finished, shoved on a shelf somewhere and there's a book about screen printing I keep meaning to find time to read. The fact these projects have been pushed aside to gather dust over the last month or two is a little troubling.

#MakegoodFeelGood- something I return to whenever I can

#MakegoodFeelGood- something I return to whenever I can

The news over the past few days has left me feeling lost and confused. Normally, withdrawing into a little making would be the best way to help me find my feet again. A little time reflecting, thinking about how I can greet hate with love and what this means for me and my community seems much easier when my hands are busy. My hands have not been busy though. In fact, they've been worryingly empty of tools for making and creating. 

It's safe to say I've been busy. A quick check in my dairy confirmed that I have stumbled my way through 19 deadlines in the last 3 weeks alone. I've been preparing to move (t minus 10 days) and there's boxes everywhere. None of them are filled yet. 


So I just did a little stock check. Have I really created nothing?

The APD Seasonal Monthly Recipe- part of the Patreon rewards for the podcast. 

The APD Seasonal Monthly Recipe- part of the Patreon rewards for the podcast. 

Well it's not technically true. I've developed a few new recipes thanks to the monthly recipe I share with Patreon subscribers. I've always maintained that in order to cook, you need to be pretty creative and prepared to experiment. I'm enjoying this monthly challenge for myself. It's good to be creating recipes again. 

Project Calm Magazine, for Mindful Living

Project Calm Magazine, for Mindful Living


Then there's some of the work I've been completing for those deadlines. One project was a little story chasing and photography for a new magazine launch. Project Calm is the new sister magazine to Mollie Makes and I was lucky enough to curate some of their pages. I spoke to some amazing people and spent a couple of weeks balancing stories and images of mindful travel, craft projects and a slower living focus each day. You can find out more about the magazine on the Mollie Makes site, here


I also spent a few days creating video and studio images for a beautiful new knitwear collection designed by Renée Callahan for The Fibre Co. The collection is called The Zen Variations and features beautiful sweaters that really showcase Renee's trademark attention to detail. I love Renée's work and had the pleasure of working with items from The Future Kept too when creating supporting images for this inspiring collection. I spent a day shooting, humming happily to myself and thinking about light, mood and tone. I patted skeins happily and indulged in some imaginary knitting in my head as I worked. 

So perhaps the making has been a little on the periphery but it's there if I let myself look at little closer. Sometimes life just doesn't let you indulge it in quite the way you're used to. I'll get right on that. After I move.....

Renée has very kindly offered readers of A Playful Day a discount code if you need to indulge in some knitting time. You can purchase The Zen Variations at 20% off through her Ravelry store by using the code, playfulELK. Offer ends 27th June 2016.