Monday, 30 April 2018

#BlurtSelfCareathon - Day 30


I am a naturally cynical person. I can't stand people who spend their whole time moaning and yet, I am fairly certain that most people would identify me as a prize whinge bag. There is a negative side to everything and I am a top-grade professional when it comes to finding it. And so, it might seem that I am ungrateful for what I have. 

And that's a real shame because, honestly, I am not. If anything, I am so grateful for what I do have that I feel a little disappointed when I see situations where people are not getting it. 

But the state of being constantly aggrieved is not a great one and does not make for a happy existence. Appreciating what we have can seem a pointless task and is certainly made harder the more shit we're dealt, but a wealth of psychological research suggests that thinking positively really does improve our mental well-being. And so, to end an entire month's worth of blogs, here's a list of things I really do appreciate.

  • My family
    My Mum, my Dad, my sister, my grandparents: they are all wonderful. I have an endless number of hilarious memories and, whenever I'm in trouble, I know that one of them is on the other end of the phone. I really truly love them and, when I see other people's relationships with their families, I realise just how lucky I am.
  • And others...There's a very special girl who spends enough time in my house to be an extension of my family and, without her, I really do not know where I would be.
  • My job
    It's not how I'd envisaged spending my twenties, but then, I never really had any sort of vision. Despite that, I work in a beautiful place, surrounded by the most hilarious children I have ever met and working alongside the most caring, passionate colleagues. We do a good job and for that I am grateful.
  • Music
    Where would we be without music? It fills every silence, sympathises with the shit and provides us with a means to celebrate the good. It has given me opportunities to meet some very special people, do some incredible things and remains something that I can call mine.
  • Books
    I am unashamed to be a nerd and I cannot imagine a life that didn't involve being surrounded by millions of words, each perfectly arranged to form wonderful places, beautiful people and the most awesome adventures.
  • Nature
    Every day, I drive the countryside, watching the environment change before my very eyes and I feel oh, so very lucky to be surrounded by a world that just takes care of itself. My life is beautiful and I didn't have to do anything at all to make it so. That is truly wonderful. 

And last but not least, I am glad to be alive. I am grateful that I am still here, still healthy and still very much full of life. More than anything, I appreciate each day just for existing and respect everything I do and do not like about myself because heck, at least there's something there at all. 

The BlurtSelfCareathon is a wonderful project that ends today but efforts to improve the mental health of a nation do not. Find more of their fantastic work here.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

#BlurtSelfCareathon - Day 29


I cannot tell anyone else how to soothe, only that it is hugely important and, sometimes, not all that easy. Self-soothing is not something anyone ever really teaches you how to do and it is not, really, one that seems socially supported. We confuse it with self-indulgence, with which it bares very little resemblance because it is not a treat so much as a matter of survival. Life is hard and other people, no matter how much they care, are inherently unreliable. And so, it is of the utmost importance that we develop a knowledge of how to care for and soothe ourselves.

Here's my personal top five ways to soothe:

  1. Chocolate
    Eating yourself silly is not an ideal coping mechanism if you're doing it all the time but, sometimes, only my body weight in chocolate will do.
  2. Sitcom
    At the end of a long week, there's something quite comforting about sitting down before a familiar set of characters and just getting to laugh.
  3. Shower
    I am, I am ashamed to admit, the kind of person who spends an hour in the shower. But it is not, to me, just a quick wash. It is a muscle relaxant, a place to think and a warming comfort that's really rather wonderful at the end of a shit day.
  4. Music 
    Whether I'm playing it or just listening, music has an amazing power to both sympathise with and alter your mood, such that it is a rather handy way of accepting the current mood before moving on from it.
  5. Bed
    When all else fails, know that there is a warm, soft, comfortable place just waiting to lull away your problems and shut out the world's finest turds. 

Saturday, 28 April 2018

#BlurtSelfCareathon - Day 28


I think the constant lack of time is one of modern society's greatest tragedies. Everyone, everywhere, is always in some sort of dreadful rush. We get up before we are awake, rush to work before any human contact, shove food down whilst doing a million other things, get stuck in rush-hour traffic (annoyingly, the only part of our day that does not seem to be in any particular rush), before rushing back to bed in time to get up the following morning.

When does it end? When do we sit and savour what we have? We eat without tasting, talk without listening and, in the end, live without ever truly living. We have no time for each other, no time for ourselves and, ultimately, no time to spot the signs of things going wrong and do something about them.

Image sourced from here.

Even childhood is one, long rush. We want children to do more and do it younger. We want them to rise at the crack of dawn, devote hours of their precious time to school, follow it up with homework and extra-curriculars and still be home in time for that all-important early night. We want them to have their entire careers planned out before they've even left the nursery. 

Life has become one, long race that we are all expected to win. None of that hair and the tortoise nonsense, just run, run, run and don't let anything stop you.

And that has got to stop. Yes, life has a deadline but, given that we do not know when that is, there really is no justification for rushing. There are so many, truly wonderful things to enjoy in life, from the taste of chocolate to the feeling of dry socks having come in from the rain. The world is so, utterly perfect and we are all completely ignorant to that. 

Production and achievement have superseded family time and communication. Even our own health needs have depreciated in value as other demands have increased. The point at which we lose notice of the precious things in life is the point at which life ceases to have a point and that is a very slippery slope. 

Is it any wonder that so many people are feeling so, very lost when all any of us are doing is marching along on little conveyor belts with no hope of getting off?

So here is my plea: take some time. Find time to slow down. Pick something that doesn't really matter and bin it. Get up ten minutes later or allow yourself five minutes in the day to just sit down. Have a conversation and actually listen or eat something and actually bother to notice what it tastes like. Whatever you do, just find the time to be and, somehow, life will begin to feel that little bit more real.

Ditch the watch, ignore the seconds passing and just, slow down. 

Friday, 27 April 2018

#BlurtSelfCareathon - Day 27


What is a dream, if not an insurmountable fantasy? They happen when we sleep, when the boundaries of reality dissipate and our mind is free to use its resources in any way it likes. Taking a few images from our day-time experiences and turning them into 30 second novellas is one of our mind's most bizarre skills, and it has its uses. 

But, the more ridiculous our night-time dreams become, the more unfortunate it becomes that our daytime dreams share the same name. Dreams of future careers, lifestyles, relationships and adventures: they are all dreams of a very different nature to those we experience in our sleep and, whilst few people have any great desire to wake-up to their nightmares, our daydreams are, very often, things that we would like to come true. 

Image sourced from here.

People seem to love nothing more than dumping a great big turd atop someone's else's dreams. Pointing out the flaws, scoffing at the absence of reality and squeezing out every inch of the spark in someone's eyes: society has a painful habit of destroying ambition and directing people back to the sordid truth of the daily trudge. 

Growing up, people always ask what you would like to be when you grow up. What will you study at university? What will you do afterwards? Where will you be twenty years from now? And, for me, there were always two answers: the answer I meant and the answer I gave. 

In a perfect, beautiful, ideal world, I would write books and play music forever. I'd live in a house I had built in the middle of the country side, with eco-style features, growing my food and caring for a mini farm. I would live a calm, stress-free life on my own terms, creating for myself and being allowed to share it with others. 

In the real world, I am a low-earning teaching assistant who, I know, will probably live in tiny, rented terraced houses for the majority of my life. I run two blogs because that's the closest I'm ever going to get to writing and I teach guitar and piano because those who can't teach. At best, I might push my training further and become a teacher.

God that sucks. It sucks to find yourself suppressing what you really want in favor of what you, and everyone else, thinks that you can have. And it sucks even more to have that constant niggle in the back of your mind that, whilst you like your life as it is, you could love it, if only...

But, in all of this, I think it important to recognise one thing: my dreams are still there. No matter how much others try to quash your ambition, it is up to you whether or not it survives. And, thus far, mine has. Whilst it will never be possible to spout wings or become invisible (I think), the things I want are not truly impossible and I cannot help but wonder how many people do not achieve their dreams not because of reality but, simply, because they gave up. 

The fact is, I still write every day. My guitar still sits in my hands every day. And I still think about the same things, every single, day. I think it is important for everyone to have dreams, whether they happen or not. I intend to keep mine, not just as an ounce of hope but as a matter of principle because I fail to see why what anyone else defines as possible should dictate what, for me, is impossible.

Dream on, always. 

Thursday, 26 April 2018

#BlurtSelfCareathon - Day 26


Everyone finds different meanings in a hug. For some, it is an act of consolation and comfort, for others, a means of sharing the joy of a moment. Some people hand them out like sweets, hugging every person they encounter, others treat their cuddles as a precious commodity, giving them only sparingly. 

The benefits of hugs are scientifically-backed, with evidence showing increases in oxytocin, the happy hormone, with every meaningful cuddle session. 

Image sourced from here.

I was never big on hugs. I did not really understand the need to make contact with every person I met, stranger or not. I didn't see why strangling each other seemed to be a compulsory part of saying hello and goodbye and I could never quite judge the line between "people you hug" and "just acquaintances." I was perfectly happy to keep my hands very much to myself and that is exactly what I did.

But that is not to say that I do not reap the benefits of a good hug. There is a very, very small nearly-handful of people whose hugs can make anything go away and I truly value that. That surge of oxytocin is coupled with something that instantly makes the world feel a little lighter and, sometimes, it really is only a hug that will do. 

Hugs are, I believe, an important part of a sound, healthy mind. But forced contact is unfair and not at all helpful. Respect people's preferences and treat hugs as the personal thing that they are.

Image sourced from here.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

#BlurtSelfCareathon - Day 25


All different places, all the same sea. There is nothing like water to remind you of the most important things in life: it's not important, just keep moving.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

#BlurtSelfCareathon - Day 24


As a musician with a passion for theatre, songs fill every moment of my life, characterizing some of my fondest memories and encompassing some of the best and worst emotions. Here's my top ten (took long enough to narrow it down that far) feel-good, happy, make-your-day style songs:

Elbow - One Day Like This

Labrinth - Express Yourself

Smash Mouth - I'm a Believer

Paolo Nutini - 10/10

Legally Blonde The Musical - So Much Better

Dear Evan Hansen - You Will Be Found

Disney's The Lion King - They Live in You

Waitress the Musical - You Matter to Me

The Christmasaurus - Don't Know What It Is

Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova - Falling Slowly

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