Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Talking about it

This, I hope, will be a short one. I'm not really feeling up to a long post.

Today I am dragging myself through writing, just desperately trying to get some daylight into my head. I've had a rollercoaster couple of days. Some really good, positive things happened yesterday, but I had quite a hard day the day before. Today, I am overtired and disappointed in myself (I missed an opportunity this morning because I underestimated my need for sleep yesterday). So, I am writing down how I feel in a bid to... I've tried so many analogies - precipices, holes, despair-filled metaphors - none of them fit because this isn't like that. This is just grey and foggy. Oh well. Blah.

I have things on the horizon to look forward to, so today is about trying not to wallow, and trying to centre in now and tomorrow, rather than previous mistakes. This is easier said than done, but as I'd thought, writing it down has at least made me feel a bit better.

My positive thought for the day is this: talking about it helps. If you can't talk, write. Get it out of your head, even if all you're sharing it with is the ether.

If you are a person who thinks someone in their life might be struggling with a period of 'blah', try to be understanding. It's not always easy to articulate what the problem is, but while it's happening, it feels rotten. I, for example, am too tired to do much. And yes, exercise would help if I could bring myself to do it. The friends I have who really know what it's like don't tell me what I ought to be doing. They listen, or they distract me with fun things that are happening for them. Just because someone is depressed/low/blah doesn't mean they don't want to hear about nice things every now and again :)

Friday, 16 January 2015

Space - the positive power of decluttering

This idea is so in vogue right now, but for the record, I would like to say that I have been planning on doing it for way longer than it's been popular (it's just that it's only now that everyone else is doing it, I feel guilted into doing it myself ;) ).

It's the idea that we all hold on to way too much stuff. I am hugely guilty of this. I used to walk into my space and immediately begin criticising myself internally for the amount of mess and clutter everywhere. It was so bad that it's going to be a while before I can shake my well-earned reputation of having the messiest bedroom there has ever been. I am, however, hoping that it'll be possible, because for the last week, my room has been tidy. Oh my gosh, it makes such a difference.

The biggest difference is that I'm able to sleep. I'm able to move in my space enough that I can do bedtime yoga, which is something I've never been able to do. I don't fall asleep with dim outlines of piles of mess looming at me, and I don't wake to what looks like a thrift shop has exploded. My clearer mind that is not sleep-fuddled or filled with self-directed anger is able to focus on other things, specifically job-hunting and writing. If I'd not felt as calm as I do, the Black Dog would have got a grip once more. I've been able to fend off the January low spell in a way I haven't before. Thanks, tidy bedroom.

So, other than the world and its dog (not its Black Dog - that is something different) decluttering, what prompted me to do it? It was this article in the Guardian. I am now quite a fan of Marie Kondo. Interestingly, so is my mother, who discovered Kondo's book not long after I read the article and decided that she wanted to follow her advice, too. So we spoke recently and discovered we were in the same place about what to get rid of, and how to get rid of it.

I have adapted Kondo's teachings to my own frame of mind and have come up with these questions to ask myself:

  • Do I use this object every day? 
  • If I don't use it every day, does it make me happy?
If I don't use it all the time, and if it doesn't make me happy, why on earth have I still got it? 

Even if it does make me happy, does it really make me happy or is it associated with a memory that I'd be just as well-off writing down? This is my latest query and comes from my having dug out my treasure box - a large wooden box that hides in my bedroom and contains treasures that I have seen as important from the age of about 5. The really old ones really are treasures; they are things I grew up loving. But around the age of 10, sickly sentimentality meant I began keeping really weird things. More than one object to a memory, sort of thing. So I was brutal - I had new special memories (cards from my 30th birthday, letters from the children I worked with at the zoo, wedding invitations) that needed space. So I took everything out. If it wasn't a real treasure, it went. 

The brilliant thing about that little activity was that a) I made space for my new treasures and b) I got to bask in happy memories from the treasures that really are important to me. There were a few sad ones in there, too, but they were that kind of prickly sad that is such a very human feeling, so I enjoyed that, too. I also found a birthday card written to me 15 years ago by a dear friend going through a tough time, Thanks to marvellous social media, I was able to take a picture of it and send it to her to remind her of the things that used to be important to us. She says it helped. I was glad to be able to share it with her. 

So - declutter. Make space. You will feel better and you will reconnect with the possessions that really do matter. Don't think about how much things cost when you bought them. Think about what you've got from them in that time. Expensive clothes that don't fit will never look their worth. Sling them out. Nobody else gets to tell you what a treasure is, either. If it's a treasure to you, keep it. 

Happy organising! 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

2015 - the year of 'better'

This blog was originally supposed to be linked into the gratitudes fad that swept through social media a while ago, and has been held onto by a few positive minded individuals.

When I created it, it was because I had recently completed a full 21 Days of Positivity (3 gratitudes, 1 random act of kindness, 1 reach-out to an old friend) and felt like I needed to do it again. Then the world got in the way, and my energy for remaining positive went into day-to-day activities. I survived, but didn't feel up to blogging. So I forgot about it. It was only the other day when I returned to a different blog (my Small Kitchen Diary) to post about how curry is my favourite thing ever right now, that I rediscovered this one. So this is me changing my mind about what I want this blog to be about.

I have previously always tried to make a blog on a particular theme, and keep it to a specific style. I think I'm going to use this one as a platform for saying the things I feel like saying. Some days they will be pointless little anecdotal stories, other days they will be things I've learned or remembered that might be of interest. I haven't got an exhaustive list yet because I don't know what I'll feel like writing a week from now, but I know I will still be trying to get better at things, like writing and blogging and keeping in touch.

That brings me very neatly to today's subject. This year, 2015, is the year of 'better'. Prior to New Year, I made the decision that the majority of my New Year's resolutions should be, not to change something fundamental about myself, but to put a little bit more time and energy into something that I've already begun to improve. I would like to get better at things this year.

So far, my 'getting better' resolutions are thus:
- I will get better at keeping my space tidy. To accomplish this, I decimated (in the correct sense) my possessions: I got rid of about 10% or everything. It has tranformed how I feel about myself in my own space. I am so much less angry with myself and so much less likely to break, lose or forget things. I will probably do this again, having shed the outer shell of 'stuff' that I didn't need, now I'm starting to get to grips with the possessions I really do use/love/want to hang onto, and the ones that (having thought I did) I don't.

- I will get better at keeping in touch. This has been a nice one. I am trying to say thank you to all those people who have put time and energy into keeping me safe and sane over the last few years. It's not been easy for me, and it's not been easy for the people around me, either. The really good friends are the ones who are still brave enough to ask "How are you doing today?" So I'm getting in touch with them to ask them how they are, and to tell them that, thanks to their kindness and emotional support, I'm ok now.

- I will get better at wasting less. I have denied myself several perishables of late because I haven't finished what I've got in stock. I'm nowhere near perfect yet. I am still disappointed in myself for the amount I throw away, but it is less. This is a resolution that needs to pick up steam over quite a long time. I'll need to change my habits to make it really work for me, and do it in conjunction with the next resolution.

- I will get better at cooking from scratch. I love cooking, but when I'm depressed, I find it really hard to make new foods. Enter my saviour 'Made in India, Cooked in Britain'. Meera Sodha is an exceptional cookery writer and culinary inspiration. She is also a thoroughly nice person - I wrote to her to thank her for getting me back into cooking; she responded with a charming email within 24 hours. I got the book for Christmas and have been making huge curry dishes that I don't mind eating day after day. The use of things like pulses and tins of things means that I am less likely to have something festering in the fridge because I can't finish it off, like salad. I hate salad.

- I will get better at treating myself like a human being. This is my big one. For years I denied myself enough sleep, enough food, enough mental quiet, enough exercise. I have broken the cycle now, but I'm now trying to head back in the other direction. In the spirit of this, I have taken up yoga before bed, and am trying to spend a good hour a day reading fiction. This is helping me to relax like never before. Only at the start of this week did I manage to empty my mind fully for a little while for the very first time.

So this year, I want to do things better. I want to improve. I recommend this as a course of action. I don't want to completely rewrite myself, but I want to continue the edits I've been working on for a while, and make them better. That's all.