On building a complicated relationship with gratitude

I wanted to write a quick post about something that has been troubling me for a few days. I was watching a YouTube video the other day that I thought was on personal finance but turned out to be on ‘manifesting wealth’ using the law of attraction philosophy popularised by the book The Secret (have not read it, and I don’t plan to). In this video, (which I cannot find the link to and don’t want to promote anyway) a very attractive wealthy looking woman explained that you needed to behave gratefully and respectfully towards the universe if you wanted to be successful in life. The Universe is basically an authoritarian Victorian patriarch handing out sweeties to the most pious and well behaved among us. Apparently.

For some reason this just really annoyed me. Most of the people I know who are successful have got there through differing combinations of luck, various forms of privilege, and hard graft. Many of them (but not all!) are very grateful for their success, but it was, for most of them, the work that got them there. I think the universe, in it’s infinite beauty and chaos, (and working on the unlikely assumption that it has some form of unifying consciousness) has better things to do that to check in which my savings rate and make adjustments according to my gratitude. I just don’t think it cares. It has better things to do. Like build planets and ignite stars. To scatter about the raw materials of life itself.

Having worked in both psychology and mental health I have also been aware for some time of positive psychology idea that keeping track of the things you are grateful for may help ameliorate symptoms of anxiety and depression. This was also something I was uncomfortable with because when you have anxiety or depression that is disruptive of your ability to do or enjoy things, I think you legitimately have a something to be really pissed off about. Telling people in that situation to sit and count their blessings feels patronising and a failure to grasp the severity of the situation.

That said, since the beginning of January I have actually been making more of an effort to take stock of the things I am grateful for. Things like having a boyfriend who cooks me lovely vegan food when I am sick, or being able to swim outside in the silvery UK sea. I can afford to reduce my hours at work in order to indulge my creative parts, when most people cannot. I have been having fertility treatment for about 5 months now (which is kind of rough) and I have just found out that I have access to more options than I expected on the NHS, and I am grateful for that too. And you know, I have been feeling kind of better lately….

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Taking the rail replacement bus

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This morning I went swimming with my sister for the first proper training session in preparation for swimming in the Great North Swim in June. I have signed up to swim 5k (which is just over 3 miles), which is the furthest distance I will have swam. Eventually I want to work up to swimming a 10k, which is a marathon style length for swimmers. We swam a mile, and it was pretty tough going. I think it will take 2 swim sessions a week, and an additional session in the gym a week to build my stamina between now and then. So we have work to do. I will try to keep track here I think.

On my journey there this morning, one of my trains was replaced by a rail replacement bus. I normally travel on the train, and which is a relatively direct route. The bus takes a less direct route, and as a consequence I was able to see parts of London that I do not normally see. London is a huge city that has developed and evolved over time, slowly swallowing up towns and villages as it expand outwards. This process has left a patchwork of buildings of different styles, sizes and ages, with different parts of the outer edges of the city having distinct atmospheres and styles of their own. While it took me longer than i expected to get to the pool, I was great to spend some time looking at these bits of this city that I do not always feel at home in.

It got me thinking a bit about doing things differently, or what I may try to do differently last year. Over that last year and a half I have been working on just trying to finish things, which has been helpful in getting me to a place where I feel my creative work has purpose. I have also begun to really appreciate that doing things slowly, and building things over time, is actually the better way for me. I can be comfortable with this. However some of the work has felt, if not trivial, at least a bit light, or thin. In the last few months I have begun working on some pieces that are emotionally more close to home. I’ve been avoiding finishing bits of work like this in the past, as putting it out there is a bit anxiety provoking. When you already have anxiety, adding in more sources of anxiety is a bit of thing. So this year, I will be trying, gently, to push my self a bit more in that direction. Stay tuned to see how that goes…

Is there anything you’ll be having a go at doing differently this year?

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Imperfectly vegan

I’ve been unwell for the last few weeks and so am behind with basically everything, including the ‘It’s new year, how was last year, what will this year bring?’ type of post I had been thinking about for a few days.

So, belatedly, here we go. This time last year my boyfriend and I decided to give Veganuary a try. We had done Dry January the year before and got on well with that, and thought it would be good to combine it with something a bit more challenging. I say more challenging because up until the end of 2016 we were ferocious carnivores. If there was meat in it, we would try it. We loved buying it and talking about cooking it, and cooking it and inviting other people to share it with us. So we expected Veganuary to be a challenge.

So how did we get on? Well, one year on, we are still vegan. Imperfectly vegan, but we have made a significant change in our lifestyles. In fact we have really enjoyed learning a whole new way of cooking and thinking about food, and we no longer buy meat, eggs, fish or dairy products at all for out home cooking. We try to eat the vegan options when we eat out, and seek out vegan restaurants when we go away.  I am not, however, very good at checking labels, and have had a few vegan fails this way. We also don’t make a fuss about insisting other people cook vegan when we visit them at home (the majority of people we visit have been amazing in doing so anyway, and I am grateful to them for that). I think we have a few new tweaks on the vegan diet this year to explore new tasty options, but I think that counts as a success.

I’m  not really a fan of new year resolutions, but there are a few things I would like to do this year which at least give me something at aim at.

  1. I have signed up to the great north swim, which happens in June, and have begun training with my sister. We trained for a swim together last year and really valued spending that time together. This year I’m aiming for a longer distance, 5km, so I have lots of training to do – and should be fitter at the end of that.
  2. Finish a rough cut of the documentary. I have been working on this for several years now and I have other projects I want to move onto. I’m beginning to get the hang of animating the sections I want to animate so really just need to put the time in now.  It’s time to try to put this to bed.
  3. Revise my play and send it out to someone who may want to make it. Or turn it into a novel. It started life as a novel so this feels like a nice option to me.
  4. Spend more time walking in the woods, less time in front of the telly.
  5. Art, art, and more art. To keep me sane.

Do you have exciting plans for the new year?

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I’m ill, hopefully back up to speed next week…

I’ve not posted very much for the last few weeks as it was Christmas and since then I’ve been ill at home. On the run up to Christmas I was actually being quite careful to take care of my self, going to the gym and eating well, but I think it was a bit a a too little too late situation – for lots of us last year was quite a slog. At the moment I’m concentrating in just doing what my body seems to want – lots of sleep, watching trashy telly and eating good food. I have been very fortunate to have my boyfriend looking after me.

However, I did manage to finish the Christmas presents I was making before Christmas in time to hand them out at the appropriate time. Here is one of them below, minus it’s frame as the reflection off the glass made it difficult to take a photo. What do you think?

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Weekend work on paper-cut presents

I’ve been working on a little project as a gift for my parents this Christmas. This time last year they bought themselves a little dog, who they fuss over elaborately. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a loved little dog. Other than my sisters little dog, that is. Lucky little dogs!

What do you think?

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Another Christmas Doodle

redbubble christmas card 2

My boyfriend and I are quite into tickling, which is where the idea for this little doodle originally came from. I have been feeling really tired and flat for the last few months, for reasons that I may blog about in the near future. It has been really nice over that last few weekends to create some cheerful little Christmas themed bits and pieces, to cheer me up as much as anyone else. If you were that way inclined you could buy this design on a Christmas Card here. The addition of this work means that I now have a little collection of Christmas themed designs – if you fancy taking a look they are available on things here.

I would love to know what you think about these, any feedback would be welcome.

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Funny design for Christmas

I’ve always really loved Christmas. This year feels like it has raced past and I’ll be heading home for the holidays in just three weeks. In my family we have always taken a pretty relaxed approach to the day, spending most of it sipping fizz and hanging out in front of the telly in our pyjamas. I think we are pretty lucky in that everyone seems to get along ok at Christmas, which can be a fraught time. It’s not always perfect, but I don’t ever remember a big Christmas falling out. Last year I put up a quirky little doodle on my facebook and instagram pages to say Happy Christmas to everyone. I had a little look at it this morning, and decided to give it a few photoshop tweaks. I think ‘be nice to each other’ is a good rule of thumb over this hectic and sometimes tense few days. If I had a proper business head on me I would probably have put this out quite a bit sooner, but never mind. It’s now available on things at Redbubble here (As type this Redbubble are offering a site wide 20% off apparel – you’ll need this code at the check out GIFTON20, expires midnight today (26.11.2017))

redbubble christmas card

I think the trick for us is the ‘being together’. We are pretty good at concentrating on spending that time together, and we aren’t too focussed on the consumerist elements of it. We like to sit together and have a laugh about silly things, and play with the tiny dogs that my family have become a bit obsessed with over the last few years. It’s nor very exciting or glamorous, but it works for us, anyway.

What do you guys get up to over the holiday season?

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