Well Hello Mr Gray…

…I have not been expecting you.

If you think this is going to be a blog post about BDSM then I’m sorry (or not – whatever your preference) to say it’s really not going to be. I, like most people think that the loosing of ones virginity should happen with your awkward teenage boyfriend who lit one candle he borrowed from his mum in a bid to be romantic/when you’re a bit pissed in the back of a car with a quite charming but relatively unknown individual, not in the eye watering ways in which E L James would advise – never trust a woman who has clearly never had thrush and cystitis at the same time.

No, this blog post is about the grey, that strange and murky area that lurks between black and white, or as they are otherwise known, good and bad. I’ve always been an extreme black and white thinker, in fact I met someone for five minutes the other day, we had a lovely chat and then I had to go and talk to someone else (PR Darling) and the lovely person I had just met turned to my mother and said “she’s quite a black and white thinker isn’t she?” AFTER FIVE MINUTES.

This struck a chord with me and sure enough a few days later I had a grey epiphany. I saw the grey in a situation for the very first time. I could see that lots of people were upset and that they all had their valid reasons and that there really was no one person to blame – there was no right or wrong – it was disturbing! I’ve always lived in a world of my own making where right and wrong have been very clearly defined, life’s just more comforting that way, but now I’m living in this weird strange place where there seems to be no right or wrong at all, just stages; just degrees of ambiguity. I’ve always been so sure! For example: leggings as trousers – wrong, leggings as tights – right. Simple. But now I’m in this place where I can kind of see both sides; sometimes trousers are uncomfortable, why not just let it all hang out with leggings on, they’re stretchy, they forgive, and so what if you can see pants through them, what if the pants are nice, or have a jazzy picture on the back (I have a pair that say Vote Ernie on the back, who wouldn’t want to see those!?)? Perhaps the trousers are the bad ones – keeping legs confined into strict lines, not pulling on properly when you’ve moisturised or you slept through your alarm and are trying to hurriedly dress whilst still slightly wet from the shower – perhaps it’s leggings instead of trousers!

What on earth has happened!? I can feasibly see an argument for wearing leggings instead of trousers! What has become of me!?

I know there are slightly more important things than this particular dilemma in the world (slightly), like cheating for example, I was having a conversation with someone about that the other day and where once I thought having sex with someone when you’re actually in a monogamous relationship with someone else just plain old made you a really bad person, now I’m not so sure. I can see that there are two sides to every story, motives are all messed up and tangled with conflicting emotions – people are bloody complicated! I can no longer just say that person is bad and that person is good because people don’t work that way, life doesn’t work that way, nothing is monochrome. It’s a frikin revelation (especially as someone who comes from an entire family of adulterers).

It took one, not so complicated situation for me to see the grey and now I can’t stop. It’s uncomfortable but I think it’s good. Good for me. Of course there are still somethings that are just right and wrong; voting Ukip: WRONG, watching episodes of Stars In Their Eyes from the 80s: the best thing ever. I guess in becoming used to being able to see a whole spectrum of colours that I’ve never been able to see before I have to take comfort in the fact there are still circumstances in which there is bad a good, but perhaps those two aren’t as clean-cut as I used to believe they were.

Just when I thought I had it all licked, sodding life had to teach me another lesson, well bring it on! Now I can see the grey I think I’m much more prepared.

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Let’s Focus on the Positives…

…I hate that Chris goes away all the time, it sucks balls and not in a good way (you know what I mean). When he’s not here I get all morose and mopey, washing my hair seems like a waste of good water and eating becomes more of an optional day time activity than a necessary bodily function (I know you might be wondering why this post is called Let’s Focus on the Positives – stick with me). Chris got back from Indonesia on Thursday and I was in a pretty bad way. It’s taken me the weekend but I have managed to get my mood a little more regulated, things look better today than they have done for a good couple of weeks. But the thing is, this is Christopher’s job (and quite frankly while I’m ramping up the old freelance career it’s COMPLETELY necessary), he’s been doing it for a year and a half now and it’s about bloody time I got sodding used to it. I’m not saying that I want to be happy about Chris going away – that would be weird and quite frankly a warning sign on the whole spending the rest of our lives together thing, but in order to level out my despair at his absence I think I need to come up with a list of positives to focus on the next time he goes away.

So let’s start; Five Good Things About Being Without Your Significant Other:

  1. Underwear Times: I’m not talking about using Chris’ absence as a reason for wearing all the comfy but shit underwear I own (you know, the ones with the weird pattern that hold the memories of when you first felt all independent and free buying yourself pants as a teenager, but which have since gone a sinister grey colour and are weirdly faded in the gusset)  – we’re getting married, I stopped buying lace underwear a good two years ago, if you keep that sort of crap up they’re just going to expect it forever. I’m talking about wandering around the house in it. You might think, don’t I do that anyway (?) but really unless it’s pre or post coital I tend to be fully (or mostly) clothed at all times, especially during the winter. Wondering around in a t-shirt and my pants would feel weird if Chris was around and fully clothed too, actually if he was also wearing a t-shirt and his pants it would be even more weird. But wandering around the house in that state of semi-dress when there is no-one in it but you is perfectly acceptable and more than a little bit fun.
  2. No Food Consultations: There’s not the whole “what do you feel like for dinner tonight?” “I feel like curry.” “Curry? Urgh, what about cheesy pasta?” “We always have cheesy pasta.” “That’s because it’s very very tasty.” “I still feel like curry though.” There’s just “CHEESY PASTA YEEEEAAAAHHH.”
  3. Work Absorption: Generally I work all day and then when Chris get’s home I spend the evening with him but when that doesn’t happen I have my evenings open to write and email and all sorts, which can lead to more productivity…but sometimes just a lot of time spent watching cat videos.
  4. Cat Favouritism: Not that I necessarily want to be the cats’ favourite owner but I LOVE that I am (love’s not a competition…but I’m winning). Little Gusgus just follows me around like a feisty little imaginary friend, and these days I can just walk up to my little scaredy cat Nunney and give her a stroke, which has taken MONTHS to achieve. Cat’s are fickle and I know that if Chris was the one feeding them and cuddling them at night they’d like him more, but he’s not, so there.

    Cats getting in the way of work
    Computer Cat
  5. Keeping the Magic Alive: Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer it if Chris were here all the time, getting under my feet, telling bad jokes, generally annoying and irritating me, but in the spirit of looking on the bright side I do have to admit that there is excitement to be found in his frequent absence; I get all funny in my tummy when I’m on my way to pick him up from the train station or when I get the text to say he’s landed and he’s on his way home. In fact I get butterflies every time I receive a text from him. I plan lovely things we’re going to do when he’s back, sometimes I do buy a pair of pants with a bit of lace on (as long as they’re in the M&S 3 for 2 section). I have plenty of opportunities to miss him and this means a constant reminder of just how important he is to me, how much we love each other and how lucky we are that this is the case. Abracafrikindabra.Two lovers in Paris

If there’s one thing I know about my brain it’s that it is inclined towards the melancholy, so hopefully this will be part of the training to get my mood at a more consistent level of contentment. I’m not asking to bounce out of bed every morning rejoicing in the rising of the sun (although that would be nice), I just really want my first thought to be “Oh! Another day!” not “Oh. Another day.” – if you know what I mean. Onwards and upwards people, onwards and upwards!

Dot and Lucy Engagement Photoshoot

 

Oh my God I forgot one! What I fool.

6.   Sometimes I get to go too! Now THAT’S a pretty good deal.chilling out in vietnam

See, once you look for one positive, you’ll find many more!

My Daily Creations!

A week or so ago I decided that I would create one thing every day, in the hopes of pulling myself out of depression, living a more creative as well as active existence and getting the creative juices flowing on the whole business building, making money thing. So far it’s going quite well, I’ve been busy knitting and sewing, emailing and networking and I have to say that I am indeed feeling hopeful on all counts and it all started with a pom pom…

Create something every day

knitted hat, create something every day

And since then things have been progressing nicely…

knitted table placements, create something new every day

handmade bridesmaid dress, create something every day

shabby chic candelabra, create something new every day

Create something new every day

knitted coasters, create something new every day

wedding bunting! create something new every day

handmade wedding invites, create something new every day!
Evening wedding invites!

The days can still be dark but spending some hours writing, knitting, sewing, making and creating provide vital and much treasured moments of light. I think the important thing is not to push it, to do one or two really good things a day, rather than three of four not so good ones. I would encourage anyone struggling to see the light to do the same.

handmade table runner, create something new every day!

 

By the by, if you click on the above image it’ll take you to my Etsy shop – just so you know…

 

How to…

…create good things from bad.

Sometimes I see mental health issues as some kind of weird blessing. Couple of reasons: because my bad can be really, really bad I am able to truly appreciate how good the good really is. I used to envy the people who seemed to drift, freely and lazily through life but now I almost feel sorry for them, I have the experience of extremes to draw from, and it benefits me greatly, they do not.  Also, because my fight with anxiety and depression helpfully highlighted some changes that I really needed to make to my mindset and my living and this essentially freed me from a situation in which I was completely stuck and deeply unhappy.

Somedays I feel like that, but not today. Today feels shit. Yesterday did too. Suppose you can’t suffer from depression without getting depressed sometimes – bugger.

So today I made a decision! I’m absolutely happiest when I’m creating things. I like reading, and drinking wine in front of the telly really can feel blissful, getting dressed up to go out for cocktails can be fun, but really I am my most excited, content, joyful when I’m in the zone and making something from not much (mostly just thoughts – and sometimes a bit of old curtain). The only problem is my slightly malfunctioning brain; instead of waking me up in the morning and saying “go forth Milldred! Create things of such wonderment that people will laugh at you until they’re blue in the face and you’ll bloody love it!” It says, “oh look, it’s the day-time, we don’t like that do we? No, let’s stay in bed, shall we? Yes. You know it’s really not safe out there, you’re better off in here, with the cats…and Facebook.”

old curtain for making new things!
Wasn’t lying about the bits of old curtain…

But I’m taking charge! I’m going to create something, anything, at least one thing a day. And by saying to my brain every morning, ‘back off you old grouch, we’re making knitted pom poms today and we’re going to like it, aren’t we? YES.” I’ll be able to take back my mood and turn the day into a positive one, instead of a negative one. It can be anything; a blog; a short story; the chapter of a book; a tea cosy; a table runner; a great opportunity; a treacle tart (sounds like a good one for tomorrow). And I’m going to challenge myself. I mean for starters I’m already trying to create a whole self-employed business thing out of thin air (also a great deal of passion…but mostly thin air – if it keeps everyone else alive I can work with it). Yesterday I sewed part one of my bridesmaid dress for my best friend’s wedding (it’s currently see-through, part two is the slip – would be bad if I forgot that bit). I’ve signed up to do a craft fair, to try to sell some the nonsense I make, because I love the idea of the things I have so much fun creating going into someone elses’ home and becoming part of their everyday lives (plus I have my half of the mortgage to pay). I’ve never sewn a shirt before so I bought a cheap pattern and some £2.99 a meter cotton and I’m going to try to make a shirt, probably going to turn out really badly but at least I will have tried and you can’t get take-two without doing a take-one. Today I’ve created this blog post, tomorrow I’m going try to pitch some freelance articles and create an opportunity to get my work published.

creating one thing everyday
And I did make a pom pom today!

Once I’ve gotten out of bed to create one thing, who knows what other things might present themselves during the day? I’m taking charge! And I urge anyone else who’s pesky brain is keeping them down to do the same. And I’m going to need picture evidence of all that is created…

create one things every day, knitted pom pom
Now there’s one for the craft fair
create something new every day, knitted pom pom
Not bad…POM POM

By the by I shall be posting a daily picture of whatever I’ve created every day on my social media so follow me on Instagram or Twitter for the #createaday low down!

Travelling taught me…

…a whole heap of stuff! I haven’t really done that much travelling in my life. I’ve been lucky enough to spent a lot of time holidaying and sometimes living in Europe but my travels outside of this lovely continent have been minimal thus far in my life. So I knew that my trip to Vietnam and Brunei was going to be a learning curve, just not quite such a steep one!

Okay, here we go…

  1. Never carry your passport around with you when you’re sightseeing or exploring and always leave a bit of money and a credit card out of your purse and in your hotel room.
  2. I need a giant and gold Buddha in my garden…Get holidays tree! Travel, Vietnam, what travel taught me
  3. …To go next to me pink sparkly Happy New Year tree.
  4. I need to improve my maths to avoid getting conned out of the correct change.
  5. Food is just better when it is in miniature.hotel food, vietnam, cocktail hour
  6. Being in a completely blacked-out plane whilst it shudderingly and shakily descends towards earth in a full-on thunder AND lightening storm is HORRIBLE. Fully abused the free booze in the airport lounge after that experience.
  7. The Vietnamese sure know how to make a mausoleum.Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hanoi
  8. Severe food-poisoning on a thirteen and a half hour flight is a harrowing experience.
  9. Air Malaysia toilet paper is proper rough…
  10. Money does grow on trees.Ho Chi Minh, September 23rd Park Tet Flower Markets
  11. Don’t look up the symptoms of Malaria and then consult your doctor about it – you’ll spend hours in A&E.
  12. Giving blood is a less traumatic experience than I remember it being.
  13. Hotel slippers are generally quite small.Small hotel slippers, Ho Chi Minh, Saigon
  14. There can be great inspiration in travel.travel writing in vietnam
  15. There can be great relaxation in travel.relaxing in vietnam
  16. I think out of all religions I’ve ever come across I like Buddhism the best.The temple of literature, Hanoi
  17. I need to take a leaf out of the Vietnamese ladies’ book and learn some self-defence.Vietnam Women's Museum, Hanoi
  18. I need to stop letting Chris take pictures of me.long-haul travel attire
  19. I’m a very lucky lady to be able to experience other countries and cultures. I have so much compared to some of the people I met on my travels and I should remember to be thankful for that every single day.Lucky lady in Hanoi, Vientam
  20. I’m not a born or natural traveler but I think I should see as much of this world as I can, to widen my mindset as well as my knowledge of the planet I live on and the world I live in.A gateway to the future.

How To…

…maintain a relationship through mental illness.

It’s no secret that Depression and anxiety are tough illnesses to bear, but not least for your family and loved ones. Any illness puts strain on any relationship – man flu could (and most likely does) break up the most solid of partnerships. And when your partner is lying on the floor rocking back and forth with tears streaming down their cheeks and asking you to section them, I can understand why that might be a tough thing to take.

Wedding guest outfits

Two weeks after I first had to leave work due to mental illness Chris went away for three weeks on a work trip. It seemed like terrible timing, however, looking back on it now leads me to think it was actually exactly what I needed. I heard a stupid song not too long ago, probably written by a stupid man, the lyrics of which dictate that “you’re nobody ’till somebody loves you”, which I have to say it utter codswallop (euphemism). Love helps, it really does, but the love of someone else can only go so far, love for oneself has to do the rest.

The three weeks I had without Chris gave me the perfect opportunity to work on me, spend a little time with myself and get comfortable with who I am. And it was nice! I think one of the best things you can do for any relationship is make sure you’re happy alone, because if you’re not, the likelihood is that no one will be able to fill the gap you already have within you. A partner can stop you feeling lonely, but may be not stop you feeling alone (I have a feeling that might be a song lyric?)

When Chris got home we went through a bit of an adjustment period. He wanted to help and tried to be understanding but it was hard for him to comprehend it all and it was hard for me to communicate with him. It was a bit of a mess really, not an oh-my-giddy-aunt-this-is-never-going-to-work-out mess, but a we-need-to-make-a-few-changes mess. So I wrote him a letter (time-honoured and much underrated communication form). I did a few drafts, I made sure I was explaining myself clearly and I gave it to him to read alone. After he read it he came downstairs and gave me a big kiss and we’ve had very few miscommunications since!

A Parisian Kiss
I am aware that I look like a dwarf in this picture

I decided on a letter because I’m a crier. I cry a lot. About every other day I burst into tears, either for good or no reason, it matters not. Chris is kind of used to it now but I have been told that the sight of their spouse crying has a somewhat panic inducing effect on many loving partners. It’s like what happens to me when someone poses me a maths question; I panic, I can’t actually focus on reason any more, it feels like numbers are shouting at me, it’s stressful. So I took tears out of the equation (evil things) and instead of me explaining myself through sobs and snot, I did it in a way that Chris could take as much time and space as he needed to mull over my point of view.

And it worked! He has been the most amazing support system since (not that this wasn’t always his intention). The other day I text him to say that I didn’t think I could get out of bed because I didn’t know what to do and he text back straight away with the best advice – to do just three small tasks one at a time; to get out of bed, to make myself some breakfast, and to do some yoga and then the day will have begun and I’d know what to do. And it worked. I told my therapist about it this morning and she said “he’s a really good fiance isn’t he?”

Yes he bloody is.

My fiancé with our gorgeous cat!

The power of…

…acceptance.

So as mentioned in my last blog post on what care homes are teaching me, my Oma is my idol, she is The Legend. But she has Vascular Dementia which is a very cruel decease because it seems that when someone in really old all they have left is their memories, their life experiences; the children they’ve raised; the adventures they’ve been on; the big achievements of their lives, but Dementia strips you of all of these things, leaving you with only a few moments of the present that disappear quickly into the misty blue hole of the mind where all other memories and knowledge have also travelled.

I LOVE visiting my beloved Oma every day but it is emotionally draining. Visiting her is a whole world of highs and lows. One minute she’s providing witty banter, the next she’s trying to remember who my mother is (that would be her daughter) and what my mother’s name is (that would be Georgina, the name she bestowed upon her as a baby). Or she’s worried about her son Stuart because she thinks he’s recently been in a serious car crash – which he was…in around 1975. That sort of thing. Sometimes I leave the care home and just cry the whole walk home, it just seems so unfair, she’s such an amazing woman who has had the most interesting life (she’s a German woman who married an English solider in 1949 for goodness sake), she shouldn’t have all that taken away from her! But she mostly just laughs when she realises who my mum is, and that it’s 2015 and that made me realise that I have as much control over this decline as she has. Neither of us can change the inevitable, and I’m not an uber scientist able to delve into the depths of chemistry for a cure, so all in all I’m just going to have to accept it.

The only thing I can control is how I feel and how much better I can make her daily life, whether she remembers it or not. That is what every other visitor at the home is doing, that is what every other resident at the home is doing. They would be weird if they liked loosing their marbles, but there is nothing they can do so they live with it, they make the best of it, the wonderful nurses there keep happy and upbeat at all times – every one has accepted that this is currently an inevitable part of growing old and are doing their best to make it as painless as it can be. And actually she’s doing okay, she has her bad moments but she knows who I am, she can’t remember what day it is or which city she lives in but she can remember what my name is, and for some reason she can remember that I’m getting married on 30th May, random woman.

This is a “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” thing. Apart from I don’t believe that God grants me this wisdom, I believe it is within my power and learning to teach myself acceptance; to grow from my experiences and be able to congratulate myself when the choices I make come good and learn from the choice that come out badly. My stepdad always says “the luck you get is the luck you make yourself” which has always stuck with me. I really do believe in fate, I believe opportunities are put in our way but I believe that it’s up to us how we utilise these opportunities, how we recognise them and benefit from them – that is the luck we make. I want to take responsibility for my own life; for the good and the bad – it’s all within my power. And I learned all this from visiting a care home full of some very confused but lovely old people. These old folks are teaching me an awful lot – just wish they knew it!