Summertime Sadness

Here in England the seasons are changing around us. Winter was been longer than usual this year with snow coming in March and cold, rainy weather lingering well into April. Everyone around me was begrudging winter its long stay in the spotlight, wishing for spring to grow into itself and stake its claim to the months it was rightfully owed. However, I love winter. Colder weather makes me feel safe and comfortable, from the layers of clothes I can pull on each morning to the moments when I can sit at my window writing and watch as the rain drums down on the cars outside.

Summer is fast approaching now though. The grass and the trees are a luscious green colour and the sun casts our garden in golden light from early in the morning until late at night. People start conversations with their eyes aglow as they revel in describing the glorious warm weather. They say that seeing the sun in the morning brings a smile to their face and they start the day off happy knowing that it will be warm and light. However, for me I always struggle during the summer months.

Warm weather makes me feel instantly uncomfortable. I am so reluctant to give-up my baggy jogging bottoms and thick jumpers so, in the initial weeks of summer, I sweat day in and day out whilst clinging onto my layered clothing with my hoodie pulled tight against the rest of the world. An irrational fear grips me whenever I reach to pull-on a pair of shorts let alone a skirt. I obsess about how everyone else is going to see me in my ‘summer clothes’; what will people think, will they murmur something under their breath about me to their friends next to them? The next moment though, I struggle with the guilt of having these incredibly self-obsessed thoughts; what right do I have to be worrying about showing my legs when there are so many more serious things to worry about in the world? But the self-doubt lingers all the same and I begin to enter a vicious cycle of negative thoughts concerning my appearance. Before long I will be longing that I could stay in my room all summer, curled-up in a ball and not allowing anyone to see me (not that I’m melodramatic or anything…)

In addition, my temperament is still reminiscent of that you would expect from an ill-tempered toddler! Whenever I try to do anything in the sun, I quickly begin feeling all hot and bothered, making me irritable and a general menace to be around. At the first sign of sweat forming on my body, every part of me screams that I must retreat and run into a cold shower at once. Generally in the summer I lose my appetite as well, no food is appealing to me and if I so much as think about consuming a hot meal I can feel myself starting to gag. This also has a knock-on effect when it comes to how much water I consume because I start to drink significantly less if I am not eating at regular mealtimes. Therefore, I get dehydrated and have frequent headaches, making me more irritable and quick to snap at people than before! Honestly, I become a bit of a monster in the summer time.

Anyway, this long and rambly post was just meant to be a quick update to say that I am still adjusting to the weather and I am still in the phase of being a moody idiot at the moment, so bear with me on the content-front, more posts will be coming soon. Also I am so embarrassed to be publishing this post. Honestly, reading this back I realise that I sound like a petulant child, moaning and complaining about such ridiculous and petty things. I’m trying to get better, I promise…

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” – Jeanette Walls

My Little Treasures

Sometimes life feels like too big a picture to even contemplate. The landscape of responsibilities, obligations and pressures looks like it could swallow you up in its utter vastness. So, I think it is valuable to your sanity to cut that landscape up into manageable chunks and look at it in a way which makes it less scary. Looking at the minute details can help with that, especially when you find the beauty in the smaller things. Things that look inconsequential and easy to look over at first may just serve as your saving graces.

My gratitude list of little things I am grateful for:

1) Writing in a notebook with a fountain pen
2) Lighting candles when I’m working
3) When my dog lies his head on my lap
4) The feeling of soil on my hands when I plant flowers
5) Drinking a cup of tea while sitting on the sofa
6) The luscious green of the grass and trees outside
7) The sense of serenity which fills me when I practice yoga
8) The way my dream catcher looks in the morning light
9) Breathing in my mother’s perfume

‘Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.’ – John Milton

The Wisdom of Rubeus Hagrid

Hagrid is an often overlooked character in the Harry Potter series. Readers may chuckle fondly at him and his clumsiness or his many ambitious schemes to conceal or train magical creatures, however Hagrid is not given enough credit for the virtues he displays or the hardships he has to face. So, to give Hagrid the attention he deserves, here are three lessons which the Hogwarts Keeper of Keys and Care of Magical Creatures Professor taught us throughout the Harry Potter books.

1. Our differences gives us a unique insight rather than being a burden to hamper us

Hagrid lives his life on the fringes of the magical community as a half-giant. He was lumbered with the weight of the many stereotypes which wizards and witches attributed to giants; that they must all be stupid, without compassion and undeserving of the same privileges which the wizarding community could enjoy. However, Hagrid proceeded to show all of these stereotypes to be wrong; he had the highest understanding of anyone about the workings of magical creatures, as well as showing the most love and empathy to both them and his pupils. His experience of being consistently undermined, persecuted and insulted by wizards and witches alike gave him the insight to understand how other marginalised communities felt. For example, when Hermione was first called a ‘mudblood’ by Draco Malfoy, it was Hagrid who could comfort her the most because he knew what it was like to be ridiculed for being different. Also, he had unique sympathy for the cruelty Harry experienced when living with the Dursleys because he knew what it was like to be treated as an inferior and frequently criticised.

2. Love and loyalty breeds the strongest relationships

Hagrid was the first person to show the 11 year old Harry proper love and almost paternal affection. Hagrid never doubted Harry for one moment throughout all of the years when he was being ridiculed by the Ministry and The Daily Prophet and, in return, Harry counted him as one of his closest friends and allies, as shown when they stopped to hug each other even when the Battle of Hogwarts was raging around them. The loyalty Hagrid showed Dumbledore when he obliged any request which the Headmaster gave him was also met with loyalty in return as Dumbledore would not hear a bad word about the Keeper of Keys and protected him in his job when most members of the wizarding community would not have given the position to the half-giant in the first place because of their own prejudice.

3. Hard work and dedication can overcome the obstacles others place in your path

Hagrid was denied the education that was rightfully his as a young Tom Riddle took advantage of the many stereotypes which people attributed to giants and used them to frame Hagrid as the pupil who had opened the Chamber of Secrets. Therefore, Hagrid’s learning was cut short and he was burdened with the label of being a particularly dangerous member of the magical community. Through this he was stripped of his right to ever use magic again and had his wand snapped (although he did find ways around this with his pink umbrella!). However, Hagrid did not let any of these things stop him as his love of magical creatures continued to flourish and he found himself back at one of the most prestigious magical schools in the world within an official staff role. Later on, when Hagrid was again convicted of opening the Chamber of Secrets in Harry’s second year, he eventually returned to the school with his name cleared and without a hint that he would ever take a step back from his role in the magical community even though he was aware of how easy it was for his peers to suspect him of terrible and violent crimes. Whatever hardships and barriers were placed in Hagrid’s way, he found methods to navigate them whilst never showing any shame for who he was and continued to show love and compassion to his beloved magical creatures.

“I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.” – Rubeus Hagrid

My Bucket List

Focusing on long-term goals can make your present feel a bit brighter, like there is something to look forward to or a milestone that you are working towards. Making my bucket list gave me a real insight into who I am and what I want from life, from the smaller things to the bigger desires on my list.

  • To become a published author
  • To live abroad
  • To get a tattoo of a phoenix
  • To live in a caravan for a period of time
  • To visit Vancouver Island
  • To learn Danish
  • To be self-employed, at least for a while
  • To visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando
  • To do yoga outside as the sun sets in a foreign country
  • To lie outside as the sun rises in a foreign country
  • To do a charity swimathon
  • To adopt a greyhound
  • To hike the Appalachian Trail

Creating my bucket list has been a really fun experience. Please share in the comments what dreams you have for the future!

‘Dreams are the touchstones of our characters’ – Henry David Thoreau

My Thoughts on Skin-Care

Everyday, we are inundated with adverts promoting skin-care products promising to ‘transform’ us or ‘correct’ our skin, as if our natural state is a mistake to run away from as quickly as possible. Treatments for acne-prone skin are advertised alongside models without a single blemish or mark upon their skin, creating the illusion that a certain cream or face wash will completely change the natural basis of your skin. It is ingrained in us that any deviation from ‘perfect’ skin must be relentlessly pursued and hidden from public sight, pouring shame on those of us who dare to feel comfortable in our own skin.

The expressed aim of skin-care brands is to cultivate a culture of perfection in which everyone strives to become an ‘ideal’, regardless of the fact that they have to airbrush models until they look like wax work figures to convey this ‘ideal’ image in their ad campaigns. The vast majority of such products are crammed full of chemicals such as sulfates and parabens, in addition to other chemicals that I cannot spell let alone pronounce. Then we are commonly expected to pay irrationally high prices for the pleasure of possessing these products so that we can smear these chemicals across our face as we chase skin-perfection with ever increasing desperation.

For me, years of longing for my acne to clear and my numerous trials of consistently failing skin-care products has left me very skeptical and resentful of the beauty industry (maybe you can tell!). In my opinion, the narrative around skin-care should focus on nourishment rather than perfection. We should focus on taking care of and protecting our skin which will be ours to the day we die rather than damaging it in the pursuit of perfection at any cost. Our bodies and skin are things to be cherished and appreciated rather than scorned and hated. Yes, skin problems can be painful and annoying to deal with but they are not the sum of who we are and do not warrant us feeling worthless and ashamed. Caring for ourselves rather than constantly criticising is innumerably more rewarding.

‘It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.’ – Leo Tolstoy

‘Beauty is a radiance that originates from within and comes from inner security and strong character.’ – Jane Seymour

5 Lessons I Learned From The Harry Potter Books

1. You get out what you put into relationships

The bond Harry, Ron and Hermione share impels them to never let one another fight a battle alone or without each other’s love and support, no matter how many times they get into arguments amongst themselves. In the same way, the Order of the Phoenix and the passion they share for a common cause means that they can trust and rely on each other even in the darkest of times. Relationships based on this level of commitment stand the test of time throughout the books, in contrast to those which are founded on fear like the ones Voldermort illicits.  

2. Do not judge people on the basis of assumptions

Peter Pettigrew was one of the most cowardly, selfish and deceitful characters in the whole series yet he belonged to a house which prided itself on the values of courage and chivalry, showing that you cannot form a judgement about people on the basis of very few facts. In addition, Regulus Black was able to learn the error of his ways and die for the right cause even after coming from a family of pure-blood elitists and spending his school years in Slytherin house which cherishes ambition and cunning rather than putting morality before self-interest, supposedly. People disregarded Neville as being incompetent or a weakling, yet he was the one who managed to kill Nagini, the snake, in the end. People also scorned Luna for her eccentricities and constantly undermined her intellect, yet she was one of the most dedicated and effective members of Dumbledore’s Army.

3. Money and status can leave you hollow

The Malfoys begin the stories as a family with an immense amount of influence, status and wealth which they direct from their lavish mansion. Yet, Draco’s insecurity is immediately evident as he resorts to being the school bully to maintain his status. Later, the Malfoy family becomes fractured by the weight of their immoral and dark choices, leading Draco to spiral into a deep well of sadness. On the other hand, the Weasleys are characterised by their warmth, love and likability despite the fact that they are always under financial pressure and struggling to produce enough money for their family. Arthur and Molly raise their children with the highest amount of care and nourishment anyone could give and prove that they do not need the sort of resources which the Malfoys have at their disposal to be a happy family.

4. Every being deserves respect

The magical creatures are very loyal to those who show them respect and those who do not inevitably suffer the consequences. It is often the coldest and most unhappy characters who show no consideration for the magical creatures whilst it is the warmest characters who do. Hippogriffs for example respond with great loyalty and kindness to those who show them respect in the form of a deep bow. The Harry Potter books show that approaching animals with kindness and openness makes all the difference in your interaction with them.

5. Those who are happy in themselves lift others up

Throughout the books, it is the most unhappy characters who seek to undermine and bring others down, such as the Malfoys who scorn muggle-borns, muggle sympathisers and those who are not wealthy. The Dursleys are also immensely cruel to Harry because they feel threatened by his magical talent and they cannot stand being usurped in their status. In contrast, Hagrid’s happy and optimistic demeanour lifts those around him up and he is a consistently comforting sight to Harry, Hermione and Ron.

‘You sort of start thinking anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve.’ – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

10 Motivational Quotes

  1. ‘The older you get, the more fragile you understand life to be. I think that’s good motivation for getting out of bed joyfully each day.’ – Julia Roberts
  2. ‘Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.’ – Simone De Beauvoir
  3. ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’ – Mark Twain
  4. If you can dream it, you can do it.’ – Walt Disney
  5. ‘I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.’ – Florence Nightingale
  6. ‘There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.’ – Nelson Mandela
  7. Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.’ – W Clement Stone
  8. ‘Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.’ – Oprah Winfrey
  9. ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  10. ‘If you ever think of giving up, remember why you held on for so long.’ – Hayley Williams (of Paramore)

Self-Care

In my eyes, ideas of self-care have become convoluted paths to luxurious experiences or funnels through which substantial amounts of money are spent which only leads to increased stress in the long-term. For this reason it seems that we have drifted so far away from the fundamental basis of self-care; to create time and space for ourselves in which we can prioritise our health and happiness during which we answer to no-one but our own needs and desires.

Mainstream ideas about self-care have morphed away from prioritising the search for peace and love within ourselves to the prioritisation of material things, such as extortionately priced bath bombs and candles, so that our sessions of self-care will be ‘instagram worthy’. I frustrate myself when I realise that, in my pursuit of self-care experiences, I overlook and disregard the simplest of things which are usually the most enjoyable and rejuvenating:

  • Sitting or reading a book under a tree with the sun shining upon you
  • Dedicating time to reflective journalling so that you can listen to your mind once more
  • Having a solid hour-long yoga session in which you set your practice intention to be calm and ease
  • Cherishing a new bunch of flowers you cultivated in your garden or picked yourself
  • Re-connecting with your all-time favourite book by re-reading it again and embracing the nostalgia which comes with it
  • Changing your bed clothes and sheets so that you can indulge in the experience of clean, crisp material when you go to bed that night

All of these small and simple things are gentle and easy ways to re-energise yourself after you feel ground down by the daily toll of life. When you come to reflect on your efforts at self-care you can appreciate the simplicity you have introduced into your life through that process rather than burdening yourself with superficial extravagance.

‘There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth’ – Leo Tolstoy

Intuition…

I am an over-thinker. I worry obsessively about upcoming events weeks in advance and I agonise over my inability to control every situation I am in. My social anxiety tells me that any number of wild possibilities could happen if I leave the house or that seemingly innocuous activities could bring me into danger. Everyday my brain whirs with a string of imagined scenarios, all created with the hope that I will keep myself nestled in bed where I will be safe rather than risk pushing my boundaries and challenging myself.

However, recently I have come to realisation; that we all have intuition for a reason. That gut feeling which appears when you are presented with a crossroads in life is not something to be disregarded. Rather than always let your brain take over and over-analyse situations until you end-up missing out on endless opportunities, listen to your natural instincts. Our intuition is an innate feature of being human and can tell us when we are actually in danger or whether we should take an opportunity or not. Best of all, it does not wait around or dither about decisions, it is a natural physical reaction which happens in the moment and can help guide us if we are in two-minds over a decision or situation.

In many ways, humans have come so far away from listening to our guts and trusting in our natural instincts that the norm is now to live on the ultra-cautious side to save ourselves from any potential difficulties in the future. But what if, by doing this, we are actually just stopping ourselves from actually experiencing anything fulfilling or different? After all, if we always live in our bubble, surely we will become claustrophobic and regret all of our missed opportunities and chances? Often we disregard our intuition to save ourselves from any potential embarrassment or failure but this blocks us off from the experiences which will enhance our personal growth and allow us to feel more confident in trusting ourselves.

Our intuition is not something to be viewed with wary scepticism or suspicion. It is a natural part of us that should be embraced rather than curbed by fear or over-caution.

“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

RECOVERY

QUESTION: is the idea of ‘recovery’ helpful?

I have mixed feelings about recovery. Whether it is a help or a hindrance when so many people present it as an ideal which feels distant and unattainable to people who are in the midst of any type of illness. Sometimes when people reference recovery or being recovered, it just makes me feel more lost and hopeless than I was before. However, other times it can inspire me and give me the courage to keep moving forward with the comfort that others have weathered similar storms.

What is probably most frustrating to me about the idea of recovery is that it is so vague by virtue that it is subjective and hard to pin down in what it means to each of us individually. There is no specific route or journey that will lead you straight to recovery, the same steps and challenges do not work for anyone. Recovery does not look the same for everyone either, leaving me in the strange position of never being entirely certain of what I am aiming or working towards, meaning that my motivation begins to dwindle behind my uncertain mind.

Whenever counsellors or therapists have mentioned recovery to me I have felt myself recoil into my seat. Even the word seems so intimidating and far off in the distance. Also, I find the use of the term frustrating because who has the right or the knowledge to determine exactly what recovery is, what it looks like and what the time period for recovery should be? However much I want there to be a finish line I also do not know who I am without mental illness because I have let my mental health define me for so long. How do I separate myself from the characteristics of my illnesses and how will I know when this process is complete and I have recovered?

This post is a mess of rhetorical questions and abstract thoughts but what I have learnt from it is that I need to narrow down the specifics of what I am striving towards and what progress I will be satisfied with so that I could call myself recovered. Abstract and vague goals only lead to more frustration and motivation leaving me like a deflated balloon.

“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.” – ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ by John Green