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Thoughts from a Small Island

Random words from my mind

A Tentative Start

This is going to be used by me as a means of escape from what is currently whizzing round my head.

I have no idea how often I will be updating it but I hope that by posting what I feel about things it may encourage others to speak up or seek help in their own way. It might not be easy to read for some and I offer no apologies for that but my intention is to help open doors and people’s thinking toward mental illness and how it affect not just the ‘patient’ but also those around them.

Stay safe

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Another Year Older

Today is my birthday (yay me) and I am now officially a year older than this time last year.

I am also officially a bit more mentally aware of myself than this time last year.

One thing I have found though is that I have become a bit more artistic and creative than I think I was this time last year. I doodle, I scribble and have even given a try at general drawing. Am I any good? Well art is subjective and what I like, you might not. What you like, I might hate but that is the beauty of it. There is no right or wrong. You are entitled to your opinion.

A particular style I seem to have aligned myself is a slightly abstract kind of style. Now, you could say that I have found that style because it probably represents me best (I am a little odd if I may so myself) and it is my comfort zone. I have always had an interest in the alternative styles of things, be that art, music, lifestyles and think that by broadening our horizons even just a little bit we create a more rounded self. My music taste is eclectic to say the least (currently listening to a Rage Against The Machine) and my iPod is on permanent shuffle mode so I can listen to Motown one song, Heavy Metal the next and then switch to cheesy 90’s pop. My clothing taste can be a little odd and I am no stranger to funky socks and mish mashed colours in one outfit.

Abstract art seems to be a style that encompasses everything from landscapes to portraits, sketches to painting and it is something I am keen to explore a bit more even if only for my own enjoyment (that’s what it’s really about anyway). My drawing skills are limited and I am no expert in sketching a skyline or the outline of an animal. However, I do have a knack for making odd shapes look cool. I am not talking about modern art (unmade beds etc…) as in my own mind I don’t find that interesting. Although if unmade beds and messy tables are your thing then come around to my house as it has modern art in it everyday. I like making regular things look irregular and making the eye / mind work hard to see the bigger picture *no pun intended* as, to me, that is what I think art is about. It is about seeing what you want to see.

Today I received a wonderful present (amongst the other fab presents I received today) of some art materials from my mother in law. Included was some watercolour paper, canvas boards, watercolour postcards and a set of watercolour paints (the tube variety. Now I find myself trawling through YouTube watching videos on how to mix the paints properly and prime the canvas / paper. I have also discovered that I should tape the paper down to stop it bending while I ‘paint’. Who knew?? I’m going to have a go and see what my brain can come up with.

It won’t be perfect, but it’s going to be good enough for me.

Until next time…………………….

It’s Good To Talk

If you’re old like me you’ll remember a series of tv adverts for British Telecom (BT) where they constantly reminded us that it is good to talk. Well, fortunately today’s blog is not about the virtues of telecommunications or about tv adverts of the 80’s (even if there were some cracking ones…..Um Bongo anyone?)

No, todays blog is all about a thing called ‘Time to Talk’ day.

Now, this does not mean going up to random strangers on the bus and telling them what you had for breakfast (although that could open up interesting conversations in itself).

To me today is all about gently supporting and encouraging each other to talk about how you might be feeling if someone asks. It is about being honest with yourself.

It is also a day that can remind us that in this world of texts, IM’s and GIFs we are still able to actually speak to each other using proper words and not just shortened versions to fit in to our 120 character limit. Sometimes just saying hello to someone can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. Just asking how someone is can show genuine compassion and may encourage that person to open up about something they might otherwise not talk about.

Personally I have been guilty of keeping things inside and doing my best to avoid confronting things. On reflection I have suffered with anxiety issues from a young age but never really realised what was going on. When people asked me how I was I would answer with the obligatory ‘not bad….you?’. I now realise that this has been a part of my problem and have made a conscious effort to change this. I now consider myself a fully paid up member of the ‘1 in 4’ club (this is not an actual club, just referring to the fact that 1 in 4 of us are affected by mental health problems) who deal with mental health issues daily. I am still cagey of who I open up to but those I trust I am honest with and I hope that those people can be honest with me in return. I have had days where I just want to close the shutters and stay in my own little world within my head but then someone has asked me how I’m doing and it has made me realise that not everyone has an agenda. There are people who care and there are more of them than I thought.

It can also be a day to reflect on things in a good light.

One thing I have been grateful for this last year has been the wonderful ‘Anxiety Cafe’ that I go to every month (and occasionally on Wednesday mornings when work allows). This social group has introduced me to new people who I like to think of as friends now. There is no set programme for our monthly catch ups and we just talk about what we feel like. Sometimes there is very little chat, other times we can’t get a word in edge ways but it is this sense of ‘safety’ that we all enjoy. We talk without fear and we listen without judging.

Unfortunately the world isn’t always like this and is hopefully through days like today that we can gradually break down those walls of awkward silences and the stigma surrounding mental health.

So there you have it. This is me (in case you didn’t realise), this is now and it’s good to talk.

Have a good day and until next time………..

When Did We Stop Having Fun?

On my way to work this morning I was reminded of a time when everything was carefree and there were no real consequences to anything. Things were done for us and we had no responsibilities such as bills, jobs and life. That time (for me at least) would be nearly 40 yrs ago when I was a toddler.

Whilst walking to town this morning I saw something that put a massive smile on my face (and on the Mum coming towards me). There were 2 small children aged about 3 yrs old who were all wrapped up in big coats, woolly hats and wellies. They were racing each other towards the next puddle on the pavement so that they could be the first to jump in its still waters. Each time their feet made contact with the water there was a big splash followed by giggling. Then it was on to the next puddle. As I got nearer I smiled to myself and the mum of the 2 kids saw me smile and just smiled back to me.

Further on in to town and I saw a child watching the raindrops racing each other (please tell me I’m not the only one who used to do this too when they were little) down the window of the car he was in and getting excited as his drop got nearer to the finish line (the bottom) and then won the race.

Then, while at work there was a little boy going around waving to everyone who looked at him on his way out the cafe with his mum. He had the biggest smile on his face as did the people he was waving at.

All of this made me think that as we get older we have less fun.

Life gets in the way of almost everything now. If we have a day off it is usually taken up with either doing the laundry, paying bills or doing various bits of shopping in town. It is rare for us to just ‘get up and go’ somewhere as we all have responsibilities to sort out first. If we do anything off the cuff we usually make ourselves feel guilty about it afterwards don’t we?

But why should we?

Aren’t we all just big kids inside screaming out to jump in a big puddle?

At what point in life do we slip into corduroy (I’m not knocking corduroy but it is usually seen as old people’s material), put on the big comfy slippers and stop playing?

Is there something inside us that switches on the ‘no fun’ button at a certain age?

I want to be that child again. I want to jump in puddles. I want to race raindrops down the window. I want to wave at people I don’t know and make them smile.

So what’s stopping me?

The answer…………………Me

I’m beginning to make more use of my evenings for myself and do more drawing, reading and such but the days off are still an issue. Well, not an issue in itself because I do understand that being a grown up does come with some grown up baggage. But, what if I can begin to use maybe half of my day off to do something I want? It’s not that hard to work out and I’m sure I’d feel better for it.

Maybe that’s something I can work on in future.

Until next time…………………………………………..

 

p.s. I haven’t forgotten about the blog I said I’d do about my glass making day . I just need to get my bum in gear to sort out the photos of it. I will do it, I promise

Happy Anniversary

Apparently today marks exactly a year since I started using WordPress to do my blogging and let my thoughts loose on the unsuspecting public.

(How do I know this? I’m not psychic, I got a notification when I logged on)

That means that for one whole year I have been informing you all of what I have been up to and how I’ve felt at various times. I’m not sure if it has helped anyone else but I know in my own head it has certainly cleared away some cobwebs and made me view myself a LOT differently than I used to.

My main worry now though is do I have anything left to say? I can honestly say that the answer to that is a resounding YES. The blogs may not be as regular as they may have been as I have also been getting back into using my spare time for myself. I think I will always have something to report on and it will be as honest as I have always been.

Today has been one of those days where I have been thinking. Not about anything in particular but a few things have sprung to mind. One of these thoughts came about whilst cleaning out the garage (rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of mine). Since we moved house we have slowly been unpacking and putting odds an sods in the garage out of the way because we no longer have a use for the leftover items. We previously took a few boxes to the charity shop but there was still more to go. Well, today we filled up the car (twice) and took the remaining boxes from the front of the garage to charity shops and it felt good. Like one of those motivational posters that always seem to do the rounds on the internet this was one of those clear space / clear mind type of situations. We can now safely walk around the front area of the garage and get to the fridge freezer without tripping over things. We cleared out the old lady shopping trolley that was hiding in the rafters and got rid of the original 2-bar electric fire that looked like it was leftover from when the house was built. All the rest of the ‘junk’ is now in the car and will be taken to the tip tomorrow morning and I can genuinely say I’m glad it’s gone. Like one of those cheesy Disney movie analogies I feel like the junk has gone from my mind and I am now ready to fill it back up with useful things.

I have identified an area that I will be able to use as my little ‘man-cave’ area so I can sit in there with some lights, a heater, a radio and my art materials. Bliss.

There is a down side to all of this though (there has to be a negative to every positive doesn’t there?) and that is that we will have to do a bit more work on the rest of the garage before it fully becomes my own little haven. We have boxes that have come out of our old loft which we probably have never looked at in 9yrs but will now have to go through them ‘just in case’. Most of them are full of our daughter’s old clothes and the rest are just bits of nostalgia that we have held on to. My question though is that if we haven’t looked at them in 9yrs do we REALLY need whatever is in the box. If I’m being honest (which I am) I will probably shed a tear or two at some of the items but the reality is that they are just things. The important items will be the memories of them as they will live with us always (here I go with the cheesy Disney emotion again).

The other thing that has been niggling me this week is that I still haven’t been out for a run since the end of December. Running gives me the freedom to not think about things and keeps me sane (if that’s possible) but due to this horrible bug that has been doing the rounds I have been short of breath and coughing like a 40-a-day smoker which has meant no running for the time being. I’ve kept active by walking to and from work but I miss the solitude of running the streets at night. It’s getting better but I’m my own worst enemy when I’m ill as I just want to do stuff and get frustrated when I’m not able to do what I want.

Still, I can always write this month and think that there’s always February to look forward to………………………

Holy Shit….What Just Happened?

*WARNING – This blog may contain details of my life that some people will find uncomfortable to read about me. It will probably contain some bad language too as I think the mood fits*

I had a bit of a plan to write a blog about how far I’ve come this last year but I think (for those who may have only recently found my blog) I should probably quickly explain where I was first.

If I’m being honest, most of 2017 was pretty fucking awful for me in one way or another. The first part of the year saw me in a bit of a mess in that I had changed my medication and was in the grip of terrible depression and anxiety. I was scared to leave my house, I was seeing things that weren’t there and I was starting to believe my mind when it was telling me I was useless. At one point my wife even had to staple a cover on the top of a table because I thought the knots in the wood were evil faces telling me I was worthless. I genuinely felt I was a burden to EVERYONE around me and had thoughts of ending my life. I honestly had no intention of carrying the thoughts out but I had the thoughts in my head about what I could do to ease everyone’s suffering. I self harmed for a while as it drew the pain away from what was in my head but the relief was only short-term and the pain in my mind returned with a vengeance. I was unable to accept help from those closest to me as I felt they were only doing it because they had to, not because they wanted to. In the end, I had an emergency referral to the mental health team at the hospital and was given a good talking to (in a good way). In short, my mind was fucked. However, that evening was to be the beginning of my recovery. I began to realise that the things I was upset / worried / anxious about were things I had NO control over but I had no idea on how to let these thoughts go. I was referred for group sessions and at the start of the summer I began to attend these, only finishing the last session 2 weeks before Christmas.

I am still anxious (I always will be and I accept that now) and my depression is on the back-burner for now but I am always acutely aware that either of them have the ability to flare up and scare the shit out of me when they want to therefore giving me no time to prepare for the event.

But what about the rest of the year? Surely something good must have come out of all this?

Well……….in no particular order I thought I would list some of the positives this year has brought me:

  • I turned 40 and went for a birthday meal with my parents, my wife and daughter only to find that one of my best friends from college was there with her partner their daughter.
  • I joined the ‘Anxiety Cafe’ and began to regularly attend their monthly meetings and I have met some amazing people.
  • I returned to full-time work after 4 months off sick and although incredibly anxious at first I overcame my fears and gradually got back in to my usual position.
  • I realised that I am loved and appreciated by more people than I ever imagined I was.
  • My wife and I bought our first family home together after years of renting.
  • My daughter started secondary school and has settled in brilliantly.
  • I began to read books again (I’ve always been able to read, I’ve just never felt compelled to sit and do it)
  • I made a paperweight after being given the chance to do it as a birthday present from my work colleagues (yes…I will do a blog on that properly in future….I promise).
  • I went camping in Cornwall for a week
  • I went to the theatre to see one of our favourite comedians
  • I rediscovered my love of art again and began to ‘doodle’ as a way of distracting my mind
  • I sold 5 of my pictures and began to finally accept the compliments that people gave me about my work
  • I continued with my running and notched up nearly 500km this year
  • I grew a beard (which a customer told me the other day was looking “…rather luxurious”)
  • I took part in some of the morning sessions the anxiety cafe was running and even had a go at some interpretive dance which pushed me so far out of my comfort zone.
  • I began to finally accept who I am and what I am
  • I watched my daughter taking part in swimming galas and beating her personal best times in some of her races.
  • I spent more time doing things that I wanted to do as opposed to things I thought I had to do

This is only a snapshot of how my year has gone but in my current unhealthy state of coughing and spluttering with what seems like a horrible sore throat and chesty cough (it’s not serious enough to have turned into man flu………yet!) that is all I am able to think of off the top of my head.

I hope you all have been able to find some positives in this last year and I wish each and every one of you all the best for 2018. I am under no illusions that it is going to be a ‘happy’ new year but I feel a little more prepared at least to tackle things as they appear than I did at this point last year.

Thank you xxxxx

 

Put Some Lights On!!

This isn’t Christmas related in any way.

Instead it is something that has been annoying me for a little while now.

As some of you may or may not know I am a runner. Not mega fast but good enough for me (there’s that ‘quote’ again….see?). I usually go running in the evenings after work due to the fact that a) I’m not getting up early just to run and b) I can’t get out of my warm bed at that time of day as it physically holds me under the duvet. Also, I find in the evenings that there are fewer people about to dodge past and there is also less traffic on the roads which then means I have to stop less when trying to cross the road. At this time of year here on the small island it is winter which means the evenings get darker earlier. Now, this in itself is not a problem but when you’re a runner it means you have to be safe. When I go out for a run in the evening I am lit up like a Christmas tree (just a reference to Christmas, not the tone of the blog…..honest) and can probably be seen from space if you look hard enough. I have lights on the heels of my trainers, brightly coloured knee-length funky socks, a fluorescent yellow jacket, a high vis vest, fluorescent hat and lights on the front and rear of my jacket. I also have reflective strips on my gloves too just in case the rest of it can’t be seen from miles away. I wear this, not to make a fashion statement (although it is pretty striking), but to make sure I don’t get run over. It also helps other people to see me coming along the pavement towards them.

Lately however I have seen a rather worrying trend happening. I seem to be coming across many people running without ANY kind of lighting / high visibility clothing. I even saw (once he was right in front of me) a guy wearing black shorts and black t-shirt while out running!! How does that give anyone a chance to avoid him until it’s too late? I have had various comments shouted to me while out running because of the way I look but I’d rather put up with a few mindless comments than run the risk (no pun intended….this time) of ending up in hospital.

This doesn’t just apply to runners though. I have also seen cyclists without lights darting out of junctions at risk of getting flattened by cars. I have even seen cars driving through town without lights on and then the drivers wondering why other cars are flashing their lights at them.

So why does this bother me? Surely it is none of my business that others are willing to put themselves at risk because of their own ignorance / stupidity (*delete as appropriate*) but it is something I genuinely get annoyed by.

I began to think about this a bit more the other day after it came up in conversation at the anxiety cafe I go to once a month and it got me thinking of a rather dodgy link to mental health in a round-a-bout kind of way. Like one of those tenuous links on the news or between programmes on daytime t.v. it kind of made sense to me. If we don’t light ourselves up and speak about our mental health how can we expect anyone to see us and begin to understand the importance of mental health? If we (metaphorically) cover ourselves up in dark clothing we will go unnoticed and get (again metaphorically) flattened.

Now, I’m not saying we should go out all guns blazing like the annoying neighbour who lights up their house with so many Christmas lights (no more Christmas references……I promise) that the glow can be seen from all around but that we should make ourselves visible to others. This is not an easy thing to do as it involves breaking out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up but if you can just speak to one person, be it a family member, close friend or work colleague it will help to be seen. I am more visible now than I probably was this time last year and I intend to keep that going when the decorations come down (sorry, last one) and the evenings get lighter. Therefore I’m pretty sure you can expect to hear more from me in future.

May I just use this last paragraph to say a big thank you to everyone who has read, commented, liked my blogs and ramblings over the last year. It means a lot to me that what I say resonates with so many other people and my only hope is that if what I say helps just one person then my work is done. Blogging has been incredibly therapeutic for me as it has helped me make sense of my head. As I write my thoughts down I find myself answering my own questions and this has helped to ease my anxieties about some of my issues. Hopefully as others read it, it can help you to understand more about how mental health and how it can affect people in so many different ways.

Merry Christmas (yeah, yeah, yeah I know I said it wasn’t Christmas related in any way but seeing as it is that time of year it probably should be mentioned). May I wish you all the best for the season and remind you that it’s o.k. to take time out on the big day if it all gets too much. Sometimes we get so caught up with thinking we should be happy all day that we just need a 30 minute break on our own may be enough to recharge and calm ourselves down again.

Lots of love, hugs, hot cups of tea to all of you.

Thank you xx

What A Week (and it’s only Tuesday)

Hello dear readers

This week has been a bit of a week for me already and we’re only a few days in to it. However, it has had a ring of positivity to it (not in a Xmas type way) and made me feel much better about the direction I am heading in.

Sunday was a day at work and went as well as any day at work can. It was busy but uneventful and just coasted along until I finished at 5pm. I then took the bus to the local leisure centre to watch my daughter swimming in another competition. Although she’s not the fastest swimmer (yet) she is consistently improving and was only 0.4 seconds off of her personal best which made both me and her mum incredibly proud of her and how she approaches things.

Monday was my day off and it was a day I had both eagerly awaited and nervously dreaded at the same time. It was time for me to actually take part in my 40th birthday present which was given to me by some amazing people in my life. I was to go to a village here on the small island and visit a glass works to make my very own paperweight. I have collected glass for a little while and have a reasonable collection of pieces from glass works here on my island (it’s not actually my island but you get the idea) and I am fascinated by the processes involved and how something so fluid can turn into something so beautiful. I will eventually post a photo blog of my day and the piece I made but I have to go back on Saturday to finish it off first. I was nervous of the day as it involved me making the piece in an area that viewed by the public and with my anxieties I was unsure if I would be putting undue pressure on myself. As it turned out I was booked for 10am (when they opened) and the only people there were my parents, me and the glassmakers. Anxiety levels returned to normal and then the excitement kicked as I found out I was making my piece under the guidance of the main man himself. The session was incredible and I will never forget it. It has given me a greater understanding of the craft and work that goes in to it and in a way it has also released another part of my creative side. I was asked if I wanted my piece ’rounded off’ to make it look more like a round paperweight but I politely explained that I wanted to leave a kind of awkward wonkeyness to it (a bit like myself really) as I would then feel more pride it as I had done the whole thing by myself. I was so proud of myself at the end of the session. Not only for keeping my anxiety in check but also for making a lasting object that I could be genuinely proud of and show off to people. I will return to complete the base, polish it and then engrave my name / date on the bottom and then it will be truly finished

2017-12-11-10-50-12.jpg

(the picture above shows my molten piece with all of the colours swirled together)

Which then brings me to today.

Today marked the end of my journey (in a non X-Factor way) through group therapy. I have done three different groups and I can genuinely say that my eyes have been opened to my own mental health and reasons behind it. I am more aware of my failings but I am happier to accept them rather than fight against them. The main thing I have taken away from the groups though is that none of us are perfect and are NEVER going to be. Once I start to accept who I am I believe I will be in a better position to help others going through similar issues. Another thing I have done is make a promise to myself to be kinder to my mental health and give myself more time to do things that I want to do instead of focusing on things I can’t do or change.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

I have no intention of setting up any generic ‘New Year Resolutions’ for myself as all they do is set me up to fail and then I beat myself up about them because I haven’t done the things I said I would.

I have no intention of overloading myself with things to do so that I then become anxious about having so many tasks to juggle at once (I’m a crap juggler anyway and can barely manage 2 things in the air at once).

I have no intention of surrounding myself with negative people and will walk away or say no to situations I am not comfortable with.

What I will do instead is take my time with things and just see what happens.

I am by no means ‘cured’ and will continue to seek out ways to make my mental health issues easier to live with. I have a new-found discovery of my creative ‘talents’ and will be pushing my work out there a bit more so that others will hopefully appreciate the work I do. This may or may not include a website of some sort in the future but for the time being I will be setting up a Facebook page soon so keep your eyes peeled for updates on that in the new year.

Until then, if I don’t have anything to say before the festivities begin for Christmas then I wish you all good health and thank you all for taking the time to read the words that have come out of my head and been written down (well, typed really) for you to get an insight in to my life here on this little island I call home.

I love you all

Thank you…………………

Tis The Season To Be……..

Tired, emotional, fed up, over excited, bored and cold (but mostly emotional).

As we are now in December I think it is now perfectly acceptable to talk about the ‘C’ word.

No, not crisps or chocolate (although they do feature heavily at this time of year).

That’s right…….CHRISTMAS.

The season of goodwill to all and the time when we lie to our children. That second point might a bit be a bit harsh but it is true in that we all at some point have been told the story of Santa only visiting good children and if you are on the naughty list you will get nothing. This means you probably spent most of December being incredibly hardworking around the house and you were extra nice to your siblings (if you have any) so as to avoid being on ‘that’ list. The first point of goodwill can also be stretching it a little as there is always one person who you really don’t want to be nice to but ‘because it’s Christmas’ you swallow your pride and keep your tongue in check.

Christmas has always been a bit of a funny time of year for me. Looking back on my life since I have been made more aware of my mental health it seems to be the one time of the year when I have felt more alone than any. I have an incredibly supportive family who have always given everything they can at Christmas and I have never been unhappy with what I have received from people. In fact I have had amazing gifts through the years and have always been amazed at people’s kindness. I also love watching people’s faces as they open the presents I have given as, for me, that is one of the highlights of my day. For some unexplained reason I just feel like I am alone and I’m not allowed to let myself be happy.

What I don’t enjoy however, is the enforced happiness of it all both during the day and in the maddening run up to it. I work in retail so in effect we have Christmas thrown at us from September onwards and understandably I have had enough of it by the time it actually comes around. I am expected to be happy all day when the reality is that I just want to feel ‘normal’.

I don’t want a lot of fuss.

I just want to have a nice relaxed breakfast. Followed by some time with my wife and daughter opening presents before we get stuck in to preparing a lovely roast dinner for the 3 of us. Then, leaving me to wash the dishes while bouncing around the kitchen with my headphones on, my wife can relax in the living room watching rubbish on the TV and my daughter will no doubt be glued to her phone ignoring us all. I don’t want to make myself feel guilty for not having a good time while I struggle with my own insecurities and emotions. I don’t want to make myself feel like I am letting my family down when I don’t want to join in with games. Is that too much to ask?

At this time last year I was to begin the most scary part of my life so far as I descended deeper in to my depression and anxiety. I had been signed off work and was staying indoors for most of the time unless I absolutely had to go out. This year I intend to make more of an effort but to still feel comfortable.

In the weeks leading up to the big day itself I have a number of things to look forward to. One of these is my 40th birthday present from my work colleagues and I am going to be going to a local glass works and making my own paperweight. I will be gathering the glass, adding my own colours and blowing the shape all by myself (with some help of the master glass maker) and then when it’s all done I can polish the bottom (sounds a bit dodgy if you ask me) and engrave it with my name and date. I can’t wait for this and I am genuinely excited for this day to come.

The other important thing to look forward to is that we are getting central heating and a new boiler in our house. This gives us another thing to tick off the list of jobs to do in the house.

Finally, in other news, I have sold my first piece of artwork. Those of you who follow my blog will know that I have got back in to drawing. I have my own ‘style’ and while it’s not to everyone’s taste I am proud of it. So much so that I am going to be setting up my own Facebook page for my art work so that I can push it out there a bit more. It’s not going to give a me a retirement income yet.

But you never know what is around the corner………………………………..

 

Just Accept Things

In the last couple of weeks I have had two common threads of conversation with varying people.

One of these has been how ‘epic’ my beard is becoming (and it is if I may say so myself). I have had customers at my workplace commenting on how it is getting fuller and that it really suits my face more. Not one person has said it’s gross, ugly or unruly and my wife even likes it. Although I suspect that she maybe tolerates it more than liking it. My colleagues and friends even said the other day that they have never seen it so full on me before and that I kind of look like the ‘old me’ again. My mother however has said that I look a little bit like Forrest Gump when he does his run across America but that’s ok cos she’s my mum and I can let her get away with saying things like that (plus she reads my blog so I’ve put that bit in there just for her).

Quite how a beard can become such a big topic of discussion is beyond my limits of comprehension but I find it amusing that people have said the ‘old me’ is back.

Does my facial hair have some kind of effect on my mood? Was / is my depression caused by shaving?

The simple answer to both of those questions is a resounding NO but I do believe I use it as a kind of fuzzy security blanket (except it’s not a blanket and it’s actually attached to my face). Ever since college I have had a beard of one form or another. Goatee, scruffy, designer stubble and now a full beard. Only once in approximately 25 years have I had a bald face and that was due to workplace restrictions which have now relaxed allowing me the freedom to be a weirdy beardy again. I class it as part of my identity and I genuinely felt lost without it and like I was a different person. However, I discovered while I was without it I could still be a husband, father, friend and general all around decent human being (as I have always been).

So why am I so attached to it? Well, other than the fact it actually grows on me, I like it just for what it is.

Which then brings me on to the 2nd topic of conversation. I have had numerous comments on my art works (I call them doodles but make of that what you will) and even suggestions that I do more with them. While I struggle to see anything special in them myself I am beginning to accept that other people appreciate them as more than just a scribble in a notebook. I have also received compliments to my work from members of my own family in that one of my cousins shared a picture on her social media feed of some doodles on her notebook which appear to have been ‘inspired’ by my works. I also received a beautiful drawing from my niece of a drawing she did after seeing my work on instagram too. I was (and still am) genuinely proud to see that she did that just for me.

Does this make me an artist?

I don’t know, but like my beard I am beginning to accept my art for what it is.

Finally I have ended this week on a bit of a high note. We had a little bit of a housewarming party and invited some friends around to help us celebrate our new home and although I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the prospect of lots of people, noise and mess in the house all at once I actually enjoyed myself. We all had snacks, drinks and interesting conversation and it was nice to feel that these people cared about us to see our new home. I was anticipating that I would spend most if the evening holding on to my glass whilst nervously trying to engage in discussions ranging from types of cheese to the state of the world in general.

But rather than build myself up to worry about it, I spent the week prior to it just getting my head ready for the evening in question and accepted it for what it is.

And alongside my beard and my art I’m enjoying this new path in life.

Long live the revolution

Or my slight shift in mood at least…………………

(P.S. the picture of the man with the awesome beard at the top isn’t actually me – just in case you were thinking otherwise)

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