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A Year of Change – January

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As you may remember, I chose the word “Change”” to focus on this year, because there are a lot of things changing in my life at the moment. So I thought it would be helpful to try and make a record of the changes that happen, as well as the changes I’m making, month by month. By doing this I hope to see progress even when it feels like none is being made. Because let’s be fair, change is messy, and often it feels like you’re getting nowhere.

I’m glad that I decided to do this, as January has already brought with it multiple challenges. I find it hard to believe that we are only just ending the first month of this year, because it feels like we must be in at least March already! So, without further ado, here’s what’s been happening this month.

The Flu and Labyrinthitis

To say that this year has started on a bit of a sour note would be a massive understatement! Having struggled through Christmas with a stinking migraine, I was gutted to start feeling what I thought was a cold brewing a couple of days before New Year. Only it wasn’t a cold, it was full blown flu! I’d forgotten just how ill that makes you feel, and spent the first week of January feeling rotten indeed.

Image of Amanda (a mid-30s woman with dark hair and dark eyes) looking into the camera. She has bags under her eyes and is sitting in front of a Space poster in her son's bedroom.

I then felt like I was recovering pretty well, but then last week I started to feel rough again and last Thursday and Friday had what I thought was migraine related dizziness and tinnitus. Until I woke up Saturday morning to the room spinning, tried to sit up, and face-planted the bed as I was hit by such awful vertigo that I lost which way up was. 6 days later, still battling ongoing dizziness, I went to the GP suspecting labyrinthitis (the last time I felt this bad was when I had it in 2008) and sure enough the GP agreed with my suspicions.

So, all in all the first month of 2020 has been a pretty rotten one. And the only changes healthwise have been to add nasty viruses on top of my already rubbish day-to-day experience.

Seeing the Neurologist and Changing Meds

Despite the awful start to the year healthwise, I did have a reasonably decent week mid-month when Tim and I travelled over to Nottingham to see a neurologist about my chronic migraines. I was so worried about how I’d cope with the journey and staying in a hotel (because I knew I couldn’t do two journeys in one day). And the first night was rough, as I had forgotten to pack my Cyclizine somehow and we had to find a pharmacy open that evening, leading to a major panic attack around how much of a burden I am. But we turned the trip around the next day, had a good appointment, and even ate at a pie shop on the way back to the hotel!

Image of two pies on a table, both sit on a bed of mashed potato on a plate, with accompaniments in separate dishes to the side. The side dishes have peas, beans, and gravy in them.

But back to the Neurology appointment. In terms of shedding light onto why my migraines have become so bad, it was a bit of a bust. As the Neurologist said, sometimes they don’t know why this happens in people prone to them. But as I used to get them as a teenager and then didn’t get them for years, there is hope this spate will eventually ease off too. And until then, there are different options we can try.

I told him I had stopped taking Pregabalin over New Year (faster than recommended, but as I’d missed some doses anyway I decided to just go for it). I felt as if it did nothing for my migraines, and wasn’t sure if my dizziness and fatigue were actually worse on it. And I did surprisingly well coming off it, to say I also had a flu at the time. He actually said he doesn’t know why it is prescribed for migraine prevention anyway. So I felt better knowing I had made a good choice in stopping it.

We talked about how I’d previously tried things like Amitriptyline (I did not cope well on even a tiny dose of that), Gabapentin (no effect), and Propanolol (caused my blood pressure to drop way too low). So he has recommended Pitozifen, with another couple of options to try if that isn’t successful. He did say it may not stop all my migraines, but should reduce the frequency and intensity. And he’d rather prescribe that as it is generally better tolerated than something else which I’m likely to struggle with given my past history with medication.

Image of a box of Pizotifen 0.5mg tablets

We also talked about limiting my use of OTC painkillers to no more than 10 days in a month. I knew that painkillers can cause rebound headaches in migraineurs, so had been trying to take small doses rather than hitting them with everything I had. But he said it’s frequency rather than dose that causes the issue, so he’d rather I take everything I can on the really bad days and try to avoid painkillers the other days. So we’ll see how that goes.

Finally, he’s recommended Riboflavin (vitamin B2) as that has been shown to help, so I’m adding that the to Co-enzyme Q10 and Magnesium I’ve been taking to try and help. Here’s hoping that once I’ve recovered fully from these viruses and got these new meds in my system I might see some improvements!

Daily Chanting

I began the year with a 7 day global meditation live streamed by Deva Premal and Miten. We did the Gayatri Mantra, and it was wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I love chanting for peace of mind. You can find the 7 days’ recordings here, or join in with the final day below. The songs at the end had me in tears, something was definitely shifting emotionally at that point in time.

After that I continued to do a chant each day, and then I joined up with the Angels 11 group to do a live meditation with them, this time the Chiaa Kriya. Angels 11 is one of the tiers offered by One Woman Revolution via their Patreon, and if you want to explore kundalini yoga in more depth I can thoroughly recommend joining Shiv and Ceemaj that way. However I know money can be tight, and so you can find so many free videos from them on their YouTube channel, including this short introduction to the Chiia Kriya.

Even though I had internet connection issues for the live meditation, I still enjoyed it. And after that 3 of us decided we’d continue to make it a 40 day practice, supporting each other via Facebook. We’re reaching the halfway point of that practice now, and it has held me up so much over the past week during my awful bout with labyrinthitis. Even when I could barely move without feeling the world was spinning, simply tuning in and chanting for 3 minutes made me feel like I was doing something to keep myself going strong.

I’ve just started doing the basic spinal series for kundalini yoga to help with my back spasms from sleeping in a weird position thanks to the vertigo this week. You can find the session I have been following on Amazon Prime, or if you don’t have access to that maybe try this sequence by Shiv.

Changing My Habits

One of the things I wanted to change this year was how much time I spend scrolling on social media or watching Netflix, opting to read more books and listen to more music instead. I can’t say I’ve been massively successful in this during January (I binge watched the entire 9 seasons of The Middle* this month!) But I have definitely reduced my time on social media, which has done wonders for my overall mental health.

I’ve avoided being sucked into news items which I’m just not in a good enough place to deal with right now. That’s not to say I’m not aware of issues in the world, it’s just I’m not getting too drawn into the details which just make me feel so helpless. I will step back into being more active around that at some point, but this month I definitely needed to prioritise my own self-care.

I’ve also enjoyed starting several new books (there was a time when I was a “one book at a time” kind of reader, but now I dip in and out of different ones all the time). I used my Christmas money to buy a range of books, many spiritual and health related ones, but also some fun reading ones too. I’ll try to write more about these in other posts, when I’ve finished each one.

Image of 4 books, top left is eat, feel, fresh a contemporary plant based ayurvedic cookbook by Sahara Rose Ketali, top right is The Spirit of Yoga by Kathy Phillips, bottom left is The little book of Self Care for Taurus, and the bottom right is Hand Reflexology and Acupressure, a natural way to health through Traditional Chinese MedicineImage of four books - top left is The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr, the top right is Inspired by Rachel Held Evans, the bottom left is The Almanac a seasonal guide to 2020, and the bottom right is Water From An Ancient Well, Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life by Kenneth McIntoshImage of a book called The Complete Arrows Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey

The Power of Nostalgia

One of the things I’ve felt pulling on me very strongly this month is nostalgia. I want to re-read books I loved as a teenager, and listen to music that reminds me of being in the 16-20 age bracket, when life felt so much simpler. Back then I was still struggling health-wise, often very badly, but I had more time to rest and recover. And I honestly thought the world was my oyster. After years of feeling beaten down by life and wondering if things will ever get better, I need a bit of that hope.

I’ve made a playlist on Amazon Music that is essentially made up of all the Acoustic Folk style singers I adored listening to at that age, like Jewel, Dido, Eva Cassidy, and Beth Orton. I already had various songs from the first three artists in playlists I listened to in the shower, but realised there were many of their later albums I have simply never listened to. And then I remembered other artists I had totally forgotten about, so added them. Listening to the beginning haunting sounds of “She Cries Your Name” by Beth Orton took me right back to my late teens! Isn’t it amazing how powerfully music can do that?

Anyway, the whole reason I even remembered Beth Orton (and that song in particular), was because I was thinking about the TV show Roswell*. I had rewatched the series last year but suddenly wanted to re-read the books too. So I bought copies of the Roswell High books* I loved when I was in Sixth Form. They were written at the same time as Roswell was on TV, but despite having the same characters there are many differences between the two. And as a writer I find that fascinating. At some point I’m going to have to bring myself to watch the new version of the show, Roswell, New Mexico to see how they approach the story in yet another way. But right now I’m in nostalgia mode and not quite ready for a new version!

Anyway, it’s funny re-reading these books as an adult, remembering how differently I felt back then. And I’m hoping they will remind me of what I loved about reading as a teenager, given that I’m writing a YA novel myself. Because, let’s be fair, the past 20 years of my adult life have been pretty crazy and I’ve forgotten a fair amount of what it feels like to be a teenager.

Image of all 10 Roswell High books written by Melinda Metz.

Speaking of YA novels, at the end of last year I finally discovered the joy of audiobooks by listening to various series set in the Tortallan universe written by Tamora Pierce. Those books, and in particular The Immortals Quartet*, were what inspired me to want to write in the first place. I have always loved the combination of fantasy and strong female characters. I go back to them regularly, and listening to them brings a whole new perspective. It’s particularly fascinating listening to the audio versions recorded by Full Cast Audio, as the actors make the characters come alive in such a magical way. And I cannot wait until the books are finally brought to the small screen, as it seems they may well be doing. It’s about time this wonderful world was brought to new audiences, like so many other fantasy series have been over the past couple of decades.

But, back to the books. Having listened to the series I already knew well, I decided it was time I began listening to the books written in the Circle Universe. It took me a while to get into them, but I finished Sandry’s Book* and am just now listening to Tris’s Book* and loving the characters and world they live in. In many ways the magic in this world is more like the magic in my own novel – based on everyday workings with plants and sewing etc. It’s such a joy to listen to them.

Screenshot of Audible showing the book Circle of Magic Tris's Book by Tamora Pierce and read by Full Cast Audio

Beginning to Write

I’ve also picked up my pen and paper and started working on The Brethren some more. At the end of last year I was given some incredible feedback by L Baumgarten on my novel’s outline, and have been eager to work on it some more. (As a quick aside, if you’re looking for some feedback on your writing, I can highly recommend getting in touch with Laura). But life was so busy at the end of last year, and I have been struggling with my health so much, so I haven’t really had a chance to do anything with it since then.

But this week I printed off The Ultimate Novel Planning Workbook*, so I could scribble all my notes and ideas in one place. I actually got this as part of The Writer’s Craft Super Stack on Infostack, but you can grab a copy via Amazon clicking on the link above. Anyway, I find writing notes and ideas down on paper really helpful, especially when I’m struggling to look at a screen for any length of time thanks to the dizziness and vertigo. So having this workbook to keep my thoughts and ideas in some kind of order is perfect, and I can’t wait to work on it some more.

Image of a printed A4 document entitled "Ultimate Novel Planning Workbook" with a hand holding a fountain pen over the top.

I have other projects I want to work on this year too, including my kids’ stories, some more eBooks and guides explaining things like yoga to kids, and even resources for chronically ill people like us. I just need to feel a bit better first! Seriously, the ideas are there, as is the ability to put those ideas down in ways that reach others. The only thing holding me back is my health at this point.

Hopes for Change in February

I’m really hoping that things will settle down a bit over the coming month. I’m keeping everything crossed for the easing of my Labyrinthitis, and that the Pizotifen and supplements combination will begin to reduce my migraine frequency and intensity. Because if that happens I’ll be able to do even more to help myself, such as going for short walks and building up my core strength again via yoga.

I’m also going to have some reflexology, and am really hoping that it will begin to have an impact too. As I’ve written before, I am trying to learn to trust in my body’s ability to heal itself. Having lived with chronic illness all my life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this is just my lot in life. But I don’t want to live that way, and so I’m making a concerted effort this year to try and change that perspective by actively doing things to help turn things around.

I shall continue with my daily chanting, and try to balance living in the moment with hope for the future. I want to be able to dream about the things I will work on, the life I want to build, without getting so caught up thinking about some far away future that I don’t notice progress being made right now. I know I still have a long way to go before I find a new balance that works for me, but step by step I am making changes.

So, how about you?

Tell me, how has your January been? And what do you hope February brings?

3 images side by side, the left is of prochlorperazine tablets, the middle is of a couple of health books {eat, feel, fresh and self-care for Taurus), and the right is of a hotel bed. Underneath the words "A Year of Change, January: health issues, books, nostalgia, and a trip.

close up image of the word "change" in a dictionary, with some of its description using terms such as "transformation" and to "become different".

Change – My Word of The Year for 2020

Every year I like to choose a focus word, something which will (hopefully) help me to grow and develop as the months progress. Some years I have great success with this, and 2015 is a perfect example of this. I chose the word “Surrender” that year, and I couldn’t have picked a more poignant word. In the January I found out I was being made redundant, and the Spring was taken up by job applications, interviews, battles with a letting agency, and Tim having his first suicidal episode just a few days before we relocated and I started not one but two new jobs! And just when I thought things were starting to settle down, I started to see the first signs of my current illness. Surrender was the only thing I could do that year.

However other years have been less successful in terms of choosing the right word. I chose “Healing” for 2016, believing that my ill health was just a blip and I’d be fighting fit by the end of the year. Instead I ended it on extended sick leave, and that was just the start of it. In 2017 I chose the word “Courage“, and actually that one worked out reasonably well for me, as I finally decided to go fully self-employed after years of doing just the odd bit on the side. For somebody who lacks self-confidence, this was huge and took a lot of courage. But I was still in denial about the reality of my health issues, and ended the year determined to find a way to continue working around my deteriorating health. So I chose the word “Create” for 2018, and put together a list of ways in which I could be more creative that year. Needless to say I created nothing but frustration for myself and knew I needed to change my perspective somewhat.

Focusing on Peace – How Things Went in 2019

And so for 2019 I chose the word “Peace“, because I wanted to figure out how to grasp that “peace that surpasses all understanding”. I wanted to know what it felt like to be at peace wherever I found myself, rather than pushing myself to try and be something I’m not. And actually, I think I’ve been fairly successful at that. Despite being more ill than I ever have been, with migraines at least 50% of the time and a pretty much housebound existence, I have started to accept my limitations and recognise when it’s worth pushing myself despite the fallout that follows and when to say no to something I really want to do because the payback isn’t worth it.

I have cried a lot this year, mostly out of frustration, but there have also been healing tears, bringing up emotions that have been repressed for years and need to come out. I’ve started to be okay with being vulnerable (although I still have a long way to go with that), and began to use a crutch when out and about, despite worrying that I’m a fraud or that people will judge me. Learning to have peace with who I am and where I’m at, rather than worrying incessantly about what others will think, is a whole new experience for me. It’s taking a lot of work, but the peace it brings with it when I manage to do so is immense. And I want to feel more of that.

The Permanence of a Word of The Year

The thing about these words of the year is that they aren’t just for one year only. I chose the word “Surrender” in 2015, and yet I’m still learning how to surrender to all that is happening in my life. And I’m still working on the “Healing” that I chose to focus on in 2016. I’d say that a lot of the healing I need has only begun to be possible thanks to my focus on the word “Peace” in 2019, a whole 3 years later from when I first chose that word. We don’t stop working on these ideas just because another year has passed, they are lifelong practices. But choosing a new word each year helps me to take my practice of self-reflection and self-acceptance to a new level.

Which brings me to my word of the year for 2020. I wasn’t sure what I was going to choose at first, but a couple of days before Christmas it came to me in the shower (like all the best ideas do). “CHANGE“. I’ve since wondered whether it was quite right, and tried different words such as “Balance”, “Self-Care”, “Clarity” (a great pun on 2020 vision), and “Cultivate” (a word which was suggested by the wonderful Shiv from One Woman Revolution), but none of them seemed to fit as well as that first word did. It just feels right, and so that’s what I’m going with.

Change – My Word of The Year for 2020

Why “Change”? What is it that I want to change, and how am I going to do it? Well, there are many reasons why this word feels right to me, not least of which being the fact that our lives are going to change in 2020 regardless of what I do. My uncle passed away in November, and I am due to inherit a fair amount of money once his estate has all been sorted out. The money I receive will lift us out of poverty, giving us opportunities we simply haven’t had over the past few years since getting so sick.

But it’s not just the fact that our lives are going to change through circumstance (that happens anyway, it’s just we know about it in advance this year). I’ve chosen the word “Change” because I really want to continue the changes in perception that have happened this year with my word “Peace” and develop that further. I want to change how I view the world, how I live my day-to-day life, and the habits I have developed over the years which do nothing to help me. In essence I want to “be the change I wish to see in the world”, and not just in the world around me but also the world inside of me.

Being The Change I Need in My World

I want to learn how to be the change that I need in my life, rather than waiting for life itself to change. Because let’s be fair, the world is a pretty scary place right now, especially when you’re a member of a marginalised group, which chronically ill and disabled people are. I very nearly ended 2019 feeling utterly broken by all we’ve been through as a family, and how invisible that seems to be to even friends and family.

But then I realised that I was waiting, and had been waiting for so many years now, for a kinder world to emerge, and for my health issues to simply fade away. Because it’s all too easy to feel completely helpless when life kicks you down, and to believe that there’s nothing you can do about it and that nothing will ever change. But there is always something you can change, no matter how small, and it’s that idea to which I wish to hold onto as we move into 2020. I can be the change I need in my world, and I no longer need to wait for permission from others to do so.

Changes I Hope To Make in 2020

So, with all that in mind, I thought I’d make a list of the different ways in which I hope to create lasting change in my life throughout 2020. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it one which I will stick to rigidly. But it is created as a guide that I can look to whenever I need a reminder of the many different ways in which I can create change within my life.

  1. Change my mindset – this has already started to happen, and I hope it continues to do so. I can always change the way that I view the world, and that will always have an impact on how I cope with the world too.
  2. Change my inner voice – like many people, I have a very negative inner voice. It is the biggest critic, and speaks to me in ways I would never dream of speaking to someone else. So I want to work on changing that inner voice, so that it becomes more supportive and encouraging and far less critical.
  3. Change my habits – there are some habits I have which I know are really bad for me, and yet I resist changing them. Things like checking my phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I really want to break out of that habit, and shall try to do so by replacing them with more positive habits, such as meditating or reading a book.
  4. Change my routine – following on from number 3, I really want to change my routine. I have struggled to do this due to how ill I have been, but I’m beginning to realise that if I created a more accessible routine that actually worked within my limitations I might have better luck at sticking to it. And having a workable routine would reduce some of the chaos that is my life right now.
  5. Change my media consumption – I am very aware that I spend far too much time on social media or watching Netflix, and spend far too little time reading books or blog posts. I really want to change this over 2020, creating a better balance between them all. That may include social media breaks, changing who I follow and how I use each platform, and creating a reading list.
  6. Change my diet  – no, I’m not talking about going on a diet (I already eat far too little, because of how messed up my digestion is thanks to the EDS). What I want to do is focus on changing my diet in all the ways I know I need to but keep resisting. Things like drinking more to avoid dehydration, avoiding triggers such as chocolate, cheese (I’ve already started doing those two things), and being more adventurous when it comes to the meals we eat, so that I get a more varied diet.
  7. Change my priorities – for far too long, I have put myself and my health at the bottom of the pile when it comes to priorities. In 2020 I hope to begin to change that, by prioritising things that help me healthwise (such as getting a regular massage to help with the muscle spasms I get, once we have the funds to do so). I also want to prioritise things like regular yoga sessions at home, meditation, journalling, and anything else which helps reduce my anxiety and boost my self-esteem.
  8. Change my fears – over the past few years I have become increasingly anxious, and an old phobia which I had thought was long gone (Emetophobia) has reared its ugly head. It doesn’t matter that I can rationalise it, or understand how it has built up so high, I cannot seem to ease that fear. I’m starting the year with a number of sessions with the pain psychologist, in which I hope we can talk about how my increasing health issues have impacted my anxiety levels and fears of getting sick on top of being sick. But I also hope to go for some hypnotherapy at some point too, because that was what helped me get over this phobia in the past.
  9. Change my expectations – I have spent far too long waiting and hoping for things to get better, both in my own life and in the world at large. And as much as I do not wish to accept the way things are, there is a certain amount of lowering my expectations which would be beneficial to me. Things like expecting my health to recover in a lineal fashion, when actually the journey is an incredibly windy path with many ups and downs. But the ups and downs, and twists and turns, do not mean that I’m not making progress. I just need to change my expectations of how I will get there and what that will look like.
  10. Change my writing – there are so many ways in which I want to change my writing in 2020. First of all I want to work on my novel The Brethren, and consider hiring an illustrator for my kids’ books, so I can finally publish them. And I want to look at my blog – who am I writing for, and how can I reach them better? I want to tidy things up, and I need help to do that, which I can hopefully get once I have the funds to hire someone to help me clear up everything behind the scenes and develop a better plan than I currently have (which is pretty non-existent thanks to my ill health).

2020 feels like a Significant Turning Point in My Life

As I said before, this list is far from exhaustive, but it is a great starting point for my year of change. I honestly do feel as if 2020 is going to be a turning point for me individually and us as a family. A large part of that is due to the inheritance that will open some doors for us. But an even larger part comes from the groundwork I’ve been putting in over the past few years. I’ve broken down layer upon layer of emotional debris as my health has deteriorated and we’ve faced some of the hardest challenges of our lives.

2020 marks our 10 year anniversary, and I cannot help but reflect on the hopes and dreams we had as newlyweds and how we could never have foreseen the battles that lay before us. I remember saying to Tim that if we’d survived the challenges of the 3 years we’d been together before getting married, we could survive anything. And I was right, more right than I could have possible imagined. The past 10 years have almost broken us in many ways and on many occasions, but one thing has always remained strong, and that is our love for each other. I cherish that greatly, and hope that in 2020 we can finally begin to enjoy that love without having to rely on it to help us survive the storm.

Here’s to a year of change!

Graphic image with the words "Old Ways wont open new doors" in white on a black background

Image of a tree reflected into a still lake, with the word, "Peace, my word for the year 2019"

Peace – My Word of The Year for 2019

It’s that time again, when Christmas is over and the last few days of December seem to be filled with both confusion (what day is it, again?), and reflection on another year passing by.

I find that this almost limbo stage of the year is the one where I either find a renewed sense of hope or I am filled with a sense of despair. There doesn’t seem to be an inbetween state for me, and more often than not my despair leads to overly optimistic plans as I determine to have a better year to come.

This is certainly true of where I found myself last year. I chose the word “Create” as my focus for 2018, and came up with 18 ways in which I could create more health, happiness, and success in my work. I was determined to avoid accepting how ill I was and how much I needed to give up in order to survive. I truly believed I could make things better, if only I tried harder. How wrong I was!

Looking Back at 2018

2018 has been plagued with so much stress and fear and guilt and pain. I barely left the house for the first half of it, and although things got a bit easier as the Autumn came along, it’s still been a long, hard slog. And it isn’t over yet. We still have massive financial insecurity. We still have two tribunal hearings to face at some, as yet, unknown point in 2019. And I’m still sick.

That’s not to say 2018 was all bad. We moved to a lovely bungalow in May, and I have been reflecting over the Christmas period on just how grateful I am to be here and not in our old home. Tim chose to be baptised, and we’ve both become more involved with the church through Bible Study and a few events. And Little Man has been coming on in leaps and bounds at school, thanks to better support and a greater understanding of his needs.

2018 has been a good year in many ways, but I cannot help but look back and realise that my hopes and dreams for this year do not reflect that. This time last year I felt desperate to fix things. I didn’t want to be sick (who does?) I didn’t want to be reliant on the state financially (who does?) And I certainly didn’t want to give up all the things that I felt gave me worth (who does?) Looking back at my post from this point last year, I could say 2018 was the biggest failure ever. But, I’m choosing to see it a different way…

Finding a New Perspective

Instead of seeing all I didn’t achieve as a failure, I’m trying to see it as a necessary step on my journey of self-discovery. I’m trying to see all the times I felt like I was knocked back as a swipe at the unnecessary burdens I placed upon myself to fix something that was out of my control. And I’m trying to see my brokenness as part of my healing, because only in my brokenness do I stop trying to rely on myself and turn to something greater than who I am on my own.

Essentially, I’m hoping to find peace. The word came to me as I tried to calm my mind before bed the other week. I had started to wonder what word I could choose to focus on in 2019, and it simply came to me. Peace. I tried variations on the theme, things like rest, reflection, and acceptance, but essentially it all came back down to peace. Pure and simple.

But what do I mean by peace? Do I mean an end to suffering? Well, no, not really. Suffering is, unfortunately, a part of life. So I don’t want to find a peace which is reliant on good times in my life, nor do I want to find a peace that exists despite hard times. No, what I really want to find is a peace that encompasses both, one which reminds me that it is okay to celebrate my joy and express my despair. I want to feel peace wherever I find myself, even when it’s uncomfortable.

The Difference Between Peace and Acquiescence

I want to stop trying to fix everything, and be okay with not being okay. That’s not to say that I will suddenly stop feeling passion for change where I see injustice (I’m never going to have peace with a government which cruelly inflicts pain on the most vulnerable in society, whilst protecting those with the most, for instance). But I hope to stop feeling such intense levels of fear, anger, and guilt on a personal level. I want to stop angrily watching the news unfold, with adrenaline coursing through my body, and instead learn how to channel that energy in other ways (what they may be, I do not know, but I hope to find out).

And therein lies the crux of this whole thing – I want to find peace, even when I don’t know how that will come. This isn’t an active thing, something I can force into being. I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work. If anything, the more I strive the less peace I feel. The more I try to fix things, to find control in the uncontrollable, the more frantic and anxious and out of control I feel.

And as my body has a tendency to overreact with adrenaline (thanks EDS), this constant cycle of trying to control the uncontrollable has led to an almost permanent heightened state of awareness. The smallest things set off a rush of adrenaline these days, and it’s exhausting!

But whereas I have tried so hard to counteract that with affirmations, meditation, yogic breathing etc over the past few years, I now want to find a place of peace where it’s okay to feel out of control for a while, to ride the waves and trust that there is peace to be found within the madness. Because that’s where I’m at right now, and I can no longer pretend it is only fleeting and I’ll suddenly find a way to snap out of it.

Exploring The Power of Peace

When I was thinking about putting this post together, I was trying to find a quotation which might sum up how I feel. And this verse from Lamentations really struck me:

“I have forgotten what health and peace and happiness are” (Lamentations 3:17 Good News Bible translation).

If there was one verse in the Bible which summed up how I feel, this is it! Okay, maybe not the happiness part, I still have that in abundance. But health and peace? Those two I’ve truly forgotten the feel of. I get glimpses of them from time to time, but they are always fleeting. And I believe they are both intrinsically linked for me, too.

Without peace I cannot truly recover my health. For a long time I thought it was the other way around and that a return to health would bring peace. And it would, of course, in some ways. Better health would mean a return to work, a reduction in financial stress, and an even greater reduction in the guilt felt by the pressure put upon my family by my illness.

But recently I’ve begun to realise I’ve been looking at it the wrong way around. Any peace which comes from better circumstances isn’t truly peace at all, but rather ease at the situation. It may seem like I’m just splitting hairs here, but peace and ease are two very different things. Peace, to me at least, means knowing that at some level things are okay, even when on the surface they are far from it.

Finding The Peace Which Surpasses All Understanding

Which brings me around to faith. I’ll be honest with you and say that whilst my faith has become stronger than ever before over the past couple of years, I still struggle with many aspects of it. It’s almost like the harder life gets, the more I turn to God. But the more I turn to God, the more questions I have.

Not about God’s existence, that has never been an issue for me (in my darkest hours I’ve been the most angry with God – it’s hard to be angry with something you don’t believe in!) No, my questions are more about the nature of God and how I experience that in my everyday life.

I feel like God is just out of touch, supporting me and loving me but in a far less intimate way than I would like. I feel like I’ve been holding God at arms length, not quite willing to open up my heart fully. I’ve been stuck in an intellectual desire to understand God, rather than an emotional desire to know God. And there is a big difference between the two.

So with all of this in mind, I have decided to keep my plans for the year minimal. Instead of setting goals such as reading the Bible and doing yoga every day, I want to wake up each morning and tune in to how I’m feeling and what I need that day to find peace.

I want to open up my heart to the possibility of peace, and see what happens. And I want to do so in the knowledge that whatever happens is okay, even if I feel like I fail. Because the peace I hope to find is the, “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Image of two pumpkins surrounded by lit candles on a forest floor

Samhain Reflections

October 31st marks Halloween or Samhain (or even All Hallow’s Eve), depending upon your personal tradition. Halloween has always intrigued me, since long before I began to explore the history and culture behind it. But the more I have learnt about it, the more it has held a special place in my heart. This is particularly true of the more Pagan roots of Samhain.

Within the Wheel of the Year, Samhain falls at the third and final harvest of the year, and so marks the end of Summer. It is a time of giving thanks for the warmth and light of the Summer months, and preparation for the cold and dark days ahead as Winter draws in. And as today was one of the first days we had to de-ice the windscreen before the school run, I am painfully aware of how long the Winter can be!

(As a side note, Little Man refuses to put on his new Winter coat until December 1st, no matter how cold it gets, because for him it can’t possibly be time for that until the month when Winter officially begins comes around.)

But it’s not just the changes within the physical world that we celebrate at this turning point in the year. For many, Samhain is also about going within and reflecting on the changes in our personal lives. And at a time when the outer world is slowly dying away, we can choose to look at the things that are falling away within our own being. Whether that’s old habits, thought-patterns, or actual physical things like ending a job or moving home, there is always some change we can focus on. Because if there’s one thing we can be certain upon in this life, it’s that change will always happen.

In the past, my reflections at this time of year have often focused on the things which I wanted to let go of, or hopes for a kinder future after months of testing times. And had you asked me about this a couple of months ago, when I was completely bed-ridden by the affects of the Summer heatwave on my health issues, I’d have told you that’s where I thought I’d be right now, desperately hoping for change. But here’s the thing, I’ve spent so much of my life waiting and hoping for things to change within my outer world, that I completely underestimated just how powerful inner change could be.

This Samhain I find myself still in a battle with the DWP, back in debt and desperately trying to manage our finances whilst we’re both too sick to work, and frustrated by so much that is happening in the outer world (don’t get me started on what’s happening in the political world right now). But, I am feeling so much more content than I have done in such a long time, and that means that instead of hoping for change to my circumstances I am able to accept them and live my without the high level of fear and helplessness that have been my constant companions for the past decade.

Because, for the first time ever, I have become aware of harmful patterns of behaviour that have affected so many of my decisions and allowed me to end up in some of the most painful situations. It started with the sudden realisation, as the Summer drew to an end, that I have spent my entire life seeking approval. It seems silly to say that I hadn’t realised this before, but as much as I had known I had issues with “imposter syndrome” and never feeling “good enough”, I hadn’t made that additional step to realising that my behaviour was one of seeking approval from others. And, more importantly, seeking it from people who would never be able to give it.

I realised that there is a true beauty in the way that I view the world, and that my inability to accept the status quo had led me to trying to create change whilst simultaneously trying to “fit in” so that I gained that approval. I was torn between walking my own path and towing the line. And it was so incredibly painful that it’s no wonder I got as sick as I did. Nobody can live like that.

Coming out of that initial realisation were several further lessons. The first was that I had spent a large part of my life playing out certain roles which didn’t feel right. No wonder I’d never managed to stay in a role for more than 18 months, and had changed careers completely on so many occasions. What I wanted to do (i.e. write), felt like something that other people got to do. I honestly believed life had to be hard. Even when I chose to write a book, I didn’t have the confidence to just do it. I sought approval for it. And even though I knew how hard I had worked on it, not to mention the quality of that work, I enabled a situation where this would be questioned.

That same pattern is reflected in all areas of my life. I felt like I had simply “bluffed” my way through university, instead of realising that I am simply very good at languages. My tutors were right when they told me I wasn’t ambitious enough, and was capable of achieving more. But, instead, I felt like a fraud for receiving the results I did! The same goes for my blog. I’ve spent years feeling like I wasn’t “good enough”, because I don’t get the kind of page stats that others do. And yet, as I said before, I know I am a good writer, and that stats aren’t everything.

Basically, the past couple of months of my life have been a massive unfurling of the layers of personas I have tried to fit into throughout my life. It has reached every part of my soul, to the point where so much deconstructing has been happening that I feel like I no longer know who I am. And yet, I’m okay with that. At times it is intensely painful, and I scramble desperately to figure out who I am if I am not all of these things I always thought I was. Especially when I question whether people will like the “real me”. But mostly, it is a joyous unravelling of a tangled web which has held me captive for far too long.

And so, this Samhain, I am celebrating the falling away of these old masks I have worn. I am saying goodbye to the patterns I have allowed to rule my life, thanking them for the lessons they have given me along the way, but grateful to see them finally go. And I am welcoming the darkness of the coming months, as a time of quiet hibernation and reflection, as I allow the spark within to begin to grow in warmth and brightness. Today I am grateful for change, because it means that healing is always within our grasp!

Happy Samhain.

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Wow. I can’t believe that we are already in October and so far this year I have only written 10 posts! So much for my plan to write 50 posts this year. Of course, looking back at my plans made last December, I can see that I have “failed” in nearly every single one of them. And yet, from where I’m standing right now, this does not feel like a failure to me as much as a change of perspective.

At the end of last year I still believed that the DWP were going to expect me to work towards getting back to work. And there was a big part of me that knew I would never be able to do that in the more typical way. I was too sick. So I was trying to find a way to make it possible. I was trying to figure out how to make this blog profitable, once and for all.

But the truth is, I am sick. I simply do not have the energy or health to invest in creating the kind of content and promotion and brand/client networking that is required to earn consistent money from self-employment. The only work I have done for anyone other than myself this year has been for the church, and that has been limited to creating one post for the Facebook page per week, promoting the service. And even that has felt impossible some weeks.

No, working isn’t something I am capable of right now. And thankfully the DWP agreed with me on that one (although how they then went on to refuse me disability benefits, I don’t know – surely, if you’re too sick to work, you’re classed as disabled, no?) Anyway, I digress.

This year has been a hard one. I have been more ill than I have ever been (well, aside from my pregnancy from hell, but at least that had an end point!) We’ve been in a major battle with the DWP, we’ve moved home because I could no longer cope with the stairs in our house, and I have spent a large part of the year completely debilitated by pain, nausea, migraines, and dysautonomia. And as such, I’ve had an awful lot of time where all I could do was lay in a darkened room, thinking about life, and trying to figure out who I am when I am not all the things I always thought I was. Including a blogger.

You see, over the years, as I have begun to use my media experience to work with clients, I started to forget that it’s perfectly okay to just blog for the sheer joy of blogging. I forgot that a post didn’t have to take 3 hours, when you calculated the time taken to write, research links, edit for SEO purposes, find a decent stock image, create promotional images for various social media platforms, and then share on said platforms. That’s what you do for a client, or for a business site. It’s not what you do for a hobby blog. Or, at least, it can be but it doesn’t have to be.

A couple of weeks ago I almost gave up blogging. Which is sheer and utter madness, as I’ve been blogging since 2006. It’s as much a part of me as anything else. The problem was, I’d forgotten how to blog just for me. I’d forgotten when it was like to write whatever was on my mind, regardless of whether it had any value to anyone else. I’ve never been very good at writing in a diary or journal, it makes my hands hurt for one thing as I can’t form the letters as quickly as I can type them, and I grip the pen too hard and it messes with my hypermobile joints. But more than that, I actually love the creativity of sitting down and crafting a post that, whilst not necessarily aimed at others could still be read by them. It helps me form a structure to my random thoughts, and that, in turn, helps me figure out things I might never have noticed if I didn’t blog.

Plus, blogging means that I have a permanent collection of thoughts and feelings to look back on. I might misplace a journal once full, but I can’t misplace a blog. My first blog is still lurking away on the good old internet. I looked back at it the other day. And my second one. And it was so wonderful to read my little rambling thoughts. To see how much has changed (and also, how much hasn’t!)

And suddenly I realised that this is what I wanted my blog to be. I wanted it to be a collection of memories. A place where I could just come and share whatever was on my mind. I didn’t want to worry about whether it would make sense to anyone, or whether I needed to include background information for something to make sense. I just wanted to write and share. And so that’s what I’ve decided to do.

I spent most of last week trying to come up with a new tagline which really encompassed this new theme for the blog. And then suddenly, out of the blue, it came to me. Life, as it happens… Because it’s nothing more than that. It’s life, as it happens. It’s not worrying about the future. It’s not worrying about where I fit in. It’s simply life. And life is a flow of new beginnings. Every day is a new beginning. And I want to focus on that. Taking each day as it comes. And writing about whatever happens to take my fancy.

But even though I’d come up with this idea, I still needed one last little push to actually do it. And that came in the form of a wonderful group of people who are all taking part in Get Your Happy Back (GYHB). I won’t write about GYHB in this post, as I want to end this soon. But just know that it is an amazing community that once you join becomes like your family for life. They meet 4 times per year to work on, as it says on the tin, getting your happy back. Because we all get beaten down by life, don’t we? And we all need the opportunity to come together and focus on ourselves regularly, right?

I know I do. In fact, I know I need to work on this a LOT. During the group call on Saturday, my microphone wouldn’t work, so I couldn’t join in to begin with. We all had a laugh about it, but it was very poignant for me. I have issues with expressing myself. You wouldn’t think that, would you, really? I mean, I’m a linguist and a writer – words are what I do. But as my dear friend, Rachel (who is an amazing therapist, by the way), mentioned to me today, there is a big difference between my ability to analyse what I think is going on and what I think people want to hear, and actually expressing what I need to express.

I’m so terrified of what lies beneath all the different personas, that I don’t even really know who I am anymore. And that’s scary. Because if I dig deep and I find out I’m not who I have portrayed myself to be for all these years, will people like the real me? Will I even like the real me? Scary stuff, huh?

Which is why she has challenged me to sit in front of a mirror and tell my story. From the very beginning (birth). In chapters. Because God knows I have a lot of layers to work through! And, to be quite honest with you, this blog post is a little bit of a delaying tactic, as I’m putting off getting started. But that means that this is really important, and so I’m going to be brave and I’m going to do it. I’ve got the house to myself until 5, when I have to go to an appointment to remove my Mirena (more on this at a later date – it’s a big, scary, but empowering change!)

So, changes are afoot. I am going to try to stop worrying about who I am and actually see if I can simply find her underneath all of these layers. I’m going to try and tell myself my story. And I’m going to use this blog to document what I call my “Sacred Healing Journey” over on instagram. Because this is life, as it happens…