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Posted in Discovery Project: November

Writing and Thanksgiving

As inevitably happens each time I try to Nanowrimo, I failed spectacularly.  None of my ideas ever seem to pan out.  I have them, think they will go far and by day 2, my idea dries up into a cold, husk of an idea with nothing left to give.  I am left with no where to take it.  However, rather than give up in an angry rage, I began to think harder about what I really wanted to write about and a few ideas came to me wandering around Waterstones in search of Christmas presents.  So, I have an idea, two actually and I am seeing how I can develop one of them further.  While not actually writing, I felt this was a much more productive way to spend my writing month than just producing dribble which dries up after 250 words.

Instead, my writing has focussed on the more personal and the more intimate.  For example, I am replicating here the enormous outpouring that I wrote in honour of Thanksgiving this year.  Each year, I always post on social media about what I am thankful for in my life.  It is one of those nice little gestures, a gentle reminder when it all feels hard that actually there is some good happening in life.  And I love this holiday for that.  So, for anyone reading this, please find a little nod to the good things in my life right now.

As we are heading to Devon tomorrow and there may or may not be good internet/I hate doing long posts on my phone/I will be busy chasing down the Hound of the Baskervilles on Dartmoor, I thought I would post my Thanksgiving thankfulness post a little early. There are so many things in my life that bring me joy and for which I am truly thankful but here is a small selection:

1. Friends and family, far and wide. You keep me going when times are hard, you make me laugh when I need it most and you always, always make my life better. Thank you.
2. Full-time employment that allows Chris and I to visit America, keeps a roof over our head and our house warm and food on our plates, and helps us live a comfortable life where we can go and do things with our friends and family.
3. Finding activities I love. I am so lucky that I found horseback riding which gets me out and moving and brings some truly lovely characters in animal form into my life. Yoga, that keeps me grounded and helps me find my centre when the world is crazy. Theatre where I can watch amazing live performances often with people who love it as well. Reading interesting books, which is something I am doing more and more. Writing badly, but it is fun to try to create my own stories. And taking photos of things that inspire me or that I find pretty. 
4. Travelling. While we haven’t done much this year, the fact that we can and we are in such a great place to help us explore Europe still amazes me every day. 
5. Living in a historic place. I just love that so much history surrounds me every day. 
6. Owning a house. Every year we own a bit more and a bit more of our warm and cozy house and I love that we can open it to our friends and family. 
7. The internet. While it has many faults, it allows me to have my existence where I can live here, but still check on people that I love back in America. It offers me a small window to see into the lives of those I may not always be able to connect with in person and I love that. 
8. The opportunities I have had in life. I feel that life is a mixture of luck, opportunities you create, and taking hold of the opportunities presented to you. I personally feel that I have done my best to use all of the avenues open to me. I also like to try, when I can, to help others find their own opportunities if I can, both big and small. I would not be where I am if I hadn’t kept trying to find them and I am grateful for all those along the way who created them for me, helped me see them and helped me grab them. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have had to grow and change and learn. 
9. Being an expat. It has really opened my eyes and changed me to my very core. When everything you take for granted is different, you have to be different and you have to see the world differently too. I am so grateful that I was able to change my life in this way and to grow because of it. 
10. Finding a little bit more of my father in myself over the last year. He was above all a great communicator and a wonderful people person. These were two characteristics I never saw in myself, but over the last year, I have been told that I have high emotional intelligence and that makes me good with people. It has been very humbling to sit with people in their darker moments this year and help them find the light which will lead them out of that place. From friends to colleagues, I have received thanks and hugs which has been absolutely brilliant. I am still working on the communicator bit, but a year ago I would have never called myself a people person and now I think I would. I also appear to have his sense of humour, for better or worse.

If I don’t get a chance to say it on the day, Happy Thanksgiving America!

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Posted in Discovery Project: October

October in Pictures

Well, not really because some days I didn’t get a nice shot or even a chance to get a nice shot.  But, I tried.  And I shared my photos with friends and family using Instagram.  I didn’t study techniques, but tried a few  little filters and one photo really inspired people.  It is a photo and a filter I could only use because of where I live.

Dark and stormy night in Old York Town

I love this photo because it is so dark and eerie.  It makes you think that there are all sorts of ghosts and ghouls hanging around York just waiting to come out for Halloween.  It also proved popular among my friends and family.  And as October is drawing to a close, I have at least picked up some aspects of my project again.

Next up is November, my writing month.  I had anticipated that I would do a Nanowrimo story, but this begs a few questions.  Where to post my writing, when to write (I have limited time), and how will I be accountable.  I am toying with the idea of writing my novel on here for the month.  But, I am worried it would be a confusing though as this blog was set up for a purpose and I would need to suspend that to post here.  Would that be too confusing?  I am not sure.  I could create another blog to hold my stories. Or, I could just write it in Scrivener.  My concerns with just using Scrivener is that I am not accountable for writing everyday. Maybe I should just create a stories blog?  It could be like the Strand from Victorian days with installments.  Hmmmm…. maybe.

Posted in Discovery Project: October, Discovery Project: September

September into October

September was supposed to be about learning something new.  I originally thought this could be learning a language or a new skill. However, what I actually learned was a little more about myself. September we made a life changing decision and I learned that I sweat the small stuff but not the big decisions. I can make those decisions and stick to following the plan.  Those things don’t scare me.  But small stuff always makes me feel like I am going to lose my job. I worry about what people think think of me and then I think I am bad with people and downward spirals begin.  But, big stuff, I can just do with no problems.

However, I am moved up in my horseback riding lessons and I am learning coaching skills through a training programme.  But I feel like I didn’t really make much effort to learn something new.  I feel like I am hiding a bit again.  I also am feeling tired.  I keep trying to do things but I feel like I am just phoning it in and not really trying at this project.  I am feeling low too and I think that contributes to my lack of effort on the project. I also think that if I do this project again, I would do quarterly themes like creativity or spiritual and divide up the months. But, I am trying to collect and refocus on this month of October which is photography.  Or at least that was plan until I had a major incident with my phone which I use for many photos.  I ended up losing many of the photos I have taken over the last year and a bit.  After that, I felt exhausted and tired and lost my focus again.

But, still I need to pull my socks up and get started again.  So, here’s what I want to try to do with what is left of my month.  Firstly, I am going to try to get my Instagram account up and running.  I am going to try to read about different techniques.  If possible, I am going to try to find photography blogs.  I am going to try to experiment with my photos.  I am going to try to take some and experiment with light and maybe even filters.  My hope is that I can develop a bit more as a photographer but also, I hope this helps me leave behind my other thoughts.  I can’t let life get to me.  I can’t feel inadequate or at least, I shouldn’t need to feel that.

Posted in Discovery Project: August

History & Travel

The past two months have gone by in a flash. I am not sure what happened to them.  And who knew that history and travel could go together so well?  Probably everyone.  But, history for me was more personal history and exploration along with a little bit of travel. History – just straight history, I largely ignored for the month of July.  I have a very demanding job which required working on the weekends to some extent and my head was full of work.  It was a major set back for me when it came to my work/life balance I am trying to get.  I didn’t get to read any history books or visit any historic sites.  Feeling like I had to focus on the work rather than history in the evenings and weekends made me feel morose and depressed.  But, I knew that travel was coming up and I had 3 weeks off work.  While travel wasn’t going to be about going around the world or even to any place particularly exotic or new, it would be a chance to slow down and really focus on me and my husband.

Our month of travel mostly contained a trip back to the home country, America.  It consisted of about 4 days in San Francisco and then 2 weeks in my home town.  San Francisco because it was somewhere I always wanted to visit.  We went on a wine tour and spent the rest of the time just exploring the city.  I love exploring new cities and feeling the vibes of it. We did explore the city, and the Redwoods nearby.  It was an amazing trip.  I loved the fog rolling into the bay and I loved finally getting to see part of the west coast.  Anyway, it was a glorious 4 days followed by time in my home time with family, which was great in another way.  I felt like we really were able to be in the warm embrace of my family – or at least those we had the opportunity to see.  I explored my own personal family history by looking at old photos, reading old letters, and learning all the interesting things my mom turned up. It was like my own personal ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

But, through the past 2 months, here’s what I learned:

  1. You can’t go home again.  Not really.  It changes while you are away into something you probably won’t recognise.
  2. New places still mean a routine – I go find breakfast, go do a thing, find lunch, go do a thing, relax, and then find supper.  Maybe grab a glass of wine.  Different places, same routine.
  3. Beauty is in the eye of beholder – this is particularly true about vacation destinations.  What I find beautiful and amazing, many others may not be interested in or think isn’t as lovely.
  4. What you think you will miss about the familiar isn’t necessarily what you will miss.
  5. Travel changes you – you will be different from those who stay at home.
  6. New is only better for a while.  Then new becomes routine, the same.  And then, it becomes new shit you have to deal with again.
  7. Amazement is fleeting – even if you feel it for something you always wanted to do or somewhere you always wanted to see.  Eventually, it will just be a thing you did, saw, felt, explored, etc.  It will become part of your normal.
  8. The world is big and you will only have some much you can see.  You have to prioritise – no matter how much you don’t want to.
  9. Family are those who love you, care for you and about you, are there for you, and support you when you need it.  They aren’t always blood and they won’t always be those you expect.  Sometimes they are the ones who quietly think about you in times they don’t expect.
  10. Time changes relationships.  You can grow together, you can grow along similar paths, or you can grow apart.  People change so much based on their experiences, including me.

I do think my time away helped me reconnect with myself, come up with a life plan, and now I am beginning to work on how to execute these.  That is a major victory for me.  I feel better and in control of my life again and that is no bad thing.

Posted in Discovery Project: July

History & Me

This month is dedicated to history. And it is going a bit slow.  We have not been able to use our National Trust Membership the past 2 weekends.  I am however working my way through A Very Short Introduction to the Vikings and I have been working my way through several historical documentaries, however I am not doing so well with trying to learn a bit more about a period that I do not know very much about.  And we really only have next weekend to make the exhibit.  However, I have watched a World War II documentary as well as a documentary about major life events in the middle ages – births, deaths, and marriages.  I think there are probably more that I have been watching however, that would require me to go through my Netflix history.

There are 2 things that I still want to do despite the time being short to get them done.  I still really want to get to the local museum’s Viking exhibit.  I also want to go to an abandoned medieval village near where we live in the coming weeks. If I continue to make good progress on the book I am currently reading, then hopefully I can start another book before the travel month begins.

Posted in Discovery Project: July

Thinking ahead: July

July is the month of history and I am considering how I can best explore it.  I love history and have studied it quite extensively and given my not so great start at spirituality, I could make it have a religious/spiritual bent.  And I do love religious history.  Instead though, I think here is what I think I am going to do.

  1. Read one historical book – it has to have proper academia behind it.
  2. Use our national trust membership at least once a week.  Ideally, it should be a place we have not been before, but I am not sure that will be possible. We have a few other things going on that we need to be in and around our home town for.
  3. Watch more history documentaries.  I have been doing this anyway but still.
  4. Try to learn 1 new thing each week about a period of time in a place that I do not know a lot about.  My husband has suggested exploring Asian history as I do not know much about that.
  5. Join the Archaeological Trust for our area so we can gain access to talks, etc.
  6. Go to the local museum as they have an exhibit I am particularly interested in.

I think that list is probably more than I will be able to do, but I’ll just see how it all goes. If I did a year on this one, there would still probably be more that I would want to do. I have spent the last month going to archaeological talks and there are so many historic places that I really want to visit.  Maybe I will have to make next year’s discovery project all about history.

Posted in Discovery Project: June

Beliefs & Spirituality

Thinking about this month and everything that occurred and everything that I wanted to do and didn’t, I come back to a thought about beliefs.  What do I believe?  I know I want to use yoga and mindfulness more and I know that I eventually want to bring meditation into my practices, but what do I actually believe?  If these past 3 months were supposed to be about getting spiritual, what does that actually mean to me?  The honest answer of course is that I am not really sure.  So, how can I untangle my thoughts and begin to make sense of it all?  Maybe I should start with what I do and don’t believe?  Off the top of my head, I think I can summarise these two points like this:

What I do believe:

  1. Karma: I truly believe that if you put good into the world, it will come back to you.  I try to be a good person and help out where I feel able because I know some day I will be in a tough place and I will need help too.
  2. Light/Goodness in everyone: I truly believe that there is the light of good in everyone.  Maybe it gets squashed through hard times or may be they have pushed it so far down, it is only a pin prick of light, but it is there.
  3. Connection: Not to a higher being, but to each other, to the earth and to our selves.  If we lose sight of these connections, we lose sight of who we are.
  4. Soul: We all have our guiding principles, our morals, and our values.  This is what I believe is our soul and if we go against these, we lose ourselves and we feel lost or without a purpose.  We don’t know what our purpose in life is and we lose our soul.  We can spend days, months, or years being lost.  We need to be true to our inner selves as much as we can.  Circumstances may always require that we bend our principles, but our core should be true to them.
  5. Everyday actions make the person, not a religion:  I don’t believe that practicing an organised religion makes you a good, strong, spiritual person.  I truly believe that it is the every day things that make the person, their life choices.  If they are given a path to help the many or only themselves, their choice is what they should be judged on.  To me, this is character.
  6. Life is messy: There is no such thing as a perfect life.  We all make mistakes and it is what we do with the learning of these that makes or breaks us as people.  And while wallowing in self-pity or dwelling in a bad place for a long time isn’t always good, there is a place for feelings as a part of the process.
  7. We always have a choice: No matter how bad it all seems, we always have the choice to give up or to carry on.
  8. We are capable of growth and change: We can if we feel it is necessary or if the desire is there change the course of our lives.  We choose the impact we want to have in the world.
  9. People do better together: We are social creatures who always do better together than when we are on our own.
  10. Lives are meant to be lived to the fullest: There is no right or wrong way to do ‘life’.

What I don’t believe:

  1. Organised religion: I don’t believe in any one organised religion.  I have read many of the main religious texts and studied evolution of Christianity throughout history enough to know that I can’t believe any one book is the word of a God.  I am not sure that I believe in a God.  I think I believe more in the spiritual connectedness of the world than in a benevolent or maleficent rulers of a heaven or a hell.
  2. Only one way is the right way: I think this links to organised religion but I truly struggle with the concept that there is a right way or a wrong way to live your life, that there is a right set of principles and a wrong set.  I do think there are some universal truths like hurting others is bad and fairness/equality for all, but I do not believe in an eye for an eye.
  3. Practices make you spiritual: I don’t think anyone who goes to church, temple, mosque, monasteries, etc are better than those who don’t.  I don’t think practicing rituals, like prayers and singing hymns means you are a good person.  I think the every day actions are what show people as good or bad.  I also very much think that good versus bad can be very grey and situation dependent.
  4. A cosmic judge of all humankind: I just don’t believe that one exists.  I don’t think that there is anyone out their directing our lives like a symphony.
  5. Confession clears the soul: In my time, I have tried confessing my sins, but in my experience, I may feel better, but I may have made someone else feel worse. Confessing to yourself that you did something that you feel is wrong does help in that acknowledging can often help to move on from it.
  6. There is any such thing as a clear conscience: Life is messy.  We make mistakes.  We try our best and sometimes we fail. We need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and learn.  Wallowing doesn’t help, but I do think that there is a learning process from our mistakes and first and foremost we need to get ourselves to a place to learn and not just ignore the process.

 

I think if I had to describe myself as anything, it would probably be most in line with a Humanist.  Maybe if I had started out my 3 months exploring what I do and don’t believe first, it would have helped me to get to the next place of mindfulness and meditation.  I also think that I am a person who does well shutting down my brain in a group when we are all striving to achieve mental clarity.  I think trying to be mindful on my own didn’t work for me.  I think this may also be why I struggled to meditate.  And also, I think I was not clear on what spirituality looked like for me.  Perhaps also, exploring spirituality came too soon in the project for me.  Maybe if I had explored myself first, I could then have brought in how this ties with my spirituality at the end.

Finally, I think one thing I am struggling with over the whole course of this project but especially during this past 3 months is this. (Reference: Facebook Group Staying Alive is Not Enough)

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Posted in Discovery Project: June

June: Not yet ready for full-blown meditation

There are so many things I have learned from this project and I could begin to list them here and now, but I think I will wait and do a full-blown mid-year review next week.  But, one that really affects June is, if you aren’t ready for it, don’t do it.  I was not ready at the start of June to try meditation.  I really wanted to try it but ultimately, listening to my inner voice, where I was at the beginning of the month and what I could and could not do, I recognised that now might not be the right time for this.  And in a few ways I can really tell that this was the right decision.  Firstly, I became ill, probably some of it was due to being run down and it was probably made worse by hay fever but I definitely needed a break and to cut myself a big bit of slack because I was running my engine a bit too hard.  I took on a coaching course, which I love doing but may not have been my best move when trying to do this and find a centre of gravity for my life.  I am an overcommitter by nature though and will do everything possible in my power to achieve everything, including running myself ragged.  Still, an opportunity is an opportunity and should be grabbed with both hands.

All of this discussion makes me sad that I have completely missed this month.  I will say that while Mindfulness on its own doesn’t seem to help me, yoga appears to be here to stay in my life.  This is a good thing.  Sunday riding and Thursday yoga are two staples in my life.  They are the days in the week I look forward to most.  They make me happy and keeping me going.  They also help keep me centred.  And even if they aren’t meditation, they are a beginning for finding the path back to me.  So, as much as I hate to say it, sorry meditation, now might not be your time to enter my life.  Maybe we should try again next year?

Also, this image felt particularly poignant for this post when I saw it on Facebook.

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Posted in Discovery Project: June

Spiritual Failure: Survival Mode

For the last few weeks, I have been failing in my spiritual quest.  Why?  Well, my husband thinks it is because I try to take on too much and there may be a degree of truth in that.  I think also I have had a few very busy weeks at work which have meant I come home exhausted and needed to do some self-care.  For me, this means boiling life down to just the few things I need to do for surviving.  So, I went to work and came home, then tried to sleep where possible.  But mostly, my life has revolved around doing only the absolutely necessary which meant lots and lots of hard work at work.  There have been good things.  I have been chucked into the deep end and come out doing reasonably well on a few things at work.  I also have had some major projects at work that are requiring a large amount of set up.  We have also been trying to arrange our travel for the month of travel.  Add on top of that the work I am doing for my Coaching course and you can see that how I might feel overloaded.  And I am coming down with a sinus infection I think.  So, I have been struggling with finding some time for myself and much of my time has been around just being.  I have downloaded a meditation application but I have not even been able to touch it.  I don’t want to be overly optimistic and say I will start it tomorrow, because I have tried that before and when it didn’t work out, I was upset with myself for not getting it done.  And for now, I think I will mostly just try to get by moment to moment and day to day.  I think I clearly need to take a step back, re-balance and re-centre myself.  Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh day with no mistakes in it. And maybe what I really need is an Anne of Green Gables perspective.  Each night, I hit the reset button and tomorrow is a new day.