Category Archives: Creativity

Fifteen important things for women over fifty

Women laughing

I was amused by a recent article in HuffPost titled 15 Things a Woman Over 50 Should Own. It inspired me to make a similar list, starting with two from HuffPost with which I thoroughly agree. But although there are some material things to “own” in my list, the emphasis is slightly different:

  1. A room of one’s own
  2. A good bra, professionally fitted
  3. Plenty of laughter lines around the eyes
  4. Two or three really close friends
  5. A supply of good books
  6. A way of expressing creativity
  7. A really comfortable bed
  8. An open mind
  9. Quiet time to think
  10. Delicious, nutritious  food
  11. Dreams (still dreamin’ after all these years…)
  12. Love
  13. Good quality cotton bedlinen and fluffy towels
  14. A ‘right fit‘ spiritual practice
  15. A sense of mischief

So those are my ideas? What about you, what would you add to the list?

Photo credit: The Arches

Taking a peace break

Daffodils

 

A yellow flower

(Light and Spirit)

Sings by itself

For nobody.

Thomas Merton

I‘m taking a few decompression days, so no blog posts and no Sunday Collection this week.

No Facebook, no Pinterest, no email. I’m switching off my computer and mobile phone. I’m getting out my camera, my paints, my journals, my collage. Ahhh, bliss.

What gives you peace?

Photo credit: Andy Price

The key to self-respect

Warmth, intimacy, peace

That’s my mantra for the way I want to live in my home.

I yearn to live simply and richly. Not owned by my possessions and owning only what I need or what gives me joy.

And you know what? For years I’ve felt like a fraud!

I talk a good talk about simplicity, and in many ways my life is very simple: my house is quite small, I don’t own a television, I don’t have a complicated work schedule, don’t take big expensive holidays and I’m not a fan of retail therapy. But the heart of where I live – my home – has for years been absolute chaos. (The wonderful coach FlyLady refers to this quite literally as Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.)

It makes me feel vulnerable to write about this, because I’m inviting you into a mess which I haven’t even shown my closest friends, but I’m hoping that if anyone else is in my situation it might be helpful and give you a few ideas.

I’ve always been domestically-challenged. I don’t seem to have inherited the gene which leads to a healthy, tidy home. Until very recently I’ve been unable to eat at my kitchen table, have had one seat on one sofa on which there’s room for me to sit. My clothes have been living mostly on my bedroom floor. And talking of floors, in most areas of my house there hasn’t been much floor visible under the piles of books, papers and art supplies.

It’s disgusting, demeaning and depressing to live like this.

Contradictions

I’ve beaten myself up for years about the contradictions in my life.

I’m very visual, yet if I put a newspaper on the kitchen table for a few moments it pulls a disappearing act: I can no longer see it. And then it gets joined by the day’s letters, an umbrella, gloves and the book I’m reading until in what seems like five minutes flat, I can no longer see the surface of the table. But I don’t even notice I can’t see it.

I’m very organised when I’m working on a project, and yet completely scatty and vague around the house – I literally barely notice what I’m doing with “stuff” because my mind is buzzing with ideas and other preoccupations.

Overwhelm

As anyone who lives like this will tell you, it gets to a point where it’s completely overwhelming. A house which has been allowed to fester takes a long time and a lot of work to get straight again. And there’s the fear that (a bit like dieting!) you’ll just go back to your old ways again. When we’re in this situation we often don’t trust ourselves. And it feels totally overwhelming. We literally don’t know where to start and lose faith in ourselves. And the sense of being ashamed is part of the overwhelm.

Baby steps

But I’m finally coming out of it. I’m finally getting to a point where I can have intimacy, warmth and peace in my home and invite friends to share it. It’s taken loads of baby steps, one after the other, and I reckon I’ll be done by Christmas.

There are two things that have made a big difference for me.

Acceptance

I’ve had to accept that I’m not a natural at this and I need help to get and stay organised. This came in the form of a book, Julie Morgenstern’s Organising from the Inside Out, which has been invaluable. One of Julie’s recommendations is that once you sort out a cupboard or other storage space, you label it with what goes in there.

Well I scoffed. I scoffed for months. It was obvious what was supposed to go in that cupboard, wasn’t it? What are we, in kindergarten? But then after the umpteenth time of looking for something in the wrong drawer, I caved in. As I gradually began to clean out my cupboards and shelves, I took my labeller and made discreet little labels to attach just out of sight. Now, I have a small kitchen cupboard labelled laundry liquids/dish-washing/floor washing; I only put those things in it and I can find them easily. It’s a dream. The whole kitchen is now populated with similar labels and I don’t care any more whether an intelligent woman like me “should” need to label her cupboards.

Self-love

This has been the single most important thing for me.

In all my previous attempts to get organised, I’ve started with the “public” rooms: my kitchen/diner and living room, where guests would actually come and spend time.

Meanwhile, my bedroom and study – “my” rooms – were tips. Literally. They were where I tipped all the unsorted chaos from the rest of the house. There have been times over the past few years when I’ve slept in a bed surrounded by a wall of scruffy boxes taller than I am, with space in the room only to get in and out of bed and walk to the door and back.

And this was the key. I started clearing our my bedroom and making it beautiful. I spent 30 minutes a day and quite quickly it began to be a space that nurtured me.

When I put myself first by putting my private space first, everything began to fall into place.

Sleeping in a comfortable, clean and beautiful bedroom has set my creative ideas racing, it’s given me physical and spiritual space and energy which has made it much easier to tackle the rest of the house, bit by bit.

So if you’re struggling with any kind of block, whether it’s a physical block like my messy house or a creative block, the key is to start with some active self-love. Show yourself some respect and love, get going and build up some momentum. Everything else will flow from that.

What do you need to accept before you can move forward?

Photo by Ralph Aichinger

My most beautiful thing

wild beauty

Beautifully talented writer Fiona Robyn has just published her latest book: The Most Beautiful Thing. If you’re interested in my review of it, click here. I commend Fiona’s book to you wholeheartedly, it is indeed beautiful.

And today a number of us are picking up on the theme of beauty and writing about our most beautiful thing. What a task this is!

I discovered a lot of “shoulds” considering this. Surely it should be my faith, my friends, my family, nature, art, words, love, creative inspiration. And it is all those things and more. There are endless beautiful things.

But I think perhaps my most beautiful thing is that moment when I open my eyes each morning to the possibility of the new day.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m no Pollyanna. Just like you, I expect, there are days when I wake full of dread, or depressed, or still exhausted.

But… that moment of possibility and choice is still there, like the first flowers of Spring, even hidden behind cloud. And the freedom and privilege of that possibility is truly beautiful.

What about you, what’s your most beautiful thing?

 

Photo credit cmrowell

How to bring your life into focus

Focus

I’ve been working recently on a short-term contract as account manager in a large photographic studio. I’d never worked in an environment like this before and it’s taught me some very interesting things.

When I first walked round the studio floor and watched models wearing jewellery being photographed next to a dining furniture set, next to barbecues complete with grilled burgers, next to fully decorated Christmas trees, I was amazed. Huge lights all over the place, cameras, iMacs, cables snaking all over the place, art directors, photographers and stylists swarming over multiple sets, music playing loudly, set-builders hammering and painting. Organised chaos!

But the resulting photographs are great. You would never in a million years know that the beautifully decorated dining table you’re admiring online and thinking you might buy was shot not on location in some edgy urban loft but in a tiny corner of the studio, with walls formed of two large painted boards set at right angles, into one of which is set an empty window frame, behind which there’s a transparent sheet, behind which there’s a tall lamp which simulates natural daylight coming through the window.

The photograph is the end result of the fusion of creative imagination, technical skill, and focus (in both the photographic and human sense!).

The people on that set were able to filter out the noise and chaos all around them to create that little photographic oasis.

And I realised life can be like that if we have the discipline.

Almost all of us live in varying states of chaos, with competing demands, unexpected events, days too short to fit in all those fascinating things we want to do and see.

We feel pulled in too many directions at once, perhaps especially as we grow older and realise there’s a decreasing amount of time for every delicious thing we’d like to do.

What I’ve been trying to do is focus on one thing at a time. Give it my full attention. Let everything else around me go to pot, just for the time being.

The thing is, it’s a bit like meditation. There will be times when outside thoughts intrude. You remember you’ve got to pick up the dry cleaning, pay the bills, do the grocery shopping. Notice those thoughts and let them go past.

It’s a great way to bring your life into focus and enjoy the journey.

What tips do you have for creating little pools of focus in a busy life?

Photo credit: emi yanez

Once upon a time…

red riding hood learned not to fear wisdom

The way in which old fairy tales can be re-imagined makes them very powerful. Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a mistress of this, and Sara Maitland’s short stories often follow similar themes.

They help us explore the power of aging, and how we are sometimes afraid of it.

One old tale really taps into this fear of both aging and power: the story of Little Red Riding Hood. It warns that girls should not go into the wild places of the earth, lest they be tricked and eaten by a wolf. The obvious conclusion? That girls should fear to take their full place in the world.

But the Grandmother in the tale was already living deep in the forest. She must have been brave enough to go there in the first place, as a younger woman.

And what about the wolf? In this story, the wolf is a cartoon villain, dressed in the Grandmother’s bonnet ready to spring out of bed and eat Red Riding Hood. But animal symbolism often has the wolf as Guardian. What is this wolf guarding?

So here’s another take on the story: the Grandmother represents an archetype of wisdom, which is guarded from unworthy travellers by the wolf. Red Riding Hood has to risk the wildness of the forest to find her own wisdom. But although she fears the journey, she learns through the beauty around her not to fear her destination. At journey’s end, the wolf symbolically devours Red Riding Hood’s old ignorance and she becomes wise in her turn, taking her place beside the Grandmother.

The collage above is one I made to represent a new take on our journey to age and wisdom, through a visual retelling of the old story.

What old stories speak to you of age and power?

 

(This post adapted from one first published at my personal blog, Anchors and Masts)

 

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