On eating alone

People often ask how I can bear to eat alone most days.

They say mealtimes are social, a time to catch up, go over the day, share stories.

But there is a quiet ritual to my mealtimes, especially in the evenings, and even more so now I’m self employed.

A table set for one, with pasta and a drink, and a tea towel featuring pink teapots.

Photo by Elli O. via Unsplash

In my working days, mealtimes were a pause – a sort of peace between the hustle of the day job and commute, and the quiet, determined industry of my evenings spent working on my then fledgling businesses.

Now, they are a reminder to stop, to nourish and take care of myself. Mealtimes are a chance to catch up, and to go over the day – but with myself, not with a cacophony of other voices and experiences.

The act of cooking, and then sitting down to eat (yes, alone), is one I find deeply soothing. As a child we almost always ate at the table rather than on our laps, and I try to make sure that happens at least a few times a week.

Though indulging in my favourite films while eating on my lap is also one of the many pleasures of living alone. This evening’s was Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes.

I like my solitary meals, and I love my own company. And, should I crave chatter and voices to accompany my food, I’m never lacking in friends to eat with.

The choice is the thing – one of the many parts of singlehood I find magical in spite of others’ misplaced pity.

Do you eat alone? Is it joyful or do you find it strange?

Thoughts on a Depth Year

At risk of being accused of bandwagon jumping, the lovely Annastasia recently sent me this article from Raptitude about a Depth Year.

As you’ll know if you’re a regular visitor, or a friend (or both!), I read a lot. Blogs, books, magazines, cereal packets – if I’m not creating, I’m always reading, and always digesting information, and yet this stood out.

Mermaid Kerenza Sapphire swimming at Haraki Beach, Rhodes | carlalouise.com
Not necessarily this kind of depth, although I do find a sense of calm & peace at about 3m underwater.

Deeper, not wider

The general concept is to go deeper, not wider. So making more of what you already have, revisiting half-finished or abandoned projects, trying not to buy more and do more and acquire more.

Just for a year. Just to see how it feels. It might become habit, or a way of life, or it might not.

At least, that’s what I took from it. And it was like a siren song to me, at this weird crossroads between my old life and (another) new life. I’m living my freelance, self employed dreams, and I have more freedom than I’ve ever had, and it is everything I dreamed of.

But it’s still early days, and while the businesses are doing ok, they’re not yet seriously established. In my book, that comes around the 5-7 year mark of the same business, and though I’ve had businesses and side hustles for nearly nine years, of course my hallmark is changing things up, even while the themes stay the same.

And under everything, still, is the utter despair of grief, and not really knowing what life looks like without Dad in it. It’ll be two years in March and I still don’t really know how to get my head around the loss of him.

Frustration with the culture of MORE

I’ve also been getting increasingly frustrated with social media, and the comparisonitis and more more MORE culture. The concept that you can only be happy if you buy certain stuff, do certain stuff and look a certain way. I know it’s changing, slowly and in corners of both the internet and real life, but it is exhausting.

Avon, of all places, body shamed cellulite in a recent advert, and frankly it felt like the last straw. I also spent a couple of weeks at Mum’s, with the cats, over Christmas, and as she has a TV and I don’t, I luxuriated in the novelty of watching TV while curled up with antibiotics, throat lozenges and a very obliging Luna & Clover.

Oh my god. The ADVERTS. They are constant, and loud (I swear the volume goes up of its own accord during ad breaks, to follow you to the loo or kitchen or whatever). For someone who has lived without a TV for more than four years, rarely goes to the cinema, doesn’t read newspapers except in dire emergencies and gave up typical women’s magazines a long time ago, the adverts are overwhelming.

What depth looks like to me

Depth. As a multipod my life is wiiiiide – I cover a lot of ground, love a lot of things and keep a lot of plates spinning. It’s how I thrive best.

Recently I’ve been feeling very contented with my quartet of businesses, plus dance and this blog. The combination finally feels right to me, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not feeling the pull to create a whole new venture. Instead I’m creating within my existing ventures and it feels bloody brilliant.

But a quick ten minutes with my journal and a cuppa (oh, who am I kidding, a Pepsi Max) yielded this list of things I could explore further this year:

Photography for clients – exploring new ways I can use my branding & web knowledge to create stunning shots for business owners & bloggers, year round, and helping women feel amazing about themselves in both their personal & their professional lives.

Photography for joy – fantasy/fine art work, landscapes & exploring, my existing personal projects, documenting the people close to me.

Posing at a Brooke Shaden workshop in 2015. I still haven’t finalised the images which came from this!

Studio lighting & flatlays (I’m in the process of launching a stock library and would love to develop this further – pop over to studio19stock.com for details). Having Studio 19 is a dream come true, but I haven’t really experimented with different lighting setups much – just used what I’m comfortable with to get amazing shots for my lovely clients. Experimentation is definitely on the cards!

Time with friends & family – whatsapp is a wonderful invention, but I found myself feeling very disconnected during December (not unusual over the madness of the festive period, plus I had whooping cough so felt generally wretched), so I want to spend more time in person or at least on Skype, with my full attention on my loved ones and vice versa.

Tarot, oracle & witchery – I’ve done some readings for myself and for friends recently which have been spot on, and having used the cards for a long time to prompt my inner thoughts & journalling, I’m getting to know them much better. I want to explore this side of my spirituality and I have about a million books connected to the subject!

Marking the seasons – sort of connected to the witchery really, I always say this is something I’d like to do, and then the seasons race past and I find it’s winter solstice again and I’ve failed to notice or mark the passing of the year.

Cooking from recipe books (and possibly freezer diving!) – I have a whole bookcase full of recipe books and a massive folder of ones I’ve found, not to mention my Pinterest board – so this year I would love to explore these in more depth and see if I can find some new favourites.

Sorting and printing photos – both physical and digital.

Journalling, my five year diary and my gratitude diary – they’re frequent habits but not daily yet. and my five year diary which started on my 25th birthday and finished the day before I turned 30 is a treasured possession, so having another one would be lovely.

Letter writing – I’m doing lots of this with Ink Drops (we have declared 2019 the Year of the Real Letter) and I’ve also found a new penpal through a Facebook group I’m part of.

wooden type at St Botolphs | carlalouise.com
Letterpress goodness in Colchester. I’m not ruling out letterpressing my own stationery!

Jewellery making – this is something I revisit every January to make my Wear Your Word bracelet, and I’d love to hone my skills & learn some new ones instead of taking up a whole new hobby.

Scrapbooking/vision boarding – apart from my yearly vision board, I cannot tell you how many half-started, unfinished scrapbooks are kicking around my office!

Roller skating – joyful movement is hugely important to me, and dusting off my skates has never yet failed to bring me happiness.

Cross stitch – I’m still battling with a very small cross stitch I bought eight years ago whe I left the library. It would feel SO GOOD to finish it, frame it and hang it up!

Ebaying, decluttering & the Queen Sweep.

Diving into my course library – I have bought (and done) so many courses over the years, I’d love to revisit some instead of buying new ones.

Unread books & rereading books – and this afternoon I paid off my library fine so I can use the library instead of buying books.

Finish decorating my house – this is of course time & money dependent, but I can certainly do bits and pieces, like putting up the art which has been propped against the fireplace for almost three years.

Burlesque & line dance – going deeper means learning and remembering and possibly performing.

Blogging – here I am!

BBQs – Dad would approve so much!

Self portraits, costumes & prop making – all of which make my heart sing, but I never seem to have time for. I will, however, be going to Bothwell School of Witchcraft as crew this year, so am hopeful this will bring together those long-suppressed bits of creativity.

For ten minutes, I thought that was quite an impressive list, and I have definitely missed some stuff. Aside from all the things I do (and it’s always been a long list), I’ve always been fond of the make do & mend concept, and will be actively looking to repair rather than replace things which break or go wrong.

Plus of course trying to buy less – I’m still allowing myself to buy what I need, but will try to keep tabs on my impulse purchases, and anything which uses too much single-use plastic. (Mermaid at heart, see!)

So I hereby declare 2019 my Depth Year.

Fancy joining me? Already done one? Leave me a comment or drop me an email, I’d love to hear your experiences & tips!

At peace

Today we laid Dad’s ashes to rest.

As ever, I find it hard to write about grief, my own and also Mum’s. This year has in many ways been harder than the first, as the reality of life without Dad starts to sink in, and the buffer of essential admin starts to shrink.

We both seem ok on the surface, yet we are so far from ok underneath. Tears are never far away, and though we go through the motions of life, neither of us are fully living, and neither of us can really conceive of a life without Dad.

To the outside world, it probably seems that the grieving period should be over by now.

I’m learning daily that grief doesn’t lessen, when you loved someone so very much and were loved in return. The pain of losing Dad is as raw today, and every day, as it was the day he went to the big bar in the sky.

A wise person said to me recently that of course, less than two years after his sudden passing is still very early days, when you consider the length of our time with him. He and Mum were married 44 years, and I have been alive for nearly 33. She is right – the time he’s been gone is a drop in the ocean compared to the time he was here with us, and I don’t think our hearts truly understand yet that he is gone from this world.

Most people are understanding, and while we try to keep the depths of our grief from showing even to family and friends, their support means the world.

Yet not everyone is kind, even when reminded we are grieving. Of course everyone has their crosses to bear, their own tragedies and losses and difficulties- it’s part of being human.

But this last couple of years have definitely shown me people’s true colours. I guess Dad was right, in a roundabout way, when he told me death really does bring out the best and worst in people.

Today was quiet and private – just Mum and I and the gentleman from the crematorium office. It was hard to do but felt peaceful, too – and I love that he has a permanent memorial there.

He is remembered and missed elsewhere too – my lovely auntie Kate sent us a photo of the wreath of yellow roses she’s put on his other memorial for Christmas, on his Mum’s grave in Cornwall, and we shall go to his pub and have a drink for him there too – because it’s always five o clock somewhere!

He is always with us – around us in spirit, alive in our hearts and minds and memories.

I am blessed to be his daughter and Mum’s. But goodness, I miss him.

No place like home…

I’m home safely from a gorgeous two day branding shoot with Louise Rose Couture, who is also one of my very best friends in the world.

I LOVED the magic we created together and I adored having an excuse to spend time together before Christmas – we are both so busy we didn’t know if we’d manage it otherwise!

And I slept like an actual log at her house.

But after a long drive home, I opened my front door and Luna and Clover were waiting for me, tails quivering with happiness that I came home (I was literally gone for 28 hours and Mum visited, cuddled and fed them twice in that time, so it’s nice to know I’m loved!).

Aside from the specific happiness at both of them being back to normal after Clover’s stressful summer of hiding, I was filled with happiness to be home. There’s just no place like home, is there?

It’s vibrant and cluttered, gorgeous and messy, full of all the things I love and built with love by me and Mum and Dad.

It’s my sanctuary and I love it.

Not doing so well on the daily posts but this is probably the most I’ve posted in a month since about 2012.

On a separate note, Facebook informed me yesterday that in 2009, I did my very first craft fair.

Nine years of hoping and wishing, dreaming and scheming, planning and doing… and here I am, living the results of my dreams.

Apparently this time several years ago I also wrote to my 13 year old self. She definitely wouldn’t believe me if I told her, but I think she’d be proud. I know that Mum is and I’m sure that Dad is.

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends!

(Can you hashtag #streamofconsciousness?!)

Flashes between worlds

I found my prom albums recently, and some photos of me competing at Worlds, and I sat, quite unaware of time passing, in an almost trancelike state for a while.

The girl I was then was so close I could hear her and almost reach out and touch her – and I couldn’t help but wonder what my fifteen year old self would make of my life now.

I don’t think she’d believe any of it.

But the flashes forward I had in my early 20s weren’t far off my life right now, though I never anticipated losing Dad so early in my life. But my home, my chosen creative path, my silly, loving little fluffsters, my friends both local and far flung… they were all part of those occasional flashes in one form or another.

And this evening, when Luna clambered off my camera bag and got into my lap and stayed there, kneading and purring and looking at me with big adoring eyes before going to sleep, I found myself quite unexpectedly between worlds again.

I was at once myself, here and now and 32 years old, and at the same time I was older – in my late 70s, sitting on my sofa with another cat on my lap, my silver hair twisted into a plait and still reaching my waist. I was so happy and yet so wistful – life to that point had been full of joy and friendship, happiness and contentment and purpose, yet had passed in no more than a breath. I could feel very strongly that I’d done what I wanted to with this one precious life, but I wasn’t yet ready to leave it.

It was so clear it was unnerving. Perhaps cats really are magical?

But these flashes into my past and my future, while unsettling, serve me well – they help me to keep choosing to live my life the best way I can, in a way that’s true to me.

I don’t know when they’ll come, or what triggers them, but I know now to pay attention to them – and adjust my choices accordingly.

(Mood) Lighting

I spotted this on Instagram just now (I love Tom Cox, his cats and his writing – go and investigate if you’re not already familiar with him).

It got me thinking about light.

For all that I’m a photographer and so, professionally, wield light, I’m not yet happy with the lighting in my home, particularly downstairs.

It’s better than it was, but as an open plan room with west facing windows, it’s always surprisingly dark!

Eventually I’ll work with this and make the wall opposite the windows blue – but for now, some kind of warm, cosy lighting, bright enough to read by, would make me happy.

I'm Carla, a quirky thirtysomething with a penchant for unicorns and glitter. I believe in magic and make-believe, and the gorgeous rebellion of making your life absolutely your own. And I'm a proud multipod!

I am a photographer and catalyst for small business owners, and a real life mermaid. I photograph people as they truly are, help women see and step into their brightest and best selves, add a sprinkling of magic to the mundane, and am a happy ambassador for stationery and slow living.

Proud to be both girly and geeky, when I’m not writing, photographing or daydreaming, you can find me dancing burlesque, riding my bicycle Bluebell, growing herbs and collecting typewriters.

2018-19 Things

Things I want to do in 2018 & 2019. I only got round to updating this in November 2018 so it's covering both years 😉 From my Daydreams To Do list and also from my general goals for the year.

~ Draigcon and/or Wizardry School ~ Steampunk events ~ experiment with film cameras ~ walk more ~ explore Colchester ~ beach time ~ kitty portraits ~ western riding ~ spa days ~ kayaking ~ learn to make bath bombs ~ recreate Lush's Angel's Delight soap fragrance ~ slow reading club ~ craft gatherings ~ work in sterling silver ~ build a catio ~ handwritten letters ~ photobook of the house project ~ print my own photos ~ explore

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