There is something very strange about this time of year. So many of the happy-go-lucky, optimistic, sparkly people I know and love in the year are struggling to get through the last few days until the Christmas break – me included.
The last time I felt properly awake, back in September being a steampunk-Alice bridesmaid!
Yep, for the umpteenth year running I am feeling, and so writing about, burn out, in the last month of the year. You’d think I’d have learned by now, wouldn’t you?!
It’s been a weird up and down of a year, and I’ll post a full round up with pictures and links and stuff over the festive period, but I felt the need to waffle into my keyboard today.
It starts in November, when the evenings are drawing in, the leaves fall from the trees (or they do here in England, anyway), there’s a hint of a cold snap in the air, and I find myself perpetually tired. Once the clocks change, it’s like a switch in my body goes to “hibernate” and stays there until the clocks go forward again. I don’t, to the best of my knowledge, have any major deficiencies or illnesses that cause me to feel like this, but apparently I depend more than I realised on sunlight to keep me awake and healthy and happy. (maybe I’m partly plant?!)
November and December have also been really unexpectedly busy months for me – with a return to weekly burlesque classes, co-working sessions with Lizzie, visits from some of my best friends, my first studio shoots for boudoir and bumps, finishing off the renovations, a mini business retreat with Louise Rose, birthdays, Christmas shopping, a new baby and several engagements in my circle of uni friends, a trip to London to see Elizabeth Gilbert and meet up with my fabulous solopreneur friends, four successive sold out Ink Drops boxes (there are still a couple of slots left for January if you’re quick!), a Christmas shoot with local models and photographers, two long-awaited courses, the arrival of my mermaid tail and ice skating and a carousel ride to kickstart Christmas… it’s no wonder I’m exhausted!
Real title: The Morning After The Night Before. Actually, this is how I feel 95% of the time right now)
And so in the couple of weeks before Christmas, I am inevitably tired, tearful, broke and cross, just as my day job is ramping up to push everything through before the January UCAS deadline and the Christmas break. My own businesses go on the back burner, my house descends back into chaos, my kitties sulk because I’m hardly home, and it’s all very far from the idyllic, calm, sparkly months I’d really like to experience through the winter.
Though actually, writing that list has made me realise my temporary bad mood is just that – temporary! Everything at the day job is completely manic and quite stressful, apparently for lots of us, but it really is only a few more days until Christmas. And except for time with my family and my kitties, and a hula hooping workshop between Christmas and New Year, I don’t especially plan to leave my house until January 4th.
So burn out, you can just fuck right off now, thanks. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in my exciting new business plans in photography and the Unicornery, to my annual New Year’s Eve year reflection and planning ritual, and loads of time with my family and kitties. And sleeping in my lovely new bed. Which doesn’t play a symphony of springs whenever you sit or lie on it. Maybe I’m not burned out at all, and just catching up on years of lost sleep?!
So now I feel like I’ve slightly misleadingly titled this post – I am definitely teetering on the edge of burnout, which is an improvement on last year, but I’d really like my take away lesson to be to remember to breathe and say no, next year. In another improvement on last year, I’ve managed to recognise it and take some steps to make sure I don’t succumb in quite as bad a way… and I shall be planning carefully for 2016 so the final months of the year are blissful… or at least not stressful!
With love and unicorns, and narwhals too,
For all that this year has been one of the most momentous in my life (I bought a HOUSE, people), and for all that I’ve rarely been without a camera of some sort since January 1, I seem to have let my 52 project slip.
This is not for a lack of taking photos and more for a lack of having actually taken them off my various devices, sorted, edited and uploaded them… oops.
I’ve moved the album over to my duckingfabulous Flickr account and added the rest of this year’s – up to the first week in September.
Choosing one photo for each week is impossible, so here’s the whole album, organised by week…
I hate tidying up. Really, truly, hate it. But annoyingly I really like living in a space that isn’t full of clutter.
As I’ve tried to explain too many times to count, I don’t TRY to make things messy – chaos just follows me. I don’t deliberately leave things lying around, I’m just absorbed by an idea and don’t notice them lurking. I wasn’t born organised – and I am beginning to believe that the world can be divided into those who can stay tidy effortlessly and those who can’t stay tidy even if they make themselves miserable spending every spare moment trying to tidy up. (I suspect this effect is immeasurably worse if your partner/children/housemates
/visitors are also messy by nature!)
My whole life has been lived in creative chaos – from my room as a child to my spaces at uni, from half the flat I shared with Julia to the whole house and garden I currently live in.
*I* know where everything is, it’s a filing system unique to me and I usually know exactly where to locate a specific item (under the bed, sideways a bit, behind that bag – there you go! Oh, you meant the other one? Basket on the windowsill, about a third of the way down, in a pink zipper bag. Sorted.) Until I tidy up, or worse, someone helps me tidy up, and then I have months of frustration because I can’t find anything.
I am naturally untidy and unashamedly lazy when it comes to housework – I will do the bare minimum to keep my house nice, and am easily overwhelmed by situations like my current one, when my house is filled with boxes and tools and goodness knows what else, in preparation for modernisation (plumbing and electrics. Necessary but oh-so-disruptive).
Much to the bemusement of the generation above mine, I have always unapologetically chosen fun things over housework for my entire life. Hoovering vs creating? No chance I’m going to pick hoovering (though the kittens’ faces when I do switch the Dyson on is unfailingly hilarious).
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t collect things that made me happy or curious, and I have always believed I’m happy surrounded by my precious possessions. I just happen to have a lot of possessions which mystify everyone else as to why they’re precious!
But as I pack up everything I own into boxes so I can more easily shunt them around the house during the electrical works (I lose either Luna or Clover behind or in boxes on a daily basis right now), I find myself wondering whether I actually, truly, need all this stuff.
But how in hell do I even start to thin it down? (actually that’s a bit too melodramatic – I’m already two bin bags of clothes, three boxes of books and several bridesmaid’s dresses down… but the rest of it is overwhelming.)
Marie Kondo is the author of the bestselling book oddly entitled “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I was initially hugely entertained by this – how could tidying up be fun, magic or remotely life changing? It’s just one of those endless, thankless, reoccurring chores. Right?
Well, wrong, apparently. David over at Raptitude reckons she’s got a good point and that her method is intrinsically different from most. She also acknowledges that very few of us were ever taught to tidy up – only told that it had to happen. (No blame intended to our parents – they weren’t taught by their parents either). She also comes highly recommended by my circle of friends who travel the world constantly and work as they go – some of whom had even more stuff than me before they took up that wandering lifestyle!
Marie teaches an all-at-once, drastic method of decluttering your living space and your life, using intuition rather than logic or emotion to choose what stays and what goes. I’ve not read the book yet but I’m aware of the underpinning concept of “does this spark joy?” – if so, it stays, if not, it goes.
And that, I think, is what’s finally got through and made me willing to give it a go. My intuition is strong and well developed; I have spent immense amounts of time on getting to know myself, what makes me tick, what makes me happy; and I know exactly what kind of life I want to live. Joy is something I wholeheartedly approve of and seek in my day to day life.
Perhaps having less stuff will give me more time and space, both mental and physical, to continue creating & living the life I choose. Perhaps this book will help me get there. And given I have to handle every single thing I own over the next few weeks anyway, it would make sense to turn it into an experiment alongside the Raptitude one and see if it makes a blind bit of difference to my lifelong messiness.
And if it works, my Mum (one of the world’s loveliest but also tidiest people, to whom my clutter is befuddling in the extreme) can sit back and smile, thinking that it’s owning a house that’s done the trick. As long as she’s happy, I don’t mind!
So. Ramble over, what am I actually going to do?
Buy Marie Kondo’s book (on Kindle, of course)
Read the book
- Apply Marie’s concepts to my belongings as I pack them
- Live in unintended minimalism while the modernisation work is completed
- Move all my stuff back into the correct rooms and out of boxes and hopefully never have a messy house again
Hmm. I’ll keep you posted…
With love and unicorns,
Edit: I read and started applying Marie’s methods last night. I’m another bag of clothes down and can see my bedroom floor for the first time since I started packing…
Excitingly and a little unexpectedly, I think it’s now safe to announce I’m nearing the end of the process of buying my house! SQUEEEEE! I’m delighted not to be moving, and I love this house and the life I’ve built around it, so I’m very happy to be staying.
More on what promises to be the biggest and best creative project of my life so far when all the legalities are completed and it’s actually mine 🙂
However, this decision indirectly ended up leading to one of the best holidays I’ve had in ages – my staycation! A word introduced to me by an American friend of mine, it describes the time-off-work-but-not-going-away type of holiday rather nicely, I think.
I’d booked the week off thinking I’d head up to the Lake District for a photography holiday, or possibly across to France for a jewellery making holiday (both high on my wishlist at the moment!). But with the hottest week of the year predicted and house completion looming, instead I stayed at home, saw friends, pottered in my garden and started packing boxes up ready for renovating the downstairs part of the house – and I had a wonderful time!
As any of you who have emailed me recently will know, I’ve barely been near my computer all week – and oh, how wonderful that’s been.
Spending time in my business – making the flurry of custom bracelet orders, packing delights from the shop up for people all over the world, reviewing the first draft of Unfurling Your Wings ready for the beta round in August.
Spending time on my business – sorting out my filofax, arranging a day to go through my accounts with my VA, rejigging my plans and goals and directions, and brainstorming new things with wonderful likeminded solopreneurs. And trying and failing (again) to implement an editorial calendar. I really do prefer writing and posting when the mood takes me 🙂
Spending time in my life (which I am trying to do far more often) – having breakfast in the garden (and eating cake for breakfast), drinking Prosecco in a secret garden in London, a burlesque workshop and a festival, playing with costumes, reading three books in a day before I consent to getting out of bed, cups of tea and putting the world to rights with my Gran… all of the things I love but so rarely seem to have time for in my life lately.
And spending time on my life – reviewing my dreams, directions, goals, and working out how best to move in those directions. Writing, photographing, musing and walking. Playing with my Wild Unknown deck, musing over the meanings of the cards I’ve drawn. And, because I’m the list queen, making checklists so I actually do the things that are important to me each day, week and month.
The biggest and most concrete realisation of this pottering, journalling, meditating and generally giving myself room to breathe has been that I want to keep this day job as part of my portfolio for much longer than I had initially planned. Yes, I was surprised too.
The grand plan was to do two years and then shift gracefully into working for myself full time.
And then I adopted my beloved kittens, bought a house and maybe most significantly, made real friends through work. And now I find I’m reluctant to leave the place where I see those people each day, where the work is varied and interesting and I have lots of autonomy and flexibility, while still being able to switch off when I leave the office.
Though I still hate the concept of the 9-5 and the insistence of organisations that employees be in a specific place at specific times, rather than assigning work and letting us get on with it whenever and wherever is best for us, I think I’d be very sad to leave this particular day job (or at least, the people in it) behind just yet.
Longer term I definitely still want total control over where and when I work – yet I’m reluctant to plan more specifically than a general direction to move in, because who knows where I will be and what I’ll be doing in a year’s time, never mind in five or ten years?!
So the biggest result of my staycation (brain-cation?!) is that now my short and mid-term plans involve growing my businesses in a slightly different way, so they’re entirely flexible, and then when I reach the point where it’s financially possible, I can shift the balance.
Part time instead of full time at the day job, and at least half of my time spent on my own ventures and projects. I can see the balance I want very clearly…
Likeminded people, and a beautiful campus, and a flexible but challenging job. Structure, and an office to go into when I need or want to, and watercooler moments with lovely colleagues.
A thriving business which helps women step into their own power and live the lives they’ve dreamed of. Another thriving business which connects stationery lovers and their longing for a simpler, slower, more organised life (and just happens to supply beautiful stationery as well).
And plenty of time for new projects and classes, for making and experimenting and reading and learning new skills. For spending with my friends and family. For entertaining in the house and garden of my dreams, and for relaxing there in my own personal sanctuary. For movement to be built into my life and for stillness and quiet to be as present as noise and being busy.
Not at all what I expected or planned when I quit London for a portfolio career – but intriguingly, it feels exactly right for where I am and what I want right now.
With love and unicorns,
A friend made this amazing meringue… to celebrate another friend’s 30th (which we photographed on her instant camera, hence the glorious 70s tinge to the second photo)…
Yesterday I did something I have been putting off for almost two years.
I’ve written it on endless lists, talked about it to friends, got opinions from people in the know, and worried about it every single time I’ve driven since I decided it would be a good idea to fix.
And yet it was only yesterday that I eventually managed to take Poppy down to Maldon and get her four new tyres.
Yeah. TWO YEARS.
Now while my old tyres weren’t (quite) illegal, neither were they performing brilliantly in the soggy weather we’ve had recently. Consequently I’ve been worrying about longer trips, and freaking out as soon as I realise it’s raining or icy outside, for the past two years. Not to mention driving people mad with the response “I’d love to, but let me check my tyre treads first…”
And yet it took me a five minute phone call to check the tyres were in stock, a twenty minute drive to a place I trust, 90 mins for them to strip, refit, fit my new alloys and redo the alignment on all four wheels, and a twenty minute drive home (with a two hour pitstop at my Gran’s for tea and biscuits). Less than a morning’s worth of work – and the moment I started her engine to leave the tyre fitter’s, I felt a huge weight literally float up off my shoulders.
So why did I put it off so long? I think it felt scary and expensive, and I think some fear got in there as well – what if I don’t know what to reply when they ask for sizes / what if I order the wrong ones / what if, what if, what if. All while also worrying constantly and subconsciously I was going to lose my licence for having sub-standard grip on my tyres if the police pulled me over. (turns out they were still legal, but close to the limit – so all my worrying was quite literally for no reason.)
And yet to beat that epic round of procrastination, all it took in the end was a reminder from my friend Nic, a phone call, and a few hours on a Saturday morning, and now I can relax and enjoy driving my car again. I feel good, and also slightly sheepish.
A lesson I’m hoping to take into other parts of my life – I can think of another few things that get nudged from one list to another endlessly, and build up to be something more than they are – when they’d probably only actually take a little while to remove from my job list entirely.
What do you needlessly procrastinate about? (Go on, share your stories and make me feel better…!)
With love and unicorns,
PS The garage I used was George Tyres in Maldon – highly recommended (and sensibly priced, as well as very reassuring), if you’re in the area 🙂
I discovered photography in 2006, when working at the Telegraph with a creative director who was utterly obsessed with the medium.
He helped me choose my first ‘proper’ camera – a Panasonic DMZ-500 bridge, I believe – and encouraged me to go out shooting at lunchtime, on the train, at weekends.
(with my beloved Panasonic – and to give you an idea of timescale, LOOK HOW SHORT MY HAIR IS…)
I took self portraits everywhere, mainly because I found it easier to use myself as a model than faff either asking a stranger or organising a proper shoot.
After my intern year finished, while my boyfriend of the time revised for his Masters exams, I took myself off on photo walks around our home town. I took accidental pony porn, terrible close ups of flowers, pictures of cars, dogs on walks, woods, people, shops.
Most of them were technically awful, but by that time I was addicted to the feel of the camera in my hands, the click and whirr of the lens, the ability to capture a moment in time by pressing a button.
Eight years on, I’m still blogging and still photographing – and recently rediscovering just how much I love the click of that shutter and committing moments to paper or pixels. And the pull of creating what’s in my head through my lens is as strong as ever – it’s an elusive thrill but one I never tire of chasing. It’s kept me sane through ups and downs more times than I can remember. And my camera is probably the one inanimate object I’d save from a fire if I could only pick one thing.
I’ll be forever grateful to Himesh for starting me on that journey and giving me the confidence to try a new art form without worrying about the results.
What’s your starting-photography story? Did you grow up camera in hand, or discover it a little (or a lot) later in life?
2007 and 2008 show up in my archives as self portrait upon self portrait upon self portrait.
In a time before the word “selfie” existed, and when Facebook was only a year or two old, it was less about exhibitionism and more about discovering myself and improving my skills as a photographer at the same time.
Following the break up of a seven year relationship with my childhood sweetheart at the end of 2007, I had no idea how to deal with it and quickly retreated into my own little world with my camera to try and make sense of my grief. While driving my friends and family to distraction with my circular thoughts and endless tears, I took photo after photo after photo, both posed and candid.
I started a 365 project which can be seen here, though not all the images are publicly visible – they’re mainly snapshots but having a zero-faff daily project helped so much:
They can also be seen here on my Flickr account if the slideshow is playing silly buggers (internet explorer, I’m looking at you…)
The daily ritual of remembering to take and upload my photo, of finding new ways to see myself, to pose, places to be – they helped me see myself as a whole person, not the half of a couple I had always been. I learned how to be me, how to be by myself and how to be happy alone… crucial lessons for rebuilding my current happier, brighter, colourful life.
In essence I suppose photographed my way around my broken heart, fixing the break with pixels and colour and light. The thing I’d adopted as one of my many interests and developed as a skill ultimately helped me find myself again, deal with the pain, shed my old self and move on with my life.
Looking back at those photos I took, I can see (because hindsight is magic, but also because I have changed so, so much in that time) the girl I was and the woman I am. I can see the pain I was in and my desperate hope that it would somehow turn out to be a bad dream, but I can also see my true personality peeking out, though at the time I didn’t notice it. And it’s like getting to know a little sister after a long absence… it’s bittersweet to see her ups and downs and I wish I could tell her it would all be ok. More than ok – it’ll be rather wonderful a few years down the line!
And as the catalyst for a curious life – well, seven years later I’m still photographing my way through this world, and learning daily from it.
I’m thinking of doing another series soon – drop me a note if you’d like to join me!
In no particular order – regular posting will resume on at least one of my sites in the new year!
“The best cookies in the world” according to Pinterest – one of my only Pinterest makes to date. Rob and I made one batch to eat, I made a second for my girls’ murder mystery party, and Clover-kitty successfully trashed the last batch – I found myself picking dough out of her fur while having hysterical giggles.
Ready to go swing dancing – hoping for a lindy hop class to start at uni in the new year 🙂
Burlesque cabaret night – I was stallholding rather than dancing, but it was lovely to be back in corset and frillies!
Mum and Dad’s 40th anniversary party at their house – it was really lovely to have everyone over and celebrate what seems to me a massive achievement 🙂
Luna-kitty is a very modern familiar and disdains brooms in favour of a Dyson – much faster!
Brighton outdoor ice rink with lovely Em
More or less front row seats at the Andalusian Gala evening at Olympia
And earlier in the year, magical light on my morning ‘commute’!
And last but not least, the reason I’ve not been blogging much – my beloved kitties. They’ve been with me three weeks today and I cannot believe how quickly they’ve become the centre of my little world 🙂
If you’ve been reading this blog for more than about five minutes, you’ll notice I bake intermittently, but often. (As I live alone, I don’t dare have a regular baking day or I’d eat all the results practically before they came out of the oven.)
Last weekend, my parents were over helping me to build (ok, ok, Dad was building) a shelter for my soon-to-arrive barbecue, and during a coffee break, Mum casually dropped into conversation that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother ran a bakery of their own from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Why this particular morsel of information has never come up before, I don’t know – but it would appear that Fred’s Bakery was the family business until it was sold sometime in the fifties.
This, to me, provides a perfect explanation for why I bake when I’m sad, and why my baking usually turns out relatively well; why it’s perfectly normal for me to have memorised several recipes which I can bake at a moment’s notice, even in a kitchen I’ve never used before; and why I’m so fiercely determined to work for myself – my family have had their own businesses for nearly a hundred years!