I’ve been in a real funk for what feels like ages now, and while I know some of this is because tomorrow marks six months since we lost Dad, which is normal and natural, some of it is more inexplicable and just annoying.
I’ve struggled to create, to sleep, and especially to do the everyday things that have to be done – laundry, cooking, day job tasks, ongoing business tasks, blogging…
It’s always a warning sign for me when I can’t find my blogging mojo – for most of my adult life I’ve had a blog, so any time when I don’t want to post for an extended period usually means I should take a long hard look at what’s happening, and maybe talk it out somewhere. (Ironically, not necessarily online…)
Last week, I felt like this and just didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, but managed to force myself out of the house, into the car, and across town to burlesque.
If you’re a long term reader, you’ll know that I’ve always danced, and that burlesque has been a passion for nearly six years now. My lovely friend Lizzie now co-owns Love You Burlesque, and alongside shooting them for a year (over at my business & branding photography biz), I dance with them too.
Lizzie and Gennie often talk about how their classes give ladies an hour to themselves every week, and I never really understood how important this was… I live on my own, so I spend a lot of time happily by myself! But that evening, I managed to leave behind all my sadness, anxiety, stress and general meh-ness for a whole hour, and lose myself in frills and feathers and sass.
This week has been hard, because it’s approaching a significant anniversary that I don’t want to think about. But tomorrow is going to roll around all the same, and walking aimlessly from room to room, wondering what I came in for, is not going to help.
I skipped burlesque yesterday as I just wasn’t feeling myself, and today although I had a lovely lunch with friends and a surprisingly good day at the day job, I got home and felt… meh.
So I got out my bike, shooing away the spiders that were lurking. Dusted her down, pumped up her tyres and went for a short ride to quite literally blow the cobwebs (on her) away. It’s the first time I’ve ridden this year and it was a great reminder of connection.
Riding a bike (or a horse) means you’re out in the open air, you can feel the wind rush past your face as you move, and you are closer to the road than you ever are in a car.
You can see the leaves and the birds, the conkers (when the hell did it get to be conker season already?!) and the marks on other people’s cars. You are going quicker than you would on foot, but slow enough to notice pretty shutters, colourful front doors and various things for sale from the front of people’s houses (I love village life).
I only went to the shop and back, and yet I have come home feeling freer, calmer, and much less angsty about everything. Luna and Clover got to be outside till just now, instead of me panicking and hauling them in early (they get very silly around dusk, I think it’s a cat thing), and I have written this post, blitzed my bullet journal and answered some customer enquiries instead of just wandering around aimlessly.
It appears that next time I feel rough, things beginning with “b” are helpful… bikes… burlesque… bullet journals…
What do you do when you have an attack of the meh?!
Just checking in – I really miss blogging like I used to, as more of a journal of my life. Over the 12 and a half years I’ve been writing about my life on the internet, I’ve seen blogging change and evolve and shapeshift so many times.
I haven’t quite worked out where it is, as a medium, today – some people say it’s dead, some people say it’s stripped back to its bare bones, some sit in the middle.
But for me, and I’m sure I’ve talked about this here before, my blog is my online living room. It’s decorated how I like it, it’s filled with the things and conversations I want to have, and people can visit and leave as they like. No scheduling, no shoulds, no worrying.
It’s probably not a strategy to build an enormous following, but that was never the goal for this particular blog. And I have plenty of business spaces to do the strategic-yet-authentic thing (though if I’m honest, even my businesses don’t have much of a schedule for blogging & social. I prefer to be present and write when I have something to say).
So, things that have been going on in my (still grief-fuddled) world recently:
This amazing box to brighten up my day job desk
Friendiversary dinners & plans – from a year to 20 years, eeek!
Choosing a yellow rose to plant in Dad’s memory
A series of commercial shoots coming up for the Burlesque Jems (and I’m going to be on TV dancing with them – eee!)
Packing for holiday and wondering how the hell I’m going to get my biggest fin, two weeks’ worth of clothes plus my camera, lenses & laptop into hand luggage only
Mermaid filming, and some secret squirrel plans for Mermaiding UK’s blog
Celebrating my Gran’s 88th birthday (we missed Dad being a BBQ maestro but it was really lovely to spend a whole day just chilling out with family)
Happy lunching with friends at work
I was on BBC radio talking about being a mermaid!
Ink Drops packing, podcasts and plans
Moving Crafty Coffee to a Wednesday, to fit in with my new part time hours
Planning for a creative day with friends
Julia and Willoughby came to stay for the long weekend and I had my first foray into toddler soft play – was hilarious! At sixteen months he is gorgeous and much more interactive than newborn babies… but I had forgotten how much energy kids have!!
Going back to burlesque classes – I had missed it SO MUCH
Jenny & Matt’s wedding (and unicorn shoes, and sneaking in brunch with Lou & Paul!) It was also… illuminating… to meet up with people I’d not seen for nearly a decade. I’m very entertained by how some of them still think of me, and also by the passage of time in the case of the boys – the teenage boys I was friends with and loved so much – they are all now hurtling for middle age, yet haven’t changed personality-wise at all.
And I’m sure all sorts of other stuff which has escaped my brain for now.
I can’t quite believe it’s June, but I’m trying to keep up my Happy Jar and gratitude journal practices, and making an effort to cook & eat well, as grief is quite exhausting enough without also trying to survive on junk food.
I’m still sadder than I knew was possible, but I am getting through each day, and spending as much time as I can with Mum and my family and my kittens and my friends – these things do make you realise the important things in life.
And finally, I’m hoping to spend a bit more quality time with my camera over the next couple of months, around all the admin we have to do, and also of course around work. I read somewhere that immersing yourself in things you love helps with anxiety, as you’re too absorbed in your creativity to worry unnecessarily about things. I think maybe this is a good experiment to try…
I’ve been busy filling my happy jars this month and it’s been a gorgeous experience!
In no particular order, here are lovely little snippets of January:
These coaching videos shared by my friend Darren
best compliments ever from Rhi and Janine, including a comparison to a photographer I love
Lizzie being fully booked for work and Rhiannon’s first month of self employment being a runaway success
booking a very exciting photography workshop
epic kitten cuddles (pic of Luna. Clover likes to cuddle me while I’m on the loo, so I’ll spare you all photos of that)
teeny tiny pug puppies! I was at the vet and a box of tiny, wriggling, three week old puppies came in <3
happy post from Em, Cally, Sarah, Janine, Judy and Annastasia (and NEOM organics)
lens shopping for my photography businesses and impromptu cake with Sarah
giving an inspiring talk to the Cake and Revolution W.I. in Ipswich ~ “I had goosebumps listening to you talk – thank you”
planning cake & celebration for the finishing of the first draft of a friend’s novel
crafting Saturdays at Sarah’s
snow! and getting home safely in some mad flurries of snow. and kittens in the snow (first time they’ve ever seen it):
(The Silly Kittens – first time snow from Carla Louise on Vimeo.)
brunch with Mum & Dad at Chiquito’s
lovely, happy lunches with Ally, Sarah A, Darren, Janine, Emma, Sarah S
making unicorn bark
a security guard letting me through a building even though it was locked, to save me a long walk around to the car park
feeling like I have my creative mojo back
Maddy’s Careershifters feature
Dad’s blue badge approval – which should make it easier for him to get out and about
studio time and homemade lasagne, which Past Carla had been sensible enough to make and then freeze – it was SO nice to have proper food after getting carried away making!
Kittens in paper bags
lucky rainbow scarf day
friends’ business and coaching and singing plans
Lost property lady being utterly lovely about my lost fountain pen
Buying a replacement fountain pen from ebay – it’s not the same enough, but the slip that came with it said that my money is going towards a fund a teenager is setting up to help rural communities in Peru, building classrooms, greenhouses, better sanitation and environmental projects. He is going to volunteer there in the summer following his GCSEs, in 2018. This was such a lovely surprise!
meeting a lovely lecturer at work who was delighted to meet a professional mermaid
sending a surprise parcel to a young lady who’s going to meet a real mermaid, and be one herself for the day, in March – she came to my attention via the Rays of Sunshine charity, and while I couldn’t accommodate her request as my mermaiding is only insured for grown ups, I couldn’t resist parcelling up some mermaid delights for her <3 I had a gorgeous email from her mum to say Lucy loved her parcel!
planning & reviewing time – this has been so good for me in previous years, and I can do it with friends this year!
Karen bringing me a surprise Kinder egg
Reading about basic income – something I’d like to learn more about
transferring Mum’s phone successfully to giffgaff
two no spend days in a row
booking all my Mondays off work to use up holiday
lovely new PA in our faculty team
hotel chocolat order (woo for end of season sales!)
glitter jar for the office
exciting photography developments
Things I love and want to remember about myself postcard I made for the WI
invitation to Silke’s Professorial Inaugural Lecture
booked onto the circus day the girls got me for my 30th (eeek!)
salted caramel hot chocolate
long chat with Lou
my nephew Willoughby turned 1
time with Dad putting the world to rights
time with Mum ironing shelves (!) and putting the world to rights
getting all the photos of my house project all in one place
facetime with Claire and her lovely doglet Bailey
Phew! For a long, cold, dull month which also had its share of sadness and anxiety, I feel like that’s one amazing list!
2017 has such a different vibe so far – I am absolutely loving feeling more like myself again, and having creative oomph… long may it last!
Today marks the equinox – twelve hours of light and twelve hours of dark.
When I bought my house last year, and redesigned the garden to become a patchwork of patios and decking, with one big flowerbed and lots and lots of pots, I initially wondered whether I’d done the right thing. I thought I might find it annoying to have to water my garden and care for it (it felt initially like another thing for my endless to do list).
Actually, in a whirlwind of stressful events over the last few months, I’ve found it incredibly and unexpectedly soothing to wander round my garden each evening with a glass of wine and the hosepipe, as my Dad used to do when I was small. To talk to my pots and my plants, to trim them and dead head them and harvest my accidental chilis.
I’ve once again been able to watch the seasons change, and as autumn starts her approach, I am happy to draw my snuggly pink shawl around my shoulders, stockpile my herbs, and plan soups and stews and casseroles for the colder weather that will come.
In the meantime, this Indian summer is filled with walks with friends, conker gathering to see off the spiders humanely (I love my cats but they are rubbish at that particular job), and a fresh perspective on what I really want to be doing with my life.
I’m not quite there yet (does anyone ever get 100% there?), but I’m streamlining and shifting so that my various online homes, businesses and blogs alike, better represent me and what I do and all I stand for.
I’m also nearing the end of my current bullet journal and excitedly awaiting the next (it’s hot pink!) while planning a Get Bulleting subscription for Ink Drops. Perhaps it’s true that the back-to-school feeling never really goes away… and it’s the best excuse I know for new stationery!
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,
Serendipity and excitement are the two main themes of my life at the moment.
There are so many lovely things going on, and so many possibilities and emotions and so much potential whizzing around in the air, that I am excited fit to burst, and finding it incredibly hard not to dance through the corridors of the day job with joy, on the very tips of my toes.
New friends have come into my life in the most unexpected of ways in the past few months . One through answering an ad for some cosmetics I was selling, with whom I’m now starting a craft club. Several through being sociable at work. A few of us are starting dance classes, sparked by going to the university’s dance show. Some through my ever-dependable online networks of escape artists and free rangers and lifestyle engineers.
I’ve been working with Amanda Aitken, in her new Girl’s Guide courses, and from just the first week I’ve had some lightbulb moments. I’m excited about these new ideas in a way I’ve not felt about business projects for a long time… possibly ever.
Two weeks and lots of experiments after I had my hair dyed blue, I’ve found the perfect electric blue colour for it (Directions Atlantic Blue, if you’re curious).
And new opportunities pop up at every corner – from tap dancing to faery festivals, there has been a spectacular explosion of things into my life, and I want to take advantage of every single one.
I’ve always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason… but lately I’ve also become a firm believer in the universe providing what you are open to. Like begets like, and all that – so if you expect goodness, abundance, new friendships, likeminded people and opportunities you could never have dreamed of before… then all those things will happen in the fullness of time. Pure magic in action.
I’ve been working on creating a magical, colourful life for some time. It’s been happening, but oh so slowly. Then in the past few months, it’s accelerated. And because I’ve been so focused on the life I want, feeling it start to really take shape truly feels like coming home.
There’s a way to go before I’m living my dream fully (with added unicorns!)- but now my baby steps feel less faltering, and more twirling and joyful and natural. And so I am off to run down the corridors, to spin in the sunshine and dance in the moonlight.
I am typing this on the train, sitting next to a woman with an ipad and an iphone. I feel a strange mixture of clunky (my laptop is ENORMOUS in comparison and I don’t have mobile broadband) and smug (I can type so much faster and more accurately than she can, mweeheehee).
The last few weeks have changed my life, overwhelmingly for the better. For various reasons I can’t talk about any of those reasons in detail, but one of the net results is that I have signed up for a season ticket loan for a train ticket, which means I’ll be at work for at least another year. This will give me time to get my finances straight and live my life a little without worrying so much about the future and what’s round the next corner (in the job and finances side of life, anyway).
Secondly, I have decided to put my shop plans on hold for the foreseeable future and concentrate on making things for fun and learning, rather than pressurising myself. The same with vintage homewares and clothing – I’ll buy them for me or for presents, and I’ll continue to research them and blog about my finds because I find them fascinating, but I need to remove the pressure for a while so I can focus on other things.
2012 contains, among other plans, my best friend’s wedding, my parents’ long awaited move into their new home and another rally, closely followed by a Canada trip to watch ice skating in early 2013, so now is not a good time to be starting up. Quite apart from the fact that although I know I’m capable of running a business, my finances are most definitely not, and I’m not sure I’m yet ready to sacrifice my social life in favour of it.
Thirdly, but possibly most importantly, after the weekend that’s just passed I am left with a feeling of happiness, peace, freedom and infinite possibility. My sense of self is fully restored and my inner pin up is well on her way to being part of my everyday life! Although I am never taking a train that far again – driving is SO much more fun and less hassle!
So I’m going to make the most of feeling like that, use the sense of purpose to get my flat and my life in order, and then focus on doing fun stuff… and blogging about it all, of course!
Sorry, this is somewhat of a stream-of-consciousness post, but it does feel good to write it down rather than just have it floating around in my head! A little part of me still can’t quite believe I’ve come this far and made this life for myself. When I look back to how I was four short years ago, and realise just how much I love my ‘new’ life… I wonder how the Carla I am now and the Carla I was then can possibly be the same person. I wouldn’t go back now if you paid me, I love who I’ve become and everything that I do. It’s amazing, empowering and really rather lovely. Ok, enough of the soppy crap now.
Right. Before you all throw up, I’m going to get off the train and go and make sausages and chips for dinner 🙂
My world has been full of celebrations recently, as the 26th of May was my Mum’s 60th birthday 🙂 She and I and Dad marked the actual day by going out for dinner, and we had a massive party at Forrester Park on the bank holiday weekend to celebrate with family and friends.
Here she is, with her frankly amazing cake:
Doesn’t she look gorgeous and happy?
There was much catching up and happiness – we saw new friends, old friends and family, all equally loved and it was beyond fabulous to have everyone there – if any of you are reading this, we love you even more for coming!
Here are a couple more photos –
Mum and Dad with me and their ‘other daughter’ Julia 🙂
Claire and I – we’ve known each oher since we were born and we don’t see each other nearly as much as we should!
And my favourite of the whole evening I think – Mum and Dad look so happy, and Will and Cally are there in the foreground too – without them, especially Cally’s organising skills, the party wouldn’t have happened at all. And it was a glorious way to mark Mum’s big birthday!