Friday, 27 April 2012


How much am I going to own up to my own quirks and insecurities in this particular blog. Hmmm let's see how it pans out shall we?

I'll start with a sad truth. A very old friendship broke down recently. I was angry at first and then when the dust settled, I was sad. I knew that we both had a part to play in it, we'd both upset each other on quite a deep level. Without meaning to hurt anyone, we'd both pushed buttons, poured salt into wounds, touched delicate nerves... and probably many other cliches. This is what happens when you know someone well enough to get right to their most buried insecurities.

At the end of the day, we just didn't really see eye to eye any more and we were getting frustrated with each other.

But when someone you love turns to you and lists all the things they consider you to be doing wrong, you kind of have to ask yourself a few questions. You may start with 'Can I really love this person if they're going to say shit like that to me,' but you'd have to be pretty thick skinned not to eventually find yourself asking questions that are more along the line of 'do I really do that?'

I did.

And then I wanted to know how much of it was the truth and how much of it was just her hurt and anger coming out.

I've since decided that it was a mixture of both, and in fact, much of it was even more complicated than that. In some cases, it was likely that I she was reading my actions completely differently to how I intended. And a big lesson that I've learnt from this whole malarky is that I have a tendency to want to 'make everything better', which isn't necessarily a good thing.

I suppose as a creative person, my line of sight is always what things can be rather than what they are right now. I didn't realise how much of an effect this has, not just on my creative projects, but on everything about me. I do it with food, I do it with my living space, with my job, even with the people in my life. I can always see potential. To me that has always meant looking at things and not just seeing their face value, but seeing all the good stuff that's there waiting to spring to life if it could just be given the chance. But I never looked at this from the flip side of the coin before.

It makes sense that if a person seems unhappy, there is potential for them to be happy if they're just given the chance. But I've started to understand that you can't always help them to do this, and that sometimes by trying to find some sort of 'cure' you can easily create further problems. For a start, ackowledging that there's something 'wrong' with them or their lives may just add fuel to the fire. They might feel belittled, or smothered, no matter how good your intentions are.

And once I had accepted that I did sometimes act this way and probably had upset my friend by doing it, something struck me... Jesus, I was even doing it to myself.

It occurred to me that when I'm unhappy with my life, 99% of the time it's because I can see what I would like it to be and hate the fact that it's not that way right now. I can see the potential but I can't seem to unleash it. I always called this 'hope' in the past, or 'goals', or 'ambitions'. But now I am beginning to wonder (and I'll put the emphasis on beginning as this is really the first time I've considered it)  whether I am, in a way, smothering myself?!

I realised I may have upset my friend by trying to fix things when she didn't want them to be fixed. I decided at this point that I would, from now on, accept the people in my life for what they are right now. That way I wouldn't frustrate my current friends (ie trying to make things better for them, and ending up making them worse), and I also wouldn't risk more anguish to myself by getting close to people who would inevitably hurt me in the end (ie becoming fixated on how great they could be if they just stopped being such a twat)! But what I hadn't considered is that I could do this for myself as well! Have I been going about this all topsy-turvy? Have I been trying to unleash this uncovered potential and fix myself and my life, while all along it would have been better just to say 'Well this is me right now' and accept it?

Well, I don't know right now how I feel about this. I might end up just deciding that this new way of looking at things is just another rule I'm writing for myself. I don't even know if it is possible to completely accept your life and not want to change it... but right now it seems to make sense that I may find everything easier if I just give myself a bit of a break.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Thinking For Ourselves

I saw an interesting little article on Facebook a few days ago. It was called 'The Mayonniase Jar and Two Cups of Coffee' and the moral of it was that you should concentrate first on the big, important matters in your life, and then find room for the smaller, less important things, because if you do it the other way around then you won't have any space in your life for things that matter.

I liked it. I read it and I smiled and agreed and thought 'yes that's a beautifully simple way of explaining it'. And then I thought some more, and I changed my mind. The thing is, it is beautifully simple... and life isn't.

I remember being told as a teenager that I needed to concentrate more on the important things because I was only causing myself problems by getting all caught up in the details.

I spent years trying to work out what exactly that meant! I thought I was concentrating on the important things. So when I was told I needed to concentrate on the 'important things' rather than the 'details', I started looking at what was important to me, wondering if I had it wrong, wondering what exactly the 'details' were in comparisson to the 'important things'.

The trouble with pieces of advice like these, is that they are taken from another person's perspective. I think advice of this sort comes from a caring place, but (as with so much 'helpful' advice) neglects the fact that everybody is different and we all have our own agendas at the end of the day. It's all very well to say 'you're ignoring the important things' but what if my 'important things' are totally different to your 'important things'?

The moral of the Mayonniase Jar story was that you should first concentrate on family, friendships, beliefs and passions. Then you should fit in your job, your house, your car around those things. And everything else is the little things, or the 'details' I guess.

But look at this realistically now... Let's imagine that you're having a stressful week. You've got a big work project that needs finishing. You haven't seen your mates in ages and maybe someone's organised to meet up on a day that you've already put aside for work. Your car's broken down and you need to get the funds together to fix it. You haven't been food shopping so you've only got, I don't know... a tin of tomatoes and a box of eggs in the cupboard, but what you really fancy is homemade lasagne. You've been wanting for aaaagggeees to spend some time on a passion of yours... let's say you love to mix but you haven't had the chance to get your records out in a few weeks now. You really want to put together a set list of tunes that make you feel happy. The garden needs watering and weeding and the new seeds you've planted need a bit of TLC. Your rooms a tip, you haven't done the washing up and all your clothes are in the laundry bin. So... what do you do? What are the 'important' things' and what are the 'details'?

Let's assume we're living by the Mayonniase Jar theory. So we first take care of the things that are important to us according to this theory: we say 'fuck it' to work, that's second on the list. We go out with our mates instead, after all, we haven't seen them in ages. We then concentrate on our passion for mixing, and we put together that set list. We even decide to buy some new tunes that make us feel extra specially happy! We feel great!

Then we get to tackling the second most important things. But now we've got ourselves in trouble. That important work project didn't get done and because we bunked off work and went out, we didn't make enough money to cover the cost of getting the car fixed and we've spent what we did have on records.

No matter how good we felt about our playlist and our new records, we probably feel pretty crap by now.

Ok, so let's take this from a different angle. Let's assume that the 'important things' are the things that must get sorted. So then work would come first. Everything must be put aside for work because if we don't do that important work project then we won't get paid and then everything else on the list will be impossible. But of course, that means we can't hook up with our friends, so we feel pretty sad about that. But at least we can get the car fixed, and get some food shopping in... we can't live without food so I'm guessing that's an 'important thing'.

What comes next then? Well, if 'important things' are things that must get sorted, then I suppose the washing up would need to be done, and the garden would need watering. Oh but now we're running out of hours in the day and we still haven't done anything we actually enjoy. It's been such a stressful week with this work project, and now we've spent all our free time doing things that 'must be done' and totally neglecting everything that we love. We've probably given ourselves such a long and strict mental 'to do' list that we feel even more stressed!

I think what I'm trying to get at is that we need to resist giving ourselves rules like these to live by. We all have brains and we all have the ability to use them wisely if we just trust our own judgment. Maybe one person would be happy to bunk off work and hang out with their mates and deal with the consequences later. Another would maybe do a bit of work then get their records out. And another would prefer to get work out of the way and then concentrate on having fun. Whatever works best for you is what's best.

We don't give our brains enough credit. We don't use them enough. We seem to find it simpler to live by other people's rules. I can't count the number of times recently I have turned 180 degrees on rules; rules I had given myself years ago without ever thinking the thing through at the time!

And I'm talking about DETAILS here, not just the 'important things'. (Really, what is the difference anyway, other than personal perspective?)

Here's an example of a rule:

"It's important to look good. When you look good, you feel good. When you look good, men will find you attractive and people will take you seriously." 

So here are some things we (women) do to look good: we shave our legs and our armpits, we dye and straighten our hair, we get piercings, we wear high heeled shoes, we wear fake nails, fake tan and maybe even fake eyelashes, we pluck our eyebrows, we diet to try and get thin enough that our hip and collarbones show through our skin because it's considered elegant.

But we're not using our brains when we do these things.

You shave your legs so they look good, but then a day or two later, your bloke might run his hand over your leg and he won't be thinking 'that leg looks good', he'll be thinking 'ouch, stubbly'.

You dye and straighten your hair so it'll look good, and then you have to deal with frizzy, dry hair. You used to be able to run your hands through it. Now it's more like sticking your fingers into a bail of hay.

You have your ears pierced and you wear big eyecatching earrings. They look really cool but then you go to hug someone and you spike them in the cheek.

You put yourself through misery and hunger pangs to loose that extra weight, then you mention your 'wobbly bits' to your bloke and he tells you he loves your wobbly bits. You don't believe him because your rule says the opposite. But the truth is- he does love your wobbly bits- they're the bits he doesn't have, and to him they feel great!

The whole beauty thing is one example of only thinking things through with one perspective- on this occasion, the perspective of sight. But sight is by no means our only sense. Touch is such an important sense and we don't pay it enough attention when beauty is concerned.

There are so many other examples of rules that we tend to live by without using our brains to work things out for ourselves. It infuriates me that it's so easy for us all to follow by example rather than to stop and think things through for ourselves. In many cases we may even find ourselves ostracized for not following the rules that are in place. And in some, it's damn near impossible not to follow the rules, and thinking for ourselves only leads to feelings of frustration and helplessness. But I would still say that I think we should all try. If you're looking for self confidence, then you have to learn to trust your own decisions. And if nothing else, it is a really good feeling when you work something out for yourself!

Incubus- Drive on YouTube

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Hooray for Feng Shui

A good old cleaning session is always good for the soul.

If there's one thing I neglect when I'm feeling down, it's tidying! It's just one of those jobs that I can't bring myself to do when I've got a lot on my plate and I don't feel up to much. But then it's a double edged knife, because when you're spending a lot of time in a cluttered mess, it doesn't exactly help your head.

So invariably, when I come out of my blue patches, I always have a good tidy up and de-clutter... maybe throw away a pile of stuff I've decided I can do without. Sometimes I go full whack and rearrange my living space. This feels like a change, and never fails to make me feel better.

A few weeks back I decided that not only was I going to have a good tidy up, but I was going to have a bash at a spot of Feng Shui. I have often considered doing it, but have never known enough about it, or really bothered to look into it. But a friend of mine lent me a simple (simplicity is, after all a major key to Feng Shui) and beautifully designed book called 'Chinese Whispers, Feng Shui' by Rosalyn Dexter. It describes the main principals behind the teachings, and gives suggestions on how to use them in your own home.

Now, I don't know how much I believe what I read, but I am a strong advocate of the principal that if something works for you, even if it is just a placebo, then it can't be bad. So I just accepted Dexter's words and tried to understand the thinking behind it.

The basic idea behind Feng Shui is that everything has a flow of energy through it and you can do certain things to use this to your advantage. Since I like the thought that everything in the universe is part of one system where each separate object is affected by and linked to every other object, this principal resonates quite nicely for me. Several Chinese teachings go together to make up Feng Shui, including systems of colours, numbers, astrology and the elements. I got the feeling I was really just catching a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg, but it seemed enough to go on, so I made some notes and drew out a plan for my bedroom based on a grid system given in the book.

Once I knew where everything was going, I started the process. I began by shifting everything from my room... I mean EVERYTHING. All that was left was my bedframe balancing on it's headboard, my red armchair and my desk, all pushed together in the centre of my room. I hoovered and then did a little energy clensing ritual, as suggested in the book. Again, not sure how much I believe in this stuff, but where's the harm if it isn't true, and if it is true, well that's good then isn't it?!

So, to clense a room and get the energy flowing again, you need to start by getting rid of as much clutter as possible. Then you fill a bowl with water, light a candle, and burn some incense (the book said frankencense, but I chose Nag Champra as it's my favourite smell). You then walk around the circumference of the room, clockwise or anticlockwise, whatever your instinct tells you, and as you walk, sprinkle a little sea salt around the edges of the room. Apparently this absorbs negative energy. Once you've done this, you walk around again, this time with metal windchimes. You need to chose windchimes that sounds good to you. All windchimes have a different pitch, and it's pretty personal whether you like the sound or not.

So, you retrace your footsteps, this time tinkling your windchimes. Spend a little more time in areas of the room where you think the energy might have become stagnant- corners for instance, or gaps between furniture. When you've circled the room once, rinse the windchimes with water. Then walk around the room with the windchimes three more times, rinsing them after each circuit. On the final round, concentrate your mind on picturing the energy in the room flowing freely. Once you're done, throw away the water from the bowl.

My housemate was sitting in the garden not far from my bedroom window while I was doing the ritual. She assures me it worked, as everything around her started creaking wierdly when I started tinkling the windchimes!

Once I'd got all the good energy going again, it was time to re-fill my room, putting furniture, ornaments, curtains, throws, cushions... everything I own in a specific place based on the rules written in the book. I was actually surprised to find that I already had many things in the right places. But I did have to make a few changes. For a start, my bed needed to move. Apparently it's really bad to have your head under a window while you sleep, or to have your feet facing a door, and I was doing both of these things. The best place for your bed is to have your head against a wall and your feet facing another wall, but to make sure you can see the door easily. If you can't, it's likely to screw with your instinctual fight-or-flight mechanism.

Then you should place objects in your room using the following rules:

Draw a plan of your room and split it into 9 squares like a noughts and crosses board. The centre square is number 5. The other squares are determined by which way your room is facing: 1-North, 2-Southwest, 3-East, 4-Southeast, 6-Northwest, 7-West, 8-Northeast, 9-South.

Section 1 
is Water 
and represents your career and your journey through life. You should keep colours in this section to navy and black, though if you feel you need more energy in this section of your life, you can use white, gold, silver and grey to boost it. Avoid yellow, ochre, orange or brown unless you want your career and life journey to slow down a bit! In this section you should place images of moving water, an aquarium, glass objects, seascapes, mirrors and bright lights.

Section 2 
is Earth 
and represents unions and relationships. Yellow is a good natural colour to use in this section. If you want growth in this sector of your life, use red and purple. Don't have green or pale blue in this section, unless you would like less energy in it. Place images of union, pairs of things, crystals, cushions, ceramics and flowers. Don't have any solitary figures in this section. A pair of candles is a good thing to have here.

Section 3 
is Thunder 
and represents health, vitality, elders, family and new beginnings. It's colour is green and pale blue, with navy and black to give extra energy, and white, gold, silver and grey to reduce the energy. Place images of rising energy, sunrise, tall plants, music, TV, stereo, bamboo, wood, and family photos in this area.

Section 4 
is Wind 
and represents wealth, blessings and growth. It's colours are the same as section 3. Place tall plants, images of rising energy, wooden objects, family photos, ceramics, gold coins, fans and hanging mobiles in this section.

Section 6 
is Heaven 
and represents leadership, achievement, helpful friends and mentors. Keep colours to white, gold, silver and grey, using yellow, ochre, brown and orange to create energy and red and purple to prevent it. In this section you should have images of support, and metal windchimes.

Section 7 
is Lake 
and represents creativity, joy and children. Its colours are the same as section 6. Place images of playfullness, childrens paintings, animals, vases of flowers, ornaments, games and metal windchimes in this area.

Section 8 
is Mountain 
and represents inner knowledge, wisdom and quiet. Colours in this section should be orange, brown and ochre, with red and purple to add positive energy and green and pale blue to create negative energy. Put heavy objects and cabinets in this section to represent the mountain.

Section 9 
is Fire 
and represents illumination of self, reputation and fame. Colours for this section are red and purple. Use green and pale blue to create energy, and navy and black to create negative energy in this area. Display images of heroes, ambitions and dreams, paintings and sculptures.

As well as this, you should think about where you place your furniture. Think of energy as a kind of wind blowing in through your door and around your room, getting into all the nooks and crannies. You don't want lots of places where it can get stuck. The book also suggested using throws to cover sharp corners, which are said to cause a turbulant energy flow. 

It's also very important to make sure that you like what you're looking at! Common sense really- but don't have anything out on show that makes you feel bad. Take down any photos or pictures you might have that remind you of things you'd rather not think about. Only display things that fill you with happy memories and thoughts. Place mirrors carefully. Mirrors are very important in Feng Shui. Used properly they can make a space look bigger. It's also a really good idea to have them facing something that looks nice. So if you've got a lovely view from your window, put your mirror opposite the window. If you have a brick wall outside your window, make sure you can't see it in the mirror! I have also made a conscious effort to hide everything in my bedroom that has anything to do with work. This is my place for resting now.

I noticed the difference in my room immediately. At first I put it down to the feeling of change and the fact that my room was tidy... but in the weeks since I rearranged it, I have loved spending time in my bedroom. It feels cosy. I can't put my finger on what I like about it now... it just feels nice to be in!