Saturday, May 27, 2017

i’m in mourning
for something that never was
for a future that didn’t happen

i live hoping
for something that may be
for something that has only the slightest chance of happening

i am crazy
but i believe you

i have no idea why
i would think this will be better
why i believe in nothing

until then
i will live
wholeheartedly

i believe in
my life
your life

i believe in dreams
i believe in the only time i’ve dreamt
since i died.


and life came again.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Accept, Release, Let Go

Hey there friends,

It has been a long time since I've written, I know. In fact it has been longer since I've written because I've thought to myself 'Well, I haven't written in ages, should I write again? What if I start writing but can't keep it up?'
I'm sure some of my perfectionist friends out there can relate. What do we do to ourselves?

The main thing to know is a lot of things have happened in my life. Personally and professionally. I'm always inclined to be very open, but lately I've been coming to terms with holding more of myself back.
Not because I'm closed off.
Not because I don't have an open heart.
But there is a power in actively making these choices for yourself. Is sharing a helpful thing for you right now, or is it just something you feel you 'should' do?
I believe in active choices and commitments - not just making a choice and following it blindly, but consciously and regularly reassessing and committing. Fortunately, I think I've been making a lot of these for myself.

I'm currently telling myself it's not the losing track that matters, it's the coming back. Coming back again and again.


This is what my blog is about ultimately, a journey. A curiosity into the process of life and honouring that. Maybe sometimes breaks are a valuable part of that process.


I'm very aware that I have a tendency to hold onto things, to want to control them, to change and mould them until they're perfect. But now I'm telling myself I don't have to be perfect. I just need to accept, love and learn.

- Accept
- Release
- Let go

Currently I'm doing Yoga With Adriene's 'Yoga Revolution'
http://yogawithadriene.com/
It's free and I would love to have some of you on the journey with me! Let's share positive vibes.
'I'm In! #YogaRevolution' with Yoga Instructor Adriene doing yoga pose in front of white background.


I'm looking forward to connecting with you all again.

I truly hope you've had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a happy, healthy and positive 2017.

Love and best wishes as always,

Nicky xx

Friday, November 18, 2016

I Missed You

Hey friends,

I'm really sorry about my unexpected and unannounced massive break. I was starting a course and going through a major life transition (as mentioned previously) and some things just had to take a back seat in life and unfortunately this was one of them.

I've been on the move. I'm now in a new city, a new academic environment and away from those I know and love. Intense much? Well, yes, maybe a little...


Picture with boots being worn on wet pavement with 'I've Been On The Move' written over the top.
As I'll be training as a nurse there are understandably strict rules on social media, so my posts will be in accordance with the NMC guidelines on social media usage. However, I've felt myself getting quite artistically stagnant and it's great to have a channel for this energy!
I've also now been given the green light to carry on by my Academic Adviser, so all systems are go!

As I've been settling in there aren't actually that many new events going on to tell you about as most of the time has just been spent settling in.
However, uncharacteristically, I joined a gym today!

Dun, dun, duh!

Yes, it is the first gym I've signed up to. Yes, I was crazy intimidated when I strolled in and loads of super strong guys were throwing themselves and weights around. Yes, I intend to stick with it.
Haha, it is so strange and new for me. Have any of you guys been in the same shoes? Or are there some super gym fanatics out there willing to give me advice? (Help me, I need both of you).

I am so glad to be back and I can't wait to hear from you guys again.

Lots of love,
Nicky xx

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nature and Nurture: Managing Life Transitions

I feel a bit disappointed that lately I've not been able to blog as much as I want to. Lately life has just been a bit... bumpy. Not bad, not upsetting, just not straight-forward.

Things have been a bit more high-stress recently. That's a bit because of a few unexpected events, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm about to go through a big transition.

Transitions have always thrown me a bit. As a child I was pretty much fearless but when I was feeling particularly anxious a short while ago my mum reminded me 'That's always been a bit of a thing for you'. Apparently on my first time away from my family on a school trip I was fine, happy and got on with everything well... but that didn't mean I wouldn't ask my teachers what was going to happen in advance and get agitated until I knew what I'd be doing.

Photo of Nicky as a toddler crouching to pick daisies


Since my childhood I've dealt with recurrent anxiety. Something which has caused me intense grief in the past, but that I'm getting to terms with. Me and my anxiety are becoming like old acquaintances. I'm able to laugh at it now (even if just a bit) which I couldn't do before. I respect that it's something I deal with and have techniques and support in place to help.

I guess I feel myself writing this knowing that a lot of people are going through a transitory time. It's coming up to September -inevitable school and job changes, new starts. There's a lot of excitement and I do believe that there is so much positivity in this time. However, that doesn't calm down the chemicals in my brain or the knots inside my stomach.

If you're like me your reaction to transition will be one or both of two things:

1) Spend all your time lazing about - unable to do anything productive because you're feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start

2) Constantly try to organise yourself. Wanting everything written down and in the correct place. Struggling to maintain a conversation because you struggle not to interrupt someone because you know you'll forget what's in your head if you don't get it out straight away. THE SPEED YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO DO EVERYTHING JUST WON'T SLOW DOWN AND OH MY GOODNESS ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE SO IMPORTANT AND YOU'RE NOT SURE WHETHER YOU'RE GOING TO GET EVERYTHING DONE AND I CAN'T STOP AND FIND TIME TO HAVE A BATH BECAUSE I'LL JUST HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN SOON ANYWAY....


Horribly, sometimes, I get a combination of the two. As I'm sure loads of people do.
Meme of Blackadder with overlaid text 'I am therefore leaving immediately for Nepal, where I intend to live as a goat.'
(AnAmusinglyShapedVegetable, 2015)


The thing is when I write this, I feel concerned that people will think I'm unwell. I'm not unwell - I have everything set up in place for me. I'm in healthy habits and am taking care of myself. These mental states just become a reality for me in these times of transition.

I hope in writing this that I can help calm the fears of those who feel isolated or like they're 'going a bit crazy'. I also hope I can encourage you to take some time out for yourself.

Here are some of my top tips for managing transitions:
- Set aside at least one portion of time a week (e.g. an evening off) where you can do something that makes you feel good. Maybe that's going to the cinema, having a meal out with friends, or just reading a book and having a bath. Remember to mark this time out just for you - not letting your anxiety mind control you.

- Practice grounding. Below is a great link that describes exercises on how to bring yourself out of your racing mind and into your body
http://www.get.gg/flashbacks.htm

- Please, if you're struggling do make sure to find professional help as well. Even if that's just popping into your GP and letting them know that you're finding things a bit tougher lately and that's all you need to do. At least then you know you have another person that can support you and help you with your mental health through the transition.

- Cook and Exercise. Obvious ones, but at these times it's good to go back to the basics. Exercise will give you a seratonin boost (Fact. As much as I'd love that seratonin to come from eating Ben and Jerry's). Cooking is a tremendous grounding exercise and can help you really nourish your body as well as giving yourself a bit of time out.

- Don't be too hard on yourself. As frustrating and painful anxiety can be, it is a part of your body trying to save you. I find it helps me to think of it as an anxious child or animal misbheaving - it doesn't respond well to more yelling and negativity but if I try to be sympathetic but stern with it the feelings can get better. You really, really don't need to beat yourself up about struggling, you are a human and you're not alone.

- Actively seek out positivity and give yourself something to look forward to.

I hope these tips help. 

You've got this. You are awesome.

Much love,
Nicky xx










References

AnAmusinglyShapedVegetable (2015) Ministry of British comedy. Available at: http://ministryofbritishcomedy.com/15-reasons-why-black-adder-is-your-spirit-animal/ (Accessed: 25 August 2016).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How To Prepare for University

Image of floral background with 'How To Prepare for University' overlaid

I thought I'd write this as this September will be my third time starting a new university course, so I think I'm getting to be a bit of an expert! Haha
I'm also going to follow up this blog with a post on how to pack for and decorate your dorm room/hall of residence, so keep your eyes peeled!

Get your documents organised

In Fresher's Week there will be a million documents given to you and so many things to remember to bring. I recommend getting a box to keep all of these things in with a document file - so you can easily transport things in your backpack without any fuss trying to find everything!

Get Yourself A Student Bank Account

For many people, living at university will be the first time they're living independently and entirely responsible for their own financial choices. Make sure to clue yourself up beforehand as your bank account is going to be with you throughout! I personally really recommend online banking - as it makes it much easier to stay on top of your money coming in and out. Perfect for quick balance checks.
There are many websites out there which can help you choose the best financial deal for you.
Some of these are:

moneysupermarket.com
moneysavingexert.com
which.co.uk
gocompare.com

Be careful about going paperless at first. Although it's better for the environment and I totally recommend it - some places might be funny about accepting an online bank statement printed out (as I have recently learnt to my frustration).


Image of folder and notebooks with a floral and bird design


Make decisions about what you (don't) want to do

There is going to be a whirlwind of information and people around you when you start, so it might be useful to have a few planned goals so you don't get overwhelmed. For my first degree my goals were:

- Attend Fresher's Fayre
- Don't drink too much (don't get drunk)
- Spend some time with new flatmates

Personally I'm really glad I set these goals for myself because it helped me keep focused and happy. For example, for some people drinking loads might be how they want to celebrate (no judgement here), but for me I felt much better knowing that I could get myself set up and ready to go in the mornings without any feeling of illness and embarrassment. Basically, if you have goals set for yourself you'll be set to keep yourself happy and setting up a great atmosphere for yourself, without getting lost in Fresher's confusion.

Get a planner (and use it) before you arrive

My first degree was a combined degree between two departments, so it meant that I had to jump from one place to another and couldn't just follow the crowd. You will get sent out a timetable for Fresher's Week before you arrive and it can be really useful to have things written down so you don't miss anything vital (like registration) or fun (like socials)!

Keep Up To Date With Your Uni

As an additional point to the one above, it's more than likely that your university will send out plenty of welcome e-mails and booklets for you to take a look at before you arrive. Try not to get over-excited and sign yourself up to EVERYTHING before you arrive, without giving yourself a chance to breathe. However, this can be a great way of getting yourself excited, calming any nerves and getting a better idea of what will be going on in the first few weeks.

Image of list book with two 'to-do' lists written

Make sure you have reliable means of communication

When I started my MA I discovered upon moving in that my phone didn't have any signal in my room and there was a delay in the internet getting set up! Not a great way to start when there are so many people to contact and new things to research.

Prepare A Homesickness Go-To

Chances are you may not feel homesick as you have so much to keep you busy and excited about! However, it can be nice to have a go-to for any lonely downtime. Maybe a favourite film, tv show or book which always brightens up your mood.


Sign up with a doctor's as soon as you get there!

I would advise taking a wander around your new home and finding out where your closest doctor is. Although proximity isn't the only thing to bear in mind, it helps! In my BA I signed up to a doctor's in Fresher's Fayre only to find out the surgery was a 40 min walk or taxi ride away from me - not what you need when you're already feeling ill! If you're not sure where your closest doctor is your hall of residence manager or accommodation officer should be able to tell you.
Fresher's flu is, unfortunately, real.

Make yourself feel safe

Fresher's Week can be a scary and tumultuous time, so any ways of bringing yourself some comfort and security will not go amiss! This does not mean be scared at all, but particularly for anxious people taking a few steps before you leave might help you feel calm and collected. This is personal to you, so you know what these will be, but I have a few suggestions:

- A personal alarm
- Condoms/Dental Dams
- 'Spikeys' - a plastic stopper you can put in the top of drinks bottles to prevent spiking
- Some teddy bears/photos of sentimental value. It might seem silly but when you're alone for the first time having some cherished items with you can help bring some warmth to your new surroundings. I'm 23 and still take my teddies!

Image of DVDs and tea bags lying on top of cream coloured blanket.


Bring something yummy for introductions!

There's not many better ways to start a conversation than offering a muffin and a cup of tea as a break from upacking.

Try To Keep Your Door Open

As much as I understand the importance of keeping fire doors shut for health and safety reasons, you may find that Fresher's Week is a great time to keep your door open, figuratively or literally *ahem*. In the first week everyone is looking for friendship and a bit of company to attend events with - so in halls or shared housing this can be a great time to make friends fast.

Unpacking As A Priority

As much as unpacking can get a bit tiresome after the essentials (do I really care where this extra notepad goes?) it's a great idea to try and get things unpacked as soon as possible. This way, your room becomes your own space of relaxation as soon as possible. You don't want to worry about the unpacking you've yet to do when all your new friends are going out for the evening! Your room can also be a good place to socialise with others if you don't have a living room and having your room decorated can provide some good conversation topics.

Keep Hydrated and Fed

Sorry to sound like your mum, but it's important! In the first week you will probably be running around from place to place trying to keep on top of everything. I would really recommend sticking a bottle of water bar and an easy snack, like a cereal bar, in your bag so you've got something easy to hand.
Also, if local restaurants are handing out coupons for free food and drinks. KEEP THEM! Fresher's Week is expensive enough as it is - so get yourself some free meals where you can.

Have Fun!

Although this is a list of recommendations, it is not prescriptive. You do you! You'll have a lot of new influences and recommendations and it's important to remember that ultimately, you will know the best thing for you better than anyone else :). Enjoy this time - it might be once in a lifetime!


I hope this blog post was useful! If you want, I can also write a post explaining 'University Jargon'. I was the first in my family to attend university - so understand that this can be a bit confusing when you first turn up!
Congratulations on starting university and the best of luck! If you have any other questions, comment below and I'll try to help you out! Also, if you have any suggestions or tips I'd love to hear from you.

Best wishes,
Nicky xx


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Celebrating Lammas & How to Make Homemade Bread

Picture of rural landscape overlooking hills with the text 'Celebrating Lamma' overlaid.

This is the first year I've actively taken a day out to celebrate the first harvest as the festival Lammas. As I live in the countryside and feeling increasingly connected to the world around me through my mindfulness practice it felt important to me to celebrate this Pagan festival this year.

Lammas/Lughnadasadh celebrates the first harvest (particularly the cereal harvest) and falls between the longest day (summer solstice) and the day and night being equal length (autumn equinox). This generally tends to be recognised on the 1st or 2nd of August in the United Kingdom. I find that recognising these festivals make me more aware of the wonderful world around us along with its abundance and mysteries.

Picture of small black and white dog standing in a field looking at the crops.

'Harvest Festival' has always been one of my favourite celebrations. Maybe it's because I grew up in the countryside surrounded by farms on the English/Welsh border but this seems like a truly magical time of year for me. It is a wonderful opportunity to recognise our blessings and the abundance in our lives. For me, it's not only a time to give thanks for the harvest but also for our loved ones, opportunities and community around us. Obviously, in the United Kingdom, we don't have a particular equivalent of Canada's or the USA's Thanksgiving - in terms of a certain day of the year a nation celebrates, but I imagine these are quite similar.

I think taking some time to celebrate this time of year helps connect me to something bigger. It reminds me of how important this time of year would have been to my ancestors - everyone's survival depended on the quality of the harvest and this would have been a clear reminder of us coming closer to winter in the cycle of the year. Also, in a more modern context I think this festival reminds us of the importance of fair distribution and sharing - connecting us to our neighbours. I know that this time of year inspires many to volunteer and 'give back' to their communities alongside celebrations and feasting.

Image of Nicky, Curious Journeying writer, holding a blackberry in front of face.
This year's Lammas fell neatly on a new moon, so I decided to take August 2nd (my nearest day off work) as a great chance to celebrate. I decided to do this through several small 'rituals' or celebrations. Personally (and I very much recognise that this is just my own opinion) I think this time of year can be celebrated both spiritually and religious, or as a more secular activity - whichever is more appropriate for you and your family. However, this is an incredibly important time for many people's religious beliefs so it is important to do this with integrity and sensitivity.

One of the first things I did was to cast a 'Lammas Charm for Gathering In Abundance' which was adapted from the website, The Goddess and The Green Man, found here: (https://www.goddessandgreenman.co.uk/lammas).
As this is my first time practising, I leave it to you to discover more for this about yourself if you wish, as I am not a voice of authority and do not wish to cause offence through my ignorance.

The next activity was to make a homemade loaf of bread to celebrate. I deliberately chose a really easy recipe and method, so as many people could follow along as you want! This loaf would also be great for any time of year, not just to celebrate the harvest!

Ingredients:

- 500g strong white flour (with some extra for dusting the surface)
- 1 and a half teaspoons salt
- 7g sachet of yeast
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil (any oil should do, I just used this because we had it in)
- 300 ml water

Image of Lammas bread ingredients laid on table - Flour, salt, yeast sachets, salt and oil.
Preparation:

- Wash hands and clean preparation surfaces and tools
- Weigh out ingredients

Instructions:

1) Mix the flour, yeast and salt into a mixing bowl.

2) Make a well (dent in centre) and pour in the oil in water.

Image illustrating step two - a well in mixture filled with oil and water
3) Mix together and then knead until smooth. (I like to do this my stirring with a wooden spoon to combine and then tipping onto a lightly floured surface to knead).

Image showing mixture in bowl on left hand side with floured surface on right hand side.

Image of Nicky kneading bread mixture
4) Place mixture into a lightly oiled bowl with a damp teatowel on top, to rise for at least one hour until doubled in size. Alternatively, you can leave the mixture in the fridge to rise overnight.

5) Knead the dough again and leave for another hour. Pre-heat oven to 220C.

Image of bread dough with star shape cut in before being put into oven
6) Mark bread with a cross (or whatever shape you like) in the top with a knife.

7) Bake for 25- 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Image of finished Lammas bread cooling on wire rack
And there we have it, enjoy!



In one of the hour breaks, I took the opportunity to take my dog on a walk and enjoy the countryside! I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. I thought it would be a good idea to spend some time getting some exercise in before tucking into a feast!

Image of two ponies in a field in front of hill.
Image of Nicky (left hand side) looking down in a field.

Image of bee on thistle in foreground with a view of hill and Nicky's dog in the background.

Image of view down a hill from behind a fence.
I also plan to do some meditation and have a lovely bath with essential oils to wind up my day. In case it wasn't totally clear by now, I just love using essential oils. My oil diffuser is definitely one of my favourite things! Do you have any favourite oils or scents?

As an additional note, I am trying to make my blogs more inclusive by adding image descriptions to help blind readers or others who rely on screen reading technology. These image descriptions are in the captions underneath any photos I include. If there are any ways for me to improve these captions or continue to make my content more inclusive, please do not hesitate to comment and let me know how I can improve!

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Do you have any celebrations or recognitions for this time of year? What are your favourite things to do at this time before winter gets closer?

Best wishes and much love,
'Nicky xx'

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Let's Have A Catch Up


Sorry for the delay in this post - I've had a bit of a whirlwind lately! There's been so much going on and to try and sort out. I've needed to step back for a bit when I've had some free time and I hope you all understand.

Firstly, some big news. I'm going to be training as a mental health nurse in September! I'm thrilled as it is something that really means a lot to me. Mental health is something that I am passionate about and I really look forward to having the opportunity to make such a big difference to people's lives as my job! As my background is in the arts however, I don't think I will ever stop being artistic and not continuing in this. Whatever your job, I don't think a training in the arts and performance will ever let you down or be a waste of time - you learn such skills and confidence that can really shape your life and your interactions with others. You learn such communication techniques and such empathy and I can't wait to see how I can put some of my artistic skills into practice as a mental health nurse. I will definitely be continuing with my blog and am very much intending to get back into comedy improvisation which will add such brightness to my life!

It will be interesting to see the differences in training as a nurse from my past academic experiences. Mental health nursing involves a lot of work placements where you truly have a lot of responsibility of care for your patients. There is a lot more direct time with your vocation and tutors - which will be a big change from a lot of independent study and work that I've done in English Literature and devising solo performances! I'd love to hear any advice from any healthcare workers or people who have undertaken a similar retraining! Please feel free to comment below.

I will try to give updates as and when :).




Some more big news!

My sister has graduated from her course. The graduation was delightful and it was fantastic to have a day to celebrate and look back on her achievements over the last three years. I am so confident that she will continue to grow and develop as a practitioner and that her degree is just a wonderful first stepping stone to some great achievements!

I also graduated from my MA in Performance. It feels like a very long time ago since I finished the course (Sept 2015) but it was lovely to be back. I spent four years in my university town and so much energy and determination went into my MA it was really rewarding to take a day to step back and reflect on how I've developed and succeeded so far. I really recommend taking some time sometimes to take a break and look back on what you've achieved so far - we can be so focused on driving our lives forward and the next step that we sometimes forget to recognise and celebrate how far we've already come.


My gran has also been suffering with dementia. I don't wish to disclose much information at this stage because it is very personal to her and our family. However, I want to take a moment in my blog to recognise how many people are dealing with this illness on a daily basis and some individuals who are doing amazing work to help battle the stigma and silence surrounding dementia!

A former schoolmate of mine (though we didn't know each other that well because of age difference) is doing an amazing 1100 mile walk around the whole of Wales to raise money for Alzheimers Society! I think this is such a remarkable project and I would encourage you to follow his progress and, if you can, donate to this wonderful cause.
You can find his blog here:

https://tomswelshwanderwordpress.wordpress.com/

I also want to note another blog which is written by my best friend's mother which you can see here:

https://notjustforgetful.wordpress.com/

This is an incredibly powerful and moving blog of journal-like entries discussing the family's response to dealing with her mother-in-law's dementia. I am so in awe of her and her family and think writing such a personal and detailed blog is incredibly brave and could be a tremendous resource for other people who are going through a similar situation, or just want to learn more about dementia.

I hope some of you reading these might find some solace and hope in reading.

Those are my main pieces of news!
However, I have some new purchases which are very exciting to me. I have a new phone (an i-phone 5s). I've never had an i-phone before so I'm still getting used to it. I particularly want to get myself organised, so if any of you have any recommendations for a good app for organisation that would be incredibly useful to hear!

I've also invested in a new laptop which was built by PCSpecialist which builds top spec laptops to order. This has been a great investment for my blog and is really helping me in all sorts of ways! I may write a review about this soon, but I am really not tech savvy so it will probably have to be an 'Idiots Guide' to match my technology knowledge level, haha!



I have a bike... let it be known that I am very unconfident on a bike. Luckily, Herefordshire offer free cycling lessons which is just amazing! If you're an unconfident cyclist like me, it may be worth checking out whether your county/district offer free cycling lessons too, as there seem to be many about in order to try and encourage sustainable travel! I have many reasons to try and learn to ride a bike including getting to my university placements quicker, getting fitter and being more eco-friendly to name just a few. Also, I have to admit that being a nurse that cycles like on Call The Midwife certainly holds a strong appeal for my vintage-loving heart!

I think that's all my major news for now. It's such a shame that I've not had the opportunity to blog much lately - I've really missed my blog and all of you, my readers! I would be really happy to catch up with you in the comments. What goals do you have coming up soon? Are you trying to learn to ride a bike or a new skill as an adult? Do you have any advice for me about the nursing course or technology?

As always, thank you so much for reading this blog! I really hope you're all happy and well.

Your friend,