There’s a little foxy friend that comes to my parents’ garden- a night watchman / ‘fox man’ that comes and turns on the security lights in their garden, by activating the motion sensor. It’s lovely to get the chance to visit family, but also a treat to see some furry little fox friends 🙂
It’s 11.10pm on Saturday evening, and this Saturday has definitely been a ‘reset’ type of day. By that I mean my flat / apartment was pretty messy after a busy week at work and also with a couple of evenings out meeting friends, which meant I just didn’t have what it took to keep on top of things at home. I miraculously (not being much of a morning person) awoke early and as it was a rare sunny morning, with a gentle light breeze and the streets almost empty of people, I went for a morning walk in the sunshine by the riverside before 8am. Usually I would probably still be tucked up in bed on a Saturday morning, catching up on sleep, but it really was a lovely and quiet time of day to be outside, and a nice change.
The rest of the day has involved intermittently cleaning and tidying as well as just doing some relaxing things at home. My kitchen and living room which are open plan were so messy, but are pretty cosy now apart from some papers and miscellaneous items needing sorted. So at least I can relax here. My bedroom, however, is in a very sorry, messy state, and it’s getting me down a bit. So is my spare room which needs a fresh decluttering and tidy up after last year’s big decluttering project. Not to mention my bathrooms needing a good, clean going over. My moods are affected by my surroundings, and I am aware of choosing not to get stressed or upset by mess, as I said in a previous post advising to ‘enjoy your mess, enjoy your tidy’, for in our mess we can see our abundance and so much to be thankful for. But still, I’m human, and living alone I have no one to clear up after me during a tiring or busy week, and I don’t have any special ‘Mary Poppins’ formula whereby things miraculously tidy themselves away with just a click of the fingers, and a ‘spoon full of sugar’.
Basically, I need some inspiration, and a fresh reminder that I have had things on track before, so I can do it again. And hopefully this will be a bit of an inspiration for you too, so I’m reposting a bedroom spring décor post I wrote last year. One last note for you and for me: don’t let any clutter around you clutter up your mind! Let’s have gratitude and a positive attitude in the mess as well as the tidy. xx
Lunchtime is a helpful divider within the day. Being creative and freely exploring our creativity is often, as contradictory as it may seem, benefited by having boundaries. Even if you don’t have an ‘itinerary’ as such for your personal retreat to begin with, you can develop flexible plans as you move through your days.
As to lunch, food and sustenance in general during a personal retreat it helps to do a bit of preparation beforehand, or to cook something you can eat over two or three meals, have something you can easily make, or buy some sandwiches from a shop and to keep your fridge stocked with what you will need. It’s helpful to minimise the time spent having to run errands because we necessarily will be compelled to engage and interact with the world in a way that may interrupt what we hope to experience on our retreat.
Not only that, but if you’re like me, when you get absorbed in a creative project you can ‘forget’ to eat, or if there’s nothing readily available you might just ‘power through’ and your creative work might actually suffer because you are low on energy, tired, ‘hangry’ or lack concentration. So keep things ready so that you can grab a bite and continue with your project uninterrupted.
It is nice though, not to rush through lunch, but to use it as a time to rest, relax, maybe look at other sources for inspiration (I was listening to some music, and looking up retreat videos on YouTube – I didn’t quite find what I was looking for in terms of the retreat videos, but it was good just to move into a state of mind where I didn’t have to concentrate so much).
Now that I’ve eaten, relaxed a bit, I find myself beginning to ponder my next steps. Yesterday I met my ‘writing goal’ of 3,500 words, and slightly exceeded it. This morning I was intentional to not set any writing goals, and focus more on slowing down and engaging more fully with myself and the process. I had some prayer time, and some quiet reflection.
Having had personal retreats before, I am aware that the final day, which in this case is tomorrow, requires a slight shift in gears. If you are on retreat somewhere away from home, then you will have to pack, tidy up and make your journey back home on the last day. If, like me, you are having your retreat in your own home by yourself, then you may find that you have a bit (or a lot!) of tidying up to do, and preparing for the day ahead if you happen to be going back to work, or ‘re-joining the world’ in some other way.
I recommend valuing your purpose for your retreat and allowing yourself not to focus on tidying up unless you naturally keep everything neat and clean as you go along. It’s important to have a clean, neat retreat space, but if you’re like me you do have that, but you also have dishes piled up in the sink. Your focus is your time alone to reflect and work on your creative projects or self development, etc, and you will have to attend to the housework afterwards anyway, but don’t let it distract you or interrupt your creative flow, as quiet times can be hard to come by in our busy lives.
As to flexible planning, I’m aware that tomorrow I don’t want to use the whole day for tidying, so I want to set aside some time later today to do a bit of that. I also don’t want to do anything too ‘heavy’ in terms of writing, as what I am working on involves being engaged emotionally and mentally on a deep level. I like to keep the final stages of a personal retreat for something lighter, more care free, with times for prayer, thanksgiving, gratitude, reflecting on what I have learned and planning ways in which I can take forward some of these lessons into my day to day life where possible. As such, I have made a preliminary decision not to work on writing my novel tomorrow after morning time, so that I can ‘decompress’ and gently change gears.
Therefore, to avoid unfocused and unstructured time today, my plans are changing somewhat organically as day two progresses. I may not get time like this for a while, so I am reinstating my ‘goal setting’ with my novel writing this afternoon. This is what I love about a personal retreat in contrast with group activities which have their own unique positive aspects – when your time is your own you can work with the ebb and flow of your own creative processes, ongoing learning, and practical concerns, rather than having to adhere to a set timetable.
So to make the most of the remaining time, and to have a lighter more carefree day tomorrow, I am going to work creatively within some parameters this afternoon, being flexible once again with those plans.
It’s 2.50pm now, and the sun is shining, but I have chosen to stay inside and focus, and set aside novel writing time from 3pm to 6.30pm. In that time I can take my time, linger over words and ideas, look up sources for inspiration, take short breaks, but that time is a gift that doesn’t come often. Knowing that, I will savour it, and whether I write much or little that is fine either way.
At 7pm the coach will turn into a pumpkin! 🙂 Just kidding, by 7pm I will down tools with writing my novel for the rest of the retreat time, other than if I have anything I feel I want to do tomorrow morning, but that leaves me free the rest of the time to work on some less mentally and emotionally challenging projects and prepare for concluding the retreat time on a reflective and carefree note.
Following on from the 5-senses exercise I suggested around an hour ago, I did put on some relaxing instrumental worship music, which helped me focus my thoughts to the very Giver of Life, and I cosied myself up in a soft throw blanket and sat on a soft rug on the floor.
I had intended to do the five senses exercise, which I often do when I’m out and about to manage anxiety symptoms when they arise.
This particular date, June 11th, is a very significant day for me spiritually so it was important for me to spend time with God. I sat, cosy in the stillness for a while, gently aware of His Presence, and allowed my breathing to slow as I listened to the peaceful instrumental worship music. I gently and naturally observed things around me, the cherry blossom wall decal, the light coming through the window, and noticing the softness of the blanket and the hardness of the floor. I wasn’t paying particular attention to notice things but just letting myself be, and I ended up closing my eyes, and listening, and worshipping in my heart, and then curling up and laying down on the fluffy rug with my blanket around me, as I drew near to The LORD and thanked Him for this significant date in my life and what He has done for me.
You may see me through the journey of my blog as someone who is productive, and positive about life. But the Truth is, I am Held. The Truth is, as you may know if you have read previous posts, I was severely traumatised as a child bullied in school, and this didn’t leave me in adulthood no matter how hard I tried to get past it and I have gone through severe depression, anxiety, self-hate, low self-esteem, fear…a lot of fear, and panic attacks. When lying there, I realised a little of how far God has brought me. I also felt within me the helplessness of just being me, being a person, and the ‘yukiness’ of sin in my heart. I was aware of God’s constant, pure, beautiful, love, mindful of His Sacrifice for me, so that He can free me from my sin, from myself, my hurt and the absolute dead end and mess my life would be, internally and externally, without Him. And in that quiet, in my helplessness, I knew I am now safe, always Held, Secure in Christ’s unfailing, sacrificial, clean and perfect love. Some of us wonder how our Creator could have such love for helpless, weak and foolish sinners like ourselves – and yet in those precious moments, even in our need…we realise although we don’t understand just why He Loves us, He does….and the connection between Creator and His creation, His children somehow makes sense. And that is The One thing I need, Jesus Christ, out of which everything else flows to transform my otherwise broken, helpless, confused and distressed life.
Maybe you don’t believe in Him, maybe you think that you don’t need Him, maybe you defy all thoughts of your own helplessness or sinfulness. You can plan, prepare, strategize, try and try again, and keep on pushing through your life, and succeed outwardly on many levels.
But in those quiet moments, when you are all alone, is all your trying enough? Or are you actually stuffing a lot of things down deep within your heart – anger, hurt, fear, bitterness, trauma, pride, boastfulness, arrogance, apathy, darkness and pain? Are you seeking inspiration from other equally broken human beings, and we all are broken in some way, even in this world that desperately tries to present itself in a perfectly filtered light.
I know I am helpless without God, and I know I am safe to be helpless with Him, because He Is Strong enough so that I don’t have to be….His Strength transforms my weakness, and gives me new life, purpose and hope. When Jesus Christ draws near, and you draw near to Him, His Love, His Forgiveness changes you. A light is shone upon the things in you that you cannot face by yourself, but the Light is of Love and grace and forgiveness, and deep renewal. I found myself praying for the people who hurt me, which believe me has taken years, but it came easily and peacefully because of Who God Is, I thanked Him for the pain, because it led me to Him, to an appreciation of His Sacrifice for me, the incomparable pain He went through to save my lost and sinful soul, and declare me His, to declare me righteous in Christ, through faith and not through anything of myself, because in myself there is nothing good. But in Christ I am a new creation, blameless because of Who He Is and what He has done.
But just as with writing, it is a process to be renewed inwardly. It is a process far deeper, and far more freeing than any amount of ‘self help’ and believe me before I knew The Lord, I tried it. Self help is a bandage, but it is not the cure. Someday that bandage will fall off, and either we will find another temporary fix for the things in ourselves that none of us can repair, heal from or overcome, and we will look to someone or something else for aid.
How thankful I am that despite how helpless I am, and no matter the struggles I have been through, I am safe in Christ, indwelt by the Spirit and Loved and securely Held by the Great Physician, The Only One Who can Truly help and heal us Deep within, not just patch us up, but set us free, and bring purpose out of pain. Yes, it may take time, it may take difficult things coming to the surface, it may seem to get worse before it gets better, but everything He does, He does well….He can free us from the mess we make of ourselves, our relationships and the world.
There is nothing like knowing that the reality that no matter what the narratives are of our lives, if we honestly and humbly ask Jesus Christ for help, He will never turn us away. He IS Love. He Is The Way, The Truth and The Life. I didn’t have that before but in the moments of retreat and stillness, I am reminded of the wonder that He Holds me, He holds my life, and transforms a broken life into something victorious, because He Is Perfect Love.
To come back to writing, and writing honestly and authentically, I am reminded of the healing and renewal process within me. I am reminded to be gentle with myself, and just as I develop the characters in my novel, who each have some reflection of myself as their journeys help me to understand mine better, so too must I take time to allow my lessons to work deep within me, so that what I write is more than words on a page.
Our creative journeys may be different, but taking time teaches us so much more about our craft or practice, it teaches us about our self.
Well, it’s the final ‘writerly’ update from day 1 of my 3 day writing retreat. I’m very thankful that my prayers for this time have been answered, and I was able to push past any resistance within myself to not only reach my day’s target of writing 3,500 words of my novel, but exceeding that by 220 words to write 3,720 words.
I started well in the morning, but as the day progressed I toyed with the idea of going out for a walk or doing other things around the house while taking a break, and then I felt a bit of tiredness and resistance while sitting at the computer, but setting small goals (of writing for at least 15 minutes at a time) has helped me enormously to break down a task into manageable ‘mini writing goals’.
I didn’t end up doing all of the other things I thought about doing, but I did reach my main aim for the time of making progress with my book, and for that I am very grateful. And once I pushed past my internal barriers, I was able to find new avenues for plot and character development as well as self expression, so all in all it has been a productive writing day.
It is 5.20pm now, and I have been writing since late last night / early morning, so I think I will ‘down tools’ for tonight, and may even get to enjoy the rest of the day doing other things.
Enjoy the rest of your day, whatever it finds you doing, and keep setting those small manageable goals, for each effort adds up to something bigger. 🙂 Thank you for reading.
It’s 10.05am of day 1 of my writing retreat, and so far the morning has been reasonably productive. I have written 355 words of my novel since 9.40am, and although this may not seem much I am pleased with it, and have felt content inhabiting the time to think and to focus. So far, cumulatively since last night I have written 1,485 words.
For me, progressing with writing my novel is not about word-count. However, that being said, I do realise the need to hold myself accountable and make sure that I use my time productively. Having taken 3 days unpaid leave from work is another additional reason for me to be disciplined with my time, and especially as focussed writing and creative time is a rare opportunity for me, other than blogging and business writing for work. I am finding that blogging in little ‘snippets’ about my retreat experience also helps me to stay focused, productive and accountable.
I have set myself a minimum ‘target’ of writing for at least 15 minutes at a stretch within one hour, and to do this at least 7 times each day for the three days. Personally, this really is helping me as when I sit down to write, I feel a lot more focused, I am not overwhelmed by the thought that I *have* to write for an hour or several hours, and therefore, I am finding the creative process enjoyable, satisfying and productive, which really should be a central component to creativity, rather than any pressures we or others impose upon ourselves. We need to linger in our creative space and explore the internal dynamics of what it is to be human, and somehow to translate that into what we create. These relatively small targets feel very manageable at the moment, and it also frees me up to stay within the creative space while affording myself the opportunity to do other things, the variety of which I feel will help maintain the creative ‘flow’ and interest.
As such, I know that I can intersperse writing my novel which is the focus of this creative time, with other ‘lighter’ creative projects that I have going on, including some adult colouring in and working on a photography project. Personally the variety keeps me from feeling ‘stifled’, stuck or overwhelmed.
I wonder if you have gained insights you can share about your creative process? What works for you? What doesn’t? Does this change with circumstances and opportunities, or have you established a set pattern that helps you with both your creativity and productivity?
For now, I will aim to write for another stretch of 15 minutes, and then take a break and do some exercise, so that my body and brain will be in ‘tip top’ condition and keeping those ‘creative juices’ flowing! 😉
I’m sure you’ve said it at some point in your life: “The view from the top was amazing!”. But how did you know? You climbed that steep staircase, you took on that mountain, you put feet to your vision and you did something to get there.
At the top, you took a moment to steady yourself. You looked down from where you came, and then ….then you saw the view that took your breath away. The view that touched you and changed something within you. And that experience meant the person who descended those heights was different, more alive, than the same one who had only just embarked upon the journey.
You know what I mean, right? There was a time when that experience was a distant dream, an unreachable horizon, and then the dream became a vision, the vision a plan, and eventually the plan became action. You enjoyed the view that changed part of you for the better, because you took action…you did something about it, you took the first step.
And you did it again, you took on a new adventure, you pursued and reached that next goal, you wrote that next blog post….and all because you started somewhere.
Whatever it is that seems out of your reach and a distant dream….how does it compare to the dreams that you have turned into visions, plans and eventually accomplishments before?
You have accomplished so much in your life already, that you tend to forget. You become a little ‘short-sighted’ and uncertain about the road, or mountain ahead of you. But is that dream, really an impossible dream? Did the views that became part of your life’s journey and experience not begin with that first step?
What is that hope, dream, plan that you are thinking of today? Just take the first step. Start at the bottom, everyone has to start somewhere, and keep going, and once you reach the top, tell other people how incredible it is, inspire them, and keep believing, dreaming and achieving, helping others up on the way.
Happy 1st of June peeps! 🙂 I hope the month is going well for you so far, and if not, that you are finding the resilience, hope, strength and support you need to persevere.
I’m excited to share with you something I did today that I haven’t done in years, many, many, many, many years! And even when I did it before it was on rare and sporadic occasions. I went *outside* to do some exercise.
This might be matter of fact to some or maybe even a lot of you. You literally and figuratively take it in your stride to perhaps go out jogging, running, or whatever other sport or exercise you might do. But not so with me.
I grew up feeling very insecure, shy, fearful and intimidated by people, most likely largely influenced by my early experiences of bullying in school. In school I was kind of average when it came to sports, I definitely wasn’t ‘good’ as there were some very sporty and athletic people who had their little sporty and equally academic clique. I was academic, but not sporty, and not at all self assured. I had anxiety and panic attacks in public places, and even now as an adult I have been working hard to overcome these.
I don’t know about you but taking part in sport in school was highly stressful for me. There is a lot of comparison and ranking and being picked last or not being good enough and being bossed about by gym teachers no matter how scared, nervous or frightened or out of your depth you might feel. There were things I enjoyed, not competitively but from time to time I’d actually enjoy a little bit of hockey, netball, rounders (is that even a sport? at least it’s exercise) and I absolutely loved riding my bike (another thing I haven’t done since childhood) and the hurdles out in the playing field as I was good at that and felt for some brief moments like I was ‘flying’….and that I had accomplished something. But overall, on the whole, I kind of hated sport, PE, gym class and felt that the kind of exercise presented to us was something I was pretty much ‘allergic’ to. It was just something that was forced upon us, some people were naturally great at it, and others like me were average and struggled and muddled along, feeling self conscious, not good enough and like we were not in our natural habitat! I’m sure this is a very common experience.
As a teenager and an adult I’ve been only to one gym, a small one, and that only lasted about a year. I’ve done exercises at home, and I love and feel very much at ease going out for walks in nature. But as an adult I had the idea and impression that I was pretty much ‘allergic to exercise’! It was not an appealing thought to me.
However, I realised that I needed to start more regular exercise to help me overcome the depression (and it has helped massively), stay fit and healthy, keep my heart strong, and feel good about myself. For the past couple of years I have been exercising regularly at home doing workouts from various videos online on YouTube. One in particular that I love is Leslie Sansone’s walk exercises as they ease you into exercising and help you to build up gradually overtime, so that was ideal for me. Yet, the thought of going to a gym for an anxious, self conscious person who doesn’t like busy or noisy places where there are a lot of people has been pretty much something that I don’t want to do. And that’s ok. I feel comfortable at home, I can do things at my own pace, and I can have encouraging people guide me, even if that is through video. I have grown to love my little routines at home and miss exercising if I don’t do it. It has helped to lift my mood and keep me positive which is in stark contrast to the worst times of depression.
I think part of the reason I enjoy it so much is that there are no other people, no one judging, comparing, showing off or intimidating, no fears of what other people might think or not looking ok in this sports wear, or whatever it might be. I am just free to simply work on my health and fitness at my own pace from the comfort of my own home with encouraging input from people who can’t see me and don’t know me but are still a positive influence.
So, the thought of going outside to exercise was very intimidating to me. It didn’t really appeal to me, especially the thought of doing so in front of other people. But today, and I’m not sure why, I decided, why not just go and give it a go. Start small. Walking, jogging, running. Ok, so sportswear is not your natural clothing choice, but that’s ok, put your headphones in, listen to some encouraging music, and give it a go….be brave.
And I did give it a go, and I was brave. And I did not have one single anxiety or panic attack.
I walked for a bit, down by the riverside where many walkers, joggers, cyclists go as well as couples, families, people just going for a stroll. I admit I was self conscious. So I walked, and walked until there were less people around, and I set myself a modest target to jog to. And then I walked, and jogged and walked until I got to a less busy place where although there were people about, it was somewhere I felt I could just ‘get on with it’. So I went from walking to jogging to running to sprinting. And then I did some HIIT – high intensity interval training. And I did it all for an hour in total, including a walk ‘cool down’ which allowed me to walk past people on my way home and not try to have to jog or run.
It was a start. And there were some really enjoyable ‘bursts’ where I ran past people and past my self consciousness. Minor victories, perhaps, but don’t you think sometimes the smallest steps, like that first step out the front door, can turn out to be the biggest?
It was a big step to me, but I did it because I decided to not make it such a big deal. ‘Why not?’ Exactly, ‘why not?’ So what is on your mind, my friend, that you like the idea of giving a go, but are feeling afraid or anxious or nervous about? What is the person like that you’d like to be in the future, and what are the steps that you’d have to take to get there? Why not you? Why not today? What’s stopping you?
Yes, that smallest first step in that new direction can often feel like the biggest…but I know you can do it. Is there anything new or out of your comfort zone that you’d like to try this month? Maybe the biggest first small step is getting out of your head and sharing it with others. What’s stopping you? xx