It’s the last day of July, finally with some sunshine, and I’ve been thinking about how best to explain my absences between blog posts.
It’s no secret that this has been a difficult year so far – Mum is doing well, though she still has a few rounds of chemo to go before it finishes in September (and the doctors are happy with her progress) – and that, in fact, the past three years have brought many emotional challenges. We humans are resilient creatures, and even if it doesn’t always feel like it, we have the ability to bear and hold up under the most difficult of circumstances, or at least, what feels like difficult circumstances to us. Maybe because I’m highly sensitive and can feel overwhelmed, some things have hit me harder than I would like. I am far more prone to anxiety and low mood (and occasionally depression) than I used to be, and I know it will be a lifelong struggle, a lifelong thing to manage. And lately, anxiety has been hitting me hard. I know that there are things I can do to manage it – creating a calm atmosphere, breathing exercises, distraction by focusing on something else, or writing it all out.
Writing has been hard, and I’ve been struggling to keep my focus on reading for long. Yet I always feel so much better after I’ve done some writing, as if a weight has been shifted. I may not be able to read new books at the moment, but at least I am able to re-read Harry Potter. I’ve been doing a lot of binge-watching on Netflix – and whilst I wouldn’t recommend it long term, at least they are stories and I try to watch a variety of things, from Marvel’s Iron Fist, to interesting documentaries. Life doesn’t stop when someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, and especially not when you’re like my Mum, who is upbeat and very much a list-maker with a can-do attitude. Yet everyone copes with things differently, and some days I’m still processing and just want to give my mind a rest. It’s also summer, and I’ve always struggled with mental health during the warmer months.
This summer has had its good moments though – from a long week in Southwold, to a book group meet up with some of my favourite people, and spending time at our local pub with my husband. It’s like most of us, really – some days are better than others. I’m grateful for the good days, friends, family, and our Choco (the cat). We’ve had some wonderful sunny periods too – where I’ve been able to write in the garden or in the studio with the doors and windows open. The builders have finally downed tools and the only major things left to do are the hall carpet and a major clear-out in my sister’s room, and our own room. Of course now that my parents are retired, they’re itching to really give the house the attention it deserves, and I have a feeling that they’re not done with the DIY just yet.
The garden is a delight, especially on a day like this when the sun has come out and there’s a mild wind. In the studio there are leafy light patterns swaying, and the shutters occasionally bang against the window frames. It is difficult sometimes living with my parents (we are all far from perfect, and like living with housemates, tempers can be frayed), but there are plenty of things to counter-balance that, and I’m learning to protect my boundaries with working, relaxing, and creating the life we need. Balance is always key, and I know that the goal is to save up enough to be able to find a place of our own. I am grateful for the support they give us, and that we are getting to experience living in this part of North London. Realistically, we probably won’t be able to buy a place in this area, or in London itself, so it is good to have this experience while we can.
With blogging, it has been difficult to find the motivation, to feel free enough to be able to be honest without compromising the standards I set myself. As writers, though, so much of what we do is about sharing – about hoping that what we share will somehow help other people, or will help us make sense of things. It’s better for me to share these things here because they do affect my writing, and they do make it hard for me to be my best writer self. Yet I don’t think people read other people’s blogs without some expectation of finding emotional truth. Blogging has its roots in journaling, and in journaling we can often find emotional truth. I try to create a balance between sharing and wisdom, or lessons I’ve learnt. I’ve learnt many lessons, and some I’m still trying to work out. The book I’m writing, Fragments, has a lot of that emotional openness. I think some of our best work as writers comes when we face our fears and let them go.
I do feel like I’m starting again with the move into a new month. A new month brings new opportunities, and since it’s the last month of summer in the UK, I feel like I can make the most of it. Every new day is a new start – the clock re-sets, and even though we are still the same people, with the same worries and concerns, we can choose to do some things differently; celebrate every moment that we get to be here, with the people we love – on this strange, beautiful planet.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky.