Book yourself some time off and treat yourself to a FREE online writing retreat this Autumn. Join us in real time, or wander around the posts at your leisure.
Easy links to previous years will also be available.
Over Christmas I read an amazing book by Rachel Kelly. I sent Rachel an email this week requesting permission to use part of Chapter 15 to base this post on, I was delighted when I received a reply the same day! Thanks for your kind permission Rachel and heart-warming email.
I had been thinking about my NEW YEAR blog message, when I read this chapter these pages jumped out (page 275-278). Sections of the book are shown in this
2015 and You
In Chapter 15 of Black Rainbow, Rachel writes about a book group she started in her neighbourhood, they were all trying to help each other beat depression, the difference with this book club was they reviewed self-help books. Rachel herself worked through some of her depression by rekindling her love for poetry and sometimes prayers. It was this factor that encouraged my mum to recommend this book to me, that was my connection. Only in my own battle against illness I rediscovered writing poetry.
I spent the first 3 years of depression fighting it (something all suffers know is futile), I self- medicated; devoured self-help books, my whole library lending list was full of them, I read every single relevant title in my local library as well as stocking my own shelves at home (eat your heart out Bridgette Jones), I tried meditation, both in audio form and prayer/meditations, I tried pilates, yoga, t’ai chi, visualisation, mood boards, life coaching (I am trained myself and know how important it is to see a coach from time to time) – I was stuck – nothing worked because I was severely depressed in need of help, therapy and medication.
I agree that the list of things above can enhance healing experience, in fact my own experience of psychotherapy last year worked wonders and my sub-conscious still has the power to drag me back before I fall too far. We arm ourselves as best we can with a whole stock cupboard of counter balances, do our best to protect ourselves from the darkness, despite knowing that if and when it hits we just have to live with it, let it do its worse and rebuild afterwards. Become as resilient as nature. The plant may well look dead, but you keep watering it and you will be amazed by what happens.
So let’s start our New Year arming ourselves with tools, create the change we want to see happen. Only you have that power.
Tools for creating change
Let’s start with a prayer Rachel pinned to her noticeboard, read it, let the words sink in. If you are not religious, see it as spirit talk, being a better human being, mankind;
Lord, help me to notice all the signs of goodness
around me and give thanks for them.
Lord, we are each other’s gifts: help me to be thankful for
every life-giving encounter and to see that your gifts
are all around me if only I would look.
In gratitude I will find healing.
I have posted about (and written) gratitude journals over the years, if this is something you want to do or need to do to spot the good and take notice, now is the time to start one. Do it for January, dip in daily/weekly/monthly. I used to make a note of 3-5 gratitudes a day.
I chose a small, pretty notebook, tied with a purple ribbon and kept it next to my bed, I used to reflect on a short list just before going to sleep.
The more you take notice, the more you will see.
Print the Prayer
Do what Rachel did, print it out, stick it on your noticeboard, notice it.
Use the prayer. Read it aloud and then ponder on what it says, what is good around you, what signs of goodness do you see and hear today? Give thanks for them. Literally… ‘Thank you for ……’
Think about your own gifts, what do you give to people? Who have you encountered that you felt blessed by or antagonistic towards – not all signs are sent sugar-coated, sometimes there is a different kind of obstacle to overcome to create change.
What of God’s gifts or the universe’s gifts/ mother nature… what are you missing? Open your eyes (you know you have 3)!
Finally repeat the endlines as a mantra until you believe that healing is possible.
In gratitude I will find healing.
I persuaded the group that we should each bring along favourite poem to the next session. I brought my faithful Herbert poem ‘The Flower’, with its message of rebirth. A friend brought this poem entitled ‘Instants’, its author unknown:
It was actually written by Jorge Luis Borges, however the versions I have found are slightly different in wording to the poem seen by the group (I imagine this is a translation issue). The wording here is referenced from ‘black rainbow’ and appears as it does in the text apart from the fact the poem is one stanza, WordPress and I have some formatting issues!
If I could live my life again, In the next I would try to make more mistakes, I wouldn’t try to be so perfect, I would be more relaxed, I’ll be more full – than I am now, I’d be sillier than I have been this time around, In fact, I’d take very few things seriously. I would be less hygienic, I would take more risks, I would take more trips, I would watch more sunsets, I would climb more mountains, I would swim more rivers, I would go to more places that I’ve never been, I would eat more ice creams and fewer lima beans, I would have more real problems and fewer imaginary ones. I was one of those people who lived prudent and prolific lives – each minute of his life. Of course I had moments of joy, but, if I could go back I would try to have only good moments,
After all, moments are what life is made of, Don’t miss out on the now!
I was one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, without a hot-water bottle, without an umberella and a parachute,
If I could live my life again I would travel light. If I could live my life again I would walk bare foot from the beginning of spring till the end of autumn. I would take more rides on merry-go-rounds, I would watch more sunrises and play with more children, If I had the life to live. But now as you see, I am eighty-five, – and I know that I am dying .
WOW! At this point I probably needn’t type anymore, right? I mean it has all been said. This poem made me feel invincible. Read it again. We all agree. Old age is after all a place (hopefully) we are inevitably heading towards, this was another reason I was so angry about being debilitated by depression in my 30s. That time when we should be jumping out of planes and climbing mountains on the other side of the world.
We weren’t eighty-five and we weren’t dying. The time had come to watch more sunrises and play with more children, to shout with joy and swim more rivers.
We spent time at the group making our own lists inspired by ‘Instants’… ‘Let’s boost our sense of delight.’ We made logs of the past year and recorded what we had most enjoyed doing and what we hadn’t enjoyed too.
Write your list
Rewrite the poem from your own perspective, what would you care less about or strive to do more? Maybe you can make these part of 2015 and not wait until you are eighty-five. Make your wishes reality.
Or copy what the group did and create your own log from 2014.
Find the pursuit that allows you to be your most creative self. Go with the flow.
The chapter closes with a letter written by Sir Sydney Smith in 1820 which Rachel was sent. It parallels with her own guidelines for dealing with low spirits… apart from his advice to avoid poetry. I would say BATHE IN IT!
Thanks again Rachel for writing the book in the first place and for allowing me to reference sections here
ADVICE CONCERNING LOW SPIRITS
A letter from Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana Morpeth, Feb. 16, 1820:
Dear Lady Georgiana,– Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done — so I feel for you. 1st. Live as well as you dare. 2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°. 3rd. Amusing books. 4th. Short views of human life — not further than dinner or tea. 5th. Be as busy as you can. 6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you. 7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you. 8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely — they are always worse for dignified concealment. 9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you. 10th. Compare your lot with that of other people. 11th. Don’texpect too much from human life — a sorry business at the best. 12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence. 13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree. 14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue. 15th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant. 16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness. 17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice. 18th. Keep good blazing fires. 19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion. 20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana, Very truly yours, Sydney Smith
Despite constant advances since the 1820s, much of this advice is still relevant and helpful, some more so.
Let’s finish with a reminder that life is precious, we are heading forwards – let’s make it worthwhile. Spend some of your time with those staying young at heart.
In return for the permission to use part of Chapter 15, here are some links to Rachel’s website, go and BUY her book on Amazon or download the app.
‘I would love to get the book into the hands of those who need it and all my author proceeds go to mental health charities.’ – Rachel Kelly www.black-rainbow.co.uk
Rachel Kelly is a writer and former journalist on The Times. Her memoir Black Rainbow was published by Hodder & Stoughton in April 2014 and won the Spear’s Best First Book Award in October 2014.
I am still undecided on whether I am attempting NaNoWriMo 2014 or not yet, if I do it will be to work on short stories, several of them.
In 2013, when I started writing again, I discovered NaNo in early Spring and was gutted I had to wait until Autumn. I took part in both the Camp NaNoWriMo Spring and Summer – produced 50K on a non-fiction book which is writing in progress and currently somewhere beyond 90K words, I worked on a series of short stories for the summer camp, by the real event in November I was primed and ready and created half a novel that I haven’t touched it since.
What I did do successfully, was blog. Just in case you know nothing of this month of madness have a look HERE
Here are links to archive posts for any of you considering locking yourself in for November and writing until your head hurts!
I have spent the day writing and organising the programme for INKSPILL 2014… VERY EXCITING!
It is going to be even better than last year and is still FREE!
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‘Ishouldn’t beat myself up less and need to stop comparing myself to other artists. We are all unique and talented in our own ways and how I feel, what I think is not what the audience experiences.’
I think many of you will relate to this dent of confidence that comes when you’re watching other performers doing their sets.
This is the response I wrote;
I think all humans do it and artists especially…. there is something attached to the ego that makes it happen. Wise words like ‘be yourself, write from what/where you know’, are all true and if you can manage that then you are taking steps in the right direction.
I trained as a Life Coach & I learnt to let go of judgement & unhealthy comparison which helps me argue against the doubt in my head…. sometimes. It is a hard thing to do, but a good exercise.
Art is subjective, you put it out there and people see/hear/grasp the bits they want or need. Editors for example always choose what I would slush & reject what I love! 😉
There’s no accounting for taste… just let us keep on doing what we do!