Monday, 27 January 2014

I am Afraid

In my life I've been afraid of quite a few different things. I'm trying to overcome a number of fears right now and it is HARD. But the thing with fears is they don't go away if you avoid them. Like a kid with a monster under the bed they just get bigger and hairier and grow horns. No, these things are better out in the open when they can be seen for what they are, away from the shadows and the distortions of the imagination.

I've been doing a bit of reading around phobias and intense fears and have discovered that they normally arise due to a trauma or when a, perhaps seemingly insignificant, event occurs around the same time as you are experiencing a period of high stress. This was particularly the case for me with public speaking. I used to love it. I spent a summer just out of University working at a zoo where I gave the Giant Tortoise keeper talk every lunch time. I can still picture myself clearly leaping about around the outside of the pen with my 'Britney mic' on feeling totally at ease speaking to whoever I could cajole into staying to learn about the global plight of the tortoise.

A couple of years later I was interning for a church and going through a particularly hard time. Some negative comments were made about a presentation I gave and I fell apart. I didn't speak publicly again for three years. It seems excessive and in a way I have always blamed myself, considered myself weak, for giving up in the face of criticism which I could have, should have, just taken it on the chin.

But I now understand that I reacted as anyone would under the circumstances. I was weighed down by a whole world of sadness and this was the straw that broke the camels back. In these situations an intense fear can centre around an object or activity that, especially if that object or activity is avoided, can intensify with time. Its like all your pain and fear from that sad time gets trapped up in one neat package labelled 'public speaking' and your lip quivers even at the thought. I'm still overcoming that fear fully. I don't enjoy public speaking right now but I know that one day I will again.

I've also been reminded this week that being courageous is not an absence of fear or never letting anything get to you. Sometimes life throws you a whole load of rubbish at once and you respond in the only way you can. You get the hell out of there until you can cope with it all again. But it takes real courage, in the face of that fear, to not allow that fear to define you in the long term. To take steps to reclaim what you lost, to reclaim your future for yourself again free from fears that paralyse you and hold you back. To do what is knee-knockingly, jaw clenchingly hard for you.

When I was in Zambia I discovered a fear of heights. Half way up a mountain. After breathing into a paper bag for ten minutes and being roused with a glucose syrup I was faced with the option of climbing on or staying alone on the mountainside until the group scaled the mountain and came back down. I was leading that group and so I decided I had to go on, if nothing else to show them that you can do things that you don't even believe yourself are possible. That afternoon I abseiled 60 metres off the edge of that mountain, blubbing the whole way down like a baby, but I still did it. One of the instructors who was lowering me down said the kindest words anyone has ever said of a snotty nosed thirty year old weeping on an abseiling rope – 'that is true courage'.
Me, hanging off a rope. Crying, shaking but braving it out!
So if you, like me, have moments when it seems like everything is bigger, scarier and harder than you can ever handle, then take heart. You are the courageous one and conquering that fear you have is just around the corner.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Adventures on the interweb

'Ello 'ello! This week I've been all over the internet talking politics on Threads

 ....and doing a bit of story telling over at Tearfund Rhythms. So, dear blog readers, I send you in their general direction.

Read, comment, see you soon! x

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sewing Box Restoration

For Christmas I was given a very lovely gift of an old vintage sewing box that I came across while on a trip to the in laws in Kent. The lady from the second hand shop there is well aware of my weakness for all things old and sewing related and, spotting me on the street, lured me to her car where this lovely little specimen was in the boot. A bit unloved. A tad forlorn. I had to have it. Manfully, however, I resisted but luckily my mother in law didn't and so, hurrah, on Christmas day it arrived at my house and a brand new project was born.

The inside of the box was very ragged and needed stripping so I first of all ripped out all the lining and then sanded it all down to get rid of the glue marks.

After stripping it out and giving it a sand all over I painted it using an eggshell in light blue. I got the paint from a junk shop so it cost me 50p! And here are the results!

I lined the draw with some oil cloth I had hanging about. Always worth picking this up when you see it. I got his from Cath Kidston for £6 in the sale a couple if years ago and it has been used for many, many projects.

I painted the inside, the handles and the bottom shelf area in a more aqua blue using a little paint tester I thieved from my Pa. Oh the joys of having a decorator for a Dad!

Then came the joy of organising. I don't know about you but this cold weather is making me inclined to nesting and organising. A happy afternoon was spent ordering all my bits and pieces into my new box.

The drawer now houses all my threads.

 My books look lovely all stacked up.

My fabrics are all 'filed', a genius idea I saw on Pinterest for clothes but works well for fabrics to and means you can see what you've got going on in there.

And my buttons in a tiny, weeny jar. Too. Cute.

I've said it once (ok, a hundred times!) and I'll say it again. Why buy anything new when you can get such fantabulous stuff second hand?

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Theatrical Adventures

As the college vacation draws to a close I've been taking the opportunity to get out and about. For the last few days we have been in Bristol, where I did my undergraduate degree ten years ago. We caught up with old faces and haunts, sampled some fruit beers at a micro brewery and frequented a few of the best second hand bookshops. I picked up this guide to Oxford just on the off chance that the diocese are mad enough not to keep me next year and I have to leave my beloved city (sob!).

A piece of my heart is definitely in Bristol so it was wonderful to be back and even to mull over perhaps heading back there one day. That is one of the best aspects of this way of life for me. We anticipate many moves ahead which, though involving the sadness of separation, also means the excitement of new places - or perhaps even back to old ones. It was also great to reflect on how far things have come since my time in Bristol. My favourite quote of the trip was from my room mate of ten years ago who said I was the least likely person from Uni to have ended up a Vicar! Claim to fame! Or at least a testament to the way of God to use the most unlikely of people!

After Bristol I hopped on the bus to London to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Richard II staring one David Tennant. After performing my own standard trick of emerging from the tube station in completely the wrong direction and so walking an extra couple for miles for funsies, I found the Barbican, and my good chum Lou, waiting for me. The performance was spectacular with all the usual ingenious set design of the RSC. David Tennant just lit up the stage. It was hard to even compare him to any other role he had been in before as he so inhabited the character. Even a foolish and selfish young King became likeable in all his fallibility.

I always find a trip to the theatre so inspiring. There is nothing like simply seeing people live in front of you bringing a story to life. To pour themselves into something, and even better into those ancient words full of beauty and meaning, and do it so well. Acting has never been my calling. I had a single ill fated performance in secondary school where I forgot my lines and just stood on the stage repeating the only line I remembered. But to see people put their all into something, to be fantastic in their work, it inspires me in my own work to shoot for the best.

I also got to crack out my old Handy Volume Shakespeare from 1892, swoon!

All in all, a good few day. Ah holidays! Can't they just last forever?!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Six Impossible Things

Well here we are. A brand new year all shiny and new and ready to be unwrapped. I started mine with a late breakfast of a sausage sandwich and a gallon of tea accompanied by my favourite occupation, leisurely speculation about the future. This year is a bit of a hairy-scary one for me. Once again I find myself staring out into the unknown. Lots will be decided, or at least the wheels will be set in motion, like the location of my first job as an ordained minster starting in 2015 (gulp). Will I be up the road or on the other side of the country? Will I be hanging out with students in some urban jungle or cycling between churches in some rural idyll? It all very exciting, but completely unknown and therefore, by default, pretty unnerving.

In the midst of all this I like to be in the habit of, as the Queen in Alice in Wonderland would say, believing 'six impossible things before breakfast'! Just when things start to get a bit predictable a new idea pops into my head. A sweet little 'What If?' and before I know it I'm off down some new avenue, sending audacious emails and banging on doors for opportunities like a woman possessed. It's amazing what you get when you simply ask.

This blog emerged out of one such wander into the impossible. Three and a half years later and I am still here infinitely the better for having decided to put pen to paper and start writing. That willingness to follow the impossible road led to a course in creative writing, winning a short story award, reading my work at a literary festival, publishing a book, seeing my name in print in a real life magazine, scaling the BT tower for a bloggers event and, most importantly, having the most extraordinary amount of fun.

It is amazing what you can do when you take your own life seriously enough to strive for what you really want. Getting up before the sun came up to write stories was the first step in a road of committing to the life that I knew I could have. One full of colour, excitement and adventure. I realised that most of the limits on me were of my own making and the options were, in fact, infinite. I credit that time for me eventually going forward for ordination. I would never have believed such an impossible thing if I hadn't taken those first strange and wonderful steps.

So this year in the midst of final exams and job interviews, being wife, daughter, auntie and friend, I'm going to do a little wandering towards some new impossible things. Why not, eh? I'm going to email people I admire, submit articles to sites I love, ask questions, read books. In fact I'm even going to start drafting an outline for my own book this summer when my finals are done. Yep, its adventures all round. I can't wait to begin.

And so here's to you in 2014, to the life you imagine and to believing all sorts of impossible things before breakfast.