Your stark, barren chill brings a wild clarity where the shadow is invited into the light, hearth side.
As I await the Cailleach’s freshly laundered cloak of white to spread out across these lands, I quietly settle into slowing down and coorying in, into your season.
While I eagerly anticipate you annual arrival, I am well aware of the sense of dread your appearance brings to others. Those without shelter, food, comfort, their health or the love of kith or kin. You make their very existence a challenge for survival.
In contrast to the poverty lived by many, the polar opposite also bears witness to showcase wealth, abundance and for some, greed; much of which will lead to the aforementioned poverty in the spirit of keeping up appearances.
There is no hiding in your season, where everything is raw and exposed; branches bare and wind unforgiving. You are relentless in your pursuit of truth, forcing the pause of hibernation to turn inwards to seek our heart’s desire or assess our current situaion, for good or othewise; mentally and physically clearing the path of the old to make way for the new growth.
I crave the simplicity of life that you so beautifully demonstrate in the earth around me. Peaceful, resting, hibernating, going deep to renew once again in Spring. To appreciate what has gone before and to prepare for what is to come with a healthy dose of self care and preservation, feeding my body simple but nourishing foods and loving those around me hard.
Thank you for this time of quiet and slow reflection.
I was born in the new age. But I have definitely been born with an old soul and a knowing of the old ways. As result I am a bit of a mash up of both the old and new, both spiritually and now come to think about it, literally too (like every one my age, we enjoyed the bliss of the analogue childhood and adolescence with the convenience and connectivity of the digital adulthood).
But what were the old ways? What does “New Age” mean?
When I think of the Old Ways, I think of the pre-christian times, in the matriarchal goddess worshiping times. Nature ruled. A simple time in terms of what was required to be done, how people went about their lives, meeting their needs individually and collectively for the family/community. A small yet hard life, living off the land and at the mercy of the elements and their understanding/observations of the natural world for which they were a part of. Honouring the changing seasons by observing the seasons rather than by a fixed calendar. Honouring revered deities or the Mother Goddess with love rather than fear. The village mentality and way of life, living in sync with the cycles of nature speaks to me of the old ways. The people were of their land. This is merely my interpretation, yours may be completely different.
Contrast this with the New Age and my inner feeling changes from slow, steady and at peace, to a buzz of energy and a feeling of “whoosh”, psychedelic madness and woowoo. What comes immediately to my mind upon hearing New Age is a plethora of images and labels : new-age-hippie-dippy-claptrap, crystals, The West, burning sage bundles, cultural appropriation, ancestry – e.g. 1% Viking/Native American/Irish Celt! The universe, energy, chakras, Cacoa Ceremony, Bali, retreats, coconut oil, essential oil, meditation, yoga, homeopathy, love’n’light, spiritual bypass, the moon, light workers, peace man, tarot cards, a goddess for everything from all parts of the globe, free spirit, earthing, grounding, vegetarian/vegan, the list goes on, feel free to insert your own interpretations . Some of it makes me uncomfortable, some of it is given a cursory eye-roll and other bits I really connect with and practice.
So why do I think I have an old soul and a knowing of the old ways? And how do I marry that remembering with the new fangled New Age?
I feel a very real connection to history, domestic history of the island inwhich I live. For instance, I have an unexplained physical reaction to the city of Edinburgh when I am there. I have never lived there but when I used to work in Wales, my train home would have me arrive at Haymarket Station, Edinburgh, to then get my connection for the last 30 miles home. Standing in Haymarket, breathing in the smell of hops on a cold Autumnal evening, I always felt “I’m home” plus, any night out in Edinburgh over the years always felt like home – I feel safe in this city yet never have the same feelings or notions in Glasgow or any other city I’ve visited. I have always been fascinated with herbs and herbal healing (not really done anything with this fascination but its always been there), my curiosity around the moon, the changing seasons, and witchcraft. Once I started tracing my family tree ( went back to my 4th Great Grandmother in my Mother’s line) much of what I discovered about my family makes so much sense to the person I am and the interests I have long held. Much of the reading, research and practice I have been actively seeking and learning from over the years felt more like “YES” moments and an awakening of things I already knew, deep down, coupled with an insatiable thirst for more knowledge. And yes, I know how crazy and loopy that sounds. That’ll be why I have never shared that before!
Combining these base feelings and knowings/rememberings with the modern world has been for the most part fairly straight forward with a few stumbles along the way. I have real issues around cultural appropriation and people claiming indigenous ritual or ceremony for their own when they have no connection to that culture, save for an ancestry test that identified 1% popular ethnicity – I truly believe that our own cultures where we live/ have grown etc are rich in their own history, traditions, folklore and language that cherry picking the cool bits from another’s is not OK. Here’s the sore point, I have been using Native American tarot cards (which are beautiful in their design) for the past 23 years, yet I have no connection to that culture at all other than studying it in my 6th yer of high school and finding their history appalling and their culture fascinating. In using these cards, is that appropriation or appreciation? I don’t know! ( I have however, bought a new deck, the Green Witch cards which are also beautiful but are more connected to my Pagan path and personal journey).
I’m nosy and am curious as to how other people merge the two ways, if indeed they do – it certainly isn’t necessary or a requirement. People who follow their version of a New Age spiritual practice or path may only be familiar with modern day practices or not feel the need to look back to go forward. Similarly some people may shudder at all things New Age and prefer to keep the fires of the Old Ways burning. Tell me – I’d love to know!
I have found that getting outside as often as possible to walk the local woods or to sit in my garden, letting my bare feet touch the earth or grass has been the most simple and effective way to connect. My calendar follows the lunar cycle, I follow the seasons of the environment and my own cycle. I am of this land, of this place, in the modern “new age” whilst reconnecting to, remembering and honouring the old ways. The best of both? I think so, but as with all things learning , growing and evolving, nothing is certain, including my opinion.
From where? The internet, or rather specifically, Social Media ~ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (yes I know Pinterest is technically a search engine rather than a social media platform, but shhh).
Why? I needed a break.
We all know that taking a Social Media holiday is good for us, especially if we use numerous platforms on a regular basis. But do we need to take a break from the screens or the content of our screens? Are we addicted to Facebook or just our phones?
I pondered this question as I was feeling frustrated and anxious and numb and bored and happy and joyful and tired all at the same time, every time I picked up my phone and began the habitual scrolling. My notifications have all been turned off since January, my phone is always on silent, it doesn’t even vibrate, yet still I had the compulsion to “check” it. I didn’t even have the apps installed, instead had to go through my browser to partake in the aforementioned “checking”. It had become mentally exhausting and somewhat toxic when dealing with some people and their rudeness. The time lost to that scrolling is just that; lost. For ever! What a complete waste of time and energy. And for what, really, at the end of the day?
It was time for an intervention. I would have said experiment, but in lieu of a hypothesis I’m going with intervention, a self imposed one. One month, no Social Media. Could I resist the temptation of a sneak peak? Would I last a whole month? What benefits were there to this? Was I completely shooting myself in the foot and be about to lose all my followers and customers? Would I feel completely out of the loop with friends and was I about to miss out on important stuff? What was I trying to prove and to whom? (nothing to no-one) How much time was I actually wasting and what could I do with it instead? What would I do at the end of the month? ( spoiler : no idea, hadn’t really thought that far ).
Starting at the New Moon in March, I went cold turkey. One full lunar cycle was my time frame, returning yesterday, at the following New Moon.
I did it! So, what did I learn? How do I feel? Was it worth it??? So many questions competing for answers inside my head.
I knew from having Social Media breaks in the past that I would be more productive in the use of my time, but what else would it teach me?
The 9 things I learned during my Social Media fast.
1. I have to say I did not miss Facebook. I would go as far as to say that I could quite easily lose it and never log back in again, and this is without taking the Cambridge Analytica horror into account. However, much of the organising and arranging of my 8 yo’s home ed meets, support and community takes place on Facebook, so coming away altogether is not practical. I certainly did not miss the “debates” and generally arsery of some of the people I am “friends” with. On the flip side, I missed a couple of pregnancy announcements were lovely to read (once I saw them after scrolling through a whole lot of tosh that littered my feed) and a few updates that I definitely want to know about. So, decision made. I have now unliked the vast majority of the pages I follow and left numerous groups that I constantly ignore in my scroll and never interact with and have unfollowed most of the people I am friends with (no offence). The latter one may seem a little harsh but I am making a conscious effort to use time better and not get lost in the virtual vortex that doesn’t really serve any purpose. Which then leads to me tho think, as I am typing this, why unfollow and not unfriend? Because I don’t want to be mean. There you go!
I have a Facebook page for Wild Sister Rising as well as 2 groups (one private circle group and one public shop group) which took up a lot of my time. Moving back into these spaces I have decided that I will use the page to post only my own stuff and for the groups, I am as yet uncertain.
2. Nor Twitter, I had 2 accounts. One that I had since 2012 and one I started when I started this blog. I deleted the old account and kept the WSR account. Having read through my feed and clicked into specific accounts of some people I follow, I found out a cyber friend had had a bereavement and I felt awful, but the rest of Twitter was still the ranty, anxiety inducing echo chamber it always was. I’ll keep it until after the Eurovision Song Contest and then reassess its need to me (and probably delete). I have to stay until 12th May as 4 of us watch Eurovison in our respective homes across the country, and discuss it on twitter over drinks, cheesecake and other various nibbles – it’s hilarious and in the the style of the late Terry Wogan, our commentary usually gets more caustic and witty as the booze cabinet is worked through.
3. I did initially miss instagram as I enjoy the app. But, since I stopped using it, I haven’t taken a single insta-worthy photo. In fact I don’t think I have taken any photos other than one of (A) on his birthday! Everywhere we have been, everything we have done has been completely enjoyed and experienced as it was, in the moment and was fully present rather than thinking about taking a picture to share. And I am totally ok with that. I clicked into a couple of friends’ accounts and went through their pictures, to get back up to date (Hi Eilidh! She has the best hashtags in the instaverse) but have yet to post anything myself yet as have not had any inclination to take a picture or video. I think there will be a distinct reduction in the number of posts I share here from now on.
4. Pinterest failed me – or rather I failed in staying away… I nipped back on to send my tattoo board to the artist who is preparing/drawing up my new tattoo (a wee birthday present to myself). I only went on to send her my board, but then started looking for more ideas and inspiration and fell down the rabbit hole. It was a productive use of my time, even if I did stray off course and start searching for other things too… To be honest Pinterest is my favourite of the 4 so I don’t feel in the least bit bad about falling off the wagon.
5. I was free to use my time for things that actually served me and made my life richer. A couple of the activities that replaced my phone addiction were reading and yoga. I finished several books, including one which I heartily recommend, Burning Woman by Lucy H Pearce. In the absence of a kundalini yoga class in my area, found a great teacher on YouTube and have begun a daily practice. I’m now working through a 40 day Sadhana and loving it, even though I am ridiculously stecky!
6. The source of my headaches has been found! I have been suffering awful and regular headaches. My shoulders were stiff, my neck was stiff and my jaw was becoming increasingly tight. I knew myself when I was mindlessly scrolling through my phone and read something that angered me or pissed me off, or low and behold, if someone should interrupt me during this very important task, I could feel the instant tension and the audible inhale alerted me that I was in pretty bad shape. Off to get it sorted. I didn’t need a relaxing aromatherapy back massage I need deep tissue manipulation and so made an appointment with a sports therapy centre. After 2 sessions, a lot of discomfort, and a thorough workout on my poor muscles (including having my jaw muscles worked on from inside my mouth – unusual but with phenomenal results) my headaches are gone and I have movement in my neck and shoulders where the tension previously held them captive. The woman who worked on me was shocked at how “solid” my back muscles were – oops! A month of not having my head tilted at a downward angle and not filling my head with the angst and rants of the interwebs has helped enormously. Plus I am not as easy to piss off or annoy, there is a notable reduction in my anxiety and irritability.
7. Proper conversations. Having not being involved in or aware of news and conversations happening online, when I met with friends I was finding out information for the first time and face to face. I was back to having conversations. And not ones that start with “Did you see … on Facebook?” This pleases me immensely.
8. Opportunity to review Values, Desires and Needs. I crave simplicity, connection and solitude/space. Writing is important to me as is continually learning about and exploring my passions, deep connections with friends – in person, trying new things, such as ecstatic dance and kundalini yoga, spending time alone to recharge and get clarity has been vital.
9. FOMO isn’t real. The world still spins, politics continue, events happen, we show up or we don’t. If I want to know something I can deliberately go and find out about it, ask someone about it. If I see a headline on the front page of the newspaper I am perfectly able to go and research the truth of it myself rather than take the paper at face value – I don’t need to know everything that is happening at every second of the day.
If you are someone who can take or leave your phone or Social Media, then this post probably doesn’t resonate, but I am not one of those people. I am now making deliberate choices, becoming far more discerning about how, when and why I am opening one of these apps to engage in whatever is presented from the blue glare. Social Media is not going anywhere and we live in a digital world where technology is king, but that doesn’t mean that it has to take over our lives, or dictate what we see, read, are exposed to, based on algorythms.
In answer to my question “Was it worth it?”, I have to conclude that YES, my month long abstention was absolutely worth it.
I’d love to know how other people live with and manage their phone addictions and constant Social Media bombardment – do you ever feel the need to take a break but scared to? Or are you one of those folk who doesn’t have any issues and can pop onto facebook purely in the interest of friendship? Please feel free to leave a comment to share your experience.
And we are done!!! Christmas had been and gone. All the effort and planning and preparation and baking and making and shopping; sayonara. Adios. Cheerio. Mission accomplished. Only 307 days until I start planning the next one.
I am belly full and steeped in Baileys. The floors are covered in glitter from that bloody wrapping paper from Tesco that will probably still be there in 3 Christmases time. Call The Midwife Christmas episode has been watched and bawled over (this year’s was a particular doozy and had me in floods of tears) and today was the day I spent in my pj’s eating a random assortment of left overs, reading my new books and magazines, drinking tea and dreaming about taking all the decorations down.
Sadly my Husband missed this luxuriously slothful day as he works in retail and is back at work. His employers don’t do family time, just bottom line.
I don’t feel guilty for my day where I barely removed my arse from the couch (other than to replenish an empty tea cup) as this past month and a half have been a tad busy. According to the slew of memes and essays/articles, the prep for Christmas is essentially “women’s work”. The men folk wouldn’t have a clue how to put together a perfect and magical festive, apparently. Really? Nah, not buying it. For years, Hubby and I did Christmas pretty equally, apart from pressies and cards, he excels in the thoughtful gift department. It’s only in the past couple of years that it has fallen to me to “arrange” Christmas. All of it. But I’m not complaining, I LOVE it. It is easier for us to work it like this as Hubby’s shifts are anti-social and completely impractical for making good on much of the prep. However, once Boxing Day is here, I’m done. Over it until next year.
I wasn’t as organised this year as I usually am, but you know what? It all came together anyway. No stress, no pressure to make it “magical” or “perfect”. I tried one year to make it all magical and memorable for (A) when he was little, and it wasn’t magical, I was stressed to fuck as was he! And he hardly remembers it!!! Now we just do a couple of things we enjoy, keep it pretty low key, and focus on good food and spending time with those we want to. It becomes memorable when you do what you enjoy and if there’s no stress then its fun and therefore magical in itself without the manufactured fake nonsense and social media pressure. What more do we need?
Truth be told, I’d happily forgo Christmas and all its fuss and mania and just have Yule; the calm, relaxed, simple celebration a few days previous. We celebrate both in our home – Yule for me and Christmas for the traditions of our families, which we have each grown up with and have brought to our wee family too. I can just see the horror upon the face of my folks if I said we weren’t doing Crimbo. And on my husband’s and (A)’s too, come to think of it! Although neither of us or our families are religious, Christmas is a big deal!
But now, that’s all in the past. Having been glued to Christmas24 movie channel on Virgin Media since November, I can’t watch anymore of the Hallmark, made-for- TV Christmas movies. We are now in the betwixt. That limbo of not knowing what day it is, the lull between the indulgence of Christmas and the excitement of New Year.
Most people will return to work for the few days inbetween. These people probably don’t get to experience the full extent of the betwixt as I am guessing they will at least have a handle on what day it is. But if you are lucky enough not to be punching your card, enjoy this down time. Perfect, almost medicinal, for the introverted to have this time; to recharge, to chill out, to contemplate the year ending and plan the coming one, or if you’re like me – take down your decorations and tree! I like to bring the New Year in, into a clean house. I cherish the almost solitude that these few days provide. They are necessary.
We won’t be venturing far (other than to my sister’s a day), we will get outside though, to brace the cold cleansing winds, to clear the mind and banish the cabin fever that is starting to build. My 7yo will run and play and explore and have fun. I just take in the stark beauty of winter and the delight of the kettle when we return home. The gentle pace of the week is welcome as I start to prepare both the house and myself for 2018 (and ensure we get our steak pie in for New Year’s dinner).
I hope you have had a great festive period, however or if, you celebrate, and enjoy the coming days before we bid farewell to 2017.
Self-care. There’s that word that keeps popping up everywhere, like 2017’s “hygge“. But like hygge, it’s more than just a buzz word. Self-care is not self-ish or self-indulgent, it is self respect, self preservation and a huge part of self love.
This particular post has been in progress for a wee while now in various guises and themes, but each version consistently pointed to the same key message :
It is vital for our own health & well-being as well as for that of those who depend upon us too. Remember the inflight instructions to ensure you put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else? This nugget of advice applies to many areas of our lives, not just when we are heading off on holiday.
While I am perfectly sure that we are all aware of how important it is to look after ourselves, I wonder how many of us actually take heed. There are numerous obstacles to taking the necessary care of ourselves other than the basics. Obstacles such as
guilt – I suffer from this – and it’s guilt placed on our shoulder from ourselves not from our children/partners/ careers (well, maybe your career, depending upon your boss…),
other people’s opinions, our own opinions and inner critics,
lack of time,
lack of finances,
prioritising other “things” over self-care in deliberate self sabotage for any of the aforementioned obstacles,
prioritising the care of others over ourselves, particularly children/partners/ other dependents/ employers,
the feeling of “I can do it all”/”I’m managing fine” as proof of no need to pander to indulgences,
not believing we are worthy of what we perceive self-care to be,
the social media vortex
We need to address these barriers and obstacles, because if we don’t how can we properly look after ourselves and meet all of our needs?. If we are meeting everyone else’s needs while sacrificing our own, what good is that to anyone? None, that’s what!
Over the past few months that I have been concentrating on and researching self-care for me, I noticed reoccurring patterns and themes, which I have categorised into 4 areas, which are separate yet all overlap with one another :
and will blog on each on individually (or else you will be here all day reading!) looking at what they mean and how we can incorporate them into our everyday lives and over come those pesky barriers that stop us from living our best life in optimum condition.
In the mean time, while we are all peace and love and (((hugs))) for our friends and family, how about we extend those feelings and words of wisdom to ourselves. We’re worth it.
Meditation. Chanting “Ommm” whilst sitting legs crossed in lotus pose, thumbs and middle fingers touching, eyes closed. That’s meditation, right? Remaining in that position for half an hour or multiple hours, with an empty mind seeking inner peace.
Well, no, that’s not how my practice goes. Not at all infact. I use several different methods when meditating, depending upon the circumstances and where I am. For instance, if I need to calm down, take a time out or collect myself in a stressful situation, I focus on my breathing. This can be done anywhere at any time! No need for candles or incense to do this, the car or a public loo if needed are perfectly suitable. All I do is take a deep breath in through my nose, counting slowly as I do so. Hold the breath for the same amount of time plus 1 second, then slowly exhale the breath for the same length of time as inhale plus 2 seconds. It doesn’t matter (to me) if I exhale through my nose or my mouth. This slows my heart rate and allows for clearer, calmer thinking and a better mood for continuing with my day or situation. This always works when I practice it, I just need to remember to practice it more…
Another method I use, if I need a more specific focus or advice, is a much more recognisable as a form of “meditation” as it does involve sitting down in a comfortable position (I have yet to try the lotus pose, I prefer a comfy chair if I am honest) and sometime I do burn candles or incense, but I absolutely need time and peace and quiet on my own, which is rare giving that I am a home-educating Mama. In this practice I have a place, a home, I go to in my mind and can seek assistance or guidance from my circle of inspirational advisors, which is essentially a group of women (real and fictitious) who chip in with their tuppence worth during these sessions. Over the years my circle has changed with various members of my imaginary tribe being replaced, or their numbers increased as I have evolved. I started out with 6 women on my team which has grown to 12, with me being the 13th. The only constant has been that my advisory squad has been made solely of women.
The other place I find it very easy to meditate, believe it or not, is in the shower! The motion of washing my hair is a no brainer requiring zero effort, which leaves plenty mind space to gather and process my thoughts and gain clarity. I often have my best ideas and moments of inspiration as I lather and rinse!
For anyone who has never meditated before, it can seem a bit woo-hoo or a little daunting, with the unsure feeling of where to start or even knowing what the point of meditation is, if not for finding inner peace. There are lots of books on how to meditate and why, plus Youtube has a variety of videos to watch or listen to as a guided meditative practice. I would recommend even just starting with the breathing exercise I use. If you want to sit in lotus, or create a dedicated sacred space at home for your practice, do it. If you want to light candles or incense, do it. Or don’t. There are no rules here, and the practice is entirely yours. It is worth noting though, that it is nigh on impossible to completely clear your mind, it will wander off in all directions, especially if you have a busy life with work or kids (or both), but as soon as you notice it going off on its own tangent, bring it back by refocussing on that breath. It takes practice.
I keep referring to meditation as a practice because practice is what it takes. Practice to get comfortable with what you are doing, with what you want to achieve and practice to make it a regular part of your routine. I have been “practicing” for the past 15 years but have yet to establish a proper and regular habit. It’s very much ad hoc and fitting it in when I either remember or feel the need.
Back in 2002 I attended a 2-day motivational event called Mindstore, by a bloke called Jack Black, and it was brilliant. My employer at the time was really into personal development and self empowerment and transferring that energy into the work place (recruitment consultancy) so sent myself and 2 colleague to the Mindstore programme. During the event, Jack guided the packed auditorium, which must have held about 500 delegates, through a meditation. This was the first time I had ever meditated, infact, I didn’t realise at the time that that was what we were doing. It felt like 10 minutes had passed, no more than that, but it had actually been 30 minutes. As it happens I still use that guided journey today (incorporating my advisory soul circle) . The general story is similar but I have changed details here and there over the years. It is as effective now as it was then.
Meditation has also helped (A) with calming down, expressing his anger in healthier ways or even to relax into sleep.. I find that guiding him with focussing on his breathing or visualising colours has been the most beneficial and effective way to meet his needs. It’s short and simple for little minds with big imaginations.
When I was coming to the end of my maternity leave around 6.5 years ago I started a distance learning course on meditation. I complete all but the last 2 modules as returning to work full time and having a toddler proved enough for me to take on at the time. I wish I had finished the course as it was really interesting and I picked up plenty tips and ideas for both my own personal practice and for guiding others. It is on my ‘to-do’ list to complete it one day, but I figure after 6 years I will probably have to do the whole course over again…
Since 2002, I have never participated in a group session, but a woman local to me runs guided women’s meditation workshops in 6 weekly blocks. At this stage in my own journey and with my own practice being so sporadic and inconsistent, I am contemplating signing up for a space – 6 weeks of dedicated practice, who knows where that could lead or open up?
Do you medidate? I would love to hear how other people practice and fit it into busy lives.
It’s been a fair wee while since I last updated my blog,and I can’t quite believe it is now Hogmanay and we are about to delve into a new year with all that it holds.
Generally at this time of year like to reflect on the 12 months just passed before making plans (sometimes resolutions) for the coming 12. A taking stock of sorts. As I sit reminiscing about 2016, I find myself struggling to find many positives from 2016. Not because of the seemingly higher number of deaths of prominent figures than in previous years; not because of the result of Brexit or the US presidential elections, but because the latter part of the year saw the increased deterioration in the health of my Father-In-Law, before he gave me one last wave under the light of the full moon before stepping onto that rainbow in mid November.
So to my old blog to see where I started this year, to my first post of 2016 and realising that it is still as relevant as it was a year ago. I started out looking to retreat a bit, find peace and live a slower more personal and connected life. It seems to have worked to some degree, I guess. As I recall there was nothing major to jump up and down about, life just trundled along, we played in the snow (for 1 whole day…), we planned a holiday and cancelled it, I had a low key but lovely birthday, Hubby has a similarly chill but fab 40th. Much of 2016 has been spent baking and reading (2 things I love) and spending quality time with family and friends alike. Embracing hygge. With (A)’s home ed clubs we have shared many great days playing, learning and going on various trips, including a camping weekend. I have watched him grow and develop, followed where his interests and character are taking him. We have had an old wish of many years granted when we got our allotment. I started this new blog to chart our journey.
Then November happened. And the loss to our family is a great one. My FIL was, as Hubby called him, an enigma. We didn’t always agree on matters (politics, society and such) but there was a respect for each other and a love that I will always cherish. He was wise, loving, crabbit, opinionated, sexist, intelligent, kind, reliable, sarcastic, could tell a story like no other and completely irreplaceable. Loved and missed.
And yet, everything that followed has been pretty damn positive, weirdly. My Mother-In-Law is an incredible woman. She has a strength and attitude that I admire greatly. In the weeks since my FIL’s death, we have become an even closer unit, our wee family of 3 is very much now a 4piece. The festive period was still incredibly festive, perhaps, I dare say, even more so than it has been in previous years. My MIL joined us on our annual Xmas jaunt through to the Christmas Market in Edinburgh, I took her for her 75th birthday to a very special afternoon tea in a 5* hotel followed by cocktails, she joined us for our Yule celebrations and Christmas day was as laid back and chill as I have known, with fillet steaks instead of traditional turkey. (Oh, yeh, I went back to eating meat recently after more than a year of being vegetarian again)
As we look to the future, to the new year, my FIL’s legacy can be felt (particularly by Hubby) when we consider our priorities, dreams and desires.
So with that in mind, I am signing off now to finish redding the hoose and to make my plans for 2017, and bid everyone a very Happy New Year when it comes. Lang may yur lum reek!
Rise up, auld wife, and shake yer feathers,
Dinnae think that we are beggars,
We’re jist some bairns come oot tae play,
Rise up and gie us oor Hogmanay
Getting my hygge on this morning – candles and coffee before the sun was up
There’s that word again…Hygge! It’s everywhere I look now. Pinterest has exploded with Hygge pins, (I too have my own dedicated Hygge board), there are books written about it, newspaper articles and blog posts galore; pretty soon instagram will be flooded with hygge and hyggelig squares in soft focus. But what is it and where can I get some?
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Danish concept, for which there is no direct translation in the English language, it’s more an umbrella term.
“Hygge was never meant to be translated – it was meant to be felt”
~ ToveMaren Stakkestad
After much research into the world of all things hygge, I have discovered it is not only a feeling (that cozy content feeling) but it is also physical. Hygge is noun, verb and adjective! To hygge or invite someone to hygge, is actually a thing.
I first came across it last autumn and fell instantly in love with the entire concept. It became very much a focus of our home last winter. This year I want to delve in a bit deeper to embrace this wonderful thing and add a Scottish flavour, so am now calling it : Coory (as in to coory in)
You may already be familiar with the hygge phenomenon and be rolling your eyes as it is fast being co-opted by the middle class (as The Guardian and the Telegraph have been keen to report on it) as the latest trend to follow, or see it as being smug and yet another layer of social media saccharine fakery in the look-how-wonderful-my-life-is bollocks. But I don’t think it has to be that way and nor should it. That is NOT hygge. Not how the Danes do it and certainly not what I take from it – in fact that notion is the exact opposite of hygge. Another keeping up with the social media Jones’s is the anti-hygge. Denmark is one of very few countries where equality is an integral part of life and culture – the egotistical heirarchy and one-upmanship is not prevalent as it is elsewhere, such as here in the UK. Hygge is not just for those who can afford it, it is for everyone! You cannot buy hygge; candles, yes, but hygge, no!
So how do you hygge/coory? For a start, stop being so bloody British and moaning about the weather; embrace it! The summer has gone for the year, or rather it ought to have, but so far, October 2016 has been more ‘summery’ than that of July and August 2016 combined, but stick with me here. If, unlike me, you are already mourning the summer sun and despairing at the drawing in of the darker night and chillier days, then let me introduce you to the concept of hygge. Ready?
The top tips of getting your Hygge on and Coorying in can be categorised by what I call the 7 Cs:
Turn the big light off , light some (lots) candles and/ or twinkly fairy lights. This works both in the morning and in the evening, or as we get further into autumn and winter, then the afternoon too. The harsh glare of the big light is not hygge, it does not invite you to coory in. The softness of the candles do. They create a gentle light, can be romantic but not necessarily so, they change the atmosphere dramatically and are calming. Twinkle lights do too, as long as they are not the bright brashy white bulbs, the warm white has a much softer glow. All my twinkle lights, whether strung round curtain poles or stuffed in glass jars, are all warm white and super cozy. An upside to using candles is the heat they generate too – save some pennies on the leccy bill and reinvest it in candles.
Heading into the chillier months and then the cold depths of winter, it is so important to be warm. Making and keeping our homes and ourselves cozy seems pretty straightforward but bunging the central heating on is not cozy (it heats up the home and keeps us warm, it also seems to welcome and give a home to the common cold. When I lived in my old flat, where I had no central heating, I had hardly a cold in any of the 5 winters I lived there…just saying…), plus it’s not an option for many people these days. No, coziness is found amongst blankets and cushions, quilts, jumpers, cardigans, fleecy pyjamas, onesies, thick socks and slippers. Layers, warm layers.
I remember when I was a teenager, my friend and I bought thick cozy socks from Marks and Spencers which we loved and named them “beside the fire socks”. We were experiencing the pleasure of hygge without even knowing it. My “beside the fire socks” feeling has stayed with me and when I see a pair of thick cozy socks the image they conjure in my head is simply “beside the fire”. It warms my heart as well as my feet! And what is not to love about coorying under a blanket on the couch to watch the tv or read a book with a mug of tea? Or coffee or hot chocolate? Warm mulled wine or cider are equally cozy inducing factors in hygge. And if all fails and you end up with the cold, then a whisky hot toddy is just the hygge ticket.
Cozy is not restricted to the indoors – get your hygge groove on outdoors by getting cozy in scarves, gloves and hats ( I love getting all wrapped up to go out), add the warm mulled wine at a Christmas market (See photo of me at the Edinburgh Christmas Markets in Princes St Gardens 2007 with said mug of hot gluwhein, above). PLUS you have to get outdoors to appreciate the coziness of hygge when you come back inside. And, nothing invokes a sense of coziness other than to be outside after dark, when people in their homes have their lamps on but have not yet closed their curtains or blinds. I LOVE being outside looking in. Maybe it’s because I’m nosy or maybe there is just something super cozy and warming about seeing others go about their lives in the comfort of their own homes.
It’s no good being snug as a bug by candle light if you’re not comfy! And I don’t just mean the chair or sofa in the livingroom. Being comfortable in your surroundings and in the company you keep are crucial hygge points. A relaxing bubble bath is hardly comfy if you are freezing the minute you step out the water. Having to make torturous small talk with someone, even by candle light, is hellish and highly uncomfortable. Being comfy in yourself – in your body, your clothes (I don’t mean in terms of fashion, I mean in terms of a too tight wasitband for squishing your insides for instance – not comfy), in your esteem etc, is oh so important, and not just for hygge but for your overall well being. Being uptight or ill at ease or just ‘uncomfy’ is not hygge.
My home is not a social gathering point – we very rarely have anyone round to visit other than the parents, and only entertain at Christmas time, but our home is very much our sanctuary and safe place. We are completely comfortable here, are relaxed and at ease with ourselves and each other. When the world outside is a dark and scary place *shout out to Theresa May and her evil cronies* we need somewhere to shut it/them out, relax, get comfy’ to coory in.
For me my favourite spot in our home is the dining table in the bay window. This is where I write and blog, where I prepare my week, where I sit to read or just watch the world from the comfort of my old chair (which actually belonged to my Husband’s Grandmother). It’s my space, my hyggekrog.
It is said that we, as a species, are social animals who thrive in groups. To some extent I both agree and disagree with this. Each to their own and very much dependant upon mood at the time. I love my own company and am very comfortable on my own. I also enjoy being in the company of a small group of friends. It’s the large gatherings that I find impersonal and greatly increases the chance of having to make painful small talk, thus making it far less comfortable than is preferred.
From The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, it is recorded that the ideal number of people for a hyggelig gathering is 3-4. That sounds pretty ideal to me. Spending time, quality time with friends or family (if you get on with your family and enjoy spending the time with them) can be enormous fun, restorative and just plain makes us happy. The time spent in conversation, making food together, sharing in an activity, is personal and intimate. It’s deep foundations and bonds. It’s memories and belonging. It’s also being so comfortable that it is completely appropriate and acceptable to sit together in silence, lost in ones own thoughts without any awkwardness.
Hygge meets/gatherings may include board games, deep conversation (no politics, religion or controversy – the aim is to relax!), pot luck dinners, coffee &cake, book club, movie night, chillin out, fill in your own suggestions. They do not include Facebook checking and status updates, instagram opportunities, Twitter debates, bragging, showing off, general pain-in-the-arsery, etc etc. Before (A) arrived, a friend of our used to pop round every Thursday evening, and we worked our way through the box sets of Twin Peaks, one episode a week, with snacks and drinks and plenty chat. It was hygge and we didn’t know it. It was lovely and something we looked forward to. It’s also something I miss. *note to self to rectify*
The company we choose to keep extends further than our immediate group of family and friends. We are all part of our communities and as such, getting to know our neighbours and wider community can be valuable. Taking an active role in our communities is not really the norm here. Sure some people volunteer with the school PTA or help out the the Brownies or Scouts, but generally, most people leave community/civic duties and responsibility at the door step of the local council. Look and see how well that’s doing…. Community empowerment and involvement can really change a place for the better. The the people involved are committed to making a situation or locality better, being as they live there too. Getting involved, connecting with our communities all build into the hygge concept and is great for increasing well being and contentedness.
What happened to appreciating what we have rather than always striving for more? There is much to be said for being content, not for ‘settling’ but for appreciation and gratitude. In the slew of lists available online about things happy people do/have, one thing always appears on the list : gratitude. In today’s world, there is much to be said for appreciating what we have rather than constantly and always wishing for more,or misplacing the focus on what we don’t have.
Being content just to sloooooooow down from the business of being constantly busy, is super relaxing, especially if you are able to stop worrying about what your ‘should’ be doing. A change of mindset to appreciating the value and benefit of slowing down and not seeing the lack of busy as a waste of time is key. Switch off and enjoy the present, its good for your soul an your well being. De-stress. No multi-tasking, just focus on the art of chilling out – the mad rush of the to-do lists and social media dramas will still be there once your batteries are recharged. Your body will be thankful and appreciative of the peace.
To be content eliminates the need for competition – we do not have to constantly compete with others or with ourselves, just be free to be your authentic self.
It is said that we have lost or are in danger of losing our connection with nature; people are spending too little time outdoors. It is easy to get outside in the spring and summer with the nice weather, go to the beach, spend time in the garden, being sociable etc, but come the colder darker months and we want to hibernate. I have found that getting outside is even more important at this time of year – both for mental and physical reasons. I enjoy wrapping up to face the elements, taking a walk through the woods with (A) looking for conkers, crunching in the leaves, just taking in the beauty of the changing scenery – the colours and smells in autumn are spectacular. Even in winter there is hygge to be found playing in the snow (even if it brings the country to a standstill at rush hour) splashing in puddles. Find and release your inner child!
Connecting with other people is important, even if it is just the people/pets you share your home with. Coorying down on a miserable day with (A) looking at photo albums of years ago is something he enjoys, particularly Hubby and I’s wedding album and his own baby photos “awww I was such a cute baby” (he is very modest…). Saying hello to the neighbours in the street or to the person serving at the checkout (this works both ways, always helpful if cashier looks up, smiles and says hello too!). Reach out and phone the person you’ve been meaning to call or take time to go old skool and write a letter (with a mug of tea and some cake by your side) to a friend or relative instead of sending an email or text.
It is very hygge to dis-connect from the impersonal media of on-line communication. Switch off your mobile/Facebook/Twitter etc and be present, talk, cuddle, smile – look at the person you are with in the eye. Connection, physical connection and actually being there can make a huge difference to feeling connected to the world; your world.
This is a great time to also ‘connect’ with the seasonal festivities, such as Halloween or Christmas, making decorations, cooking/baking together, and that cliche of “making memories”, it’s a great way to while away the winter blues and spend time with those you love. The smells and scents of these days may trigger rosy childhood memories of your own and doesn’t nostalgia feel all cozy and nice?
While we are talking about connecting with other people and the seasons, we mustn’t forget to connect with ourselves. Time for self care in whatever way suits yourself: peaceful bubble baths with a glass of wine and a good book, exercising, journaling, going to the hairdressers, eating well, a marathon session on Netflix etc etc.
Who doesn’t enjoy good food? I’m not talking about expensive ingredients or complicated recipes, I mean real proper food that is both comforting and nourishing as well as tasty and indulgent. A home cooked meal is hygge, especially if prepared/cooked with others. A bowl of stick-to-your-ribs-soup with bread and butter or a plate of macaroni cheese for instance. Not expensive, even with a meagre budget, but bloody tasty and good for the soul. I find it particularly relaxing and calming, therefore hygge, to chop the veg for a pan of soup, or making gravy for mince, or mashing the potatoes for haggis neeps and tatties. Home baked cakes and cookies are also a winner. Traditionally, cinnamon rolls are baked and eaten in Denmark, I have yet to attempt to make these, but ginger bread (thank you Nigella Lawson), tablet and clootie dumpling are favourites at ours as are the cardamom cookies I tried out recently and will definitely be baking again.
Cooking for experiencing hygge is not restricted to dinners, a bowl of hot porridge with grated apple enjoyed in the comfort of the livingroom on the sofa with a blanket is particularly favourite hygge moment for me.
My 7 Cs are just that, mine – my interpretation of hygge; of coorying in and slowing down. There are of course other ‘C’ words association with living a hyggelig life, such as convivial,cordial, chocolate, celebration, Christmas, caring, closeness, co-operation, cake (pastries, but still…) and culture (a big shift – the Danes are repeatedly reported as being the happiest people in the world) for instance. So many feel good connotations attach themselves to hygge. For the more pessimistic amongst us, contrived, cheesey, corny, cringy and cutesy may be more appropriate. I say this as I look at the state of the country and the wider world as it stands currently : the UK with a far right verging on fascist Government / a too close to call US Presidential election campaign running between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton / the mess in Syria / refugees fleeing war zones / people in dire poverty in our own neighbourhoods with food banks trying to bridge gaps where the state fails / a lack of jobs – real jobs that can provide both food and shelter for the person working / the housing crisis and the increasing number of people finding themselves homeless /the social and financial divide further widening as the rich get richer and the less wealthy and poor becoming even more so / climate change is a reality and a frightening one and the list continues. It’s a pretty shitty state of affairs to be honest.
So why am I writing about being cozy and content and enjoying good food when a shit storm is raining down on the planet? Because hygge makes us feel good. It fuels happiness. Shutting the ugliness of the world out for 20 mins or for an evening to simply enjoy life, in whichever way; being able to just be in that safe place, to recharge, relax. We all need to find it and do it. Maybe if the world leaders had a bit more hygge and a bit less power trip the world wouldn’t be the selfish volatile unsettling place that it is. Perhaps hygge ought to placed on the agenda at the next G8 Summit in Italy next year, and on the G20 Summit agenda in Hamburg. Obviously the not discussing politics is a hygge step too far at such gatherings, but adopting the hygge approach of co-operation, community, fostering good will, trust and warmth among the nations would go some way in appeasing the ills of day.
It is important to note however, that this magnificent lifestyle shift making its way across the North Sea at a serious rate of knots, is not just for dark half of the year; no no, you can indulge and savour hygge in the spring showers and under the summer sun too. Picnics and barbeques with friends, camping trips and days to the beach, conversation and a cold glass or two in a beer garden, spending time in the garden weeding and planting and appreciating – it’s all hygge. It’s all how you frame it.
Essentially, embracing the simplicity and slow pace of hygge and deliberately integrating it into every day for a happier, more joyful, peaceful and ultimately, more content life. That’s my plan anyway.
So come on, candles are lit, the kettle is on, coory in.
Happiness. What is it? That’s easy; it’s …ehm…hmm, how to articulate that that grin that won’t quit without sounding like a pretentious unicorn farting rainbows? And right now all I can think of is to clap along with Pharrell Williams. I suppose it makes a wee change from not worrying and whistling along with Bobby McFerrin . What was the question again? Oh yeh, What ishappiness or what is thathappy feeling? Unless that’s it? A feeling; a feel good state of well being, characterised by an endorphin-fuelled high? A positive experience of joy, euphoria and contentment ?
Exactly what it is to be happy or experience happiness will differ from person to person, just as the secret to happiness will vary depending upon which link you click on in a Google search or which Self Help book you pick from Amazon or Waterstones. I don’t think there is any specific recipe to finding ever lasting happiness (surely that in itself is exhausting?! Home educating an energetic 6 year old and being perma-happy would lead me to bankruptcy via Majestic). Plus, in order to appreciate and fully experience happy, we have to embrace its Yin; those darker, negative times. So with that in mind, and with the UK and possibly the EU starting to implode, now is as good a time as any to figure out how to, and get, your happy on! Because you’re gonna need it!
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought over the past few months, happiness, and how it is intertwined with peace and connection (with self as well as others) and ultimately, acceptance; of who I am, what I believe in and value. To my mind, Happiness is not a goal to be achieved or a destination to reach; it is ever present, perhaps not always in arms reach but can be gotten by choosing to be happy.
So what makes me happy? Well, once I started thinking about it and making a list (instant happiness right there!) I found that I couldn’t stop. My personal Happy looks like the following, in no particular order, apart from the first one:
Family – my Husband and (A) – both are unbelievably hilarious and make me laugh every day, the rare date nights with my Husband, the silly everyday stuff that makes our home tick along, bed time stories with (A), spontaneous declarations of “I love you” and cuddles, deep conversations about life, politics and making plans.
The rain – lying in bed listening to it, the smell of the concrete after a down pour, watching the storm at the window with a hot cuppa, being out in it when it is falling straight without any wind, splashing in the puddles, padding barefoot on the wet grass, how lush it makes the flora
Laughing – proper laugh out loud clenching those kegels for all I’m worth, private in-jokes and sarcastic comments with Hubby, silly giggles with (A), camaraderie chortles with the girls.
Wine – doesn’t really require further explanation
Nature – feeling the changing seasons (especially Autumn), bluebells/daisies/sunflowers in flower, the beach, the woods,
Dancing – around the house, with (A), in the car (also see “singing”), on nights out and dancing all night (also see nostalgia),
The Moon – following the phases of the moon: new, waxing, full and waning, being able to sit and look up at the moon
Wine – did I mention this already? Did I mention it has to be red?
Jewellery – my wedding ring and silver thumb ring – engraved with (A)’s full name
Writing – starting a new journal just before the pen touches the paper, when I know exactly what I want to write about and am on a roll, making calligraphy art for friends, using my dipping pens and ink, making lists and re-doing & updating those lists
Nostalgia – memories are instant Happy = nights out, music, stories, friends, holidays, stupid shit that will be taken to the grave, making plans for the future, my wedding photos, the first slow dance Hubby and I had.
Home – especially my desk/dining table in the bay window, pottering around in the garden, a clean bathroom & kitchen ( the 2 never happen at the same time), my peace lily – 3 years and going (lets not talk abut the 2 or 3 spider plants that are no longer with us, R.I.P)
Scents – nag champa agarbatti incense, scented candles especially cinnamon-y ones, the smell of bedding after being dried outside, Autumn, the rain, fresh coffee,
“Singing” – badly…always badly! When (A) was only 2 he told me to stop singing because it hurt his ears!!! loudly in the car, whilst doing the dishes, on karaoke only after a couple of glasses or 3
Rituals – being awake before anyone else and having initial peace and calm all to myself, the first cup of coffee in the morning, mid morning cup of tea in the garden, making & baking for Yule, candles and divination – tarot being my divining choice
Slowing down – day dreaming, meditation, soak in a bubble bath & a good book, playing
Random happiness-inducing stuff – receiving mail,not bills but handwritten envelopes – is it a letter, a card, a surprise? Reading a good book and not being able to put it down, listening to the dawn chorus and again at dusk, the drawing in of the dark nights, hygge, good nights sleep, my hair once I decide it needs a cut – it sits perfectly, eyeliner wings matching on both sides, my hair 2 weeks post cut, roasted cheese with HP sauce, pyjama days, live music, yoga despite having not taken a class in over 3 years..I really need to do something about that!
And lastly – the prospect of second independence referendum for Scotland: Indyref2
I could go on, turns out this list is endless and the vast majority is priceless, for everything else there’s Mastercard and at times happily surprised me. This was a fun exercise and helped refocus my mood, particularly over the past few days. We are in a new week, with new times ahead of us. If like me you have been feeling angry and bitter, choose to balance it; choose to be happy .