Thank You!

A huge thank you to everyone who has continued to engage with my blog this year! It means so much to me and I really enjoy hearing from you. Thank you for sharing your stories and experiences with me.

Many have begun to engage with me via Facebook and so, as it is a time for trying new things after all, I thought I would share Dreaming of the Temple’s page here so you can find it more easily.

Here everything is a little less formal, more relaxed and hopefully a great space to engage with me and one another.

It features links and alerts to the latest content, is more personal and shares topical snippets relating to my passions; mental health and motherhood.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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New Year: A Time for Reflection

Three years have passed between New Year 2016 and New Year 2019. These were the last time I felt strong in myself and confidently optimistic about my ability to strive into the year ahead, and the first time since.

Three years ago, I simply couldn’t imagine being where I am now. Given my recent trauma (little did I know there were still two cases of harassment to follow) I had certainly written off any possibility of getting married, buying a house was far from my mind and children seemed a dream away.

New Year 2016 was just before I hit rock bottom, the eye of the storm as I rallied from abuse and assault before plunging into deep depression just a month later.

The Power of Hindsight 

That same month I met my husband and, as I have said before, without his intervention I hate to think what might have been the outcome.

The sound advice given to mental health suffers is to NOT make any life changing decisions.

However:

I was suicidal and got married

Bought a house whilst struggling with depression

Had anxiety and had a baby

None of these actions where taken lightly, a lot of consideration went into each and a lot of love, peace and healing was gained.

I have been incredibly blessed.

Preparing for an Eternal Family

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk in my Church Ward about preparing for an eternal family. I feel prompted to share sections of this talk, after all, the blog is called Dreaming of the Temple, inspired by the exploration of my spiritual, as well as temporal, experience. If this post appears as unfamiliar territory, a sense of context can be gained here.

Introduction

I felt completely unqualified to make any remarks on this topic whatsoever; I am not confident that I have fulfilled my own hopes for spiritual preparation before starting to grow our family, let alone those of the Church. I still feel uneducated in the full doctrine, history and organisation of the Church, there are elements of Scripture that are still unknown to me and, despite considerable dedication, at the time of the talk, Samuel and I had not yet been sealed in the Temple (an outline of what this entails can be found here).

Other than suggesting that Heavenly Father enjoys irony, why was this topic assigned to me?

There is a considerable part of me that is always cynical, perhaps not an attractive quality, especially not typically admired in religious circles, but personally I think a pinch of metaphorical salt is healthy (literally from a nutritional point of view, not so much). In this instance, the cynic in me was thinking, ‘Sure you want me to talk on this, I am the current first time mum in the Ward’. However, being asked to speak in Sacrament meetings is not to be taken lightly, so I set about giving the topic some serious thought.

The conclusion I came to was that our little family presented an example of the principle ‘endure to the end’, and thus, that the work does not stop after receiving the sealing ordinance. Being sealed is an exciting prospect and full of spiritual significance but it is not the culmination, or defining feature, of a relationship or marriage. It is an increase in commitment to each other, not an opportunity to relax, at the risk of taking this blessing for granted.

Spiritual and Temporal Growth

I have frequently struggled with feeling that, despite what I consider my best efforts, I do not live up to the ideals of the Church, a sensation now exaggerated by preparing for parenthood; seemingly growing increasingly idealistic, judgemental and competitive. For instance, there are some that don’t yet classify me as being a mother, and others who would tell me that I am already doing everything wrong. I know that this is not a unique experience, and it applies to religious experiences too.

One of my favourite talks from General Conference is by Elder Holland from October 2017 ‘Be Ye Therefore Perfect… Eventually‘. Yes as a couple we are preparing for an eternal family, but everybody’s spiritual and temporal journeys are different. For me, I had hoped to have a stronger grasp of the doctrinal points of the Church and Scriptures before having children, but I also know that what is more important is that I continue to study and learn and I look forward to the fact that my child and I will be able to grow in the Gospel together.

Make Your Home Like the Temple

Looking back, I am still not sure exactly what the obstacle was to our initial sealing attempt in June last year (the delay of our second in June this year was due to the delights of pregnancy complications). We both held active recommends and I had just completed the Temple Preparation Classes (Samuel served a mission, so had done this years before). When there were changes to the Bishopric, however, we were told the date we had chosen was not feasible.

This was upsetting, not only because of our desire to be sealed as a couple for eternity, but because the date we had chosen held personal significance. But through the emotions, I received a strong impression that not being sealed at that time was because there was about to be a considerable change in our circumstances. Sure enough, a few weeks later, we found our house and moved away. For me, the change in location, and being in a more local Ward, has greatly strengthened me spiritually, has aided my recovery from mental illness and resulted in both of us feeling more settled, resulting in us preparing (now commencing) to grow our family.

The Importance of Taking Time

It has been a long time. A very long time.
Since I wrote anything.
A blog post, a short story, a poem.

Over the years, I have found that I have to be in certain moods to write effectively. Throughout a swing of emotions, or in the moment of extreme feeling, positive or negative. I have written before that creative writing is, for me, a means of expressing, processing and coping with my mental health. As a teenager it helped me channel the pain and confusion I felt about my father’s illness and eventual passing and to navigate the new emotions and hormones I was experiencing.

Creative Writing enabled me to transform negative thoughts and feelings into productivity that felt positive (even though the poetry seldom was).

Since I started blogging, my writing is no longer purely stemming from emotional extremes. But at the heart of blogging are topics that the writer feels strongly about, moved by and it is still (for me) an emotional and personal writing experience.

Hiatus: A Break From Blogging?

A lot has been happening recently. It has been a really positive and exciting month.

So why am I not feeling it?

In my last post, before this unplanned hiatus, I detailed some of the challenges I felt I have experienced as I began to use blogging as part of my recovery.

For me personally, the most persistent is pressure; the meeting of self-set or recommending posting deadlines, and frequently the stress that is self-imposed. I don’t think anyone other than myself is really keeping track of how frequently I am posting or whether I am posting at the same time of day, on the same day of the week and the same amount each month.

To be honest, this month I thought about giving up, packing in blogging. But when I began to give it serious thought, I knew I would be losing something that I enjoy, that builds my confidence and motivates me to be creative.

I am not stopping blogging. But I am stopping putting pressure on myself to fit into a self-created blogging timescale. If I feel like writing, I will. If I don’t, then I am not going to turn it into another thing to stress and be anxious about.

Instead, I am starting to take time.

Time and Creativity

At present, my creativity is appearing in short, sporadic bursts. I am having ideas but not the energy to fully pursue and sustain them. I am lacking consistency (even more than usual) and although things are beginning to move forward (at last), I still feel as if I am going around in circles.

I did manage to write my first poem for about two months however. It’s very simple but satisfyingly sums up for me this particular moment of creative stagnation:

Why do ideas never emerge at sensible times?
When you have a notepad, envelope or pen/pencil
Why do you get them, when these are not at hand
When you are trying to sleep
Are in the shower or on the toilet?

Why can your brain seem so dusty and empty,
Deserted by all and any reasonable ideas
Then awash with a tidal wave you can’t keep up with
Trying to grab at shavings to keep the idea afloat.
Is it just a distraction from that big meeting tomorrow?

I did indeed have what felt like a huge meeting the next day. I was presenting a new research proposal to the company that I work for and I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received. Of course, accompanying this concern were all the usual niggling doubts: would I remember my points, would I be sick, would I make my point persuasively?

Amidst all these thoughts and doubts, a blog post suddenly presented itself. It was almost a completely formed entity, but I always struggle with endings. That is were the post remains, a neat demonstration of my point – of not being able to sustain momentum for an idea.

I have been experiencing the same feelings with blogging as well; should I keep it up, will it ever be more than a hobby, can I continue to be creative enough to make it worth pursuing? I listed the pressures and challenges I have encountered throughout my brief time as a blogger in my latest post.

A great many of the people I talk to compare how they feel day-to-day with the familiar metaphor of being a hamster on a wheel. It’s not even to do with the notion of seeing the same four walls everyday, or the same sawdust and plastic beneath your feet. It is that we are continually moving from one project to another, sometimes almost simultaneously, never pausing to absorb or reflect or even fully enjoy what we are experiencing. We all have so much going on, at the same time, that we feel we are constantly moving at top speed, flat out, and wondering all the while how long we can sustain that pace.

Taking time is becoming increasingly challenging.

I know that I am not the only one who looks forward to a day, an evening, or elusive weekend off at a time that coincides with my husband, consisting of long dog walks through the woods or along the beach, to suddenly find that I have agreed to additional shifts, volunteered for activities at church or youth groups and suddenly that precious time is gone.

These are, of course, worthwhile and enjoyable activities, but with the ever-increasing pace of the world around us, it is becoming more important to take time to relax, replenish, refresh. To take the time for our friends, our families, our loved ones.

Technology, Work and Time

Technology is a wonderful, marvellous thing. It holds so much potential for connections, old and new, for information and knowledge, but it also has the ability to eat time. We have all seen the statistics for how much time we spend on our phones, on social media, and we have all experienced how technology makes us available all the time. We can constantly be contacted, connected with, and it has become expected that when we are contacted that we respond within a smaller and smaller window of time.

This is overwhelming at the best of times, but especially if you are already feeling overwhelmed by mental illness. Recovery takes time. From physical and mental illness and injury alike. It can be even more challenging to take the time required for healing mentally, because the injury is not visible. If you have a broken or sprained limb you will have a bandage or a cast, from an operation you will have a scar. Even if you have a virus your body presents observable symptoms.

With mental illness the changes in personality, in posture, in expression, can be so subtle that even those who know us well can miss them. Often we even miss them ourselves. We continually try to push on and through the mental strains and obstacles, which can result in denial and further injury. We can end up exhausting the resolve and energy that we had left to keep pushing through the illness.

Which is why this post is all about taking time. Taking the time to check in with ourselves and see how we are feeling. Taking the time to rest, physically and mentally, during and between projects. Taking the time to spend time with others, to observe them; how they are feeling, how they are acting, so we don’t miss the onset of severe mental strain in ourselves or those closest to us.

Taking the time for ourselves and for others.

Distance

I wrote this many years ago about a long-distance relationship, I hope you enjoy it.

A dull, constant ache
A hole in my heart. 
Emptiness in my arms.
A great gap
Between them.

Cold air – 
An oversized room
A space waiting to be filled.
Empty frames
Hearts waiting to be healed.

How can I love a ghost
Of a face I never see?
How do I keep going
When you’re nearer France
Than me?

How can I say I know you
When there’s a void between us?
With this missing link –
How do we close the distance?

The more a metal is heated
The stronger it becomes;
Steadfast under pressure
Another test of patience
It doesn’t matter about the distance.

Bumps in the Marital Road

Last Saturday was my first Saturday off in six months. With my husband working 9 to 5 or sometimes longer on his PhD project at the university and the emphasis placed to spend Sundays at church and religious activities, when I work weekends it really limits the quality time we get to spend together.

It has been showing.

We got married when we were both students and our schedules were all over the place for the first year of our life together. We agreed that, as it was Samuel’s Masters year and because he worked seasonally at the supermarket which would have meant missing our first Christmas as a married couple, he would stop working. I continued to work as I had been at my storytelling job for 4 years already, it was relevant to my degree and it gave me continuity and routine which helped the with severe mental illness I was experiencing at the time. Before the harassment started, my place of work was were I went for grounding. The office is underground so there was no signal and it gave me an excuse not to be contactable. To not respond when I was feeling overwhelmed. When I couldn’t cope. My place of work means an unusual amount to me.

Summer 2017 was a very intense time for our marriage. We’d been married for a year and were in a good place but we were done living in a one bedroom flat in the middle of the city. It was advertised as one bed, but really should have been one person, as we couldn’t both be in the kitchen at the same time if we wanted to have a bin as well. So we started looking at houses. We didn’t imagine that we would actually be able to buy, it’s famed that no one our age can. But we wanted to daydream at the very least.

We got lucky.

But we were £3,000 short of the deposit. So I started working 3 jobs. It was crazy. One of them was my long term storytelling job, one was at a concert hall and the other was in a museum. It was meant to be a straightforward visitor service job, but morphed into tour guiding and helping arrange a summer activities program which provided really great unexpected work experience. So it was a really beneficial, as well as crazy, time. I decided/insisted that as I was working so much (most of it very relevant to what I was hoping to do following graduation) and Samuel was likely to be starting a PhD three months later, that he shouldn’t work. He needed a break, someone needed to keep on top of the housework, and if we throw a fourth schedule into the mix, we just wouldn’t have seen each other. As it was we saw each other first thing in the morning and for about half an hour before we went to sleep.

We made it.

We bought a house. Now the situation is reversed. I am on reduced hours, just ticking over at my storytelling job, which I still love but is no longer my safe place. As a physicist, Samuel’s PhD is funded, so whilst he is technically studying, it is fundamentally a job. He works very hard and is extremely good at what he does. Our subject areas compliment each other very well. I find it highly appropriate that both our birthdays are in January, the month named after the Roman god Janus. Janus was depicted with two heads, because he looked forward and backwards. As an archaeologist I look back to the very beginnings of humans as a species and Samuel, being an experimental physicist working on technology, is looking forward. It also gives me confidence about at least one aspect of us potentially becoming parents – we have homework covered. Our other running joke is that Samuel does the numbers and I deal with words. Sorted.

Our issue is that because of all the studying, the crazy summer jobs and the recent house move, we have never really got into an established routine. We are beginning to get there now but we still haven’t quite found our rhythm. As we are approaching our second anniversary, and with the addition of our dear dog, this is starting to apply a little bit of friction. As far as I am aware this is healthy and usual in all relationships let alone marriage. We are definitely benefiting from no longer being in that one bedroom flat, as we can now be more than 5 meters apart and means I can be less distracting whilst Samuel is working and I can read my book quietly whilst Samuel watches television (Samuel is severely dyslexic so you wont find us reading together).

As a result of not having a stable, consistent rhythm to our daily routines, we have become very snappy. We haven’t fought or had slanging matches but as I say there has been some friction. I think that’s the right term. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and get irritated from time to time. One of my biggest flaws is my temper, so I definitely get irritated more than is reasonable. I am very grateful not only for my husband’s patience and ability to forgive when I fly off the handle but for our ability to communicate with each other. As we got married so quickly, I don’t think that we would have managed if we weren’t able to talk about anything and everything. As I always say, we don’t necessarily recommend getting married three months after meeting, but it is working for us. We are truly very happy together. The importance of communication is made evident in every sit-com, film production and in most real life scenarios. Whole plots of plays, books, tragedies and comedies begin with a miscommunication, failure to communicate or a double meaning.

Having last Saturday off was amazing for us. Even though I was unwell with the flu, headlining fever, dizziness and nausea (how have I managed to come down with this twice this year? There have only been two months thus far?!) so we didn’t go anywhere or do very much, yet still it gave us some space to just be us. I was actually supposed to be off volunteering in central Scotland so being ill was perhaps a blessing in disguise? I described our morning in yesterday’s post. It was bliss. What really made the difference was that we didn’t have to be anywhere. We had to take our dog for a walk but other than that we had the day to ourselves. Usually one or other of us is rushing around in the morning and heading out to work. On Saturday, we could just be together and enjoy each others company.

This weekend was a big lesson for me in the importance of making time for each other. Compromise and communication are as important as everyone says they are in marriage or any other relationship. Let’s face it they are important principles in friendship as well. But the concept of date night is something that I will certainly be paying more attention to from here on.

Morning has Broken

It is so rare for my husband and I to have a day off together. He works all week long in the lab at the university completing his PhD and for the past 6 months I have worked every weekend. The only time off we have had together has been when we are visiting family and whilst we are all very close, its not exactly quality couple time. But recently my timetable changed so I am now only working alternate Saturdays. We have a day off that coincides.

I mentioned how one of my reasons for starting a blog was to have a space for reflection that could document significant events and feelings but was not as personal or emotional as a diary or journal. But I did start writing in a jotter on our last day off and I haven’t felt so contented for so long. I have been happy during the last few years. I’ve not been depressed, suicidal and miserable the whole way through but the general upward trend in positive outlook has been quite recent. I really wanted to document this moment so I thought I would share it… online… which still doesn’t feel completely usual yet… despite how much I seem to be doing it now…

Typically, I have flu to mark the occasion of our shared day off, but even feeling disgusting can’t spoil this morning. 

I always wake up earlier than my husband. I have never encountered someone worse at mornings than Samuel. After giving him a snuggle, I got up to let the dog out into the garden and then we headed back upstairs. Samuel had his head under the covers so I was able to open the bedroom curtains without the sunlight disturbing him.

My intention was to read, but looking out of windows and daydreaming has always been one of my favourite past times and so I thought I would write down what I was feeling in that moment.

As it is early in the morning on a weekend there are very few cars or people about. The air is still, no breeze, no movement. Despite the spring sunshine it is still bitterly cold outside.

This is rather typical of Scotland. There is a week of extra daylight, sunshine, flowers and a slight temperature rise commonly followed by bad weather and snow…

The birds are chirruping to one another and as the new spring leaves are only just starting to bud, I can see them hopping about in the branches of the hedge below the window. It feels like the first time this year that it has been this light this early in the morning, but it might well be the first time that I have been still enough to notice. 

Our bedroom window is south-facing and I can watch the sunlight get brighter as I sit and write in my notebook this morning. 

A few doors down our neighbour has a holly tree shaped into a sphere and it means I can always glimpse life growing outside our window. 

Even though I am full of flu, I know that the air will smell of damp earth, sweetened by the sugar of fresh spring grass. It is the smell that, for the last few days, my dog has carried into the house on her paws. 

My husband is lying beside me,  not quite awake, nor fully asleep. Although strictly speaking she shouldn’t be up here, the dog has crept her way onto the bed and is nestled under his outstretched arm. She’s snoring softly and twitching in her sleep as she dreams. 

It’s the mornings we dreamt of when we lived in our pokey city flat. The double bed took up almost the entire bedroom (we couldn’t fully open the wardrobe doors) and only one person at a time could fit in the kitchen. Our bathroom was so small that my brother-in-law could only just get through the door.

But here we are. 

In our new home, with the sounds of the countryside all around us. With the sun warming a new season and shining on all the new life it brings with it. This lie in is renewal for us as well, as a family. It’s a time when as individuals we have the chance to refresh, recharge and reconnect with each other. On Sundays we have the chance from spiritual renewal at church. The week can be very fraught. We haven’t spent much quality time together recently, but today is new and fresh.