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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A New Creative Project

I have a new creative project which I am so excited about, I am sharing it with you before it’s even started.

The Church I go to has a number of youth groups attached to it, and at present time, a good friend of mine is one of the leaders. They have activities every week and she thought it would be fun to have a Murder Mystery Night. I was the President of The Murder Mystery Society (MurderSoc) whilst I was at university, and so volunteered to help her write it.

However, although I have been loosely involved in the conceptualising and writing of mysteries before, this one is going to be significantly different.

This particular group is girls only, so there are not the typical relationship dynamics to play on, and (as it is a church activity for youth), the usual ‘motives’, such as adultery, cannot be used. Usually, murder mysteries and their players do not bat an eye at men playing female characters or women playing male characters, in fact it usually adds to the fun. The church, however, is not so amused. So we are having to rely a lot more on power dynamics, greed and self-interest to drive the characters.

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.

Catching Happiness

Patter patter patter
Patter patter patter
Pounce!

Tail wagging, lips
Pulled back
Like a
big smile,

My dog has chased, flicked and
Found
Her ball. 

She reminds me of the importance
Of being pleased
With the simplest actions

Of how
Happiness can be so easy
To find
If only we stop looking so far away.

Happiness is right here.

In this muddy field,
She knows it.
She found it.
She caught it.

Lassie does a form of victory lap every time she catches her ball. She almost never brings it straight back, she always does a small semi-circular run first. She chases the ball, picks it up and loops back to me to repeat the action all over again.

I like the repetition. I think it is good for me.

I am taking time away from my computer screen, from reading and words, from work, and playing with a creature who is full of the purest joy.

It is routine.
It is simple.
I am focused on one task.

For someone who struggles with clearing her mind and disentangling her thoughts from her worries, to be able to focus on just throwing a ball for half an hour is very calming.
My mind is free and unharassed thoughts lead to creativity.
I have written a poem, a post, out here in the open air.

This is my hobby.
This is my happiness.
My dog has led me here.

If I stop trying to move beyond this moment and instead enjoy being in it, I can catch my own happiness.

Stop.
Walk.
Wonder.
Breathe.

Pause long enough for happiness to catch up with you.

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.

Silent Scream

Silent Scream

Mouth a vacuum
Dead space.
Words suffocate,
Settling on a graveyard tongue.

Lips sealed.
Speaking would crack
Ceramic composure;
Plaster masks damaged walls.

Eyes,
Frosted windows,
With unseen pain behind.
Only hands show hurt

Hurling words at innocent
White pages;
But no one sees the blackness
For the ink.

A Month of Creative Writing

Challenge Yourself to a Month of Creative Writing

Throughout this month I have shared ideas to combat writer’s block, practice techniques and my own efforts to get back into writing. For the first time I have openly shared some of my own work and have grown in confidence as a result. I was really terrified about posting up my first ever poem but since then have been going through my back catalogue, editing and developing older works. It is now time for me to get back into writing so for March I am hoping to put some of the techniques I have banded about into practice.

I have challenged myself to a month of creative writing.

In With the New

Blogging has done what I hoped it would and kick started some of my old creativity. I used to be writing all the time but when my mental health began to decline it slowly grounded to a halt. When I was at school, poetry gave me a way to express my negativity. The pain of my father’s illness, of teenage romances and the rage of hormones flowed out of me and on to the page. Some of the results were very poor, violent and messy but some are poems that I am quite pleased with such as Hunters, Grief, and Listen to the Bees.

I can’t pin point when I stopped writing, but I am confident in saying that Love Letter was my last good piece of work. No longer writing reflects how insular I had become, no longer expressing my feelings resulted in them accumulating, eventually leading to the disintegration of my mental health. Blogging has been part of putting myself back together.

I have found a renewed energy this month. I has made me realise that during the past 2 years there has been very little stamina to my enthusiasm. Now, however, I have a spring in my step, a refreshed spirit and a string of ideas.

Finale

With this rediscovery of enthusiasm I wanted to wave goodbye to February with one final piece of old writing. Once again it is something I did when I was at school and is another exercise that I wanted to share that I think might be a way of either easing oneself back into writing or overcoming writer’s block.

Just as in that previous post, this is a piece of work inspired from the work of another author. This is why I am only sharing these pieces as a suggestion of getting into writing, great care should always be taken when gaining inspiration from the work of others to avoid plagiarism.

At A Level, following on from War Poetry we studied Love Through the Ages. One of our texts was William Shakespeare’s Othello. Our assignment was to write a soliloquy in the style of the villain Iago. For anyone unfamiliar with the play and its characters I have included some notes from the Oxford School Shakespeare text:

Othello: The Moor: a black African prince living in a European, colour-prejudiced, society where he holds high rank in the Venetian military forces.

Iago: Othello’s ensign (standard-bearer): a Venetian and a professional soldier, he conceals his real nature under an appearance of ‘honesty’.’

The text below forms part of Iago’s soliloquy from Act 1 Scene 1, lines 145-159:

Farewell, for I must leave you
It seems not meet, nor wholesome to my place
To be produc’d, as if I stay I shall,
Against the Moor. For I do know the state….

Though I do hate him as I do hell’s pains,
Yet, for necessity of present life,
I must show out a flag and sign of love…

The crux of the matter is that Iago hates Othello and sets about sabotaging his relationship with his wife Desdemona. He plants seeds of jealousy, making Othello think that his wife is having an affair. To reveal anymore would be spoilers.

The piece I am posting today was part of a school assignment to write our own soliloquy for the character Iago. As such it uses the same archaic language as Shakespeare and is not intended to be disrespectful.

How I abhor the ancient
Who does me many an injustice;
Old Oak of Moorish association,
Standing erect above all forest dwellers.
Your towering majesty holds all else in shade.
I shall embed an ivy in your roots
That will feast upon your succulent sap.

Ivy! Entwine around Oak in lustful embrace,
Slide between his bark and poison his core.
Choked shall he be from heat and mist-
Throttled in your charming snare.
Slow and gentle be
Like a breath of sweet fresh air-
He will not detect the sourness beneath.

Sun and Moon shall dance their courtship.
Summer shall slide away.
He shall lose his darling season
To a more gallant, virtuous suit.

Infested with louse and worm
That scuttle in his bough and quench
their appetite upon his wounded pride –
He shall be green!

He shall spew his leaves as the Cobra spits his venom.
They will fall in a cascade of red and purple.
He shall lose faith in his Golden Sun,
As he turns black and festers-
His acorns wither
And fall
Upon the fiery earth below.