Categories
creativity kindness

Feeling Uncreative

Taken in my own garden in North Wales of my little old cat Damson. Taken by myself Diane Woodrow
My cat in my backyard – June 2022

What do you do when you’re feeling uncreative?

I’ve got loads of books on my shelves on the subject. I’ve got loads of emails filed away. I’ve even got my own prompts I could work with. But when I’m feeling uncreative I “can’t be bothered”.

I’m wondering now if this post should be called “Can’t be bothered” because I was pondering writing this when I bumped into a dog walking acquaintance who started the conversation off saying about wanting to be motivated but ended it with “I know but I can’t be bothered.”

It seems to be a thing with lots of us at the moment – “can’t be bothered”. Is it covid, lockdowns, change, anxieties of this shifting world, getting older, or something else?

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what it is it is just an “is”. I don’t know why I’m feeling uncreative but I just am. It could be that I am feed up for not having any freelancing work to do, but lots in the pipeline – which really isn’t much help. It could be that the novel I’ve been plodding on with 1000 words a day has suddenly become a chore. And actually when I read back through it this isn’t just me being negative but I have lost all the depth of intrigue that I had in those beginning 10-20,000 words. It has gone stale and is starting to look like I’m just rushing to the end.

But actually I do do something when I am feeling uncreative and “can’t be bothered.”

I am kind to myself. I let myself be – not in that negative way but in a way that says “this is how I feel at the moment. It won’t last forever.” So the other morning I sat in the backyard with my book and enjoyed the cat looking at the flowers. Today I took myself for a long walk and coffee not for the benefit of finding something creative to write about but just to let the wind blow through my hair. I accepted that this is where I am at this moment in time. And as a friend used to say “These things will pass”.

By being kind to myself hopefully these feelings will pass, hopefully in a couple of days I’ll be able to look at my story again, in a bit I’ll be able to do more than read and play solitaire.

So my advise to anyone whether it is just a feeling of “mmuuuggghhh” or something deeper than this – be kind to yourself, accept this is how you are at this moment in time and know that “these things will pass”. Also don’t be afraid to tell others whether it is by talking or writing. As the old saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved” and I think that doesn’t mean the person you tell has to help you sort it out but it is just about being open and honest about how you are at this moment in time.

Be bold, be brave and be honest.

Categories
Endangered species day Godspace

National Endangered Species Day 2022

First published on https://godspacelight.com/2022/05/19/national-endangered-species-day-2022

Taken by myself at our local park

The 20th of May is Endangered Species Day, another of those days put on to calendars to help one focus on something else. But I wonder how often we see ourselves as an “endangered species,” especially when one sees the cries coming from certain Christian elements in the US around the potential lifting of the laws to allow abortion. 

That is extreme but I wonder how often when we see polls saying numbers of church attendance is decreasing, an increase in various ethnic groups, and a rise in the voice of LGBTQ groups, that some think that we are endangered. When we feel endangered we act in fear, panic and anxiety. It does not make us nicer to be around but makes us harsher. 

The focus is meant to be about endangered animals, insects, flora and fauna, with the hope that we will care about our earth, our environment more. But if we are feeling endangered then we won’t want to do that. We will want to build our walls higher, make our voices louder, our weapons stronger. 

Yet Jesus tells us that when we feel threatened we should “turn the other cheek”[Matthew 5:39], that we should “love our enemies”[Matthew 5:43-48]. He tells us not to be afraid and to trust God in all things. As Francis Spufford says in ‘Unapologetic‘ [and I paraphrase], one of the hardest things about Christianity is that it isn’t about following rules but about our heart attitude. And our hearts need to be trusting God, need to not be filled with fear or anxiety, need to be open to God and listening fully. 

When the natural world is endangered it cannot get itself out of the mess humankind has got it into. It needs that self-same group, humankind, to make the change. But also sometimes with other people, they need to shout to be heard and need to get other people to help with the changes. So when we hear people of different “tribes” to our “tribe” shouting loudly because they need to be heard instead of shutting our ears, building our walls higher, etc we need to stop and listen. We need to really tune into what they are saying, listen to their fears, but also listen to our fears about why we have reacted as we have; of why we want to not listen, feel fearful, want to push the oppressed group down further. 

Unlike the natural world we are the ones with the power to change and to make a better world. We do not need to react. We have the God-given power to act and act in a way that is beneficial for all. But only if we stop hardening our hearts, unblock our ears and really listen to the world – human and natural – and follow God’s true leading in how to act. 

Taken by myself on a beach walk early one morning

Categories
presumption Viewpoint

Not Everyone Views The World As I Do

Photograph taken whilst on a walk with husband and mother-in-law taken by myself, Diane Woodrow
Lambs, Lady’s Walk, Montacute April 2022. Taken by myself

I was really surprised yesterday at the writing group I was running that the two ladies who were there had never picked wild garlic and so never cooked with it. I then told a dog walking friend this and she had also never picked and eaten wild garlic. Her and I are now off to do that later this week. But it got me thinking of how many things I take for granted and think everyone can do them.

But it also clouds ones view of things. I know I would not be great at helping people who struggle with money because I have always been great at budgeting and of making money stretch. I am not 100% sure how I do it but I just do. So for someone to say they just cannot budget would leave me confused. But also I cannot map read. No matter how many times my husband shows me how to do it, and he is patient, I just can’t seem to get my head round it. I still am amazed that the sea is at the top of the map here. We live of the North Wales coast so for many of you that will be obvious but to me – Nope!

Too often when we talk about things, whether it is how we budget, what we eat, or try to share our faith, we come from the place of what we know. So for instance faith-wise we know what we know about God – and that can be different for each person – but we talk about it from what we have experienced, how it manifests to us, and then get frustrated with others from that point. This with the ladies at my writing group has helped me to see this. They are both over 60 and to me everyone has picked garlic.

With the Christian youth group I’m privileged to co-run I have started to ask the young people questions based on the liturgies and phrases they use about God, about their faith, about the out-workings of it all. When you say “I believe in God the Father” what do you mean by that? Because I am a writer I get them to write it down. Also I think there is space to say things in writing that you might not say out loud.

So for me from these ladies and that they had made it past 60 having never picked or cooked with wild garlic I am hopefully learning that my experiences of the world are mine and have shaped how I do and see things but not everyone has experienced, done or see what I have or in the same way I have. So instead of presuming I will start asking and wondering and learning and finding out.

Perhaps if we all started listening, learning and asking questions rather than presuming and going our way then there would be less fear, less anxiety and less fighting and wars?

Categories
Higher Path walk

Choosing Pathways

With all the talk of the war in Ukraine and it being hard to forget it I thought I would show you some pictures my walks over the weekend just for a change of focus.

My husband was away for the weekend so the dog and I were home alone and the sun was shining. I wanted to go to Newborough Forest and beach. My daughter and I had been there two years ago just before words like pandemic and lockdown became common place. The weather was similar this weekend to the one two years ago and I really wanted to go, yet I realised I was nervous. Nervous of driving 40 miles to Newborough. Guilty that there are lovely places closer to me. But my heart was really craving to go.

So on Saturday I tried to make my heart change its mind by going for a walk by the sea. It was only 10 miles from my house and I combined it with a trip to get some colour charts to repaint rooms in my house. So fear and guilt were dealt with there, and also dog and I got to walk by the sea and enjoy.

Interestingly on that Saturday walk due to the battering the shore has received in recent months we could not go on our usual walk but had to take the newly constructed coastal path which took us higher up and so the view was different. Noticeably different.

But it wasn’t what my heart wanted and so on Sunday morning I gave in and decided to go. I was amazed at how nervous I felt. I can easily drive 40 miles without thinking about it yet something was nagging at me. I really had time to pray about some of my older friends who have been doing nothing since March 2020. Once their stimulation of going to groups, clubs, shopping, driving places, interacting with others was taken away their brains and bodies have reacted. For one it has moved her dementia forward quicker than if she’d still had that stimulation. For another it has caused her body to stop wanting to eat and she is exhibiting signs of anorexia. Fears and anxieties have grown in others where before they could have talked them through with someone else. So even though I could feel my stomach churning I decided to keep driving. Newborough was where I wanted to go.

Of course dog and I had a lovely time but even there due to the rain and winds we did not find the same paths and had to go a different way, which again led us to a higher path. Once again we were looking down on something we had walked along before. We walked for 2 1/2 hours, probably about 7 miles. And the sun shone all the time. I am glad I pushed through and did not let my fears and guilts and anxieties win the day.

As as you see on each walk I found a higher path. I feel there is something significant in that. I had to push down fears that would have made me pick somewhere else, and in fact even in my trying to pick somewhere else still I walked along a higher path. So maybe it isn’t whether I deal with my fears or stick to the easier way that will lead me to a higher path? But whatever it is I know I need to overcome my fears and push through.

With the way the last three years have gone – with Brexit, Covid and now Ukraine, plus climate change, rising prices, etc, etc, etc – there are a lot of things to be fearful of. Yet I think after my weekend walks that we need to push through our fears and walk that higher path – however that looks to each one of us.

Categories
anxiety] Covid-19

Covid Anxiety

Painting of Mona Lisa adapted to have her wearing a mask and holding hand sanitizer and toilet rolls
Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

On Monday I had my first ever PCR covid test. I’d had a hacking cough all weekend and because I run writing workshops where many of my participants are over 70 felt it was my duty of care to get checked. out. By Tuesday afternoon I had a text and email to say that I was negative, which I had expected as the hacking cough/sore throat is a yearly event for me as winter approaches. What I did not expect was the level of anxiety I experienced. This is not that any of the procedure is anxiety driven but there is something in that whole thing of “testing for covid” that caused issues in me.

From the moment I went on to the NHS site to book my test I felt myself start to shake and my chest get tighter. Driving to the test site I felt more anxious than I should have. And then from 1.30pm Monday to 2pm Tuesday I was gentle nervous and felt like my life was on hold. Of course some of that was that I had to cancel a workshop because of waiting for the result and keep the other group poised to wait for my results. I couldn’t go to the shops, though I did walk my dog. My husband started to worry that he would not be able to go away for the weekend. There was a lot of tension in our house that only dissipated when I got my negative result in.

Where did this fear come from when deep inside I knew this was just my yearly bug? I think it came from the high levels of anxiety that have been pumped at us from the media about Covid-19. Yes some of the things are wise advice, like washing hands properly which really we should have been doing anyway, but there has been this fear of “what ifs”. And we do hear of the number of deaths from Covid-19, though interestingly in my piece on The Day of The Dead not one of the people I mentioned had died of covid. Suicide seemed to be one of the big ones but I’m not sure how one tests for that.

So yes I am accepting covid is serious or why would the whole world be in lockdown? I am accepting that we need to do the social distancing and the hygiene things. But where does this level of high anxiety come from? I believe it is because we have been told for the last 20+ months to be in fear, not just of covid but of climate change, of terrorists, of Brexit, of economic crash, of poor government choices and more that when we have to face a PCR test it sets of all sorts of fight/flight triggers. I know it did with me.

So what can we do to change this without living in denial? Because denial is just another fight/flight/freeze/fawn response to trauma. And also how do we deal with this without turning to scapegoating some people group? Watch Ridley Road on BBC i-player, listening carefully to the right-wingers and their complaints. All are valid. All could be said today. We cannot let our anxieties come to this.

I do not have the answer at the moment apart from being aware of the feelings that the PCR test brought up in me and working to stay calm. But it has left me with more questions than answers. But maybe one of them is to Choose Joy?

Categories
anticlimax gratitude

Anticlimax

Basingwerk Abbey, Holywell, viewed through the trees on a walk around Holywell taken by Diane Woodrow, author of The Little Yellow Boat
Basingwerk Abbey, Holywell, viewed through the trees on a walk around Holywell taken by me

I have been pondering why so many people I know are feeling low with the coming out of lockdown and with Covid-19 being brought to submission. As I pondered I felt it was because this virus has been an anticlimax. We have all seen or read dystopian stories where there is something cataclysmic that brings an end to civilisation as we know it. Many of us have read about the Great Plagues of Medieval times. The media filled us with fear and dread. But also we experienced something mankind has never experienced – lockdown! Never in the history of mankind have people shut themselves away alone and yet been so connected with the world via TV and internet. Apart but connected or as can feel at times connected but alone.

Unlike the Black Death or the Spanish Flu in the UK we have not experienced losing a high percentage of our population. In fact many of us have not lost a single person in our family here, though most of us do know of someone who has died somewhere. We have not had food shortages due to lack of labourers like in the times of the Bubonic plague. Yes we have had shortages but they have been due to selfish panic buying.

All of us who are comfortably off have noticed little changes – in our income and expenditure, in the way we live our lives, etc. I am sure if we lived in some of the countries we would have endured huge numbers of deaths, struggles for food, for work, for just the things that can be taken for granted in the West.

But if we look back on the headlines for March 2020 we were expecting much more. Something more dystopian. But we didn’t get it. We’ve got change, and big change, but not horrendous change. And especially if one watched the Euro football games things seem to have returned to normal!

I think, when one has been promised much – good or bad – and it doesn’t happen, one is left feeling anticlimaxed.

“The anticlimax is when you’re set up for a climax, such as a spectacular, battle-to-end-all-battles between the hero and the villain. It’s built up more and more until the suspense is extremely exciting, and the reader/viewer can’t wait for it…then the hero kills the villain in one hit, or the villain spontaneously drops dead “

From –
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Anticlimax

And this I believe is what many of us are feeling now. We were given this huge build up. We expected something spectacular. And now it is all over.

I decided to have a bit of a google through all this and found this from Ethical Horse Products on how to deal with Anticlimax in which she says a good way of dealing with anticlimax after an event is to celebrate one’s achievements. How do we do that when we feel like we haven’t actually achieved anything? In fact everything I read talked about preparing for it. How does one prepare for it when one didn’t get the climax first? All we got was the fear and expectation, the suspense.

I think one of the first things to do is acknowledge this is how we are all feeling. I think too it is why we loved the England football game because there was the excitement. There was also the expectation of not winning. So there was a preparedness in the air. Gareth Southgate told his players, and thus the rest of those watching, to not get too excited. So we were excited but prepared.

With the virus our government did not do that. It told us to be scared. To be so afraid that there were some who did not even step outside their front door for months. For most of us we didn’t travel, stayed away from friends and family. Lived with anxiety, albeit for most low-level, but it was there. We were not prepared for the anticlimax. So how do we deal with it?

So once we’ve accepted this is how we feel then we need to, I believe, step into celebrating what we achieved – for some this could just be stepping back to groups they used to go to, for others it will be more major. Then we need to feel gratitude – that we’re still alive, that we can still communicate, that we made it through.

Gratitude works best if one does it on small tangible things. So being grateful for clean water is great but being grateful that you had a conversation with someone in the park is personal and more real. Start each day with five small things you are grateful for. Look back at my post about “Awe in the Ordinary” – which was also posted on Godspace on 6th July.

Walk whether you live in the countryside or a city. Take in the air. Be grateful you can walk. Find awe in the ordinary. Check out other posts on walking and awe. Be kind to yourself when you don’t feel up for it but give yourself that small push.

Anticlimax is something we’ve all experienced and all walked through but I think this time it is hard because it was thrust on us be outside forces – the government – and we need to walk through a bit more squelchy mud before we can stand on firmer ground. But firmer ground is coming! It has to be because the Ox needs to be able to plough well.