I joined a creatives group in the new year while I was in Aberdeen. Caralyn, the same one who encouraged me to blog again, talked me into going along with her and frogmarched me to introduce me to the group leader. This was very much necessary because the shy introvert in me was reluctant to make any new friends.
I should backtrack a wee bit to provide some context. My first month following my return from Cambodia was bewildering. I didn’t know what was going to happen next or where I was going to be, other than I was back living at my mum’s and it had been the right time to end my Cambodia life. I was exhausted from my life being flipped upside down. That October felt particularly cold and I kept looking aghast at people dressed in shorts when it was below 6 degrees celsius. As I pulled on my four layers and searched for some thermal clothing, I started to experience regular moments when I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly, and I’d be scared to fall asleep in case my body forgot how to breath while I slept. This is me, who has never suffered from anxiety.
Two things really helped. Firstly, I got help. I engaged a coach to help me go through this transition. Someone I didn’t know who had gone through major changes moving from one country to another. She gave me a structure to the transition. When things got hard in month 3, she reassured me that months 3 and 4 normally held the most tension as friends asked what you had decided to do, when you had decided nothing because those decisions still felt overwhelming, like the circumstances were too fluid to make any concrete decisions. Secondly, a friend reassured me that my panic was a common reaction to major disruptive changes. He agreed with my recognition that this season was a ‘winter’, so to take it easy, do very little “productively”, to remember to take deep breaths and do a little exercise. It helped to normalise my situation and after that first month, I could breathe a little easier.
By January, I was quite happily in the rhythms of my ‘splendid isolation’ or ‘my winter’ in the North East of Scotland. The name inspired by Britain’s 19th century foreign policy of splendid isolation and all the Brexit chatter. After the turbulence of the last few years, the peace and stillness was exactly what I needed. In all honesty this is what I had nicknamed this season of my life weeks before self-isolating and social distancing were to become a thing. The flip side of my choices was that I had reverted to being a shy turtle. Eyes peering out over my scarf and hat. Checking out who the safe people were to talk to before deciding that I’d rather be talking to trees.
I was also intimidated by the thought that this creatives group would be made up of all art school/’I studied design/drama/writing at university’ type people. However, in actual fact, yes some of the group are like that but the group is made up of a variety of people with different craft/art/food/creative writing/photography/design interests and passions. I surprised myself by enjoying their company and the discussions. The following weeks, I went back and started making new friends.
When I moved to another city for a new job three weeks ago, I didn’t expect to be able to continue to be part of them. However, because of the Covid-19 lockdown measures, we moved to meeting online. Each week we focus on something different. This week, the focus was on peace.
I found myself meditating on this song by Mosaic MSC every time I went outside for my daily walk/run. It begins, peace, bring it all to peace. Apt, right? I would pray for family, friends and people I knew who were ill or in the vulnerable group, or in difficult/stressful/anxious situations to know God’s peace. An hour before we were due to meet online, I suddenly worried that my meditative peace prayers wouldn’t count as a creative output. Thus, I quickly cobbled together this haiku on peace as my contribution instead.
Piece by piece, step by
Step. What was overwhelming
It began as a thought, ‘what if I did a play on words with peace/piece’. (There are a couple of quilters in my creatives group.) For me, it evokes memories of marathon training, running up hills, the times I began a couch to 5k programme after time out because of injury. Then there is the sleepless 48 hours when I had a dengue fever rash that covered my entire body and as I cried alone in pain and frustration I kept reminding myself that this too will pass.
I had to learn a lot about pain, rest, asking for help, sabbaticals and self-care during my Cambodia years but especially so in the last two years. One picture that has really comforted me this year has been of God’s hands holding me in this dark vacuum as I feel like I’m falling. He has got me. You might not be religious, but I’m sharing that picture in case it offers you some comfort.
One more thing. When all the things that you rely on to keep you happy are stripped away, if you can, do one thing each day FOR YOU that you enjoy, whether it’s quilting, DIY, reading a book, burning onions, binge-watching a TV series, talking to the guinea pigs. That’s self-care. Do the things you have to do too. And remember. This too will pass.