Today it went through my mind that I was gaining some kind of pattern to my daily life. There is much advice that routine is good for us during this surreal time but a belief I have held for some while is that I don’t much like routines … to me it feels like too much predictability whereas I like to bring spontaneity into my life, to allow time for those creative moments. Yet without some kind of planning, at the moment those creative moments haven’t quite been happening. Slowly perhaps we are adapting to the changing nature of life that has been sprung upon us. For now, life as we knew it has seemingly been put on hold and people are affected in such contrasting ways across a whole spectrum of experience. So for now, I am enjoying accepting a different pattern into my life. One that is evolving yet can adapt and change as the rhythms of the day change with the weather and external commitments that spring from a different source that is changing the nature of how we live in this moment and maybe in the future to come.
Today, to go with this post, I wanted some kind of pattern, so I started with a photo that I love and thought I’d see where it went. I used Affinity Photo software on my iMac and just played around with it until I discovered something that I felt was right for this post. It is a photo of a place that I love that I don’t get to see at the moment but is held close to my heart. It’s so beautiful that it deserves a post of its own – Kingsgate Bay.
Yesterday, I said I would reflect back and go on a journey through my blog posts, one month at a time. So today it will be March 2015 which is when I first set up my blog, I can’t believe it has been five years – yet within that time it is just 20 WordPress months – so in theory there will be twenty posts with this theme. Whether I end up doing a post for each month will depend on wherever this leads. I like being able to be spontaneous and see where life takes me.
I did think for some time before setting the blog up that I needed to find my focus, my niche, then I thought why? It needed to reflect me, authentic me. So this random approach where I can flit from whatever subject I wish at the time really suits me and reflects who I am, a deep thinker who has been a life-long learner, and more recently became a life coach, graduated as a social scientist with a dissertation on sense of belonging and developed a way of working with people to enhance mental health and wellbeing using life story writing – perhaps I will do a blog one day on my Waves and Pebbles Kite …
I enjoyed school, went to college and then experienced a wide range of jobs which have all taught me so much about people and life, and provided me with new skills. When I managed a community mediation service and practiced as a Mediator, not only did this teach me more about conflict and communication with people, about not making assumptions and the importance of being non-judgemental, but it also opened up to me the world of creativity. At least I think this is when I realised that although I wasn’t an artist – I couldn’t draw and didn’t actually do any art, having been put off at school – I did start to realise that I was creative in thought. At the time my eldest daughter’s artistic skills were blossoming and one of our mediators was an artist. This opened up to me the potential to use art and other creative activities as a means of facilitating communication when it may otherwise be difficult, for example when families are experiencing a breakdown in their relationships, often due to external stressful influences. I could see the potential of using creativity to bring people together and enable communication but I am digressing, for this post the aim is to reflect back on my posts in March 2015 – these are not the actual posts – they are my reflections now.
My journey through March 2015
Welcome to ‘Waves and Pebbles’
On the day of my first post I had received this beautiful bouquet of flowers and it reminded me of the importance of my family and friends that were supporting me during that difficult time. When everything else in my life changed in a moment of diagnosis in January 2015, it was my connections with people that were the constant in my life, as it feels now while we are dealing with lockdown. In hospital I didn’t have access to wi-fi back then, although thankfully that has changed so much now. However, my mobile phone enabled me to keep in touch, especially by text. Now, when much of the world is in lockdown as I write this, we have so many different ways of keeping in touch with people online especially video links which really seem to have taken off. Yet I find there is also something very special about blogging, already seeing how people across different parts of the world are reading my posts, and I look forward to connecting once again with more people day by day. I also much enjoy reading the posts of others who blog on WordPress.
There was no photo for this post, something I learnt later was of value in gaining attention to a blog post and something which I came to enjoy sourcing and then later using my own photos. This post talked about setting up a poetry page, which I had totally forgotten I had done. The page is still there and you will find poems titled Clouds, Welsh Home in the Morning, Light, Spring, The Sea’s Gift and The Orange Globe. My personal favourite is The Sea’s Gift, written at a time when I was suffering from depression when I often wrote what I call my ‘doomy gloomy’ poems. I love this one so I am going to share it here. My poems are written all in one go when the words just come to me, along with working out some kind of rhythm, and I didn’t change them after, which applies to most of my poetry apart from those written while doing a creative writing course, of which The Orange Globe is one.
Swirling, swelling, choffing about
ever there, forever no doubt
Wondrous feeling, breezing hair
Visual landscape, no compare
Softly, seeping, lapping away
ever there, forever a day
Gentle ebbing, loving cure
Sensual feelscape, yet so pure
Twilight, twinkling, milling anew
ever there, forever for you
Heaven crying, flowing deep
Mystical dreamscape, I will keep
Sunshine warming, glist'ning delight
ever there, forever my might
Soulful cleansing, giving hope
Miracle seascape, I can cope
Creativity and Wellbeing
This was a short post, again no photo, passing on information about the London Creativity and Wellbeing Week which has been taking place since 2012. I’ve just checked out the information on this year’s festival which is being postponed but they are researching the possibilities of doing something online.
In looking for a secure website to direct you to, I have found http://www.culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk. As often happens when looking for one thing it leads to another. I have just discovered on this site “70 stories” under their News and Blogs page where people are talking about their own experiences … I will be returning! I’ve also discovered an interesting report on Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing published in July 2017 which I will return to when seeking evidence for the value of the various forms of creativity.
Time to take a pause
Well I started this post with the intention of reflecting back on the whole of March 2015 but I now realise that it is taking me too long and leading me on a different journey of discovery. I am also very much in need of my breakfast! So I am going to leave it here for now, wish you a good day and hope you may share with me how you are spending your own day, or if you yourself have spent time reflecting back on your old posts. The picture I am going to post is one taken this morning in my garden with a beautiful blue sky and not a cloud in sight. Best wishes to you all. Kay
Yesterday when I submitted my first post for a while, which is something I seem to keep doing – one post then leaving it – I was congratulated by WordPress on my 100th post. Somehow if felt as if that had come at the right time, having realised this week that I really must return to the blogging world to help me deal with this current situation the world finds itself in. Blogging really helped me back in 2015, it will do so again.
When I started my blog in March 2015 my life had been confined since the beginning of January, I had gone through my own isolation in phases, first to the hospital grounds, then the ward, then my room and finally my bed before the reverse happened and I was able to return home. I had survived so far but I had to stay at home to guard myself from infection, still going through chemotherapy treatment till the end of the year. After a while I was able to start having trips out and taking my own photos that I would blog about. Eventually I returned to university which is when my blogging days went on pause for a while.
I had thought that I would revisit each of my 100 posts, one at a time, but a quick look back and I realise that it will be one month at a time. So my next post will be reflecting back on March 2015.
For now, sitting in my lounge, I am going to make my everyday late breakfast of porridge with bashed up almonds sprinkled on top with honey. Sometimes I sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar, sometimes I count out the almonds or use a mixture of milk and water to make my provisions last. I will sit and enjoy. The television is switched off, it is peaceful with a beautiful blue sky outside. Sometimes I wonder if I will wake in the morning and forget that all this is happening, forget that we are in lockdown. But somehow, even though I am able to sleep fairly well at night, if somewhat later than usual, I wake with the knowledge that ‘it’ is still there. This surreal situation that cannot be ignored and we know that people’s lives are changing forever, many sadly lost.
Yet those of us who are blessed to still be well in our homes I hope will be able to discover new ways to live a life that makes us feel good. Maybe not all the time, our moods are perhaps more than ever likely to wobble, but to be able to live a more simple life that gives us the time to connect more with those that we care about, even though at a distance, to spend time doing the things we really enjoy yet otherwise don’t allow ourselves the time to fit them in. And to discover new ways of living that enable us to gain a sense of achievement and fulfilment. For me, creativity is the key to this, playing with creativity in a way that suits us as individuals. Some people may already be artists, musicians, singers, writers, crafters and designers, for whom creativity comes naturally. For some, creativity is something that others do and is a whole new world to explore. Take little steps and discover something different that you enjoy doing. There is so much out there to learn and sometimes all you need is a pen and paper (see my post yesterday on writing).
This post is for everyone who’d like to have a go at writing for their own interest and enjoyment but hasn’t known how to start. The following is a suggested way forward, take from it what you will. A little bit more about me and my book-writing at the bottom.
A method taken from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”, this is what got me started on using writing in my own life. Either first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, when you are able to have some private space and time to yourself (I know this isn’t always possible but try to if you can). All you need is some blank A4 paper and a pen. Make sure you are sitting comfortably, take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing, notice any feelings of tension and just allow yourself to relax and let go as you breathe. Once you feel ready to start writing, put pen to paper and just write whatever comes. Don’t stop to think if it is right or wrong, or to correct anything, just allow your pen to wander across the page. If you can’t think of anything to write, then just write “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write” and keep repeating it until your own words slip onto the page. Keep going until you have filled three pages of A4 paper. This method gets you used to just writing without censoring anything, without thinking about whether it is being written in the right way or not. Try doing it once a day for a few days and continue if you wish. You may be surprised at what ends up on the page … the one thing there should not be is crossings out! Once you have mastered this, you are ready to go onto the next stage.
This is something that I learnt while attending a creative writing class. I now use this method regularly at our weekly writing group meetings. Set a timer for 5 minutes (I use a colourful triple egg-timer but you can set your phone alarm, stopwatch etc.) You can decide on a topic, anything of your choice. This morning my friend in Scotland asked me for a writing prompt and I ended up saying “Pancakes” because we had a conversation the other day about them and it just popped back into my head. So if you would like to use this same topic I would love to hear your stories if you would like to share them with me. You may start off thinking about Pancakes but end up in a totally different place … that doesn’t matter and is entirely what is so fascinating about the process. So … once you have your topic write it at the top of your page. Then just start the timer for 5 minutes and start writing. Don’t correct yourself, just write. It is a good idea to have tried writing “morning pages” a few times so you get used to writing without correcting yourself or worrying about grammar, spelling or punctuation. This is about bringing out stories from you, your life, memories, thoughts today, hopes for the future without being judged or criticised. To use writing to communicate with yourself and as a way of sharing your stories with others.
Start a journal
Find a scrapbook, photo album, large notebook or whatever you might have to hand, it may be an old diary or just plain A4 paper that you can keep in a file, and choose a time each day to write about your daily life. This can be very practical, just putting down the facts, or you can choose to go deeper and write about your internal thoughts and feelings. You can add sketches, stick in cut out pictures that you like, anything you feel like that says something about your day. You can decide to do this daily or whenever you feel like it so that there is no pressure, it is something to enjoy. Let it take you wherever you wish, you can talk about past memories, what is happening now or your dreams for the future. You can add complete pieces of writing such as that done as morning pages or timed writing. You can stick an envelope in the journal and use this as a pocket for this writing or you can extract quotes, writing these into your journal. Enjoy!
Life Happens, Live Happy … and start a blog!
However you are feeling in this moment, writing can take you on a personal journey that may surprise you. It has therapeutic benefits and is something you can do anywhere with very little resources. In 2015 I was seriously ill with leukaemia. Writing became my saviour, providing me with a focus during my treatment. This current situation that the world finds itself in has brought that time back to me and made me realise that, although I have continued to write and have been running Life Story Writing groups in the community, there is something about blogging that really helped me as there was no pressure. People could choose to read my posts if they wished and it was a really good feeling when I was able to connect with people across the world. Life takes over and my blogging has been sporadic. Eventually I wrote my book” Life Happens, Live Happy” which is the story behind this blog. I have reduced the price on Amazon to £0.99p for the Kindle version (it is free for those those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I believe that there are things in it that may be of help to others during this time, especially to be inspired to start writing their own stories about life.
I am now writing a new book, “Writing back to Happiness”, this is a work-in-progress and a collaboration with my wonderful small writing group that I was meeting with each week until this situation unexpectedly happened. It will explain how I use an empowering life coaching approach to inspire people to write the little random stories about their life and to share them with others, with the many diverse conversations that arise from this.
Keep well, keep safe and I express my gratitude for everyone out there that is supporting the world in roles that are essential to our health and wellbeing at this surreal time. If you are struggling, and notice your mood dropping, it can help to focus on the little things that we are grateful for in our lives, listing these, writing them down, can help lift our mood when we may be struggling to cope with what life has thrown at us. Life Happens, Live Happy … and connect with others through writing and sharing your stories about the little things in life that bring you joy.
In 2015 I started this blog when I was dealing with treatment for a life threatening form of leukaemia. I kept the blog up for some while – it helped provide me with a focus – and when I was able to go out, I enjoyed taking photos and sharing them.
As life returned to some form of normality – I had survived! (needing checks every six months) – my blog writing slipped. I had a couple of attempts to rekindle it but somehow life got in the way. Yet when I wrote my first book “Life Happens, Live Happy” (available on Amazon – author Kay Underdown), I fully realised how both writing and blogging had helped me through some very challenging times.
When I eventually graduated from University in 2017 with my degree in Social Sciences, having had a whole year out due to my illness, the idea for Life Story Writing was born. Workshops and courses using my own unique approach combining coaching, creativity and sense of belonging.
Following graduation I had to negotiate some difficult, and unexpected, life paths. the outcome is living in the most wonderful area by the sea, one of my dreams that I had long wanted to achieve but never before had the guts to see it through.
There followed a period when I half-heartedly worked towards working for myself as a coach and running workshops but somehow the time wasn’t right. Life was good. I still felt as if I was on holiday whenever I had the time to wander but I lacked something and I just didn’t know what that something was. So I returned to University to start a Masters degree in Methods of Social Research and during this time I had a period of exploration and fine-tuned my direction. It was the Life Story Writing workshops I wanted to focus on. I had an inner conviction that they could really make a difference to people’s wellbeing, and could help increase happiness and sense of belonging.
After a few initial workshops on happiness and empowerment and life story writing, I started running a longer course for a local charity aimed at people aged 50+. That course has led to something very special to me – a small life story writing group. One of the outcomes from this will be my next book – “Writing back to Happiness” Life Story Writing the Waves and Pebbles Way. I started handwriting this book just after Christmas with a lovely new fountain pen, part of a set gifted to me by my group.
It is during these meetings that I have realised how much I really enjoyed blogging, and not really understood why I stopped doing something I loved so much. Anyway, here I am, back again!
I am excited for 2020. It somehow feels that it is a year of the unexpected but that it will be good, providing new adventures with opportunities to explore all that life has to offer and doing it in my own way.
I truly wish anyone reading this the very best for 2020 and the coming new decade. May you give yourself the gift of time to explore what it is you really want to do with your life – whether that’s carrying on doing the things that you love or allowing yourself to explore new avenues based on your own life values and future dreams.
Watch this space as I continue “Writing back to Happiness”. My focus for my Waves and Pebbles blog continues to be random stories about life, creativity and memories – with the addition of nature – which are all reflected in my Life Story Writing workshops and groups.
I live in Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England. We are blessed with beautiful bays, sandy beaches and amazing skies. In 2020 I will be running short courses at various venues, usually hotels and cafes where you can relax and enjoy a social occasion and do some life story writing back to happiness along the way. I am also exploring the possibility of offering online groups so if you might be interested in this, please let me know.
I hope you have all enjoyed the festive season and are looking forward to what the New Year 2020 and the next decade will bring. I’d love to hear your life stories and what your hopes and dreams are for the future.
Please feel free to comment here or visit my website http://www.kayunderdown.com. You will also find my page on Facebook @empoweringyoubeyondyourdreams (Kay Underdown, Happiness & Empowerment Coach). Like my blog, this has not been kept up to date and I am looking at developing my social media presence specifically aimed at Life Story Writing. I’d love to hear your own experiences of writing … or perhaps the reasons why you don’t write … I also encourage people to draw their stories if they don’t want to write or to do storyboards, a bit of both!
A year after I finished writing, I have NOW self-published my book “Life Happens, Live Happy” through Amazon KDP. Writing a book was one of my life goals and to be honest I felt like I had achieved it when I finished writing it last Christmas, as the goal was never about selling it. Perhaps that was why it took me so long to actually get it out there. Then again, perhaps it was all about timing, or the fact that it was a very personal book that it feels quite scary to share with the world. It now seems like the perfect time!
This book is very important to me and it was quite therapeutic writing it. Like this blog, it has at its root what happened to me in 2015 when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of leukaemia and was seriously ill in hospital. When I returned home after more than a couple of months in hospital, it was blogging I turned to as something to give me some focus in life, to distract me from the seriousness of what I was dealing with. So this little book talks about some of the issues around this time and what helped me, particularly having a positive approach to life and acknowledging the simple things that can make us happy. Like this blog, it is quite random in nature.
Back in 2017, I joined the Sue Stone Foundation as an accredited coach and this has made an immense difference to me, and it is Sue Stone who kindly wrote the Foreword for my new book. Sue wrote the book “Love Life, Live Life”, which I read I believe back in 2008 and found it very inspirational. Sue was later one of the Secret Millionaires on the TV programme and I feel very privileged to be a member of her Foundation whose aim is to spread positivity, love and success throughout the world.
I hope that some of you reading my blog will end up reading my little book. The aim of the book was to inspire anyone on their own life journey, whatever their challenges may be. It is available on Amazon across the world in English language, in the UK it is £6.99 plus postage for the paperback, the Kindle version is available for £2.99 or if you subscribe to unlimited then it is free under the KDP Select scheme. This is a new adventure for me and 2019 is going to be an exciting time. If anyone else reading this has experience of self-publishing through Amazon I would love to hear from you. I would also love to hear any thoughts on my book if you have a chance to read it.
The Sue Stone Foundation is holding its first online summit on Monday, 21 January in the evening. I will be one of the participants as a member of the Foundation. If you would like further information about this, just leave me a message.
Once again it has been a while since I blogged, no real excuses, it just hasn’t happened. Last November a distant artist friend challenged me to 30 days of drawing lessons on Facebook. My involvement was a bit of a disaster, I had every good intention but even though the time was there, it evaded me. Yet for me, the challenge was worth it because I produced the above! Believe me, this is far superior to anything I had produced before and it is now proudly framed and hanging in my downstairs cloakroom. It was based on a photo that I took whilst walking along my favourite bay. Every time I enter the cloakroom, it reminds me of that beautiful place and how I love living by the sea. It may not be a work of art but I enjoyed the process and it brings me joy whenever I enter the cloakroom. Not only does it remind me of the bay but I recall the kind offer of a friend to help me improve my drawing skills. Do you have something you have painted or made that reminds you of something and makes it extra special?