Dealing with the unexpected

Mountain goats in Llandudno North Wales

On a day trip last week-end, I ended up at a wonderful place by the coast in North Wales. I had set off for the seaside and a much needed drive along the coast. I was not disappointed and captured photos of some beautiful places, some of which I will share in other posts.

Shortly before making our way home, we came across a small group of goats heading somewhat purposefully along the broad pavement. They were all headed in the same direction and it was difficult to see their faces. When they came to the corner they all stopped and just stood there, as if waiting to cross the road but not making a decision to do so. Cars slowed to give them space but they remained static as we passed by.

It was strange seeing them there, I didn’t expect to see mountain goats wandering about town. Except they didn’t seem to be wandering and I was intrigued by what they had in mind.

My initial feeling of surprise was mixed with wonder, it was a good feeling and I really wanted to savour the moment. Yet it was touched with wariness and caution – I didn’t want to get out and take a photo and I didn’t wish to disturb their perhaps perplexed focus on the road, an open but risky barrier to whatever their goal may have been.

As I relax on a Saturday morning I enjoy reflecting back on my photos and seeing where they lead me. The images of the goats have led me to reflect on dealing with the unexpected.

Sometimes things happen in a moment of communication, it may be a letter, email, knock on the door, telephone call or a random connection with a stranger while out and about. Something that stops us in our tracks, that interrupts our expected and comfortable path, even if that is an unknown path, such as my spontaneous road trips when I may get lost … as had happened when I discovered the goats! Oftentimes I have a vague aim in mind but I am willing to be drawn off-track especially if it may offer opportunities for intriguing discovery.

The things that can really knock us off track can be those that are totally unexpected or those that we didn’t see coming in quite the way that they did. It is at these times it is so important for our own self-care to just stop and pause, allow ourselves to take things in, like the mountain goats at the road junction. To stop and allow ourselves to just breathe and do what we need to do in that moment before we make a choice.

When faced with a junction in your life, take the time that you need to either make a choice or wait until the time is right for you to make that choice. It is your own life to live and even when we feel that we have no choice, or there is nothing that we can do, if we give ourselves the moments we need to just take things in, ponder the options we know about and allow time for those options we may not be aware of to reveal themselves, we will be better placed to make the decision that is right for us.

Sometimes we don’t have to make a decision even if others are pressurising us to do things we don’t want to do. We may eventually have to make a choice but the timing of that is our choice, it’s our life and our path. No-one knows another person’s world. No-one. They may think they do but we are unique with our own roots that lead to such a beautiful array of essences within the world.

This past week has been such a mix of emotions and I have been so privileged to spend time doing something that is so important to me. My younger self would never have imagined that I would still be finding new and valuable learning paths that have the potential to make so much difference to people’s lives.

So it’s the start of another week-end, a journey of opportunity.

As we passed the mountain goats we wondered if they would be OK, would they be stuck where they were. We went off our own route and stopped to ask the way, being rewarded by a beautiful late afternoon seascape and connecting with local people who helpfully pointed us in the right direction.

We continued on our way and joyfully came across the goats once more, this time having made their way to a new spot where they felt comfortable to spread out and wander into the much quieter road. They looked content, they had found their way even if that was just for now. And that’s OK.

Lost but still time to capture a photo of this beautiful spot and connect with local dog walkers who helped us find our route home

Writing back to Happiness

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.

Kay xx

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!

Clutter-busting … I woke as if in a dream and came up with a plan on how to empty my garage in 4 easy steps

Copyright 2008, Shane Gorski, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

Copyright 2008, Shane Gorski, Flickr, CC-BY-ND, via Wylio

Suddenly I was awake and felt startled.  I had been dreaming – I can’t recall what about now but it felt very real.  Now it was light and I thought I had overslept.  We would be late for school.  I jumped up and looked outside.  No activity.  Gradually it dawned on me that it was Saturday.  Relief swept over me and I relaxed.

Isn’t it strange how, when you get up first thing in the morning, suddenly a problem that’s been hanging over you just suddenly pops into your mind and a potential solution materialises in your thoughts that had never occurred to you before?  This was what happened to me this morning so I quickly penned a bullet point plan in case it flew away as quickly as it had landed.

I have a garage-full of ‘stuff’ that needs to be sorted and have either not had the motivation, space, resources or energy to deal with it.  It has been there in the background on a ‘to do’ list.  Vague discussions with family about taking action one week-end and clearing it, and one attempt about two years ago when we were not quite ready to dispose of the jumbled child equipment and activities, has meant that it still looms behind the doorway.

It is a block to sorting out my life.  The remnants of the past.  Reminders of good times.  At the moment I am on a role.  Despite my inability to go very far, being at home has meant that things are gradually happening, I have had the time to focus, make those calls, and get things done.

My eyes have become clearer since being on the verge of becoming a compulsive hoarder a few years ago while suffering from depression.  I think I stopped in time.  I took stock of the pile of old books that was building before me from addictive visits to charity shops, second hand bookshops and boot fairs.  I became fired up to take them to a charity shop that supported a local church where there are memories of my mother.  I filled bag after bag and there was a feeling of satisfaction when I delivered them in bulk to the charity shop, knowing that they were going to a good cause that in addition had a link with my mum.

One of the problems is I don’t just want to chuck things away that someone else would benefit from but there is so much (though of no particular value now).  We did spend time a couple of years back re-organising the garage.  We got rid of the most useless and discovered the odd hidden treasure.  Nowadays I sort things into rubbish and charity piles and it goes nowhere near the garage (well, to be honest it’s piled too high now) but the boot of my car is full of items ready to go to charity or recycling that has still not got there.

So … the plan that popped into my head, which may seem very obvious but has never occurred to me before, is to hire a large van big enough to take everything and be able to sort it out inside.  We could then take it to a boot fair so that if it could be of use to anyone, then that is an opportunity.  Whatever is left can then either go to charity or be disposed of as recycling or rubbish.  I have tried selling a few bits online but for me it is a long process, with little reward, and not one that I particularly enjoy after the first feeling of novelty.

So, the plan to clear a garage full of stuff is:

1. Hire a large van for the week-end.
2. Transfer the stuff from the garage to the van, filtering out the obvious rubbish.
3. Go to a boot fair.
4. Remainder goes to (a) charity (b) recycling (c) rubbish

I had thought of a having a skip, but I couldn’t deal with creating a heap of rubbish from many past gifts and memories in such a way.  I have seen the delight at a boot fair when a child excitedly finds something that they really want at that moment and my plan encompasses this.  However, I will check out the cost of a skip compared with my plan above and make a decision.

So when my garage is empty? Well there are some things in the spare bedroom that we want to keep … and underneath the stairs … on top of my wardrobe … under the bed … in the garden … NO!!!! it’s not going to happen.  The garage started off as a place to create, floored and walled, with table and chairs.  We even decorated it out and had Christmas Dinner in it one year.  Maybe a new use will pop into my head that will inspire me.   Anything is possible if you focus and believe it can be done.