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!

Possessions, memories and how to approach clutterless living unique to you

Copyright 2015, Cajsa Lilliehook, Flickr, CC-BY-SA, via Wylio

Copyright 2015, Cajsa Lilliehook, Flickr, CC-BY-SA, via Wylio

Following on from my last post on Selfness, here is another piece of draft writing from the same book (self-development/coaching).

‘Clutterless < — > Tidyness

I have had a long struggle with ‘clutter’ – I hold on to things for too long that I may never need. I now recognise that there is little value in this, apart from saving a few pennies or pounds in the distant future at the expense of living a cluttered existence.  If there is too much clutter, housework takes too long and becomes an unwelcome chore.

There has been much written on being clutterfree but some of this can be over-the-top, and lead to having a de-personalised space which is great for a showhouse but is it really a home?

At one time, I felt rebellious about clutterbusting.  Having had to downsize, I had no option than to sell or dispose of many items, some of which I still have regrets about.  Thankfully I did not rid myself completely of some of the smaller boxes containing various bits and pieces.  I later went through these and as I picked up a piece, I would recall a special person or time in my life.  Having a poor memory for some things, these triggers are invaluable and I am so thankful that I still have them in my life.

The key is to achieve a balance between possessions and space, with each possession having a place.  This leads to being clutterless (as opposed to clutterfree), keeps the space tidy and results in a personalised environment that is special to you.

Periodically I enjoy spending time sifting through a selection of my possessions to check that I still want to keep them, or to organise them in a better way.  This works for me.  I have found that by decorating a room in a way that brings me pleasure, then choosing storage solutions that complement that environment, I am able to keep the things that I love in a way that adds to my contentment in my home.

My problem is that I still buy things and bring them into the home. I get pleasure from browsing in charity shops and strolling round boot fairs, disastrous for adding to clutter! But I enjoy it, and therefore my sifting has become a regular occurrence to keep balance within the home. The benefits are that this process can be done mindfully. (A topic for another post.)

Here are a few tips for becoming clutterless:

  • Spend random times – perhaps in the evenings or at week-ends – going through a shelf, drawer or cupboard.  What works for me, if I am not motivated but want to sort something out, is to set a timer for 20 minutes and make an agreement with myself that after 20 minutes I can be done.  Oftentimes I am by then enjoying myself and get lost in the task, carrying on longer and achieving more, with a sense of satisfaction from the end result.
  • Draw up your own criteria for keeping things.  My own is that an item either gives pleasure, is useful now or within the next year, has memories or some other reason that I can justify to myself for keeping it.  Books are my downfall – yet they are such treasures. Also clothes. I do hold on to a lot of clothes, even though I apply the sifting process, but if they are well-organised then I don’t see it as a problem.
  • Decide what storage you want and get it.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  There are lots of cheap shelving options out there, or colourful boxes and filing systems.  The choice is yours. I have a bed with wonderful drawers which take a surprising amount.
  • Question what you are keeping ‘because it may be of use some day’.  My experience is that it is the things with memories, special things that people have given me, that I have missed. Those without memories are soon forgotten, and if you don’t need them then the likelihood is that you will not miss them. Amongst my regrets are my food mixer and food processor that I had for many years. I was in for a shock when I saw the replacement cost. So, think twice before sifting too far!
  • Think about what you really enjoy in your life.  Consider your values and keep the things that enhance your life.  Let go of those you will never use and just leave you with feelings of guilt that you should have done something with them.

Accept your level of clutterlessness and enjoy.’

This piece was written a few years back.  If you have read my recent post on Clutter-busting, it will be clear that I have not completely solved the clutter problem.  It remains something which varies according to my health, energy and motivation.

At the risk of sounding a bit weird, a conversation and youtube watching session with my daughter on shopping hauls gave me the idea of playing around with my new computer videoing a garage book haul.  I took a block of ten books off my shelf unit in my garage and recorded myself going through them and talking about them and what I found interesting.  I was hoping that by doing this I would at least find something that I no longer wanted.  I was wrong … it just reinforced my choice to keep them.  And the potential youtube video?  It was a learning experience – for a start it was too slow, I was swinging to and fro on my chair – very distracting – and it seemed so false!  There’s certainly work to be done if I want to join my daughter in becoming a youtuber (something she wants to do but not yet and would be great if we could both get involved).

By the way, for those that have read my post on Clutter-busting, as part of my garage plan I was researching the cost of skips at the week-end only to find that local skip hire companies are exceptionally secretive about their fees meaning that a few phone calls were needed.  Well today I contacted some and was slightly horrified at the cost.  Then I looked at the van hire and somehow the skip seemed more appealing.  However, even just working out that plan got me motivated to make a start on sorting the garage out, even if it wasn’t according to the plan I devised. I’ve made a start on working through it.

As a last thought, I think being part of this blogging community is really helping to motivate and inspire me.  When it comes to the home, I particularly like Le Zoe Musings which has such beautiful photos which include a selection of closet solutions.  Blogging has opened up a whole new world to me at a time when the world might otherwise have seemed to be getting smaller.

Selfness – Writing, Coaching and Authenticity

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I have come across the start of some draft writing I did a few years back on self-development and life coaching. The following is an extract.

Guiltless <—> Selfness

Do you want to make a difference to YOUR life?  Do you want to think about yourself and your needs?  If you find this difficult, are you always putting the needs of other people before you?  There is no need to feel guilty.  This is not being selfish.  Empower yourself to improve your own life by realising that your needs and wants are important.  If you have family or are caring for someone else, they may rely on you.  For you to give of your best, you need to be in the best place to do this.  Not only does this make you a better person, it makes life worth living for YOU and everyone you care for or have a relationship with benefits too.  Your relationships with other people will improve, you will feel calm, relaxed, having an increased sense of well-being.’

At the time, I thought I had made up the words Guiltless and Selfness. I  have since discovered that they are in fact words and oxforddictionaries.com sums up the meanings.

Selfness
A person’s essential individuality
(archaic) Selfishness; self-regard

Guiltless
Having no guilt; innocent

The meaning of guiltless is pretty obvious.  When related to the idea of selfness, it is about not feeling guilty when thinking about yourself and your needs when you think other’s needs are more important.  As can be seen from the definitions, the meaning of selfness has changed over time.  It did mean that someone was being selfish.  When I read what it means now – a person’s essential individuality – it fits well with what I have written.  Authenticity is a word that comes to mind and being true to oneself.  Knowing what you value in life and observing them when making life choices. It is not just what your values are but the way in which you prioritise them – this can be the subject of a future post.

What is important is that if you are true to yourself and your needs, then you will be a happier person better placed to have successful relationships and able to care for others.  So think about your selfness – and what you need to do for YOU to improve your own well-being and happiness.

  • In writing this post I have opened up a whole new world of what Selfness is by having a quick Google.  I think I need hours, days or more to give it justice but you may like to have a look yourself if you are interested in the concept.

The Impact of Place – Wellbeing, Inspiration and Creativity

A short while back I talked about my creativity being blocked and trying to overcome this.  I’ve not yet overcome my inability to immerse myself in a creative zone but I will share my thoughts and progress.  Having spent two months in hospital, and a further month at home, mainly but not exclusively in one room, I have had little chance to get out and about and when I do most visits are for appointments at the hospital. In the past few days I have realised what is perhaps the obvious, the effect of place on my ability to relax, switch off and become entwined in my creative quest.  At a basic level, I have had to relocate my bedroom to a lower floor, losing the broad view of the sky and my cosy writing corner.  Then there is the effect of being restricted, not going out to walk and explore different places.  So I turn to my memories and love of water. Water in all it’s natural forms is inspiring, be it sea, river, waterfall, stream or lake.  In pondering this blog I recalled a holiday at Lake Bled, a most magical place in Slovenia.  When I visited many years ago I had not started writing but I recall how I felt when I surveyed the view from the hotel balcony on the night of arrival and the many hours enjoyed walking alongside the beautiful lake.  Perhaps if I can allow my mind to drift and recapture the essence of the special places I have visited – with a notebook to hand – I will be able to move forward with my creative pursuits. Even on a rainy day, Lake Bled is a magical place.

Copyright Maurice, Flickr, CC-BY, via Wylio

Copyright 2008 Maurice, Flickr, CC-BY, via Wylio

The Sea’s Gift

When I was sorting through papers the other day I came across a copy of one of my lost poems – one of my favourites.  So here it is …  The poems I have written to date are spontaneous as they come.  This one reflects the beneficial effect that walking by the sea can make to me.

The Sea’s Gift

.

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.

.

Art for All – and Zentangle

I strongly believe that art in its widest sense should be available and accessible to anyone.  Many people may not have tried anything creative since they were at school.  I have seen how providing an environment where people feel at ease, together with a range of materials – sometimes just blank paper and felt tips – can have surprising results.  After an initial hub of conversation, a quietness descends as most people become engrossed in their own activity.  Some may struggle initially as it is a new experience but they often gain inspiration from what is happening around them, seeing what others are doing.  Their self-esteem increases and there is a sense of pride in their achievement.

i was intrigued when reading kelzbelzphotography.wordpress.com blog to find out about Zentangle, an art method that is a form of meditation as it is practiced mindfully.  It is suitable for young and old and can be done anywhere.  Check out the Zentangle website to find out how it started and hear the stories of some of the people who have been trained to teach this method and their own personal experiences of the benefits.  www.zentangle.com

 

Creativity and Wellbeing

Surfing on my iPad early this morning I came across information on the London Creativity and Wellbeing Week taking place 4-12 June 2015.  Apparently this has been taking place since 2012 and alongside this events take place outside London as part of Creativity and Wellbeing Plus.  Kicking off the week in London is a one-day conference Arts, Wellbeing and Health: promoting good practice and evaluation.

For information on the above go to http://www.creativityandwellbeing.org.uk.