30 June, 2013

Monday Monday, So Good to Me x


I'm going to let you into a little secret. I like Monday's. I do. They aren't the worst day of the week. On a Monday I am usually happy from a good weekend and full of energy from lots of sleep or full of weekend treats and memories - either way I usually have a smile on my face. On a Monday I am sprightly and polished, my lunch is made, my bag is packed complete with weekly to-do list and a well organised Filofax, and I am usually certain  this is the week I am going to finally make my mark on the world. I could be swept away to Hollywood, stumble upon a small fortune, or discover a revolutionary talent for rapping. It could happen. This week has literally NEVER happened before, we can take what we want from it. What do you want from it? I want to lose the few pounds that I put on in pizza yesterday, nail a biiiggg presentation (not 'til Friday, big wait, wah) and have a lovely Date Night with my chap. Not a tall order, so I reckon this week is going to deliver, if I put my mind to it.

I don't really understand where the fear of Monday's originates from. I do experience Sunday Dreads, which Monday Fear is closely linked to, but my Sunday Dread is more an irrational fear that I won't be able to do life anymore, that the pressure will finally get too much and I will regress to infancy, scribbling on the walls of the office and running about in my knickers in hysteria. My Sunday Dreads are the fear of being unable to cycle after a few days off the bike. It's not personal to Monday's, the dreads could take hold of me any day of the week (bar Friday, the Christmas eve of the week).

By the time Monday morning dawns I am usually well over that irrational fear though and generally looking forward to getting into gear. While I see people hating on Mondays all over my timeline, for me a new week is full of hope - it's a clean slate, untainted, it has the potential to be life changing or at least better than the last one. We have a huge amount of power to influence how our own week is going to pan out and if we start it in the ready position we are so much more likely to score. This is why people start diets on Mondays and stock up the fridge - fuel for the right. We're preparing for a belter, and to bat away those challenges with the vigour of a recent day Murray on centre court This is why I also like mornings more than night time - the new is so much hopeful than the old. untainted and full of hope.

I don't really understand why so many people don't like Mondays. Poor Monday has even had songs written about it. I think it comes down to outlook and probably how much you hate your job, but more than that I think it comes down to perspective. I look at Monday as an opportunity, rather than a challenge, and usually it's a good day for me. Wednesday is my Nemesis. I'm a Wednesdays child ('full of woe) and it's by this point things have started to go wrong, I'm tired and it's still a few days until I can sack it all off, put it behind me and start again. So if I give you some of my Monday positivity now, will you make sure to save me some of yours for later in the week?

Have a good one...


28 June, 2013

My blogging life - the write direction x

Recently a few of my friends have explored the world of blogging, developing their own blogs either for personal use or for work, and knowing that I am an old-hand have asked me for my advice. I say 'old-hand' rather than 'dab-hand' for a reason. I am not a professional blogger and I'm not hugely rated as a blogger beyond my friends and acquaintances. While I am digitally savvy, I don't explore all the best avenues to promote my blog to the masses and I use The Han Made Tales as more of an online diary than something which might become profitable - it's just somewhere I can put my thoughts and frustrations out there, without giving much thought to the blogging 'how-to's'.

While I don't claim to be anything special in the blogging department, the opportunity to chat to my friends about the benefits of blogging and all the opportunities it can bring about has got me to thinking about my own blogging life and all the ways in which it has challenged and benefited me over the years.

In the beginning...

I am a blogging old-timer, in blog years. I first started blogging over 3 years ago, which is a while in digital time. By now my dedication has proven that my blog wasn't just a phase, a whim or a temporary 'hobby'. For one thing the word 'hobby' completely undermines what blogging does for me. A hobby implies something fun and sort of unimportant, a distraction from your responsibilities. My blog isn't that for me. While I get huge enjoyment from writing my blog, it is a fundamental of my life, not a distraction. I feel a great responsibility to myself and to my well-being to continue writing in this way.

Blogging may take on different forms in the future, but essentially my writing will never burn out. I know this because I have been writing since I was teeny. It started with me writing my name in the front of all my grandparents books (and then claiming my Nanny had done it... no-one believed me sadly). As a rather cringe-worthy teen I kept a diary (gah!) and that's something I even went back to a few times during my uni years, when I was desperate for an outlet and to consolidate the thoughts and feelings spun out in my crazy uni world. It was only when I was 23, bored and alone that I discovered I could write in a way that suited the blogging sphere and where I was in my life.

Back then it was my get out of jail free card when I knew there was more to life than working in a dead end job, living with 3 smelly boys and drinking at the weekends. I just couldn't wait for life to bring me more, in case it didn't come about, so I grasped that 'more' the day I put down my wine glass and picked up my laptop. I was instantly just...fulfilled. And proud. It's hard to like yourself when you aren't proud of the things you do, but I have always been proud of my blog. I'll say it again, it's not the best blog in town, but it's the very best of me and it brings out the best in me too - what's not to be proud of?

Nowadays my blog changes and adapts with me - that's part and parcel of the way I blog so openly and honestly. It's scary at times, voicing my deepest thoughts to a never-ending panel of judges and rarely getting feedback, but I carry on because it makes me happy. I have had times where I have been unable to blog.The year I was working in Leeds I almost stopped all together. Partly because I was so, so tired, but also because I didn't have the heart to relay my feelings at that time. It was too intense, too hard to put into written word to a public who don't really know me and my life. Now that I have more time and head space again, I write  frequently, but I still have weeks where I am thinking and feeling so much that I don't know how to relay snapshots of it in my blog without giving my whole life away.

While I am open, candid, and hope to inspire others with my blog, I will never give my whole life away here. Partly because I have learnt how risky it is to tell everyone everything about your life - it leaves you open to such judgement, even from your near and dear - but also I want to protect the things I care about the most. For that reason I will never blog in-depth about my relationship, although Gareth is so prominent in my life he of course gets a mention from time to time. I will also never blog in-depth about the lives of others. I have a lot of close friends who come to me all the time with their biggest fears and secrets, but I would never betray the trust of friendship by chatting about those things here.  I blog as truly as I can without selling my non-virtual soul, but I have to keep something back for the real me who is living a real life.

I have made friends with other bloggers along the way, because it is a little world that only we understand. Like being in a running club or belonging to a society - we all understand each other that little more because we share such an important common interest. I am always interested in other lifestyle blogs and am always looking for new reading material, because I want to find a blog like mine, that isn't written by me. Tonight I am going to a bloggers event with one of my fellow bloggers - I have never been to one before so god knows what it will entail, but I am looking forward to chatting to other like minded people and hopefully taking a step outside my own little blogging head for a few hours! I will report back...

Thank you for reading - today and always.


27 June, 2013

Saying no to FOMO and learning to ignore the Joneses

It seems to me we are a generation of perfectionists, always striving to achieve more than our minds and bodies can handle. These days it isn't about having a skill and being proud of it, it is about covering all bases and for some people feeling inadequate if they aren't scoring highly in every possible way. I am not entirely sure social media isn't to blame for this frenzied experience of the world many people are having these days. We have long since established that our generation are sufferers of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and it seems to be true that seeing the 'highlights' of other peoples lives plastered all over Twitter and Facebook and Instagram  leaves people with a sense that they should be and could be doing more.  It also seems to me that back in the day, when my parents were wee, this wasn't the case. People ran around outside, they read books and they helped their Mum's in the kitchen and they felt heartily satisfied with those pursuits. There wasn't always that pressure to be doing EVERYTHING and still finding the time to look perfect at the end of the day. I sometimes feel nostalgic for those days even though I wasn't around. Sometimes I just want to climb a tree, argue with my sisters and go to bed full of beans on toast. The simple life.

It takes a certain strength of character to ignore all that you could be doing, what other people are doing, and just do what you would do anyway, even if your life wasn't on centre stage like may of us seem to misguidedly believe that it is. I am grateful to not participate very much in the needing-to-keep-up culture, and it makes me sad when I see people so worried about what everyone else is doing all the time -  I mean who cares about everyone else, if you're happy with your own choices? It's not about matching other people, it's about matching what suits you and I learnt that fairly early on in my 20's. But that doesn't mean I don't put myself under pressure in other ways and for other reasons.

I recently read a quote that inspired me all the more to make sure I don't just do things out of FOMO or because of the imagined effect it will have on how other people view me and my life. 'How many people would you impress if the whole world were blind?' - what would you do differently if nobody could see you? For me, I would relax more. I do a lot of things that I could afford to take a bit more of a break from a bit more often. Yet while I know I could put up my feet and switch off more than I do, I am confident that I don't live my life for show. Back in the day I may have suffered from FOMO, probably most prominently at university and in the few years following, but I am lucky to now have found interests and sources of happiness that are completely independent of anyone or anything else and I pursue them with all my heart. There's no room for keeping up with the Joneses here! Some people are born with that confidence, I had to learn it. I also learnt that all those smiley, happy, MY LIFE IS FABULOUS people - they still have their issues backstage, they just choose not to let it go under the spotlight. It takes a truer person to admit when the going is a little rough and those people are so much more endearing.

That said, I have found that the happiest people are the people who have something to call their own, something that means it really doesn't matter what everyone else is doing. FOMO is dead to them because all they want to do is run home and get on with whatever it is that they have discovered that makes them happy. And even if that thing runs them into the ground, it is always worth them doing. I know a few people who work themselves hard to live out their passions, each of them unique, and while they may be tired, they can go to bed every night with a big smile in their heart because they are living their life in a way that fulfils them. Hayley Jane Toothill, Abbi Rose, Matt Comras.People like this don't need to be 'on the scene' because they are living their dream.

I encourage everyone to find their 'thing', focus on it, ignore the crowds and the snapshots of percieved happiness in other people's lives and just to be so content with your own pursuit that competition really becomes irrelevant. It's a happy way to be. On that note, I am going to NOT feel guilty that I didn't play netball tonight as planned and instead baked biscuits (oops, my bad, had a bit of a gutting Thursday), I'm going to have a bath and catch up with my sofa solo. Yep, that's my perfect Thirsty Thursday.

Enjoy yours, even when the world isn't looking (which it's not).


14 June, 2013

'Time flies whether you are having fun or not' x

The past few weeks have been a lot more positive for me. After what felt like weeks of obstacles, difficulties, set-backs and heartaches, things have turned around a bit. Or my ability to manage it changed at least. I think we all have a point at which we just stop having the energy to care about things, we stop fighting so hard and ironically when we do the world sort of naturally gives us a break.

In the aftermath of the storm, it's been a very busy but very productive few weeks for me, I have been working hard, got back into the gym after a whole month off due to illness, ticked loads of appointments and errands of my list and just basically I have been kicking ass at getting my life into shape. The way I had been doing things stopped working for me and I couldn't understand why - so I took a step back and changed it. It hasn't been easy, I have wanted to crumble, cry and eat chocolate.

Instead I got up, I changed my exercise regime to get me strong again, I started giving my mind the same kind of attention I give my body (I recommend the Head Space app for anyone looking to get into meditation), I stuck at things I don't usually stick at, I forced my mind not to dwell, I focused and worked hard and achieved a few really small but important things. In just 2 weeks I feel all shiny and new again.

The only thing I haven't done a lot of lately is have a good old laugh with my girl friends. I have spent a lot of time working and not so much time living. When there is so much to be done, it isn't always easy to find the time to have some real life FUN, so I make sure to whack that to the top of my to-do list sometimes. Now I can safely say I have given myself a good shake-up, I have earnt a big laugh over a bigger glass of rose. This weekend I get to see the girls who make me laugh the most, who are nothing but joyful and who do nothing but chill me out and make me feel good about myself.  And I am excited.

Sometimes we need to be really good and suck up the rubbish and plod on through some totally bleak moments, but sometimes we just need to let our hair down, have a drink, laugh at Baby Monkey on a Pig for the millionth time, just remember that these moments are the reason we do all the hard work. It really is true that there is no point in striving if you don't get to have fun along the way.

Have a great weekend everyone - hopefully you deserve it.


13 June, 2013

Is anybody else quite happy but quite tired?

So things have been a little crazy lately, I am quickly learning that as soon as 'one thing' is sorted/out the way, 'another one' comes along to challenge us. I know this because I have achieved SO MUCH in the last few years and met so many milestones I at one point thought I never would.  But even with those milestones safely under my belt - a good salary, love, a convenient job, a happy home, a car -life is still turbulent.

The danger of 'i'll be happy when' is that at some stage you learn that even when 'when' happens, life  will still challenge you. That's why even the Beckhams get stressed (what more is there for those guys to achieve, seriously?!), that's why I still cry even though my world has never been brighter, and that's why someone with nothing can be happier than everyone with everything.

Life is life, whoever you are, whatever your circumstance, and it will bite you sometimes. It's what keeps things interesting and we all know how bored we would be if things were always the same, day in, day out. But sometimes, just sometimes, don't you think how lovely it would be to just be settled, ride along at a steady pace for a few months, maybe even a year. No big dramas, no big upheavals and no major life changes. Perhaps I would have the time to plan big adventures and spend lots and lots of time with my loved ones - time that I only dream of now, telling myself 'when this is sorted' or 'once that's over'.  I don't remember the last episode of time I had where something didn't change drastically, sapping huge chunks of my time and emotion. In the past few years I have had 3 job changes and 3 houses, had some big shifts in my social circle (good, healthy ones) and generally changed my whole attitude to my own life and how much responsibility I take for it. I am tired now. But you know what *yawns* I am really, really getting somewhere.

And more than that I am becoming more and more okay, as well as learning not to wish my life away to the bit beyond the next hurdle. While I am still prone to 'i'll be okay when' moments, actually all these big changes and upheavals that felt horrible at the time, have been nothing but good, cleansing, strengthening, even though I didn't want them at ALL. I also know that deep down I can say I am happy - when I first started this blog I probably couldn't have said that, not without lying anyway. I may not always be content, I think content implies an element of peace and I've not found total peace (has anyone?!) but that positivity that is born out of difficult changes - I hold onto that and use it for fuel when my personal admin list (which I thought I had cleared in 2012) suddenly gets drenched with a few major life obstacles. Sigh. Someone pass me another brew.


08 June, 2013

Stop making rules where we're trying to be free!

The other day on Twitter, I asked the question 'what do you do to feel free?' and I was given answers such as 'shopping alone', 'the gym', 'swimming', 'reading' - all solitary tasks that people undertake to have a bit of escapism and find a place where the rules and pressures of life don't exist. For me my free places are my running, my baking, my blogging and anything I undertake that is physical or creative and which no-one else has made me do.

In the society we live in, most of us have to live by certain rules. That is a given. Beyond the fact that if we didn't live by rules our society wouldn't tick over, I also think deep down we want those rules to exist. We crave freedom and to have free run of the world, but we also crave those rules that underpin our lives and we need those rules to feel able to cope. Many a philosopher has claimed that the concept of God and religion is a man-made security net, there to make us feel like we aren't totally up the creek without a paddle in this big, scary, dangerous world, and I think there is something in that. 

The rules myself and my peers naturally adhere to include common courtesy because no-one likes rudeness, law because no-one likes prison, rules of the workplace (we have to behave differently in the workplace in order to earn a dollar) and rules of humanity. There are ample written and unspoken rules around loyalty, honesty, kindness and how we conduct ourselves as human beings - a silently agreed set of boundaries of this kind aren't always in written in Black and White (although many a man, religion and leader has tried), instead they come from within and they dictate how we behave in life and relationships.

However, there are some areas of our lives where we don't want there to be rules. We don't want to have to be a certain way to or to feel under pressure to do what we already spend our whole lives doing - abiding by the laws of others. For most of us we live by rules in some areas of our lives, but choose and create other areas where those rules don't exist and we don't want others to tell us how we should conduct ourselves in those spaces either. We write, we run, we dance, we paint, we walk, we talk, we laugh, we drink, we do anything we can to escape the pressures of the world, to put down our rule book and to just enjoy our life. And for as long as those things we choose to do aren't breaking any other rules or hurting anyone, we should be free to do them, right?

Unfortunately, we are all to quick to use the word 'should', to criticise and to judge each other.  As a species we are so damn intolerant - social media in particular has highlighted this for me. My Twitter timeline is a constant stream of criticisms and complaints about the really minor, inoffensive behaviour and choices of others. I recently read a ridiculous article about running etiquette - that's right, apparently there are rules about how we should and shouldn't run. When I worked at a marketing agency (full of creative and free types) you could barely dress yourself without walking into work feeling judged for every choice you have made from the length of your skirt to the colour of your hair.

More recently, I have to stop myself from considering the reactions of others when making MY own choices about MY own life. There's a constant unspoken fear in society regarding what others will think if I change jobs again, if I drop out of the half-marathon and if I dare to tweet a photo of a cake. I have used personal examples, but we are all effected by that fear of 'what others will think' every day and that fear hasn't come from nowhere. I have taught myself to be strong, ignore the reactions of others and make the choices I would make if 'others' weren't in the equation, but we don't make it easy for each other guys!

When did our standards get so high? When did we all turn in to such intolerant old twits? Yes stand-up and fight for change in the world where it matters, but seriously, stop boo-ing because you don't like the way someone eats their Cadburys Creme Egg. Twitter in particular seems to have given people license to judge and it's a really ugly colour on all of us. If it isn't okay in real life, it isn't okay online. We seem to think social media is some kind of weapon and a shield to hide behind. It is not, you are still responsible for what you say to and about others on there and WE CAN SEE YOU.

If we want to run like Phoebe and sing while we do it for gods sake let us and focus on your own freedom before reigning ours in. If I want to blog about porridge who gives a toss? My blog is MY space. I created this for myself because I want a reason to write. No-one is forced to read it and it does not hurt anyone, I am careful of that. It isn't for you to make rules about how I 'should' write my own blog and if it isn't for you don't read it. The things you choose to do for yourself and the spaces you create to be free are yours and no-one else can put you under pressure in those spaces. The wisest man ever to have lived EVER once said that the biggest challenge in life is to be yourself in a world that's constantly trying to change you - overcome that challenge.

People, please! Stop criticising each other for being free and for trying to find spaces that allow us to be so. If you don't like something someone else does, that's not your fault, but how you react to it is. I don't want to be reading a blog post about how I shouldn't run or be told I shouldn't write in a certain way. I just want to live in a way that makes me happy and in the best way I know how. A wise beyond her years friend once said to me that the word ' should' was overused and that people put themselves under pressure to adhere to imagined 'shoulds' of our society. I didn't get it then, but I do get it now.

I will leave you with those inspirational images of freedom - be inspired by them.


02 June, 2013

'Tomorrow is a new day and you'll begin it serenely' - that and a good old spring clean!

There's something about the sunshine, the rush of energy we get from that big yellow ball in the sky and the way spring-summer-time leaves us feeling hopeful and new, that makes us want to dust away the cobwebs, finally clear out that cupboard and create a sparkly new space for ourselves to live in. 

Clear outs can be fun, but they can be hugely sentimental (still capable of sobbing over that note your primary school boyfriend passed you in assembly? get rid!) and sometimes halfway through things look worse than they did before you started and you wish you'd just left things as they were. But clear-outs are so much more than the words imply. They don't just leave your room IKEA catalogue ready, they are therapeutic, a detox of sorts, and I am a big fan of throwing stuff away when my mind feels full to the brim.

I have to keep a very clean and tidy space at all times. Even one pot on the worktop aggrevates my peace of mind and whenever I have gone through a difficult time, it is instantly shown in the piles of clothes and junk that build up around me. Some people are alright with junk, and I actually admire those who are able to get on with their life next to a stack of rubbish, but I'm not one of them. They say creative minds are rarely tidy and I think there is a lot in that. I need a clean and tidy haven because living in anything other than that causes me to lose balance, I don't sleep well and I feel unable to juggle the many plates life throws at me.

This past few weeks I have had a fairly busy and stressful time, and all I have wanted to do is find a bite of time to clear out my top drawer. That's right, of all life's challenges my messy top drawer was pissing me off the most and I knew it was holding me back. Not because I am OCD, but because I know that deep-cleansing my living space leaves me so much better able to cope with all the busyness and stress. So today, I put all other demands aside and took that time. What started with a bedside table tidy-up became a full on overhaul of my 'me space'. Summer dresses came out of storage, nail polishes got lined up in colour order and I SHREDDED paper . Is there any more satisfying feeling than shredding paper??? I only did a few hours of this today as I only recently moved house and threw away 27 bin liners of my past in the process, but even in the few hours I did today I feel so much more prepared for what lies ahead. There is space in my mind to take on whatever challenges are lined up for me and also I have a pretty display of pretty things to look at. Hurrah!

When we're all so busy, and there is always something much more pressing/fun to be doing than going through 27 years of tat, it is so easy to put off a much needed clear out. But when the spring clean bug gets you, you are a person on a mission. On goes the motivational music, out come the big black bin liners, off goes your phone and before you know it you have created a haven. It becomes you and that haven against the world. Letting go of the past with the simple act of obliterating old bank statements and finally saying adieu to the shoes you wore once in 1996 leaves you free of  baggage, somehow lighter and ready to welcome a positive tomorrow.


01 June, 2013

Challenging the world to change - do you speak out or shut-up?

To stand up and challenge is a scary concept. It implies effort, conflict and even the risk of failure - when you 'rise to the challenge' there's a chance you may be beaten by whatever it is you are facing. Unsurprisingly then, lots of people avoid challenges where possible for want of an easier, safer and just less heart-breaking life. That said, we all rise to all sorts of unavoidable challenges every day, life is one long conveyor belt of challenges and most of them we overcome without even realising. But what about the challenges that we choose? Some of us choose to challenge everything we see, refusing to accept that 'this is just how life is', while others avoid this at all costs, keeping their head down and getting on quietly, getting on with everyone and never being in the firing line.

I don't think there's a right or wrong attitude here and there are pros and cons to both personality types, but I do believe that if you don't challenge something or someone, nothing will ever change and humanity won't progress. If no-one had ever stood up for anything I wouldn't be working, we'd be watching people tortured for fun and my gay friends would be living a life of misery. I use extreme examples, but the point I make is while life is happier when you just get along quietly, what are you really giving back to the world if you can't stand up for what you believe in?

Being a passionate and outspoken person, I tend to speak up when I disagree with a situation or someones behaviour, or if something right in front of me goes against the things I believe in. I will speak out, I will put my neck on the line and I will more often than not end up wondering if it was worth my doing so. Long-term, the answer is always yes. If you don't challenge people, they won't change, and people are responsible for the situations we disapprove of. However, short-term it can be a real pain dealing with the backlash of whatever I have just spoken up for this time and I do sometimes question why I feel the need to make a stand. I have lost close friends, had problems at work and made my life incredibly uncomfortable at times by standing up not only for myself but for what I believe to be right and good, instead of following the crowd and sucking up to the people who are big, cool or powerful. Bleurgh! While I am glad I don't conform, it isn't easy being this way! Sometimes I wish I would just keep my head down like everyone else, because it hurts being in the firing line.

So why bother? I certainly ask myself that sometimes! Fighting is tiring and it's not a good look on anyone. Really though, I know why. I speak up because if I don't stand by morals, what's the point of having them? I will always speak out, partly because I'm not shy (ha!) but also because I have a very strong sense of justice and I feel a moral responsibility. It is about choosing your challenges though, and as I have grown up I have learnt that some things are best left alone. But when something really strikes my heart, really makes me feel strongly and effects me every day - then I will speak out and challenge that person or situation. Most of the time, it takes a while for my 'saying something' to have been worth while, it can take years before the situation will turn around or for me to be 'rewarded', but positive change has to start somewhere and with someone.

I don't for one second assume that everything I believe or feel is 'right'  - of course it isn't! I'm just a 27 year old girl with so much to learn still and I am only following my gut, but I have to stand up for what I believe in, how can I respect myself if I don't? I also have so much respect and love for the people who challenge me. My Mum has brought me up to be very self-aware, so I am almost the first person to look at what I could have done or could be doing differently, my best friends are those who have made me a better person by challenging me and one of the things I most love about my boyfriend is that while he stands by me through everything, he will also challenge me when I need it. By accepting these challenges and using them to look at myself and improve my own conduct, I become a better person.

Winston Churchill said: 'if you have enemies - good! It means you stood up for something in your life'. I don't like to think I have enemies, but there are definitely a few people out there who I have challenged and while it might be awkward if I pass them in the street, I don't regret it and hopefully they respect me for having strong morals, sticking by my values and not just 'accepting' the world to be a way that I just don't think is right.

If you are outspoken or seem to come across conflict every now and then, it doesn't mean you are a bad person, it just means you are willing to challenge the world and want it to be better, and in a way, that makes you better than the people who don't. While you may find you cross swords with a few people, you'll find you also have a hell of a lot more friends, because people respect people who respect themselves.