It's been a while since I did a blog post but here I am again, finally! We've been enjoying the half term holiday which flew by and we made the most of it by pootling south to see my sister.
On Saturday, we went to Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Aldeburgh is a very pretty seaside town full of gorgeous old ice-cream coloured buildings that cluster along the edge of a very pebbly shore. There are little black wooden shacks that sell fish fresh in from the boats, and some of these boats sit in a tipsy fashion on the pebbles surrounded by nets and lobster pots.
There was a fine sea breeze blowing when we arrived and the sky was a bleached white filled with large scudding grey clouds and the odd shaft of pearly gold sunlight. Lone gulls circled above the fish huts and called out from high above. It is music to the soul to hear a gull cry after many months of being restless inland.
Whilst the Smalls amused themselves chucking big stones into the waves, I wandered off to ponder the old boats that had been left to the mercy of the elements. I like to get close and see all the different textures of the peeling paint, the colours, the layers, the rust and the erosion.
It was during my solitary wander that I got around to a bit of Thinking. Over the last few weeks, I've been feeling increasingly flat (one of the reasons I haven't blogged to tell you the truth). I couldn't work out why; I mean I was happy enough in general but it felt like something was missing and I felt as though I were drifting.
I spoke to a fellow artist friend about it and he told me that as a single Dad he'd had a similar experience - all those years looking after a Small quite intently without a minute to call your own and then suddenly they're away to school and BAM, there you are, you get a big chunk of your life back to do with what you will. In so many words he told me that this flat period was quite natural after the full on nature of being a full time parent non stop for four years, and he had a point. It was almost like my body and mind were telling me 'OK - stop - you can relax now' but I was (foolishly) ignoring it. Anyone with a child or children of their own will know how amazingly rewarding being a parent is but they will also know that it is a journey that shifts, changes and evolves all the time. It can be tiring, testing and unpredictable but you go non stop, 24/7, without question.
And it all made sense. I understood that I hadn't given myself the space to really unwind from that, and I saw that I needed time to re-adjust and to gently work out what to do next. I looked back over the last few weeks and realised how BUSY I had kept myself, but despite that busyness hadn't really ACHIEVED much. I had become exceptional at creating BUSYNESS, and I had become the worlds best procrastinator.
I was running away from all the empty space that my daughter had left behind, and I was terrified of facing my life head on again and reclaiming that time as my own.
It was time to stop procrastinating and get my joy back. As I listened to the seagulls calling in that February sky I decided it was time to create purpose and direction in my life again.
So when we came home and Small went back to school, I took myself off into town for a Focus Meeting. That sounds really important and business like but to tell you the truth my solo Focus Meetings rock; they take place in bookstore coffee shops, involve big mugs of coffee, lunch in delicious veggie cafes and visits to local galleries. I took a sketchbook, fineliners and a pencil and wrote stuff down. I asked myself questions and I wrote everything down. I came to the conclusion that I would be happiest right now creating a new portfolio of work for my agent. I would fill my days with stuff that filled me up but I wouldn't overwhelm myself in the process; my days would have structure and meaning and I'd achieve stuff without running myself into the ground.
I can really recommend a Focus Meeting to anyone who feels a bit stuck in life, just make sure you wear something cheerful to remind you to keep it fun; it will also help the inspiration to flow if you're feeling marvellous. Find a nice cafe to sit in, treat yourself and take yourself to places that will delight and inspire you.
Red shoes for me are pretty much essential on a Focus Meeting day...
...as is staring happily at ocean coloured waterfalls.
For the first time in a while, I have a purpose of my own. It feels kind of nice, like putting on a comfy pair of shoes. I feel like I'm doing what I ought to be doing, and I feel optimistic and vibrant, excited about the future. I still love my role as Mum and unmarried housewife ;) but I'm now, at last, enjoying doing stuff for me too.