Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Sea Breezes, Salty Air and a Lightbulb Moment

Hello friends,

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... 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.

Julia x


  1. Wow....good on you....your Focus Meeting sounds just the ticket.....I think I need to have one of those.....although in truth, I kinda know where I want to go and what I want to's just circumstances don't allow me to go and do what I dream of......I think staying positive is the key.....and you certainly sound very positive now with your new life's purpose.....good luck on your new future.....Sassybelle -xx-

  2. I know just what you mean Julia. It takes ages to find your feet and I'm still getting there even though Isabella has been at school for nearly two years now. All very odd. Like the focus meeting idea. I do this at home but it's rubbish cos there are so many distractions. Will taken me off!! x

  3. A focus meeting by yourself. Love that idea! I might just give it a go soon.

  4. What a gret idea for a focus meeting - it sounded like it did the job!

    Looking forward to seeing your new work too!

    Helen x

  5. Had to read as I instantly recognised Aldeburgh - lucky me, it is on my doorstep!
    I well remember that feeling when my youngest started full time school - went into a bit of a decline but it passed. You just have to 'invent' a new life for yourself.

  6. Hey - I've been here!!! Love it there. Glad you had a nice vacation!

  7. Thank you so much for your kind comment.....I'll tell you a little secret.....I've been quietly enjoying your blog for a little while now.....admiring your beautiful art and stunning photography....but too shy to say hi....blogland is still a little strange to me but I'm really enjoying meeting new like-minded blog "friends".....happy blogging -xxx-

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  9. Beautiful thoughts
    Beautiful photos
    Beautiful you!
    I really enjoyed this post so much. Love the ruggedness of the weathered boats and of course it made me want to sketch and paint! Wishing you a wonderful day full of peace and inspiration. Kerrie

    22 February 2012 15:02

  10. Thanks for this inspirational post. I definintely need a focus meeting! Will do it soon.

  11. A lovely post Julia! Welcome back! I really like your idea of a focus meeting. I think I will schedule a focus meeting with myself as I have some important decisions I need to make. Since I have been a stay at home Mum (13 years) I have never gone out on my own for a coffee or a meal. I think I am going to set a date to go to a coffee bar with my note book away from the constant niggling and guilt of household chores to be done (and most often NOT done!) Thank you for the idea! I had planned to do the whole artists date thing in the past but that fell by the wayside! x

  12. Hi Julia,
    It is so beautiful and peaceful, but seemed very cold.... What is the temperature there??? Love your Red Shoes!!!! God Bless...

  13. Good for you! I'm so glad you are feeling better about things and know what you want to do!

    I think I need a focus meeting, but working 9-5 it's hard for me to get out of here and do one, and my weekends are always full!

    I guess I need to try and make time for one! Thank you for giving me the inspiration! And good luck! xxx

  14. I knew that was Aldeburgh - like Country Girl its on my doorstep and we visit lots.

    When my youngest started school, I felt lost for a while - I ended up working in the school for several years.

  15. That's exactly what I need!!! A focus meeting!!! You are sooo right!!! I wish you all the best in filling up the empty spaces and I can't wait for my focus meeting this weekend now!!!

  16. Bless you - love the idea of focusing yourself... I can't really add more to whats already been beautifuly said, but I do think we have to be able to nuture ourselves, as well as those we love around us.
    Life is a journey, & learning to adapt to the changes it gives us is a learning curve all the way...


  17. Maybe it's something we should all do ~ a focus meeting seems like just thing to get back on track with everything. Absolutely love those red shoes ~ any chance you could share where you got them from? Jackie :O)xx

  18. Lovely post Julia. Love your Focus meeting! FYI you go through lots of stages like this - so be warned. Its wierd because there are times when you realise that you had quite forgotten who you are/were. xxxx

  19. Artists do loads of soul searching, but as long as your heart remains in your art, it's OK! The free time will take some adjusting to, and there are school hols etc. But suddenly they're all grown up...where did that go??? Do the things you love and want to do when you get the chance.Hope you enjoy the journey.

  20. Gosh, I thought I was the only person that did focus meetings lie that!
    I take myself off to a cafe, get out my notebook and make lists. I try to pick a spot that I feel inspired in, sometimes taking along a mag or something with inspiring photos in it.

    Welcome to the new phase in your life Julia!


  21. I always feel that way at the beginning of the year, never more so than this year when my eldest daughter trotted off to full-time school for the first time. It takes me a while to settle down and work out which artistic goals and project would suit me best. I'm on my way now. Good luck with your new project; painting for yourself! xx

  22. Life is so much easier with red shoes! Glad your feeling a bit better.

  23. Good for you Julia, I love the sound of a focus meeting, I shall have one of them myself soon I hope (shuffling diary pages). Being a single mum is a VERY HARD JOB! You've ticked the got my child to school box, now it's time to rediscover yourself and relish in your little bit of daytime freedom!
    My four smalls are all large now, we're on the 'waiting for them to come home from the pub phase!' That's accompanied by the 'let's go out for a drink Mum' phase which is the most wonderful feeling!
    Enjoy your weekend ♥

  24. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing. I think Aldeburgh is a magical place - I love it there and every time I have been there when feeling flat I have been able to do some great thinking. It was to Aldeburgh I went when I needed to make some major life decisions and I found a clarity I did not know I had.

    I love the idea of focus meetings and will be putting them in my diary every so often.

    Thank you


  25. Love this post. I remember it well when my LL went off to school. I've got 2.5yrs until I get it again when Little b goes, but I'll be wiser this time around.
    Focus Meeting, wow i LOVE that idea. I'm going to attend one myself at the very next opportunity. And i shall also wear red shoes and stripy socks.
    Sending love, you sound so up and vibrant, yaaayyy!

  26. What a lovely place to visit, I've never been but always feel drawn towards the coast.It's nice to walk along the beach whatever the weather.Loving the red shoes/stripey socks combo.Thankyou for my print it arrived last weekend and it is gorgeous, I love it.Sue

  27. I feel so refreshed after reading this. It's so difficult to stay on track when we work for ourselves isn't it? I love the idea of your focus meeting and love your foot attire that accompanied you! Julia Cameron in The Artists Way speaks of 'Artists Dates'. I need to get mine back, it's been too long!
    Thanks Julia. :o)
    Jess xx

  28. I like that. "Focus meeting." A title can sometimes help clarify the purpose in an activity for me. I'm so glad to have stumbled upon your blog to read this entry. I remember taking a morning last fall to sit in a coffee shop to write for a few hours. It helped just being somewhere else, away from the distractions of home.


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