As Summer is winding down and August is almost over, I am taking the time to reflect on the changes I have made in my life this year so far. 2020 has brought me many joys, some old loves have been rediscovered and I have picked up some new hobbies that I think I will continue for the rest of my life. The coronavirus is something that has turned everyone's life upside down and we have all been doing our best to stay safe and sane. Here are some things that I have been doing recently that I wasn't doing before, and some things I was doing before that I have tweaked a little to fit "my new normal".
I have always been intimidated by gardening. There are so many avenues to take and so much to learn, not-to mention all of the jargon that you need to acquaint yourself with whenever you learn something new.
In April, I dove head first into gardening. I found a lot of peace outside with just the neighbourhood cats for company. I weeded, planted and potted everything I could get my hands on and eventually found a way to make gardening fit into my daily life.
I have always wanted a herb garden, but as I live in a rented property I was hesitant to plant things in the ground at first. I started by up-cycling some tubs from the kitchen and planted every herb plant I could find in them. I soon got over the fear of planting in the ground however and when it was time to move some veggies and flowers outdoors that I had been growing from seed, I did as my Aunty Emma told me to do, which was simply to - "dig and hole and put them in". This straight forward instruction actually eased a lot of my tensions about gardening, because most of the time, it is just as easy as that.
It has been wonderful to throw myself into the deep end and learn something completely new that hasn't just brought me joy, but hopefully the people who visit my garden, catch a glimpse of it over the fence or peek at it through the window can now enjoy the sight of beautiful flowers growing everywhere instead of piles of rubble and overgrown weeds.
May is my birthday month and a couple of days before my birthday, the lockdown eased a little making it possible for us to travel outside of our immediate area, so we drove to an empty beach and then to a lake and took in all of the beautiful sights that Spring had to offer.
I have always known how important it is to me for me to spend time alone but that has been very difficult during lockdown so it was wonderful to be in such a large open space and not see anyone else for a couple of hours.
Self isolation is how all introverts re-energise themselves, but not being able to do that in my home has taught me that I can also spend time alone outside, I can go for a walk, go shopping or to a museum whenever I like, and I can do all of these things by myself.
I want to make a promise to myself that I will take myself out once a month, somewhere that I have always wanted to go, whether that is a cafe or a gallery or a park. Most of the people in my immediate circle aren't necessarily interested in everything that I am interested in, so this is the perfect excuse for me to have some me time.
After my birthday I designed some cards as a thank you to everyone that got me a gift, and for the first time ever, I worked on this entire project outside.
I brought my desk into the garden and my little pot of pencils and sat for days, drawing away, chasing the shade around the garden. I have always forced myself to stay inside when the weather is beautiful outside, using the excuse that I was working, and honestly through fear of people thinking that I'm not. Not being able to travel this year has made me try to create that outdoor lifestyle experience that I love about other countries in my own home, so when the weather is good, what better way to do that than to work outdoors?
The importance of a routine has never been more clear to me, as is the importance of a healthy mind set. I have struggled a lot finding a new routine that fits my new situation. There has been so many changes that I didn't know where to start at first and I had to start afresh. Slowly building my routine back up from the ground has made the transition much easier for me and I am finally feeling my normal self again. August has brought a new very big change, and that is that my partner is now also working from home, which means we are now sharing a studio. Having someone else working in the room with me helps me structure my work day and gives me someone to compare myself to. We work in totally different industries but it's nice to have someone else with a schedule to keep mine in check.
I have always been an early riser, even as a teenager. I was always the annoying one waking up at 6 am and bugging my friends to get up and start the day. This hasn't changed at all in my adult life or during lockdown, we have been getting up between 5am and 7am everyday.
Since being a freelance artist, I have structured my working hours around when I could be alone, which was usually 4 - 6 days (and nights) a week, and as an introverted person this worked perfectly well for me at the time. I have learned and am still learning how to mould my job around my home life, whilst keeping a degree of separation between my personal life and my passion.
One thing that hasn't changed for me at all is that I don't use an alarm clock, I wake up naturally very early because I go to bed early. I also sleep with the curtains open so that if all else fails, the morning sun will wake me up.
A healthy morning routine is essential to the start of my day and if I somehow failed at my morning, I wouldn't feel like I could continue the day productively and would have to start again tomorrow.
Lockdown brought a lot of things screaming to the surface for a lot of people. Something that I always been aware of about myself but never realised how important it was, is how much I need peace and quiet. I have often been thrown off and lost concentration by my phone ringing or someone knocking at the door. It takes a lot for me to get into the zone so it's really important that once I'm there, that I'm able to maintain that concentration without interruptions.
When lockdown happened and everyone on the street (and pretty much the planet) had to be at home all at the same time, all of a sudden, a whole array of disruptions were all happening at once, all day long. At first I found myself just waiting for them to stop, for everything to quieten down and for everyone to go back to work. Then I realised that the world doesn't actually revolve around me and if the noise was bothering me, I had to do something about it.
I have been borrowing my partner's work headphones for a few months now, and having the ability to escape the sounds of my immediate surroundings and listen to relaxing music and audiobooks whilst I work has actually been life changing. As I am writing this blog post now, Antony is watching a video tutorial right behind me and the next door neighbours are drilling in the back garden directly outside my window, and all I can hear is the peaceful sounds of a relaxing music playlist I'm listening to on Youtube, it's heaven !
This year so far, up until writing this blog post, I have read over 80 books. I was always a reader as a child but as I got into my teenage years, reading just fell away from me. I am so happy to say that I have rediscovered something that really defined me as a child and now, continues to define me as a 31 year old woman. I have mostly been going between reading children's' fiction and what are probably most commonly described as "self help" books. I am currently working on a list of the best books I have read this year and how they have helped me which I will share with you soon.
I have re-read lots of books that I enjoyed as a little girl, catching up with my favourite authors and reading what they have published since I fell off the wagon. Reading children's fiction is really important to me, I feel like it is food for my imagination and creativity.
The "self help" section of my ever growing library is a genre I never saw myself getting into at all. I just so happened to stumble across one, which led to another and another. They are like little pocket fulls of wisdom. I am really enjoying the lessons I'm learning and trying to apply them to my life. Usually they are lessons that we already know, that we are told over and over again, but for one reason or another we ignore them, we ignore our instincts and doubt ourselves, and certain books I have read this year have been so eye opening. I have already shared my favourites with the people around me and seen the positive changes they can have first hand.
Last year, I made the amazing discovery of audiobooks, something else I never fancied before. I love the tactile feeling of reading and didn't want that taken away form me, but there was room for audiobooks too, I just didn't know it yet. Now, I tend listen to books that I wouldn't necessarily find cosy enough to read curled up on the sofa under a blanket with a cup of tea. Audiobooks are perfect for those times when your hands are occupied but your ears aren't. I have listened to so many whilst gardening, drawing and painting and it's just perfect. I'm sometimes getting through a whole book a day this way. It will be interesting to see at the end of the year how many books I have physically read compared to how many I have listened to.
Yoga is something that was recommended to me by a doctor to help deal with a repetitive strain injury from drawing and painting. I have dabbled with yoga on and off since then but never committed to it fully as part of my daily routine, even though I instantly fell in love with it, (again, I need to be alone when I do it which has been tricky this year). Recently I have practised every single morning, even if it is just for 20 minutes. I wait for Antony to hop in the shower, push the coffee table out of the way, pop on a video tutorial and I am instantly transported to my own little world for half a few minutes.
Being someone that sits down all day long and doesn't have much reason to go beyond my own front door most days, it is such a pleasant discovery for me what a difference some gentle movement for 25 - 45 minutes in the morning can make, not just for your aches and pains but for your mental health too. Starting the day like this puts me in a relaxed but focused mindset that I can take with me for the rest of the day.
I started journalling on March the 6th of this year which means I have unintentionally made a whole lockdown journal. Writing something down every day is very therapeutic, which I understand is news to absolutely nobody.
I searched for a long time to find the most beautiful journal I could and finally settled on a midnight blue Peter Pauper Journal with a celestial gold embellishment. As it was winter at the time, I was obsessed with laying in bed in the evenings and looking at the night sky, so this was perfect for me.
This is quite a personal thing to put out there and I do feel a little funny talking about it, but prayer has helped me a lot this year and I would recommend it to anyone, whether you are religious or not.
I was raised as a Catholic. I went to church every Sunday for a very long time, I went to Catholic schools and a Catholic nursery, I even tagged along with my Grandad on a Catholic pilgrimage to Lourdes when I was 6. When I pray now as a 31 year old, it isn't prayer in the traditional Catholic sense and I wouldn't really describe myself as a Catholic anymore but I definitely still pray in my own way and feel a connection to something else beyond what I can see with my bare, naked eye.
This year I have found great personal comfort in praying silently every night before I go to sleep and taking a moment whenever I remember to remind myself of the privileges I have in my life and be really consciously grateful for them.
There has been multiple things I have used prayer and other calming techniques to help me get through over the past few months. Even if you don't believe there is an old man in a gown with a halo on his head up there listening to you, I think it is a nice thing to practise in general, just to remind yourself of the good things about life and have the ability to release your worries on a regular basis.
Have you learned anything new over lockdown? Maybe you have picked up a new hobby like me or done some soul searching of your own? Let me know in the comments !