Sunday Suggestions 20th November 2016

Sunday Suggestions: a round up of things to read, watch, listen to and do
Sunday Suggestions 20th November 2016 || raeritchie.com

In the three weeks that I’ve started putting these ‘Sunday Suggestions’ columns together, I’ve noticed that themes will naturally emerge.  Sometimes I’ll just happen to spot several items about one specific subject; others will feed into a topic that’s on my mind anyway.  Examples of both feature in this week’s list of things to read, watch, join and do.

First up are two harrowing accounts of rape.  I’ve wondered long and hard about whether to post these but despite the difficult subject matter, this is not something we can shy away from.  Rape and sexual assault are real and prevalent issues for all of us, and perhaps never more so than in the wake of comments made by the US President Elect.  I applaud and admire these two women for speaking out about their experiences:

Anna Lovind: Break the silence sisters, your story matters

The uncomfortable truth about my rape & why I’m coming forward now

On a similar but not quite the same note, I came late to seeing this article by Monica Lewinsky about being a Hallowe’en costume.  If you haven’t heard or read anything by Ms Lewinsky in recent years then I’d definitely encourage you to check out these links.  I’ve found it humbling to learn about how she dealt with the shame and vitriol directed towards her.  Twenty years on from the scandal that made her (in)famous, I also find it significant to remember that she was a 23 year old intern while Clinton was a far older and far more powerful figure.  As with the two links above, power dynamics have a considerable role to play in sexual relations whether seemingly consensual or not.

Monica Lewinsky: What it’s like to become a Hallowe’en costume

Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk: The price of shame

Speaking of power, I’ve also stumbled across two examples this week of attempts to challenge the gender status quo.  One of these is on an individual level, the other trying to initiate awareness through the medium of fashion and social media – the latter you can join in with on 25th November (next Friday) by wearing orange and sharing on your networks.

Refinery 29: Nine women on why they shaved their heads

UN Orange Label Project: Fashion says no to violence against women

And finally, for something completely different, I wanted to mention podcasts.  I am *really* late to the game with this!  It’s only in recent months that I’ve started to listen to all the amazing recorded material that is out but like so many others now I’m hooked.

I’m currently working my way through the back catalogue of Happier with Gretchen Rubin.  For some reason I can’t bring myself to just listen to the most recent – I want to hear them all – so Rubin’s tips and advice on how to live a happier life accompany me whilst I get ready every morning.

On holiday at the end of September, I binged another great series: Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert.  These gems are all interviews about creativity, inspired by Gilbert’s brilliant Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.  If you are even vaguely interested in the subject then listen to these!  I cannot recommend them highly enough.  Each one is so inspiring.

And if you are interested in creativity, its magic and how you can get more of it, then you might want to sign up to my newsletter.  Following requests from my readers, this monthly mailing will from this month onward contain a creativity tip for you to try out.  Because I’m so excited about this new feature, and have been researching lots of ideas, November’s issue will have a bumper round up of suggestions for you to try!  Sign up over here if you’d like to receive it.

 

 

 

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Vision Boards: Six Steps to Making One and Three Reasons Why You Should

The start of a new year (well, ish, now we’re seven days in!) felt like a good time to create a new vision board and with a couple of hours free, that’s just what I did!  Here’s the how and why you should create one too…

First the how…

1)     
Get some magazines or similar – anything that
you like that has images in it.  You don’t
need lots and lots of sources; too much can make it a bit overwhelming!  The board I’ve just made was sourced from two
monthly magazines and the promotional booklet that happened to be inside one of
them – and I still ended up not using everything I thought I would.

2)     
Find glue, scissors and a large sheet of paper
(or join several smaller sheets together; mine is eight A4 arranged two by four).  You may also want to have pens, stickers,
washi tape etc. but these aren’t essential.
Depending on your tolerance of mess, having a recycling bin for paper to
hand might be useful too!  

3)     
Go through your sources looking for anything
that appeals, words as well as pictures, and tear it out.  You don’t have to cut neatly at this stage;
your goal is simply to gather together items for your board.  Don’t rush but don’t deliberate about it too
much either; if I find myself debating whether to use something or not then I
tend not to cut it out.  Try to let your
instinct guide you to images and text that stand out, for whatever reason.  And remember that you can keep your board as
private as you like, so there’s no need to censor yourself with concerns about
what others might say or think.  As you
go along, you may see themes beginning to emerge.

4)     
Once you have as much material as you’d like, start
playing with arranging it on the paper.
I find it helpful to sort through images first, then add words on like a
second layer.  If you’ve already noticed patterns
in your selection then these may shape how you position things.  It may be that links jump out once you look
at the images and words a second time.
Then again, perhaps there aren’t any connections – and that is
absolutely fine too.  There is no right
and wrong!  As with picking the material,
let this be a heart-led process, not a mind-dominated one.  Be as open with the structure and look of
your board as you were with the content.
The results are for you, not an art exam.

5)     
When you are satisfied with the arrangement of
material, then trim and paste the items into position.  You can add extra adornments if you
wish.  

6)     
Stand back and take in what you have made.  There’s your vision board!

Now the why…

1)     
It’s a simple, fun creative activity.  If you’re in any doubt as to the value of
that in itself, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big
Magic
.

2)     
Whilst I can’t *guarantee* that you’ll get some
insight from the process, I’m pretty confident that you will.  It’s this insight that gives vision boards
their power.  I don’t believe that
sticking some pictures to paper somehow manifests your heart’s desire, but I do
believe that creating a board allows you to see more clearly what your heart’s
desire actually is.  Sometimes we can
feel uncertain about what lies ahead or like we’re trying to reconcile
competing demands – creating a vision board is like deciphering a cryptic
message from ourselves about which direction to move in.

3)     
It sparks positivity.  Thinking about the future can feel daunting
terrifying. A vision board provides a gentle reminder of the good things that
we hanker after.  Our brains are clever
machines that upon seeing our creation will start to whir away, dreaming and
scheming about how to make these images real for us.  And if we are very lucky, we see that we
already have whatever it is that we envision for ourselves 🙂 

I’d love to see your vision board if you feel motivated now to make one!  You can share your thoughts or an image of the board on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  There
is also email (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

Forget Bah Pumpkin! Hallowe’en is just a handy excuse for life’s good stuff

And this amazing witch confections aren’t even one of those three reasons!

This week I’d like to offer you three reasons to love
Hallowe’en.

There are lots of reasons to not like it, I know.  Commercialisation, for one.  The shops have been full of Hallowe’en
merchandise and special offers for weeks, making the day seem like some kind of
weird kind of mini-Christmas based upon its worst aspect (in the same way that
Britain seems to be adopting the Black Friday tradition without the joys of
Thanksgiving).  There are also concerns
around crime and safety when you have lots of people disguised in masks
approaching others’ homes.  In the UK, some
also object to Hallowe’en on the grounds that it is a regarded as a US cultural
import that seems to usurping some home-grown, more traditionally British
seasonal occasions.

Okay, so there are three reasons to not like Hallowe’en and
I’m not going to deny or try to counteract any of them directly.  I used to share this kind of Hallowe’en
equivalent of ‘Bah Humbug’; let’s call it a ‘Bah Pumpkin’ attitude.  But no more!
I’m now the kind of person who not only owns some special Hallowe’en
earrings but is *really* excited at the prospect of wearing them and wondering
how soon is too soon to get them out.
Why the change?  Well here are the
three inter-related reasons why I’ve had a change of heart:

 1)     
Creativity

As the popularity of Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest best-seller,
Big Magic, demonstrates, creativity
is inherent to the human condition.  It
is not something exclusive to writers or designers or other arty types.  We all have the capacity to be creative and
when we give licence to that, it can be a hugely joyful and life-affirming
experience.  

From fancy dress costumes to decorating our homes,
Hallowe’en gives us the perfect excuse to indulge a playful approach to making
and creating.  It is an opportunity for
entering into the creative process without the pressure of a big occasion or
the need to produce award winning results.
Childish and silly and a bit wonky are par for the course.  And unlike say Christmas, where there is a
lot of other stuff going on too, at Hallowe’en the costumes and decoration are
a focal point; you don’t need to cook an amazing meal or deliver perfectly
wrapped gifts too.  You are free to play.

2)     
Friendship

We are about to enter the holiday season, with a whole host
of other occasions soon lining up in November and December.  So why on earth do we add another event to
the mix?  Surely we’d all be better
staying in this Saturday, saving our money and our energy for the crazy
festivities ahead?

Bah pumpkin to that!
Besides, who do you spend Hallowe’en with compared to the other
occasions?  Times like Thanksgiving and
Christmas are often about seeing family, which is grand, but there are often
other important people in our lives as well.
Hallowe’en is not only a chance to see them but also to celebrate with
them in a way that everyday life doesn’t provide much scope for.  Who hosts a party for no reason?  No-one.
We might throw the odd birthday bash or a housewarming or new year
shindig, but probably not regularly.
Hallowe’en presents another opportunity, again one with less pressure
than the big red letter days, to have fun and celebrate with others.  One could choose to have a party on 15th
October or 10th November instead, one without skeletons and spiders
and spookiness.  But generally we
don’t.  Hallowe’en gives us a prompt, a
purpose, even if that is just a convenient excuse for something that would be
pretty awesome to do anyway: get together with people we love and have fun.

3)     
Community feel

Most of our holidays and celebrations are private affairs,
taking pace with a select group of family and friends.  As our societies have become more diverse and
more fragmented, many communal traditions, such as gathering in public spaces
for carol singing, have died off.  But we
haven’t lost the basic human need for community.  Hallowe’en again offers a great opportunity
in this respect.  As a secular event,
divorced from its religious origins, it lacks the boundaries of exclusion.  It also encourages engagement with other
people.  As well as the parties, the
other obvious example of this is trick-or-treating: when else do children get
to interact with neighbours in their community?
(Anything that supports connection across generations is good in my
book).  Even adding a bit of Hallowe’en
decoration goes some way towards the same effect; walking down my road earlier
this week, I noticed pumpkins on a few doorsteps and in doing so I felt
immediately more connected with those households – as if by placing these items
outside their entrances they were signalling their desire to participate in a
chance for community too.  Sometimes this
goes large scale.  A friend always takes
her children trick-or-treating down a nearby street because, in her words,
‘they all really go to town’ with Hallowe’en stuff.  In doing so, the residents are forging a
special moment for themselves, a break from ordinary time and ordinary life,
creating a community spirit that others want to be part, fulfilling our oft
thwarted human desire to connect with others around us.  

This year, I’ll be going with my friend: funny costume, her
and the children’s company, seeing this street where ‘they all really go to
town’ – what more could I want?  Why
would I refuse an excuse for creativity, friendship and community?

What do you think?
What aspect of Hallowe’en would you like to seize upon and
encourage?  Could you use some more
creativity, friendship and community?  

Is there anything else I could add to that list?  I’ve been wondering whether to include ‘fun’
as a separate item but figured it featured in the other three.  No doubt there are other things too, both
good and not so great.

Don’t forget to share your reflections on this week’s theme,
including any pictures or thoughts about your Hallowe’en, either via the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on Instagram and/or
Twitter.

Repurposing: the joy of the toy-box

This
morning, my mum sent me a photo message showing my poorly eight year old nephew
clutching a well-worn soft toy in the shape of a panda.  Pandan, my nephew used to call him, and for
years he was never far from his side.  I
was always extremely thrilled by how much Joe loved Pandan as I had bought the
toy for him (although it is perhaps more accurate to say that I collected
tokens from the packets of a well-known brand of toilet paper and sent them off
with £1.99 for postage and packaging).

Now Joe is
almost nine, I hadn’t seen Pandan around for a while.  It was so heart-warming to discover that he
continued treasured him and still drew comfort from his frankly manky and
slightly discoloured fur.  It’s funny
which toys find a place deep in our heart and which remain simply
playthings.  

I replied
to my mum’s message saying that maybe Joe will put Pandan in a future toy-box
too, a joking reference to the toy-box that I have recently created.  Over the last few weeks, I have been boring
friends and family talking about my new toy-box (okay, so talking and making them look at it).  

The toy-box
(pictured above) is one of my latest mini-obsessions.  I love it almost as much as I love some of
its contents.  I had thought about
putting something like it together shortly after moving into my new home in
mid-April, having realised that we live in possibly the most un-child friendly
space ever (think lots of potentially dangerous items at low levels and little
to distract curious small people with).
Whilst we don’t have kids of our own, I want visiting children to be at
home here and want their parents to feel relaxed rather than nervous or
worried.  

One Sunday
afternoon, I read an Apartment Therapy post that mentioned the same toy-box
idea and that was that: I seized the moment and tore round the place gathering
up any suitable items.  Some pencils,
plastic cups, a few children’s books that happened to be in unpacked
boxes.  I had a large basket just right
for the job.  I even remembered the two
hand-knitted rabbits, one of whom featured in my first day at school
photograph, suffocating in a plastic box under the bed.

In the
weeks since, more bits have been added.
I picked up a colouring book from a coffee morning.  My boyfriend put in his childhood chess set.  I’m keeping my eye out for suitable bits
(please someone somewhere get rid of some Lego!) but most of all I’m
encouraging my mum to get up the loft and find more of my actual toys out.  I’ve already begun bringing things from my
parents’ when I visit, including the first book I ever remember, yet I know
there is more still in the attic.  

Suddenly
all these possessions that I’ve never been sure what to do with have had a new
lease of life.  This sense of repurposing
has bought me genuine joy and contentment.
Lots of the standard advice on sentimental items or such like instructs
you to have a clearout, perhaps taking a photograph as a reminder of a
once-prized object.  But is that really
what we always want?  Whilst drowning in
reminders of the past can stop us from getting on with life in the present,
surely we can find ways to forge a new path where we give space to honour our
earlier treasures and let the happiness that they bought us then infuse our
worlds now.

That is
what I feel my new toy-box does.  It is
my own way through.  It isn’t getting rid
of everything, although there will be much from my childhood that I won’t
keep.  Nor is it shoving it all in some
place out of sight (under the bed, the loft, a spare bedroom – preferably in
someone else’s house), hoping to never have to deal with it but also never
getting any pleasure from it.  Seeing
another child being entertained by toys that you also happily played with is a
beautiful sight.

Of course
it doesn’t have to be a toy-box.  This sense
of repurposing can be applied to other possessions too.  What item in your home (or left elsewhere!)
is languishing?  What stuff aren’t you
sure what to do with?  Is it something
that you can breathe new life into in some form or another?

If you like
the idea of upcycling then Pinterest is full of amazing ideas to give you
inspiration; I’ve made a board with some of my favourite ideas.  Not that you have to be artistic or crafty;
if you love reading, can you simply spare some shelf space to your favourite
childhood books?  

It may be
that you decide repurposing actually does involve giving something a new home
or to a new owner.  I used to have a
gorgeous ragdoll that an older cousin made for me when I was born; when she had
a daughter, I passed the doll on to her.

Or do you
need to rethink in a broader way?  Is
there a different way of looking at the item(s)?  It may be that a mental shift is more useful
than a physical transformation.  Old toys
were literally just old toys until I recognised that they still held their
magic for a three year old today just as much as they had for me thirty years
ago.  

Share your
repurposing below or via Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook
page
.  If you are finding it difficult to
think differently about a possession and would like some help exploring options
then get in touch too – as a coach, offering a different perspective is part of
what I do!  Again there is social media
or you can email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  I’d love to hear your repurposing stories.

It’s Friday afternoon in a senior school.  I’m twelve years old and sitting next to Laura Mountford in the rear classroom of the technology block.  It isn’t a comfortable learning environment.  The stools are hard and the workbenches are solid so you can’t get your legs underneath, meaning any written work is done sitting at an awkward sideways angle.  Mr Claydon, the metalwork teacher who looks like Richard from Guess Who?, is in charge of the lesson but Mr Porter from I.T. is hanging round for most of it too.  We are about to embark upon a new project: making a box to store tapes or CDs. We get to choose!  (Note: this is mid-nineties.  Tapes or CDs is a big decision).  

We are all eager to start using the exciting and slightly dangerous machinery and equipment. Reigning us in, Mr Claydon tells us that first we have to plan our project.  The initial step is to brainstorm all of our options: not only how we are going to make the tape/CD box but what materials we could use and other considerations such as size.  He then proceeds to explain how we are to complete our brainstorm and we spend the rest of the afternoon following his instructions.  The topic goes in the centre with some kind of box round it. Surrounding it go sub-sections, each underlined and with an arrow connecting it to the middle.  Each sub-section is in turn surrounded by relevant points connected to it, and possibly to each other, by smaller arrows. I don’t remember what the finished result looked like, but I do recall showing my brainstorm to Mr Claydon and Mr Porter and feeling both proud and satisfied with my efforts.

My memories of that lesson have long been filed away in part of my brain labelled ‘Random stuff I learnt at school’.  I don’t know why I remember it so vividly except for the fact that I enjoyed the actual process.  I can’t say I was consciously aware of this at the time and it is only fairly recently that I noticed I still do a lot of brainstorming.  At the beginning of each month, I brainstorm what I’m doing and what I want to achieve personally and professionally over the coming four weeks. Whenever I have a big project, whether at work or at home, I like to begin by getting it all out on paper in a way that continues to closely resemble Mr Claydon’s instructions, except I don’t tend to bother with the arrows unless I want to particularly connect to disparate points.  Unbelievably ditching the lines still makes me feel like a rebel!

What I love about brainstorming is that it can work on different levels at the same time. Sometimes it is simply about getting stuff out of your head and onto paper without feeling that you have to do so in a linear fashion; the layout breaks the sense of hierarchy that a list can convey. There is also a strong element of flow, and with that creativity: from what seems like a muddled mish-mash can emerge fresh thoughts and ideas.  New connections become visible too, and you can use helpful arrows to put them together (I know I sound like a nerd, but I am.  Especially when it comes to this subject).  

I felt the magic of brainstorming in full force when I worked on my ideas for the 24 Days Before advent journey that I created last year. Before doing anything else, I explored how I wanted the programme to make participants feel.  As I transcribed words onto the page, what felt like a huge jumble in my mind transformed itself into a coherent and connected web of experiences, as the picture above hopefully conveys.

Right now, I’m benefiting from one of the other awesome aspects of brainstorming, which is the way it can help with really practical, action-orientated steps (the total opposite to what it did with 24 Days Before).  I’m off on a big trip next month involving a wedding, a holiday visiting different places and some time working in another city.  This requires a lot of planning and I didn’t even know where to begin with a list – but with a brainstorm, there was no beginning or end, just lots of sub-sections and related items.  Amongst the items circling the sub-sections, I could suddenly see all the small steps that I needed to take.  I can add and cross off in a much more fluid, organic way than a top-to-bottom list of things.  Best of all, it has stopped the preparation feeling so overwhelming: I have all the considerations mapped out, just as I did when I made my CD box back in 1994.

Have you ever tried brainstorming?  Like me, it may be something that you remember from school technology lessons but if that is your only experience then I’d say give it a go for an aspect of your life today. If you’ve never tried it, follow Mr Claydon’s advice above or just get some paper and see what feels right for you.

Whether you’re facing a decision with lots of options involved, a project where you want to think through lots of ideas or a task that feels too big to know where to begin, simply the act of doing a brainstorm can help you to unblock your mind and get going.  And let me know how you get on!  How did you find it?  Did the process bring up anything unexpected?  Has it enabled you to take steps forward? You can comment below or get in touch via Twitter or the Facebook page.  If you’d like to share a picture of your efforts then there’s Instagram too.

Spent the morning holed up in this beautiful space exploring the next steps for my coaching practice, A Life Of One’s Own (link in profile). Definitely got the inspiration flowing – so excited by the new ideas!

#coaching #lifecoach #lifecoaching #inspiration #creativity #window #georgian #georgianhouse #saturday #saturdaymorning #saturdaymornings #dreaming #scheming #play #sunshine #warmbreeze #summershere #gratitude #excited #excitement #flow #flowers #leathertrunks