Find A Happy Place

It’s something of a trite saying, but if this past week has taught me anything, it’s the importance of making space in my head for a happy place. A place I can retreat to that’s all mine, contains the things I love, makes me feel safe, happy and content.

I have gone some way to making a happy place in my own home. Working from home during the pandemic has meant my home office now has to cater for the day job, however I’ve made it a nice, comfortable space with an armchair, beanbag, TV, DVD player, and of course my collection of books. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s the coldest room in the house, I’d probably use it a lot more!

Today, I did a very simple thing with my space; I added a new set of shelves for all my writing and course materials. It wasn’t too expensive, simple to build, and once I’d arranged everything just so, my spirits felt immediately lifted. I absolutely love it. It also means I’ve managed to free up an entire shelf for my growing book collection; I’ve almost reached the point where I will need to buy yet another bookcase.

But what about a happy headspace?

This one is simple: a house overlooking a beautiful bay somewhere along the Devon coast, where my study has a gorgeous window seat with views to the ocean. Where I can sit and watch a storm rolling in from the horizon, and the undulating hills of the countryside stand out stark green against charcoal grey skies. Or bask in the warm sun, windows open, breathing in fresh sea air whilst reading or writing.

Living landlocked as I am, in a small 2-bed semi, I’m a way off achieving this sort of environment for real. But whilst it exists in my head, I can always imagine myself there, and make it one of my life’s goals. Studies have shown that people living near the coast are less likely to develop depression and anxiety, than their landlubber counterparts. (Source Live by the Sea) My other half, who spent some time living in Exeter loved living on the coast, and is determined that one day it will be our reality. I’m from the coast myself, but Southampton is an industrial port city, the best beaches still require a car journey of about half an hour.

Weird how I never really enjoyed going to the beach, but the idea of living near the ocean is such an appealing one.

I’m now halfway through my sick leave from work, and whilst the depression is still very much there, I have been a little less tearful. The anxiety is omnipresent, today has been a real day of butterflies in the tummy, and having to take lots of deep breaths to calm my racing heart, but I’ve kept myself busy. I have a number of self-help books (I’ve NEVER gone the self-help route) which I am reading to help me prepare for the hard work ahead, and I’m at the point now where I’m wanting and needing to make the changes necessary to become a happier, better adjusted person.

If you don’t have a happy place (real or imagined), and are struggling like I am, I recommend giving it a go. Do you have a nook in your home that can be transformed into a space that’s yours, and yours alone? Could your work space do with a bit of sprucing up, maybe add some personal touches? If you don’t have the space or resources, take a few moments to picture a happy place in your mind. Once you have it fixed, write it down, or draw/paint it (I’d draw mine if I could, but I’m terrible at art). Whenever you feel the need, go to your happy place, and take all the time you need.

I’m Not OK…

…and that’s ok.

On the last Saturday in January, I stood in the kitchen, and I broke down. I sobbed and sobbed. My boyfriend thought something terrible had happened, he tried to comfort me, asked me what was wrong, and everything poured out. All of it. All the emotions I’d spent the last few months keeping at bay finally broke through.

I’m sad, every single day.
I’m angry, all the time.
I’m ugly.
I’m worthless.
I wished I was dead.
How can someone be expected to live in so much pain.

For the record, I am not suicidal. Which I realise is a bit of an oxymoron, after I’d expressed a wish for death. It was more a case of thinking it would be better if I’d simply never existed at all. Is that worse? I don’t know. I do know that I couldn’t inflict that sort of harm on myself; and as someone who lost a relative to suicide, I’ve seen how it affects those left behind.

I’ve tried so hard not to let depression and anxiety get the better of me, but that weekend, it all became too much. I finally had to admit it, I am no longer able to manage this by myself, and I need help. I’ve been wandering alone, through a dark green forest, not knowing which direction to go, and a road has appeared to guide me. Having hit rock bottom, it’s time to take the road, step out of the forest, and head in a more positive direction.

I’ve done therapy before, I spent two years with a therapist back in 2006/7; and I found the experience to be very helpful. I gained a lot of insight into the causes of my depression, which was a real breakthrough. What I didn’t do, was continue the work once I’d finished my treatment, and being reluctant to go back onto Citalopram or Prozac meant I was simply setting myself up for another fall.

And then came anxiety, just to spice things up a little bit.

Remember the Sunday blues? That horrible feeling you’d get knowing school was the next day, or work was looming, and you hated your job, or you were worrying about a potential problem? Anxiety feels like that. The constant butterflies, heart palpitations (anxiety also lead me to have an ectopic heartbeat), breathlessness, sensitive skin, and a head stuffed full of noise.

People want to help, which is lovely, I always appreciate the gestures and offers to chat, but there is nothing anyone can do to help me. A trained professional will help guide me, provide me with exercises to work on between therapy sessions, but unless I use the tools provided, I won’t get better. And that’s another thing, these illnesses are with me for life. I accepted a long time ago that I will never be free of them, that they are part of me, and always will be. What I want is to reach a point where I can manage them better from day to day, so I don’t end up feeling overwhelmed again.

One thing that really pisses me off though? I have no idea of the sort of person I could have been had my life experiences been better. I feel robbed of any potential I had to make a success of my life. I lost the confidence to pursue my dreams at a young age, and that makes me really angry and resentful. Emotions, I realise that do nothing to serve me, but exacerbate the negative thoughts.

There are people in this world who don’t believe that mental illness is a real thing, that unless someone is manifesting physical symptoms, they can’t be ill. How blissful it must be, to live in such ignorance. Think of the mind as our internal software; like software it is vulnerable to attack, it can be corrupted and damaged beyond repair. There’s no bandage or ointment to protect it, it can’t be rebooted, parts of it can’t be replaced by donors, transfusions or grafting; treatment is a long, complicated process, and not always successful.

Over the years people have said to me, “you seem ok”, “but you’re always having a laugh” etc, etc. And that’s one of the common misconceptions about mental illness. I look ok, therefore I must be ok. But one thing depressed people are very good at is putting on that front to the outside world, it’s a defence mechanism, purely for self-preservation. Inside, we’re usually crumbling.

I’m currently signed off work for two weeks, I’ve got my referral through for the NHS Let’s Talk Well Being with an assessment appointment coming up. My doctor hasn’t put me on any medication for the moment, but it is a possibility. This is time for me to rest, gather myself, get out into the fresh air, exercise, eat well, and just focus on working towards getting well. I know it’s not going to be easy, the temptation to sit around and wallow in self-pity is strong so it’s time to dig deep, find some motivation and work to beat this thing.

If anyone reading this is also suffering, don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t feel you have to struggle through on your own, that no one will understand or care. That is not true, there are people who do care, and who want to help. From free services such as the Samaritans and NHS Mental Health services to private therapists who you can talk to in total confidence.

It’s ok to not feel ok. You are not alone.

NHS Every Mind Matters

Mind

The Samaritans

UK Council for Psychotherapy

Reflections

It’s been a funny old year. I don’t normally reflect on each year that passes, that’s never been my nature. Like many people, I suspect I’ll be looking back on 2020, not with fondness, but with incredulity.

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a clusterfuck of monumental proportions.

Politically, we are in turmoil, however I congratulate our cousins across the Pond for finally seeing sense in the November elections. In the UK, we’ve simply set ourselves up for another four years of abject jingoism disguised as getting our sovereignty back. (We never lost it). Add to that, the epic mishandling of a deadly virus that’s killing people in their thousands, because of *checks notes* “the economy” and you’ve got something resembling the sinking of the Titanic, with the musicians serenading the screaming passengers as the country sinks into oblivion.

Writing wise, it’s been tough. I’ve procrastinated with the best of them, dipped my toe in and out like a Channel swimmer in January, had a huge lightbulb moment a few months back; which resulted in eight chapters of a brand new story in a week, then nothing. My notebook stares back at me in disgust as it gathers dust, whilst I’ve got the entire story mapped out in my head, but pen hasn’t touched paper for a while.

Horizon Skies, which I finished in 2018, continues to suffer. I’ve done lots of editing, tried to tighten up parts of the plot, but it’s beginning to feel like it will never be 100% complete. My new aim now, is to use my Christmas week off to finish it, with a view to resubmitting to agents in January. If it fails again, well, I haven’t thought beyond that. I know self-publishing is a viable route, but even that is a minefield! I need to work on my story arc for Sanctuary Of Stone (standalone fantasy) and continue with Daughter of Tomorrow (working title). Ugh.

At least, Christmas has been lovely this year. I’m not a very festive person usually, however I was quite looking forward to it this year. Despite being in tier 3 lockdown, Pete and I enjoyed yummy food, LOTS of drinks, wonderful pressies, and had a bit of a laugh. Without the pressure of having to travel anywhere I felt like I was finally able to relax and not worry for a few days. My anxiety has been spiking a lot recently, my day job has had some very stressful moments, and self-care really is the order of the day.

On a final note, if you’re a regular visitor to my blog, thank you for your support, and for taking the time to show an interest. I will try to make more effort with it in 2021 as it’s always been a great place for me to exercise those writing muscles. If you’re a new visitor, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit, and that you will come again! Before you go however, please take a moment to provide some feedback.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year xxx

Battle Scars

This is a very personal post for me. It doesn’t relate to writing, or any creative endeavour, but rather the battle I have with my demons on a day to day basis.

The sadness and despair has been creeping up on me for a little while now. I usually describe depression as feeling like I’m standing on a beach, where the tide meets the sand, my back to the sea. There is a huge wave about to come down and engulf me. Most of the time, I keep the tsunami at bay, but it’s always there, waiting.

This week, the tsunami won. The sadness I feel all the time welled up inside me, and overflowed. The trigger was minor, (it always is); but it was enough for me to let the floodgates open. I just sat on the bed, sobbing. Lamenting the failure of my life, how I’ve not achieved anything of significance, how no one knows me, how I feel I’ve missed out on so many opportunities, how dreams have been crushed, how ugly I feel, how I just plod along, rootless; no sense of belonging anywhere or being part of something.

Obviously, it felt good to let it all out. Afterwards, I felt spent, exhausted. Boyfriend took me to the pub for a couple of hours, we came back, had dinner; but by 9.30, I had to go to bed. The mental and emotional toll depression takes on the body’s physicality is significant. The anxious butterflies in my stomach have been a constant reminder that something bigger was on its way.

I’m halfway through a week off, a week in which I should be focusing on my writing. Horizon Skies has suffered for my lack of motivation, and I have other works needing my attention. I’m full of good intentions, until that tsunami sweeps them all away; then I lose myself in gaming or reading, my only forms of escape. I become lazy, demotivated and uncaring.

I should exercise, it makes me feel good. I managed to lose half a stone this year, then hit a plateau, and haven’t lost any since. Just another hurdle to get over. I like how exercise makes me feel energised, it’s true that it does wonders for one’s state of mind. Those happiness hormones should be bottled.

Of course, I will fight back. I always do. I’m battle scarred and weary, but I am a fighter, and I always remember what a former therapist once told me of how I’m “psychologically strong”. I arm myself with this knowledge as I go to war.

It’s All A Bit Woolly.

Having been vegan for more than three years now, I consider myself, if not an expert, at least well informed on the subject.

What amazes me though, is how many vegans are still ok with wearing wool. I use wool as an example due to a recent post I made on Facebook that sparked a debate amongst some members of the group about wool.

Citing wool then, why is it not ok for humans to use this product?

1 – This goes against the very first rule of veganism as defined by The Vegan Society: Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose

2 – Sheep are being raised in ways to produce more wool, their coats end up causing them pain, their skin can get infected so they “need” shearing. This is a direct link to the farming industry, if sheep weren’t being raised this way, the “need” for shearing wouldn’t be there. And why do humans keep sheep? So we can eat their babies.

3 – To ensure a high turnover of wool, sheep are not treated gently, they are thrown about, manhandled, pinned down, cut and hurt throughout the shearing process. If a farmer can shear 10 sheep in 10 minutes , why would he take time being gentle with just one sheep for 10 minutes? (I don’t know how long the shearing process takes, I’m using these for illustrative purposes). This would impact directly on any profits to be made.

4 – Supply and demand. Keeping up the demand for wool for clothing perpetuates the supply chain. Sheep will continue to be farmed, their babies will continue to be taken from them, murdered at just a few months old for humans to eat.

5 – Alternatives. There are lots of great alternatives to wool out there, it’s wrong to assume that just because something is natural, it doesn’t have some kind of environmental impact. In fact, wool is pretty bad for the planet according to The Ecologist.

I guess it boils down to your reasons for going vegan. For me, it was always about the animals. I love animals more than people, they have more right to live on this Earth than we do. For one thing, animals don’t destroy their environment in the name of progress, and they don’t exploit and enslave others in horrific conditions for food or entertainment. Only humans commit those sorts of acts.

If you eat a vegan diet, but wear any animal byproduct such as wool, silk or leather, you cannot call yourself a vegan. This is not my opinion, but a simple fact. You are plant based because your clothing choice still links to the very industries veganism is against. Like vegetarianism, going plant based is a step in the right direction, but as I realised a few years ago, it’s not enough. If you are comfortable with your choices, good for you, some contribution is better than none at all.

I see a lot of new vegans cropping up, which is fantastic. Lots of questions being asked, and guidance sought. What strikes me about some (not all) new vegans is the lack of research undertaken into what veganism is about. There is a bit of a misconception that it is simply about the diet, when it is so much more than that. To be a true vegan is to adhere to the guidelines as set out by The Vegan Society. This is a lifestyle, and a commitment.

Of course, we all make mistakes, none of us are perfect and occasionally, you’ll fall off the wagon. I did. I bought Kellogg’s Cornflakes a while back, and completely forgot that the Vitamin D in the ingredients comes from sheep’s wool. The packet was already open when my boyfriend said “are you sure they’re vegan? I thought we’d stopped buying them?” That was a proper Homer d’oh! moment right there. Should I flagellate myself with a bunch of asparagus as penance? Of course not, it was a little blip, not done on purpose. I haven’t made the same mistake since though. One of the benefits of veganism is the opportunity for education.

I’ve used wool as an example in this post, just to maybe make you think about or question your current choices. There are so many more examples I could use. Are you a new vegan, still finding your way or are you more plant based, comfortable with your choices? If you’re looking for guidance, feel free to comment with any questions, I’ll be happy to reply to the best of my knowledge. 🌱

 

What Is Happiness?

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happiness”: “The state of being happy.”

Seems a bit of a lame definition. Let’s try happy instead:  “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Much better.

However, it’s possible for someone to express happiness when they feel anything but. Someone suffering crippling depression or anxiety can still laugh at a joke or sitcom whilst on the inside, they are crumbling.

I seem to exist in a perpetuate state of melancholy. No matter how much I can laugh at things, the deep rooted sadness within me is always there, ready to pop up and remind me that what I’m feeling isn’t true happiness. I’m simply able to express amusement at certain times.

I am definitely not happy though.

Sometimes, I feel geared up ready to go, and I spend productive time on my writing. Whether it’s editing and revising Horizon Skies or trying to get past the block with Sanctuary of Stone or exploring new ideas, those are the times I feel a modicum of something approaching joy. I’ve always retreated into a fantasy world to escape reality. It’s a defence mechanism, something I’ve been rather adept at since I was a child. My books have always been my sanctuary, through the stories told, I am transported to other worlds, other realities. If I didn’t have such a love for reading, I don’t know what sort of state my mental health would be in now.

I feel the weight of the world, heavy on my shoulders. Veganism has done so much for me, but I have to close myself off to the realities of WHY I became vegan in the first place. This doesn’t mean I stop fighting for animals, I never will. I just don’t need to be exposed to farm footage, lab footage or any kind of media depicting the abuse, torture and murder of any animal. ALL animals are innocent, and undeserving of cruelty. You may love your cat or dog, but how are they different to a cow or a pig?

I’ve had a great idea for a story, which I am now working on. I’m up to eight chapters already, and I’ve only been working on it for the past few weeks. This is unprecedented where I’m concerned! The genre has been done to death (post-apocalyptic, zombie invasion), but I’m hoping I’ll be able to lend a new voice to it. There’s no point having an idea in your head and not doing anything with it. 

Maybe this whole happiness concept is what holds me back sometimes. Maybe I don’t feel capable of finishing my work because I’m scared of the response I’ll get. When I first sent out to agents, I submitted without the weight of expectation, I knew it was highly unlikely I’d get picked up straight away, but I didn’t let it put me off. I received some lovely feedback which was definitely more than I could have hoped for. I’ve kept those e-mails as they’ll be the agents I approach on the second round.

Maybe I’m not deserving of happiness? Maybe I came into this existence to experience  the desire for it instead?

I don’t know. What I do know is that when I am melancholy, I know who I am. It’s like my natural state, and quite possibly, true happiness would be a strange experience.

 

Baby Steps

I’m not even going to blog about what a crap blogger I am. Not in terms of how good (or bad) my posts are as that’s for you, dear reader, to decide. I’ve always been sporadic with my blogging and I marvel at those who find things to blog about on a weekly basis. Clearly, I don’t find many things in life that inspiring to write about or, maybe the monotony of daily life kills inspiration?

I go to work, I come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed, read. Rinse and repeat, five days a week. Weekends have become about recharging, lounging about, watching movies, gaming (I love my PS4) drinking wine, cooking and other than going out for a food shop or the occasional drink in my local pub, I’ve become something of a hermit. This is dangerous territory. I’m a homebody, I love my home comforts. Other than my bed, the sofa is probably my second favourite place.

Obviously, I need to get out of this funk.

2019 was about being a little selfish. My mental health was suffering, work was awful in the first half of the year. I was so exhausted and numb that I barely did any writing, put AmDram on hold and put myself first.

This was all well and good but the lazy part of my nature took over. I stopped exercising, put on weight and towards the end of the year started feeling crap about myself again. For someone with anxiety and depression, this is not good. I ended up living in my rut, desperate to get out of it, not knowing how to and unable to motivate myself.

Christmas was great, no travelling to see family, it was just me, my boyfriend and my cat. Lots of food, lots of drink, nice pressies and for a good week or so I was totally relaxed.

Almost three weeks into the New Year and it was already looking like 2020 would pan out to be another 2019. Ugh.

For weeks, I’ve been telling myself to reopen Horizon Skies and go through the notes from the last beta read. For weeks, I’ve been putting it off. I really am one of the world’s best procrastinators.

Today however, I actually did it. As soul destroying as it is to work on something I technically finished in 2018, I am fully aware of how, NOT working on it means no one else will ever get to read it. Therefore,  that I am cheating myself out of the opportunity of getting it back out there to an agent.

A few niggling edits aside, it seems the story just needs a few more elements added to it to strengthen aspects that haven’t been elaborated on. I have given myself until the end of February to get them done which means setting a little time aside in the evening each day and doing the work. I won’t be getting it beta read again, it’s had five people read it now and I think that’s enough outside opinion 🙂

As for other aspects of my life. Work is better, my new role which I’ve now been doing for 7 months is VERY busy and challenging but for my mental health, has made a massive difference. I’ve been getting back on the exercise bike and making more of an effort to eat properly during the day instead of wasting money on expensive ready meals and shop bought sandwiches.

These are baby steps, I’ve never been on to rush headlong into something but I think I’m heading in the right direction. I’m keeping an eye on AmDram news and if something comes up this year that piques my interest, I hope I’ll be in the right frame of mind to take part.

I still read every day, that hasn’t changed. Books have always been my one constant in life and I still need that escapism.

Creativity Doldrums

Oh dear, four months since I last made a blog entry.

I changed jobs at the end of May which has been great, I’m really enjoying the new role but I am busier than ever. Life is flashing before my eyes.

I still had some crap to deal with from the previous role which is yet to be concluded so that has been a frustrating experience, to say the least.

Mental health has been a bit up and down. I was exercising for a little while but then lost the motivation to do it every day and my weight has started creeping back up again. I’ve become lazy and complacent which is hard to deal with, especially on those days when I feel the tidal wave of sadness looming behind me. I feel sad every day but try and occupy my thoughts with other things as best I can. I treated myself to my first tattoo in June and had my next one Saturday just gone.

So, of course, the writing suffered. Horizon Skies was left to gather dust as the editing process dragged on. I think it’s on it’s 5th or 6th draft now and if it hadn’t been for one of my lovely Twitter crowd asking about a beta reader for her own book, I don’t know if I’d have got someone to take another look at mine. I decided to stop where I’d got to and we did a beta swap. I am so glad I did because it’s taken away some of the stress I was feeling  and I’ve been able to turn my attention back to other WIPs that have been languishing in the dark.

I last picked up Sanctuary of Stone in March this year and whilst I’ve looked at it from time to time, I couldn’t work out the story arc. I’m very much a writer who lets the plot unfold as I write. The danger with that is my stories either wither and die or go off on a wild tangent.

The trouble with Sanctuary is that it started out as a story within a very contained environment with just one character. I soon realised, this wouldn’t be enough to sustain a story of novel length so introduced other characters as I worked out the story in my head. As the environment in which these characters occupy is a place they can’t/won’t/don’t leave it became apparent that I would have to conclude the story quite quickly, thus, reducing the length to that of a novella. I don’t want to do that though.

Yesterday, I picked up were I left off and added another 1,000 words to chapter 10 which has now clocked in at approx. 1,700 total. I’d like to add another 500 or so as I always try to aim for a minimum chapter length of 2,000.

Today, I printed off all completed chapters and I then had a light bulb moment, something I’ve not had in a long time. A story arc came to mind and I felt inspired once again. For someone who wants to be a professional writer, the last few months of floating in the creativity doldrums had me worried. Is Horizon Skies the only book I’ll ever write?

Hopefully not, I’ve got so many more stories I want to tell.

 

Be Who You Are

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of inspirational videos produced by Prince Ea. It was his video entitled 3 Seconds that introduced me to his philosophies and powerful messages. Through the mediums of imagery and poetry, his speeches are thought provoking and heartfelt. My mental health struggles make it difficult for me to fully connect with messages of empowerment or self-enlightenment, but their meaning isn’t totally lost on me. I’m a great believer in the Golden Rule, for example and think more people should live by it.

Six months into the year, my writing has suffered from my stress and anxiety levels spiking due to various issues at my work. Issues which are now being addressed but for the most part, I tried to manage by myself. The negative effect of all this would be that I would sit in front of Horizon Skies, skim through all the notes my editor had made and either work on the bare minimum or not at all. The result? Horizon Skies still needs work. The little, niggly updates are quick and easy to do but there are two major factors in my story that need an overhaul. Better world building and my magic system. Ugh.

My other book, Sanctuary of Stone, has also suffered. I quickly realised that the story wouldn’t hold up with just one character to carry it through. Not only would it get boring for the reader but with a word count target of around 80k, she’d run out of things to do! I have introduced other characters and an element of mystery so she now has more than one puzzle to solve and people around her who aren’t necessarily there to guide but to give some dimension to the story.

How does this relate to Prince Ea and the title of this post?

It doesn’t, not really.

Prince Ea’s 3 Seconds video had me sobbing my heart out. You can watch it here. I defy anyone not to be even a little bit moved by it.

His other videos on love, depression and other kinds of mental anguish ring so true and are so beautifully told that I now follow his posts because they’re the first content I’ve come across that I find truly uplifting. They have helped me reconcile my feelings of inadequacy as a writer. I feel more empowered ow to do the work on Horizon Skies that needs doing.

In terms of being who you are? This is actually quite simple.

There is so much trash on the internet, particularly on social media, that the good stuff is getting drowned out. People aspire to the likes of reality show contestants or “stars” without realising that the only talent these people have is one of self-promotion. Take the cameras away and what do they actually offer the world? Their crass displays of wealth, Instagram lifestyle, luxury holidays show a detachment from reality, but their fans don’t realise that these people really didn’t work their arses off to achieve that level of fame. From “leaked” sex-tapes to pimping themselves on TV or having affairs with ageing has-beens, this desperation for fame speaks more of their selfish needs and insecurity than it does about any discernible talent (always lacking!).

There are so many people in this world who do nothing but good. Whether it’s protesting climate change, campaigning for our environment, rescuing animals, volunteering in drought-stricken countries or helping those in need. These are the people who don’t get the recognition and accolades showered upon those whose only contribution to society is a constant stream of Instagram updates.

This is why it’s important to be who you are. What is your talent? What is your passion in life? Is it photography, writing, acting, singing, playing an instrument? Are you academically gifted? Do you want to stand up and fight for what’s right? Take on the corrupt politicians, climate change deniers, bigots and those who spew hate on a daily basis?

Or, do you want to bury your head in the sand and dream of a vacuous, selfish and unfulfilling existence?

I want to be a published writer. I want to see my book on the shelves. I’m not doing it for fame or money but because I enjoy it. To receive praise from someone after they’ve read my work is a wonderful feeling. To be told I’m a good writer means the world to me. I may not reach the echelons of writing like my literary heroes but I’m fine with that. I’d like to make a living out of it for sure, but I know in my heart, that I will always remain true to myself.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pop star (didn’t we all?) As I grew up, I wanted to be an actress and go to Hollywood. I have sung on a record and I have acted. Ok, so not on the sort of levels I had once dreamed of, but I did it and it’s better than sitting at home dreaming about it. I want to be a writer so I’m doing it. It’s hard work, more than I realised but, this is who I am. I don’t care about having an Instagram lifestyle, in fact, that particular platform is feeding people a fantasy very few can achieve. It’s dangerous. I used it for all of about two weeks but have now deleted it.

Fame and fortune are by-products of one of two things: hard work or luck. Admittedly, there are people who have worked hard to get where they are but don’t necessarily have the talent or squander it and there are those for whom luck was on their side and they’ve gone on to prove that they do have the talent so of course, there is a grey area.

But there are those, who you can distinguish from each camp. Which one do you want to be?

Don’t Knock It Til You’ve Tried It…..Going Vegan!

A friend of mine recently took the plunge and tried a vegan burger at a restaurant for burgers, pizzas, American style food and doesn’t have Thursday in its name…

I applaud anyone for trying new things, and am a big fan of the old adage as named in the title of this blog post.

Sadly, said burger experience did not work out to be the taste sensation she was hoping for and the poor thing ended up feeling unwell as a result.

I just want to say – don’t despair, one bad vegan burger isn’t the benchmark for all of them. There are lots of different brands out there so it’s worth trying a few if you are willing to introduce new things into your diet.

Christmas 2014 was the last time I ate meat, followed in 2017 by phasing out dairy. More than four years later, I’m a committed vegan and I absolutely love it.

I’m in my mid-40’s so I was a meat eater much longer than I wasn’t but there’s no way I’d ever go back to it. This is a lifetime commitment.

For anyone who says going vegetarian or vegan is hard my answer is – it’s really not. I found it really easy. It just takes a bit of time, trying new things, seeing what works, what doesn’t, what you like, don’t like etc.

I have my likes and dislikes with vegan food. I can’t stand lentils, pulses and beans for instance. Without them though, I’d miss important nutrients for my diet so I find ways of including them within recipes I cook. I always try new things; if I don’t like something, it’s down to personal taste. As it would be for anyone following any kind of diet.

For example, I love Spag Bol. It’s a warming hearty dish, easy to cook and tastes even better the next day. As a vegetarian, I swapped the beef for Quorn. Easy peasy. As a vegan, it’s been more challenging as there are lots of different brands and I’ve made this dish with:

No Bull

Vivera

Meatless Farm Co.

No Bull wins, nice and meaty, keeps its texture and consistency well and looks like meat. Meatless Farm Co came in bottom, the consistency was too soft.

For burgers, I love the Linda McCartney Pulled Pork burger, my boyfriend really doesn’t (more for me!) he likes the Beyond Meat Burger (as used in the aforementioned restaurant) but I don’t.

Personal taste.

I could go on as the same principals apply to dairy alternatives for milk and cheese. It’s trial and error. I can’t use nut milk for instance as my tummy really doesn’t like it and after going through soya, hemp, coconut and cashew milk, I settled on oat milk. Nice and mild but there are lots of different brands to choose from. I eventually settled on Oatly Barista, perfect for hot drinks and on cereals.

I haven’t perfected veganism, I’m still learning about it and there will always be new recipes or places to eat.

I do recommend Veganuary as an excellent resource for anyone wanting to try it.

Also, you can’t go wrong with a decent cookbook and to that end I recommend Bosh. The guys behind Bosh make going vegan a piece of cake (pun intended).

For Italian cooking, the fab Chloe Coscarelli has an awesome take on veganising popular meat dishes.

For adventurous chefs Wicked Healthy will challenge your perceptions.

Yes, I have all these cookbooks and I use them 😀

Don’t forget, you’re changing a mindset that has had decades of conditioning and propaganda thrown at it. Even if you only do this once a week, it’s a good thing.

Propaganda (and how we tackle it) example below….