Today, I’m sharing a conversation with Alexandra Cameron, a photographer based here in the UK whose work I discovered in 2017 and instantly fell in love with. She shares beautiful images but also powerful captions that explore issues really central to the experience of feeling like a woman and being a woman. I was hooked.Read More
What will your five minutes be that save your sanity? What is it that will make you click back into the place you need when life has left you feeling a little lost? Sometimes that one picture might just be the click you need to make yourself hold on and do it all again.Read More
So the start of 2017 hasn't been as healing as many of us had hoped. Usually, the New Year means a tidal wave of 'New You' messages, diet adverts and 30 day challenges. This one has felt more like something we can't get a foothold on yet. It's felt hard to find the positive some days.
I'd planned an entire podcast season around the prompt word 'healing' and it felt timely. Guests were lined up that were political, insightful or just downright mindbogglingly inspiring. I had dates in my diary for releases. I was ready to champion the action we could take and offer up podcasts designed to keep us feeling we had community and heart and soul. Somehow though, I'm sat here in February and my diary doesn't have one deadline to do with A Playful Day written down.
While I was looking at the many New Year launches, I started to notice that the answer offered was always 'more'. Sat here on a Sunday night with Florence and the Machine for company I can't help but wonder, what if more is the problem? When did doing more become such a thing? What about less? Wouldn't less bring better life balance and happiness?
So, I decided. 2017 will be my online gap year.
Pretty snazzy huh? Florence is thrashing out lyrics asking "What are we going to do? We've opened the door and it's all coming though" and I'm smiling. Isn't that exactly how 2017 has felt so far with big news stories and scary politics and so many of us struggling to grow a business with rising cost of living?
So this online gap year feels like a pretty good fit about now. I'm going to be removing any planning or schedule for the foreseeable future. For a while now, I haven't been feeling like the online world is the fun playground I wanted it to be. There's things happening across the world that are weird and frightening and I want time to digest that and think about how I can subvert that message of hate and distrust. I don't want to be more noise in an already saturated space. I want to grow some roots and just live outside the bubble for a bit.
But let's keep in touch ok?
I have a few jobs that are making me so happy right now. If you're a fibre artist, you might like what I'm creating as the newly appointed Brand Manager at The Fibre Co. The team there make me feel good every time I check in for today's assignments and the yarn doesn't hurt either. Then there's creating features at Project Calm Magazine. I have workshops booked in and collections I'm shooting images for so there will be things and news but it's not going to be just about me, A Playful Day. If you'd like all this in a handy newsletter, I'm going to send those out to show you the world I'm hiding in. Come along. Gap years are about where we travel together right?
The podcast might come back, I might get back to blogging regularly and get The Taste. Who knows? I'm just saying I'm open to possibility and if you are too then do, please, reach out. It's always good to create inspiring things together and I have plenty of that booked in for 2017. There was a daring whisper of retreats and I'm seeing how that will fit in with these new roles I'm settling into with inspiring brands I've admired for a while.
So I'll be around, like that friend you bump into one day after a while and has lots of news. I'll be sharing what I'm up to on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (@aplayfulday across the board) and I'll let you know about new projects you can be a part of via the newsletter. Or I'll just be quiet and that's ok too because the thing is, to be successful, the answer isn't always try harder or do more. It's to think about why you feel the need to do that in the first place.
I'll be right back. You take care now xxx
In this podcast episode I'm thinking a little about selfcare and sharing some tips for better wellbeing.
Last year I hosted the flash hashtag #makegoodfeelgood on Instagram. My blog post invited the community to just pause and reflect as we rolled into the Christmas season. I started with a kind of call to arms: cyber hugs not sales. A day to pause, reflect and think about what our making means to us and our mental health.
I was highlighting the great work of Mind, a charity here in the UK that I have a huge amount of admiration for. Mind are a charity that provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Mind campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding and I have used their services many times in my professional and personal life.
This year they’ve launched a new campaign called Life Support which is about the places in our communities that make us feel a little bit brighter, especially those of us living with a mental health problem. If you go to http://somewhere.mind.org.uk/ you can load in your postcode to find online postcards people have filled in about places near you that others find comfort in. You can even add your own postcard to keep that database going strong.
All this got me thinking about a busy time of year coming towards us, fast! So I wanted to create a little moment to pause now, ahead of time and prepare for a little self care in it all.
- Reconnect with the magic- This may seem obvious but any social engagement can feel quite hard when it seems like an obligation or another date in the diary. Find the part that makes you feel good, find what others are enjoying and try to dig into those aspects so the negative ones feel less daunting.
- Take time out- This is possibly my hardest life lesson! When adding your work parties and trips to relatives to the diary, try to carve out time for just sitting in your pjs and watching rubbish TV. Spend an afternoon pottering in the kitchen. Run a bath. Whatever you need to do to feel like you’ve had some time, do it! If you have to, write it in the diary so you’re not tempted to fill in every moment of every week leading up to Christmas day.
- Let the light in- It’s dark in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year so remember to get outside and fill up on some daylight. Whenever I can, I run for the big light hills near my home and really drink it in. I try to switch to candles nearer to bed time too so I’m not overstimulated by too much screen time during the day, a particularly bad thing for my near constant sleep problems. Daylight, light from electronic devices and candles can really change our mood and I haven’t even mentioned the powerful force that is the pretty Christmas lights!
- Consider not attending- I know, here comes the Grinch but do you need to do it all? Investing energy in fewer activities and events that bring you a better satisfaction seems a much better trade off for our family.
- Budget- Not just budgeting time but also budgeting finances can really help alleviate the stress. Think about the hidden costs of the Holidays season: petrol, the odd pack of mince pies to share with friends. entry tickets, Christmas cards etc. They can add up fast. Allow for that now so you don't have a massive dose of stress when the credit card bill arrives.
- Start a tradition- As a family, traditions have become pretty important to me. About 6-10 days before Christmas Day, we run an alternative Advent where each day she receives a thing to do: make cookies for her preschool friends, donate some things to charity. I try to keep it easily achievable too- there’s nothing worse than being bound to a tradition you struggle to keep up with. Breakfast in bed the first day of the school holidays is a particular favourite of mine!
- Detox- I try to have a few days where I focus on some healthy for me habits. I take time off from my devices that are bombarding me with Christmas activity ideas. I switch from endless coffees thrown at my face to a few herbal teas and early nights. I do a few salad platters so I know I’ve not lived on Stollen alone for a fortnight.
- Make Something- This is so true for people who make lots of gifts but you can start to become a little obsessive about getting everything made and to the planned recipients. If you’re handmaking something for someone else, you’re probably imagining the joy and satisfaction it will bring. Remember to give that to yourself too!
- Invest in your community- This can be a tough one and I hold my hand up as someone with some complicated family challenges making this one seem a little hard this time of year. However, when I reach out to friends and family and spend time investing and connecting in my community, the change in my mood is noticeable.
Music is 'Before the Breakdown' by Horses Heaven via Noisetrade.
Podcast creation support by my producer, Chris Muldoon.
Do you have a Quiet Network?
This a network that exists in texts, quick smiles on a busy school run and 'likes' on those status updates that revealed more than we realised when we hit post. The Network is one that closes ranks when a comment strikes too close to the bone. It has a habit of checking in when you've not been able to say much for a little while now. This is a Network that helps you hold together pieces that you can't quite figure out how to piece together yet. It has a way of raising you up by saying "I know" with very little contact. It's just there when it matters.
If, like me, you have a pretty solitary kind of job and lifestyle, it can be easy to think that there's no one who knows what your week has meant to you. Sometimes, it can feel like you're very alone. Life moves fast for many of us and there just doesn't seem to be the time we need to really connect.
However, I can assure you that those small moments online can be the most nourishing of quick connections when life is too much to bear. For me, these are the reminders needed in order to reassure me that there is love and we all struggle to find the time that we'd ideally invest in one another if we could. Our busy lives often just don't afford that time and rather than resent it, I try to gather those little notifications on my phone around me like armour against some pretty tough moments in any given day. I know that when I've found myself quietly crumbling and feeling like I have more than I can bear, those clicks have sustained me enough to keep the forward momentum that I needed to move me past the dark.
I've grown tired of reading and hearing the constant denouncement of online life; how it is fake, cold or without depth. Without this Quiet Network that exists in my phone and devices, I know I would be a much sadder and less confident person. So many online connections have blossomed into friendships that have felt right for this stage of my life. By laying the foundations digitally, I felt like I could have the room that I needed to breathe, to be an individual and yet also the gentle feeling of being observed, acknowledged and enjoyed. It can be as simple as a friend clicking a like on a picture. I know they make the connection to what it meant for me to share that moment. I know they are letting me see that someone in that Network is rooting for me just as I am for them.
This post is dedicated to the women who knew, who saw and who always raised me up these past few years. The power of that love is enormous and I wish I had more photos of every single one to share today so they are celebrated right back. In our back to school, new season weeks, we've all tangled and untangled, no matter how fleeting and I am so grateful. I know there's others out there who are nourished by the warmth and joy you bring and I want to say openly and with sincere heart, I love how women use The Quiet Network to keep one another afloat.
Here's to women and The Quiet Network we create online. We do what we do. We love. xx
I don't really remember the point at which I started to lose my voice. It came on gradually, a sort of sinking sensation that built in momentum till I felt like I was dragging round a concrete block all the time. The effort of carrying this metaphorical breeze block took over my ability to communicate and for months I struggled to step away from this desperate need for silence. I didn't want to share pictures, words or thoughts. I put off meeting people or going online for anything more than a 30 second update drop and out.
In the face of too many deadlines, a double house move and evolving family dynamics, I'd crumpled and I simply didn't want to play anymore. Old feelings of inadequacy began to creep in and I felt numb about everything. I realise now that I had entirely burnt out and spent months wanting to be entirely swallowed whole by the deadening weight of it.
Somewhere in this void though someone said something that cut right through it all and spoke directly to me. Sat in an auditorium, comforted by the dark invisibility of being part of an audience, I sat up sharp.
"I realised that most of my fear was based on my own shame, not actually how others see me".
The speaker was Lisa Congdon and she was describing her path back from burn out. In doing so, she unwittingly begun to map out mine too. Lisa talked about the vulnerability that comes with sharing your creative life, about not feeling like enough and about how losing your own curiosity at the world begins to make your creativity shrink. It was at this point I nearly stood up and asked "Can you see me?" Yes, I wanted to speak and what's more, I wanted out of No Man's land.
Selfcare and I don't enjoy a particularly healthy a relationship. In fact I like to think of us as bickering siblings that enjoy gentle moments of harmony in between the mini battles and scuffles to be free of one another. Most of the time, I'm trying to be a half decent Mother (and Father) while juggling a freelance career. When I looked up from burn out I saw gaping holes in my personal and professional life. I saw my own health, both physical and mental, was in dire need of some tlc. I no longer wanted to bury every bad emotion I felt along with the good ones. I wanted to heal.
I started slow. Really slow. I finished up deadlines and didn't rush to replace them. I hung out with a few friends. I started cooking again. I bought some new cookbooks. Then I bought some more cookbooks. (If I'm honest, I'm a little out of control on the cookbook front). I made a list of life admin that can no longer be ignored and I felt ok about addressing it all at last. I let in things that scared me only once I'd stopped feeling scared. I even called my Mum.
So my plans for this Summer are now simple: make friends with my garden, do a little DIY. I plan to watch my daughter throw herself on a Bodyboard for an entire afternoon and not be making a single list in my head while she does it. I'm going to read a book. Maybe two. If I'm feeling extra crazy, I'll draft some articles I've been longing to pitch.
It means the podcast will be quiet for the whole of Summer while I focus on time with my daughter and myself. I'm sharing the season finale this week and I'm really excited about signing off and dreaming up the final details of the next bunch of episodes. Giving myself the space to dig in to those thoughts and ideas while off a publishing cycle feels pretty good now I've made the decision.
It's time to hold still.
Holding still doesn't have to mean lack of progress. I've come to realise that sometimes the greatest gift we can bestow on ourselves is time. I'm looking forward to giving us some.
With thanks to the supremely talented Laura Williams whose post, My Home, reassured me that this slow is a good healing slow. Thank you for your beautiful words Laura.
// End note:
If you've been feeling the kind of overwhelm or numbness that impact your ability to work or create, I would like to once again highlight Mind whose resources and support are vital to those of us battling every day demons xx
When you're tired out from moving house and feeling creatively low, driving 4 hours might not seem that appealing at first glance. This was me on Friday morning, breaking down the last of the cardboard boxes and journey planning for a getaway with friends. As I typed the postcode into Google, I let out a small groan and started to reconsider the icebox of local sausages, cheese and gin already stowed in my boot.
What if I told you though, that at the end of that long drive would be a long track......
.... that led you through an orchard where sheep left their wool on their favourite scratching post....
... and tucked into a meadow was the most beautiful cabin?
I've just returned from a magical time away with friends this weekend at The Damson Cabin, a beautiful cabin located in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. When a group of us wished for a weekend away to celebrate a birthday, we all agreed it needed to be inspiring, soothing and if at all possible, remote. The answer came courtesy of Canopy and Stars, a company who specialise in properties with a little more.... character.
What I love about Canopy and Stars is their commitment to helping travelers reconnect with nature and experience a holiday that's a little wilder than your average hotel stay. The choices of accommodation are pretty varied, meaning you can find a slice of adventure that suits you or your family's needs pretty easily. The cabin was typical of the sort of thing you might expect to find from a Canopy and Stars property, with a wood burning stove, fairylights to accompany evenings on the porch and eco features such as solar power.
We spent our time treating one another to delicious meals, using lanterns to light our suppers and blankets to warm our legs as we sipped morning coffees on the porch. When we fancied stretching our legs we found easy walks through woods, orchards and meadows that gave way to stunning views across the Worcestershire hills.
Ambling back through the farm on which the cabin is located, we stopped to make friends with some of the local characters and all sighed happily at the roses in full bloom, the textures and above all, the quiet.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away from the world and let in just a few brilliant, bright and warm women who make your heart sing. When I recall moments from this weekend I think of smiles, time to indulge our crafts and the endless supply of favourite bakes we shared, gladly. Gatherings in which every participant wishes for the greatest of happiness for their fellow travelers are extremely nourishing for the soul.
As are the oatmeal cookies and cream teas.
What's more, somewhere, in the midst of all this celebration of our friendship, creativity and the beautiful surroundings, I even found time to learn something new....
Sometimes you plan an adventure and with the best plans in the world, things go awry.
My carefully laid out podcast schedule took a tumble this week when one of the previously recorded interviews returned from my producer in a slightly sorry state. Sat amongst packing boxes and a half empty suitcase, I dithered. Did I throw everything to one side and start over? Did I have time to rework something I'd already recorded or did I start something from scratch?
In the end I came back to an idea that's pretty central to this space. A Playful Day is about having a playful spirit, creating something, having an adventure and giving yourself time to enjoy that. Right now, I'm in the middle of my own adventures. I am speaking at Blogtacular tomorrow in front of some of the world's best bloggers and I'm truly honoured to be there. I travel back to Dorset afterwards to continue packing my house up to move into our Forever Home by the sea. Broadband is going to get sketchy and yes, there's still a few deadlines tucked in there.
So I flipped on some music, packed my suitcase and put London firmly in my sights. The podcast will be making an appearance over the next few days but the schedule has gone a little awry. I'm a firm believer in waiting until the story is right.
So, I'll be back. With more adventures.
Just give me a few days to see these ones through ok?