Choosing your best life

I’ve been reading a lot lately, partly a decision made for me as we’ve completely gone off the grid since we moved but what ever the reason, picking up a book seemed like the best form of quiet entertainment.

You see, we didn’t count on being completely off the grid when we moved, more - let’s move further out into the countryside where the signal is poor and we can live a quieter, calmer life. (but with access to 4G, signal and on the following Wednesday - Wi-Fi) 6 days seemed enough ‘quiet’ time to get used to our surrounding and really settle ourselves in.

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Leaving time to dream

How do we continue to keep our minds alive and well if we never allow it some peace? 

I'm sure we are as guilty of it as you are - if I get a quick minute to myself before the school pickup, before a fringe trim, while i'm waiting for James, when Margot is safely tucked up in bed. I look through messages, checking if there's anywhere or anyone else that needs updating. Scrolling in a mindless way, quietening down a tiny bit of the busy day. Or so it feels. 

I've started to wonder if our minds really are relaxing in this way. If absorbing all this extra information is really doing us any good? Because if I really concentrate on what i'm doing, I realise I feel a little more agitated and unfulfilled whilst at the same time feeling disengaged with my actual life. 

Every now and again we'll realise what we are doing and consciously try to stop. We start tutting at strangers we don't know in cafe's, sat together, idly scrolling. 

What if we didn't do that for an hour, a day or a week? what do you think could happen if we used those minutes of mind filling to dream. To sit quietly and watch the world go by, to notice the person sat next to us, to imagine a different way of being. 

Maybe in that time, our minds would remember what it was like to be a little bit empty, bored even, now wouldn't that be a strange concept? I know we already say this to the kids!

If we had half an hour to allow our minds to wander, to seek peaceful spaces, perhaps something really wonderful could happen. 

We could feel calmer and more ready to enjoy the moment. We could see that the person sat next to us needs a bit of help. We could make changes in a bigger way than while our minds were constantly entertained. 

Wouldn't that be a thing? 

Could be worth a try. 


There is no OTHER way. A positive outlook on Mental health.

This week marked three years of our marriage. I could write here about all the joy these past three years have brought us, because they really have, but I feel like it’s important to talk about how we made it here. In times when outward success and only the best stuff is shown,  it also matters to be honest about our vulnerabilities too. Is it possible that we all have inner struggles and times of doubt and are still doing ok at life? yes,I really think so.

I’m not sure if you know already, or even care, it doesn’t really matter that much. Either way, both James and I live each day with mental health problems/issues/illnesses. Even writing the words makes me feel like a lesser person, almost like acknowledging it will make you think less of us. But please bear with me. 

Some days it lingers in the background, others it is a huge relief to have completely disappeared but there are also those days when it’s there, its presence is crippling and inescapable. 

Those days are painful, physically and mentally. For me I have thoughts that tell me I am no good and every one would be better without me. They are wild and rapid thoughts and feelings that take over my whole body. The thoughts fill me with a fire that feels impossible to dampen down and it eats me from the inside out. My arms and legs have those kind of dead bone aches and my stomach is full of fear and fire. Of course on a better day, I honestly believe that none of these thoughts are really true, but it takes a fair bit of strength to find a way out of them and get along with daily life.

For James, as he has explained, it can start as a fear and build and build to a feeling of loss of control, huge lack of self confidence, anxiety and stress. Decisions are tough to make and he wants to make a difference 'right now' with everything, but can’t work out what will work and ultimately feels a deep sense of failure. 

When we first met, anyone that knew us back then probably didn’t understand why we pushed to make our relationship work. With two children and their future to think about too, it was a huge weight on both our shoulders, we wanted to make sure it was right for them and for us. It was hard, we cried a lot, we almost didn’t make it and at times it was pretty heartbreaking. There was something that just kept drawing us back together, it was bigger than either of us and we just knew there was no OTHER way. 

One of the things that has always joined us hasn’t necessarily been our health, it’s been our deep appreciation of people. Who ever you are, what ever your struggles have been, or what ever has made you beam that day, we see it so clearly. 

An element of Mental health that isn’t always talked about is that it also brings with it a great and powerful understanding of life and all it’s intricacies. When you can work on getting yourself better and on a more positive track, it forces you to want to help others and share in their ups and downs. Which is where the photography and our blog came from, we can capture and talk about the most sensitive parts, the parts that sometimes hurt, the parts that show you made it through. Living with mental health is complex but can also be beautifully insightful. 

In our day to day we spend a lot of time balancing work, family life and friends but have to keep in the forefront some self care. Looking out for visual cues, mood and tone of voice in each other,  can be really helpful. When we notice that one of us is starting to feel the panic, or is behaving a little out of sorts, we try to find some extra time and strength to take care of each other and allow a little bit of head space to clear a way for a more positive path. 

Right now we are trying ways of eating better to feed our minds as well as our bodies and read up a lot on how we can heal ourselves. James more recently has got back on the road with his bike and is enjoying the time to ride, free of an weighty thoughts. I spend time in the garden, planting and watching things grow or find peace in a walk in the woods. Searching for what ever makes you happy is always time worth spending towards better mental health. If there's anything we've learnt most in the last three years it's that. Allow happiness to be in your life. It's ok. Besides, when you're faced with the depths of dispair, there's only one way to do this.  


River kids

When I look at these pictures it reminds me that we're doing ok, you know?

After school while the UK weather has been super kind to us, we've been taking a walk up to the nearest woods where a small stream flows by. Our usual route in the winter follows the old train tracks which have long since grown over and mostly turned into small piles of brick, but here and there you can just about see the platform and we like to imagine people stood waiting for their trains, taking them to their jobs or out of the village on a trip. 

In the spring we've watched the same paths lined with sparkling dew covered bluebells, and now we're going into summer, the kids feel kind of small walking by the towering ferns and cow parsley. I just love to see the changes. The seasons in the UK can make us all a little obsessed with the weather but I enjoy seeing how the landscape around us changes, depending on the amount of sunshine and rain we get. 

This walk is only around 5 minutes from home so it's usually not met with complaints, which is always good! Margot loves her wellies at the moment, she can put them on herself which I think may be why she loves them so much but that's fine with us. I stand by watching while she determinedly pulls them on. Her brothers are always her best inspiration, she wants to do everything they can. 

Being outside brings us more together, physically we hold hands for steadying or the kids catch a piggy back when they're tired. I like the contact, it makes us feel connected. 

I love to watch their independence and imagination which make these short trips out of the hum drum so very worthwhile.