my brain changers: april

'on changing the way i think'

what are my brain changers
come stay share your thoughts

'on how to craft a memorable story'

there’s a continual narrative at work in each of our lives that’s being shaped and honed by our choices. storytelling provides the lens through which we can see those choices more clearly. it gives us perspective and helps us make sense of our experiences. we write these stories down to expose the unexposed, to appreciate our choices, vent our frustrations, sort out our confusions, and untangle threads of our imagination
'how to craft a memorable story' by kacie mcgeary

in her post kacie talks about helpful techniques to craft an engaging story
ones that help to take hold of your audience

'on healing through photography'

lyubov slyusareva celebrates life in its most ordinary and vulnerable moments
imperfect and struggling
plain and beautiful

'on raising a human'

cool is an emotional straight jacket, by brene brown
i must remember these words when time comes for awkward teenage years
 
oprah's supersoul sundays really are 'emotional chasers' at any age

'on inspiration'

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humans who make room
for their passion
whatever that may be
abundant in enthusiasm
infectious
they draw they pull me in
despite the usual mortal imperfections
there is a wholesomeness to them
they nourish by osmosis
even if i only know them
at virtual arm’s length

inspired by recently discovered thoughts and writings of quietly uplifting mel wiggins

'on words underlined' 

  • it’s often personal stories that help us see the bigger picture: landscape and history suddenly come alive and ordinary objects take on a new meaning. our personal connection to a place can provide missing links and a new way to look at the world 'a thread in time'
  • you would be surprised at how hard it is to be open to new and different good things. being open to new things that are bad - disasters, say - is pretty easy...but new, good things are a challenge, by amy fussleman
  • i understand getting stuck. i understand wanting to make a change while circling around the same neural cage. i understand that sometimes, when you are at the stage of life when you have given yourself over to mothering and daughtering and you get to keep very little of yourself, it can be hard to live with open doors. yet in an effort to hoard solitude and keep people out, there is a risk that you all you end up doing is fencing yourself in 'the art of noticing the small and significant' by kyo maclear
  • i write because i don’t know what i think until i read what i say, by flannery o'connor

'on good things'

  • a rare sighting of the bottom of the laundry basket
  • daylight still after supper is cleared up
  • her 'can you believe it?' face every time she sees her bean stalk shoot up a little taller
  • a bag that fits my camera and lense
  • way such bag makes me feel a more 'legitimate' creative
  • finally finally finally manually adjusting iso on my nikon
  • daffodils, on kitchen table and all over the garden
  • her declaring our road a 'wedding street' for all the blossom
  • freshly printed smell of new issues, of not one but two, favourite magazines
  • making new memories just her and me
  • familiar pull of an unputdownable book

have a gentle week and thank you again for your company

 


 

 

 

 

'on journey'

train carriage rocking
we sit with our backs to front
trees buildings roads car parks
gardens horses paddocks
shed backwards
as we speed on ahead
you curled up
next to the window
wide eyed absorbed
in harry porter audio book
suddenly much older
than when we left the house
rain drizzles on
carriage gorges and disgorges
passengers at every stop
train carries on
adventure to be had

'on inhale of memories'

that homely smell
of scorching toast covered in butter
it always takes me back to boarding school
i am thirteen
a foreigner
an outsider
trying my hardest to fit in
it is the smell of every morning break time
milk butter toast
a chance to play a part
it is the smell of teenage hormones
the longing not to be so far apart
the distant making of the me i now am
it is the smell that both saddens me and comforts
invoking a transition from girlhood to teenagedom
from outsider to being part of group
from safe familiar family quarters
to building up resilience and evolve
one sniff of toast and butter
and in an instant
i am but thirteen years old
and what about you
any of the smells that take you with them?

my brain changers: march

'on changing the way i think'

what are my brain changers?  
come stay share your thoughts

'on patience and waiting'

have you ever thought of the difference between the two?
no, me neither
till siobhan watts's ponderful post
it made me stop. and sift through my own waiting from patience moments

'on inspiration' 

hylas magazine
so much visual and wordmongering goodness to make you feel things
i especially enjoy the interviews by lulu withheld
her questions always so poignant and insightful

'on wish'

to fully inhabit oneself
to get better at
and to teach them
how to

'on science of mindlessness and mindfulness'

provocatie · fascinating · unconventional · uneasy

ellen langer is a social psychologist. she has studied mindfulness for 35 years. her take on how to live mindfully does not involve meditation, contemplation or yoga. she defines mindfulness as 'a process of actively noticing new things'. this noticing 'puts you in the present, makes you sensitive to context'. this leads to engagement, which her research shows to be literally 'enlivening' 

the traditional medical model views the introduction of a pathogen as the only thing that’s going to affect the body as far as disease is concerned. until recently it was thought that psychology mattered very little. based on her research, ellen believes that instead of looking for the way the mind influences the body, we should treat them as one 

for her to be a human is 'to feel unique but to recognise that everybody else is also unique' 

it was an intriguing episode of one of my favouritest podcasts. it really stirred me. it stayed with me. not necessarily just for good reasons. i agreed with so much. yet a lot didn't sit well. i am still thinking about it

'on being creative'

'what nobody tells people who are beginners - and i really wish someone had told this to me...is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. but there is this gap. for the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. it’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not

but your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. and your taste is why your work disappoints you. a lot of people never get past this phase. they quit. most people i know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. we know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. we all go through this. and if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story

it is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. and i took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone i’ve ever met. it’s gonna take awhile. it’s normal to take awhile. you’ve just gotta fight your way through'
ira glass 

'on words underlined'

· its in me alone that my parents forever mingle, sweetly, sourly, along separate sugar-phosphate backbones - the recipe for my essential self 'nutshell' by ian mcewan
· my dreams wait for me. its like a game of statues. when i look, they won't move. when i turn my back, they swarm all over me. i dream, and when i come back i can't remember anything 'ice cream' by helen dunmore

'on good things'

· after a march downpour smell
· blush pink against grey
· new memories with old friends
· morning without plans turning into pyjama day
· bringing outside inside
· comforting smell of a second-hand book shop
· breakfast of coffee and hot cross buns

have a gentle week and thank you again for your company

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'on one day'

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a dainty blush of pink
against stormy grey
has lately been the palette
a transitory seasonal collage
soon to become
a pastel hazy memory again
wistfully i glance up
and make myself a promise
that one april day i shall
voyage to japan
to soak up every last one
sakura blossom

'on voice'

mostly all gone
but for a strained faint whisper
suddenly
a lot more careful about
what is worth the effort voicing
kids moving closer
to try and listen
i even smell leftover marmite
on his cheek from breakfast
aside from endless
hot lemon ginger honey totties
it confirms what i never practised
reducing your voice to a tiny whisper
is a whole lot more effective
than repeated parent yelling
remember to remind me of this
once i am back to healed
raised-vocals mama

creative companions: laura lereveur

who are creative companions?
come join us

'me on her'

she elevates the everyday into an art form
a form fragile exquisite personal etherial intricate timeless
it nourishes, enlivens and romances
she gathers and gives soul to imaginings
imaginings so elegant peculiar unique delicate sensitive
they captivate, delight and puzzle
much like alice in wonderland she has an enchantingly curious world of her own
and i am so truly glad to have 'virtually' stumbled upon it
and more so to have a chance to lure you in
make some tea and tumble in

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'on why she became an artist'

quite simply, i can't do anything else without being ill most of my adult life has been spent in education - i went from school to university for an undergraduate degree, had a little time away before going back for a postgraduate degree – but i've had some jobs. i worked in retail for a few years. i was so excited. it was a new department store in the city, and i thought it was going to be a postmodern au bonheurs des dames. except i hadn’t read it. at first, it was all i knew of the book – the independent, glittering, fast-paced marvel of newness and sophistication. i wore smart black clothes, flawless hosiery, and only stopped to touch up my lipstick. at some point reality set in – when i was more shop-girl-remembering-being-an-artist than artist-being-a-shop-girl-to-afford-art-things. i didn’t know that disillusioned page was in the book

my spare time was spent soaking toes in warm salt water, eating, taking off my makeup and repairing my nail enamel. the creativity they ‘encouraged’ was accompanied by rules in a luminous plastic bundle of files thicker than my immaculate hand was wide. i longed to tear birds out of expensive silk handkerchiefs and throw them over the escalators. instead i folded small butterflies from till roll and hid them when my superiors passed. i'd long prided myself on how i valued the small things; the poetry i found in small moments, the art of the overlooked. i still read carco on the train and listened to my cult of poets with guitars and bought discounted bukowski and cohen paperbacks in the bookshop i passed every day. i kept trying. i'd built an art practice based on the everyday and an academic critique in the quotidian and after all, this was the real mundane. this was the drudge that could scuff up poems if i was in a film or a rock song. but the butterflies made of thin, shiny paper looked pathetic in bins of gum wrappers and makeup stained tissues. there was nothing there. it wore me away

how honest can I be? it wasn't just wearing – i could have handled wearing, i think. would like to think so, anyway. it was suffocating me. i was already being treated for depression. i kept whiskey in my locker. i had a breakdown

i don't like this about myself – the intolerance. i'm envious to the point of infuriated thinking that there are people who can do work between set times and have full lives and healthy minds. it just makes me crazy. for a while i lectured - being in the art studio and talking about art was a hell of a lot better than being a shop girl, but i still had the restless need to go into the quiet corners and create. so there was only one thing to do

i've a terrible, hard-earned intransigence. i must decide what i do and with whom and plans or obligations are a cage. sometimes that doesn’t matter – i will grit my teeth and do what my few loved ones need. but when it involves my daily life...i'm desperate for freedom and the impulsive whim of soul. perhaps it’s because i was very responsible, very young. perhaps it’s because losing myself was the ultimate freedom (despite being horrific) and i can't entirely give up the unapologetic, reckless, nomadic thing in me that was allowed and liberated now that i've a healthy way to feel it. perhaps it began because i found life can change on a breath, so was ever keen to escape in any way i could. only, making a life that stops me feeling trapped means i now have no desire to leave it. none at all. i wander instead – in making my own decisions, in trusting my imagination, in creating my days and nights as surely as i create objects of art

there's a more practical side too. those restless years where my body bore my mind left me with an illness. it was almost as though my bones said, your mind is fixed, you're safe now. and finally collapsed. utterly unpredictable, it means i can't be depended upon or subject to the clocks of others. this way i have a purpose. some independence. i have work and value and passion and i can have it at three am or leave it alone for three days. i don't have to wear clothes and my hair can be wild and filthy. i can have freedom when in other ways, it's taken away

'on how creating makes her feel'

creating makes me feel immortal. people near me tease i’m a vampire. i have the trappings of the myth – a pale night dweller with antiquated ways. but i am evading my mortality. art has unanimously been an attempt to last, to exist beyond the life of the maker – from enigmatic, ochre absences of hands on cave walls to mocking glasses left on a bench by a visitor to a modern art show. whatever else it’s attempted – the stuff we get wonderfully tangled in, in books and thoughts and searching – they all have that in common. even work made to disappear; mark quinn’s blood self portrait comes to mind, or néle azevedo‘s sculptures of men who melt in the sunlight. like the hands and glasses, the vampiric instances are both the presence of absence. yes, i’m a vampire. i take my most base sustenance (in my case, soul?) to sustain my life and preserve this for as long as will be

of course, i will die. i read once, when everything was wrong: ‘i will make everything around me beautiful and that will be my life’. i have created that life and i have a voice i fought for without dreaming it could be found. if i can do my most to have created something beautiful by whatever time i sleep – an object, an act of love, a poem, an exchange, something – one day my ghost can have one less reason to want for time

'on her memories of creating' 

i chose this and i had no choice. which came first? do we learn to live something or is it built in? is it both? i think of art teachers in school, their lessons and guidance. and of how i loved art despite them. i spent lunch hours in the art rooms because they sat in one, wanting no company, and i sat in another, wanting my own. instead i learned from the photocopied black and white faces watching time from the walls. monet. picasso. van gogh (all men, but that never occurred to me: they were artists, and that bridged gaps of death and time, let alone gender). i take it for granted that creative people have always done what they’ve done, so i'll not bore you with the ‘since i could hold a pencil’ stories. instead i'll tell you tales of memorable occasions

first camera, age 5
we'd moved from mountains to coast and it was the hardest part of my young life. quiet and pale, fonder of reading than playing, making friends was never easy. it was fuji, black, quite big from my tiny hands, and i learned to wind the film from papa. click, thunk, wind wind wind became my soundtrack. and they developed bags of films spent feverishly on fascinating nothings. everything loomed. nothing focused. i adored that camera

sewing, age 6
emergency surgery on the kitchen table, on a bed made from a cracker box wrapped in a napkin. i was second surgeon to grandma. the future of fred bear's leg depended upon us

first formal paints, age 9
my uncle by affection not blood was an artist. (he exhibited at the tate, and once with chagall. but then he got ill and his life fell apart, so he went to japan. he immersed himself in the tao and life, and they endowed him as a roshi.) one day long after he’d come back and started painting again, i was wandering around his gallery's shop. he sold art supplies (and new age things for the tourists). i recall heavy rain and being cold. i was at a glass case where he kept the best supplies, including boxed watercolours; they were so delicious they made me physically hungry, almost like exotic sweets in their neat rectangles. then he was there, handing me an intricate web of coloured threads laced with feathers. he told me he'd made it for me, for my bad dreams, and told me about a mix of things – spirits called baku, people called obijwe, the sixties and things much older. i don't know how he knew about the bad dreams, but he did, and he opened the glass case to take out the prettiest palette of paints - the one with the most jewel-like sweets. it had a tiny
pewter paintbrush that came apart to be both a brush and case. with a pointed look in a weathered face he told me i had art in my soul; something not many had, my built-in dreamcatcher. that until i understood, i should hang the one he made above my bed. it took me many years to understand what he meant, but he was right

possessing art, age 19
i started to collect work from my colleagues and friends in art school. i gathered souvenirs from travels in prints and drawings, watercolours and sculptures. i soon had days around me, but they were tangible objects. i remember a conversation about bees at the potting wheel one evening; it’s now my fruit bowl. i remember one of those rare, truly peaceful moments when life aligns, and everything is just as it’s meant to be; it’s now a crooked model vespa in my bookcase

drawing, age 23
it was a leaf i rescued from the cigarette-strewn floor of the hospital courtyard. my hands shook for new medications and the loss of drink, so i held the pencil tighter and concentrated harder. there was too much happening to say my mind eased. nothing was easier, nothing got lighter, air didn’t rush to my lungs. but i felt. that was enough. i started doing creative things again. i was given day leave to go to an art shop with papa for supplies. there was something in me after that; in retrospect, i think of bukowski. ‘if you're losing your soul and you know it, then you've still got a soul left to lose’

being art, various ages
i was first drawn by my mama’s friend while i was sweeping the driveway. next by my art teacher. (she told me my face was wrong, by every rule.) then when i was older lots of instances came in rapid succession. i have been a muse and a subject. i have known writers and been in stories and poems. i have known sculptors and been clay, metal, and plaster. i have known musicians, to become melodies and lyrics. i have known painters and draughtsmen, all of whom were frustrated not to get me right. i have been a spoken poem and a blank space on a canvas because i wouldn’t undress. i have been a film and photographs. i have never been worthy of the fascination or the intent, but the litany is a document of beauty; it’s a blessing to be in this world driven by feeling and curiosity

'on her workspace'

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my workspace is our home. usually. sometimes it’s the homestead, sometimes it’s where we go on holiday. i have a set of four drawers with a handle that holds the things i use every day. in the bookcase i've pots of pins (dressmaker, steel, split, drawing), small tins of my favourite paints, an enamel jug of brushes, an ever-pungent brass tin of enamels, my needles in a pepper cellar (the needle felting ones hook efficiently in the lid) and invariably, scraps of sewing and half-made oddities set away from curious paws. in linen bags i keep glue, bells, bits of lace, hooks, screws, hinges, jewellery findings, all of which have found use in creatures. then hung around me are inspirations. places, times, feelings. there’s a print from florence i’ve made an object of on an old canvas stretcher, framed silhouette portraits of my cats, a watercolour from rome, a woodblock print i bought from a frozen-fingered artist on charles bridge. polaroids, scraps of textures and beautiful tones, my books. my sewing basket of fabrics and homemade spools of ribbons, strings and trimmings. i sit on a chaise between a radiator and a stove, next to a very large window and with a pile of cushions and blankets. before i moved in, he gave me a beautiful tray on a standing table so i had somewhere to make things when i stayed. even now that we've a home together and my things are spread everywhere (everywhere), i sit my tray on my knees every day. sometimes i take it to bed. this is my happy place. everything i need and want, i know from this corner.

'on how she lets herself know she is loved by her'

[i don't.] i make myself tea. i try to be kind when i realise i’m thinking mean things; how i'm not what i once was or how i’m wasting my youth. i try not to get angry with my body. that’s not always a success. i try to treat myself with compassion. i’m still learning that. the kindest thing i do for myself is to think. do i need to accept this? or do i need to resist this, and push myself? what do i need right now outside of the bullshit i tell myself is necessary? and then i make myself tea. i don’t often have the right answers to my questions, but trying to stand back from the moment i find myself in to ask them is important

'on three things that are part of her everyday'

things that are truly part of every single day, whatever kind: telephone, kettle, medication. they’re not things i’m inspired to represent. instead: three I’ve used today and use most days

  • my journal: i’ve always tried to keep a journal, and always failed. the only ones i managed were for assessments and they never felt entirely natural. i’d usually go back and rip out the first pages for being overworked, stilted, plain embarrassing. i came across this way of journaling a year or so ago. it’s perfect. this one was a timely gift, just as my last finished. it holds everything of my days – to do lists; my reading list; notes; an envelope for recipes; drawings, collages and clippings; photographs; research; quotes and song lyrics; notes he leaves on the door. it’s fluid and easy. i begin over my morning teacups, keep it open and ever scribbled in throughout the day, and at the end tidy up whatever remains. i look back each week. i collect what i most enjoyed at the end of the month. it keeps me thinking of the ways to be content, and the things that take contentment away
  • my drawers: of the wooden kind. they hold the things i use every day, organised to tools, fixings, implements and miscellaneous (which is usually clay). i try to sort them each month because things will inevitably have gathered, what with my magpie ways. there are some things that are more than functional. my pliers were my grandma’s. she used them in munitions during the war, and later, working in electricals. i use them most days in my work
     
  • my glasses: they’re old now. they were cheap to begin with, so now the screws are loose, the plastic peels, and there are many scratches on the lenses from pockets and curious claws. i’ve magnifying glasses for particularly fine work, or for when my eyes are bad and i try to defy them by doing something particularly detailed, and a magnifying monocle. but these are the usual, everyday things. i like to think of what they’ve seen. i like to pretend all the places they’ve been and wonders they’ve helped me see still live in their tortoiseshell plastic, somewhere. that when i put them on, i’m looking through all of it and nothing is lost, no longer to be seen

'on how hearing a song she listened to when she was thirteen makes her feel now'

a year to end
the era of sullen self-expression and reckless youth
only in retrospect
a leather and denim zeitgeist i missed the first time around
[how strange -]
i flicker in time like a seeking radio
sighing static
they said i was like an actress, you’ll know her
everyone does
my eyes
[‘with wild eyes that had seen freedom’]
it all had a romance that was more romantic for being a lie
but those days, I thought love was destruction
so it makes sense romance was deception
panic’s rush of blood –
dilation, not wide eyed beauty
bitter smelling, not the fragrant iris
when everything feels like the movies
yeah, you bleed just to know you're alive

it was the making of me
everything i know about creation comes from then
[i counted wrong. this is redundant]

find more of laura's enchanting imaginings and creatures here

once upon the happiness project

there once was a woman named gretchen
she had a loving husband, two healthy children, a house and a stimulating job
by all accounts, she ought to be 'happy' with her lot
yet one day she realised she is not
not that she is unhappy, but that she was not as happy as she could and ought to be given her everyday
so she sets about to find a way to remedy that
to cultivate a better than before enjoyment of everyday life over a period of one year
'the happiness project' is born

i first came across it via the wisdomous oprah  
i then got the book and am now half-way through it
it resonates a lot
it is my favourite combination of the everyday, old age wisdom and latest scientific research
it inspires daily habit changes with every chapter
but there is one particular personal commandment that gretchen adopts that has really stuck with me through the pages and since
it makes me recognise anew a particular thought pattern i have had for as long as i remember
it helps to keep the inner critic at bay more often than not since
it helps me notice and hone in on things that fill me up with that good feeling
it permits me to see my old new self in an accepting and nourishing way that is yet to feel comfortable
may be it will help you also

that personal commandment goes like this:
be gretchen [insert your name] (you can't be gretchen)

simple on the surface, yet also one of the great challenges nowadays
gretchen explains that the only way to build a happier everyday is to start from this foundation of your own nature, your own values, your own ways
and this includes letting go of the 'pretend you' you wish you could be if only you tried hard enough

i wish i could be a 'pretend me' often
i wish i liked coffee black (something so alluring when you don't dilute it with milk)
i wish i was pippi longstocking
i wish i liked celery and liquorice
i wish i had photographic memory
i wish my younger self read more
i wish i craved daily physical exercise
i wish i could speed read, recite poetry and imitate accents
i wish i could do a cart wheel
i wish i could cross-country ski out of my front door
i wish my hair would have a wave in it
i wish i could live off chocolate eclairs and mint magnums
i wish i'd stop wishing and accept 'real me' 

my 'pretend me' wish list goes on
and i always believed that if i could make myself be all those things i would be a better person than the 'real me'

gretchen realised that if she gave up the 'fantasy gretchen' idea and instead focused on nurturing the things that 'real gretchen' loves, her everyday happiness levels would by default go up
it suddenly clicked for me also
with every 'pretend me' wish i now try to let it pass before it chips away any more at the 'real me'
the 'real me' is much happier with this long overdue arrangement

does this resonate with you also?