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And somehow, I'm suddenly the mother of a one year old… if you love change, if you think you can handle transformation, have a baby. It's like the accelerator hits the floor and everything changes all at once, all the time, everyday. Thank you Tristan for challenging us to keep growing, inspiring us to be better, making me laugh and love more than I knew was possible #happybirthday #oneyearold #balloons #letthembelittle #postpartum #toddler #thosecheekstho #motherhood #transformation #personalgrowth
Well, I can’t quite believe it, but yesterday we celebrated my son’s first birthday. Words can’t really capture the intensity of this journey/rollercoaster/whatever cliche fits…it’s been simultaneously magical and terrifying, and I wouldn’t’ change a thing 🙂
We have learnt so much, lost so much sleep, laughed a huge amount and it just feels like the biggest privilege to watch a human grow.
We enter the world so helpless compared to other animals (like those foals that are up and about so quickly after birth) but my goodness, those giant human baby heads are filled with brains that just have the most incredible potential for growth and change. It amazes me to think that my tiny son, who is on the cusp of getting the hang of speech and walking, will one day be able to drive a car…and it amazes me that this is how we all started. It’s also made me realise how much we take for granted the things that many of us can do – things like eating, drinking, movement, speech – these are all really complicated, they take ages to learn and it’s really not surprising that they can go wrong and any of us could lose those abilities. I’ve become so much more conscious of what it means to be human, and how adaptable, clever and vulnerable we are…
Tristan was born on a New Moon, 17 days after his due date. It’s another cliche to say that my partner and I were reborn at the same time, but it’s absolutely true.
I am still working on some illustrations inspired by the things I’ve found about birth and breastfeeding along the way, but in the meantime I wanted to share this gorgeous comic by Molly McIntyre which beautifully captures some of the issues breastfeeding – do go check it out on the Everyday Feminism site.
After my last post, I thought I would upload the rest of the fairies I’ve been sharing on social media so that they have a more permanent home over here.
They’re all qualities and things I have been thinking about bringing into my life the beginning of 2017, when things in the wider world have been feeling a bit less than magical…
⭐️The Adventure Fairy⭐️
Pack your bag. Just a small one. Travelling light is the best way to go. Follow your heart and open your eyes to all the magical sights the world has to show you. This fairy calls you to take a new path, both close to home by being a tourist in your familiar haunts and by wondering far and wide. Get a little dusty. Try something new. Engage your senses and reinvigorate yourself….
⭐️The Solace in Grief Fairy⭐️
When you are heartbroken, numb, grieving. When you are in shock. This small and gentle fairy brings comfort through moments of sleep, the kindness of others, the beauty of nature. She cannot interfere with the process of grief, but she can soften and ease, inspire you to ask for help and bring people to your door unbidden. Her heart hurts with yours. You are never alone. She holds the knowledge that you can survive with your scars, even when you forget. She holds the magic of the life-death-life cycle and asks you to remember that there nothing ends; but everything changes…
⭐️The Hard Work Fairy⭐️
Sometimes you need a bit of grrrrr. Sometimes you just need to graft. Get stuff done. This amiable fairy thrives on sleeves-rolled-up vibes. He’s at your side whenever you slog or sweat, doing it cheerfully with a glint in his eye for he loves to earn his rest. He loves to get muddy so he can get clean. Sweaty so he can sip a cold cider that’s all the sweeter. He brings strength and resolve when you have to dig deep…
⭐️The Sleep Fairy⭐️
Oh how I miss this fairy. She can be elusive, especially for parents of young people. She can also fly away in times of stress or upheaval. But. She *can* be tempted back. She loves ritual, hates caffeine. She likes meditation and mindfulness, and of course exercise. She asks if you have checked your sleep hygiene before you wonder where she has gone… She wants your brain and heart to be quiet so that she can make her home there. And if you are a parent… she hopes to see you again soon, in the moments you can steal to let her in…and on that note, I must go to bed…
⭐️The Warm Water Fairy⭐️
Hot water is magic, you know that right? This mini mermaid haunts natural sources like hot springs but she can be found anywhere there’s a hot tap. She has lazed in Roman baths and Icelandic lagoons. She is drawn to the power of warm water to cleanse, restore, heal and invigorate. Those of us lucky enough to have boilers, showers, sinks and bathtubs experience her magic regularly. She also loves human ingenuity-solar showers, old fashioned fire and steam, any creative solution to summon her magic. Guardian of copper pipes and thermostats. Make sure your plumber treats her with respect…
⭐️Small Celebration Fairies⭐️
Sometimes you need a fanfare to accompany something that may seem little to others but is in fact a huge thing. It could be getting out of bed today, having a shower, achieving something despite a phobia or anxiety making your heart race. Sometimes the seemingly easy, everyday things are hard, hard work. These small but powerful fairies get it. They see your awesomeness. They squeak with joy, throw confetti, shake pom-poms and blow trumpets. They give tiny high fives. Go you. You rock.
⭐️The Naive Optimism Fairy⭐️
This little guy has been hovering around my sketchbook for a few days before I realised who he was. He’s actually been pretty much a lifelong companion of mine… the voice that says: try it, it will be ok, why not do something new? And I’ve had all sorts of adventures with him at my side and his voice in my ear. Life would be tidier, less chaotic, and a whole lot more boring without this little fairy. I promise to keep listening.
⭐️The Witness Fairy⭐️
This super cool character has a number of names from different spiritual and psychological practises that aim to entice him in. He is very helpful to call on when The Mirror Fairy is playing tricks on you. He helps you to take that all important step back, to see and notice your thoughts and feeling as they arrive and ideally before you act on them. Friendly and helpful, he can be evasive, but so worth courting and looking for again. He calls on you to put on your own fairy wings and be your own witness fairy.
⭐️The Impermanence Fairy⭐️
Oh this fairy can seem cruel sometimes. And then kind at others. Really tho, she is neither…she just *is*. 🌸Queen of ‘this too shall pass.’ Cherry blossom goddess. She is the beauty in both birth and decay. The wondrous newness of spring and the rich beautiful mutability of autumn. If we can bear to listen, her message is that everything changes, but nothing ends. It’s just change. Don’t hold on too tightly, but love the things in your world while you have them.
⭐️The Get Up & Do It Fairy⭐️
Sometimes you just need someone to poke you with a stick and tell you to pull your socks up. And he has spectacular long luxurious socks. Lover of To Do Lists and Important Jobs. He knows when you are procrastinating. Strangely enough, he is good friends with the Sleep Fairy, for although he is often the one to rouse you to get to work in the morning, he can also help you do The One Important Thing that is playing on your mind so that, afterwards, you can sleep. He may seem a little cruel at times, but this spiky fairy has your best interests at heart…
⭐️The Sleep Deprivation Fairy⭐️
Unlike the other fairies, this sketchy being isn’t one you really invite into your life (although sometimes she turns up as part of the fun after an amazing party or night of dancing)…she more just kind of…appears. Bleary eyed she blinks from her owl mug. And she doesn’t really do much, other than keep you company when the sleep fairy has abandoned you. She might be at your side on a long dark night of soul searching, or sit with you in a too early morning and recommend more tea/coffee. She is definitely responsible for that slightly spaced out feeling during daylight hours when you haven’t slept… She and I are firm friends right now due to a teething little boy, and every so often she pats me on the shoulder and tells me it’ll be ok…
⭐️The Go Slow Fairy⭐️
Sometimes you need to move fast, and sometimes you really don’t, or can’t, and that’s ok. This fairy and her companion remind us that Slow and Steady can win the race, but often there is no race and we can just calm down and do things at our own pace. Patron of the Slow Food movement. Savourer of tastes and experiences. Owner of her own destiny. You can’t rush this one…
⭐️The Magical Snapshot Fairy⭐️
I was sitting in the car in the drive waiting for the baby to wake up when I spotted this really lovely branch with illuminated leaves catching the setting sun behind them. I grabbed my sketchbook but couldn’t do them justice. But later I realised this fairy was dancing around them, and he dances around all sorts of small beautiful moments during our days, catching our attention and encouraging us to notice. Sometimes this can be at the strangest of moments, when we are busy or bored, or even when we are unbelievably sad or stressed or struggling. He sparkles in the corner of our vision and helps us capture a snapshot of loveliness.
⭐️The Resist Fairy⭐️
2017 on the micro scale has been overtaken by that pesky sleep deprivation fairy. She makes it hard to focus on other fairies, the bigger picture or anything other than getting through the day. On the macro scale tho, 2017 seems to need a lot of this. Resistance. Protest. Challenge. So I’m pondering what I can do to help #bethechange. And I might need to focus on the micro right now, but I’m sure there are things I can do to make a difference.
Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.
– Ram Dass
My brother introduced me to Ram Dass a few years ago.
My brother Adam is amazing – he’s 6ft 4 and all smile. He’s someone I really look up to (in all senses of the word) and has been an incredible source of support, particularly over the last year. He’s a musician with a massive spiritual streak, and collects quotes, podcasts, YouTube videos to show his friends to blow their minds, and to sample in his music. You can find out more about his psytrance music here.
Ram Dass has so many amazing words and quotes it’s hard to choose favourites. Since being introduced to him and finding him on Facebook, his teachings have helped me to think and be in new ways on almost a daily basis.
When I was creating Dive Down, I pulled back from my support network of friends and family a bit to try and really feel into what had lead me to make the decisions I’d made in my life so far, look at where I had perhaps done things based on fear, and see if I could find different ways of navigating in the future.
Ram Dass was a great source of inspiration during that challenging time.
He doesn’t hold his punches. His words are written (or spoken) with love, but they aren’t always easy to read.
If somebody is a problem for you, it’s not that they should change, it’s that you need to change. If they’re a problem for themselves that’s their karma, if they’re causing you trouble that’s your problem…
– Ram Dass from A Heavy Curriculum
I think that’s one of the things that I find most helpful about Ram Dass actually, the challenge that he often presents. The way he asks me to look at myself before anyone else, to work on myself before presuming that I can change anything else in the world. To see my own power in the work that I do when I work on myself.
In a lovely bit of circular connection, I picked Adam up from the airport on Thursday after he’d been travelling. He ended his adventures in Hawaii, where he was fortunate enough to spend some time with Ram Dass (now in his nineties) in person. By all accounts they had an awesome time, with a lot of just smiling and sitting in each others company. And, Adam gave him a copy of Dive Down, so I can add a pin to Hawaii in my map of where the books have flown to….
The Ram Dass Foundation Love Serve Remember website is brilliant, and has articles, quotes, podcasts, webcasts and films packed with inspiration. You can find it here: www.ramdass.org
You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it…. Imagine that being in this love is like relaxing endlessly into a warm bath that surrounds and supports your every movement, so that every thought and feeling is permeated by it.
– Ram Dass from The Entrance to Oneness
It’s 2001, I think. I’m in one of the few nightclubs in Falmouth, where I am at uni. Friends have brought me here, slightly under protest.
I don’t dance.
I’m in my early twenties at this point, and apart from the occasional wiggle or headbang, I haven’t really danced and meant it since the school disco at primary school. I am way too self conscious; I simply don’t know what to do and worry about looking like a fool.
My friends seem to be having fun though, and I feel reasonably happy watching them.
Then, Paul breaks away from dancing with his girlfriend Cathy and our friend Jodie to where I am lurking at the edge of the dance floor. I wish I could remember what track was playing. With a glint in his eye and a huge smile, he dances like a complete weirdo in front of me. There are a lot of pelvic thrusts, hip wiggles, and terrible moves. Just terrible. He is relentless, completely silly, has no care for how cool he looks and I am laughing my head off. He leads me onto the floor to come and join my friends, and something in me changed forever. I found my dance!
I am forever grateful to Paul for helping me break free of worrying what I look like when I dance.
I don’t dance for you. I don’t do it for anyone who might be watching. I do it because it feels really fun and once the music catches me, I can’t help it. It’s purely about me being in my body.
One of the incredibly therapeutic practices I’ve discovered in this last year whilst creating Dive Down takes that liberated feeling to a whole other level. Five Rhythms Dancing is a movement started by Gabrielle Roth, and she’s written a book about it, the title of which sums up the idea perfectly: Sweat Your Prayers. You can find out more at the Five Rhythms website here. There’s a reference to dancing at the end of the Dive Down story – it’s a key tool in my de-stressing toolbox.
Five Rhythm groups operate all over the place, and I thoroughly recommend giving it a go. It’s terrifying, fun, liberating, therapeutic moving meditation. There is no right or wrong, and you are gently guided through five ‘waves’ of different types of movement, building up to a crescendo of complete letting go in the middle and calming back down again. In my experience, the other people in the room are incredibly sympathetic and kind, especially to new faces.
Not only has going to the sessions been amazing, I’ve had quite a few of my own moments at home, dancing around like a loon to release stress, anger, sadness, self doubt… all kinds of less than positive feelings that I’ve been able to kick into touch by moving my body. Nights out that involve dancing have also become little therapy sessions; a chance to let go.
I am so, so grateful to you Paul, and to everyone who has danced with me since.
I’m an animal lover, but I have to admit that I am a bit of a speciesist – I adore seals, and am just about getting over a phobia of sharks.
I know that its unfair to the sharks to be more drawn to their fluffy mammal equivalents with the big sad eyes. Sharks are having a horribly hard time and their numbers are dropping, and I really hope that conservation efforts come together to keep them in our oceans. But I can’t help but be anthropomorphic, seeing something so familiar in the faces of seals and their mannerisms; I am another mammal after all…
Seals and sharks both appear in Dive Down, and as I share the images from this autobiographical fairy tale, I’m reflecting on my personal growth in the last year and why water is a recurring theme in my illustrations. I think it’s partly about me facing my fears.
I used to be really scared of swimming. My irrational fear of sharks spread to certain shades of blue, swimming in the sea (anywhere), ponds and even some swimming pools. The Jaws films certainly have a lot to answer for – when I was little and these fears first came up, it was directed towards any big fish-y type creature, including whales. As I grew up, whales and sharks were represented so differently that the fear became very focussed on sharks.
Last July, I took a big leap. My lovely childhood friend had a gorgeous country wedding near a big pond. The night before, a group of friends went wild swimming there. I was quite scared and sat on the edge, watching…
And then I felt so silly, letting my fear hold me back and not joining in with everyone having an awesome time, that I grabbed a friend’s hand and we jumped in together. The water was warm and delicious. I could feel the squishy mud under my toes. The sky was deep and dark above us and it was beautiful… I felt really connected with everyone else who was in the water too sharing the experience. Having overcome a barrier in order to be there with them added an extra thrill.
That inspired this little series of drawings, which is about taking the plunge. This could be literally, like me jumping into that pond, but could also a metaphor for relationships, friendships, work, learning or travelling… I’ve learned that going deeper is pretty much always a good thing to try.
The whole theme of Dive Down is going deeper, and not being afraid of what you find down there. I created the illustrations during a time of meditating on my fears and problems, trying to get to the bottom of them and understand why I was doing and feeling certain things.
The seals in the story appear at the point that I started to find some really useful, positive and helpful resources to guide my exploration, and they act as mentors or guides in the story – encouraging the illustrated version of me to keep going deeper and deeper, and see the beauty that is hidden there.
A couple of sharks swim through, but as I become more comfortable with the darker depths, I recognise that they are beautiful too, in their own way…
Happy summer solstice! I’m launching a new project that I am really excited about…
Dive Down: Drawings from the Deep is a very personal story. I drew my way out of a difficult time and the drawings evolved into a book, which I am sharing to help and inspire others.
Today I start serialising the story via social media, with exciting plans coming up for other ways to share the book in physical and digital form.
You can find out more on the Dive Down project page here.
Based partly on Buddhist principles, Dive Down is a story about deep sea diving into the internal sea of our fears and anxieties – somewhere we tend to not want to look. Through reading lots of books and meditating, I noticed where I was trying to move away from things that hurt me – distracting myself, hoping for something to make me feel better, when really it was that endless searching was the causing me the most pain.
The project became a collaboration between two Sams – Sam Attenborough, a mentor and co-founder of Birdsong Charity Consulting added the words after the visual story was complete.
With a list of resources for further support included at the end of the tale and an inspiring Spotify playlist to accompany the book, we intend for Dive Down to be enjoyed by a range of people and shared further, to encourage other deep sea divers find their courage, take a deep breath, and dive into their own oceans to find calmness.
Follow me on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook or Google+ and watch out for a picture a day, followed by some special announcements and news about where the project is going next and how you can get involved.
After pouring my heart out a bit in the last Ponderings post, this one is a bit more visual. I don’t think it needs many more words other than to say that change can feel scary sometimes, and/or chaotic, but then you suddenly get these amazing moments of clarity where you can see what’s been happening to you with new understanding…