How To Get Something Positive from Isolation

It doesn’t have to be too difficult

Isolated wooden Cabin
Photo by Tanya Nevidoma on Unsplash

I suppose isolation for me is not so different from my every day, as I don’t get out much anyway, at least not in the Winter. I cannot tolerate the cold. The very word ‘winter’ makes me feel cold.

The only real difference is that I cannot see my family. My daughters came to have a coffee last week – they sat on garden chairs they had brought with them in the garden and we stayed in the kitchen! We managed and it was nice. I’ve spoken to my 5 year old grandson through a window! He’s finding it a bit hard to understand poor little chap.

Thank God for tech, I don’t know what I’d do without it. I wouldn’t be blogging for sure, and it’s something I really enjoy, I have made so many new friends all over the world.

Being housebound makes me feel safer but it doesn’t stop anxiety about the virus. I have to have carers and nurses coming into the house. Although they have personal protection equipment (PPE) I still feel uncomfortable about it.

I can understand how difficult it can be for people with mental health problems as well as for others, like me, with physical difficulties. People who are elderly, alone or isolated within an abusive relationship are going to find it hard to find anything positive in isolation. I am not trying to make light of the situation, or to diminish the reality of others.

I am worried, slightly scared and very uneasy. It’s all so weird. The streets are eerily quiet around my home although there are more joggers than I have ever seen before! Taking our Government’s advice about getting exercise seriously (that’ll be a first). We obviously have no visitors at all. My husband is quietly going stir crazy.

So last week I took a little holiday from blogging. The last time I did so. It was because I was having a crisis of confidence in myself and my writing. This time it was my choice. I actually read a lot which I haven’t done for ages, I tidied up my inbox, which had been sadly neglected. I listened to podcasts and my audiobook which I actually managed to finish, and start another one. No pressure to plan the next blog post.

But actually I did. I had to keep reminding myself that I was on holiday. But the desire to write is so strong, I just had to do it. The difference was time. I had time to think, time to read other blogs, some blogging tips. But I needed to write.

Suddenly I could clearly see that I needed to plan my week properly. I draft my blogs in Evernote. This is a useful app with templates for everything including a weekly planner. It was like an Epiphany (bit dramatic!). Finally I could see how I could organise my week to make sure I was productive.

I get so many e mails from bloggers I follow, and those who follow me (thank you). I like to read their posts and comments, I can learn so much. Last week I realised I spent one whole day just reading e mails. It was great to have the time for it.

What I usually do is read my emails as soon as I switch on my iPad in the morning. That’s been my mistake. It taken up so much time and energy leaving nothing for anything else. So my new plan is to skim through in the mornings to make sure there is nothing that needs dealing with immediately (like, you know, paying the bills!) and flagging the ones I want to read. Then in my new weekly planner I’m going to schedule in reading emails. If it uses up a day so be it. There are 7 days in a week. In isolation they all roll into one anyway!

I have decided that I will post once a week for the moment, which is in itself an improvement. If my planner works I might be able to step up to twice (wow I hear you all cry!). But for now, if I aim for one, it gives me time to do other things as well, like research and so on. I’ve got some ideas floating around in my head- that’s a dangerous place for them to be because they’ll float away before long, never to be seen again!

So, I’ve created an ideas log, again in Evernote. And I write them down. I wrote a post not so long ago about why good notes are essential if you’re a writer. I’m afraid that was a case of do as I say not as I do, despite my good intentions at the time. I’m taking my own advice now.

This is what isolation has meant for me. Because the world has stopped, I’ve felt able to stop and take stock. This seems a bit crass, since I don’t have work and other pressures outside the home, but being disabled comes with its own pressures and daily challenges. Just a little bit of time to organise things can make me feel I have some control over my life.

Be kind to each other.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Writing a blog is my grown-up project

And it means a lot to me
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Talent comes from originality which has a special manner of thinking of seeing of understanding and of judging.

Guy de Maupassant, Pierre et Jean

I recently read some blogging tips. The advice was ‘start with a small project’. It made me think.

What is a small project? Does it mean writing a short blog. Or writing a blog and doing some small scale marketing for it. Or maybe something else, like organising all the rubbish that you collect and putting it in some sort of order.

When I was young, I loved projects. We did them at school. I remember doing one on the cocoa bean and how it gets turned into chocolate. I wrote to Cadbury’s and asked for any information they could give me and they sent me loads of interesting stuff.

I collected information about hotels I stayed in with my parents (they were great travellers- we went all over Europe, by car, quite unusual in the 60’s), and when I got home I would write projects on them all. I drew pictures, stuck things in, I was really creative.

I suppose they were small projects. At the time, to me as a child, they seemed like big projects, and I loved them. I enjoyed organising things in a scrapbook or folder. I wrote commentary on all the information I had collected and I wrote about our travels.

When I think back now, as a child I was quite imaginative. I loved reading and at the age of nine, would walk the short distance to our local library. I would browse for ages and would always go home with three or four books.

I would write stories, which my mother would read and would tell me I had a great imagination. When you are a child, it seems you are uninhibited by all the self consciousness that suddenly takes over your life when you become a teenager.

I certainly felt like that. Suddenly, I could no longer write stories, do projects and I had no inclination to do it. My teenage years were not happy ones. I was uncomfortable in my own skin and learned to live inside myself.

I am still fairly introverted. I have never been happy in a crowd. I never really liked parties, preferring one-to-one, or a small group of people I was completely comfortable with. I was probably a bit of a dork!

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Even after I was married I remained uncomfortable in large groups, and preferred the company of my family and close friends. Age has taught me that the number of close friends you have is fairly small. But they are the ones that stay with you through thick and thin.

Becoming disabled has reinforced this. My close friends are still there, supporting me, bringing cake (that’s how well they know me) and humour to my life.

So I’m happy being an introvert.

I started a project – this blog. I suppose it was a small project to begin with, but it now looms large in my life. I don’t claim to have great talent but I always wanted to write, and I always imagined living in a cottage by the sea and writing to my hearts content.

Well, life didn’t quite go that way, but I’m writing. I love it. I couldn’t live without it. It’s given me a purpose in my limited life. I don’t get to publish as often as I would like, life intervenes. But I don’t plan to give up on this anytime soon.

So, please keep reading. This is one project I’m happy to share.

Photo by Muhammad Haikal Sjukri on Unsplash

Does a good morning routine make you a better blogger?

And does it contribute to being successful?

Woman writing in her journal
Photo by Trent Szmolnik on Unsplash

I’ve just read an article written by a successful blogger interviewing other successful bloggers about their morning routine and how it contributes to their productivity during the day.

In every single one of the six interviews I read, no matter when they woke up, no matter what time of the morning, be it 5 a.m. or 9, their first task was writing. Journaling was the most popular thing, setting out goals for the day, reflecting and thinking.

Clearly none of these bloggers have children, bar one, who said she had a 5 year old. She writes before the child wakes. I have to say, in my experience of 5 year olds, she must have to get up pretty early.

I’m not criticising, I’m just astonished and slightly envious. When I was younger and, thank goodness, healthy I was married and bringing up 5 children. The mornings were absolute mayhem, getting them up, ready for school, making sure they had breakfast, games kit, packed lunches etc etc. Every mum will know the drill. Certainly no room to put a word on a page!

The only thing I got up early for was to feed the baby, or in later years, to grab a quick coffee before the chaos began!Too exhausted to write anything except note in child’s homework book or something.

Once the last one went to school, I started and ran my own business (with my friend and business partner) for the next eight years. Then, going to the gym early in the morning was more important to my wellbeing.

My husband worked long hours, I tried to fit my work into school hours, so I was able to pick the kids up. I also worked weekends.

During this time, I did keep a journal of sorts, when I had time, or remembered to write in it. When my youngest child was about 12, I started a degree course with The Open University, when obviously writing was intrinsic to the course.

My morning routine was no less chaotic, I still had four children at home, my eldest having gone to Uni by this time.

Sometimes, as the kids got older and were sleeping in a bit longer, on a Sunday morning I would get up and take coffee and the papers back to bed where my husband and I would read them and the kids wandered in and out.

Once they all grew up and one by one left home, I could finally have a morning routine that suited me. But it didn’t involve writing or journaling in any way. It just meant coffee and reading my book. I hadn’t properly read a book in years. Now was my chance!

(Just notice how often coffee pops up in this story!)

Then I got MS. I had managed to keep a journal going when my symptoms started, because I needed to get things on paper (yes paper!) for my mental health.

Since I’ve been a tetraplegic (10 years now) I have a morning routine that is not of my choosing. Now I couldn’t write in the morning even if I wanted to. My mornings are strictly controlled to be ready for carers every morning when they come at 9.30 a.m.

Twice a week community nurses come in at 10 and the carers at 11. Since I am put to bed at 6 in the evening, most days are short. I have to fit all my writing and other things like seeing my friends and family into this short day.

I suppose these very productive bloggers must have become successful so they treat it as a business. I have been learning to blog for six months now and it’s changed and enriched my life in so many ways. But my morning routine is as it is!

I just hope I’m as successful as they are one day even without the enviable morning routine!

Photo by Austen Distel on Unsplash

Why good notes are a must for writers

Organise your notes to avoid scraps of paper!

Photo by Tai Jyun Chang on Unsplash

I listened to an interview with the fiction writer Louise Penny recently. She said that she had suffered from writers block, and had seen a therapist.  She learned that the biggest obstacle to writing is fear. Fear stops thoughts, ideas and characters entering one’s mind freely and then being transferred onto paper. Recently, I heard the quote ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ (F D Roosevelt). The next day, I opened an e mail from the British Library focused on writing, Then, quite coincidentally, I read an article about President Roosevelt in which the same quote appeared.

This seemed to be telling me something. That I should overcome my fear of the blank page and just start!

It all depends how I feel; if I’m having a bad MS day, if I haven’t slept well. If I need more coffee! Most importantly, whether I can remember an idea that may have floated through my brain and out again three weeks before!

I’m sure it is a common problem for a lot of writers, especially if, like me, they are fairly new to the process. There is also the fact that writing is never a matter of just the idea or the content, but the spelling, the grammar, the constant re-reading, editing, the list goes on. Even if you are mostly housebound and sitting in a wheelchair all day, when you think there would be limitless time, it never quite works out like that.

I just read an article by Brian Ye published in The Writers Cooperative, a Medium Publication.  In it, he describes how note-taking is invaluable in the process of writing.  Whether you use a notebook and pen (as he did for a long time) or electronic note taking (as he does now), being able to jot down ideas when you think of them can help to build a comprehensive list of ideas which should help to overcome the fear of the blank piece of paper or screen.

I do make notes rather sporadically and in a haphazard sort of way. I use the Notes app on my iPad. The problem is that a random idea can be lost amongst my very disorganised pages, which contain telephone numbers, appointments, names, lists – trying to find some idea in that lot is almost impossible. Even if I do find it, it’s usually so vague that I’ve forgotten what it was in the first place!

So, inspired by Mr Ye, I have decided to download a note-taking app and use it properly. Thank you Sir.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

How to Keep a Notebook of Ideas Close (and Why) Brian Ye https://writingcooperative.com

Can reading a blog tell you how to change your life?

And does it really help?
Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

If I had a pound for every title or tagline that absolutely swears this thing or that will change my life, I wouldn’t need to do anything for money in my life ever again. I could change, transform and make everything better overnight. It has become a sort of epidemic in writing. You are promised every sort of panacea to whatever you think is wrong with your life.

Surely if it was as easy as these articles, blogs, you tubers, podcasters claim, we would all have done it by now and we wouldn’t need them. We would all have transformed ourselves wondrously from whatever we think we are to whatever we think we want to be.

I’m as guilty as everyone else of being caught by these attention grabbing headlines, mostly, in my case, on blogs about improving my writing and transforming my blog into a multi million pound business and achieve my dreams. This is about as unlikely as me getting up out of my wheelchair and walking! And yet every day, despite me being determined not to, I read them. Then I follow links within them and read those too, until I suddenly realise that two hours have gone from my morning.

My days are short and those two hours are precious. Instead of reading about blogging I should be blogging! I have found some of it really useful, especially the Facebook groups I’ve joined. To me it’s more valuable to share a blog post on a group and let other bloggers comment (if they want to!) or to ask a question and let others answer with their experiences.

Maybe reading these articles takes our minds off a particular problem or worry. Maybe we look to them in the hope of having a ‘Eureka’ moment, suddenly showing us what we’ve been missing, how we can find the one thing we need, the ability to change our life forever. It rarely happens. It’s not that simple.

I’ve read blogs written by people who truly have changed their lives. The guy working in Silicone Valley who left his job, set up his own website and then travelled the world whilst working, a ‘digital nomad’. Or the couple whose lifestyle website was so successful they gave up their day jobs and cycled round the world, whilst maintaining their blog!

I read blog advice in the hope that I can finally produce the post that goes viral! Maybe this post will (not likely). But I live in hope. Some of these articles strengthens my resolve.

I have gained nuggets of info which have inspired me to try to improve my blog, and I think that’s really the point, Reading them and gaining small bits of information or picking up tips can be really inspirational or just helpful in solving a problem, or moving forwards. That seems more realistic than changing your whole life overnight!

There is, of course, the possibility that I have got this all wrong, that this is all we’re meant to take away, the odd tip or trick.

One blog I read actually set out a checklist to help you achieve your dream life, nothing wrong with that, you may think, but just have a look:

  1. Work only contract jobs – check
  2. Travel as much as possible – check
  3. Start a travel blog, build following
  4. Start an event planning business on line – check
  5. Build client list
  6. Train as a travel agent – check
  7. Get TICO certified – check
  8. Find a travel agency to work with as outside sales rep –Check

(From https://ohwhatajourney.com)

I’m not saying this is in anyway wrong, just a tad unrealistic! I’ve no doubt that this is meant to be a long-term plan, but I think most people who read these advice blogs are looking for something that moves a bit quicker!

To be fair, this is only one blog I found among many I’m sure, but it caught my eye when I looked into the idea of a ‘freedom lifestyle’ (see https://bellesdays.com/can-we-live-a-freedom-lifestyle) because it did seem rather far-fetched.

So, whilst people want to read things writers will want to write these things. But I have realised through my unconstructed reading, that you can get so lost in how many ways there are to achieve what you want, that you forget that the only way is to just bite the bullet and do it!

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

How a hard decision could improve my life

Sometimes it just has to be done

I’ve made a big decision. I’m going to do something fairly drastic. I’m hoping it’s going to change a part of myself I am very unhappy with.

I’m going to have a ‘buzz’ cut. I’m going to cut my hair to within an inch of it’s life! What on earth is a buzz cut I hear you ask. Here’s an example. I might end up looking like this, or could go even shorter.

https://www.besthairstyletrends.com on Pinterest

Needless to say that’s not me, it’s a very stylish pin from https://www.besthairstyletrends.com

Now imagine this. I am 65. I have naturally white hair which all my friends say they love it and they wish they had it. Worst of all I have my Father’s face (triple-chinned and jowly!). God bless you Dad.

Add to that the bloated and blotchy effect from the meds I take and there you go. Keep looking at the image above and pretend it’s me!

I hate my hair. Worse than that I hate my scalp. Like many people with neurological disorders, I have a dermatological condition which is difficult to manage.

It causes my scalp to itch constantly. If I scratch it it gets worse and sometimes it will bleed because I’ve scratched it too much in one spot. Don’t think that I’m covered in scabs. I’m not. But I am being driven slowly insane.

So this is why I need to shave as much of my head as I dare. I need to be able to treat it with product that hopefully will help.

My disability means I am unable to shower and washing my hair relies on my husband or my daughters. Sometimes it just isn’t possible. It’s also a bit of a palaver! Either I get soaked or the floor does. So managing my hair generally is not easy. Managing it with a scalp condition is almost impossible.

So I have decided. Tomorrow is the big day!

Photo by Pascal Bernadon on Unsplash
Older woman covering her head in purple!

Can we live a ‘Freedom Lifestyle?

What even is a freedom lifestyle? I’m going to try and find the answer.

Original photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

Trawling through the Internet I saw loads of different definitions. I would say that most of them were about starting a business to achieve financial freedom. Some were about living a freedom lifestyle through travel, such as trekking or bike-riding across different countries or continents. But the core definition seemed to go something like this:

A freedom lifestyle means living a life that is self-designed. Saying yes to things you love and no to things you don’t. The freedom to choose what is going to be part of every minute of every day of the rest of your life”. (Marie Hernandez)

https://ohwhatajourney.com/freedom-lifestyle-mindset

The blog ohwhatajourney.com has a post talking about having a ‘freedom lifestyle mindset’. They use the quote above and Set out their ‘Freedom Lifestyle Plan’:

  1. Work only contract jobs – check
  2. Travel as much as possible – check
  3. Start a travel blog, build following
  4. Start an event planning business on line – check
  5. Build client list
  6. Train as a travel agent – check
  7. Get TICO certified – check
  8. Find a travel agency to work with as outside sales rep – Check

Fairly easy then! This is a plan that may take some time. But if you are in a place in your life where it resonates with you go for it.

Of course we all want a life that is self-designed, and most of us have it up to a point. We choose where we live, where we take holidays, what we do in our spare time etc. But most of us have to work to have these choices.

Everybody’s daily routines are different. For most people life is a morning commute to get to work and the same routine in the evening just to get home again. Traffic jams, a crowded bus journey, the school run. All the things that make up people’s everyday. Not much room for doing things you love unless you love doing all this stuff!

Do what you love at weekends and say no to things you don’t love? Hmmmm…. weekends can be just as busy as weekdays particularly if you have kids or even if you don’t. If you work all week then the weekends can be taken up with shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and all that.

I sound a bit down on the whole thing. I’m not but I just wonder whether any aspect of the freedom lifestyle is doable in busy lives.

For me, as a disabled person, obviously not. If I was to say ‘no’ to the things I don’t like I’d never get out of bed! I don’t like not being able to look after myself without help (great as that help is), and I don’t like the strict routine I have but I wouldn’t be able to live without it.

I’m not complaining. Other disabled people are in the same position as me, some with many more problems than I have. Able-bodied people have lots of things in their daily lives that they don’t like.

Back in the day my husband loved his weekends, he was a hockey Dad, taking one of our daughters to field hockey every Saturday. That was something he loved. That was his day of freedom. Sunday mornings he would read the papers. That was it for him, Sunday afternoon he would work at home preparing for Monday (he is a retired lawyer).

My freedom at weekends was Sunday afternoon reading, something I love.

Now we are both retired. We should have lots of time. We wanted to travel, for us that was the ultimate freedom lifestyle. But – bang! I developed MS and it was not possible.

We do things that we love. I love writing, he loves doing crosswords. We take a trip to France once a year. He cooks nice things and I eat them!

What exactly is a Freedom Lifestyle?

I’m going to see if I can somehow get to the root of it, and see how practical it is.

One blogger (George Maszaros successharbor.com) suggested ditching the:

  • job you hate
  • boss you dislike
  • commute you hate
  • things you don’t need (de-cluttering)
  • addiction to being busy
  • relationships that are negative In your life

Not an option for most people I would imagine! Most of the research I did on the Internet focused on starting your own business to gain the financial freedom to live however you want, using words like ‘laptop lifestyle’ or ‘digital nomad lifestyle’ or ‘living your dream life’ One blog I read defines a freedom lifestyle as this:

1. an intentional and adventurous way of life. 2. the ability to do what you want, when you want, how you want. 3. a lifelong commitment to crafting and sharing your unique genius (yes, you’re a genius).

http://www.armanassadi.com/introduction-to-freedom-lifestyle

This blogger had just left a job with Google in Silicon Valley, so was clearly in a position to be able to start up his own business. He then goes on to describe how he travels the world because he can take his business with him. A digital nomad!

I even read an article in which the author suggested that perhaps, to gain the financial means to live your freedom lifestyle, you should start a business on the side in addition to your day job! (medium.com/rasheedhooda)

Not practical for most of us. Just keep buying your lottery ticket!

A Freedom Lifestyle for disabled people?

When it came to researching what a freedom lifestyle means for disabled people this focused on independent living. I soon realised that this is a completely different thing.

One disabled person said this:

It is the ability to live independently and productively in the community and to live with the same freedom of choice as a non-disabled person. So it’s not that you are living on your own but that you control where you live and have the same range of choices as a non-disabled person.

Jill Weiss

So, if my idea of freedom living is to sit alone in a cave on a Tibetan mountain meditating then it’s a no-go. Right?

Photo by Yomo Owo on Unsplash

I have to admit that it’s a good definition of how disabled people would want to live. There are many younger people who go travelling with their wheelchair and a carer, living the best freedom lifestyle they can.

So, is a ‘Freedom Lifestylepossible?

I’ve only looked at a tiny bit of what’s out there on the web and in blogs about this idea. To ‘self-design’ our own lives depends on so many things, our circumstances and commitments, money, kids, elderly parents to take care of, whatever.

For most people the ability to have a life of freedom from pressures of time, money, work would be a dream, for some people that dream can become a reality. But it surely, unless you are already financially secure, it takes a leap in the dark with no idea where you’ll land and that is truly scary. Not a risk that anybody would take lightly.

The best that most of us can do is live the best life we can through creating a balanced life of work and leisure and make it count. Self-designing our life in whatever way suits us, and creating choices for ourselves whenever we can.

I refuse to use the term ‘work-life balance’ – it’s been worn out. Maybe a ‘freedom lifestyle’ is better!

Photo by Collins Lasulie on Unsplash