The comfort of old friends

Screenshots of the movie Angels & Demons by AdS

The first overseas trip and I don’t mind telling you that I was nervous. Would people wear masks, would there be any issue with passengers, and if it wasn’t Covid related, how about the cancelled flights, lost luggage, and the overall stress that comes with traveling overseas.

So, when we were seated I checked the selection of TV series and movies available. I found myself looking for the old familiar ones. The flight was on time, there were no unruly passengers, yet the first time sitting in a plane for nine hours, it needed something comforting.

I decided to watch Angels & Demons. The book I had read years ago and yes, I also saw the movie. So this time, I could pay attention to the art, the city, the chapels, the statutes, and anything I might have missed the first time when I was too busy following the plot and dialogue.

In the beginning, before Conclave, you see all the priests making their last phone calls before being locked in. Some are filming the Sistine Chapel, some are smoking, and before they head in, they hand over all their electronics and cigarettes. It reminded me of occasions were we are asked to silence our phones. It is rare when I have had to hand over my phone. Even for court, I just lock the phone in my car.

As for the movie, it reminded me of the beauty of Italy, the majestic scenes of Rome, the richness of Vatican (yes, conflicted feelings), and the magnificent art of so many talented people. Right now, I am home. But next time we travel to Europe, I am going to try to swing by Rome and the Vatican.

I don’t know where but I write it anyway

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

There are days that the blog posts write themselves. They pop up somewhere in between waking up, singing in the shower, and savoring that first cup of coffee. And then there are days that I just sit here.

I know the topic for the post or what the tone should be but, what medium to use? Is this something as short as a tweet, or is it something that cannot be seen publicly regardless of length, or is this a post that deserves space, headers, and photography?

I am frequently stuck.

Do I have enough to say to type around 300-500 words for a post or are we done in a sentence or two? These days, my writing happens either in a journal, in a few tweets, on my website, or here. But here’s the fun part, I start to either blog or tweet and then regret te choice of medium.

Why?

Anxiety or stress.

Depending on what is going on, I just cannot sit still long enough to type or write. I need the quick release of a sentence or two with the flexibility to tweet that from just about anywhere to anyone, even nobody I know. From the car (when safe, of course) or the waiting room at whatever facility, Twitter allows for that writing release in the absence of a desk with a computer or a journal and a fountain pen.

Writing is breathing

When I do find myself sitting down, I make the conscious decision to breathe and write. I have a subject in mind and depending on that subject it either goes on the website, the blog here, or in my journal. I find that making the decision to combine writing with consciously slowing down and deepening my breath, as we do in yoga, takes the edges off the anxiety that popped up.

Shape shifters

Depending on what I write and how e.g. venting, the stress may go away entirely. In other cases, especially when it is work related, the stress remains but changes shape.

It is not anymore in a powerful position to make me anxious, no. It has changed. I now have the determination to dig, research, and get answers. From there, the words flow and even if what I then produce is just a draft, I have laid the foundation for more writing.

Road maps

If I sat down with my journal, I find that I jot down thoughts and feelings that were simmering underneath the surface, eating away at my sense of self, and therefore giving me feelings of anxiety. The ink on the pages is not always in the best penmanship but they reflect what has been going on in my mind, my heart, and my soul.

I don’t immediately have answers or solutions however, I have a roadmap to get me out. I have turned on my GPS or Google Maps, and I can now actively see what is around me, in my street, and what is coming around the corner.

There are days that I sit here and don’t know where to write what I think. But, even if I have to cross things out, or delete tweets, or rewrite drafts, I write anyway.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

Downton Abbey ticket
Photography AdS

This morning, we saw Downton Abbey, a new era. I have not followed the series so I was a tad at a loss about who-is-who but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie. The decorum, the costumes, the scenery, it is very beautifully done. It did have a déjà vu to a favourite movie of mine, Singing in the Rain. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I won’t say more. You will enjoy it.

It was lovely to see so many actors who play parts in favourites of mine. Several played in the Harry Potter series and quite a few are from Midsomer Murders.

The movie follows two main plotlines. One takes place at Downton Abbey and the other in the South of France. But it is the third storyline that is of particular interest as it deals with mental health.

The stress placed on people to live up to certain expectations. The stress of being in a loving relationship knowing that you are not in love or inferior to someone or something else. The stress of not being accepted because you love someone from your own gender.

The stress of being adored knowing people laugh at you behind your back. The stress of knowing that your entire life can crumble around you due to something that happened decades ago. The stress of holding on to resentment even if misplaced, the stress of not being able to express grief properly, and most importantly, the stress not not being able to love your heart’s choice.

I will need to look up some family trees online to find the who-is-who so I can review the movie in my mind. It will be a pleasant rerun.

Journaling changed my voice

Sakura Moleskine, fountain pen case, in front of homemade cork tray/Photography AdS

I have been journaling daily now for exactly one full month. In the picture above is the journal I am currently using. It is from the Moleskine ‘Sakura’ line. I had left that brand years ago for Leuchtturm1917 as the width of their journals suits me better however, I could not resist the Sakura line.

Writing daily has changed my voice.

I am calmer.

There is a difference between saying F^&* my life, thinking it, and writing it. It is in the tone of the voice.

When you say it, it comes out with a level of anger. This anger level can even be harsher when you think it because nobody hears it. It is all in your head, right? When I write it down and then read back to myself, something interesting happens, and it happens when I directly read it back to myself or, if there is a time delay. It is the split-second or moment to regroup.

When I put down the pen and read back even the most mean words, there is a slit-second delay. In that moment, my brain has changed tones. I calmed down a smidgen, and that makes the difference in my tone. How you speak to yourself, what your heart and soul hear coming out of your mouth, how you internalize that, matters.

What I angrily say or think out loud about a situation or myself, gets internalized in that angry tone. What I write, it is first seen and at that moment, my eyes make the spit-second decision to tell my brain to adjust my tone.

I read back what I wrote about various things that have upset me in the news these past few weeks. No need to rehash that here, you can all think of a thing or two. Every time I reread it, another voice pops up and counters the angry one: this happened, yes, now how are you going to respond to it?

Writing is a phenomenal way of venting frustrations and helps to sort out all possible reactions and actions you can take. Even if you cannot change a situation, you can decide to keep following it in the news to educate yourself. You can decide which news channels or shows to block, you can decide if there is one person or group to blame, and how you can reduce your interactions with them.

In other words, writing daily for a month has strengthened the other voice inside of me and has calmed the angry one. I still vent on paper but I say less out loud, and when I think it, I try to immediately write it down. If I don’t have my journal with me, I email myself a few words with my mobile phone or I use scrap paper. I then try to write down my full thoughts in my journal that same day.

Have you experienced this too when journaling?

No, I still have not written a reply to your email.

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During the pandemic, we have seen people around us take early retirement. We have seen people quit their jobs, pack up, sell their house, and move closer to their children so they could help out with the grandchildren, either babysitting or homeschooling. We have seen people become roommates or buy a house together as going alone through a pandemic, is not ideal.

Aside from this, the job market changed. Remote working, meetings online versus crowded conference rooms, working from home, these job aspects will stay and will be key negotiating factors in job interviews. But so is mental health.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am staying away from the screen and keyboard for a while to take care of me. That was exactly a week ago today. Here’s what I noticed so far.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

1: The first two days, I checked regularly whether anyone had noticed that there was suddenly radio silence from my otherwise active SM account. I confess that I was slightly disappointed to encounter the same radio silence. But it showed me that I was right to take a break. With the humongous number of tweets it is almost impossible for an ordinary person to be seen.

Unless someone actively searches for you, your message gets snowed under. Unless you spend hours tweeting, you don’t get seen.

People often complain about the algorithm preventing small accounts from gaining any visibility. I have an account of 21K+ followers and I am in that same boat. But then I realized that I didn’t care.

So what if I slipped away for a week!

Photo by ArtHouse Studio on Pexels.com

In that week, I rediscovered some Agatha Christie books, read Pierre Bayard’s take on ‘Who killed Roger Ackroyd‘ and firmly disagree with the analyses but not necessarily with the outcome, and am now reading ‘The Harvest Man’ by Alex Grecian. I got back into daily journaling, cleaned up my playlists, listened to new music, tried out new recipes, purchased the famous stamp ‘Russian warship, go %^&* yourself‘ and now eagerly await its arrival, and I saw some of my girlfriends.

After those first two days, I didn’t check anymore. I scroll once a day while I keep a good book right next to my mobile. Scroll, done, read. And I am going to keep it like this a while longer.

Photo by furkanfdemir on Pexels.com

2: With being less online also came less exposure to news. Reading the new is good, crucial, but too much news drives you nuts and can aggravate anxiety. It also temps you to scroll some more, find counterarguments, and then of course, enter the discussion.

I am now less up to speed with current events as I also cut down on watching the news but it is so much quieter in my head. Before this week, I was too restless to listen to a new album in one sitting. I listened to Jon Batiste’s ‘We Are‘ and I love it. I am less anxious too with fewer dark thoughts.

The downside of this week off is of course, that work awaits me. There are cases to explore, newspaper archives to plow through, reports to compare, and let’s not forget the email inbox. Yeah, I know some people are used to a prompt reply and a quick turnaround with editing, etc. However, getting quiet in your head matters.

Mental health, strength, resilience, matters.

You will just have to wait a little longer for that new blog post, that email reply, or report.