Tag: writing

Autumn is coming.

Reading back my last couple of posts have made me feel really sad. I’ve obviously not been in the greatest place in recent weeks. In spite of the amazing self love summit that I attended which really did leave me buzzing for at least a week after, things just haven’t felt right for me.

Tuesday was a bit of a turning point for me though. I had my second blood test done and it presented me with a bit of an opportunity to just “offload” a little. And I am so glad that I did. Firstly, being asked to list all of your current symptoms was quite humbling. A list of five, which aren’t really that big a deal certainly put some perspective on things. The nurse that I saw told me that there was a tablet she could ask my GP to prescribe for me that would tackle the pain in my ankle (which hasn’t let up), the itchy scalp, my up and down temperature and the thigh pain. Possibly even help to lift my mood a little.

It feels weird to accept medication. I rarely even reach for the pain killers when I have a headache, but if it can help all of those things, I’m game. Although I’m still awaiting confirmation that my GP knows to prescribe it to me, it feels like a weight off my shoulders just to know that there’s something that can give me a little relief.

Honestly though, my mind has been heading into dark places over the last week or two. It’s not being back at work. I’m happy to be back actually. No, it’s about the pain in my ankle. I recall, somewhere some years ago a similar pain. Back then, of course I didn’t know it was MS and even now I’m only just making the connection. I probably put it down to dancing the night away in cheap high heels. You know it’s no good for you. I don’t remember it ever being this painful and unrelenting though. Certainly not enough to give me an occasional limp.

I was warned that post Lemtrada, because my body has had a bit of a battering and it will take quite some time to recover, some of my old symptoms would resurface. What nobody warned me of, was that there was a chance they would come back worse than when I first had them. But that seems to be a common occurrence. I didn’t know that. Lemtrada has also made me all kinds of irrational, so obviously I started to fear all sorts. As it’s taken so long to diagnose my MS I wondered, is there a chance it’s been misdiagnosed as relapsing, and is actually secondary progressive? I feel more or less comforted that this is highly unlikely, having spoken to others that have experienced worse symptoms than the original relapse.

On top of all of that, the irrational mood? The spontaneous crying? Generally feeling pretty miserable? All comes with the territory but I’m assured, it does eventually lift.

And I’ll tell you what’s helping my mood lift. Autumn is definitely on its way! I could practically smell it yesterday morning. The slight chill in the air, dew on the cars and the sun a lot lower. All that’s missing is a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks!

Photo Credit: Starbucks UK

Thinking about how much I love Autumn, made me start reflecting on what else I love. What else fills me up? What makes my soul happy? What is it that I need from a self-care point of view? I’ve accepted that for the next couple of years things are going to be up and down. That sounds defeatist, but I see it as a pragmatic approach. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep a smile on my face and make myself feel good.

I love writing, so starting this blog has been a huge thing to keep me happy and I have some great ideas of how I can branch out with it. I’m really keen to share the stories of other MSers. I tell you time and time again that it affects us all differently, so coming soon, I plan on sharing interviews with others affected by MS.

Through this digital age we find ourselves in, I have realised that I no longer read anymore. When I was a kid, in the school holidays I’d be at the library every other day getting a new haul. I’d complete the summer reading challenge several times over. But now there’s always a Netflix series to watch, a social media notification to respond to or my lives have refilled on whatever mindless game I’m playing. So less screen time for me, in order to give me more time to get lost in a book, which is all I ever did before those distractions existed.

I’m contemplating participating in “Scroll free September”, but depriving myself seems like an extreme thing to do. I’ve realised that I’m so all or nothing about everything and because of that, it always ends up being unsustainable. I end up trying to do something positive in my life and it actually ends up making me unhappy, stressed or left feeling like a failure. What I’d rather do is set some principles around how I use my phone. I’m thinking along the lines of “no phones after 9pm”. That kind of thing. Restricting Netflix binges to a couple of episodes a night. Nobody likes to admit it, but it’s only when you really take a critical eye to yourself that you see how addicted you are to your smartphone. I want my smart phone to add to my life and be useful. Not something that takes over my life.

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One of the most beautiful pieces of music you could ever listen to

I LOVE music. Any music. But I’ve realised how much calmer and in tune with myself I am when I listen to classical piano. More of that please.

I love being crafty, and I love being warm. So I’m going to finish my patchwork blanket. I’m so close to it being completed so that has got to be an absolute priority.

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My blanket! Each patch is representative of one week in 2017, and each stripe is a day. I picked the colour based on my mood.

And finally, I love learning. I’ve had a couple of Udemy courses sat on the back burner for a while, so I’m going to pick those up once I’ve finished my blanket. I need to get better at doing one thing at a time and following through.

But most of all, I need to get better at doing more of the things that make me happy.

 We all should.

Why you need a Pen Pal

I’ve previously written about my love for letters, and also about my group on Facebook, The Snail Mail Project.

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It’s slowly growing momentum, we’re now up to 47 members, who are all sending gorgeous happy mail to one another. It really makes me happy to see so many people making friends across the world and receiving beautiful mail through the post!
Anyway, I was talking to one of the members of the group a week or so ago who inspired me to write a series of blogs on the subject, and I felt that a good starting point was “why you need a pen pal!” It’s such a dying art form these days, writing letters. It’s not common for people to put pen to paper in the digital age. So why do it?

Stationary.

If you’re a stationary fiend, just like I am with my mountains of journals, writing letters is an excuse to lay your hands on more beautiful paper. And there’s some stunning writing sets out there. Paperchase is my “go-to” but you can get plenty of beautiful sets from Amazon, TK Maxx and beyond!

Time away from screens.

In a day where we are glued to the screens of laptops, TV’s, phones and tablets, there’s something really relaxing about switching all that stuff off, and it being just you, a piece of paper and a pen. I feel like I’m living right in the present, and being absolutely mindful when I’m writing a letter.

You make a new friend.

How much fun is it getting to know someone new? Through the joy of both sending someone a letter and receiving one back, you also get to know a whole new person! You may even find that it opens opportunities to go and visit a new part of the country, or even the world.
It doesn’t just have to be words on a piece of paper

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You can get really creative with the letter. You can make it look beautiful. You can personalise it. You can even include a gift! If you want to keep it to the price of a stamp, different tea bags can be good (who doesn’t love a good brew whilst they either read a letter, or write back?). Post cards with inspirational words on might be included or photos of your favourite things, places or people, which can help to paint the picture of your life.

Local delicacy’s can be included too, although this might increase the cost of sending a little. This brings me nicely on to…

It’s cheap!

Sure, postage stamps aren’t as cheap as they used to be (I remember getting a 2nd class stamp for about 18p with my first pen pal as a child), but the price is still totally affordable. The only thing you need to be rich in, is time.

Personal

It’s difficult to be impersonal in a letter. When writing by hand, you’re more likely to write informally in comparison to typing. We type emails out at work all day long, so putting pen to paper breaks us from our usual habits. We pour a bit of a soul into the written word in comparison to when we express ourselves electronically.

You can keep them

I’ve not saved a text message since the guy I fancied sent me one that gave me butterflies when I was about 15. Text messages are so transactional I don’t want to keep them anyway. But letters. Someone has put their time, thought and effort into that. Even if I wanted to, I can’t put handwritten letters in the bin. I still have letters that I shared with my friends when I was a teenager, and that attachment to a letter hasn’t changed at all.

If you write a letter, you’ll probably get one back!

And it will be a lovely suprise when it arrives. It will make your day. And guess what?

You get to make someone else’s day!

What better feeling than knowing that you have been the part of the day that made someone smile. They may have had a rubbish day at work (or they may have had a brilliant one), but coming home to your letter, might just be the thing that makes it.

Five Minutes in the Morning

A few months ago I was in Sainsbury’s and picked up a book. It’s called “Five Minutes in the Morning – A Focus Journal”.

It’s usually priced at £10 but I was chuffed that it was only £4 (oh the joy of the January sale!)

The idea is, you take five minutes in the morning (duh!) to take stock of the day. Check in with yourself and how you’re feeling. Set some intentions for the day.

I’ve not used it really – it’s such a beautiful book, that I didn’t really want to write in it. I do like “workbook” style things though. I like having something to do.

Now even though this is designed for in the morning, I think I can get so much from this at any time of day.

So this evening I completed the first activity.

An exercise to start writing.

I was tasked with spending five minutes just writing about how I would introduce myself to somebody, and here’s what I wrote:

Hi, I’m Joanna, but most people call me Jo. Except Dave. He calls me Joey. Dave is my other half and he very much completes me. We’ve been together for five years and have a little boxer doggy called Poppy who’s three.

In my spare time I enjoy reading and writing (I have a blog), and going to the gym. I’m a bit of a fadder, but that just means that I never get too bored!

In my spare time, I work for a big energy company in learning and development. I’ve done it for 13 years and genuinely love it!

I’m originally from Essex, but moved to Wigan 8 years ago, which is the best thing I’ve ever done.

I love letters and I currently have six pen pals, and the list is growing.”

I reflected on what I’d written. I feel it’s a fair insight into me but I’m also shocked by what I’d missed out. My love for gin, herbal tea and coffee is missing. Happily, I don’t let my recent diagnosis define me; I felt no need to mention that in my introduction.

After my first experience with this book, I’m definitely going to start using it more. If you’re interested, I managed to get another couple of them on Amazon for £4 – they’re easy to get your hands on. I gifted one to Kate as she shares a love for writing and I got the feeling she’d enjoy using a similar kind of book.

I think it’ll be really nice to dip in and out of occasionally, and give me a little pre-blog warm up or inspiration!

Have a go at this activity yourself – I’d love to read your five minute introductions.

You’ve Got Mail…

I have always loved letters.

When I was younger I used to love, love, LOVE this book:

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I can’t tell you how many times I borrowed that book out of the library. I adored it, though sadly never actually owned it. I’m not sure what I loved about it so much. Perhaps there was something exciting to me about reading letters written by people and something quite naughty about reading a letter that wasn’t addressed to me!

I was obsessed with the arrival of the mail. Although there was rarely ever post for me, I’d always be the one to collect the post, everyday with the unwavering hope that there would be something for me. Even to this day, I feel a sadness when there are no letters for me.

As I grew up, my sister and I used to play what we fondly called “The Letter Game”. We rigged up all sorts of contraptions to deliver mail to each other from one bunk bed to the other (we seemed to favour a “pully-cord” method, made from scraps of our Nan’s yarn). We would spend hours writing each other letters, creating word searches and games for one another. My sister, the comedian that she is, liked to include a joke, whilst I always sent a positive thought.

“The Letter Game” developed to writing letters to close school friends at school. Back then there was no option to email your friends, keep in touch via Facebook or even chat via text or MSN Messenger. I spent hours pouring over letters from my friends and writing back to them. A friend, Katie and I had a notebook which we passed back and forth between us. I think these letters are all still in the loft at my Mum and Dad’s. Next time I’m back there, I must try and get them down. I would LOVE to see what rubbish we used to talk to each other, which obviously at the time was the most important thing on earth.

I also started writing to my cousin, Emma, around about this time. My Aunt, Uncle and cousins lived about 1.5 hours away and we didn’t really see much of each other. So we used to write to each other, creating our own magazines to send with the letters!

An actual Pen Pal though, that was something I never had the pleasure of. The closest I got was with my German Exchange partner, Daniela, at 13 years old. She was 16 though and our age gap was likely responsible for our written friendship fizzling out with just one or two letters after I visited her in Germany.

This is why the fact that I, Joanna Livermore, am about to acquire two fabulous Pen Pals is such an amazing thing. I’m so excited about making two new friends, but also have so much excitement about both writing and receiving beautiful, handwritten letters.

The art of writing a letter seems to have died a death in the face of social media and digital means of communicating, but I really want to bring it back to life!