Finding my True Self

#165

Postby Julia Stretton » Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:08 pm

Thanks for your kind words, Hiker!

Yes, it was indeed scary, and at the same time incredibly surreal. But then life can be unbelievably strange at times, and the things I've written about on here have only just scratched the surface of what I've experienced throughout my life.

About a year ago, I knew nothing at all about WordPress. When my friend told me that he wanted me to set up some sites with it, I was dreading the idea of having to learn something new, as I've spent so much time in the past with IT related subjects, that I often feel I've had enough for a lifetime - and I definitively don't want to end up spending the rest of my life sitting in front of a computer. But I do need some money to invest in art materials and other stuff (and to pay off some debts), so I agreed. The first site was abandoned when he couldn't make up his mind about the content, but for the past few weeks I've been working on both one of the new ones, and on my parents' site, and I've really started to appreciate having a CMS that makes a lot of tasks much easier (especially with all the plug ins that are available). At the same time I'm still able to use CSS to customise everything the way I want it to look. When I was setting up websites ten yeas ago, I was only using a text editor (obviously I wouldn't have touched FrontPage with a barge pole, and I wasn't even keen on Dreamweaver, either), and with simple sites that worked well enough for me. But nowadays, people want a complex site structure, large image galleries, mail signup forms, calendars and all kinds of bells and whistles, so being able to use pre-built components in an easy-to-use environment does save a lot of time. And now that I've finally got everything in place, I can concentrate on my favourite part - designing the different elements in Photoshop.

Tomorrow I'm going to head back home again. I'm dreading getting back to a flat that probably still smells of smoke, but life has to go on, and I've got a number of things to do this week. At the moment I'm waiting for midnight, so that I've got enough money in my account to finally (after eight years without) order a working cooker, and I'm really looking forward to cooking home-made pizza and cakes! :) I also want to finish uploading my parents' photos - I've still got the years 2006-2009 to add over the next few days, after I've already uploaded about 4,500 images, each with its own caption, in hundreds of galleries. Once that is done, I can finally start designing the site, which will be far more pleasurable than the kind of monotonous work that I've been doing for the past two weeks or so. And on Thursday I've obviously got my first counselling session.

I guess no matter what life throws at you, all you can do is to try and see the positive side of things - and even seemingly disastrous events will open the opportunity for some kind of positive change - what the Chinese call 'a blessing in disguise'. That doesn't mean passively accepting everything that we're unhappy with, but there is obviously no point in ruminating about things we can't change. For a long time, the serenity prayer just consisted of words for me, which probably meant something in some dimension that was far removed from my own. But now I've found that it is something that makes up one of the basic building blocks of my life.

Time for my last nocturnal walk before I head home - I'll try to soak up as much of the country air and rural tranquillity as possible, before I immerse myself in the busy city life again!
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#166

Postby Julia Stretton » Sat Sep 24, 2016 9:16 pm

Time for another update.

I've been back in town the past few days, and my flat is still smelling of smoke. I've been to the council housing office several times to mention it, and each time I was told that someone would definitely get back to me about it the same day - but so far that hasn't happened. Last night I went to the meeting of the Tenants Association where I addressed the problem, and the secretary promised to chase it up for me, so now I've got to wait and see. In the past eight years - since I've lived here - I'd only been to one other meeting before, when we voted for having balcony enclosures fitted (something which I very much supported, living in a north-facing flat on the 15th floor). I always thought the meetings were probably incredibly boring, and only for older tenants who didn't have anything better to do. But I've realised that it can indeed be useful if I have a say, and that it will help if I address any issues with the committee, rather than having to fight for everything on my own.

Two days ago I had my first counselling session. It went really well, and I got on nicely with my counsellor. The main thing is that I feel I can trust him, which is probably one of the most important factors. I was wondering whether I would actually be able to feel comfortable talking about my problems to a guy (something which I would have found very difficult - if not impossible - just a few years back). But it helps that the sessions are organised by an LGBT charity, so I know that my counsellor is either gay, bisexual or transgender (or any combination of the aforementioned - I haven't asked, nor do I plan to do so). I do have a number of very open-minded straight friends, but in general I do feel more comfortable with expressing my feelings around LGBT folk.

Yesterday my new cooker was delivered, and I never thought I'd see the day when I'd invest that amount of money in something household-related, rather than on drugs, clothes or electronics etc. I still need to let it sink in that I actually stuck to my original decision that I made two months ago, that it would be my next major purchase. For other people it might not sound like much, but for me it is a major milestone to have bought myself something like a new cooker, Next week I'm having new kitchen flooring fitted, so until then it will be taking up space in my study. But I'm looking forward to having it connected, and not being restricted anymore as to what I can cook for myself. Especially home-made pizzas are something that I'm really looking forward to! :)

Since I've returned from my parents' place, I've been spending most of my time working on their website. So far, I've uploaded about 8,000 photos into the various albums (and I've added captions to every single one). It shouldn't take me too much longer before I've finished, so that I can start on something different (such as adding audio tracks to the different albums, and making the site look a bit better). And I also need a bit of breathing space so I can work on my friend's site. That isn't going to be a full-time job like the site that I'm currently working on, so hopefully by then I'll find some time for exploring other things that make life enjoyable, such as my artwork and various hobbies. I guess that is something which I will be addressing at future counselling sessions. Because of the jobs that I'm doing, I haven't had to think about how to spend my time. But I do feel like there could be a bit more balance, and that I'd like to spend more time for relaxation and for play, rather than just working most of the time (even if it is work that I enjoy to a large extent).

So on the whole I'm feeling pretty positive. I woudn't say that life is perfect, but at least I've got all the tools that I need to figure things out, and the motivation to make impovements whenever I have any important insight about what I need to change. There are a number of items that I want to leave downstairs in the communal area tonight, for anyone who might find a use for them (such as a huge server that's only been taking up space for ages; an old flatscreen monitor that I've had for nearly ten years that I no longer need, now that I've got two better ones that were part of my father's computer that my parents brought along last time they visited me; and an old - but very good sounding - compact stereo). It's the kind of things which someone else living in this building most likely will have a use for - one person's junk is another person's treasure - so hopefully my unwanted belongings will add some pleasure to somebody's life, and I've taken a further step towards creating much-needed space and simplicity.
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#167

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Fri Oct 07, 2016 12:24 pm

Hi Julia!
I'm happy to see that counseling seems to be working good for you.

About Wordpress, yeah, it's a really good product! The plugins are endless, and so are the customization option. Plus you can edit anything you want using CSS or PHP, which is something I appreciate a lot.

I also admire your struggle for simplification, having always been attracted to minimalism. I have a lot of things that I cling on despite not really needing them but oh well, I have started to sort some of it out and I hope to continue in this process.
More than in my life, my love for minimalism shows in what I do or design, and in my taste for furniture or household appliances or things like that. Not that I have a lot of decisions to take about furniture, since I'm still young and live with my parents, but when given the choice I much prefer simplicity and functionality over complexity or complicated designs, weird shapes or colors.

So, I hope things continue to get better for you. This is one of the threads I like the most here, since it's a sort of diary. I'm trying to do one myself about pharmaceutical options in weed PAWS and related issues, but I'm not as good as you are at just expressing yourself.
Plus English is not my native language, so I still struggle a bit. Sometimes i make dumb mistakes :lol:
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#168

Postby Julia Stretton » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:20 am

Your English seems perfect to me, Hiker! :)

I grew up bilingually abroad, and I read loads of English books when I was a child (as well as having English-speaking parents). But when we came over here to England to visit our relatves, I often found that I wasn't able to understand a lot of people, or at least I was struggling a lot of the time. Now I know that it was mainly working class people (and people from up North, eg. Newcastle) which I had difficulties understanding, and there is a lot of slang which I never learned from books or from my parents. The communication barrier was the main reason which kept me from coming back here for a long time, but after I moved back to England 13½ years ago, it was something that I quickly got accustomed to. Although I still occasionally come across terms or expressions that I don't know, and it happens quite frequently that I find out that a word which I've only read in the past but never heard is actually pronounced completely differently than I thought.

Earlier on I realised that it had been nearly two weeks since I last posted here, so I thought it would be good to post an update, and it's always nice to see some feedback. After I stopped smoking, I constantly felt the urge to communicate on here what was going on for me, on an almost daily basis. But particularly since I've started counselling, I've hardly thought about this forum at all. I'm still not sure how exactly counselling works, but I do feel that I've had more of a sense of direction since I've started the sessions, and I'm very pleased that I decided to head down that route.

A week ago, I had my kitchen flooring replaced, and I found out that the company that had been employed by the council to disconnect and reconnect my gas cooker wouldn't connect the new one, but that they were only being paid to reinstall the one that they had disconnected. I was furious, especially after they told me what they would charge me, and I refused. Instead, I found a gas engineer through Facebook (where I returned to on the day that I was 100 days nicotine-free) who did the job slightly cheaper. It was still quite a lot of money for me, but at the same time I realised that it was something that would have been impossible when I was still smoking, as I would have spent all my money on weed - so I was able to shrug it off fairly quickly, and I didn't have to go hungry or live a frugal lifestyle because of it.

This week I got paid again, and a few days ago someone advertised a really nice and big stainless steel fridge freezer on a local community page on Facebook. I wasn't sure how much I had in my account, but I really wanted it, especially as my old one has been getting progressively worse for the past two years or so, and I have to defrost the freezer every few weeks. The past two weeks things have been particularly bad, and now everything in the fridge keeps freezing, even on the lowest setting. I sent the seller a message straight away before anyone else would lay a claim on it, and I thought that in the worst case I'd just have to be a bit careful about spending for the next two weeks. But it turned out that my parents agreed to pay for it, as part of the payment for setting up their website, so I'm very happy that that's another thing that's out of the way.

Today I had an appointment with a plumber who came to look at my bathroom. It is still the original bathroom that was installed when this house was built in the 1960s, and I had a small repair that needed to be sorted out. I've been quite upset for some time about the fact that everyone else in this building seems to have a more modern bathroom, while my own one is so old and crappy. It turned out that some of the plumbing has become too old and rusty, and that there are health and safety issues, so that it seems that I'm entitled to a new bath and sink - one more thing that I will no longer have to worry about!

The other thing that has become a lot better is my social anxiety. I had booked two tickets for a gig a few days ago, one for myself and one for a friend (as I didn't want to go on my own). It was the first time for over a year that I would have gone out, but half an hour before I was going to leave I found out through Facebook that the gig had been cancelled. Obviously I was disappointed, but I got an email from the ticket agency the next day saying that it had only been postponed, and that the tickets would still be valid for the future date. Two days ago, I also found out about an arts festival that is taking place in London tomorrow, so I booked a ticket straight away. A friend of mine who grew up in the UK but who has moved to New York will be performing, and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to meet her, so I am really, really looking forward to the event! I've got no idea what to expect, but I'll definitely be taking my camera along, in the hope that there will be some subjects that I can photograph on the way to use for my own artwork. I am also very eager to soak up the atmosphere, and to let myself be inspired. It is going to be a great step for me, after years of hiding away in my flat and hardly leaving my own environment at all, and one which I didn't hesitate about one single bit. Yesterday I had my hair cut by an ex-classmate of mine, from the time when I had been studying art at college a few years ago, and I had retouched my greying roots the day before. Before that, I had felt quite scruffy (after not having seen a hairdresser for over a year), and it gave me a lot of confidence to have treated myself to a new haircut. As a result, I dared to dress more outrageously than I had for a long time, when I was more or less trying to hide away, and only allowing myself a minimum amount of freedom of expression, and I feel far more like I am being myself than when i go along with the mainstream, and I constantly worry about what is 'acceptable'. In reality, what other people think of me is far less of a concern to me than what I think of myself, and I have found that most people - at least the ones that matter - value individuality over any attempts to conform to existing social standards.

I am here to push and transcend boundaries, and not to be restricted by them. That is my mission, and I am looking forward to taking things to another level when I venture to the big city tomorrow, so I can enjoy a change from my usual surroundings.
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#169

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Sat Oct 08, 2016 8:42 am

:D
As always you write a lot, but it's nice to read your posts.

The fact that you went to the forum less is definitely a sign that counseling is working a bit!

Plus I also admire the work that younare doing around the house - as was said previously by Richard, a cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind. So I think it's always a good thing to clean around the house and replace old and malfuctioning stuff with new ones. It's a bit of a bother with the searching process and possible financial difficulties, but it really does feel good afterwards.

I find out that a word which I've only read in the past but never heard is actually pronounced completely differently than I thought.


Ahahahah, that happens to me too, but in my mother tongue (italian). There are some words which are a bit old or that no one uses very frequently and sometimes I mispell them.

I learned english mainly through years of browsing the Internet, communities, imageboards and just reading books and watching tv series or movies. Italian schools don't teach foreign languages as good as they should. Anyway, I'm now taking a course at my University (in Milan) which is completely taught in English so I guess I'm slowly getting better :D


I have to say I loved your last paragraph! I feel it's a journey many people go through when signing up, they are desperate at first (and I was one of them) but then they find the weapons and will to change and get better no matter what it takes, and they become sources of inspiration for newcomers. It's something that I really enjoy about this place and I believe it's its biggest value.

About new things being bought, I'm quite excited that my dad bought a new family car! Being a car guy myself I can't wait to drive it around :mrgreen: not that it's any kind of sportscar but I just love driving and trying new cars. So I'm quite happy for that. Plus, since we already sold the old one, my father is using mine and I get to drive my aunt's mini cooper - having a great time with it.

It's just the little joys in life, like driving down a mountain road or going out with a friend, or visiting a gallery (I'm waiting for a photo here!) that remind us that life is beautiful and the world is an amazing place.
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#170

Postby Julia Stretton » Wed Oct 12, 2016 8:47 pm

I was going to reply earlier, but I was very busy at the weekend, and this week I ended up with a nasty head cold, which has kept me in bed a lot of the time.

The event that I went to was very enjoyable, at least for the first few hours. There were so many participants that everyone only got to speak or perform for about 15-20 minutes, and I got to watch my friend's multimedia performance, reading out a poem with noise music in the background, and psychedelic visuals on a large screen. There were also social and environmental activists, visual artists, scientists, anthropologists and other people who contributed. The first two rows of seats were reserved for the performers, and I crouched near the front so I could take some photos. One of the performers pointed out a free space next to her, so I was able to to sit amidst them, where I had a good view and I was able to talk to some of the participants.

Then I saw that some people were heading out of the back door - I assumed to have a smoke or simply to catch some fresh air - and I followed them, hoping that I'd be able to strike up some conversations outside. But people were heading from there into a tent which looked very much like the VIP area, so I headed back again. After a few more performances, I wanted to head out that way again, but I was stopped by a security guard, wanting to know whether I had a performer's wristband (which I obviously didn't). I hadn't been aware that the back area was only for the performers, and the only reason I had been let through the first time was obviously because the guard on duty at the time must have thought that I belonged to the participants. So the first time I was let through I could have probably just walked through to the tent and mingled with the performers, without being questioned whether I was entitled to be there at all. At that point I felt pretty upset and jealous that others were able to perform there, while I was simply attending as a paying visitor who spent most of her time setting up websites at home, only to be able to afford some basic art materials.

By that time, I realised that a slight headache had crept up on me. I thought at first that it had something to do with being around a lot of people, but I actually think that it is only an indirect effect of that. What I have noticed is that if I am surrounded by others, I find it more difficult to pay attention to what my body needs. Sometimes my body chemistry can feel a bit unbalanced, and if I don't correct that, I can quickly start feeling unwell. In a lot of cases, I might just need some carbohydrates, or some juice, or maybe a small sugary snack ... but when I'm distracted by all kinds of sensations, I can easily lose touch with what my body needs. At that point I decided to leave, and once I got to the station I bought some food which immediately made me feel better, so it had indeed been the lack of nourishment that had made my head throb. I have also realised in the past that my mental health goes downhill when I feel physically unwell, and that acute illness or pain can lead to all kinds of unpleasant emotions such as anger, fear, depression and so on, so that had probably contributed towards the feeling of disappointment about my life situation only allowing me to attend the event as a visitor, rather than as an active participant.

On Sunday I picked up the fridge freezer that I had viewed and paid for last week. It is absolutely massive, and I am very happy that I got it. A lot of the time I find myself fretting about the fact that there is so much that I haven't achieved yet in my life, and I rarely take the time to look back on all the positive effects of having stopped smoking 4½ months ago. For the past few weeks, I have really been slacking when it comes to my breathing exercises - after I was religiously doing them every day for several months, the last time that I went to see my parents I didn't do them while I was away, and after returning I didn't pick up my practice again. Every day I feel really impatient about finishing my parents' website, and I want to get it finished as quickly as possible. But that means that I have been neglecting other areas of my life, and tonight I really want to take the time to do my breathing exercises - in fact I'll be doing them as soon as I have finished writing this post, before it gets too late.

Sometimes I wonder whether I am not using activities such as working on the website as an excuse not to engage in other things. It is easy for me to immerse myself in a project like that, so I can forget about everything else; and indeed I find it easier to focus on just one thing than to keep having to divert my attention form one task to another. But does this fixation on one single project really need to be so obsessive? There are people who are able to create art from almost any materials that they have lying around or that they find, so am I just trying to procrastinate, out of fear of actually having to work on a creative project? Am I just boycotting my own success? Where do I start, which themes to I want to integrate in my work? How much of my personality am I willing to add to my artwork? How do I overcome these nagging self-doubts? Or do I indeed need the right materials first, so that I am heading down the right path by utilising ways to finance my artistic endeavours? Would I just be rushing things if I decided to just start now, or tomorrow? I am obviously confused about these issues, which is probably even more of a reason to start on my breathing / posture / meditation exercises again ...

Yes, I am glad that things are progressing for me, but sometimes it feels like they aren't progressing fast enough, or not quite in the right direction. It does help to have a tidy environment with all the basics that I need so I don't have to worry about things too much (e.g. being able to cook whatever I like, having a large enough fridge to store food etc.) ... but there are still items that were in my kitchen which I moved into my bedroom when the new flooring was being laid, and which are still there because I haven't taken the time to do anything around the flat - instead just sitting in front of the computer all day long. I definitely need a bit more balance ... things are far less out of kilter than they used to be, but I can't say that I'm perfectly happy with everything. There are a lot of things I need to do, and the more I focus on one area, the more other areas get neglected.

Your English is definitely better than my Italian, Hiker. Twenty years ago I worked for the distributor of an Italian sportswear company in Germany, and I learned Italian so I'd be able to communicate with our suppliers in Italy. SInce then, I've regularly been brushing up on my knowledge. But I'm still far from being able to speak fluently with a native speaker - the grammar is ridiculously easy, especially if you already speak several other Romance languages, but I'm still lacking the vocabulary, even if I recognise a lot of words when I hear or read them (the first foreign language that I learned at school was Latin, which helps a lot). Meanwhile, it makes me cringe when I find out that 'lapel' doesn't rhyme with 'label' in the English language, or that 'manger' and 'hanger' are pronounced differently ...

Anyway, this seems like a good time to make myself a nice cup of tea before I engage in some calming practice.
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#171

Postby Julia Stretton » Thu Oct 27, 2016 1:03 pm

Another two weeks have passed since my last update. While I will occasionally have a look at other people's posts on here, I rarely feel like there is much to add to what I've already written which I don't already talk about with my counsellor, so I am only maintaining this thread to keep a written record of my journey, rather than coming here to seek answers to any questions that I might have.

Tonight I am going to have my sixth counselling session, and my counsellor mentioned last week that it would be a time to review the past six weeks (usually counselling continues for another six weeks after that, if both parties agree). There is certainly a sense that it has helped me, and I feel like I am not only more focussed than I was before, but also motivated to create the changes in my life to help me make improvements to the things that bother me most. Besides the purchases that have added to my quality of life (such as a new cooker and fridge freezer, which would have been impossible investments when I was still smoking) and organising necessary repairs (kitchen flooring a few weeks ago, and a new bath and bathroom sink that are going to be installed tomorrow), I have now finally started to get back into my artwork again. Next week - on Halloween - it is going to be my father's 80th birthday, and a few days ago I made him a collage on a piece of wood that I had cut into shape. It took several days to varnish it - leaving each layer to dry for about half a day - and today I finally wrapped it all up and sent it off. Yesterday I had a few hours time left of the day after I had taken my dog for his evening walk, so I decided to start on a painting and then take him for a final late-night walk before going to bed. I completed the underpainting, and not only am I very happy with the result, but I am also pleased that I finally picked up a brush again and realised how much I enjoy the creative process. Now I am eager to continue painting, but the underpainting will need to dry for about a week before it is ready for the next layer. I would very much like to start on a new painting in the meantime, so that I've always got several on the go that I can work on, but I decided that I'd dedicate the day today to clearing out the bathroom so the plumbers have got free access tomorow, and tidy up the rest of the flat a bit until it is time to head out for my counselling session.

A lot of the time I suffer from nightmares, and they are usually about me being lost or lonely. I still haven't really got much of a social life, and a few days ago I deactivated my Facebook account again. Although a lot of my Facebook friends suffer from all kinds of other problems which I am glad I haven't got to endure (including suicidal depression, anger management issues, chronic pain and all other kinds of physical and mental ailments), I still often feel very jealous when I see that others have a social network and plenty of support from their friends, whereas I spend nearly all my time on my own. It is not even that I suffer from a lot of social anxiety like I used to - but for me to meet other people and leave the house there needs to be a specific purpose involved, and currently my main purpose is to get on with my artwork, web design, and making my home into a pleasant and tidy environment - all things towards which my solitary lifestyle is beneficial. I also started feeling rather disturbed again by a lot of the news that I was reading on Facebook - and while I commend my friends for being so engaged in different forms of social activism, it is something which troubles me and which leads to unpleasant feelings that prevent me from getting on with my life when I focus on them too much. The other factor is the amount of time that I was spending on social networking (not just reading what others had written and posted, but also interacting with them). At the end of the day I kept finding that I was asking myself what use it really was to offer my opinion on everything, and whether my time would not be spent better otherwise. It does feel weird at times when I have finished a task, and the first thing that I'd normally do would be to bring up the Facebook website to check for new posts or replies - until I remember that I've deactivated my account. But it was similar when I stopped using all the different news websites several months ago - I quickly found more useful activities than trying to keep up with the latest developments all over the world while adding to my fears and anxiety, and it didn't take me long to completely forget that those sites existed at all.

I guess the best thing I can do is to continue on my current path. A lot of things have changed, and sometimes I think that things just cant go quickly enough. But not everything can be chanegd at once, and if I carry on working on the things which help me with improving my life, I am automatically making space for new developments which would have been impossible beforehand. So I need to be patient in some areas, while continuing to do the things which are both beneficial, and which I enjoy at the same time.

Watch this space.
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#172

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:18 pm

Hi Julia!
I just want to say that here we've got your back - I'm certainly rooting for you. I know it's not the same thing as real life interaction, but this forum is good not only for advice, but also as a place to come to when you feel lonely or just want some encouragement.

I think you are doing great in the process of changing your life, and I know it's a slow process, but each steps count a lot.

I really know that loneliness can be a very bad thing, but I am also sure that with all the strenght that you have found in yourself these past months, you will be able to get the social life that you wish. And when you feel like you need to vent out, there is this thread. Just know that you are not alone - it's not much, but it still counts.

I'm glad to hear that you are getting into art again! I'm completely uncapable of doing anything that has artistic value, so I always admire people that have such abilities. Creating something from nothing, or better yet - from your deeper self, is the greatest feat a human being can do. It refers to art, poetry, engineering, even raising kids. It's our greatest potential.

I feel like you are walking the right path, and whenever you need a chat or something I am usually here lurking the forum, so you'll find me.

Just keep going even when it's hard, even when things seem like they are crumbling down - I said this a lot of times and I'm gonna repeat it again: you have got amazing strenght and you are an inspiration to me.

I wish you all the best and hope to hear from you soon, with good news! Ah, and happy birthday to your dad!
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#173

Postby Julia Stretton » Sun Nov 06, 2016 2:16 pm

Thanks, Hiker. It is good to know that there is a place where people are so supportive. I am actually incredibly frustrated right now, after running into a problem with WordPress which I've not been able to solve. I am used to getting replies pretty quickly whenever I post about something on any of the forums that I use (in fact, on 'Tom's Hardware' it usually only takes a few minutes to get a reply), but the WordPress forum seems pretty useless in that respect.

I have more or less finished my parents' site, but I've been experiencing difficulties since moving it to the correct directory (the one which I defined for my parents' site, which I added to my own hosting contract after changing the DNS entries and defining it as an add-on domain). For the past 24 hours I've been doing nothing else other than trying to work on the problem, but I hate all this technical stuff, especially if I feel that I'm getting nowhere and just wasting my time. There are so many other things that I'd like to do, but this is really important and I can't focus on anything else until I've solved the problem. :( And I've been having problems setting up the email addresses as well since I changed the DNS entries - it works for me using IMAP, but my mother can't access her emails through POP3 anymore (and SquirrelMail isn't working for her, although I can access her email account through my web browser), and when I tried to replicate the problem by trying to set up an address of my own in Thunderbird which is associated with that domain, I ran into a completely different problem, so it doesn't work for me either.

As I said, I'd love to get on with things such as painting, and I've also been listing some stuff that I no longer need on eBay to make a bit of money to invest in art materials, so I'd like to continue with that, as well. But those technical issues are seriously causing me a headache as well as making me sad and depressed, and I don't know what to do!

Not all is bad though - I have met some great people with similar interests to mine, and we have met up a couple of times in the last week. I'll also have the chance to take part in some outings, so hopefully there will be occasions in the future to get away from this town for a bit, and it gives me the opportunity to at least break out of my isolation now and again. I just need to get some other stuff out of the way first, before I can sit back and relax.
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#174

Postby Julia Stretton » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:50 am

After feeling extremely frustrated about my WordPress problem, I have now managed to resolve the issue, and I am pleased that I have been able to finish that chapter of my life, so that I can move on to other things.

Last time my parents came to see me, they brought me boxes full of my father's old Open University courses. Originally they had intended to give them to a charity shop, but I decided at the last moment that I might have a use for them, so I asked them to bring them along on their visit. I listed two of them on eBay, and both of them fetched a far higher amount than I had expected when the listings finished last week. So I decided to buy an easel, as I have always had to prop up smaller canvasses against the back of a chair, and I had to lay any larger artwork flat on the ground in the past, which led to all kinds of complications and frustration with having to move stuff around all the time, and having to step over my work to get from A to B. Because some of my work is very big, I decided that I wanted a large H-frame easel, and I won an auction for a huge second hand one made from solid oak. Three days ago I had to travel to London by public transport to pick it up (luckily the base is on casters!), and I managed to get it home without any major issues. I am extremely pleased that I made the decision to pick it up despite not having my own transport, and without knowing how awkward it might be – something that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. It is going to make things a lot easier for me, and has helped with keeping my floor tidy – and of course it feels good to be so pro-active, and to just be able to make decisions and then follow through with them.

At the moment I have got several more courses listed which will be ending soon. Last time it helped that people were getting in early, and that they kept outbidding each other long before the auction ended. This week, only one of the courses has had a single bid so far, but as there are quite a few watchers, I am hoping that there will be some bidding wars as the auctions approach their end. There are some things that I need to help me with my artwork, and I could do with some good results.

When I woke up on Friday morning, I noticed that I had several insect bites on one of my fingers. A few months ago I had also woken up with bites on my legs on two occasions, but I had assumed that I had been bitten by mosquitoes when I had been out the previous evening. But I did some research, and found out that it must have been bed bugs – and the itch was far worse than from mosquito bites. As I have got an anti-allergenic duvet, and a waterproof zip-up mattress cover against dust mites, it was obvious that they weren't nesting in the bedding. but for the past few years I had been storing all kinds of fabric, old clothes etc. in boxes underneath my bed, as I was telling myself that I would want to make textile collages one day when I felt ready for it. but it is something which never happened, and the chaos beneath my bed was a result of my hording impulse and unwillingness to let go of things. The following night I had a dream in which someone (me) was supposed to take part in a car race – but instead of a fast vehicle, an old banger had been selected, and people were heaping snow all over it to make things even more difficult for the driver (me) while driving over a slippery and icy durface. When I woke up I realised that it had been a message from my subconscious, telling me that I was making things unnecessarily difficult for myself. That night, I had been bitten again, and despite the discomfort that I was experiencing as a result (and a large amount of swelling due to an allergic reaction), I was glad that it had finally given me a reason to throw everything away that I had stored underneath my bed. I went out straight away to buy plenty of heavy duty refuse sacks, and had a good clear out. At the same time, I used the opportunity to fill several boxes with some of my belongings that I wanted to get rid of, and I made two trips to the charity shop the same afternoon. On my path towards living a simple life, it is incredible how relieved I can feel whenever I have got rid of a lot of stuff, only to uncover new layers that need untangling – or as in this case, just cut through like the Gordian knot.

As my six month anniversary of being clean from weed is quickly approaching (just over two weeks to go), I find that I have not only achieved a huge amount of things which I believed were impossible not long ago, but my mental state has also improved beyond what I would have been able to imagine. When I spent my days in a drug-induced stupor, I could see how certain aspects of my life might improve if I was able to overcome my addiction. But the whole picture is something which was simply impossible to fathom – in the same way that I was not only unable to imagine what it would be like to be freed from the burden of depression when I was feeling suicidal, but the same is also the case the other way round, and nowadays I can't access the kind of feelings that I had when I felt like there was no joy to be had in life. What the future will hold is equally beyond my imagination – but whatever it is, I am happy to embrace it and to work towards making my life as happy and fulfilled as I am possibly able to.
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#175

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:17 pm

When I spent my days in a drug-induced stupor, I could see how certain aspects of my life might improve if I was able to overcome my addiction. But the whole picture is something which was simply impossible to fathom – in the same way that I was not only unable to imagine what it would be like to be freed from the burden of depression when I was feeling suicidal, but the same is also the case the other way round, and nowadays I can't access the kind of feelings that I had when I felt like there was no joy to be had in life. What the future will hold is equally beyond my imagination – but whatever it is, I am happy to embrace it and to work towards making my life as happy and fulfilled as I am possibly able to.


Hi Julia!

I really like that paragraph. It resonates with me a lot - how you almost can't remember what it was like before. And that is one of the truest thing in life: it happens for bad things but also good things. You can try to remember a good thing that happened to you a month ago, but you won't feel the same emotions.

That is why I believe that living in the moment, staying present and enjoying the amazing ride that life is, is one of the greatest things a human being can do.
We are here for a reason and that reason is personal to us all, I think you are on the way to know what your reason is. Maybe you already do, or maybe you don't, but you are shaping your future by shaping your present. That is wonderful.

Hope to hear from you soon with good news
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#176

Postby AliseOX » Wed Nov 16, 2016 2:11 pm

Wow Julia. You truly should write a book about your insights. Most people ignore their introspective and doesn't share that whit others.
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#177

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Wed Nov 16, 2016 2:16 pm

AliseOX wrote:Wow Julia. You truly should write a book about your insights. Most people ignore their introspective and doesn't share that whit others.


That's actually an awesome idea! Maybe start a blog or something like that. It could be a great way to keep track of your progress, make some friends and educate and inspire others.
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#178

Postby Julia Stretton » Sun Nov 20, 2016 12:37 am

Gosh you two really flatter me! :oops: Thanks for your kind words, HIker and Alise! :)

I've been wanting to reply a lot sooner, while I've been working on ways to fit everything into my life that I want to do. At times the idea of being organised seems like an insurmountable task, but there are instances where everything just fits nicely into place when I follow my intuition and I do exactly what I want to do, rather than torturing myself with obsessive thoughts about what I should do.

Currently, my life seems incredibly full, which doesn't mean that I've suddenly become occupied every moment of the day – that is something which has been the case for some time now, and which has remained pretty much unchanged, But after having spent a lot of energy organising my flat over the past months, and clearing out what I haven't got any need for, something seems to have clicked into place, and all of a sudden I find that I can move around freely, get out my artwork, and just get on with things, without having to worry that I'll be tripping over stuff, knocking things down, or feeling overall frustrated about making a huge mess whenever I need to pull something from the bottom of a huge pile. As a result, I have finally reached the point where I am able to nourish my creative side on a daily basis, and the effect is immensely gratifying – even more so than I would have previously been able to imagine. Yes, there is something very true about the fact that it can be very difficult – if not impossible – to access feelings which are contrary to the ones which we are currently experiencing. That is why there is no point in trying to figure out what things will be like if situation x or situation y has been resolved in our life, as the actual circumstances and associated feelings always seem beyond our imagination. All I know is that I need to carry on with improving my life, constantly examining and re-examining every aspect of it, and making the necessary adjustments. Personal freedom and the ability to free ourselves from the dogma of our upbringing and social expectations about how things 'should be' rather than how we want them to be, is an aspiration which can't be valued highly enough, and one which is balanced out by a strong sense of responsibility – not just for our own lives, but also for those of others whom we come into contact with, who as a result might find themselves inspired to find their own path, rather than following in the footsteps of others; out of a false sense of security, and from a willingness to sacrifice their ideals to mediocrity rather than holding on to those visions which once gave them a sense of purpose.

Over the past few days, roughly covering the same time in which i have suddenly found myself indulging in my creative endeavours, I have been tucked with my nose in books for several hours most days. Most of the material is educational, and I just can't get enough of adding to my existing knowledge. At the same time, I've been feeling like extending my already vast library, and over the past two days I've spent nearly £100 on ordering new books. Some of the material is pretty rare and therefore not exactly cheap, but I have decided that if I feel I want / need something (and I am clear enough about my aspirations that in many cases both wants and needs are synonymous), I am not going to hold back and restrict myself. I have also proven to myself that I am capable of a lot of self-discipline, and I am certain that those purchases haven't jeopardised any of my other plans. In the past, I often used to spend more than that on weed in a week, and I am currently very aware of the things that are good for me. I've probably mentioned it before, but it keeps coming back to my mind – when I started on my first art course several years ago, my parents had just brought me the first few boxes of my father's old sci-fi books which he no longer needed (and which have now all found their way into my possession). During the first two months or so of my course, I read about eighty books, so more than one per day. But instead of taking up all my time and preventing me from getting on with any artwork, it had exactly the opposite effect – during the second week (which was the first week that we were given any homework), I spent 25 hours working on three different pieces, and after that I was still spending considerably more time on my work than anyone else on the course. Reading relaxes me, and when I am in a relaxed state of mind, I am capable of achieving miracles, while every movement feels like I'm surrounded by treacle and I'm having to expend a huge amount of effort for even simple tasks whenever my stress levels go up. So it is incredibly important for me to do exactly the things that I want to do, which will cause the things that I have to do and the things that I want to do to become one and the same.

Yes, I might write more extensively about my thoughts and experiences. This thread is probably not more than a spontaneous and haphazard approach to expressing parts of my personal philosophy based on my experiences, thoughts and feelings, but with some discipline and the necessary time set aside, I could probably make my ramblings into something far more intelligible and coherent, rather than jumping from one topic to the next and making mental leaps that others might find difficult to follow. For now – to balance out my own thoughts, and to prepare me for a relaxed night's sleep – I need to do a bit more reading and take in some of the pearls of wisdom elaborated on by thinkers whose mental accomplishments I can't even dream of approaching ... all hail to those sharing their wisdom out of the goodness of their hearts!
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#179

Postby Julia Stretton » Sun Nov 27, 2016 11:35 pm

Once again I noticed that another week had passed since my previous post. I enjoy writing updates so that I will be able to look back at my journey at a later point in time; as a reflection and reminder of how things are working out for me; and possibly for the benefit of others who as a result of reading my words might be able to relate to my experiences and draw conclusions regarding their own lives. I have only got two more counselling sessions left, and I am aware that the end of that period will create a void that will need to be filled. Writing on here is only one way of expressing my emotions; there are others which I had previously not been able to access.

First of all, I have got my art. As expected, the more I create, the more ideas come to my mind, so that I no longer need to strain my grey cells trying to figure out what I could do. While I was previously suffering from a lack of imagination, I have now reached a point where I have got more ideas than I can process, so that I will need to filter the results and find ways of focusing the creative impulse towards those projects which give me the greatest amount of satisfaction. My dreams provide a never-ending source of inspiration, but I am rarely capable of recreating them in a lot of detail. A few months ago I decided that instead of keeping a dream journal, I would like to try to use a voice recorder that I keep next to my bed, so I bought a cheap one. But so far I haven't taken the time yet to figure out how it works, so that is a project for the near future. Until I have actually used it I probably won't recognise its value, but just by writing about it on here I can already start seeing the benefits that I will be able to reap once I have made it into a tool for storing my nocturnal adventures; however just thinking about it will never be able to replace the sensation of actual experience.

Today I had another experience which once again showed me that 'the map is not the territory', to paraphrase one of the masters of the human mind, Alfred Korzybski. A friend of mine had some visitors from Wales, and she asked me whether I wanted to join them in a local sushi bar. I was torn apart – at first I was giving myself all kinds of excuses for not having to partake in any social interactions with an outcome that I wasn't able to determine in advance, so that last night I thought I would just have a lie in this morning, and stay in bed until a time when it would be too late for me to attend, thinking it would be the easiest way to get out of any commitments if I just said that I overslept. But when I got out of bed, I noticed that I had plenty of time left. Then I went to get some food shopping, thinking that I would probably get more out of staying at home and getting some work done, than spending lots of money on eating out, meeting people whom I might not get on with, and whatever other unpleasant scenarios ran through my mind. On the way, I had some small 'accidents', such as realising when I got to the till that I had forgotten my purse at home, so that I had to go home and come back again, and I am still wondering whether that was an attempt of my unconscious to further delay everything, and diminish my chances of attending lunch with my friend and her visitors. But in the end I made it nevertheless, and I am really happy that I managed to step out of my comfort zone. We had some really interesting conversations, and at some point my friend had to leave. She asked me if I would show her visitors around town, as she had to leave and they wanted to spend the afternoon looking around before getting their train back home. I agreed, and we got on splendidly. They offered that I could stay with them as long as I wanted to if I ever came to their home town in Wales, and I realised that that is an offer that I will be glad to accept. Until the past Summer, I hadn't ventured further from my flat than about a mile for two years, and it has only been in recent months that I managed to step out of my own shadow, so that I have been both to London and to my parents' home (which is a two-hour train drive away) several times since then. Travelling to Wales will add a completely new dimension to my experience, so I am sure that I will be making plans for the journey soon, and there is no doubt that creating new connections with people as well as strengthening existing ones is another form of therapy that I am able to benefit from immensely.

After the rather stressful experiences of this morning (including the aforementioned forgetting of my purse at home when I needed to pay for my groceries, as well as money that I had drawn out of a cash machine been eaten up again by that machine, so that I will need to invest some time this week in trying to get it back from the bank), I went home so I would be able to find some release from the pent-up tension that had arisen as a result of my misadventures. Initially I had decided that I would be buying a 4k monitor by the middle of December (which will make my work a lot easier once I have got the means to suspend it from the ceiling next to my easel), and a graphics card that is powerful enough to drive it by mid-January. But I realised today that I had already saved up enough for the monitor, so I indulged in some retail therapy after finding a 'Black Friday' offer online that I wasn't able to resist – and I am two weeks ahead of my planned schedule. If things continue the way they have, I should be able to afford the graphics card (and possibly even the ceiling mount) within the next week or two, so that I will be at least a month ahead of the planned dates, and it should bring a huge boost to my creativity when everything is in place the way I want it to be. It definitely helped with my decision to go and meet my friend (and my new friends) for lunch, despite how I had previously been feeling.

While I am certainly not an advocate of suppressing negative emotions, I keep coming to the conclusion that I am far more in control of my life than I have ever been, and that I am able to see the positive side of even seemingly adverse circumstances – and that as a result, I am a lot happier than I have been for a long time. That doesn't mean that I am unconditionally happy. At times I can still feel quite low, but I find that by focusing on what is important to me, those periods never last very long, and I am sure that those issues which still seem far away from being resolved will one day come to completion, and that everything will continue to fall into place the way it has been since I made the decision to quit smoking not that long ago (and yet a seemingly long distance back in time). Particularly when I walk my dog at night – out into nature where nobody else goes at that time of the day – and I look up at the dark night sky, I have been feeling all tension fall away from me, and I find myself overwhelmed with emotions of happiness and gratitude. In those moments my innermost being and the infinity of space become one, and I bathe in the glory of being alive.

Time for my evening walk.
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