Just Pick One Already

The subject I’m going to write about today is something I’ve been over, and over, and over some more. I have been so indecisive about what to do- even now my mind is trying to go in several different ways. I finally realised- I need to choose a course of action and stick with it. Half arsed is not the way.

I am going all in.

I am talking about my weight. A few years ago, I really thought I had it cracked, but then it all went tits up. I can’t put it down to one single thing, there were a whole load of factors and put in the same situation again, I have no doubt I would once more eat allllll the things. In any case, right now I do not feel good about myself.

When I think about dieting, the first thing I feel is guilt. Guilt because I know how harmful diet culture is, and I don’t want to be part of the problem. Buuuuuut, I also really hate being fat. That is just the tip of the iceberg of all the contradictory thoughts that go around my head.

I’m trying to be as honest as possible, and part of that is admitting that this post is reading like all the other times I said I was going to ‘get back on track’ or on the other hand, like all the times I said I was going to learn to be happy being fat. So why is this time different? The answer is, I don’t know. It just is.

I know how rare it is for someone to lose weight and keep it off. I know ‘diets don’t work’. But I’m tired of selling myself short. If I only ever did anything that was 100% likely to succeed, then I’d never do anything at all. None of us would.

Before I started doubting myself over every little thing, I knew I could do this. I was (albeit briefly) really happy, and although life is never perfect, I’m aiming for that sweet spot again. This post isn’t doing the fire I feel in my belly the slightest bit of justice, but it felt wrong, like an omission, not to write about it.

I am drowning out the negative thoughts telling me the success rates are not on my side, that I’m not strong enough, or that I don’t deserve to have the life I want. Screw that.

I’ve been telling myself the same thing about my art for years and when I shut that evil little voice up, that’s when everything changed. That attitude is creeping into other things now. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make my own clothes but there was always something in the back of my mind telling me I wouldn’t be able to do it.

No more of that, thank you very much. I woke up a few days ago with another little flame inside me telling me to learn how to sew, and that actually, yes I CAN. I am CAPABLE. Why wouldn’t I be? I have a new sewing machine because as much as I love my nan’s vintage Singer that I inherited, it’s a bit too temperamental for regular use. I also get the impression it could kill me at any moment- I mean, look at that belt. That can’t be good, right? You should see the switch on it. I doubt it meets any kind of modern safety standards. Electrocution, anyone?

I’m going to start off doing basic adjustments to my existing clothes as my weight drops, and see where I go from there. Far, I reckon. I have a good feeling.

From now on there are no apologies for me following my heart.

Here we go.

Hayley x

Compulsions

Do you ever have those things that you never get bored of? For me, it’s the poppies coming out. They arrive every May without fail, and (almost) every year I still rush to get my camera even though I have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of poppy pictures that all basically look the same. I say almost because I don’t have any pictures from 2019. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed because I have at least one from every year since 2014 and to have a gap, well. I’m not best pleased! Looking back, 2019 was a challenging year for me. That was probably why that year is missing.

I don’t like to dwell on those times. Even now, I don’t even know how to refer to what was going on. Am I talking about my ex? Some guy I knew? What was he? What was I to him? No idea. It was all so… weird. It’s nice to sit here and not feel much at all about that time – I really believe I have properly and healthily processed all that crap (besides the occasional wondering – what the hell was that all about?) But I can’t help thinking… Isn’t it WILD how a literal pandemic affected me less than the emotional abuse of one single fellow human?

Even so, to come out the other side of that with my main concern being that I DIDN’T CAPTURE MY 2019 POPPY? I’ll call that a win.

Aaaaanyway. Yesterday was the day the 2022 poppies emerged for the first time. They’re so sneaky. One moment they look like a bunch of thistles, then the next minute you look over and they have big fat buds waiting to burst. Then one morning you look out of the window and BOOM, red everywhere, blooms the size of plates. They have to be a contender for my favourite plant, but if I’m being honest there’s no way I could pick just one.

2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2020
2021
2022

This week I’ve also seen my first fledgling sparrows of the year, just a couple of days after seeing the babies in the nesting box for the first time. One was poking its head out, too impatient to be fed. I’ve recycled a picture from a previous year as I don’t have the lens that can capture that sort of thing anymore. It seemed a waste to keep it when I literally only used it to photograph sparrows once a year.

Both of our bird boxes are in use this year, and I’m sure there will be a few more broods to come from each before the breeding season is out. I do love watching our garden sparrows, they never fail to be entertaining.

The garden is actually a bit of a mess right now because I’ve been indoors all week decorating my room. I’ve had the paint for TWO WHOLE YEARS but as you know from previous posts I really effing hate decorating. I hate it so much that I was considering going with plain old white again just so I didn’t have to worry so much about edges and all that. But that’s cheating, and it would be such a shame to waste the lovely greeny/bluey paint that I’d already bought.

I’m so glad I made the effort (eventually) because it’s looking really good in there now. I’m not ready to share a picture yet because we have other things going on in the house so the decorating stuff is yet to be cleared away. Today I have to empty the living room in its entirety because the flooring is being done in there tomorrow. That’s something I both can’t wait for and am dreading. It’ll be nice once it’s done but… everything is in turmoil!

After this week life should return to something resembling normality and I can actually do something fun again. And dare I say it, sort some aspects of my life out that have needed attention for a while.

More on that later, once everything is back to some kind of order. I cannot wait.

Hayley x

Just Like Heaven

It has been a perfect Sunday of simple pleasures. I’m sitting writing in the garden with a cup of tea and the sun is hot (but not too hot) on my back. Earlier I had a little lay down on the picnic blanket, and when I put my head on the pillow I’d bought down with me, the side that had been sitting in the sun was deliciously hot. That’s the only word I can think to describe it. I don’t think I have felt this relaxed since 2017.

I got up nice and early to visit a boot sale I’ve never been to before. The one near me is absolutely enormous but people don’t really seem to sell much in the way of boot sale-type stuff. I like to go for the food, especially when the bakery stall is open, but it’s quite rare to find an actual bargain.

This new one was situated in, shall we say, a more reputable area and it showed. I’m wary of pickpockets at our one but at this one, I spotted someone selling photo frames who had left a note- ‘if I’m not here leave £5 per frame in the box’. You would not get that in my area!

A chap at work was selling at the other boot sale a few weeks ago and had to threaten to call security when a less-than-savoury sort was stuffing all of the contents of his table in bin bags but not, y’know, paying him.

Do you know, today I don’t think they even had security guards at their boot sale? Absolutely wild.

What I enjoyed most about today was that there were unusual things. Even if I didn’t particularly like them, there was plenty of ‘ooh look at that’ rather than ‘why are there so many people selling bongs?’

Although I don’t usually go to boot sales with anything in particular in mind that I want to buy, today I was on the lookout for some lavender plants. I came home with three of them, for a fiver. Perfect.

Then I saw a sewing box. It’s a definite fixer-upper, but it should be easy enough that even I can do it. That was £10. Locally I’d never be able to buy something like that- they’d ask for something extortionate like £40.

My favourite item of the day was another sewing box, this one is more of a sorry state but really unusual. I only had £5, so I was brave and did an actual haggle. I’m normally so uncomfortable doing that, but I wanted that sewing box badly, I really did.

I have a tendency to buy things with the intention of fixing them up, but then I get overwhelmed and end up giving them away. In this case, I’m determined. I’ve already made a start, as it happens.

As I removed the veneer on the top of the box, was I pretending I was on an episode of The Repair Shop? You bet I was.

In the garden, this is what’s left of the sunflower I was most excited about.

The variety is ‘Mongolian Giant’ and out of four healthy plants this one leaf is all that’s left. I’m having a huge slug and snail problem this year, much worse than my first gardening year, which was 2020, and again worse than 2021 which itself was a bitch. In 2020 people on Instagram were asking me, ‘how did you grow that without it being eaten?’ Turns out the answer was sheer dumb luck.

This year I’ve been taking preventative measures but the only foolproof way to protect the plants is basically to not have them in the bloody garden. Or pesticides I guess, but I absolutely will not use them and never ever will. Some seedlings I had in a sealed mini greenhouse but somehow a slug managed to get in the smallest gap. Then I read somewhere that they can stretch to 20x their body length. DAMN THEM TO HELL.

I’m on a rescue mission with my special sunflower, which has been bought into the house until it is strong enough to withstand the pests. If all else fails, I will try again next year, but be much more protective of my seedlings in future.

Apart from that, little seed pods are appearing on the honesty, and when they are backlit by the afternoon sun they are just gorgeous.

So cool.

The poppies always seem to come out of nowhere. One minute they’re not doing much and the next second you look they have big fat buds on them waiting to burst.

And we have ALLIUMS INCOMING.

The only thing that would be good enough to end this perfect day is a good old session of playing Sims 4. Yes I’m 39, and yes I still play Sims. Unapologetically. As adults we don’t make enough time for play. I’m here to tell you that we should!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

NOPE.

That’s it, my week of annual leave is at an end and I’m back at work tonight. Last night I started feeling familiar feelings of anxiety- not about going to work, but about how much there is still to do around the house. But then I told myself ‘NO’. We aren’t doing this. I have made a huge amount of progress with decorating despite the fact I’ve hated almost every single second of it.

Apart from the glossing. I quite enjoyed that part.

Weird.

Whilst decorating, I made a decision. Over the next couple of weeks, I still have some bits to finish off (including laying a carpet, ugh) but after that, I am vowing to NEVER decorate again. DIY can absolutely do one. I hate it, it’s my own private hell. In future what I’m going to do is pay someone to do it for me, which yes, could be construed as lazy. It’s not that I can’t be bothered though, it’s just that for some reason it’s TORTURE for me. Yes, I hate it that much!

I keep thinking ‘don’t be silly, you can save so much money doing it yourself’ but then I think of all the other things I could have been doing this week. The garden has been calling out to me- although I’ve spent some time out there it’s not been nearly enough. I have only sat down to (properly) paint once. This is an unacceptable use of future annual leave.

It doesn’t help that I was pretty poorly the week before my holiday. I had intended to get a lot of prep done so that I could just crack on with the actual painting and get it out of the way, but I just wasn’t up to it. Still, never again. I am standing by that.

DIY is just NOT my thing.

I have been having thoughts about the garden, those thoughts being that I’m really happy with it right now. I haven’t actually had to do much to it this year, other than a bit of weeding and cutting the grass. When it’s the middle of winter and everything is so bleak, it’s hard to imagine anything looking nice and colourful again.

But the garden has come back to life spectacularly, and even though I don’t have time to do all the things I’d like to out there, I’m glad that it is a welcoming space. I do enjoy just sitting out there and looking at it (when I get the chance, that is).

Probably my favourite place is under the apple tree. Newton likes it there too (he obviously has good taste). To some, it’s probably a mess, but I’m not some, I’m me. I love it, and that’s all that matters. There is so much growing under there. Some stuff I planted myself, some of it mum planted years ago, some stuff has found its way there all by itself. It’s one of those spaces where the more you look the more you see, and I could look at it for hours.

It’s hard to imagine that when we moved here the whole garden was just dirt and rubble. There wasn’t even a single blade of grass. It’s a shame we didn’t get a picture of it, but in those days (damn, I’m sounding old now!) we couldn’t afford film for the camera, (did we even have a camera at that point?) if we did have film we couldn’t have afforded to get it developed, and I was still a few years away from getting my first digital camera. Don’t get me started on that subject- after all this time I’m still in awe that digital photography is a thing. It’s just… magic. There are a few material things in life I’ll never take for granted, and photography is one of them.

Did you know, there are people in the world who don’t like tulips? I was only made aware of this recently through the gardening corner of Instagram. It’s true that they don’t last long (some people online refer to them as ‘divas’) but I don’t care about that.

They come, they slap you in the face with spring then they go. They can be flashy divas all they want, I need that wake-up call to let me know spring is finally here.

I have started to deadhead them now, but they have performed so spectacularly. I have no regrets. Here’s the last tulip picture I took, one for the road I guess.

Until next year, ladies. Everything has its time, right?

Speaking of time, how is it MAY? That one snuck up stealthily on me. I have some plans for this month, but more about that next time. Right now I have the very exciting task of… doing the laundry. Rock n’ roll.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Me and My Brain

Right, I am finally getting somewhere when it comes to understanding and working WITH what I have in the brain department rather than against it. Of all my artistic pursuits it’s clear to me now that painting is the hands-down favourite of them all, so in order to have the best chance of actually, well, painting anything (as opposed to just thinking about painting and not actually doing it) I have now perfected the permanent painting set-up in my room. It is WORKING!

As soon as an obstacle is placed in front of me, procrastination sets in. I would just paint but first I have to do such and such, but such and such is booooooooring so I’ll put it off and then put it off some more. But now, I walk into my room and BAM, everything is ready to go.

I will share that space with you soon, but first (this is not a ‘procrastination’ first but a real one) I need to spend this week doing a different kind of painting. Then I’ll show you this little area that I’m so excited about.

To say I’ve been putting off decorating for about 20 years would not even be exaggerating. Over the last three years or so I’ve been very much intending to give everything a refresh, but every time I booked annual leave in order to do it, it so happened that I found myself quite badly depressed.

On these occasions I’d go so far as to say my week off left everything in a worse state than before.

It doesn’t help that decorating is one of those tasks I find incredibly boring, but in this instance I think I’ve come to the very limit of how long I can put it off. I just have to bite the bullet and GET IT DONE.

It’s actually funny reading back what I’ve written so far because I started this post yesterday. At the exact time I should have started the decorating, as it happens. I did locate everything I need for the task, so that’s something, but the entire day was spent doing anything but decorating.

I intended to get started but somehow I found myself in the garden. I did a bit of weeding and whatnot, then got the carrots sown in the small raised bed. I’m actually really excited about these, but it’ll be at least three months till they’re ready. Hopefully they’ll be worth the wait.

After that, I took Newty out for a walk, something that I had been intending to do no matter what. It’s been too long since I last went to the woods with my bestest mate.

It was the perfect spring day for walking. A bit chilly, until you get started that is, then exactly the right temperature. With added sunny spells. Then the tiniest bit of refreshing drizzle right at the end of the walk.

As much as I’ve been enjoying the sunshine we really could do with some rain. The water butt is nearly empty already.

Ok, I get it. I’m still procrastinating. So I’d best finish up here and get the hell on with it.

After just one more cup of tea.

Hayley x

Just Can’t Get Enough

It’s a tradition that every single British bank holiday should have atrocious weather, but this Easter weekend has surprisingly been an absolute beauty. I’d go so far as to say it’s been almost perfect.

I knew the most sunshine was forecast for Saturday and Sunday, so I made sure I spent plenty of time in the garden on those days. Today is nice, but not quite as nice. I keep banging on about the tulips but DAMN they are performing. I just can’t stop looking at them! Most of them I planted the year before last, and although I’ve read that tulips don’t normally do as well in their second year, it seems that no one made mine aware of that.

I’ve been trying to pick a favourite, and I’d say that so far Princess Irene is the winner. At least I think they’re called Princess Irene. I am the worst with labelling so that’s just a guess.

All of my tulips are from Farmer Gracy. I first discovered Farmer Gracy from an Instagram ad so I was a bit suspicious at first, but everything I’ve ever bought from there has been spectacular. I noticed yesterday that my giant allium, which is in its second year, has got its head. That was one of my favourites from 2020 so I’m glad it’s making a decent comeback.

In a few months it should look like this:

What an absolute stunner. Also the bees LOVE IT.

In other garden news, I have decided that I am pretty much done with starting seeds off super early. It’s just too much of a pain in the behind, for very little benefit. The only thing I’d say was worth it is the chillies and the tomatoes. Even though it’s been fun to grow the chillies, I hardly ever eat fresh chillies so it’s kind of pointless that I now have SIX chilli plants. My sister is going to take one of them, and I want to keep one for myself, but I need to remember to only grow things that will either be beautiful or actually useful.

The tomatoes are another matter entirely. I eat a lot of tomatoes and some that I accidentally sowed in February are doing really well. I didn’t have any compost so I reused some I found in the garden that must have had tomato seeds in it from last season.

What I wanted to grow didn’t germinate at all, but the tomatoes are looking nice and healthy.

What can I say? It’s a learning curve. I am actually enjoying the trial and error and finding out what works for me.

In 2019 I had great success with marigolds, but last year they were all eaten by slugs. Even though they are supposed to be a natural slug and snail deterrent. I tried again this year and of the twenty seedlings I put in one of my cold frames, only three haven’t been munched to oblivion. I wondered if something else was eating them, but on closer inspection the telltale slime trail was indeed present.

The other cold frame has been ok because I tried a little experiment of putting Lava-Lite No-Slugs on the ground. It’s a pet- and child-safe deterrent that the slugs and snails simply don’t like to cross, so now I know it works I’ve ordered some more. As it happens I also recommend their solution for fungus gnats, which I only use for indoor plants. It doesn’t kill them, they just don’t like it and go away to annoy someone else.

I also did my first springtime walk in the woods last week. Greater Stitchwort is one of my favourite wildflowers and it’s everywhere right now.

It was also nice to get out for some proper exercise – something that I’ve been avoiding recently. I was planning more walks this week, but I’ve caught a bug (thankfully a non-covid bug) so instead I’m going to be resting up until I’m better. Exercising and not being able to breathe through your nose do not really go hand in hand!

In fact, I think it’s time for a nap.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Push Through

When April arrives I immediately think of it as the true start of the gardening season. I think of, let’s say June or July, as the garden looking at its very best. I don’t know where I got that idea from though because looking back at my photos of the last two years September has easily been my favourite month for enjoying the fruits of my labour.

Tomatoes and sunflowers are two of my favourite things to grow, and they were both still doing spectacularly well in September of 2020 and 2021 respectively. Looking back at the photos has given me such a buzz of excitement.

The last couple of years I have worried so much that I haven’t started early enough, haven’t done enough, but since I now stay at work and earn a full wage if need be there will be the funds to buy a few mature plants rather than starting everything from scratch with seeds. As much as I love starting things off and secretly viewed buying actual plants as cheating, my ambitions in that regard do not match up with the reality of life. There just isn’t the time or space to do everything I want to do. Or climate, for that matter. It’s much better to work with the situation you find yourself in at the time, I have come to believe. Insert cheesy (but actually true) ‘bloom where you a planted’ poster here…

During the last couple of weeks I have been doing bits and bobs when it comes to art, but nothing that’s really set my heart alight. That’s the thing with art – for everything you do that you really love there will be plenty where it just doesn’t go as you planned. It’s all part of the process. In my case, I’m still learning, but to be an artist I don’t think you ever stop learning. You keep going, and all of a sudden something SPECTACULAR will come out of you.

Recent highlights include a biro sketch of some elephants I did for my mum. I’m really happy with how that came out, but in general I like to use my own photos as a reference. Sadly I did not have a couple of elephants handy as models so I used one of my favourite websites, Unsplash. They provide royalty-free photographs and it’s not at all a faff to use them. You don’t even have to sign up if you don’t want to. You don’t have to credit the photographer, either, and although I just realised I forgot to add that onto Instagram when I posted to my tiny amount of followers (I will go back and edit that in a mo) I think you should always give credit and should absolutely only use references you have permission to use.

My reference was photographed by Pawel Dotio and you can find it here. Pawel’s Unsplash profile can be found here. Thank you Pawel! You can support the artists via Paypal, too, but believe me Pawel when I tell you I am ABSOLUTELY SKINT this month. If I was selling this art as a print then I would definitely be sharing the proceeds.

As it is, this one is just a gift for me old mum.

I have also been working on my portrait of Chester the cat this weekend. I was scared to touch it again for fear of messing it up, but that is also part of the process. As you paint you will absolutely lose what you are trying to get, then get it back, then lose it, and so on and so forth. You simply have to push through that, as uncomfortable as it is.

Oil paints are a blessing and a curse – I can’t do any more on the painting right now because I have to wait for the current paint to dry, so it means I have to sit with what I have for a while. It’s annoying, but also good because on Sunday I hated where I was at with it but by Monday afternoon I’d changed my mind. Being an artist is an emotional rollercoaster for sure.

I was playing with my easel set up this weekend. I do love a good timelapse so I’ve found something that works in that respect. Also standing up to paint is SO MUCH BETTER for my poor neck and shoulders. And it makes me feel super fancy and like a proper artist.

My WordPress subscription doesn’t allow me to post videos, and I’m not paying an extra £159 a year for the privilege, but if you want to see my most recent video click here. I do want to be posting regularly to social media with all my art stuff, but I want to get my set-up a little more sorted before I do. I have a week off work coming up and I intend to get everything ready at that point.

At the moment, my painting looks like this:

It’s getting there alright, and my technique is definitely coming along. I just have to keep going.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Fool’s Spring

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Fool’s Spring, but it’s quite renowned within the gardening community. Every year, it seems, it looks like spring has arrived and everyone rushes to get their plants outside. Yet it’s a ruse and we get one final week of winter before spring proper arrives. The only plant I shouldn’t have put out but did was a dahlia seedling (I completely forgot it was there) which is now no more, but other than that everything I have outside is hardy enough to take a little frost. Hopefully, that’s it for the minus temperatures (at least until late autumn) and I can really start to get going with the gardening.

Last weekend I attended my first boot sale of the year and bought two ENORMOUS plastic pots for a mere £5 each. The guy selling them only sells pots so I think he’ll be one of those sellers that return every week. You can guarantee he’ll be seeing more of me this year. My pots are second-hand and have weathered in a way that makes them look like real terracotta. I can’t wait to get those babies planted up.

Despite the chilly evenings my tulips have been doing well and varieties I planted last spring yet didn’t make an appearance at the time are starting to make themselves known. I don’t remember buying parrot tulips, but evidently, I did.

I am in love with this pink tulip, but I didn’t make it out with my camera when the light was actually good. Did I cheat with my edits and add a little sunshine? Yep, I certainly did. I figure I needed to do this beauty justice.

The same goes for the anemonies. They’re just too beautiful to not show those creams and pinks off.

Operation sort-out-the-front-garden is also underway. The neighbourhood cats currently use it as a toilet so I’m going to fill the ground up entirely with flowers and vegetables. The vegetables will be in pots (definitely at least one of the HUGE pots) because I read it’s not safe to eat food that has been fertilized by cat poop. Even if it was, it’s somewhat unsavoury. The front garden is a little heat trap so I’m envisaging some tomatoes growing nicely out there.

I myself have been more than ok with the cold snap because during that time I entered a state of semi-hibernation and played the absolute hell out of Sims. The Cottage LIving expansion pack was finally on offer at a reduced price so I treated myself to that and spent most of my spare time milking pretend cows, collecting pretend eggs and growing pretend oversized produce. I won some competitions at the village fair, and one of my prizes included a top hat for a chicken. Does life get any better than that? Not by much.

My simple plans of NOT THINKING TOO MUCH are working out really well. If the thinking isn’t useful, it gets thrown out. On top of that even when I wake up feeling a bit down and anxious, I have been making the conscious decision that actually, no, I intend to have a GOOD DAY and FEEL HAPPY and will MAKE IT HAPPEN. So far so good!

Feeling your feelings is good. If something bad happens then I don’t think you should push it to one side, otherwise it will come back to bite you at a later date. My problem is that if I feel my feelings when nothing in particular is happening, I would just feel sad all the time. In my opinion, some feelings don’t belong and should not be invited to stay.

My art plans are under the category of ADVANCED PLANS and said plans are coming along nicely. One of the most important things right now is for me to start living more frugally, something I’ve been banging on about for the last five years or so without doing a damn thing about it. I have now completed two full weeks at work with no unpaid early finishes (something which never happens) and have stopped buying crap I don’t need. It hasn’t been easy. After Christmas is a very quiet period at work and there has been the opportunity to knock off early every single day of the week.

I think that because my plans are doable and because I have a real passion to see them through, it’s enough to get me through the preparatory stage where not-so-exciting things need to be done. Like getting some savings behind me. And not letting unfounded doubts talk me out of it. Rest assured there will be more about these plans at a later date!

Right now there’s time for one more cup of tea then I’m spending the morning with my little sister, something that doesn’t happen often enough.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Suddenly I See

Sometimes I’m such an idiot. I mean really. I looked back on a post I made this time last year and, yep, my theory is correct. I don’t think I am depressed as such, I think I just CANNOT HANDLE THE WINTER. The sun has been back for a total of five whole minutes and I swear I am a different person. It begs the question – going forward, how on earth am I going to make future winters less hellish? I don’t know, but that’s a problem I’ll come back to in December. For now I will be making the most of the good times. Let’s make hay while the sun shines, right?

Right!

Ok I haven’t actually been making hay, but I have been sowing alllllll the seeds. Last year I was too busy beating myself up for not gardening enough to garden enough (is my brain its own worst enemy or what?) but this year as soon as those extremely unhelpful thoughts started up I gave them a firm ‘NO’ and carried on with my business. Sometimes I even say it out loud, and it’s working out really well!

I still haven’t got around to having that blood test because I have to go and pick up a form for the doctors, and I keep forgetting. I will get around to it, because it’s worth getting everything checked out. I just need to remember at a time when the doctors is actually open…

I do have another theory though, one that I wasn’t going to share on here because it felt a little… dramatic? Anyway, as I would be so quick to tell others, better out than in, so here we go. I’m fairly sure I have some form of ADHD. It was like slap in the face when almost everything I saw about ADHD on social media turned out to be a) not what I thought ADHD was and b) EXTREMELY relatable. I’ve been talking to a colleague at work whose partner is trying to get a diagnosis through the NHS, but after being told she’s looking at a minimum seven-year wait they are saving up so she can go private. I’m reluctant to do that (because think of all the plants and paint I could buy with that money) but in the meantime I have been treating myself as if I do officially have ADHD and what can I say? Life is better! Whether I do have it or not, some of the strategies seem to be working so what does it really matter?

Just finding out it’s not just me who feels this way has been such a big deal. It’s not been the same as finding out others feel the same way about depression and stuff like that, because this feels so specific. I’m reading about other people’s experiences and it’s really hitting home like nothing ever has before. Sometimes social media is a turd but at times like this, well, I’m glad it’s there.

A big part of this has been my constant overthinking, and when my brain gets seriously damn loud instead of thinking ‘whyyyyyy is this happening?’ I’ve given myself permission to say ‘Nope, we aren’t doing this. SHUT UP’. And what a huge difference that little thing has made. We’ll see how it all pans out though. I’m going forward with an open mind and finding out what works for me and what doesn’t, without judgement. What have I got to lose?

My art has taken a bit of a back seat over the last couple of weeks, purely because I’ve had so much to do in the garden (which I’ve just run with because I’ve been enjoying it so much). I also have no room for the art I particularly want to make right now, because my art space is currently home to about 200 baby plants. It has been a struggle trying to cater for every seed’s special needs so they can germinate, but next year I am choosing easy grow varieties that can be started off outside. The idea is to grow lots of maybe five or six different varieties and go for huge, colourful, impact. Maximum effect, minimum effort. Yes please and thank you very much.

Once I can be reasonably sure there won’t be another frost (probably in the next week or two) everything can go into the garden where it bloody belongs and I can get going with some artistic plans. Of which I have many. The gardening helps with this, it helps spark ideas. Ugh, why can’t it be spring all year round?

Since an eternal spring is not on the cards, I’ve been outside recording the events of this spring so that the images can see me through when I need them most.

I have SO MANY tulips that are almost ready to go, it’s so exciting. And this is just the beginning, there is so much more to come.

Here is a bonus Newty picture to say thank you for reading. Until next time!

Hayley x

Time to Digest

Since I last posted I’ve been trying to take my own advice. I haven’t felt like doing much, and there’s that fine line between moping when you should be picking yourself up and taking the time you need to rest. I’m attempting to listen to my intuition a bit more and my intuition told me to STAY IN BED! I have been feeling that something is amiss, something more than the usual depression, so I spoke to my doctor about it who suggested I get a blood test in case I’m ‘short of something’.

My depressed brain was feeling quite hopeless, and I’d forgotten that just being short of a vitamin or two can have a huge impact on your health. My diet has been ATROCIOUS over the last two years, and although I’ve been eating more veggies lately and taking extra vitamins, at this point it’s probably like peeing into the wind. Maybe something as simple as a couple of vitamin shots will get me feeling better. Who knows.

Something of note that has happened since I last wrote is that my dear friend Mar gave me a tarot reading. Now I am the world’s biggest cynic, but I went into the reading with a completely open mind. This was a few weeks ago now I think (time passes in weird ways when you don’t feel great) but I’ve been quietly mulling over and digesting what she told me since then.

A few things have been floating around the edges of my consciousness lately and it wasn’t until the cards started coming out that it brought them to the forefront. It was something of a ‘YES!’ moment for me, and it really helped me to start organising my thoughts. A lot of career-type things were popping up, and I hadn’t realised until that moment exactly how much work and money had been worrying me. Not that either of them are exactly a problem right now, it’s just that life as it is now is not sustainable. Not if I want to hold on to my sanity. I don’t think I have many more years of night work left in me for instance – I SO miss my circadian rhythm! And I’d like to work with creative people and people who share the same values. As an all-or-nothing kind of person, the idea of going from easy peasy forklift driving to, well, anything else, absolutely terrifies me.

However, Mar was there to remind me that I don’t have to COMPLETELY change everything all at once, and to give me a good dose of self-belief. So I have a wee little seed of a plan that I’m nurturing and I’m not convinced it would have germinated without a bit of outside help.

If you would like to try a reading for yourself (which I CANNOT recommend enough) then Mar offers Zoom and email readings that are totally affordable. Check out her Instagram page for all the details: @the_gentle_spiritualist

PS She is also the most lovely and wonderful person ever. You won’t regret it!

I must admit that after my reading, despite still struggling, my heart has felt a little lighter. With that lightness I have been slowly, gently, starting to get back into my gardening. Over the last few weeks I have been through my seed collection and picked out things that are easy to grow and things that I would absolutely love to see in the garden this year. Then once a week, I’ve been sowing just a few at a time.

This approach has worked really well – I have some chillies, sweet peas, rocket, a nasturtium and one really cool dahlia that I’m very excited about, germinate.

This is my current setup, although the seedlings that already emerged have been promoted to the windowsill. I have been trying out coconut coir to start my seeds off, which is a really affordable alternative to compost (and much better for the environment). Apart from the price, my favourite thing about it is that is comes in small blocks which expand massively when you add water. Until now I really hated lugging huge compost bags around, and the quality of the compost is so hit and miss… I shan’t be going back!

Coco Dots are definitely something I’ll be using a lot in the future. They come in a kind of little net, which holds the coir in place but as roots develope they grow through the netting easily. When the time comes you just plant them on as is. I’m naturally a very messy person so the lack of mess these create is a real bonus for me. I got mine here.

In the garden things are starting to come to life. The first thing to emerge was this iris, which I originally planted last year. I’m glad to see it doing so well this year as well. For next year I plan to plant more of these to make more of an impact. Since they’re so early to emerge, I think it will be a joy to see a lot of them at once from the kitchen window while everything else is so grey and miserable.

In my painting life I believe I have turned a corner. Getting a likeness is something that’s INCREDIBLY hard but also something I think it’s only really possible to achieve if you just keep practicing. In order to get to this point, I have drawn and painted many, many horrors. However, I have now completed a self-portrait that I’m actually happy with.

My eyes, nose and mouth are in the right place (more or less) and it is unmistakably me. What’s more, I am sharing the picture here with you! As my mother pointed out, it wasn’t that long ago where anything I painted (even something I was fairly happy with) would never again see the light of day. This is a nice little confidence boost, because there’s always that little voice telling me I’ll never be good enough.

I never thought I’d be good enough to paint what I’ve painted now, so clearly my inner self is full of crap and shouldn’t be listened to. In matters of art, at least.

What I would like to do in the future is offer pet portraits, but I didn’t think I’d be good enough for that, either. I started a portrait of our cat, Chester, last October. Part of the reason I didn’t work on it again was because he passed away and it hurt too much, but another factor was that I really liked how the initial sketch came out and I was scared to touch it again after that.

Well this weekend I bit the bullet and got back to it, and I’m really pleased with how it’s going. Again, I have that likeness, but the most important thing for me is that I now believe that if I lose that special ‘thing’ I’m going for, I am good enough to bring it back. it’s not just a fluke – if I do something cool once, I can clearly do again. It was not just a happy accident never to be repeated!

I am enjoying practicing just for me, but from the middle of the year I am going to open up a few commission spots for pet portraits. It scares me, because what if someone really doesn’t like it? Am I strong enough to deal with the rejection of something I put so much love into? I can either take a leap of faith and find out, or stay where I am now and never know. I think it’s time to put it to the test, don’t you?

I think I’m giving myself very healthy goals where it comes to my art – enough to get me out of my comfort zone but not enough to overwhelm me. I am tentatively quite excited!

When the time comes I’ll give more details if you’d like a piece of original Hayley Murphy art of your own. Which is something I never thought I’d ever be writing, yet here we are.

Who knows what else the future has in store.

Hayley x