This feels a bit like confession – it’s been three months since my last blog. And since then I’ve been learning how to make videos in the fridge for my Instagram. Applying to be on the Late Late for Small Business (wasn’t picked😏) Figuring out how to get started on Twitter. Getting (almost) comfortable on Facebook. Risking extreme embarrassment asking local shops if they would stock the cards – without success 😳 while an adorable shop (called Sunfleck) in Dungarvan found me and asked to stock them! So, they’re in a shop! And today I sent my first newsletter.
These past five months since I launched Permission Cards have been a blast and in case you don’t know, you have played a huge part in that. I didn’t know it when I started but a big part of selling online involves writing. Writing posts to different social media platforms, different accounts, groups, writing copy for the website, writing and answering comments, writing thank you notes to customers, writing emails, writing a newsletter. So all the times I was writing to you from our travels in the camper van or on the motorbike I’ve been in training for this season of my life. If you hadn’t been reading I wouldn’t have been writing to you. Go raibh maith agat! Look at what you did – you have been supporting my small business! Thank you! May we continue to walk each other home for years to come.
And finally, just in case you don’t follow me on social media I wanted to tell you about the discount I’m sharing at the moment. It’s 15% discount off Permission Cards until Sunday 28th November. Go to https://permission.cards and use the code THANKYOU at the checkout.
Today, Thursday, we are in Nantes, France with just three days left of this journey. We have been travelling back since Sunday morning from Lagos in the Algarve, Portugal. We spent Sunday night in a lovely car park in Estremoz, Portugal, near the Spanish border. Monday night we were in the beautiful city of Burgos, Spain (thank you to Angela for this suggestion, two years ago!) Tuesday night we were next to a huge lake near the town of Mimizan south of Bordeaux, France. Wednesday night we stayed in the town of Surgeres, France. For both Friday and Saturday night we will be at Mont St. Michel and on Sunday night we will be sailing home to arrive in Greystones on Monday. At this moment I am very, very tired and very, very grateful.
(Like two old friends by the lake)
I often think about the messages life brings us… not necessarily the hard messages, the illnesses or the problems. But the small warm and gentle encouraging messages. Messages that in a normal day, we can miss. When we started this journey I didn’t think I would be blogging but it turned out I couldn’t stop myself. I missed the extra something writing brought to the experience of travel. Now, I think I know what the extra something is… writing makes those messages visible. When I started with the first blog it had a step, Step 1. Write. I didn’t expect there would be more steps but a step turned up each day when I sat down to blog. Now that I see them all together I can see the gentle encouraging message life has been sending me.
Step 16. Listen, you are alive, isn’t that amazing?
I am human so I like to think that I’m not wasting my time flitting around in a camper van. I’d like to think I was accomplishing something… or at least bringing something useful into being… Now I think that the only thing I can be bringing into being is myself. Wouldn’t it be great if that was enough? Yes. Maybe it is.
There’s a church in the town and every hour it chimes, quite a long tune, from a loudspeaker. I noticed it every hour yesterday… I’ve only just this moment noticed it today. That means I missed at least six chimes. (I’m not sure if it chimes on the half or quarter-hour as well.) Anyway, just another example of how one’s brain ignores the familiar…
This campsite is interesting, I think I said that yesterday and one of the things that make it interesting is the Tubes… The Tubes are cement cylinders. You may have seen ones like them when passing motorway road works. I think they are used to redirect rainwater or maybe they hold electrical wires? Not sure.
(Three Tubes together)
But here at the campsite they are used for accommodation. They have a bed with thick mattress, an electric light and curtains and windows! They are tiny apartments for people who would like to experience camping without the tent! I am very attracted to them. I am starting to have an idea about buying a field and putting Tubes in it… and you can come visit me or just visit the field if I’m travelling! I haven’t completely (or even slightly) thought it through. I’m in the very-excited phase of this idea. Many of my ideas don’t get past the very-excited phase. It’s my favourite phase but it’s not very productive. It’s where I think This is a great idea and I can’t wait to bring this to the world and thiswill definitely be workable and I love it and I will work on it every day and in no time at all it will be completed and I will enjoy it for the rest of my life. In mindfulness circles this is living in the future… I am particularly fond of my imagined future.
(Two Tubes side by side)
Any idea that gets through the very-excited phase moves into the very-scary phase. Very, very few ideas survive the very-scary phase, it’s my least favourite phase and it’s also not productive.This is where I think this is a terrible idea, how did I ever like this idea?I could never share this with the world, this is like that time that people thought my idea was terrible and told me…This is the worst idea I ever had. Here we have living in the past, a particularly scary tiny bit of the past. No fun. It is truly remarkable that any idea would get past this phase, but some do! Anyway, I’m in a very-scary phase of an idea at the moment, I’m encouraging it into a productive phase but it keeps slipping back.
(Breaking news: The church chimes every half hour, just heard it. Can you see the loudspeaker?)
Home today (Wednesday) is a car park in Cangas de Onis, a very attractive town on the edge of the Picos mountain range in northern Spain. The sun is shining and it’s warm. On Tuesday home was the car park of a hostel in Bilbao, it was sunny and warm there too. On Monday it was a camper van park beside a lake in the south-west corner of France, it was grey and raining there. The day before, a different camper van park in Fontenay-le-Comte, which is about 50 km north of La Rochelle, it was cold and dark there. On Sunday we were sleeping on the Rosslare to Cherbourg ferry where it was wet, windy and surprisingly pleasant due to an amazing invention – the stabiliser. (From Wikipedia, stabiliser: gyroscopically controlled system used to reduce the rolling of a ship. It works.)
(View from the bridge)
I decided before leaving not to blog… because I didn’t know how to write about the other kind of journey, the one last year where lots of things happened… but they didn’t happen to me so they weren’t my story to tell.
(Lac d’Azur south west France)
Now I find myself on this other journey through France and Spain and eventually Portugal and I realise I miss the writing. Without it I feel like I’m ignoring some important extra sense of what’s going on. Of course I could just write in a notebook. Yes, I could just write in a notebook. Why don’t I just write in a notebook?
(Close up to the bridge)
I think I don’t write in a notebook because of a character flaw – I am a procrastinator. I put stuff off until tomorrow. I put things into the tomorrow tray… and the tomorrow tray is just an imaginary tray where no writing (or anything else) ever gets done. Stuff only gets done in the today tray, if you get my drift? Blogging, for me, has a deadline and although I don’t like deadlines I do respect them and they make me put stuff into the today tray… so blogging gets done.
I was down in the charity shop last week and I bought a few books including some hardbacks for the Kickstart your Creativity course. We use them as Life Journals and glue in attractive bits of paper. One of the books I bought is called Dear Sebastian. I was lured in by the cute picture on the front cover of a smiling boy and his Dad on a beach and that made me start reading and now I won’t be doing any sticking… Once I can get past the crying I’ll be keeping it for the quotes and inspiration.
(Playing with the colours)
It’s a true story about a man who was diagnosed with cancer while on a business trip to Australia (I know!) That was in March 2008 and he died in June 2008. He had a nine-year old son, called Sebastian and his main concern in those three months was for his son and also for his mother (he was divorced from his wife.) So he decided he wanted to write his son a letter leaving him with a message. He also wanted to ask other people to do the same and compile it all in a book.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get a chance to write his letter (I was ugly crying at that point) and he had only contacted a few people. But he had asked his mother, early on, to promise that she would complete his project if he didn’t get a chance. In spite of her grief she did. Lots of famous Irish people wrote letters to Sebastian and they are all in the book.
(Although this look like sweets, it’s a flower)
I’m just a quarter way through (it’s taking a long time because I have to blow my nose so much…) but already there’s been some lovely letters. Including sincere ones from some politicians… It makes me think there’s power in writing stuff down. Stuff like memories, thoughts, feelings, messages, encouragement for others, gratitude. Whether it’s to let it go or pass it on writing can be really useful.
We’re back on Irish soil again and for a few days it’s been very hot and sunny. Today is rainy but I have high hopes for tomorrow. I also have high hopes for getting back to regular blog posting. Like any habit, it takes a period of time to build and no time at all to break. Fortunately, I really do want to write so I’m at an advantage when it comes to being willing to build the habit. I’m very willing.
(Last week in Edinburgh)
I’m at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to actually starting the habit though….. I have a long history of thinking about doing things. Including considering doing things. Then there’s meaning to do things and feeling a bit guilty that I haven’t done them. Followed by downright embarrassed when I’ve completely forgotten to do something and it’s too late to do it then. I feel some of that guilt and embarrassment right now as I ponder my lack of doing and it doesn’t encourage me, no, not one little bit.
(Right in the centre of the city of Edinburgh there’s a beautiful park)
Fortunately, I’m not going to be putting my attention on the times I didn’t do something, that’ll just get me more of what I don’t want. I’m going to be putting my attention on what I do want – I want to write. Oooh writing. I love to write. It’s just sometimes I forget how much I like it. I forget how it clears my mind and brings me calm. I forget how it makes me feel sparkly inside! I forget how it communicates with me and makes my experiences richer. I forget how it pushes me to complete. To completion, to fulfilment, to creation.
What are you forgetting to do today that makes you feel sparkly inside? Remember! Mairead.
A long time ago I read the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In it, there’s an exercise called Morning Pages. The idea is that every morning before you do anything else, you take our your A4 pad and your pen and write without stopping for three pages. What do you write? The first thing that comes into your head and if nothing does, you write “nothing is coming into my head” and usually that’s all it takes for something to come into your head!
I think the rational for this exercise is two-fold. One, it’s practice at writing and two, it clears all the thinking stuff out of your head and onto the page. When the thinking stuff is gone, then there’s space for the good stuff. The good stuff is wise and helpful and intuitive. The kind of stuff that gets buried under the worry and trouble and problems. The whole process is a bit like weeding a vegetable patch so that your crops can grow.
I wrote my Morning Pages for at least eighteen months. Clearing the thinking stuff was very useful and of course I enjoyed the writing. But the added bonus was the structure and discipline of daily practice. Practice makes Perfect. In order to become good at something we need practice. That includes being calm or staying grounded or accepting ourselves or living a less is more kind of life or whatever it is that floats your boat! We need to practice…. daily.