Whatever Words has been live for perhaps six or seven weeks now. I have recently dipped my toe into the blogging universe via Twitter (@whateverwordsuk), which has been a wonderful experience. Not only is it useful for sharing my own thoughts, but it has been a fantastic resource for discovering other blogs – themselves hosted by a spectacularly-welcoming community of bloggers. Below are four blogs I’ve really been enjoying lately.
These “ramblings from a twenty-something lover of tea, blankets and adventures” – one Laura Cloughley of Belfast – are a delight. I’ve had some very thoughtful chats with Laura about my recent breakup and she has offered endless ounces of compassion and advice. She is, in a word, lovely. And her blog posts are just as much a treat as her conversation. Most recently she posted a jolly piece about the life story of cash: “all the places it’ll go to, all the hands it’ll cross, the stories of each human it belongs to for a short while”. Not only did it get my mind whirring, but I’m a sucker for musings on the minutiae of life.
The day before, she posted some words on ‘Faith and Mental Health‘ which, despite being “a very spontaneous post which was written at stupid o’clock”, was a very touching, brave and inspiring piece. I am not a person of faith. Laura is, and in the piece describes how the perception of a religious person easily “turn[ing] to God in times of crisis and difficulty” isn’t necessarily accurate. And this is where her bravery shines. She makes a confession which, I would imagine – and I hope she doesn’t mind me saying – is far and away the most difficult thing for a person of faith to admit to themselves, let alone publicly:
I feel about as far away from God as I ever have done.
She goes on:
I feel like the worst Christian in the world which is why I’ve avoided bringing my faith up lately. I don’t talk about God to anyone because I feel like such a hypocrite. I can no longer put a front on that I’m a happy Christian girl because that’s not who I am right now and it would be wrong of me to portray myself that way.
Arguably, it may well be ethically “wrong” to portray oneself in a particular way if one is not actually feeling in tune with that particular representation. But I can’t help but wonder if Laura knows how courageous she is to undertake such self-reflection(?) And I’m not going to be one to tell Laura how she should practice her faith (and nor should you), but I just want to wrap my arms around her and give her the biggest hug, and say:
“You are not a hypocrite. You are a human being and you are beautiful.”
“I still believe in God and believe He can do great things”, she writes,
I just don’t believe He can do them for me.
Given what she is currently going through, I can completely appreciate this – and as a non-religious person, perhaps I am the hypocrite for passing any comment on this at all – but man, do I want her to know how brave she is.
I cannot recommend this piece, or the entire blog, enough.
Laura: You are not alone. You are an inspiration.
26-year-old Sarah-Louise published a beautiful piece of writing on 3rd October entitled ‘You Are Enough’. In a similar vein to two posts I’ll be referring to later, it offers just the pick me up that I, for one, absolutely need from time to time.
In all your insecurity, your imperfections and your instability, you are enough.
The post is very short, but does all it needs to – in fact, it is a remarkable achievement that so few words can so effectively warm the heart. This post really should be read – repeatedly. It is a hymn with which to start every day. I will offer one more line – that which spoke to me the most – and simply repeat my enthusiasm for, and encouragement to read, the piece in its entirety.
Stop trying to squeeze your huge, beautiful soul into small, stuffy spaces.
This is the first of Sarah-Louise’s writings I came across, and I fell in love with it. So when she tweeted about writing a piece on the importance of rest, and I happened to just be reading at the time something on that very subject – Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness – I couldn’t resist tweeting back a photo of a paragraph I felt spoke exactly to her present theme. She liked the quote and in fact incorporated it into her post which, again, is brief but bursting with wisdom. Rest really is important. And I really related to this post – the routine of always being on the go, forever travelling, never winding down until late in the evening.
We romaticise stress.
That we do. And we should take more time to simply slow down – and read.
This blog is run by a very good friend of mine – so I’m biased. Her name is Mel. In fact, so biased am I, that I have written two posts (here and here) in which I describe how bloody fantastic, and what an amazing friend, she is and how she has helped me through the most tumultuous episode of my twenty-seven-and-a-half years so far.
It genuinely is difficult to pick a particular post to showcase Geek Magnifique, because, quite simply – and entirely removed from anything to do with writing – I love her. Just please go and read and promote her wonderful, quirky blog. Not because it’s quirky, but because she talks about mental health in a way that has made a big difference to my life, and doubtless will do to yours. Read her letter to her counsellor, then her ‘Life Update’, followed by her open Letter to a Friend, Lauren Chassebi; and appreciate how strong she is and how far she has come.
She’s my bestie.
Her letter to Lauren, which was one half of a magnificent open letter swap, she sent me when I was at breaking point, and I am so grateful for her friendship.
(Also; read this post about mornings, and understand that that GIF at the top of the page really is Mel.)
I had a look around Lauren’s blog after Mel mentioned the aforementioned open letter, and it’s really great. There’s so much there!! Most important to me have been, first and foremost, her open letter to Mel – more on that in a minute – and her review of self-care books. (She also has a ridiculously colourful Instagram.) Of the four books she reviews, Lauren picks Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive as the one – if she had to pick – to read. Of those on her list, I’ve only read this one, but I couldn’t agree more with her thoughts on it. (Read some of my thoughts on it here.) It is, as she says – and she always seems to pick the right words – “a light in the dark for anybody who has ever experienced mental illness”. It is highly recommended.
Lauren’s letter to Mel is really beautiful. With Mel’s letter back, and Sarah-Louise’s ‘You Are Enough’, one really has an unstoppable triad of hope. They deserve to go viral. In her letter to Mel, Lauren offers not only tips for dealing with the more challenging feelings life can throw at us, but (here’s that accurative* again) beautiful pearls of wisdom. Let me quote two:
Tomorrow is a new day.
Dance a lot.
Lauren has also instigated a ‘Mental Health Mail Swap’; a wonderful initiative wherein bloggers who are similarly focused on the issue of mental health “share a little bit of hand written love in the form of a care package”. These packages “can contain whatever you like be that a hand written note, your favourite brand of tea, some sweets you love, a face mask, your favourite book, something you’ve created yourself”. How bloody wonderful is that?
I really miss the days when sending letters was a big thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and being a part of the internet age. But notifications don’t always fill you with the same warmth that getting a hand written message does.
I quite agree. “Recently”, she writes,
I have fallen in love with the mental health community online. Every person that I’ve met within this small hub of people have been so kind, brave and welcoming. They’re the types of people who will go out of their way to put a smile on your face, even though they’re also suffering.
So there we have it: four blogs I am loving at the moment. The great thing about blogging, I’m continuously discovering, is that there is a whole world of fantastic blogs out there, by people just like you and me. Indeed, the happy truth to emerge from this universe is that we [read: you] are not alone. Lauren had it right about the community. Come say hi. Read. Feel at home.
Let’s smile together.
* ‘Accurative’ is a word I’ve coined to describe an adjective so undoubtedly-applicable that its repetition is beyond question.