“I urge you to notice when you are happy.” It makes you stand to attention, that phrase, doesn’t it? Notice when you are happy.

The sound of rain on the window panes in the middle of the night, my son attempting to bite me when he’s teething or using me to pull himself up, the smell of the simple supermarket flowers that are brightening the pedestal table I got for a penny from a Scotsman I can’t forget, the lone peony plant in the garden that keeps fighting to shoot our year after year despite being overshadowed by the glorious magnolia tree. Notice when you are happy.

I really ought to transplant that peony, it looks like a Shirley Temple. Pretty little thing.

What have I been grateful for this week? Here’s my tally:

Love

What we talk about when we talk about love“. I remember thinking that’s an odd choice for a book name. And then thinking, what do we talk about really, when we talk about love? And do we ever say it outright, to those we love, all of the time? Is it those precise words that we use? How do I want to know without doubt that I am loved? I’m still trying to answer these questions for myself, and this past week the talented Kylie Flavell had similar questions herself.

She’s an incredible storyteller with an ability to relate, comfort and challenge all in one go. Do check out her work; it has kept me company many a great nights when my soul needed nourishing. And of course congratulate her and celebrate with her as well!

Music

Whenever I’m indecisive about what to listen to, and don’t quite feel like listening to the radio and haven’t the patience for adverts, I switch on to the Brilliant Classics YouTube channel to discover what’s taken their fancy of late. This week, it was the music of Boccherini that I settled on. Their curated playlist was sublime, transcendental and just pure joy. I recently shared Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies with a friend, and she found them somewhat wanting.

While I personally love the rhapsodies, I perfectly understood this week what it was my friend was hoping they were: emotive yet mellow, captivating and transportive, passionate whilst reserved, peaceful yet stirring. She had yearned for feelings anew where the rhapsodies sought to validate those existing. But Boccherini’s work?! Heavens, was anything more beautiful ever written? Quite aside from the works of Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky… ok ok, there’s a lot more!

I listened to this playlist at the end of a long day, and I seem to be having a lot more of those these days. What a glorious way to unwind.

Growth

I find myself most days, with a lingering feeling of disconcertment whenever something mildly irritating happens at work. If I’m being perfectly honest I’d admit that I haven’t been truly happy, or even averagely fulfilled in my work for a very long time. And I’m running out of steam. I’ve trained for over a decade and half to be a credited member of this esteemed profession, so it is a little hard to just wake up and feel this way about something that I’ve worked so hard for. And then I remember that discomfort is supposed to be telling me something – never to be complacent. Never to rest on my laurels. There are so many stories of how people have grown most from their discomfort, and I’m determined I should be one of them.

So now I’m trying to channel that energy into something useful. Whenever I feel myself feeling this way I’m resolved to ask of myself: “What do I really want? What can I do differently?”.

Keep showing up for this fledging idea, and keep looking for new ways to use my qualification. Growth. I am grateful for the discomfort I’m in now because it is telling me a clear message: it is time to grow, to evolve.

She had yearned for feelings anew where the rhapsodies sought to validate those existing.

Homemaking

While we were confined indoors for much of this week due to poor weather, my mind kept going back to the garden. So I used my time to plan the planting scheme for this year. Mind, I can’t do much in a rented home, but what little I can do I am determined to do.

Like most of England, I discovered the joy of gardening in the very first lockdown. It seems like ages ago now. I first noticed it while on maternity leave, how everything in the garden took turns, the daffodils first, then the magnolia, then the roses alongside the wisteria, and the roses again after the wisteria had ran out of steam. They each took their turn, and they each enchanted and enthralled my son, a mere couple of months old when it all started.

It forced me to slow my mind – my life had already slowed thanks to tending to a newborn and a pandemic that meant well-meaning friends and family could leave us be while we got the hang of things on our own. I slowed my mind and focused on how, in an orderly fashion, sure as rain and as steadfast as sunrise, the plants showed up as the seasons changed. A silent reassurance that in time, it will all come to fruition. I took the chance to transfer the metaphor to my life as well.

So this year I will make the garden ever so slightly our own; we will plant more peonies in pots and scatter wildflower seeds so we can enjoy them in the high summer. We will plant annuals in the beds for a bit of fun. And we will make this house our home one more time.

Quote of the week

A little reminder that you needn’t have all the answers to start, that all the little actions add up, and that momentum is vital, no matter how glacial it may seem.

Some days I wake up with a great spring in my step and a steadfastness, self-assurance and conviction in what I need to do. Some days I’m hesitant, a little insecure, a little fragile. I am learning it is just as important to inch forward in those days as on the days I feel certain. That any action, big or small, is getting me closer to the finish line. And so this week I finally committed and signed on a technical fashion designer following a trial period, and work is underway to get the launch collection firmed up and ready for mocking up. A very big step in itself, very small in the grander scheme of things.

Thank you for joining me for this week’s gratitude journal.

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