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2019: A Space Odyssey

There’s waking up suddenly with a sense of falling, and then there’s waking up with the complete opposite feeling. A sudden clarity that opens your eyelids like doors with catches that make them stay opened. It’s 4am on the 27th March 2016 and I have just, finally, had the no-going-back realisation that I have to end things with my partner of almost seven years, whom I married 18 months previously. And it’s my 30th birthday.

At the time I was living in a three bed semi which also had a conservatory and a garage. Opulence! In the following three years, I lived in three different places. First, I was at a friend of mine’s for a month, and lived out of about two suitcases of clothes plus a bicycle in her garage. I then moved to a one bed flat where I was donated a few bits of furniture and kitchen items, but I got all cothes and a few other bits from the house. Lastly, just nine months later, I moved to a two bed terraced house. The day I got the keys to the house I went around stroking all the walls. This was my space. My space to fill, paint, drill, cook and have several one person dance parties in.

Going from living at my friends to the flat felt like I’d just been on a massive shopping spree; all the clothes I’d managed without for a month! I was shocked by how little I had needed in those weeks. I gave away a few items to charity shops, but wasn’t about to live like that out of choice, obviously.

Whilst living at the third home, my house, the neighbours attitudes towards the space on the road – or rather, lack of it, being a cul-de-sac of terraces – allowed me some entertainment as I saw them move their cars from one spot to another, just to be *right* outside their homes. I had two factors in my favour; I rarely drove my car, and after a few months there I got a driveway put in. I often let my next door neighbour block me in due to my low levels of car usage. I thought; why not use the space to the maximum capacity? Of course, I later found out that this gave some others neighbours the hump. One gentleman in particular enjoyed telling anyone that would listen that he’d ‘lived there for 80 years so why shouldn’t I be able to park in front of my house??’. Driving drove home half cut from the pub (half a mile away) on Saturday nights was obviously something from 80 years ago that should remain possible, too…

Living on a narrow boat, as I have done now for six weeks, I have not escaped the entertaining parking debates and struggles (‘I should be able to park up right next to the pub, event if I do turn up at 10pm’!!!). For the majority, however, space is much more fluid. The space outside your boat you can set out as yours quite easily with a chair, some mats (so you don’t create a ‘slip and slide’ stepping onto the boat after a few days of wear) and for us in this still cold weather, a few logs for the fire. The shared space becomes ‘your’ space – albiet temporarily. Something about the transient nature of this space gives me a feeling of more space, in fact, that any of my previous homes.

The boat itself is, being a narrow boat, small (60x6ft). It is a bit like a spaceship. if imagine it standing on one end and the shape is not so dissimilar. Moving on here, I was reminded of my time at my friends, living out of two suitcases. Several trips to the charity shops in order to sort out my space for the boat were, in fact, an obvious necessity.  

The ‘next frontier’ might just be a different waterway, but I can already feel myself looking at what is on the boat and considering having even less. This process of thinking about space may look quite recent, but I can see the last three years, and experiences beyond that, which have amounted to me taking on this ‘space challenge’. It might not be the right life for everyone, but I believe without a doubt that an excess of ‘stuff’, never made us happier or healthier.

It’s cluttered by cosy

Come and have a nosy

And take a small sip

In our little spaceship

It may float around

And be nowhere bound

But I’m loving the trip

In our little spaceship

Thank you for reading blog! Can you relate to something I’ve written?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, and be sure to look out for another instalment in a week or few. Click on the subscribe button if you would like an email when a new blog goes up (every two weeks)
Naomi  🙂

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Investigating

Investigating:

I’m still very new to this blogging world, but have seen a few blogs from A Chronic Voice in the last year and decided to do some more investigating. It turns out that blogging can be more two-way than simply leaving a comment at the bottom – who knew?! Certainly not me, until now. Part of my reason for starting a blog in the first place was to almost ‘force’ myself to write more as part of ‘self care’; to keep my mind still working and feeling like I’m connecting to others. This has been a big change compared to the ‘old me’ and my ‘old life’. I may well take part in future months writing prompts with A Chronic Voice community, but I’d also like to investigate others who are doing similar ‘link ups’.

Regrouping:

“To organise something again in order to make a new effort, especially after a defeat” Nobody turned up to the event, but we used the time to plan the next one which was a more successful.

Work ‘defeated’ me due to my poor health so this prompt of regrouping really spoke to me. I now feel that I may still have something more to offer in terms of the skills I have developed around organising for change in the last few years, or research skills from doing my Masters. There might be a period of ‘regrouping’ to help me feel like I’m contributing to where it feels really needed, and in way that doesn’t compromise my health like my previous, high-energy job did. Perhaps, as the definition suggests, I could ‘regroup’ and it might not even be ‘less’ than before.

Boosting:

It’s a continual balancing act to know what will boost me, and what will bring me down. Often, it’s a case of both. Part of living on a narrow boat inevitably, is to go through some locks. In my last blog post I talked a bit about the pros and cons physical activity, and working locks is definitely physical! It’s been trial and error, but overall I think I prefer doing the physical work of ‘locking’ rather than the mental work of steering the boat in so that everything doesn’t gets knocked off the walls inside! Plus this way I get to increase my activity levels which I’m particularly keen to do. So at least if I’m brought down by the physical work of the locks, I’m boosted by knowing that being active is good for me mentally, and for it to act as a hopeful ‘daily drug’ against migraine.

Setting:

There’s just been a brief hailstorm. I’m inside with the wood burner on and a lovely autumnal-coloured wool blanket that my Dad gave me over my feet. I can see the sky, trees and blossom from the small porthole windows while the larger ones remain shut against the cold. You know when you wake up suddenly and don’t know where you are? I now have that feeling during the day as we stay a few hours, one day, or one week at different places. I’ve found I prefer this experience to the waking-up-at-night one; it makes me feel it’s OK not to know. The unsettled setting is, paradoxically, settling.

Reviving:

I remember writing a poem in an English class school at about 15 years old, and being told by the teacher that ‘Oh no, you don’t write it [ever]; you read others and write about them‘. Being critical and analytical was clearly the goal rather than being creative. However, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing people who have persuaded me that creativity has lots of different guises, and can be very therapeutic. Thanks to a few kind words recently, I’ve decided to revive this interest in writing poetry.

Three years, tick tock

Three years, knock knock

Three years, says time

Three years of mine

Three years, three homes

Embracing unknowns

Use it or lose it

It’s been one month on the boat and I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve come to be comfortable with a slower pace of life. For me, this has included being less physically active…

Cycling home from playing a hard (hard for me anyway, my partner enjoyed making me run, I think…) game of squash as I did many times, I was on a high. The sight of a fresh sweat still visible on my arms, my hands tensing to go over the speed bumps just a short distance away from the squash club I found reassuring. Blood pumping, eyes darting everywhere for the usual dipshits that don’t know what a blind spot is, or for the many holes in the ground that most other road users breeze over. I revelled in my ability to anticipate the road, the road users, the traffic lights. The dodgems of the read world. Just as I also revelled feeling like my lungs were a pair of hot air balloon were trying to overinflate whilst running round after a silly black bouncy ball. It’s no surprise that I got nicknamed the ‘Energiser Bunny’ for love I had for this feeling.

Perhaps, like me, you have previously, or still do enjoy this level of exertion. If not and you are sat there thinking – as my Mum often said to me – ‘you make me tired just hearing about it!!’. I challenge you to consider whether you also know that tired, but elated feeling. Perhaps working long work day to finish a job that made you proud, or you live with young children and their smiles make your world go round no matter how many times they cost you your sleep, or even ‘just’ hosted Christmas day.  Several moments like these, no doubt.

Imagine now that job, or those children, becoming the most difficult thing to sustain (Christmas dinner I’m sure, we’d all happily pass the buck on). I’ve written a bit about being ‘Wonder Woman’ as a guest blog for my friend Melissa on Feel Good Community’s site. I think we all believe we were like a superhero, when retrospect kicks in. I didn’t want to stop feeling that ‘high’ but my body was forcing me to do so. If I kept up this level of exercise, I wouldn’t be able to do anything else, including simple things like making a quick meal, let alone the complex and varied nature of having a job. Initially, I didn’t understand that was a choice I had to make. Gradually, my body wore me down and I found it simpler to do as little as possible. Changing from Energiser Bunny to this was no joke.

That was my ‘safe space’; do nothing, and you’ll feel well. Painfully, I still didn’t. I had a part time job and friends and family that I wanted to see to maintain some level of sanity.

Living on the boat has giving me the chance to slow down mentally, so that I may have some space to speed up physically. After an appointment with the Migraine Centre, I’m now aware of how physical activity can act like prevention medication; it can higher your tolerance to symptoms. Still, moderate levels are recommended so even if I logistically could, I wouldn’t be cycling to a game of squash. Along the tow path there’s plenty of opportunity for walks, as well as chopping wood and perhaps even a dip in a nearby river now and again. The hot air balloons that are my lungs are safely inflating without straining to pop, but my blood is pumping and my eyes are watchful. After a few minutes I can stop to rest, and start again either later today, or the next day, or the next…

I’m still no Energiser Bunny, but perhaps we can all be superheroes, in our different ways. What we don’t use – and therefore lose – perhaps don’t always need to be grieved, fought against or be cause for self loathing. Change is inevitable, and, as the Buddhists have it, pain is as essential as pleasure.

When people ask, ‘are you well?’

Do I respond, ‘sure, I’m swell!’

Perhaps that smile won’t reach the eyes

Perhaps they only want to hear the lies

The pain creeps in, my old friend

Always moving, around the bend

The next calm waters still my mind

To myself I can now, be truly kind

Thank you for reading blog! Can you relate to something I’ve written?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, and be sure to look out for another instalment in a week or few. Click on the subscribe button if you would like an email when a new blog goes up.
Naomi 🙂

The Big Boat Picture

Disclaimer: I am not a boater

Tom reliably informs me that you’re ‘not a boater’ until your third year on the boat. Pretty convenient for him to say that as that’s exactly how long he’s been on the boat for…

So, at not even three weeks, I’m happy enough saying ‘I’m not yet a boater’; my story (or stories, I suppose), will be about taking the big important aspects and the teeny tiny ones of living on a boat, and give a snapshot into my life of why these instances have come together to float me to where I am today.

Everyone who lives on a boat has had something – or indeed, a few moments – that have led them to search for a different, often cheaper, way of living. I’m not saying I’m any better/different/more special/worse off than anyone. But what boating does is bring together such a broad range  of people; people who have the hardest lives we could possibly imagine, and this is a last resort to not be homeless, to folk who have had enough of the over-consumerism lifestyle of living in brick built homes, and then those who are just on their boats ‘for the season’ as the boat is a moveable holiday home for them. This safari of stories is one I’ve not only bought a ticket to, but am also now on my way to getting the t-shirt.

Rewind just eight weeks and you’ll find me and Tom in the local pub close to my home in Coventry, which we’ve gone to ‘for one drink’ on a Friday night. The beer’s cheap and, of course, we end up staying for four (we’re not big drinkers so our equivalent of ‘a night on the town’!) We go from playing ‘what’s the story with that couple’ to suddenly segwaying into how we feel about life. As you do. Tom’s boat, at this stage, was being moved around the Ashby Canal with the view of selling it in the spring which would then take the space a rather large chunk of my mortgage.

Rewind two years to when I’ve just realised that being constantly emotionally drained, tired with regular headaches, has a name – migraine. Since then I’ve had a downward spiral that peaks and troughs around a plateau (more on this another time) and has included moving to part time hours at work. Eight weeks ago I was in a trough. Each hour of every day was something to get through; going to bed was a relief to either forget the pain for a while or forget the anxiety of being in pain the next day.

Sat in the pub, feeling the warm fuzz a few wines inevitably induces, I had an epiphany! The kind of  there’s-no-going-back-from-this revelation that inevitably invokes action: I was unhappy, and there was another way – to trial, at the very least.

Tom kept asking me, ‘Are you serious about this?’ I really wasn’t sure!  But I couldn’t stop smiling or ignore the feeling of butterflies fluttering in my stomach  with nervous anticipation & excitement! As well as of course being blind-faced scared about the whole idea! So it was happening!I had one person I knew I had to talk to about this venture before fully signing up. The one heart-wrench that gave me several sleepless nights before we left the city; my Dad. This is not something I currently find easy to write about, but I will leave you with this:


Times we’ve walked along stormy coastlines

With storms of our own, raging inside

For others not each other;

That’s why we came together

Times we’ve picked up the phone, to talk things out

Knowing there’s no need, to stamp and shout

He’s been there before

And tomorrow, I’m sure

I’ll pick up the phone, to talk things through

He’s part of the shit, so part of the crew

We’ll still come together

This waterway, or another.

Thank you for reading my first post! Are you a boater or a complete novice like me? Or perhaps you’d never dream of exchanging life on dry land for the water? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, and be sure to look out for another instalment in a week or few.
Naomi 🙂

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