Out of my Comfort Zone: for World Mental Health Day

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Recently, I did something which caused me some anxiety.  It would go so far as to say it scared me, at least a little.  I have done something else recently, an second act, which caused me no more anxiety than the first, in fact a great deal less on balance.  I enjoyed the latter experience, the former brought me no joy.

For the first thing, which caused anxiety, no-one gave me any credit.  For the second, which was fun, people said well done.

That’s one of the odd aspects of fear.  It can often be very personal.

The second thing was an abseil, which I carried out for charity.  According to an email I received afterwards, thanking me and my fellow abseilers for our time and efforts, not many people do this kind of thing.  Perhaps this is what makes an exhilarating stunt like this something to be admired.  Not many people do it.

The first thing was leaving the house and going to the shop.  Facing the outside world.  Lots of people do this, day after day.  So why would anyone think to congratulate someone for something so mundane? I will tell you why – it is all down to that which makes a person afraid.

Many people called me ‘brave’ for lowering myself from Newport Transporter Bridge on a piece of rope.  Whilst it was certainly far from unpleasant to be congratulated, I maintain that it required precious little bravery on my part.  In order to have been brave, I would have needed to have been scared in the first place, and to have overcome that fear.  As it was, I was a little apprehensive, but my overarching feeling was that of excitement and – eventually – of accomplishment.  I wanted to do it again.

Some days, I don’t want to leave the house.  It causes me anxiety to do so.  I do it because I have to but, given the choice, there are times when I would prefer to avoid interaction with anyone but my nearest and dearest altogether.  But we don’t get that option in this life.  We have to get on with stuff.  So we do.  I do.

I think the times when I get up, get dressed, do the daily stuff despite the knots in my stomach and the heaviness in my soul, that is when I am truly brave.  And I am not the only one.  But it seems no-one would think to say ‘well done’ to someone for doing this.  Perhaps we should.

(In choosing to publish this blog post, I am acting in the face of one of my biggest fears, that of judgement and rejection.  I am doing it however because I hope it may help others.  If I succeed in bringing some encouragement, then this particular act of bravery – whilst not as much fun as an abseil – will certainly have been worth it.)

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What book…?

This one!

It would appear that I told you about the chapbook being placed in shops, before I actually told you about the book!  Well, let me redress that.

“Taking Flight”, published by Sampson Low is my first anthology, consisting chiefly of verses created during my creative writing studies.  Many of the pictures in this book were also produced during times of work and study, where drawing them helped me concentrate on the content of the meeting/class etc .  Honest!  I hope that the resultant combination of words and doodles is a quirky, thought-provoking collection that people will enjoy.

You may buy this book directly from me for £4.99 incl. P&P  by emailing DithParity@gmail.com.  I will even sign it for you if you wish.

Update: From now until Saturday 6th October, 25% of profits from every sale will be donated to St. David’s Hospice Care.  The reason for this is the excellent support they gave my father-in-law last year.  (The date also marks the day on which I shall be doing a sponsored abseil, with butterfly wings.  As you do… ) https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/abseilingdith

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Taking Flight
Judith Parry
Published July 2018
ISBN 978-1-910578-86-5
A6 Size
16 printed pages
Colour
Chapbook 30
SLB098
Print run of 100

Shamelessly plugging my book

Once again, I am making you wait for the next installment of “What I did. . .”  I will add it soon, honest.

In the meantime, I wish to tell you that my new chapbook, “Taking Flight” is now appearing in bookshops in my local area.  The first of these is the aptly named “Uttoxeter Shop” which unsurprisingly is in Uttoxeter.  I visited there today and spoke with very obliging lady who agreed to place a few of my books by the till.  If you are in the local area, why not drop by and purchase one, supporting a local business and a freelance writer at the same time.  Plus, you get yourself a copy of my poems and doodles.  Win-win and indeed Win!

 

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What I did on the weekend (2 of 3)

Here continues the tale of what I did on the weekend of the Coda festival in July.

Saturday

As some of you may remember, we left my Hop4Hope interactive display in a state of semi-completion in the reflective tent on Friday evening, it having previously embarked upon an unplanned and disruptive meander around this venue.  Come Saturday morning – after the free breakfast – I dismantled the display and reconstructed it in the Hub tent, narrowly seeing off a last minute pretender to its new location.

Once in its new – and final – site, the installation invited people to ponder ‘hope’ in connection with concepts of inspiration and deflation, using the space-hopper to help visualise this.  The friendly orange orb also provided a surface on which people could write their replies to the questions: “What brings you hop(e)?” and “How can you bring hop(e) to others?”. These replies were to be collected and incorporated into my 5pm presentation in the Words tent.

Around mid-afternoon, the Supportive Husband turned up with an answer to some of my own hopes, bearing boots for the near-saturated feet of his forgetful wife.  He and I then dropped in on an intriguing, tech-based reflection led by DJ Andy Hunter and followed this by attending an introduction to a fascinating range of ancient instruments delivered by Nigel Mason.  Our tastes are nothing if not broad ranging.   We also entertained ourselves by watching the young – and not so young – people who were evidently enjoying the space-hoppers now bouncing around site.

Eventually the time came for me to prepare for my evening presentation.  Space-hopper? Check.  Daft hat? Check.  Even dafter t-shirt? Check.  Well, if I wasn’t ready now I never would be.  What followed was a brief one woman show entitled “The Space Hopper is my Spirit Animal: Perks and perils of being full of hot air, larger than life and frequently deflated.” It provided an insight into my own journey from hopelessness to hope, and seemed to strike a chord with the audience – including those who were good enough to ‘volunteer’ to participate.  Thank you (you know who you are!)

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Once the performance was successfully completed, I was able to relax.  After bidding farewell to my flying-visit-making Supportive Husband, I went on to appreciate offerings from the various talented contributors to this brand new mini-festival.  The evening culminated in the Mass Jam in the Hub tent, a raucous, joyful collection of skilled instrumentalists and singers.  The whole thing came to a close on a high note – both literally and metaphorically – with an impromptu rendition of Amazing Grace that threatened to take the roof off the tent.  What a day!

 

What I did on the weekend (1 of 3).

In various places, including my facebook page, twitter account and brand new website (more about that another time), I have been talking about a new Welsh festival called Gwyl Coda, which took place on the final weekend in July.  Now I have had time to dry out my tent, and my feet, I figured I should let you know more.  Being a (fairly) logical kind of person, I have opted to approach the weekend in date order, and assign a post to each day.

Friday 27th July

After extensive faffing about, including much wrangling of space-hoppers and consulting of Google Maps, I finally set off for a field in mid-Wales.  The Dol Llys campsite and Llanidloes, to be precise, venue for the aforementioned Gwyl Coda festival.  (If anyone is wondering about the origin of this festival, and of the name, it may interest you to follow this link  to an article by Stuart Elliott, who helped organise the event.)

Despite having told her I would be there a number of hours before I actually arrived, I met up with a long-standing friend in the drizzly registration queue around 4pm (I am not sure if she had been standing in the queue for a long time, simply that she has been my friend for a good many years).  We exchanged notes on when we had got there, and where we intended to pitch our tents, before embarking on an effort to outwit the Welsh weather.  This endeavour met with relative success, leading to my bijou shelter and her frankly palatial structure being erected before the worst of the rain set in.  Hurrah!

Then came the first of my sessions for the weekend.  This involved a space-hopper, a hat and a copy of my newly published little chapbook (more about that later too), and took place under a rather lovely horse-chestnut tree.  My friend and another good pal of many years joined me beneath the tree with their various family members, plus a lovely lady who appeared to have ended up there by mistake.  I read some poems and explained what the whole Hop4Hope aspect of the weekend was due to be.  This was all met with interest, applause and perhaps a little bemusement.

After this, I thanked folk for their time, and set off with space-hopper to put together my interactive installation for the weekend – the intention of which was to get people to think about what brings them hope.  By the time I reached the quiet reflective tent, where I had been told the installation would probably fit best, I had gained a trail of interested acolytes.  The children of my friend, and some friends of theirs, were eyeing my space-hopper hopefully.  They followed me into the marquee, which was in semi-darkness.  They followed me around the circumference of the marquee, as I wondered where to place my installation.  Finally, they followed me back out of the marquee again, as my injunctions to be quiet and stop disturbing the meditative people did not appear to be working.

The best course of action at this point was to give the kids a space-hopper and pump to play with, whilst I  returned to the tent attempted to create something suitably arty and interactive with my installation (apologies again to the people I disturbed in doing so).  Having got to a point at which I was relatively happy, and having been politely asked to leave so that the 8pm reflective event could take place, I opted to cut my losses and return the next day.*

The rest of the evening passed well, including food and music with friends, plus much laughing at people on space-hoppers.  I finally retired to my tent, snuggled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep to the sound of happy festival goers and rain on the canvas.

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Me, under a tree.

 

*See Saturday’s post  for more…

Out of Sight

It was a chilly Easter Saturday morning as I and the Husband headed off to Pontypool railway station in order to make the trip to Colwyn Bay. The reason for this, the launch of ‘Out of Sight’, an anthology of work produced by Disability Arts Cymru, in which one of my poems was to feature.

Due to the kindness of an Accessibility Officer at Arriva Trains, travel passes had been secured for us and for a fellow writer Des (pictured below) and his son Will, also a veteran of poetry events. After some initial confusion in which the Husband attempted to evict our new friends from their seats, we settled down and the three hour journey passed speedily and socially.

Colwyn Bay greeted us with a cold grey sea and biting wind, so the two of us headed off to a warm cafe whilst our travelling companions braved the sea front. We met again later at the cultural centre where we were welcomed warmly by Denni Turp, the organiser of the event, who presented me with a beautifully bound copy of the anthology. We then found some seats amongst the gathered crowd of guests, in which the each poet was recognisable by the shiny new book clasped in their hands.

After a welcome and introduction by Denni and Mark Isherwooed AM, the poets took to the floor. There followed a diverse range of words, ranging from personal accounts of depression and autism, via reflections upon caring for someone with dementia and culminating with some hard hitting commentary about the effects of funding cuts upon people with mental illness. After a brief break for refreshments and networking, an open invitation was issued for people to read more of their work, which led to the sharing of yet more interesting and entertaining poems.

The event came to a close, and our party of four headed back to the station via the chip shop opposite the centre (highly recommended). Once on board our carriage, the movement of the train and the effect of our full bellies lulled us into semi-consciousness and we were soon home.  All in all, a good day.

 

Above left: The anthology “Out of Sight”. DAC is arranging for at least one copy to be available in each library in Wales.

Above right: Our travelling companion Des Mannay entertains with his poetry.