Photo A Day – November 1: The candle #FMSphotoaday

WHEN I STARTED this blog two months ago my aim was to create and keep a space to express creativity and share my story. Life began to get in the way, so this month I aim for daily bite-size chunks not weekly essays – though I may still do one or two of those too!

The inspiration for this came from an Australian blogger, FatMumSlim, when my sister-in-law accepted her challenge to take a photo a day last month, and shared the results on Facebook. Here is the challenge list for November. I have decided to take up the challenge to post a photo a day with a comment on it (if it does not speak for itself).

Day 1: Something Beginning with ‘C’ = A Candle.

For the past eight weeks I have been setting my alarm an hour early to do an exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron  called the Morning Pages – three pages of A4 longhand writing to clear the mind at the start of the day. I put choral music on the CD player, light a candle and sit down to write. Julia explains how they are intended to work here.

Today the candle was particularly helpful to focus and still my mind. I woke with the alarm at 6am, but snoozed on until 7am. Yesterday felt particularly intense, and it was hard to motivate myself to get up.

I had an interview for a new job yesterday morning. To give myself confidence to apply, I convinced myself the job was just right, that it would give me more time and energy to spend with my partner and in developing my creative interests. I even worked out a plan for how to manage the handover of my current work to a colleague. I spent days on the application, time I might otherwise have spent writing this blog last month. I spent days preparing for the interview, planning a polished presentation on the future of the new charity I was applying to lead.

But it was not to be. In the afternoon I got the call to say I was not successful.

In my head I knew I had done my best, that the competition was tough, that someone else had the edge in the specialised field of the charity’s work. But in my heart I was inconsolable. I believed in the job so much that getting the call was like having it taken from me, although it was never mine. Affirmations from my partner and friends who encouraged me to apply had little effect. I felt very low, and took myself to bed very early to comfort myself in sleep.

I have reflected on why this affected me so much. The job was Development Manager for an adult mental health charity. One of the desirable criteria was personal experience as a mental health service user. I shared that I had sought support from mental health services at various times between the ages of 18 and 30, and that in overcoming prejudice and stigma, self-limiting labels and beliefs, I could empathize with current mental health service users and potentially be a role model to show them that hope and recovery is possible.

Having shared this and been unsuccessful left me feeling exposed, wondering if I had appeared too vulnerable, doubting myself and my ability. I should know by now not to take too much notice of this negativity – it affects me more when I am tired and stressed than on days when I feel calm and rested. And I know what I said was true – being in touch with my own vulnerability, actually makes me more empathic and good at what I do.

So the candle today was a reminder of the old Chinese proverb:

‘It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness’.

I still have hours, sometimes days, of darkness, but I know they will pass. It is tempting to fear I am slipping back into vulnerability and depression in those times, but with rest and support I know it is just that – fear.

The light and warmth of companionship and gratitude reach me in my darkness and help cast out the shadows of fear.

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