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The calm after the storm

After a tough couple of months, now some calm has resumed (aside from some major roadworks taking place near where I live making school runs very difficult and car journeys long), I can start to catch my breath a little bit…

With self-compassion and lots of rest and relaxation where possible, I am slowly recovering and getting more of my energy back whilst my body and mind have been processing the loss of my Mum, Covid (which I caught a week after my Mum died), all the “usual everyday family stuff”, preparing for Passover, and then climbing my last big hurdle of moving house, finally settling down in our new home which me and my family hope to stay in for many years to come. Hopefully, we can put the difficulties faced in the past 13 months behind us and look forward to all the exciting things to come.

Slowing down hasn’t been an easy task with so much overwhelm, but over time, whilst I piece together some of the puzzle pieces of my life, music and singing is playing an important part in helping me to start feeling more myself again as I continue my weekly choir sessions, and I also started recently organising some karaoke nights out too with friends. Focusing on the positive things I can do for myself to get my energy and strength back is a big help, as I know this is where I am happiest, when I am feeling strong and energised.

Pacing myself each day seems to be the only way to get through it all, with the support of my family too. Accepting that I was unable to get back to “normal” straight away was a big adjustment to make especially when there was so much to do and think about already.

Grief is a new experience for me so I do have to go with the flow and listen to what my body is telling me. Bottling up my emotions does me no good, as for everyone else too – all that happens is that it just stays stored in your body and causes anxiety, stress or pain.

Releasing emotions in a healthy way is always a good thing. I am still on a steep learning curve in learning to deal with those “big emotions” which I’m told should get easier over time as I find better ways to cope, and hopefully over time, I can find more positive ways of releasing those emotions and frustrations trapped inside my body and channel those energies into something good. I am slowly getting back to playing my flute more often than I have been which feels great. I must pick up my paintbrushes soon too as I know first hand creativity is a great calming outlet.

Since my mum passed away, it’s like I’m missing a part of me, it’s hard to explain… But even though I can’t physically see her, I can still at least feel her presence within me, her love sprinkled around me, watching my every step in how I go about my life now, songs I hear on the radio that she used to love, flowers I love to buy, little reminders of all that she loved – and using my heart’s intuition, I try my best to stay connected within myself where I can and cherish those happy memories I had with her whilst she was alive.

 “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Look inside

I had a conversation with my daughter this afternoon after pick up about strawberry Yoyos, a dried rolled fruit snack that kids love in the UK, and thought I’d make a little tale about it as I thought it was a meaningful way to end the day and start the weekend.

I had two packets. My youngest who is 5 wanted the perfectly packaged one and really didn’t want the crumpled one, so I asked my 10 year old to have the crumpled packet as I thought she could handle this as she was the older one, and does it really matter now it looks on the outside if it’s the same shape and texture on the inside.

She wasn’t happy about it as she thought it would be all crumpled and ruined on the inside, but I showed her when I opened it that it was just the packaging that was crumpled on the outside – everything else was perfect and whole inside. She then smiled and finally understood me.

Moral of the story: Don’t judge how things look on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts most ❤️

Mums are something special

In honour of my Mum who sadly passed away on the 26th March after a long 10 year battle with Motor Neurone disease, and as it’s my birthday today, I thought I would reflect on what I can be grateful for on this precious day and celebrate the miracles:

– Being born to a mum who showed me so much love, compassion and kindness over the years, and her love, support and guidance has made me who I am today. Without her, I wouldn’t have been born…

– The joy she brought to my life, the happy memories before she was ill, the fun, the laughter, the shopping trips, family time and holidays.

– Even during the time she was ill, she was still amazingly positive despite all the physical challenges she had to face, the emotional hardship and frustration at every new stage of deterioration that she had to learn to accept and adapt to over the years. She had such a strong, resilient mind and a positive spirit inside of her, right until very near the end, and I’m grateful for the time I was able to spend talking to her as much as I did. She always loved hearing what we were all up to, she loved all her grandchildren so much too and loved hearing about their tales and what they get up to at school and outside activities too.

– She was a great support for me the past year especially whilst we were house hunting which was a year-long process. I’m so glad me and my family got to celebrate with her when we finally exchanged on our new house only a few weeks ago. She was so happy, we were all so relieved the worst of it was over and now we could start getting excited about the move, and she shared that joy and excitement with us.

– My Mum also enjoyed playing bridge, and one of her good friends told me she played bridge online even just using the one working finger until the last possible moment she could. She really fought until the very end.

– It was a miracle, she managed to survive the pandemic and not catch covid, so I had more time to spend with her. Even in the days I would go round and talk to her through the window, she still remained so positive. Lockdown was hard for us all, but really for my mum, this is what her life was like on a daily basis, especially when it wasn’t easy to go out much anymore and she was very much housebound. I am however really grateful that Mum had such good carers (and my Dad too of course) and also for the friendship that she built with them, and the new styles of cooking she got to taste and experience which made life a bit more interesting – they were all from a variety of countries, Somalia, Russia, Hungary and the UK.

– My Mum had such a generous nature. She always loved taking me shopping for clothes when I was younger, and we often made a day of it and ate lunch out. Even during the beginning stages of the disease, when she was independent enough still and using the scooter, I remember going shopping with her to M&S, and I remember she bought some purple flowers, some for her but also some for me too – it gave her such joy to give them to me. Purple is one of my two favourite colours and I love flowers too.

– It is such a hard thing to lose control over your whole body that it’s made me feel even more grateful for what I have and the importance of looking after yourself and enjoying life whilst it lasts. My Mum loved going to the spa – when I was 18, she took me to Champneys, which I enjoyed then and even now, I do love a nice spa break and the pampering that goes along with that. She always took pride in how she looks, going to the hairdresser every week in the traditional way women used to do, putting on make-up most days, wearing nice, smart clothes, getting her nails done, all of which I now realise was all part of her own self-care.

– Especially when it was hard to talk to her over the phone, music became a way I used to connect with her on the days I wasn’t able to see her. I am grateful for the encouragement my mum gave me playing the flute, writing, learning languages, to do all those things that inspired me despite my challenges with hearing loss. She always managed to say the right thing to make me feel good. My mum did also love listening to a variety of different music – more so classical and opera – though I never remember her playing an instrument.

– I am grateful for my Mum’s positive spirit that will always live inside of me and will never be forgotten. She always managed a radiant smile even though things were getting really tough for her. She was very much like her Mum, my Nana, who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life and had a big heart.

What can you be grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

Have you completed your stress cycle?

This year, I decided to pick the word Healing as the word that’ll be my “power word” for the year as this is the year I feel I need to really focus on all that I need to do to heal my body from all the chaos, pain and stress from last year, as I realise now that stress takes a big toll on how my body feels, how much pain I am in and how overwhelmed and unproductive it can make me feel if I don’t pay attention to it enough.

Therefore, I have been creating space for myself to heal the past few months, and in doing so, I am making a conscious effort wherever possible to not overwhelm myself so much, which for me as a Mum, is a very easy habit to slip back into…

I’ve recently re-read the audible book called “Burnout” and it’s been really interesting listening to it all over again on my car journeys to and from school (without the kids in the car of course!). Part of the reason why my pain lessens when I do certain creative or self care activities is because I am completing the stress cycle… We all hold a lot of stress within our body from all of life’s stresses and challenges that come upon us, which can cause pain. I know have a constant need to release and “complete” my stress cycle…. But due to my long “to do lists” and not always making myself a priority enough, I don’t always release it as and when I need it. This is however in working progress!

With this in mind, I have been looking to find more ways to improve my energy levels, to fill my cup with more joy, self-fulfilment and nourishment, to propel myself through this year which will also be a busy, stressful one, but ways to positively push through and making myself more of a priority and not letting my wellbeing slip by the wayside.

Creativity is something I have decided to make more of a priority as I really feel that there are strong, powerful links between your wellbeing and how creative you are as a person. I have felt recently called to focus on how I can explore my creative self, which can include 10-15 minute blocks of random musical improvisation on my flute, a series of weekly flute workshops, singing in my weekly Rock Choir group, as well as keeping up my passion for writing. I have also been exploring my artistic skills in signing up to a new membership group “Tend your heart” (see my last blog “What’s the story morning glory“). Just creating little routines that I can look forward to and which help to energise my mind and body, getting me that bit closer to my desires for my future, and stepping into that “being” that I want for myself in the future, claiming that for myself right now in this moment.

“If you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shining” (Quote by Guy Finley)

What’s the story morning glory

About two weeks ago, I started a 5 day art Heart to HeART challenge (which actually took me about 13 days to do around all the usual “family stuff”) run by creative self-care coach, Liz Chamberlain. It was great actually, I really enjoyed the experience.

I haven’t practiced art much since before GCSEs when I was at secondary school though I’ve done the odd bit of colouring since, nothing major. I didn’t take it at GCSE level as I preferred to do Latin, something I thought I would do well at, and not something like art as I didn’t think I was very good at it. Though I do remember liking the art of drawing objects that were in front of me, or copying pictures. But to draw pictures on my own without any guidance…. really, I’m no good at that kind of stuff on paper. I get really “stuck” with creating these kind of improvisational works of art, wondering am I doing this right, mistakes being made along the way… Ugh, I hate making mistakes as I’m a perfectionist and want it to look nice, to look right. And what if I make a mistake with the colours I choose, especially if I make it too dark, and how can I change it to become more of what I like to make me feel happy about what I have spent time and effort producing, that feeling of achieving something good.

These were my thoughts as I travelled along the journey of this art challenge not knowing what was in store for me. I initially started the course thinking I would do it for the fun of it and see what happens and comes up for me. Couldn’t do me any harm, and if anything, it could well do me a lot of good, and calm down my life a notch and make me feel more grounded.

So off I went and started the challenge using watercolours, but then to go deeper, I had to start using the acrylic paints I bought… I’ve never used these types of paint before so it was all feeling quite new to me. Depending on the technique I was using, I either used it neat as it was, or added some water to it. I ended up making 5 different versions of my one painting over the course of 5 sessions. It was hard work sticking with it as all sorts of feelings came up as I didn’t like what I saw at the beginning, especially when the painting had gotten too dark, but then gradually, I kept adding another layer, brightening it up as I went along with the colours that make me feel brighter, especially after the clouds of darkness appeared on my painting the second day into the challenge, so I started on Day 3 with the colour yellow to let the sunshine in.

Every day brought up a variety of emotions. I was hesitant about building on my picture after Day 4 as I thought this picture was finished and I couldn’t do much more with it, but somehow, I managed to push through this on the final day of the challenge, developed this painting some more and ended up by surprise going along with my intuition and making the yellow bits more of a pink colour and added some sparkle with my new gold metallic pens. By the end, I was happy and the picture looked like it was shining a bit more, like the sun, with all my favourite colours and shapes included in the picture.

I didn’t feel so awful at art by the end of it. I found it quite a relaxing activity I realised I can easily squeeze into my home life, and with my goal of adding more calm and as a way of building upon my creative self care practices that I already do like playing the flute and writing. I ended up signing up to the new monthly membership group, Tend your heart as a follow up to this challenge to help me keep up my new creative self-care habits. Hopefully, it’ll help reduce the overwhelm and stress of daily life, and to help power me through 2022 which is going to be a crazy but exciting year for me!

What can you do to thrive

Wow, what a rollercoaster of a year… If ever there was a way to pack a year with so many challenges and overwhelm, 2021 was the year. Which is why we have to make a serious effort to sit down and think about what positive bits we can pull from this past year as this really helps us move forward this year in a more positive light.

Sometimes we do have to walk through the “mud”, the stress, the hardships, the pain, to then see some light at the other end of the tunnel. It is difficult making those steps in the middle of all of it when you can’t see the light, but we have to remember and remind ourselves each step of the way that it’ll all be worth it in the end, continually taking those positive steps even though they may seem tiny and insignificant at the time, and absorb those lessons we have learned from our experience and even more importantly, our achievements in the process, the moments we can celebrate ourselves.

Not enough time is being spent on actually looking at ourselves and thinking about what we can actually celebrate about ourselves instead of focusing on all the negative stuff.

I realised once I wrote my last blog, crikey I haven’t written a blog since the New Year’s Eve of 2020!! Time passed so quickly with all the overwhelm of 2021 without even realising… If you haven’t read my last blog, this what I am referring to! So, without too much thought, I automatically started to delve into the negative, judging myself for it all. However, when I caught my breath for a moment, I remembered that although the second part of the year was consumed with moving house, the first part was in fact consumed with completing my Copywriting Diploma, an online course run by the College of Media and Publishing), which I did and got a distinction in! All of which felt really good, and validated my passion in writing and made it feel like it’s all been for a worthwhile cause, restoring my faith and belief in myself. This was a big achievement at the time as I did this course during the last lockdown, around all the chaos with the kids which wasn’t easy at all. If you have experienced lockdown as parent, you know what I am talking about…!

Another big transition we got through last year aside from getting through the lockdowns, was getting hearing aids finally for my son who struggled with moderate hearing loss throughout the whole of Reception last year (and with a whole load of wax stuck in his ear, the hearing loss did become quite severe).

This academic year, we “pressed rewind” and he repeated Reception so that with the hearing aids, he would get the full benefit of all the learning that he missed out on last year, including of course the phonics which is the main part of his learning, all of which had such an impact on his speech, language and social skills. It was amazing how even over the summer, his language skills improved after lots of time to chill at home with family and time at day camp, but even more so since he’s been wearing his new hearing aids. He finally got them late August after a long, tedious journey getting him tested and wax finally out of his ears (it’ll be a story to tell him when he is older!). Now, he’s a totally different child at school compared to how he was last year. So much more confident, his social skills are so much better, and he’s keeping up with the learning this year. Such a hard decision keeping him back a year, moving class and out of his comfort zone, but it was the best decision made. A decision that will really impact his whole experience at primary school, and beyond, that will enable him to be happy and not always be struggling and falling behind.

That is a lesson in itself, making that decision for him not to struggle, and instead focus on him thriving and being instead a happy and confident child. Though it is easy for us to forget our own needs for happiness and to thrive in life, adults and parents can learn from this too…

“You are the one that possesses the keys to your being. You carry the passport to your own happiness” (Diane Von Furstenberg)

Getting my breath back

Moving house has been quite an ordeal for me over the past couple of months. Finally, I am starting to feel more settled thankfully, but it has been really tough and taken a toll on my health especially. It really did turn mine and my family’s life upside down, especially at the beginning… all the decluttering before we left, packing up our old house, and then unpacking boxes at the other end.

It hasn’t been an easy year at all, 2021 was very intense, stressful, a rollercoaster of emotions and has really tested my resilience in so many ways, but at long last, I’ve made it through to the end… I am well and truly done with 2021 and ready to start this new year afresh!

When we sold our house, we only knew about two weeks before we completed our house sale where we were going to rent. Diving into the unknown is really scary…. We took a big risk and moved to a rental for 6 months, hoping this move was the right one to help us progress forwards and find the right house for our family, our “dream house”, without all the pressure of selling our house. Finally, once we signed the rental contract, there was some relief through knowing we had a house to move to, instead of having to stay in a hotel for an unknown amount of time. We are also walking distance from my daughter’s new school which meant one less school run to worry about, and my daughter could start to develop her independence. Living in the same house for 16 years, and with 3 kids, we accumulated a lot of stuff! We left home much lighter thankfully. The decluttering of course still continues…

Now, I am on a mission to regain my health and get my energy and strength back especially as a lot of my old healthy self-care habits just seemed to fall apart, and some of them disappeared in the midst of packing up the old house, which took over my life, my time, and consumed my energy. The hope is that this experience has made me stronger to be able to face the challenges that next come our way the second time we move house.

Even though I did still keep up the healthy eating as best as I could, I stopped playing either of my two flutes (Sparrowhawk and silver flute), I stopped reading books, and writing. I was missing all the creative stuff and just creating that quiet time that I love and need to energise my mind and body. It’s only in the last month, I have started to pick up my flute again, and I immediately remembered how good it feels to play it again… It feels like a bit of a jigsaw puzzle as I try to piece together some of the old habits I used to love and enjoy doing as part of my everyday life. Remembering the old me bit by bit, and making it a bigger part of my routine, and then having the motivation and drive to stick to it, which I know can be difficult once you start building a new habit.

I also did push myself too hard, way beyond my limits, on top of all the other usual family “responsibilities”, to get stuff done in preparation for the move, decluttering beforehand, packing up boxes, and general rushing around throughout the day and staying up late to get everything done with less sleep than I usually get. It was exhausting!

I am still standing now though which is a real achievement, but I am also now learning to navigate my way to healing the tendonitis I have developed in my left foot since the move, all with a lot of patience, forgiveness, kindness to myself, and really taking the time to slow down and do less whilst it heals slowly.

Stress levels and overwhelm were extremely high – lots of things were thrown at me and my family all at once, lots of time pressure. There was little time to think and care for myself properly in the way I needed. Over time, I find I do have to keep reminding myself that there was only so much within my control.

I’ve really had to re-adjust as I was becoming well aware of the fact that if I don’t S-L-O-W right down and create that breathing space for myself, my pain won’t get better and heal properly. Pain can be really stubborn to get rid of!  I also need to rebuild my strength for the move second time around and really develop a “kick ass” routine that will stick even through the next move – I don’t want to get myself in this sticky position again! Every step of the house hunting and moving house process has been a learning experience…

Just to give you some insight, at the beginning when the pain was really intense, I did get easily annoyed with myself and blamed myself for over doing it and letting the pain get this bad, but truth be told, I was just doing the best I could. So over the past month, I have been focusing on keeping the pain down and increasing my energy as much as possible, and as part of my plan to reduce stress, introduced lots of calming Epsom salt baths into my daily routine, reintroduced my love of music into my life, playing my flute, meditation and pilates. Slowly, slowly, I’m rebuilding my old habits and the pain has decreased thankfully to a more manageable level. However, I do look forward to the physio sessions I will be starting in the new year which will help me to increase the strength in my foot (and my leg too which got weaker over time) which will help me to enjoy walking for longer. Foot pain is difficult because as a Mum or busy person, we are always on our feet, plus it takes a lot of time to heal. Patience is a real virtue.

So as we start 2022, I thought I would share the key lessons I’ve learned from all my experiences this past year in the hope I might enlighten you in some way:

  • Prioritise your own wellness, don’t put it on the side lines. Pay attention and listen to your body. It’s ok to slow down and do less.
  • Look after and care for your body as much as you can now, otherwise you might pay the price later. Our bodies take more time to heal as we get older… We also just don’t know how long good health will last so we should enjoy and respect our bodies as much as we can. You are worth feeling good now!
  • Live your life as best as you can. Be happy and fill your cup of “life” with joy as much as and whenever possible.
  • Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Appreciate their best qualities. Cherish those positive memories. You never know how long you will be able to enjoy them – don’t wait until they are gone.
  • Life is full of rollercoaster rides – there is so much “stuff” that is out of our control, we must do our best to survive and thrive, loving ourselves in the process, embracing the highs and lows, like waves in an ocean.
  • Focus as much as you can on the things you can control. This is the only way we can be the best person we can be and feel comfortable in ourselves within. Self-compassion is the only way to get through the lows, and at the same time, doing what we can to appreciate all the love and beauty that is around us everyday, and doing all that we love too to keep us inspired and fulfilled.

On this note, wishing you all an amazing 2022 filled with peace, good health, happiness, fun and inspiration!

 

What positive, meaningful lessons have you learned in 2020?

Woah, this year has been a hell of a year right? Over the past 9 months since the pandemic started, such tremendous challenges have been brought upon us, to the world, turning our lives upside down, and ultimately impacting our mental health and well-being too in the process.

Sometimes, all we could do was look after ourselves and our families of course, young and old, in the best way we could and knew how. There was nothing else we could do – some things were completely out of our control and the best thing we could do was focus on all that was within our control to help us navigate our daily lives and live the best life we could.

Time to reflect now this year has come to an end…

Think about it, despite all the struggles, pain or hardships you’ve had to endure, how have YOU managed to shine the star within you this year? What was within your control? Did you surprise yourself in any way about ways you learned to cope, or discover anything new about yourself? I’d love to hear your stories…

For me personally, the past year has been such a rollercoaster ride in every possible way, so especially now, as it is New Year’s Eve, I thought I would take stock of this year, and focus on all the things I am grateful for and share the positive lessons I have learned as these will be the key things which will be travelling with me into the New Year!

  • I have learned to appreciate all the little things in life, my family, all that we have in the moment and are blessed to be.
  • Even though we haven’t been allowed to see much of friends and family, I’ve learned that connections never die or weaken. If anything, connections between friends, family, neighbours, different communities have gotten stronger and more united because of what we have been through. For this, I am so grateful. We are all in this mess together and we will come out the other side together too!!!
  • I have learned to connect more deeply with myself, to love myself more and to find my own joy and peace within.
  • I learned to get my anxiety, chronic fatigue and pain under better control through developing a great meditation routine every day. I am grateful for all the wonderful people I have met this year who have sparked my interest in meditation and who continue to inspire me, including Gabrielle Bernstein, Jay Shetty and Bob Baker.
  • I completed a mindfulness course with Mindfulness UK which really helped me to enhance my meditation routine, deepen my meditation practice, implement more mindful practices into my life, and encouraged me to breathe more and improve my focus on everyday tasks. Meditation has really helped me to get through lockdown and all the home schooling I had to endure!
  • I enrolled on a professional copyrighting course (which I am over halfway through) with the College of Media & Publishing to consolidate my passion and interest in writing.
  • I finally counted my blogs – I have now completed 53 blogs since I first started blogging two years ago!!!
  • I have almost finished editing my book and am determined to get it published in 2021 – watch out for this!

And finally, more importantly….

  • I have continued to develop my self-confidence and passion in music over the past year. Music has really helped fill me with love, joy and inspiration and more connection more than I’ve ever known in really difficult times!
  • I learned that I have been so blessed with the gift of playing a musical instrument (even with moderate hearing loss) which has given me the opportunity to feel inspired everyday, feel fuller in energy, and to share this joy with others in the communities that surround me.
  • Through enrolling on an inspiring, enlightening flute healing and improvisation course run by Christine Stevens at the Shift Network, I have built a beautiful new connection with my silver flute, invested in a Native American flute, have learned to improvise music, and developed a new daily habit of practicing.
  • I am really grateful for the new connections I have made this year who share my interest and passion in singing and playing music who continue to inspire me and propel me forward.

This flute course has been the cherry on the cake for me to finish the year, and together with the struggles of the pandemic in 2020, I have realised that music is my soul food, I crave this stuff everyday, whether it is playing my flute, listening to music or singing along karaoke-style. I just love it, this is where my heart lies, the core and essence of who I am. It’s how I express myself as authentically me.

Keep walking through the storm, the rainbow is waiting for you on the other side.

Here’s to a magical and transformational 2021 to us all 🙏❤️

Immerse yourself in music

For many of us, our lives have become so hectic that we forget about the little things that bring us joy.

A few weeks ago, I enrolled on a couple of flute improvisation courses with The Shift Network hosted by Christine Stevens, a renowned music therapist based in the US, called “The Flute as Sound Medicine” and “Deepen your Flute Journey”.

As soon as I saw this flute course advertised, I knew I wanted to do it more than anything. It grabbed my attention as I knew I wanted to develop my flute practice further and especially with the lack of social interaction, I needed a positive distraction to refuel my energy and keep me feeling more positive during this difficult period in our lives.

Lockdown is definitely not the same in the winter as it is in the warmer spring and summer months – I know I don’t venture outdoors as much I would normally do and take in enough sunlight. I often prefer to stay in the warm in the winter.

Music is my source of sunshine. I like to plug into this positive feeling every morning as often as I can. Since starting my flute course, I have developed a daily practice, even if just to play a couple of songs or improvise with the sounds of nature, drum beats or wind chimes. That’s all it takes sometimes to give me a mental boost and make me feel more productive and creative.

Starting your day on the right track can really help your day go more smoothly. I find short bursts of activities to refuel my energy work well, whether it’s playing or listening to music, exercise, meditation, reading a book or watching an inspiring talk, or anything you love to “get your teeth into” or know makes you feel good afterwards.

I am a traditional musician. I have always learnt music by just playing a tune from “old school” paper sheet music that has been created essentially by someone else. I didn’t learn any other way, so I haven’t really had much experience with improvisation.

So I dived into the unknown… What could I lose? I had no idea what I was in for and how this will all turn out but all I knew at the time of booking myself on the course was that I loved playing this beautiful instrument and wanted to explore.

As long as you don’t overthink it or overwhelm yourself worrying about what other people think, improvisation can be a really fun, relaxing experience – even though you may have no idea what you are going to play, and whether it actually makes any sense or sounds right. In reality, it has become quite an adventure as I learn new techniques, increase my confidence in playing on the spot using my own intuition without any sheet music in front of me and becoming inspired more and more each day by new instruments I can play along to to help increase my creativity, create a better rhythm and bring out the best of me – altogether an enlightening experience.

What’s your bugbear?

The pandemic has raised so many different mental health issues for people all over the world, but one in particular has stood out for me is the issue of communication.

For me, as a deaf person, it is hard enough as it is to engage in communication with people anyway, with all the issues that come along with talking to people especially where there is lots of background noise, indoors or outdoors, and especially where there are large groups of people in places like the school playground or shopping centres for example. And even when there isn’t that much noise, I find myself nowadays putting my ear as close as I can get to the person and look the other way so I can hear them better, which isn’t really a great way to communicate…..!

The new “normal” which is ever evolving and uncertain has become a “normal” part of our lives and hard to ignore which is why I feel the need to speak about it and highlight the importance of good communication and the innate human need and desire for all of us to connect with each other as best as we can in these difficult times….

I do actually have an exemption and don’t have to strictly wear a mask but I do tend to wear it anyway – I really don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I’m not wearing a mask and I also want to be doing my bit and help to prevent the spread of the virus.

Since most people cover their faces these days, I can’t really make the eye contact that I used to be able to make so easily and take in the energy of the conversation as I was used to, using facial expression and lip reading to guide me through the realms of communication.

It’s just how it is, but I do find it hard to accept the way things are and so I have been looking to make things better in any way I can, even if I can somehow help to promote this basic human need for good communication, whoever you are, and whatever learning disability or imperfection you may have that might be impairing your communication in some way, young or old… and help raise much needed awareness for those people who have to communicate with anyone with any level of deafness or a learning disability, to wear a transparent mask so that people can engage with you “properly” as best as they can.

The JDA (Jewish Deaf Association) have been a great support to me and my daughter with our deafness supporting us at home and school, and are now producing a variety of masks which help people access communication in a way they aren’t able to when our faces are covered. It helps reduce the difficulty and the struggle which counts for a lot these days…

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have this worry, but the reality is that we do have to somehow adapt to this new “normal”, and ideally everyone would wear these masks but more so those who are customer or people facing, so that we can all be more inclusive of everyone we need to communicate with.

Also, what I have found overall is that this difficulty in communication isn’t just restricted to deaf people anymore. It is affecting us all (to differing degrees of course) which is why I feel more able and the need to speak out and raise awareness of the issues from my own perspective. We don’t have to deal with this alone.

Of course your struggle with communication depends on a multitude of factors eg. age, level of hearing loss, perhaps you have some kind of vision impairment and it affects your vision too especially if you wear glasses. Personally, I find it harder to see properly wearing a mask and also, I am finding I get lightheaded underneath the mask and it affects my concentration too especially when I am rushing around and in busy, noisy environments. This probably has something to do with the fact that I am very aware of the feeling of having the mask on, with the difficulty breathing especially when moving around and talking to people and also using some of my energy on being able to concentrate on hearing what people are saying to me if I need to engage in conversation….

There are a lot of things for my mind to think about and process with the mask on. I also have to keep checking my hearing aids are still in place with my mask behind my ear – one of my biggest fears is that I will lose my hearing aid somewhere so I do have to be extra cautious these days and make sure I take off the mask really slowly. The hearing aids I have are amazing and I’m very grateful but they are so small, still a good thing, but can come out quite easily if I take off the mask too quickly!

With all of these issues at hand, the masks do put me off having long conversations with people so I do tend to keep conversations short where possible and prefer to message people or video call them later on.

Nowadays, when I manage to grab the opportunity to go out with my family or socialise with my friends or anyone outside my “household”, it really does feel like a luxury. I really appreciate being able to go out so much more these days, even just to go out for a coffee (or tea), and actually holding conversations with people face to face in a more relaxed environment.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring… What’s important though is that we make sure we enjoy our freedom in life as long as we can and appreciate all those people close to you in your life and things you may be taking for granted unknowingly….

All we can do is to recognise our own needs to be nurtured and loved through it all, have faith, and hold onto hope dearly in our hearts, like a rock, a non-negotiable in our lives, and never let it go ❤️