Something occurred to me these past few days, a collection of thoughts, feelings and experiences which led me to this conclusion :: I have become deeply entrenched in my own personal Comfort Zone. Now this is no bad thing in my opinion, for I am very, very happy and content tucked up inside my zone. And if happiness is a measure of success, then I have that in spades.
My life is fairly mundane for the most part. Days of low key, mellow routine which revolve around the needs of my family interwoven with my daily quest for pleasure and creative fulfilment. I am extremely fortunate to have a loving and stable home life, my health (which I never take for granted), friendships and freedom. I relish my freedom more than I am able to put into words - my days can sometimes feel a little adrift as I don't tend to have a huge amount of structure, but that is just a teeny tiny down-side with a very large up-side. I can wake up and choose what I do with my days, I can choose where I wish to spend my six child-free hours, I can do things on a whim, can chop and change depending on my mood, the weather, a whiff of a spontaneous idea - this freedom is sooooo precious and I consider myself very, very lucky indeed to have it.
In recent years, my life experiences have accidentally narrowed somewhat. By that I mean that I don't tend to ever venture very far from home any more. I used to love going down to London once or twice a year, getting on the train and setting off for a day of adventure in the Big Smoke. I used to love the thrill of it, used to crave the excitement of Big Shops, stimulation, inspiration, retail therapy. I don't recall when exactly I stopped wanting to go places, it just kind of dwindled down to nothing so that the idea of journeying for three and a half hours in order to spend money in shops just began to feel rather silly.
Every year we take our family holidays in familiar places within the UK - Dorset, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumberland. Every year I give quite a lot of thought to new places we might visit, new things we might try, and yet every year we settle with familiar routine and go back to the same places. It seems we still need to be in our comfort zone, even when we aren't at home.
Sometimes I get frustrated by the whole same-same of my days, this very ordinary little thing that my life has become, but truthfully that doesn't happen often. I have come to really appreciate the gentle familiarity of a small life spent in a small rural market town, being Mum to my three Little People and being the person I am without effort, struggle, stress or ambition. It is peaceful, it makes me happy, this small domestic life of mine.
On Friday I spent some lovely hours with J who had the day off work. I know he sometimes envies my days of freedom, and the days he has free from his working life are precious to him. I asked him what he wanted to do with his day and he said he'd simply like to walk by the river. Fine by me - lets go.....
He chose a familiar and favourite place of ours, the footpath along the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey (twice in one week for me!). It was damp and still, and aside from the rushing sound of the river it was very quiet and peaceful on this dull, cold, overcast Friday morning. It really does make you feel great walking amongst nature, it tops up the feel-good tanks somehow. Such fresh, cool, oxygenated air here under the trees as we teeter on the edge of Winter. We walked and talked and it was good.
After our walk we headed further into the countryside to one of our favourite pubs (the New Inn at Appletreewick) for a spot of lunch. This pub is so unpretentious, so down to earth and rustic, we love it's simplicity very much. On this Friday lunch time we were the only customers, we sat right there next to the log fire and soaked up the warm and cosy atmosphere.
This was the day before a Very Big Day Indeed, and there was a certain amount of nervous anticipation filling my mind. In the quiet of this small pub, J and I talked of what was to happen the next day, our Big Day Out, our journey to a city which was to take me way out of my comfort zone......
We had an early start on Saturday morning, leaving the house at 7am before the sun had risen over the hills. As we journeyed out of Yorkshire, we were surprised to see the hilltops of Lancashire dusted with a powdery covering of snow - Winter has arrived in a sharp, sudden snap of coldness here. Bye bye Autumn.
Travelling to Manchester was such a strange thing, it was nerve wracking and familiar all at the same time. Manchester is the city where J and I met each other twenty two years ago, where we studied, lived, socialised and worked for eight years through our twenties. We know the city well and loved our life there, and yet it still felt very strange to be back, so unexpectedly unfamiliar. And huge. Crikey, everything in that city is enormous! Very close to our destination we had a really stressful time in the depths of the city centre when our trusty sat-nav lady went absolutely bonkers and completely lost the plot. She had a total meltdown and started talking non-stop at us in her impeccable English accent "turn right, right hand lane, keep right, Albion Street, keep right, Manchester, Birmingham Airport, right hand lane, keep right, Birmingham Airport, etc etc...." What On Earth???!!! I was sooooooo uptight, we were trying to find a particular car park and my heart was hammering so loud with anxiety that I thought I might just open the car window and throw up my toast and marmite. Luckily for me, J is a) a very good driver and b) unbelievably calm in times of navigational stress.
So eventually we found the aforementioned car park, and all of a sudden we were there at the (huge) Manchester Central convention centre. It's a really beautiful old building (an old railway station), constructed in a huge arc and kind of industrial but with so many curves it is rather graceful and lovely. The Handmade Christmas Fair was already under way (it had started on Friday) and there was a lovely atmosphere in the building. We went straight to the Super Theatre and I tried very, very hard not to be nervous.....
......gulp. So many chairs!!!! Yikes!!!! My internal dialogue was a little bit like the sat-nav lady at this point, kind of a slightly panicky, manic running dialogue of randomness. But, it was *OK*, I managed to stay calm and the team behind the scenes were friendly and welcoming and instantly put me at ease. I can't really tell you an awful lot about my chat with Kirstie as it all went by in a bit of a blur. There were around 180 lovely ladies in the audience, but it still managed to feel quite cosy and informal somehow. We chatted, I relaxed a little. We chatted some more. I talked about crochet, colour, blogging, all things I feel good about and found that I actually had quite a lot to say about (!) You can read a really great write up on Kathryn's blog Crafternoon Treats (Kathryn was in the audience).
It went by in a flash - forty five minutes of being very far out of my Comfort Zone, on the stage and in the spotlight, public speaking and all. SO far removed from my normal little Attic-dwelling life, but I surprised myself and really did genuinely enjoy the whole experience. My big hope is that I might have inspired someone to maybe start a blog of their own, find their writing voice, be brave enough to share their thoughts ideas and projects with others. Becoming part of this amazing, thriving blogging community right here in the world wide web has changed my life. There is so much good here within the creative community, so much talent, passion and inspiration, and it's a real privilege to be a part of it. I love my little blogging space so much!!
Did I mention how BIG Manchester is?
City buildings and city streets, the height of the surrounding landscape, it was all quite overwhelming. I suddenly missed the hills, I missed the familiarity of feeling gently grounded amidst a rural landscape. J felt the same - there was a moment when we both stopped walking and looked at each other and communicated a "lets get out of here" thought. So instead of heading right into the city centre as planned, we turned right around, walked back to the car and drove away.....
.....not too far away mind you. We simply headed five miles out of the centre to the quiet leafy suburban roads where we used to live. We drove down our old road and past the old house which we shared with five friends, and parked in the car park of our old local pub where we once spent a lot of our time. It was refreshingly familiar and surprisingly unchanged since we left almost twenty years ago.
We plonked ourselves down on some saggy leather sofas next to a glowing coal fire and breathed out. Phewwwwww. A large glass of celebratory vino and a very good hot steak sandwich later, and all was right in my world again.
Yesterday (Sunday) was a day of total slobbery. Arriving home on Saturday evening I had felt utterly exhausted and drained. I went to bed early and slept for ten hours straight, waking up with such a huge sense of relief and a lightness in my soul. I did it! I went well and truly out of my Comfort Zone, and it really was OK, I did OK. Still, this sense of relief stayed with me all day, and I made the most of it, allowing myself a personal little glow of pride whilst lounging around on the sofa in my pyjamas. We lit the fire after lunch (it's gotten really blinking cold here), and I settled down to immerse myself in those Sunny stripes of glorious colour.
At the end of my legs, my feet were cosied up in some rather lovely hand knit socks...........and that's a story I shall tell you about very soon :)