Growlery

Image by Evan Leavitt

I think this is the sister blog to Nourish, written last week. If Nourish was about good things in…. then this is about bad stuff out…..

Sometime being good and keeping things going just gets too much, right?

Sometimes, full of frustration or fear or disappointment, full of loss or anxiety or confusion, full of duty and responsibility, our ability to hold together the stitching of our better selves just… unravels… and we show up in the world in fearful, frustrated, broken ways.

When I’m fearful and frustrated, I can be sharp, rude, verbally rapid and, I’m told, a little intimidating. I can be judgemental and impatient. My “good girl” finds herself transformed, mascara-smeared and snarling (metaphorically, mostly) as my demon-self settles in for the fight. 

It ain’t pretty.  It’s also rarely gratifying, even in the moment… mostly because I have some awareness I’m being an arse, even as I continue to be one. 

Yet, I have some love and sympathy for my Mad Woman in the Attic and I defend her right to exist with some relish (knowing, of course, a healthy dose of privilege means my mad woman has greater permission to roam than others’, which comes with its own set of stuff…) Anger is an energy and sometimes that white-hot crossness feels good.

Other times, when I’m full up with coping, with dutifully paying my bills, walking my dog, attending to work and the people I love and care for, eating well, exercising, being responsible and grown up… I just don’t have the energy to be a mad woman. Sometimes I just want to lie down and have a tantrum or wail pitifully into the wind: 

It’s not fair.…. It’s so unfair. 

I’m too tired.….. Are We Nearly There Yet? 

Poor me.…. Poor us. 

It’s too much. …. It hurts

….or variations of this with a lot more swearing.

Right now, I’m seeing more and more of this mad/bad/sad stuff in the collective consciousness. People tired, exhausted, digging in and working through stuff themselves, leaving less tolerance, less patience for “others”. I live near a crossroads in Edinburgh – I’ve never heard so many exasperated car horns as I have recently, as drivers are chivvied along for hesitating at the lights. What is showing up in our world – the external expression of our internal angst – can feel a little overwhelming and baffling at times… it can add to our sense of fear and anxiety…and so things spiral.

I am, therefore, committed to not add to it – to the collective mad/bad/sad – I try to manage my own stuff and be in the world with as much care, kindness and hope as I can. Sometimes, in order to be this way, I have to withdraw and re-strengthen. 

One of the great joys of this year, for me, has been joining a virtual writers group based on Shetland. There has been a wellbeing project running, which involves writing and reading together – mostly around themes which allow collective expression. One of the sessions revolved around archaic or little-known words and my most favourite was “Growlery” – defined as A place to retreat to, alone, when ill-humoured” which is believed to have originated in Charles Dicken’s Bleak House:  

Sit down, my dear,” said Mr. Jarndyce. “This, you must know, is the Growlery. When I am out of humour, I come and growl here.”

You can see where I’m going with this, right? As much as we need to nourish and replenish ourselves, we may also need to get the filth and fury out of ourselves. Sometimes cosy socks and reordering our bookshelves is an inadequate response to the undulating, unsettling sense of madness and the world disassembling… sometimes you have to find a place to growl that will do no harm to others.

I tend to growl on page – writing the fury and fear out of myself until there’s space for the calm and the joy. I used to growl more to my loved ones, but everyone feels so full at the moment, I’m cautious about spreading my less positive stuff around unhelpfully. Maybe this is where creative outlets come in – dance it out, paint it out, dig it into the garden, swim it off in the sea, sing it, rap it, weep it out… I dunno….(I found myself crying over the video for Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber’s “Stuck With U” video last week and, mortifying as it was, I kind of just went with it and, after I allowed myself just to be sad for a bit,  it was weirdly satisfying.)

I figure this is not the time for private stoicism. I figure we need to go somewhere with the mad/bad/sad…. If there are private places we can break, or show sorrow, or externalise our mad/bad/sad stuff, without publicly adding to a lot of the toxic BS that is out there…surely that is in service of everyone?  Because fear and anxiety have viral elements to them – they spread, you can catch someone’s fear if you aren’t wise to what’s happening… and they can catch yours.

So I’m mentally building a growlery – lots of padding for the acoustics and a free space to set fire to the keyboard to be mad/bad/sad for a bit – on the understanding that I don’t hang out there for too long and I return to the world less infected with anger and fear.

Anyone joining me?

About me:

I’m Julie Drybrough, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Facilitator, Speaker, Blogger & Dialogue Guide. Working with people & organisations to improve conversations, relationships & learning – Doing stuff with love.

Follow the fuchsia blue blog 

Find me on Twitter @fuchsia_blue

Contact fuchsiablue to find out more

Nourish

love cups – photo my Ralph Nardell

Last week, I wrote a blog titled Endurance, which seemed to resonate with folk in ways I didn’t anticipate… meaning it got read, shared and commented on far more than anything I’ve published in the last few years. It made me think there’s something more to consider in the space of enduring, being resilient and making our way through the darker months well…so then the question of the week for me became about how we Nourish ourselves.

In order to endure, to be resilient etc, I figure there has to be a source of energy we can draw on… and if everyone is running around depleted, that energy source can’t reliably (or fairly) be pulled from others – some of it has to be self-generated… which means, we have to nourish ourselves practically, emotionally, physically, in the coming months…THEN we can share our nourished selves around, so others are nourished and they can share and….on and on it will grow.

And…I’m thinking about how we do this cheaply, easily – so being nourished is not a privilege thing, it’s a Universal Access thing, a Human thing.

(and as I write this I’m fully aware of the political wrangling in the UK over the need to nourish our poorest kids. I’m not getting into that here, particularly, but Marcus Rashford’s Twitter feed and the outpouring of generosity this week has felt nourishing on a number of levels and sort-of proves the point that kindness and  big-heartedness are generative, not finite) 

As is so often the case when I am sort-of ruminating on a puzzle, I’ve found myself noticing stuff on nourishing our internal capacity, energy and ability to “continue kindly” through all of this… ways to support ourselves…so I thought I’d share a few things that  have piqued my interest. 

One source in particular is Dr Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast ( posted on 23rd September) where she talks about three things on her mind. The whole podcast has merit as Dr Brown reflects on the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the importance of legal dissents in the US Legal system ( and beyond). The next section is on an article entitled “Your “Surge Capacity” is Depleted – It’s why you feel awful” – which deals with ambiguous loss and some of the aspects of coping with long-term disaster 

But it is the third section, the one on “Play” that really got my attention. Quoting from Stuart Brown from the National Institute of Play  (see Ted talk here)  comes the assertion that “the opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression”. Neuroscience and social science repeatedly evidence that “Play” lights up our brains, renews our sense of excitement in life – energises us…. So if we are to endure, to get through all of this… play seems to be one way to re-energise and help us continue.

Something about that invitation disturbs me. Play? Now? Are you kidding me? How can I play when the world’s gone mad? Is this not indulgent, unimportant nonsense? And also… I’m not sure I’m naturally playful… I’m all grown up and serious… I can be task focussed, on-purpose… I like a clipboard of stuff to tick off and I’m horribly badly organised at times, which means playing around just frustrates me… 

But Brené Brown seems to make an invitation around Play, which feels more connected to something I can work with.. more nourishing…she asks that we identify:

Time spent without purpose

Activities where you lose track of time

Activities where you feel free and uninhibited.

Her own list includes things like “Alone time, riding my bicycle, fun TV” – all of which resonated for me… and so I spent some time, identifying some of the “play” activities I already have in my life…Even taking time to think about these, made me feel better… even dwelling on nourishment, instead of how depleted I feel, made me feel more nourished…

And I was going to share my list here.. but then as I wrote it out, it became less nourishing, more curated “here – look at my list”… and my list won’t be your list…and your list is important…and not to be judged. You might value time knitting socks or playing Xbox, sweeping the back yard, washing your bike, kicking a football, star gazing, playing exploding kittens (other card games are available)… these are your sources of nourishment and it feels like knowing these might be kind of important right now… so after this, go wander about your house or out for a walk and just think about the things that replenish you – things that require nothing more from you than you show up and potter. Things that make you feel free.

Another source of interest was returning to the Danish notion of Hygge (in the authentic sense, not in the “force yourself cozy under a £150 blanket you bought because you are certain THIS ONE will relax you”). It’s defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being” and going back to paying attention to when I feel cosy and cared for – those small things like hot chocolate or cuddling in to watch TV in thick socks – means I have a sense of nourishment and things-are-well-in-the-world which can counteract the chaos long enough to strengthen me. 

So play for a bit and then rest within yourself. Treat yourself as the precious and beautiful thing that you are and be well – you have it in you to get through this and many, many other things besides.

Keep nourished. Endure.