The Art of Finding Focus

majorca-295[Elsa captured this snap of me on our holiday this year. I love that extended period of time off when all I do is read and no matter what book I’ve got in hand,  I can spend hours at a time focusing on the story.]

I’ve been working a lot lately on finding focus. I’ve realised a lack of focus is a weakness of mine, and I’m sure of many people. I watch a TV show while browsing through Instagram. I watch a film and message friends throughout. I cook, eat, dress, shower, scrapbook, write all with Friends playing in the background. I listen to music and end up thinking. I overthink and think over a lot of things though, and I reckon that’s a whole other issue in itself to tackle separately!

After the huge step up in to third year at uni and a few wobbly moments of feeling inadequate and incapable of certain things, I’ve realised that actually, if my focus was better, surely a lot of other aspects of life could be to? If I really watched the TV shows and films I had on, I could form fuller thoughts and opinions on them. If I listened to the radio, I’d pick up on interesting snippets of information. If I just cooked and focused on the cooking, it would be more enjoyable and relaxing and rewarding. If I actually focused, engaged and paid attention to each thing I was doing while I was doing it, I’d absorb so much more information and gain a lot more.

I turned to podcasts as a first  step to improving my focus. I’ve enjoyed the Wittertainment podcast for about a year or so now. Kermode and Mayo never fail to make me laugh and, with the exception of films I know from the outset are not my bag, I’ve never had a problem devoting my full attention to their witterings. Mum recommended a Radio 4 Women’s Hour show and Chris suggested David Baddiel Tries to Understand podcast, so I plugged in to these both and made sure my brain was engaging fully with them. With the exception of a few wandering trains of thought, it was easy to listen and react to what the presenters and guests were saying. Be it Radio 4’s In Our Time culture shows or shows on random acts of kindness since, tuning in to various podcasts have been thought provoking and just plain entertaining!

While it’s still early days, I have noticed an improvement. I sat in my lecture the other day and, while sometimes I just find myself day dreaming about the most unrealistic situations, I didn’t find myself tuning out and tempted to pick up my phone half way through. This weekend, I’ve left my phone in another room the majority of the time (unusual for me!) and last night watched through my first viewing of Beetlejuice (so weird and wonderful!) without any temptation to check my messages or let my friends know how great the film was half way through. I’ve been reading for my course and actually fully engaging with the texts first time. It’s such a small change but, in a week where my head has been full of a lot of crazy thoughts and feelings as it is, it’s been great to actually find the focus I was striving to.

I’ve identified my weakest point of day as about half 2 to half 4. For whatever reason, in those couple of hours my head just shuts down and I feel sleepy and unable to concentrate, so those are no go zones. They are for absent-minded show watching and endless, nonsensical messaging before knuckling down and getting back to work. I’m planning on researching and reading around focus a little more in the coming weeks. Life lately has felt a little like clutching at straws. Like there are so many juggling balls that I just can’t actually get a grip on while they fly through the air. I could be wrong, but I suspect a better sense of focus might help feel a little more in touch with all the things going on in my world!

What do you do to find focus? I’d love to hear what it is that keeps you connected and concentrated with what you’re doing, be it individual tasks or just life in general!

Kath x

… to 21!

13043504_10209415613607117_301116446982812575_nThis was a post I intended to write a long time ago. Back in May, I shared 20 moments that made my 20th year so special. I intended to follow it up with what I hoped 21 would have in store for me. Turns out, I didn’t really know. And I still don’t! One thing it’s taken me 6 months of being 21 to realise though, is that this is just SO YOUNG! I have been so guilty of wishing the days away. I used to desperately wish I was older so I could be more comfortable and stable and sure of myself, but the reality is, that’s only gonna come after the many years of uncertainty I’m going to learn from before then.

The last few weeks, really the last few months, have made me face up to a lot of things going on in my head that I’d really been ignoring. Stress, pressure and a constant sense of self-doubt makes it hard to ignore them! So I’ve spent time thinking, talking, getting back to basics and organising the littlest things in life which somehow I’d made seem a lot bigger. Finally I feel more back on track. So many things have come out of this time which I’m sure I’ll share at some point but this age thing really hit me today. I was on Facetime earlier animatedly yelling “WE’RE SO YOUNG!!!” at Hayley and right now, it suddenly feels so important to realise it!

I’ve spent a lot of time comparing myself to others recently, judging myself on what I think others might feel toward me rather than what they actually do. I’ve taken all the parts of my life and merged them in to one big haze of scary, uncertain madness. I’ve ignored things I need to do because of fear or lack of confidence. I’ve constantly told myself I’m not actually smart enough, focused enough, interesting enough, passionate enough about all these different things until it got to the point when I was confining myself to this idea that I can’t do it. That I’ll never actually be good enough. What I didn’t realise amongst it all is that actually, this is not the time in life to be confining myself to anything. There should never really be a time in life when we do that, but right now especially.

Right now? Right now is for growing, learning, exploring, challenging, inspiring, creating. It’s for new things that are scary and unusual and bizarre and daunting. It’s for doing not one thing, but a hundred. It’s for studying, writing, interning, socialising, dancing, laughing, lazing, cuddling, reading, exploring, researching, talking. It’s for just doing everything you possibly can or could want to.

So this may not be something that’s exclusive to 21 years but it’s a lesson I’ve learned in the months since. This is the time to stop putting limits, expectations and boundaries on myself. This is the time to be free to most enjoy every element of life as it happens and when it happens for myself. As my fabulous friend Elsa says, at this time? “YOU DO YOU.”

Kath x

Song Love #16: DANCE IT OUT

After an extended absence from my wee space, I’m returning to things in the way I know and love best. WITH A DANCE! If this song doesn’t make you shake every bit of your body in the most uncoordinated, uncool way possible, then I don’t know what will, and sometimes when things all seem a little stressful and pressure filled, dancing it out is the best way forward.

If all you need is a dance to lift your mood, brighten your day, change your outlook and feel alive, then I want to introduce you to my latest inspiration, Alison of The Alison Show. I follow her on Insta and Snapchat but I’m pretty sure she is everywhere. Watching her shake and boogie 24/7 makes me laugh, smile, cheer and join right in with her. Makes my day every time!

Now stop reading, blare out Bruno and GET DANCING!!!!!

Kath x

Song Love #15: Sing Street

I love a film that makes you feel. I love a good cry, a belly laugh, an unstoppable grin. I try to rate my viewing experience, more often than not, by enjoyability. If it made me feel some sort of emotion quite genuinely, it’s usually a winner in my book. Fighting for my favourite film are Brooklyn and About Time for this very reason. About Time was a long standing lone contender until I saw Brooklyn last year and just had my heart melt a million times over (Saoirse Ronan is fabulous!). I thought it’d be a fair while before something else had the same affect on me as those films.

Enter Sing Street. There was quite literally not a second in this film when I wasn’t laughing, crying, smiling or dancing (Yep, we danced. Any Kermode and Mayo podcast listeners out there? I’m sure this was ‘against the code of conduct’ but we ensured the row was empty and not to disrupt anyone else!!) I’m not going to review it technically because there are people far better qualified out there for that, but I can assure you this film not only passed my enjoyability test but also qualifies in my eyes as a ‘good film’ in every other aspect. Here’s the trailer for anyone interested in knowing the story (not that I can understand why anyone wouldn’t be interested in this gem!):

 

The trailer puts a lot of emphasis on the music of 80s bands but the films heart for me was in the music of the band Cosmo puts together. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack pretty much all day, every day since seeing the film. It’s catchy, fun, upbeat and cheerful. It warms the heart, sweetens the soul and brings joy to your day. See the film. Listen to the soundtrack. Feel happy. SIMPLE!

Kath x

 

 

From 20…

20.jpgWhen I turned 20, it felt like I was finally the age I had been for years previously. Little did I know, 20 was a whole new thing all by itself! It was a big year for me. I realised a lot about myself, my relationships developed and altered and my hormones changed (no one warned me about this one so I feel I have to share!!). Through all these changes which seemed drastic and scary at the time though came some of the greatest times. So, for my own sake and for the sake of sharing with friends, I wanted to document 20 of my favourite memories of being 20. These are by no means all and every happy memory, but they’re the ones that pop in to my mind first. Some are a bit extravagant, some are small, some are emotional… it’s been a mixed bag of a year but mostly, it’s been full of love, laughter and happiness

  1. Crying on Hayley: I’ve covered this memory here.
  2. Kassiopi, Corfu: this family holiday could not have fallen at a better time. Two weeks in the sunshine with them was nothing short of perfect. To have a complete break away to read, swim, sleep, eat, drink and laugh was so special. Here’s a link to my post about Kassiopi itself because I would wholeheartedly recommend this place to anyone and I’m desperate to go back myself.
  3. Getting a puppy: I never thought I’d see the day when I would be excited about a dog, but wee Sparky converted me!
  4. Spontaneous family trips: whether it was sister coming to Glasgow or me heading down to them, spending as much time as I could with my family over summer was fabulous!
  5. Hayley’s birthday day out: we ventured out in to the Fringe festival with one show booked and ended up attending two more, with food and drinks in between, a ride on the Ferris wheel, a failed attempt to go clubbing and a regrettable trip to McDonald’s. What a day?!
  6. Work night out: September came which meant a night out with my work gals. I was high as a kite in work all day and did not crash until I went to bed in the early hours! Plenty of prosecco, Mexican food (though we can hardly even remember what it was like!), a surprise birthday cake for one of my best gals, bumping in to old friends in the pub then dancing in to the wee hours.
  7. Girls night out: university recommenced and with it came a string of catch ups. A night out with (nearly) all my girls from first year halls was fab. We danced. Oh, we danced!
  8. Finding flat friends: just before I turned 20, I was crying in the train station to my Mum, stressed about having to find new flatmates who I didn’t know. A year on, I’ve found two of the most special friends as well as flatmates to share endless laughs and lots of food with!
  9. Annual bonfire bash: year three and it was another fabulous evening! Rounds of Articulate, food and wine were all in abundance.
  10. Finding my strong: from about October onwards, I started exercising and until about December, I was working out about 3 or 4 times a week. Just in my room, doing my own wee routine to some cracking tunes, but it got me fit and strong (20 press ups… very impressive for me!) Admittedly, I stopped around Christmas and haven’t picked it up but I’m happy just knowing how capable I was of that sort of determination and commitment to something of my own free will!
  11. Christmas pub quiz: the biggest blessing of changing my degree was that I got to make friends with my literature gang. The five of us just laugh constantly and our end of exam celebration was a night I’ll remember for life. We won washing up tablets, by the way.
  12. Family Christmas: I got to have a busy, bustling extended Christmas down South with all my family! It was just the way I’d imagined it would be… even if Dad did forget my cabbage.
  13. Hayley’s Family: maybe I’m cheating here but both seeing Hayley’s Mum get married and a few weeks later celebrating a big Christmas bash were so fun! We cooked and entertained for 10 people and some of the feedback included “the best roast dinner I’ve had in about 5 years!”
  14. Kitchen Party: again, with my literature gang. Dinner turned in to a disco. This disco included recreating the twist scene from Pulp Fiction, slow dancing to Heroes and some great renditions of gangster rap. They left. They came back again. They stayed until the early hours playing Cards Against Humanity and then we wearily attended our lecture the next day.
  15. Hen Weekend: Aviemore is just beautiful, as was the lodge we stayed in. Such a fun weekend with lots of new, lovely people.
  16. Kitchen Party #2: more of the same. Dinner, Cards Against Humanity, dancing, a missed screening of a play we’d bought tickets for, then drinks at the pub!
  17. Christine & Richard’s wedding: seeing one of my favourite people in the world get married to the sweetest man was so special. Getting to do a reading in the ceremony was just magical. I love these two ❤
  18. Finding Calm: I discovered the Calm app. While I don’t use it every day (I know I should), it was amazing when I needed to clear my mind and just relax.
  19. Dancing always: if there was one thing I had to pick out from the last year that I’ve done most, it’d be dance. That probably reflected in this list! In the kitchen, round my room, in the shower, at bars and clubs, at ceilidh dances and balls, weddings and celebrations and also once, in a hot tub in the middle of nowhere! Nothing fills my heart with more joy than dancing with people I love so I’ve been doing it as much as I can.
  20. Loving my degree: I realised how much I enjoy working hard and feeling a little pressured when it’s for something I truly enjoy and care about.

Kath x

Muscial Moments // You Will Survive!

I spoke recently about my new found love for BBC Radio 2’s Desert Island Discs. There’s something wonderful about hearing the way people’s minds come to associate moments with music. I thought I’d start a series sharing songs that evoke the strongest memories in me. Whether they’re happy or sad, old or new, shared or exclusive to me, I want to note down all those tunes that make me laugh, cry and dance as soon as they come on.

I’m starting out with this classic. A bit of a cheesy classic arguably?! In the midst of exams and all the craziness that falls at this time of year, this song rings true!

Since when… July 2015. Last summer on our holiday, following the incredible Greek dancing display from the family who ran the hotel, Mum and I started a disco amidst the locals and holiday goers. This came on and along with a lovely lady called Nelly from Edinburgh, we sung and danced our hearts out.

Because…  The words felt appropriate at the time and the beat was just what we needed in our cocktail infused urge to boogie!

Listen… Preferably on a Greek island with a group of strangers, drink in hand and spirits running high! If purchasing flights and accommodation is a little out of reach, then shamelessly belt it out in the shower (sorry, flatmates!), boogie around the kitchen with your best gal pals or hit the dance floor on a night out with your favourite people. Just make sure you’re singing it loud and very badly!

And don’t forget… you will survive!!!

My list of songs to share is already long! Let me know if you have memories of this song or have something different that evokes those same happy memories of shamelessly singing and dancing around with fabulous people!

Kath x

 

The Art of Sadness

DSC_0205I chose this image because I’ve been completely underusing my camera and this seemed nice. I mean, I could try to make the sea water-salty tears connection but that seems a little far fetched. On with the post… 

This week has been all about the tears. I don’t know if it’s the underlying cold my Mum gave me, the stress, occasional boredom and constant tiredness revision is causing me or just my general sensitivity to all things human, but for the past week I’ve found myself welling up near every day. I’m not talking hysterical, sobbing, heart wrenching cries, just a few tears here and there.

Have you ever listened to the Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs? I recently discovered their back catalogue. Each week, a celebrity is interviewed about their childhood, life and achievements whilst in the process selecting eight songs they’d take with them to a desert island. I’ve just flicked through and listened to the people I’m most interested in, but I’m enjoying them so much I might start listening to the people I’ve never heard of as well. The thing is, almost all of them have left me walking around Glasgow with tears rolling down my face. Whether it’s an inspirational story, beautifully poignant song or their sharing of the sadnesses in their lives, they just really get me. It’s made me ponder lots about my desert island discs and a few songs have cropped up which seem like contenders, but maybe I’ll save them for another post.

This morning, I listened to a song I’d deliberately avoided for about a year. It made me well up behind my sunglasses (pause to appreciate the fact I finally needed sunglasses, please!) and I had to just breathe my way through this wave of emotion which, I won’t lie, I fully expected to hit me. The thing is though, I like a good cry, maybe more than most people. I love that heart wrenching feeling of happiness, sadness, anger. For me, it means the emotions that have been bubbling away under the surface are forming themselves in a way I know how to handle.

I realised not long ago that one of my most treasured memories is one of almost complete sadness. Last summer when I was going through what seemed like the worst thing in my world , Hayley rushed straight down to see me. She came to the door with wine, tissues, cupcakes and painkillers. We ate, we spoke, I cried, she hugged me… I cried more. We paddled in the river and skimmed stones. We drank and got tipsy and we laughed, when I thought it impossible but when I needed it most. We sat in the garden, glamorous midgie repelling candles lit, drinking wine and listening to Foy Vance’s album and she was my shoulder to cry on. Quite literally. I felt nothing but sadness in that moment. But now? I look back and appreciate that memory as much as some of my happiest ones. It made our friendship closer and reflects exactly what I was experiencing at that point in time. I think remembering every detail of the saddest memory is just as valuable as remembering every detail of the happiest. Take that thing you just want to push to the back of your mind and learn from it, grow from it, use it, embrace it, welcome it. Sadness and happiness run right alongside each other and often, I think we need one to make, or at least realise, the other. (Watch Inside Out at least twice for a wonderful explanation and reflection of this.)

So that’s why I don’t mind all the tears I’ve had this week, and why I especially made myself deal with the ones that came from a genuine and personal place of sadness. Why be afraid of feeling something your mind, heart and body want you to to feel? Even further than that, why be afraid of talking about it and sharing it? Most people will be in the same boat as you. Embrace the emotions! Appreciate and love them. Hopefully that way, the less enjoyable ones  become a little more bearable.

Kath xx

My Hub

DSC_0225.JPGI feel like every Spring I get this new wave of inspiration, energy and motivation. This week has been the complete opposite. Spring just hasn’t sprung yet in my world, and it seems my urge to get back to writing is just slowly waiting to bloom! Sometimes, I just like the idea of sitting with my laptop in front of me, feeling and hearing the keys tap away as words seem to drift in and out of my head. Sometimes, I read another post, share a great video, love someone’s photo, and just think ‘I want to create that.’ Sometimes, I panic about the future. What am I going to do? Where am I going to go? Yes, I need to focus on enjoying where I am right now, but now is also the time to be building the foundations for what I want to do one day.

They’re the three biggest things that currently make me want to get back to blogging. That phrase seems sort of weird. ‘Get back to.’ I was never fully here, I kind of never fully left. My space is always here, I always think of it and see it pop up and wonder about it. I don’t always have the desire to make it grow or become anything big, but I always have the desire to share, and this is the place I always think to do that. Why I talk myself out of it, I’m not sure. I watched my favourite blogger Naomi and her husband Josh of LoveTaza do an interview and they spoke about creating a legacy for their family and sharing their story with at least one person so it’s stored securely in the world somewhere. I like to think of this blog, these pages, as my hub. Somewhere I can always come back to and gradually build up, or somewhere I can just leave alone, safe in the knowledge that when I return, it will all still be intact. It’s a bit like my personal library. I only like to store the really good books, the ones I really loved or cared about or felt something for. If it fits, I’ll pop it on the shelf. If not, I don’t mind not adding to it for a while until the right thing comes along.

So every time I haven’t written for a while I think, ‘I better explain myself!’ The truth of the matter is though, there is no reason to explain. While this blog is always on my radar, it isn’t always top of my list of things to do. It’s hard finding your identity. I think maybe it’s even harder trying to create a version of it to put down. But it’s fun too! And whether I’m here for weeks or away for months, this space will continue to grow. In content, as I write and create, but also in value, as I return back to my hub for a little reality check once in a while.

I could string off a number of posts from this but for now I’m just going to leave it at that and return another day.

Kath x

Taking Stock // August

This list and post inspiration is taken from Pip at Meet Me At Mike’s blog!


1

Hello! Would it be wrong to make a very generic ‘where has the month gone?!’ comment? How about a where has the summer gone? No? No better. Auch well, it’s done now! It has been, all in all, a pretty good month, filled with fun, laughter, firsts but also a wee drop of self doubt and confusion. Things are all building up to my return to university and the autumn for me though so I’m just enjoying focusing on all the fun stuff to come! Roll on September!!

Making : as many fun memories as I possibly can with the last bit of summer!
Cooking : no where near enough.
Drinking : delicious oaty-yogurty-fruity-frozen smoothies for brekkie. So yum!
Reading : Miranda July’s The First Bad Man (which was just incredible!) and now Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
Wanting : to switch off from a busy week and relax this weekend.
Looking : at our sweet new puppy, Sparky.
Playing : with the new puppy. All day. It’s hard work.
Deciding : whether to post this tonight or tomorrow.
Wishing : I could be somewhere foreign, beautiful, tropical and fun.
Enjoying : being home.
Waiting : for all my pals to come back to Glasgow!
Liking : a lot, but today? This video of Swifty and Lisa Kudrow singing smelly cat! DREAM COME TRUE.
Wondering : what to do tomorrow.
Loving : a lot ❤
Pondering : what direction I want to go with my wee internet spot here.
Considering : a new, slightly more rigid routine to adjust myself in time for back to uni.
Buying : new baby gifts!
Watching : too many romcoms on Netflix… they just make me bawl like a baby!
Hoping : 
for a dry, bright morning so I can march up the hills.
Marvelling : at the beautiful homes on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.
Cringing : away from our stinky puppy. He stinks. Seriously. Stinks!
Needing : a little more clarity and perspective, especially this past week.
Questioning : whether the ads on TV nowadays really work on anyone…
Smelling : curry and dog. Nice.
Wearing : my brothers huge and most fluffy dressing gown!
Following : Foy Vance on Twitter for much needed tour updates. *begins chanting* GLASGOW GLASGOW GLASGOW!
Noticing : how it’s so quick to get wound up but so hard to wind down!
Knowing : things are really good.
Thinking : things are REALLY good!
Admiring : each unique element I love most in all of my friends. Feisty-ness, selflessness, dedication and so many more wonderful traits.
Sorting : the flat in time for new flatmates returning!
Getting : excited to be back at uni.
Bookmarking : this post that James from Bleubird shared on establishing a morning routine.
Coveting : Naomi’s beautiful backpack in this post! (LOVE her blog!)
Disliking : the weird warm-cold weather mix going on.
Opening : this beautiful print I recently purchased as a new baby gift.
Giggling : with friends, old and new, while playing Cards Against Humanity during a massive sugar high!
Feeling : excitable.
Snacking : all the chip and dip. Give me tortillas and salsa any time of day. Even for breakfast (guilty as charged)!
Helping : out with as much new puppy sitting as I can.
Hearing : rain on my window as I listen to City and Colour’s album Bring Me Your Love. So pretty.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful month too. What has been the highlight of your summer?

All the loves!

Kath xx

Song Love #14: Heart Music

I was reluctant to share this post. You know when you find something you just love so much you want to keep it secret and private and special just for yourself? That way you can pretend like it’s yours and only yours and no one else can alter it or your opinion of it. That’s how I feel about Foy Vance.

I’ve always enjoyed music, all different kinds, new and old, most genres but it’s not something I connected with my emotions as much as, say, writing. But I was introduced to Foy Vance as I sat weeping on my best friend’s shoulder, candles surrounding us (to get rid of the midgies!) on a summer’s evening when all I really needed to do was cry. Somehow amidst the sobbing though I tuned in to what album she’d put on and found myself really listening, despite all the other stuff going on in my head at that particular moment. I haven’t stopped listening to his album since then and can pinpoint numerous moments he has accompanied me laughing, crying or just feeling good. As I marched up a hill with the volume up on full, the chorus of ‘Closed Hand, Full of Friends’ made me feel this insane physical relief. The simple lyric ‘I’m feeling alright now’ was just the perfect summary of my emotions from the past, present and future. It just fit with what I thought and felt right there and then.

I listen to his music when happy, sad or somewhere in between and feel like I’m being transported to this other place. I can’t help but listen to the story, sings the lyrics (even when in public!) and imagine all future situations where I can listen to his music. In an Irish bar with my best pal listening to an acoustic set, at a gig with hundreds of people around that I won’t even notice and surrounded by loved ones with good drinks and good laughs. It says on his website, “these [songs] are anthems that remind us that the spirit always rebounds.” His music for me does exactly that. It brightens my day, lifts my mood, reminds me what I really care about, takes me back to bittersweet memories and ultimately makes my soul and heart feel pretty darn good in the end.

So listen. Take in the words and the music. Turn it up full blast with your headphones in and ignore whatever else if going on in your world or the world. Ignore your head and heart and surroundings and just let that beautiful music take you wherever you want to go! I’m starting to realise that my ability to imagine myself in situations, in places with people, quite vividly is something that allows me to feel more positive about the future when I most need to. I don’t know if it’s something everyone else does, or no one at all, but try and be wherever your mind wants you to be. It’s bliss!

Kath xx

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and Foy Vance’s music, please check out his website- the way he talks about his music is wonderful. Here’s the link to the shop where you can buy his album too!