I've written this blog post a million times over the last few months. My drafts folder is rammed with versions of the same thing, talking about how I had a bit of a mental health challenge for a few months. Writing has been really cathartic for me. It's something that I love doing when I have time - I've no ambition to write the great British novel - but just getting stuff down on paper has always helped me.
I kept a diary for years until I went through my divorce - the books became quite toxic as my fears for the future as a single mum with no support hove into view. Thankfully my now husband came into my world at that turbulent time and when it became obvious that things were going to blossom into something special, I chose not to write about it because for once I was so happy. My daughter's legacy memories of her mother will hopefully be happy memories that she played a part in. The aforementioned diaries were consigned to the recycling when we moved into our family home.
As always, I digress!
Lockdown has been tough on us all. And when the daily drudge of mask-wearing and not being able to get stuff off of Amazon on next day delivery becomes a mere blip in your reality as bigger life events take over, it can get pretty overwhelming.
I sought solace in my piping. My hobby-turned-side-hustle became my sanctuary. No matter how crappy the day was, piping a beautiful set of cupcakes and hearing how they brightened someone's day filled my heart with joy.
But one day, that all changed. I found myself stood in the kitchen, not able to breathe - let alone pipe. It became a robotic process. I could do it. I had to do it as I was being paid to do it. But the joy had gone.
There is so much more to that sad, sorry tale than I'm going to share here. Some readers will know bits of it. Some of you even helped in your own way - with kind words or gestures. But still, it was a strange and lonely place to be. My husband has been my rock. My daughter and my fur baby have been my anchors to the future. My extended family have kept me sane. There's been some attrition. Look at me - I'm wallowing again.
And then I found a new 'friend in my phone'.
I inhabit Instagram a lot for my business. I spent an awful lot of my dark days doom-scrolling. "I'm doing business" I'd say to my exasperated husband as he prodded me during one of my 3am doom-scroll sessions and told me to go back to sleep. Doom-scrolling was a mind-monkey prevention practice.
But one day, I got a like off of an account called CraftyKilner. I had to be nosey. I love a Kilner jar so was expecting to see a grid filled with an homage to all sorts of lovely things arrayed in the aforementioned glassware. How wrong was I?
Instead, I clocked THE BEST INSTAGRAM GRID I've ever seen.
Seriously. You have to check it out.
This lady is a genius.
And not only that but she is an excellent virtual crochet teacher.
During the various interactions I'd had with both professionals and friends over my woes, I'd been advised to take up a hobby. I'd hiccup answers like "I do piping" or "I'm too old for colouring in" through my tears. But for some reason, something about crochet triggered me.
A few years back, I'd knitted many, many glittery hedgehogs for my daughter and her friends but crochet was always my mum's thing (my beloved gran was the knitter) so I'd shied away from it.
Could this be it?
Well Martha hooked me in. I duly downloaded her free guide '10 ways to create more time and reduce stress' and off I went.
Martha's no-nonsense teaching got me straight into crocheting. For full disclosure, it's something I dabbled with as a teen so once I was underway, muscle memory took over and within a week, I was hooking like a seasoned pro, the mind monkeys firmly shut in their box and doom-scrolling on Instagram reduced to about 10 minutes per day.
Firstly, I knocked out a few granny squares. Then I discovered the joys of online wool shopping, bought half of an acrylic-sheep-worth of wool and started a bigger project.
Martha also provides weekly zoom calls - so needy being that I am, it was lovely to have someone new to chat to. We'd unknowingly recently been on the same virtual course together so once I'd shown off my week's creations, we caught up on business chat as well. It really is like therapy. But productive therapy. I mean the very expensive talking therapy I shelled out for has been great for unravelling some of my challenges, but this feels so much more positive as I have happy things to show at the end of it. Namely Olive the Octopus!
The funny thing is that the 'proper' talking therapy dug up a load of issues I'd rather have not had to surface at a time when it felt like the world was against me. But when I was hooking away at Olive, it reminded me that I'd once made a load of egg cosies - funny faces and bunnies as a teen.
That warm, fuzzy memory of sitting in on wet, cold winters evening with my grandparents in front of our roaring Parkray fire (proper coal fire - yep I know it's not eco friendly but as Calvin Harris sang it was Acceptable in the Eighties)
Now, any time things are getting a bit much - or when the husband puts yet another episode of Wheeler Dealers or Car SOS on of an evening - I no longer waste time doom-scrolling and worrying about whether or not I'm good enough, I just pick up my latest project and get hooking.
As long as the dog hasn't decided that he's a cat... (see the photo at the end)
And best of all I have a new virtual friend in my phone - for once, one who's not a cake friend for a change. Well she wasn't until she purchased my Beginners Bouqcake tutorial and learned to pipe!
The moral of this tale?
Try something new. Or something you've tried and forgotten about and might just help you rediscover past or present joy.
You never know you might just find a new passion and a new tribe.