Author Archives: Alison May
Sitting in the front window admiring the ruby red geraniums in the hanging basket across the road. Wondering how to deal with the astonishing mess two pigeons have left all over the conservatory roof without the hiring of some scaffolding. Hoping for a downpour of Noah’s Ark proportions.
Today then. Magic to be worked with a make up bag because my face is sporting the impact of too much food and not enough sleep. Tootling into Liverpool in the newly fixed car to collect Mark’s Mum. To spend the day with her. To take her away from all this. To take her for coffee and then to visit her son Simon, who is terribly ill in hospital: sorrow swimming in his veins after his Father’s sudden death. Ignoring Mark, who said “Don’t go. You don’t need to see this” because this isn’t about me. Nor what I can bear. I am, at least, stronger than that.
A fistful of vitamins. More nonsense to be taken to the tip. An odd-job man calling at four to do the odd-jobs. Two dreams about affairs with men I don’t know, so raw I open my eyes and confess them to Ste like so much adultery and he laughs because I am silly. And I am allowed my own head. Always. Tonight my first session of Buddhist meditation because that same head needs hushing. Worrying about entering a room full of strangers by myself. Daring myself to be brave regardless.
The detritus of a busy weekend still scattered around the house. Gold foil H’s sprinkled over the carpet as though my Helen has been leaving a whisper of herself all around the house. Bewilderingly, a 20p piece sitting at the bottom of the toilet and refusing to be flushed. Money down the drain. Two new pairs of flip-flops in the middle of the living room. The ironing board still standing in the kitchen as if waiting for the charlady to arrive. Soup we will eat tonight burnt at the bottom of the slow cooker.
A new ethic to be employed if we are to live this life. A course to be taken in September. A new direction. And willingness to learn. A new, astonishing commitment to each other. A stack of virtual books to be read in my Kindle, if I ever find time to read in anything other than the piecemeal way I have been managing lately. A child’s room so tidy I thought I had woken up in the wrong house. His explanation “I couldn’t stand the mess anymore” a singular source of ludicrous pride.
Olive bread to be baked. (Though it won’t be as good as Kath’s). Simple lunchbox cakes to be fashioned from cornflakes and dark chocolate. Fingers mildly swollen and hay-fever tickling my nose. A new car soon, thank heavens – because we can’t go on like this. Next week, a half-term that has arrived way to fast. This week, preparations for the disruption to routine that must be allowed for. Another party to attend at the weekend. Though this reluctant social butterfly knows not whether she is coming or going. A strong cup of Rocket Fuel instant coffee to tip me over the edge.
Rushing now. Hopping barefoot across the gravel to fetch the milk. Muttering to myself about getting out into the front to deal with the weeds appearing through the cracks. Planning a vegetable patch. And pots full of color. Blowing out my morning candles so the house doesn’t go on fire. A phone-call that divides loyalties. A new, preposterous, obsession with badly written ghost stories found on the internet. A leak in the fridge. A tiny pot of rich dark chocolate mousse that must be resisted. The lovely hum of the washing machine. The racket of the NutriBullet. A smoothie full of goodness to cast away my sins.
Sudden enormous waves of gratitude. A hard won life that feels charmed now. (Quell the fear, Lady.)
One of the things I have never sought to hide here at BrocanteHome is that both my mood and energy ebb and flow. That sometimes I can. And sometimes I can’t.
It is hard to pinpoint why I can sometimes veer off course. Indeed early this morning, as Ste sat up in bed with his headphones jammed firmly in his ears, committed to his morning meditation practise, I lay next to him throbbing with tiredness after a night of waking nightmares. Knowing that today could be lost to exhaustion. To a fuzzy brain. To Hashimoto’s (Read this for an exact description of how it feels to live with this debilitating condition).
Flow is not possible. The fug, the fog, the pain, the…disconnect and hyperawareness makes it impossible. “Normally, absorption in a task – an immersive flow – can lead you to forget that you feel sick, but my fatigue made such a state impossible. “ Again, running through quicksand…it renders effortlessness forever tantalisingly out of reach. You never get traction. You’re always reaching. Just trying to get to stable ground from which you can take a certain, solid step forward.
Sometimes the pills work. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I am lazer focused. Sometimes I can barely remember how to boil the kettle. Always somewhere I will be aching. It is more physical than depression. More emotional than exhaustion. As Sarah Wilson so eloquently says “Contact with people hurts. Humans really are too much for me when I’m not good. Why? I don’t know. It’s the accountability, I think. I don’t want to explain myself. I can’t. How can I?”.
Above all else it is a terrible bore. I bore myself with it and I know I bore those who cannot understand why life, work and commitment to almost everything is so very hard. How much my willingness to commit is so frequently compromised by my sheer inability to function. How utterly frustrating it is to not always be you. To be a lesser version of yourself than those around you imagine you should be. To so frequently disappoint.
As of today, and yesterday, one of the worst symptoms I experience is daytime sleepiness. I can spit out two hours of decent work and then my eyes will be closing, Drooping as if I haven’t slept for a week. So I will get on the floor and do my yoga, walk around the block or drink something energizing. But it doesn’t work. I will still need to close my eyes or risk life and limb handling domestic machinery or driving the car. Then come four o’clock I am wide awake and ready to work. And I can work and work and work until I am TOLD to stop. In-between creating meals, tidying around, organizing homework, taking a bath and watching Coronation Street.
In the evening I am as awake as I can only imagine normal people are the moment they open their eyes. So awake that when it comes to bedtime I begin my usual struggle – a series of rather dramatic sleep rituals I remain deeply suspicious about altering – in an effort to switch my mind off again.
Much of the problem with chronic illness is always about accepting it and teaching ourselves to manoeuvre around it. To accept that if we do more than our bodies can cope with in a flurry of lovely days, we will pay for it with the flare of forgotten symptoms. That in my case restless legs will drive me crackers (but the medication for them: a drug for Parkinsons Disease will make me even sleepier), I will sporadically forget to breathe, my gums will bleed, the sides of my face will swell, my whole body will throb and I will not be able to pull a decent sentence together without describing every object as a “dooberry bit“. As in “Pass me the dooberry bit please. “ (Could be the remote control, my phone, a hairbrush or a salt cellar!) or “Did you remember to pick up my dooberry bit?” (Ummm… milk? My prescription? My son??!!). It is woeful. In fact at times like these I AM woeful. Bless my stupid heart.
I am telling you this so you understood why I come and go. Why my work here at BrocanteHome happens in fits and starts. Why there can be silence after a weekend of family activity that so thoroughly wipes me out I need a day or two to recover.
Today I am trying. I am sitting here wrapped in a blanket because the shivering so familiar to those of us with Hashimoto’s has set in and I cannot shake it off. I have drank a gorgeous Packd Energy smoothie and dosed myself up to the eyeballs with vitamins and pre-biotics and pro-biotics and I am waiting it out, laptop on my knee, hopefully working through everything on my to-do list and hopefully allowing my body enough time to banish the worst of it…
Now do be a dear and pass me my dooberry bit won’t you?
Good Morning Gorgeous Ones! Allow me to begin my little list of weekly notices, with a warm welcome to all my new Salon Subscribers this week – I’m giddy with excitement about welcoming you to The School of Life and all the delights to be found within, and I truly hope you will join us in our lovely Facebook community too…
Shall we get going? It’s been a busy week and I have some lovely newness to share…
Okey Dokey, then allow me to introduce…
BrocanteHome on Medium.Com
I have been blogging here for more years than I care to count now and I love it because it feels like home, but the time has come, now that I am practically geriatric, to expand my horizons a little bit and spread my message a little bit further afield. And so in the past day or so I have opened a Medium.Com Publication called BrocanteHome (duh!) and I will be re-publishing and creating original content there to further coach those looking to live a life less ordinary.
My work on Medium will be specifically about coaching women to live lives that reflect their most authentic selves and will collate all my existing work on the same subject before I begin to create new posts, so much of the writing will be familiar to you in the first instance, but will over time feature new and original work and will differ there from here as I focus on posts specifically geared towards lifestyle design, self-motivation and nurturing your souls…
You can follow my work there by creating a Medium account, and following me or sharing my writing (the same as you would on Bloglovin). And then you will receive a weekly (or daily if your prefer) digest of my writing and any others you follow on Medium, as well as getting the once monthly Medium only “Love Letters” I will be sending out to those looking to create a life less ordinary of their own.
This Weeks Bujo Layout!
This week’s Life Less Ordinary Bujo sheet is a Daily Journal utilizing some of the original Bullet Journal symbols and a couple of my own Brocante devising…
It is available in the Bujo store for the lowly sum of just $1.00 or you will as always find it in the Salon if you are a member.
Trello For Housekeepers!
Oooh are you ready for this?? If you are a Salon member you have already got exclusive early access to my ingenious, innovative online planner for eventually managing everything from your daily, monthly and annual routines, your meal plans, recipes, favorite blogs, calendar dates, shopping lists, decorating notebooks and soooo much more.
Designed to be as beautiful and functional as everything else in BrocanteHome, Trello For Housekeepers, takes all the effort out of creating systems, routines and rituals for you, and means you can jump right in and customise the system to your hearts content.
Currently available only inside the Salon, ( but coming soon to the store), videos explaining the system are available in the Salon Library and each time a new board is added I will add another video describing how the boards interact with each other and how you can customize them to reflect your own domestic life.
There is nothing like this on the internet and I KNOW you are going to adore it.
And Finally An Invitation…
If you aren’t on my mailing list you won’t receive notification of my new posts, the special offers I reserve for my lovely subscribers or my lovely weekly digests, so do sign up here won’t you?
In the meantime go have a lovely week, cook up a scrumptious storm and above all else remember to be kind to yourself.
The sweet sigh of relief when the house is yours again and silences becomes it.
The first cup of coffee you sit down to sip in a room that needs a hug. The stain of a red wine glass marking the coffee table and a pair of abandoned socks lurking on the blanket box. Why oh why oh why?
A list in your hand. Things that must be done. (Though without a car you will struggle – The clutch must be replaced). The child met on foot on his way home from school. Something financial to be arranged on the internet. A Father checked upon after a day gadding about at Lords.
A week’s menu planned from the myriad of leftovers in the fridges. Tonight a salami and feta affair with veg roasted in smoky paprika. Tomorrow a sausage casserole.
All the usual suspects trotting up and down the lane. He who drinks already passing by with a blue plastic bag full of cans. Cars pulling up outside to gawp at the house that will not sell in what was once your back garden.
A kitchen fragranced by basil. Lavender at the back door. A pot full of rosemary for remembering. A fortune teller at the weekend. A woman who knew your Mums name as soon as you sat down. Do Sue and May mean anything to you? Dis-belief suspended because she gives you no choice.
Concern for your boy. Because he spends too much time scooting around in circles. Three hours in the garden just going round and round. The need to crawl inside his mind and invade his privacy so prevalent because you cannot help but want his truth. Pink bunting fluttering along the fence. Pots of greenery to fill up the deep bed that must be planted soon. Lovely pictures growing damp in the little brick shed.
A yard brush and a new watering can on your shopping list. Peri-menopausal black hair growing spiky on your chin.
A slice of burnt toast topped with cucumber and black pepper. A windowsill a dragonfly has chosen for his grave. A black candle burning on the sideboard. A pot full of dying succulents though you had assured yourself it was barely possible to murder them. A busy, lovely weekend that has taken too much out of you.
Sometimes, on a Monday morning, when the house is yours again, you think about going back to bed. Crawling under sheets cooled by the open window. But sleeping wouldn’t get the kitchen floor mopped. Nor let you enjoy the bliss of standing in the morning sunshine pegging out the first load of wet washing. Sleeping is the enemy of getting things done. And things do have to be done. There is no avoiding it.
And so you will do them. For you cannot start the week with an over-flowing laundry basket. And you must collect the bottle of milk the naughty milkman now hides down the side of the conservatory for he has convinced himself, contrary to all evidence that points otherwise, that the milk mafia are trying to ruin his round by stealing every pint he delivers. There are beds to be refreshed and re-made. Windows to be flung open everywhere. The washing line tied back up after you took it down in fear of your scooting child garroting himself. A wasp to be chased out of the farway room. Clarry’s lost snuggly dog to be hunted down.
So much to do. Though you would rather be watching Odd Mom Out. Or reading The Housekeeper. You would like to be drinking coffee with Kath. Or baking pretty cakes no-one will eat, just for the photo opportunity. You would like to be travelling down to Oxford and spending the day with your family. Visiting a gallery or sitting on a grassy hill just staring at the whole world.
There is so much you would like to be doing. And so very much that must be done. Carry on Housekeeper. Carry on.
So you see that lady up there in the picture in her Brocante-Pink dress and pretty pinny?
See how assured she looks? How well-groomed and organised? She is clearly throwing a party and she is obviously oh so very prepared, calm and not all demented. She is who we should be when our partners take it in to their heads to throw a party that turns out not to be the Engagement party my family convinced themselves it was going to be and is instead just a really, rather lovely shindig complete with my favorite people in all the world. And one or two I really don’t mind at all.
She is who we should be and yet she is so far removed from who I actually was when I found myself feeding fifty people on Sunday afternoon that it would be comical if I hadn’t found the very idea so traumatic, my lips broke into a fright of cold-sores the very next day. A sure sign of stress for this here Alison, if ever there was one.
So yes. We threw a party. It was supposed to be a diddy affair because we do not live in a mansion, but before I knew it I had made a list and was texting our Barbie to describe my fright because there were so many people on the way, even though I am the sort of much flustered hostess who freaks out when she finds herself feeding an extra mouth at the dining room table.
And so it was that I worked myself in to a frenzy. And forgot to dye the halo of grey hair sprouting around my forehead and I worked Ste and the boys to the bone in an effort to have every inch of the house immaculate, and I set up popcorn and sweets tables for the kids and drinks station in the laundry room and the faraway room and bought too many lemons because they looked so pretty on the copper cake stand, and baked cakes till they came out of my ears and made fiddly little wraps on sticks and some extra special egg spread thingy, sliced watermelon, piled strawberries up on a plate with meringues, wrapped prosciutto around asparagus, decanted shop bought dips into terracotta bowls, filled an entire laundry basket with sweets for the many babbas wandering around, shouted at Ste because he said there were no daffodils in the shops and I couldn’t possibly have a party without daffodils (?), and finally threw together a vaguely snazzy outfit and went downstairs to welcome the hordes.
For a while I was borderline mental as I greeted guests and showed kids where the juice was and hugged my family and walked in and out of the crowd gathered in the kitchen usually dragging one of the little ones behind me, forgetting to fetch the ice I had promised people and agreeing to grill chicken burgers someone had brought with her and forgetting almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth. And there was lovely Vicki who kept telling me to calm down, and Helen who kept re-filling my gin glass, and Ste’s precious Mum, Marg, who sat me down and told me take a breather. And suddenly the food was out and every last morsel eaten and apparently thoroughly enjoyed, and I could breathe again, and chatted with everyone I know one after the other and stole my bestest women away to the bedroom so I could grab five minutes alone with them in a room where I could actually hear.
And then the fire pit was lit and the kids were toasting marshmallows and a certain section of my own society had tipped over way beyond merry and the red wine was flowing and I was suddenly hit by the sheer joy of it all. Laughing with Ste’s brother in law, Glyn who had discovered asparagus for the first time in his 54 years, stroking the puppy my dog-minding Auntie had snuggled in her arms and hugging my Dad while we watched the kids spin around the paving stones on their bellies steered by skate-boards and joie de vivre…
It was lovely. So very, very lovely. But frankly had Ste proposed when I was so completely around the bend I would have smacked him, so Barbie will have to keep the engagement card she had bought in a preemptive strike, and I can’t agree to making our May-Day party an annual event as my uncle, Steve suggested it should be, but it turns out that Ste and I make a rather good party-throwing team and Stevie loves helping in the kitchen and Finn is great at keeping the little ones entertained and all is well because I survived… and by nine o’clock the next morning the house was spick and span and I hadn’t taken a single photograph to prove how wonderful it was, but that certain section of society aforementioned were sporting bruises after the pair of them took a tumble on the way home and that is I think all the proof we need that the party was a blast.
Sometimes the things we worry ourselves demented about turn out to be all kinds of wonderful and at forty-five I really should start believing I am capable of a whole lot more than I ever give myself credit for. Happy days…
This is why a life less ordinary matters isn’t it?
Today I am bringing you a poem of sorts. Made famous by Charlie Chaplin but originally written by Kim McMillan, I am sharing it because it is so very much about knowing oneself and reflects the journey all of us here at BrocanteHome are making towards a life less ordinary…
“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!”
By Kim McMillen