Slow Progress, But Getting There!

I try not to shilly-shally too much when choosing my next colour so as not to slow down my progress too much, and thankfully I’m getting there with the design of my rainbow blanket! 🙂

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Shilly-Shally

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Slow

JusJoJan: Gratitude

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My Review of 2022

Guess it’s time for my annual review
Say goodbye to twenty-twenty-two
And I have to admit
This year’s been really shit
What will next year hold? Don’t have a clue…

New Year’s Eve again, and I’m not sure how I’m feeling about it…

I remember seeing in the new year for 2020 and looking forward with a calm curiosity to whatever might come my way, but that didn’t turn out so well as the Covid pandemic soon took over almost everything nearly everywhere across the planet, killing many thousands of people and leaving others seriously debilitated and struggling with ongoing poor health.

A year later I remember seeing in the new year for 2021, knowing I was about to be made redundant from my job (another Covid casualty) but hoping for a better year to come, then testing positive for Covid a couple of days in to January (Delta variant, pre-vaccination) in the midst of yet another national lockdown that eventually lasted through until spring.

By last new year’s eve, I already knew that several ongoing situations meant that 2022 would likely be a tough one, and sure enough it has lived up to all expectations. Family issues, health and otherwise have dominated one way or another, but thankfully we’ve all got through it and we’re all still here, alive if not necessarily kicking.

So I can’t help but wonder what 2023 has in store? I hardly dare hope for a better year, things still feel quite ominous at the moment and yet again I’m being made redundant at work, but I want to feel upbeat about it. I’m not a great one for resolutions but I suppose if I aim to focus on finding the good in whatever bad shit comes my way, then surely that’s the best I can do?

One thing’s for sure, I’m not going to work myself up into a tizzy about it all – we are where we are in life and the future will be what it will be…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Tizzy

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: New/Knew

Ragtag Daily Prompt: New

The Vicissitudes of Life

Anyway, two years on from finding out I was to be made redundant after department store Debenhams closed its doors for good when the company ceased trading, I’m being made redundant again – it seems here in the UK the bricks-and-mortar retail sector is still struggling after the Covid pandemic.

This time it’s not the whole company closing, just the particular store I work in, but the outcome nevertheless remains the same… I’m losing my job again. Even though I do realise that neither job loss is of my own making, I still feel inclined to misquote Oscar Wilde, in that losing one job may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two in a row looks like carelessness!

The store will finally be closing for trading on Christmas Eve, and apparently we’ll be working afterwards for about the next two weeks packing up any remaining stock and clearing out the premises, but however long that process takes, come the end of the first week in January I’ll definitely be out of work again.

So following our company-provided close-down schedule we’ve already made a start by decommissioning the window mannequins. The poor things look quite glum lining up here, awaiting their fate – what a hellacious start to the new year, not what we’d hoped for at all from 2023. Oh well, such is life, with any luck something else will turn up soon enough for all of us…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Anyway

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Neither

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Hellacious

Word of the Day: Vicissitude

Stuff I Worry About

Today’s inbuilt WordPress Daily Prompt asks ‘What could you do less of?’

Ah, good question… The immediate answer for me is probably ‘Worry…’ because I have to admit I’m a bit of a worry-addict…

There is a part of me that tries not to worry so much. I try to logicalise and rationalise everything and remind myself that as so much of what happens in life is totally out of my control anyway, then why worry about it? The past cannot be changed, the future hasn’t happened yet, the present moment is all we have. We are where we are, what will be, will be… We have to do what we can, with what we have, wherever we are.

But there is another part of me that constantly contradicts that wisdom, the illogical, irrational part of me that fights against such zen-like flat calm. Surely if I just tried harder I could do better, make things better, feel less nothing-y? So I worry about feeling not good enough, and about feeling guilty for being not good enough, and I worry about whining about it and feeling pathetic and weak and nothing-y.

I worry about getting old and infirm, I worry about getting to the end of my life and regretting not having done the stuff I want to do while I still can. Not flights of fancy stuff, real possible stuff that is realistically within my grasp if I only find the courage to reach out and grab it. But I still worry too much about being judged and found lacking, and I worry that worry stops me from getting on with it all before it’s too late…

So I suppose I worry most about tying myself up in knots so tight I can’t get myself out of a worry-straight-jacket of my own creation, bound up in an emotional shroud of fear that pins me down so effectively I spend the last couple of decades of my life in a self-imposed mummified decay, watching the rest of the world go by without me… 😦

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: ‘dict’

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Question

Weekly Prompt: Flight

Muse

Muse…
I’d love to feel artistic every day
Portray my world in sweet poetic rhyme
Write wistful words to bat the blues away
Syllabic sounds set comfortably in time
Draw inspiration from the daily grind
Paint out a life that’s filled right to the brim
With images that sparkle in the mind
In colours bright instead of greys so grim
But harsh reality strips all veneer
Of happiness inspired by fun and play
However hard I try it seems quite clear
I’m simply not created in that way
My world feels dulled with misery and gloom
As dark clouds of depression fill the room…

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Sonnet

Painting Portraits

I was going to say I’ve never personally painted a portrait before, but realise that’s not quite true.

One of our projects in art class at school forty-something years ago was to sit in front of a mirror and draw ourselves in pencil. I didn’t really do all that well with that task, I looked serious and uncomfortable and my face turned out a bit wonky, especially my eyes. And once later on as an adult I tried to draw myself from a photograph, and admittedly that one turned out a little better, but it was still not a great likeness.

Recently I’ve been dipping in and out of re-runs of an hour-long TV programme on Sky Arts called ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ that seems to cover random episodes of the competition over several different years, and I’ve found it really fascinating to watch.

The basic premise of each show seems to be that nine individual artists produce a self-portrait beforehand in their own time, and then all together in real time each produce a portrait drawn from a previously unidentified life model in only four hours. There are three celebrity sitters for each show, so three of the nine artists each create a portrait of one of the three sitters.

At the end of the four hours, each sitter views the three portraits of themselves and chooses their favourite to take home with them. Most of the portraits are very different in composition and style, some are more realisitic and others more abstract, some are rather standard in their view and some are spectacular in their unusual approach to colour and technique.

To my surprise, oftentimes the sitter chooses not the most obviously realistic photographic representation of self, but instead they prefer those portraits that seem to spark an alternative vision of the sitter, or manage to capture something more than the general public view hidden within their personality.

Afterwards, and independently of the sitters’ preferences, the judges shortlist three out of the nine artists, and by the end of the programme finally whittle it down to only one artists to go forward in the competition. The judges look at both the artist’s self-portrait and also the newly-completed portrait of the celebrity life sitter before deciding on who should be the winner on the day.

There are eight heats each series, the winners of which go forward to the semi-final where it seems they all paint the same sitter at the same time. From the semi-final three artists go forward to the final, where each are given a commissioned painting to produce. The overall winner for that year then receives a paid commission to paint a well-known figure for a well-known public space.

Anyway, the point of explaining all of this is that I’ve become really intrigued over the last few weeks by watching the many different ways all the different artists approach completing their portraits – they all use different sized paper, board or canvas, all prefer different mediums, and have different ways of working, and all produce very different results.

Some I liked very much, and some I thought were pretty disappointing on the day – but it’s got me thinking, if I were to try to do a self portrait now, how would that experience be for me? Where would I start? What medium would I use? How would I choose to portray myself, and how could I go about capturing that feeling on paper?

I’ve actually had my portrait painted before, in oils a good fifty years ago – by my mum, who used to be an art teacher before she got married. I still have it here in the house, a head and shoulders portrait showing a serious-looking seven-year old in a scratchy yellow dress. I remember sitting for the painting, perched on a high stool in the kitchen, trying hard not to fidget too much and failing miserably…

I recently, tentatively, took up painting again (only in August this year) so am still on a very steep learning-curve and am still struggling with it all, but I’m wondering if I might try a proper self-portrait now just to see how I get on?

Start with a drawing or two at different angles, then maybe experiment with a colour study or two in different styles – I mean, if I’m painting myself and mess it up, at least there’s nobody else to offend or upset. And I’ll always be around to try again, no matter how many times I fail – a constant and familiar muse, I suppose?

But the thing is, watching these multiple artists as they decide how to make their mark on portraiture has really inspired me to give it a go myself. It’s really helping me to understand in a way I haven’t really seen before that painting is not at all like representational photography, it really is a completely different kind of artistic creative story-telling that can be as fantastical and magical as you choose it to be…

What can I say… Watch this space, and sooner or later I might just surprise us all! 🙂

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Spectacular

Dementia 1: Dad 0

By the law of averages, my dad should probably not still be around. It’s not just a matter of his age – he’s now 86 – but of his slowly disintegrating health. Dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia when he was 80, after a couple of devastating strokes left him with debilitating mobility issues and a forgetfulness that was clearly going beyond just forgetfulness.

Since that time he’s had another couple of strokes, each one just a little worse than the last. Each time both his mobility and his memory have decreased further to the point where, after a bad fall at home and a serious knock to the head a year ago resulting in a prolonged stay in hospital, dad was finally discharged not back home to mum, herself finding life more difficult as she too gets older, but to a nursing home where he now lives with much-needed 24hr care.

It’s been so hard watching dad’s memories of who he is being erased over time. To begin with there were distinct periods where dad would seem fine, and then periods where he was clearly confused. Confused about time and place and people and reality and memory. And over the years those periods of lucidity became less and less frequent. Dad became less and less certain of where he was or who he was with. He began to live more and more in the past, present in body but not in spirit, out of reach to us much of the time, lost in an inner world of his own that only he could experience.

But sadly since his bad fall last year, since the long isolated stay in hospital where he caught and fought Covid along with everyone else on the ward, dad’s growing dementia deterioration appears decidedly more marked. He can no longer walk at all, and seems to have lost the last of that small precious spark of triumphant defiance that still remained. It’s as if the dementia has won, as if the shutters have truly come down for good this time, and I feel the loss keenly.

Dad no longer comes out with the little quips and humourous comments and groan-inducing bad-dad-jokes that were such a recognisable part of his character. We no longer seem to have access to that shared familial experience, the secret short-cut code that is the DNA of everyday life. It sometimes seems dad is more comfortable with the company of the staff and residents than with his family when we visit. I’m pleased that he appears so contented, genuinely I am, but at the same time it hurts like hell…

This is not the life dad had imagined for himself, not the old age he (or we) had envisaged. But clearly it is his reality – and it is our reality too. Dad is still with us in body but not in spirit, and I honestly miss him more than I can possibly say…

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Law

Word of the Day: Erase

Taking it Easy… Please!

I would love to be someone who has a natural ability to take things easy in life. To just chill out, and stop the frenetic freak-out from taking over my head.

By that I don’t mean to suggest that I’m always on the go physically – because seriously, I’m not. It’s more that mentally I’m not always very good at relaxing, even when the opportunity arises. I try – I really do try. Sometimes I confess I try so hard it stresses me out. To try to relax I read, and I garden, and more recently I paint. And historically I watch TV – often too much TV.

Sadly too much TV makes me lazy – not just physically, but mentally, too. It means I don’t have to think – in fact, thanks to TV I can avoid thinking about some of the things that stop me being able to take it easy in life. And right now I’m NOT thinking that I’m going to be 59 in a couple of weeks, beginning my 60th year on this planet… Eek!

Recently I’ve been waking up every morning with a feeling that I’m stuck in a rut, wasting my life in fearful mediocrity. Don’t get me wrong, I live in a lovely house with my lovely husband and I honestly wouldn’t change either for the world. But personally, I worry that deep down I’m just not making the most of whatever potential it is I still have within myself. I feel like as I’m getting older I’m losing something vibrant and dynamic, as if I’m stagnating, seizing up.

I’m getting to that stage in life where I’m beginning to wonder what my regrets might be at the end of it all, and I don’t want one major regret to be that I was too scared to live the life I wanted. Not the big bucket-list social-media showy-offy stuff, but how I approach the everyday realities of existence – what I wear, what I do, how I feel about existing in this ever-changing world.

I want to be able to enjoy wholeheartedly what’s left of the life I have, not worry and fret about whatever happened to the ideal dream life I thought I might have when I was younger. Because like it or not, I am who I am, no more, no less. And perhaps if I could start to accept that reality, I might just be able to learn to take it easy a bit more into the future… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Confess

Weekly Prompt: Easy

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Morning

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Thanks