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Hi all! Once again it’s the end of the month and time to assess how I’ve been doing with my word of the year, CALM. While February was upsetting and March was crazy busy, April has been all about recovering from stress, settling down, getting back to normal (as normal as can be these days), and enjoying life as much as possible. It’s been a quite good month.

But, my “creating calm” project isn’t about looking at external things and events that were good or not. It’s about how I learn to manage the chaos of life, learn to create calm and work on my tendency to overthink and worry about things. I’m still in progress with creating calm, by learning more about how I think and react to things – and change it when needed. Everything right now is about slowing down, doing things mindfully, changing behaviours that don’t benefit my well-being, and having a healthy attitude toward what I can’t control.

I’ve recognised three main areas that will affect everything I do:

  • Stop the overthinking – because it kills creativity and enjoyment
  • Don’t worry so much about what other people think – because you know what? What other people think is their problem, not mine.
  • Acceptance – I’m still learning most of the things I enjoy doing, such as music and photography. But I can still enjoy it and it’s still ok to show up and perform. How boring would it be if everyone was perfect and brilliant? Even professional musicians and photographers will say they are still learning! Acceptance is also about accepting the “new normal”, despite I really dislike that concept. Maybe it’s more a matter of learning to live with it rather than accepting it.

About stopping the overthinking – my PT is my best cheerleader

I’ve mentioned before that I do a weekly training session with a personal trainer. It’s to build muscle and body strength, as well as boost my mental health with the kick I always get from physical exercise, especially weight-lifting, and get into the habit to exercise regularly. But it’s giving me a lot more than that. Without knowing it, my PT is a very good psychologist. Without even saying much!

Very frequently, he’s commented about how I need to stop the overthinking – in the context of training, but I can easily translate it to other areas of life where my head interferes and prevents me from doing things, or prevents me from enjoying what I do, even in the context of making music! I firmly believe that changing my thinking is the most powerful thing I can do to create calm, and that letting go of the tendency to overanalyse everything will help me to truly enjoy the good things in life.

About music sessions, being in pubs, and playing Irish music again

The month of April has also been very busy, but this time a good busy – we’re out in pubs playing music several times a week, in various music sessions. I’ve even found a tune session in which a local musician teaches Irish tunes at a slow pace – a perfect opportunity for me to come back to the concertina and Irish music. I’ve been worrying a little about how to come back to playing Irish music but didn’t know where to start. I have plenty of tunes from Noel Hill’s workshops, but I also wanted to learn something they play at sessions around here. Now at least I’m on my way and that feels good. Bluegrass and country will always be my “home” in music, but I also want to indulge in the local music tradition!

I always enjoy playing music, but there are several ways I can create more calm and enjoyment with it, and I’m on my way with that.

  • I’m still too self-conscious but have started to drop the thought “Am I really good enough?” to instead just enjoy playing with and for other people. This is a process – since I started playing “for real”, I’ve played at home with/for my husband, close friends or music teachers only until about a month ago, so it takes a while getting used to playing in public.
  • I’ve stopped looking so much at what I want my playing to sound like- I keep it in mind as a goal but I focus on enjoying the learning process and what I’m working on right now. I started a new guitar course on Sunday to learn some Doc Watson style guitar, and I’m having a blast with it!
  • Going back to playing Irish tunes on the concertina feels great, and I’ll accept that it will take a while to get good enough to play it in ordinary music sessions. In the meantime I’ll enjoy the actual playing and the slow tune session.

Being around people isn’t scary to me anymore. Of course Covid isn’t gone, but it’s become less threatening because of vaccination and a different variant. The wave we had after St Patrick’s day slowed down fast and the numbers are now going down quickly. Mental health is also important, and this spring I’ve realised more than ever how much being around other people boosts my mental wellbeing. I’m going to continue socialising while we can (who knows what’s around the corner) and will enjoy every minute of it.

About photography

Some of you may remember that last year, after the busy period in March and April with lots of photo competition work, I got into a crisis with my photography. Being exposed to so many people’s opinions about photos, and being involved in a selection process of images for a certain competition, did NOT do me good. In many cases, I didn’t agree with judges, and felt that “If this is what’s considered good photography I don’t like it, and then what’s the point?”. I lost my creativity and joy with photography because I sort of heard in my head what “experts” would say about my photos. It took me months to find the joy with it again and to take photographs for ME again. It’s possible I wouldn’t have come out of it without my wonderful camera club friend, who took me to some lovely places – you can see the photos here and here.

May 2021, I went for walks to re-train myself to take photographs just for fun

I worried the same thing would happen again this year. But I learned a lot from my experiences last year, maybe especially to be strong in my own opinions about how I see photography, why I enjoy photography, and what good photography means to me. Also this year I was affected negatively by all these critique nights, but was more annoyed than discouraged, and I refused to let it take the joy in photography away from me.

I simply don’t like the classic competition photos, and that’s ok. Photography is about more than golden hour sunsets and staged portraits, and variety is the spice of life.

I love to explore new photography genres (like night photography, of which I’ll do much more) and will probably even do some sunsets next week with the camera club, for the fun of trying it. I’m all for learning new things and exploring what my camera can do – but to me, there will never be any “right” or “wrong” type of photography as long as it appeals to whoever created that photograph. And that, my friends, gives me CALM – because photography is one of my most important feel-good activities, and I’m not going to lose my interest in it again because of other people’s attitudes.

I’ve noticed that my “creating calm” project in reality also is a “creating joy” project. Isn’t that lovely? Because all these things I work on to create calm will also contribute to creating more joy. Both are good and necessary things!

How do these posts always become so serious? I’ll have to change that next month!


This post is linked with the Word of the year link-up with Debbie, Jo, Sue, and Donna.

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Comments:

  • 30th April 2022

    There’s so much to love in your post Susanne – your findings that calm and joy are co-mingling buddies, your acceptance of photography done your way, reducing the overthinking and growing confidence! Just a few of the insights that jumped out at me from reading your post. Thanks so much for joining us for our monthly linkup and for writing a lovely monthly catch-up post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts on how you found some calm in April. All the best for more of the same in May ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • 1st May 2022

    Hi, Suzanne – Like Debbie, I enjoyed reading your thoughts here and how you have been finding calm in April. I wish you continued inspiration with your WOTY. It sounds like it is serving you very well.

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      • 1st May 2022

        This is so good to hear, Susanne. It is absolutely incredible how powerful a single WOTY can be!

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  • 2nd May 2022

    Hi Susanne – it sounds like you’re gradually putting lots of little interests into place in your life and learning to love them for themselves – rather than the compare and despair that a lot of us fall into. I’m envious of anyone who can play music (I have NO idea about the whole thing – I just sing badly while nobody is really listening).j The whole concept of what good photography is also eludes me. I rarely take photos and they’re always of people I love or to create a memory, so it’s another skill that you have that you should be incredibly proud of. I’m coming to see that we need to give less credence to what other people think and place more importance on what makes our heart happy. Your heart sounds a lot happier these days. x

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  • 2nd May 2022

    The just for fun part is crucial for creativity, I think and don’t get me started on overthinking – it’s like having an internal editor sitting on your shoulder asking whether you’re really good enough, or, indeed, enough…

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  • Joanne

    2nd May 2022

    Oh I tend to overthink things too! It’s hard to change our mindset but it sounds like you are putting in the work and will see lasting changes. I think your photography is beautiful! I too often don’t agree with the experts and what they pick as prime examples of good photography as I like those unexpected and more colorful, happy, nature shots.

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  • 3rd May 2022

    Photos should be just for fun. I believe we all have to remind ourselves about that at times. I love the photo of the budding tree, against the beautiful sky. Great perspective!

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  • 4th May 2022

    Hi Susanne, I love your post and how you are being introspective in relation to your WOTY Calm. I suffer from some of the same things as you – over thinking is the main problem for me. I also tend to over-commit myself and then regret my decisions. I’m so pleased your PT is helping because working out is so good physically but more important mentally so that will help. I also believe we are our worst critic and I’m sure you are a very talented musician and photographer and even if you weren’t you are giving it a go and doing things that you love and that is so important. Thanks for joining our WOTY link party. Enjoy your May xx

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  • Deborah Drucker

    8th May 2022

    I like you photo of the tree and sky, interesting perspective. It looks like you’re looking up into the tree. Nice you are enjoying music and photography again.

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  • 8th May 2022

    Susanne, this post… it brought such a huge smile to my face. Your joy and outright enjoyment of how you are finding joy spills off the screen and is nearly tangible. I love how you connected the two – finding calm with finding joy – and realizing that as you seek calm, you also reap the reward of the joy that comes with it. It also made me smile – again! – to read that with your music and your photography, you have realized not worrying about what others think, is the best path to calm. This is so, so true. Run your own race (or, make your own music, or create your own art). I have a hard time with this as well – comparison truly is the thief of joy – but am finally starting to realize that without each of our unique contributions to the mosaic of life (and art, especially) there are huge holes. And, oh, the overthinking. I tend to call it “perseverating” or, if I’m feeling more colloquial, “my brain turning on”. It’s worst in the middle of the night… and is the primary reason that some nights I cannot get back to sleep. I also use exercise to get out of my own head – but mine is moderate cardio. Part of the reason it works is that I use that time to indulge in sports radio and sports podcasts – and to get the paper read on my phone (I am using a stationary bike most days). It’s less about what I am doing and more about how it turns my brain off for a while. I need that! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment, but this post just made me SO darn happy, in a week with… many challenges for women here in the US (sigh). Thank you for the smiles and positivity. <3

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      • 8th May 2022

        I think it’s that the tone seems so much more positive than your posts over the winter. (Do you think there is a seasonal contribution to your well-being? I am starting to think that for myself…) Maybe not the words, per se? Although to me, at least, it seems as though you’re describing major shifts in your mindset that have helped you find calm more recently than you were previously…
        And yes, if the Galley Head photo is the one of the waves? I would love to purchase a print. ๐Ÿ™‚

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          • 8th May 2022

            Ah, I guess I was reading your actions as reflecting a change in mindset. Perhaps I’m overthinking it… which, hi, that would be ironic. ๐Ÿ™‚ For me, I’ve had some challenges showing courage recently but hope to step up my game in the next few weeks as I will be getting on a plane (eeks) for the first time in years. My goals are to actually a) make it on the plane and b) not freak out.
            And yes! I love those photos with the waves. They just look like they are moving, and that makes me think of one of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia, which makes me happy. Yes, this is how my mind works… ๐Ÿ™‚

          • 8th May 2022

            (And good grief, I’m sorry. I’ll stop arguing with you about shifts in mindset vs. taking action. Sheesh, Anne…Obviously YOU know what you did – and how it influenced your ability to find calm. Whatever the reason, I’m just glad that you are feeling calmer, and more centered, and that you are getting out there and doing the things that bring you joy, and calm, and NOT doing those things that don’t… Just ignore my next comment, okay? and again, I’m sorry!)

          • 10th May 2022

            It is a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg problem, it seems. (Rather amusing that I think of it in the other “direction”, that a shift in mindset leads to action… Ha!) For me, actually, it’s sometimes just doing something and then my mindset shifts, but changing other things can involve a lot of thinking/mindset-related shifts before I will actually take action. Humans are such interesting creatures… ๐Ÿ™‚

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