Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

The Year of Living Quietly, slowing down in a frenetic world

The year of living quietly, mandy charlton, wintering in a frenetic world

During the lockdowns of 2020/2021, I decided to live a quieter and more peaceful life.  You could say it was the year of living quietly and now I'm here, ready to reflect on what that meant and how I'm holding those values more dearly going forward.

Before the pandemic I worked a crazy amount of hours, it was advantageous and some years I was lucky that I got to holiday once every couple of months but what I didn't realise until I stopped was how anxious I had become, I was living in such an anxious state all of the time that I believed that was what real life was.  I was wrong!

During the pandemic and the lockdowns when I thought I had lost everything I decided that when I came back into the business I'd worked so hard to build that I would regulate myself and live a quieter and happier life.  Of course, there were consequences, my income plummeted, my travel was encumbered but overall I got to live a more fulfilled life in the slow lane.

When I started Philomena's Boutique to help you gift better, my inability to sit and do nothing fuelled it.  I could have just sat and squirrelled away my government bounce-back loan but I chose to throw that into a new and exciting business rather than sit at home doing nothing.

2 years on and I have no regrets about starting the boutique, I get to be creative every day and between October and June 2022 I made or designed around 300 products.  The more febrile things became, the more I created to try and keep the business afloat.  I ploughed what little money I had from my photography business into the boutique.  It was the biggest mistake I've ever made but still, you only learn when you make mistakes.

Right now, I'm burnt out, I have pushed until I can push no more.  Our orders have dropped from approximately 35 a week to around 5-10 if we're lucky.  This week I stopped, I walked away and took a week off.  I didn't really do anything, I rearranged some furniture in my living room, went to Ikea, bought a chair from a charity shop and I breathed deeply for the first time in a long time.  At that point I was struck with inspiration, I realised, there are still spaces for treats and gifts, we just need to do it more mindfully and boxes of joy are the epitome of mindful gifting.  Find out someone's likes and dislikes and then curate a glorious box of treats based on that.

I haven't fully decided what to do, I live a pretty quiet life now.  I've bought 2 pairs of shoes in the last year, I buy all of my clothes from the charity shops and my weekly groceries are from a food waste hamper.  In some ways, I can live on very little and as long as I have cats, books and music I can be very happy. It's the little things like engineered wood flooring that can still bring joy.

In other ways, living costs are spiralling, my energy cost in the high of summer is £160 a month approximately and I worry deeply about winter.

1 month on...

I wrote that first chapter one month ago and today I was compelled to write.  I've been researching the concept of wintering and over the next few months, I plan to practice the things that I am learning to see if it will helpfully and peacefully get me through the darker months with my mental health still intact.  

The clocks will go back in just under 2 months and I will stop going out, my body will intensely work against me if I try and fight it, it happens every year and the more I fight it, the worse it is.  This year I will try and winter, I will let myself rest and stay home and I will shelter from the difficult world outside.

In Denmark, they practice hygge and in the Swedish countries, they call it Mysa, the Finnish call it talvitelat, that's preparing for winter and the art of stowing away for wintering.  We need to prepare for winter, we need to let ourselves retreat and more than that, we need to cosy up our spaces so that we help our bodies adapt to the dark times which are forthcoming.

Instead of fighting winter and becoming exhausted, if we simply let ourselves retreat and winter and be quiet and cosy, when we emerge in spring it should be more glorious.  In nature so many things winter, we don't try to make nature fight it's own urges to follow the seasons so why should humans be forced to live the summer life in the bleak mid-winter?

I hope you'll follow my journey, through wintering, there will be preserving, there will be cosy but simple recipes and in every day we'll try and find those little pockets of joy (something I record on my Facebook publicly at the end of every day)


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