Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Relaxation Music

Good evening gang,

Approximately ten minutes ago, I plodded downstairs and poured myself a glass of milk. Actually, it's not a glass, it's a square mason jar with a handle, lid and straw. My mom has hopped onto the adorable trend of drinking things out of anything that isn't cylindrical. Anyway, because I'm irrepressibly obsessed with consuming things before they reach the expiration date, I was doing the necessary check and noticed the milk expires on the 25th of March. What was my first thought? "When this milk is out of date, my deadlines for this round of assignments will be over!" (or at least for the essays).

After spending the day completing an assignment, panicking and introducing myself to John Milton's Paradise Lost, I think it's safe to say that I am stressed. Bearing in mind that I am no more stressed than people around me, my friends have been working tirelessly on their assignments and my boyfriend has been working continuously for several weeks, I am a believer that "others have it worse" is usually not a relief.

So what do we do? Those of us who are constantly confronted with stress? I was chatting with a colleague at the end of my lecture on Monday about assignment stress and she was very surprised that I suffered similarly to her. We talked about the inevitable comorbidity of tears, panicking, sleepless nights and assignment periods. Is such stress unnecessary and avoidable?

Unnecessary? Maybe. Avoidable? Not for me. My general logic is that if I care about something I will worry about it, regardless of what it is. Therefore, and this leads me to my point, healthy coping mechanisms are essential. To lighten this up, and to get to the point of what I wanted to do tonight, I am sharing some music that I use to deal with worry. Should someone with Generalised Anxiety Disorder even be recommending ways to relax? Probably not. Are they going to do it anyway? Of course. (Not to mention there will be a post about dealing with anxiety in the future but if you want one right now, my friend Steph has already written a brilliant one: here).

(In no particular order because that would make it too stressful for me).

1.) Roslyn - Bon Iver & St. Vincent

I know I've recommended this song previously, but it's one of my favourites for when I need to empty my mind. If I'm being completely honest I still don't know the lyrics because I find it hard to work out what they're saying and don't really want to ruin that by looking at them, if that makes any sense at all. I love the atmosphere and images that it conjures up in my mind - I'd tell you, but I think it'd be more fun for you to make your own!

2.) Pearly Dewdrops Drops - Cocteau Twins

This is band I recently looked into as they were recommended to me by my lecturer who has previously recommended some great music. This song in particular stuck with me because it has a way of making me feel something indescribable. I could only attempt to describe it as a feeling so personal, it's as though nobody else could possibly have felt it. Not to mention that 'Pearly Dewdrops Drops' is one of the best song titles I've ever seen.

3.) There She Goes - Sixpence None The Richer
4.) Kiss Me - Sixpence None The Richer

Truthfully, I love the original of 'There She Goes' by The La's too, but I have a special place in my heart reserved for Sixpence None The Richer. My earliest memories of music are the late nineties, and 'Kiss Me' was played constantly in my house so when I hear that song I can smell my childhood and feel what the house used to feel like when I was little. I highly recommend nostalgic songs but be warned - nostalgia sometimes feels sad.

5.) Prelude in E-Minor (op. 28 no. 4) - Frédéric Chopin

I have always loved classical music. I'm not very well acquainted with a lot of it, but I love quite a few pieces from various composers. I know that most of Chopin is quite sad, but music that makes me cry has a strange way of making me feel calm.

6.) Howl's Moving Castle OST

This one is highly dependent on the fact that I have watched the film and adore it. For anyone out there who has never seen a Studio Ghibli film - I insist you must try them at least once. This song is so uplifting, gentle and simple and fills me with all the emotions I feel when watching the film.

7.) The Very Thought Of You - Billie Holiday

It was difficult to choose between this and 'I'll Be Seeing You' until I remember that the latter does actually tend to make me not-the-good-kind-of-sad. 'The Very Thought Of You' literally sends shivers down my spine and gives me goosebumps because her voice is so comforting and the crackle of the recording gives me that warm, flooding feeling that music is eternal and can awaken such complex emotions.

8.) God Only Knows - Bioshock Infinite Barbershop Cover

Anyone who knows me, even just a little, knows I adore the Beach Boys. However, I'm also a sucker for good covers. I found out semi-recently that I adore barbershop quartets (I don't really know how or why) and when I realised that Bioshock Infinite, the third in a great game series, had added this into the game I was completely hypnotized by it for weeks. Most people I know haven't been taken with it in the same way I have, but that makes it all the more personal to me.

9.) Tugboat - Galaxie 500

When I first heard this song in 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' I fell in love immediately. Every time I listen to it I feel like I've slipped into another world, one which is magical and beautiful and when it picks up at 2:25 I literally feel my heart flutter. I realise this doesn't feel good for fellow anxiety sufferers, but fluttering for good reasons is always worth it and I feel so calm afterwards.

10.) Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're The Nail - A Day To Remember

Just a heads up, this is most likely not going to be everyone's idea of "relaxing". ADTR are one of my favourite bands and after going through a significantly distressing experience, this song is a genuine relief and somewhere I can unload my feelings. If you want to skip the screaming, I know it's not everyone's thing, 2:50 is the part that genuinely hits me in the chest. The lyrics make me tear up every single time because it symbolises my coming to terms with anxiety, the responsibility for the mistakes and choices I have made and defending my sensitivity.

I hope anyone who reads this can take away at least one new song that they like. I hope to make more lists in the future. I recently did an exchange of ten songs with a friend when we realised we had no idea what each others' music taste was, it's a fun exercise in getting to know someone a bit better!

I'm going to go and pass out now before an early lecture tomorrow!
Sweet dreams,

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Make Love Not War

How now, mooncalves?

I must admit, I really shouldn't be writing this at the moment. I have two essays on the go, a novel, a forum task and I've just ordered a copy of another book I need to start reading. However, after doing a recent collaborative post with my lovely friend, I've caught the writing bug again. I wish I had time to do more creative writing, but for now this is a good stress-reliever. 

If you've read my first post about this, you'll know I actually despise the phrase "throw-back Thursday". Maybe my inner hipster is just appalled at saying something so mainstream?...No, it's just a shit phrase and a bit of a tacky concept, but I'm obviously doing it anyway. 

This week I'm dredging up a piece that's quite fresh and may be remembered by anyone who added me on Facebook more than a year ago. It's approximately a year old but my sentiments and feelings which inspired the piece have not changed - the only guns that I would ever approve of would shoot little smoky hearts at people that make them feel fluffy and good inside. Disclaimer: I'm not a maniac, I'm an idealist. 

I'm quite regretful of the fact my art often contains representations and portrayals of myself. I would apologise for how incredibly egotistical this seems, but believe me when I say I desperately need an outlet in the form of self-expression. 

Lauren's Sidecut
An incredibly necessary solution to dealing with a crisis.
You are missed.

TIP: If you're feeling sad, get the hairstyle you've always wanted but are too scared to try. Hair grows back.

Personally I really like this stalling tactic until I have time to make more art.

Off to make a cuppa, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Make Love Not War - March 2016

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Dear Younger Me

My lovely friend, Steph, runs a great blog and she's a lot better at it than me (you won't be waiting too long for a new post). Anyway, she suggested that we write a collaborative blog post together and we got really excited about it and brainstormed so many ideas until we settled on 'Dear Younger Me'. 

I think this concept is really important to us both, and probably to a lot of people, because there are so many things in life that we wish we had known a lot sooner. Even though I am grateful to have learned from very valuable lessons, I think I can speak on behalf of both me and Steph that lessons were learned the hard way. 

Lastly, I just want to say how proud I am of my friend for how far she's come and how much I have enjoyed getting to know her and being her friend. Please give her blog a read - you won't be disappointed! 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


The funny thing about time is that when you're doing a degree you suddenly don't have a lot of it. That's my subtle apology and excuse, not only for barely posting here, but also for generally being unavailable whilst I'm panicking over working on course-related reading and assignments.

I'd like to say I'm incredibly resentful of the fact I have no time for social or personal activities, but I'm genuinely grateful for the opportunity to get a degree. It's hard work and I'm finding it quite easy to get stressed out but I don't think I'd still be here if it wasn't what I truly wanted to do. In fact, I'm finding it enjoyable and rewarding when I actually work hard and come out with a good grade at the end.

Today I attended my lecture on Shakespeare's Hamlet. Initially I found the play pretty boring and I can still say that I don't take pleasure in having to read extensive notes before I can fully understand the actual meaning of a sentence. However, after watching film clips of the play and discussing it in lecture I have, at last, found an interest in it! A similar thing did happen with The Tempest and has generally been the case with other texts on my course. It's fun to break down a text and explore themes in my lectures as it finally gives me something to get my teeth into that is reliable and safe to absorb. I think that doing this degree has opened me up to a lot of texts that I would have otherwise never picked up, which I am also grateful for.

Whilst working on something for a module called Text, Context and Spin, I was listening to a band called This Mortal Coil. My lecturer recommended them to us today and I was excited to find that I had already unknowingly been listening to one of their songs already; Song To The Siren. I almost always take up the opportunity to listen to music recommended to me. I'd been using Song To The Siren as part of a soundtrack I listened to when I went through a phase of doing Tai Chi (yes, I know). Although it didn't work for me, I highly recommend that anyone who is prone to stress or anxiety give it a try - everyone is different.

On that note, I will recommend one of my favourite songs that I use to relieve stress or just generally listen to whilst studying or tidying; Bon Iver & -St. Vincent - Roslyn.

So, time. What can it do? I'm staying on this theme because despite my confession of having very little personal time at the moment, I have managed to work on something. I decided to take a relatively old piece of digital art I created in 2014 - a punky-floaty-goggly human - and remake it using whatever new techniques I had learned since. Truthfully, I was concerned about the results. Three years, give or take a few months, is not a long time, is it? I have never felt like I have progressed or improved artistically and always felt as though I was going backwards rather than forwards. This exercise was truly helpful for me, because it has helped me see how a lot of time invested in art is never wasted time,

I issue this challenge to any artists who happen to be reading! It's fun and relaxing to remake something you used to think was pretty good, but now think you could do better!

And with that we have the results; bigger version can be found on my DeviantArt account!

Merry Wednesday and a Happy New Thursday!

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Jack Jack

It's Thursday again, which is my designated post-an-old-piece-of-art-until-you-run-out day. This piece is really important to me because, not only is it a picture of my beautiful collie, Jack Jack, but it's one of the first pieces that made me feel like I might want to pursue art. I had been drawing and painting and sketching my entire life, but this made me feel like I could really do something with it. It's very old, simple and I've seen better fur detail but it was a genuine spark in my life. I remember being particularly proud of his shapely snout and the light pink fuzz all over it. Jack Jack is a gift.

Hopefully some new art coming soon!

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet


Lauren Newman - May 2016

It's okay to cry (or not cry)
Personally, I don't think that this is said enough. I will be the first to throw my hands up and say that, not only am I an incredibly sensitive person, I cry a lot. When I say a lot I mean at least once a day. When I tell people this, though I might get the odd surprised reaction, generally they can believe it. I laughed whilst writing that, because maybe they just know me, but even when I mention it to people I don't know they will often have a very similar thing to say about themselves. Does this not mean that crying is a perfectly acceptable thing for us to do? So, if this is the case, why on earth do we put so much pressure on ourselves, and often on others, not to cry? Similarly, why do we prod people who don't naturally burst into tears in sad situations? 

I think a lot of this all falls into expectation. We must not project our expectations onto others and pull them up on their behaviour if they don't act accordingly. A big factor of this, I have observed, is gender. 
Please don't brush off girls or degrade boys for crying. I think we see it time and time again where people will say to their boys who are crying, "you're not a girl are you?" or "come on, be a man about it" or something equally as demeaning and insensitive. It is also hurtful to dismiss the crying of a female as "she's a woman, she's just emotional". Biologically, we may possibly have more reasons to cry (I don't really know, I got a D in GCSE Science) but this doesn't mean that our feelings become invalid. What I do know is that we should not judge the reasons why others are crying and decide whether or not we think they deserve to cry over it. We should believe people when they are showing their emotions and have the empathy and decency to accept it and offer comfort, if they want it. 

There's also the issue of people who don't cry being accused of being unemotional or heartless. I know quite a few people who often can't muster up some tears but who are still very empathetic, emotional and sensitive. The reasons why they can't cry is for them to deal with and, again, for us to accept and understand. I often used to worry that if someone didn't cry at something I cried at, it meant they didn't care about it. I could not possibly have been more wrong. 

Crying is a personal thing and if someone cries in front of you, whether by accident or on purpose, do not traumatise them by making crying into a shameful, forbidden thing. Sometimes when someone cries in front of you, it can feel uncomfortable because you might not know what to do. TIPS: Ask them if you can do anything to help. Ask if you can give them a hug (and act accordingly). Stay with them and offer hot drinks, blankets, food or if they want you to stay with them or leave them alone. 

Don't be afraid of crying. Be afraid of the fact that there are so many people who hide their true emotions for fear of being judged by others and let that fear drive you to help people who need us. 

Final Food for Thought
- If you're hungry, sometimes your stomach rumbles. If you are stimulated enough in a certain way, sometimes your eyes leak water. They are normal bodily functions. 
- If you cry, your gender identity doesn't slither out of your brain and stream from your tear ducts. You are a man if you say you're a man (even if you say it whilst crying). 
- If you cry for a reason you deem stupid (like dropping a Cadbury's cream egg on the floor - notthatIknowanyonewhohasdonethat), it doesn't mean you're not allowed to do it anyway. 
- You are allowed to cry because of PMS/menstrual related issues. Uteri freaking hurt and also casually create sadness on the side when they're not making a baby. 
- You are allowed to experience the most sad or happy moments available to humankind without shedding a tear if that's not your style. 
- Crying is not the zenith of caring. If you're not a crier, it doesn't mean you're not a carer. 
- Crying on the inside is still crying. 

Take care gang
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

It's that time of year again where varying degrees of twitterpated people will be scattering rose petals, popping heart-shaped chocolates and writing poems in cards trimmed with red paper lace. You might have someone special this Valentine's Day, you might have someone special every Valentine's Day so I wish you all and your loved ones all the happiness in the world. However, it's also very important to remember to love yourself. So many people will experience increased loneliness and mental health problems on Valentine's Day and it's important for us to remind each other that love is not worth having for the sake of itself. Love is the most wonderful when it's given to someone who truly deserves it, and not because you just want to be in love. If you are not celebrating Valentine's Day with a spouse/significant other/FWB (friends-with-benefits) or any other complicated variation of someone you like a little, treat yourself. Eat something that makes you feel happy, enjoy getting to pick the film you watch, surround the bath with roses and candles and spend as much time as you want in the bath (you don't have to shave if you don't feel like it either). Most importantly, however, beyond all materialistic and trivial things; remember that you are not defined by who loves you, or doesn't love you. We all dream of falling in love and it's beautiful, but the most beautiful kind of love is when we learn to give it to ourselves. 

Happy Valentine's Day
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking Violet