A Blog Post By Ben Hughes
Hello, I’m Ben, you may know me from one of our Instagram pictures, (I’m the one with the big dark curly hair…)
I’ve been wanting to write a blog for a while now. Many have been started but they are either incomplete or I’m not happy enough with them. I’ve struggled with what to write about. I’ve written blogs about what I’ve seen in the woods or on the beach on a particular day, trips away, drawing and all sorts. But I feel I don’t know enough about what I’m talking about to write a blog.
But this morning I had a thought about something I know all too well.. Overthinking!
Overthinking in general
I’ve been (over)thinking a lot about tiny actions lately. I’m the kind of person who ponders and worries so much about what I’m going to say or do that by the time I’ve plucked up the courage, the moment has usually passed. I used to think I was a good listener but recently I get so over come with worry about what I’m going to say next or what another persons thinking that my ears fill with a kind of white-noise and retreat into myself and miss out on interesting things.
But I’m digressing already… I don’t want this blog to be all about me!
I enjoy drawing and telling stories, I always have… this is what I always come back to when my mind goes all over the place and I forget who I am and what I’m doing here… The loft above my bedroom is weighed down with boxes and bags of papers filled with my drawings, comics and stories from when I was little.
It’s very exciting to me when people buy one of the notebooks from our website or stall with my drawings on. I wonder what kinds of things they are going to write down in them, what little ways that little book, with one of my creations on will change their life. What questions they’ll be asked about it, things like that. I like to make my drawings for the notebooks little scenes or snapshots of a particular story. Like a single frame of a comic. And, especially with the plastic awareness notebooks, I like to wonder what people think will happen next, whether they see that they can pluck the plastic soldier from the tendrils of the strawberry Anemone or scoop out the deluge of litter hanging over the haddock. What are their thoughts on it, will they pull out their notebook to write something down just before they go out and it will remind them to bring their reusable cup and thus a plastic cup in a cafe or by a tap will remain unused by them that day and the next and the day after that and their plastic usage will plummet day by day as they bring their cup more and more just because they chose to scribble their thoughts in a notebook they bought that I drew all those weeks ago?
These are the kinds of places my mind leads me before a make a decision everyday.
Thinking backwards ways…
Think back to some of the biggest, most monumental moments of your life. Think of the tiny actions that lead you to them, no matter how small. Everyone has little moments in their past where they think ‘If only I’d said this…’ or ‘I could have done a bit more if I’d just…’ Things like that. It’s been covered in Fiction Books and Films time and again in things like Doctor Who, It’s a Wonderful Life and Sliding Doors, known commonly as The ‘Knock-on’ or ‘Butterfly’ Effect, where someone goes back on a decision they’ve made and we find out how different the world would have been if they’d done things another way. But obviously you think this way all the time, you’d go crazy! My point is that every so often it’s good to look back and see what progress you’ve made just by making tiny efforts towards something.
Life is never about an outcome, life is a constant journey with only one end.
Practice is something that falls under this umbrella. Hypothetically: Spend just 5 minutes drawing a picture today. Do the same tomorrow. Make a note to remind yourself to do this everyday. In a fortnights time you will have spent over an hour drawing, and your skills will have improved. Keep going week by week, month by month and you’ll keep on improving.
Maybe one day you take a long walk, the next day your legs ache, but the day after that you could walk a further distance with less pain the next day!
This is something I try to do. Don’t mistake me for someone who is incredibly committed. I spend hours procrastinating and overthinking. But I’m not completely ashamed of that.
Think of some the great quotes by writers and philosophers that you know. These weren’t holy proclamations of higher beings, they were simply reminders to themselves they’d learned from experience that they thought could help other people, so they said (or wrote) them.
Your Little Actions Matter!
Tiny Actions are everything! Involuntary tiny actions lead to various lifeforms evolving the way they did! Relatively tiny actions and decisions have shaped our cultural history! From religion (think of Jesus or Mohammad and their tiny choices) to science (Think Isaac Newton and the apple… (although that’s not quite how it happened).) to art (The Impressionists Movement) to music, to fashion (the discovery of aniline dyes, Queen Victoria’s wedding dress.) , tiny little actions have changed the course of everything over the canvas of time…
Our good friends over at #2minutebeachclean know this fact well, if you take the tiny action of spending as little as two minutes cleaning plastic off a beach, you have made a difference, that plastic is now out of the oceans grasp, and (depending on how you dispose, discard or repurpose it) it will stay out of the ocean indefinitely. Spend just two minutes every time you’re at the beach and you could have reduced the amount of plastic returning to the tide by a sizable percentage!
Consider something you are wearing today. Where did you get it? How long have you had it? How many times have you worn it? On a scale of 1-10 where does it fall on your list of favourite clothes? Why do you like it? Why did you choose to where it on this particular day? What have people said about it? What tiny little actions lead to you owning it?
Where was it made? How long ago? What would you have worn today if it didn’t exist? What experiences has it lead you to?
At Lifeforms we try and encourage the buy once and buy well philosophy. Instead of buying a batch of petroleum t-shirts and a bevy of sweatshop woven jeans for a few pence that will probably wear out in a few months time, look to buy a nicely made pair of durable trousers in your favourite colour that you will want to wear everyday.
A strange trend has become popular through famous people and members of royal families across the world, where certain figures would never be seen in the same outfit more than once. And it’s spread into popular culture over the years. ‘I can’t wear this because this is what I wore last time I saw her!’ ‘What will they think if they see me in the same clothes as yesterday?’
…This kind of thinking is silly… sorry but it is. Because, really… who cares? Almost Everyone else is worrying about what you think of them so… be the one who doesn’t care! And if someone criticises you on something like this. Why are you spending your time with them? What tiny actions lead to them being a part of your life?
My usual answer to this question is the fact that it’s a family gathering and I have no way of getting out of it! My advice, (and this is something I struggle with, so I know it’s difficult!) Find it Funny… that all you have to do! Sounds simple doesn’t it? Until your Great Aunt Betty is in your face talking about how much of a weirdo you are to every other member of your family!
But she’s only human. She’s so self conscious she’s decided to take the things someone has said to her and purge them on you. Let that cycle end with you. Shrug it off, or (if you have more courage than me!) say why you are doing what you are doing! See if you can convince them that they are the silly ones!
The tiny choice you made to say what you felt or shrug off a mean comment that day will have an impact on the future! Maybe Great Aunt Betty will think twice before she speaks about other people’s life choices next time, maybe she’ll wear the same thing she wore last time you saw her consciously or unconsciously.
Think of your closest friends. When did you meet them? What lead them to be such a significant part of your life?
Think about people you haven’t seen in a while, someone you use to be close to. Why have you fallen out of touch with them? What did you use to have in common? How different would your current situation be without their earlier influence?
This is getting a bit too soppy isn’t it?
Back to my environmentalism hoo-hah. I’d like to say something about protests. Why people are feeling the need to go out and shout about things they are unhappy with. My theory is it’s because of the fast-pace world we live in now, with the internet at its core. Someone can tweet something one day and it’s gone and forgotten by next. And people are fed up with things not sticking, so they go and stick themselves (hopefully not with plastic based glue) to railings outside Westminster.
Because they want to do something to help with the climate crises, (yes crises, there’s more than one issue to solve!) They feel that some big grand gesture (Not unlike getting arrested.) is the only way that they can help and show that they care, feel like they’re actively doing something to help because they can’t go over and scrub oil off a bird in the Galapagos or heave mounds of litter out of a lagoon in the Philippines or stop a bulldozer in Borneo. People build up so much frustration with bad news that it becomes hard to remember that tiny actions help. Tiny actions matter.
Keeping Considerations, Like a basket of eggs!
Consider where you have driven lately.
Better yet, consider where you have flown by plane in the last few years. Did you need to go there? (For the record I’m not shunning holidays here! I love a trip away!) But think back on your choices like this…
Example. (Based on a true story!)
You fancy some biscuits… you can’t stop thinking about them. All kinds of biscuits fill your mind. Custard Creams, Bourbons, Chocolate Chip Cookies. On your way home you stop by the shop and head to the biscuit aisle and there they are. Rows and rows of crunchy yumminess. You reach out and grab your favourites and then the sound of crinkling plastic hits your ear. You’re reminded of your promises to not use as much unnecessary single use plastic. You go to put them back but then you think ‘a little treat is necessary sometimes!’ (This is true.) So you lift them back up and place them on the counter. The back of the packaging catches your eye. Contains Palm Oil.
You think of all the rainforests being destroyed to make way for Oil Palm plantations. You sigh and put them back and go home biscuitless. Then you have a thought. You look up on your phone ‘Quick Biscuit Recipes’ you find some that only take 10 minutes! You have all the ingredients! Rushing to the cupboard to grab your mixing bowl, it knocks something as you yank it from its nestling place and it falls to the floor shattering. You sweep it up and look to buy a new one on the internet you put it in your digital basket and are about to hit buy, but then you realise you don’t need another one just yet, so instead of buying a cheap one you write down that you may need another on in future and continue making biscuits.
10 minutes later you pull them out the oven to find some crumbly lumps of unappetising quality. Your tiny action of forgetting to add baking soda has left you biscuitless once again!
Did you read that through? Well done! Thanks very much! Now here’s the point I’m trying to make with that little scenario, we are often told by pictures of cute dogs on the internet that we need to live in the moment more, and my idea of analysing tiny actions from the past and how something you do now will effect the future in unknowable ways may sound against this. But it isn’t !
If you had slowed down and been in the moment, perceptive of the little things, you would have carefully grabbed your mixing bowl not smashing the jug (or whatever) and then remembered to add baking soda and you would have your plastic and palm oil free biscuits!
Now I’m really hungry…
Game of Chance…
Life is about taking chances. Imagine that you have a crush on someone and you finally build up enough confidence send them a message asking them if they’d like to get together, but because of a distraction earlier you forgot to charge your phone! And when it finally recharges, you’ve lost your confidence you had in that one moment… and instead of writing your message you play a game instead. That first step towards spending the rest of your life with someone you can’t stop thinking about, you play a game for half an hour… but hey! You beat your high score!
Thinking about things like drawing and writing, these are in the moment activities with an end goal. Each choice you make can have a big impact on the picture or story. You may stop and have a break, go out and walk the dog and during the walk the dog does something or you find an interesting object that inspires a moment in the story your writing, or a way you’ll texture something in your drawing!
Try and be aware of your everyday actions as much as possible. You’re feeling cold in the winter. Instead of turning the heating on you go and grab a jumper. The jumper you grab makes an old coat fall loose on to the floor. You’ve not worn it in years. So you take it to the Salvation Army donation point, where it can go somewhere it will be used and keep someone else warm.
Get yourself into a pattern of thinking about your tiny actions and what they can do to help.
Eventually you’ll come to enjoy it, and it will be a bigger and bigger part of your life, you’ll be involved with your journey of life and making the lives of the people around you better too.
Smiling at people is something I do every time I’m out in public. I know there’s a ‘danger’ to doing this sometimes, especially in cities. But sometimes, when I’ve had a not-so-happy day and I smile at someone and the smile is returned with what I can only think to describe as a ‘dirty look’. It leaves me with a kind of crushing feeling in my chest, it has just lowered my mood even more, but I still smile at the next person! And whenever I’m smiled at, I smile back! If I don’t acknowledge that someone’s smiling at me until after I’ve walked past them, I feel terrible! I’m urged to run back at smile at them. But I don’t… and I usually walk around in public with a kind of dazed half-smile anyway to distract myself from my fear of interaction.
I’ll just say that I use to wave at people too… this quickly stopped when someone came up to me and my brother to ask ‘Do I KnOw YoU?’ And proceeded to invite us to her Saturday Church meeting… I think I was about 8 at the time!!!!!
Awareness is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days and is beginning to lose its meaning. Don’t let it. Awareness is the most important thing you have. You are not your feelings or memories you are just the awareness of these things.
Now I’m going to start ending this blog. Thank you very much if you’ve got this far! I’m glad you’ve read it, even if you didn’t enjoy it, even if you feel like you’ve wasted precious minutes on it. Maybe like Great Aunt Betty you read the first few lines and decided not to continue reading this ‘Self-indulgent Waffle’. But you made that choice! You chose to take the tiny action of reading this. Just as I took tiny actions in choosing to write it, choosing certain words and choosing to publish it on the internet for the world to see! Like the great quotes of the greatest thinkers of our time, this has been as much a reminder to myself as it is my advice to you. (Not that I consider myself in anyway on a par with someone like Mark Twain or Henry David Thoreau!)
Tiny actions matter, being aware matters, you and your thoughts and feelings matter and have an impact on the world around you… really they do! Don’t do what I do sometimes and let this fact make you afraid to go outside and face the world and all its judgement. Let it be the fuel that drives you along your journey. Make lists of things you have done and want to do! (Perhaps in one of our notebooks? [Only Joking!])
Remember that tiny actions can make the biggest heroes…
As an addition and to make myself more aware. Here are some of the influences to this blog.
The Film ‘Scrooged’ (Which is fantastic and something we watch every December 1st).
The writings of the philosopher Elkhart Tolle (Awareness)
The Frasier Episode Sliding Frasiers.
Doctor Who episodes Boom Town and Turn Left.