I’ve always enjoyed reading and for as long as I can remember I’ve read fiction. Several years ago I got surprised with a Kindle for Christmas by my parents and it caused me to increase dramatically the number of books I was reading.
This year is a different story. Reading has been a difficult task, something that is very unusual for me since it has always been a point of comfort. When I was in junior school I had a series of books I would read when I was struggling with being bullied. When I was in my teens I would go back and read familiar books when I needed to find something calming. A few years ago when I was battling my first bout of depression I read Harry Potter books that were familiar and provided a way for my mind to imagine instead of a spiral of negative thoughts.
So when the world imploded this year, I thought once again I would be able to find refuge in books of fiction. But for several months I struggled to read. My mind could not focus, so it was a surprise to me when I looked at my reading stats in Book Track and Goodreads to discover that I had read more books this year than last. The thirteen books I’ve read (so far) this year is still low compared to my normal levels, but there is a definite uptick in the final half of the year that I’m pleased to see.
When I set out to write this post it was going to be a top 5 books of the year, as I started writing I realised there’s only one book I want to highlight. I read it right at the start of the year, and it’s a book that has continually come to mind ever since. I was given a print of one of the pages in it for my birthday.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy is a masterpiece. It has been so relatable over the course of this year.
The quote that has been hanging in my living room is one which many people have reminded me of and one which will no doubt have me returning to time after time.
“Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses,” said the mole.
At a time when people often become quite introspective and look back at what they’ve done with the year, it’s easy to see all the people shouting about how they have utilised the lockdown to achieve so much and feel inadequate. It would be easy to begin beating ourselves up. So we should take notice of what the mole has to say, and be kind to ourselves, because actually getting through this year is pretty good going.
Over the years I’ve amassed a number of domains for various websites I’ve wanted to create. A few of those are related to my former freelance business, and two relates to blogs. This week I got a notification that 3 of them are up for renewal in January, it’s left me questioning if should renew them all or if it’s time to let some go.
I have the domain for this blog, philbowell.com, which I will definitely renew. I have philbowell.blog, which I used briefly for this site, and I have philbowell.design, which is what I used for the last couple of years of working for myself.
Since I started working as part of an in-house UX team, I’ve been intending to consolidate my portfolio into my personal site. One domain for both places. What I hadn’t thought of was how to handle the domains. A redirect seems to make the most sense, but the cost of renewing them is much higher than I expected it to be. Letting go of domain names is something that I don’t like doing and I’m trying to work out the impact of doing that. It’s a tricky conundrum.
I used to post a lot about technology, sharing links to the latest releases etc. That’s kind of slipped by the way, although I’m still interested in these things there are a lot of other places to find them. That said, this morning I came across a new email app that’s in the works called Big Mail that I think is a really interesting approach to handling email. I’ve looked into Hey and Onmail recently and whilst I’m intrigued by some of the features they all require using a web app and I prefer to have an app for my email. Even better is that Big Mail handles everything on device and means I don’t have to transfer my email to a different provider. I look forward top giving it a try.
Today has been a grey and foggy day, it’s felt like a real reflection of the mood of the last month. As I’ve driven around Cheltenham today doing some bits and bobs, I’ve seen more and more people starting to put up Christmas trees and lights. It’s been nice to see them emerging out of the gloom.
Today marks the start of Advent, with the first candle being lit in churches across the country we are reminded of the hope that comes from Jesus. The arrival of the King.
At the start of this year I started to go to a new church, given the pandemic if might not have been the best time, but the services I’ve been attending online have been ones of great comfort. They have shown great care, sensitivity, and compassion throughout the year, and I’m incredibly thankful that God guided me to this church. I’m looking forward to being able to go to a service again, I hope it is sooner rather than later. I’m sure it will be.
Today is Thanksgiving in America, and despite being a Brit I thought it would be good to try and post something I’m thankful for this year. I started to write this post at lunchtime, and struggled, I couldn’t zero in on something. This evening after my counselling session I realised what it is I’m thankful for this year. I’m thankful for all the people who have helped my family navigate through the year. The members of their church, some old friends from previous churches, some new friends, some new colleagues who have become friends. Some people who were friends and I’ve discovered are now very good friends. For all of them I am thankful, we couldn’t have done it without you.
Since the end of August I’ve been using Roam Research as my notes application. Having tried and played around with Notion but finding it to be too much work to manage anything, I decided to give Roam and it’s freeform notes a try.
I’ve found it to be one of the most intuitive note taking apps I’ve ever come across and have since begun using it for more and more things. It’s not just replaced the notes apps I was trying to use before, it’s become my journal and task manager as well. In fact it’s even starting to grow into my personal CRM as well and I believe it is behind the desire for me to start blogging more because I’m enjoying writing in it so much.
What I like is that is seems to fit the way I think. Despite being a visual person I often find myself taking notes in the form of bullet points. When I’m thinking and working through something on paper I will often write a point and then riff off it with a series of bullet points below.
The two way linking has also been a revelation. One of the things I was trying to use Notion for was a one stop shop for my notes and tasks that related to various projects I’m working on. The databases that make Notion so powerful seemed like a good fit for this, but I found it to be a lot of extra work to maintain. In contrast Roam’s Daily Notes, which I use heavily, helps to give me both context in the form of when something happened as well as an easy way to automatically link to a project.
What has been surprising for me has been how I’ve found it to help me on a deeper level. The fact that I have a daily note open on my screen all day as I work means that when I find myself having to deal with some strong emotions I am able to write them down to help me process them. One thing I am having to learn is to not let my thought patterns spiral. I find it all too easy to get stuck in a particular thought pattern that turns itself over and over in my mind. Having something open all the time lets me process what I’m feeling when I become aware of it helps me to tackle that spiral in a way I’ve not been able to before.
One of my favourite books this year comes from an artist called Charlie Mackesy. I discovered it by accident when I was looking for a Christmas present last December. I bought it and gave that book as a gift for J and she loved it so much she bought me my own copy and I’ve since bought it for my Mum as well. For my birthday this year I got given a print of one the pages from the book. It contains a quote which is something both a couple of friends and my counsellor keep reminding me of:
“Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses,” said the mole.
It struck me as I was writing this that having the space to process my feelings and let myself feel them is being kind to myself and that perhaps we all need to be a bit kinder to ourselves.
I’ve had this blog in one form or another since I was 21, earlier posts have been lost in the many transitions it has made but it’s always been there. A hobby that taught me how to design and build websites that has since become my career.
At the moment I think I am in one of the longest streaks of not posting to the site that I’ve ever been on. For the last few weeks I’ve wanted to start posting again, I’m seeking to revive a hobby that was once very enjoyable to me. The trouble is I don’t know where to start or what to write. So, I’m writing this post as an acknowledgement of some very difficult events.
The last two years have been two of the hardest of my life. This time two years ago I was working part-time in a speciality coffee shop, doing some freelance design work, and contracting in to a local studio. There was a promise that my contract position would become full time in the next six months. At the beginning of April last year, a conversation that I thought would be about going full time was a conversation about the studio changing their mind. A month later I was no longer working there. A month after that the final client for my freelance business, which I was winding down due to the aforementioned promise, understandably told me they had made other arrangements for their website.
Alongside the work situation I was dealing with some things in my personal life. The culmination of all these events, alongside an unsuccessful gruelling seven week interview process, resulted in a mental breakdown and the return of my depression in August last year.
One positive is that somehow, in the middle of that breakdown I managed to think clearly enough for an hour-long interview that resulted in the job I have now been in for over a year. I can only thank God for that.
Then 2020 happened. A global pandemic has thrown the world into chaos as Covid-19 has swept across the world. Normal life has been taken away which for everyone has been a difficult adjustment. In the midst of this my Mum has been undergoing treatment for cancer and my Dad has had and recovered from a stroke.
I’m hoping that by writing this post it will help to remove the block I have been struggling with when it comes to posting to this site. Through counselling I have come to realise the importance of taking care of yourself properly. I have realised that I need hobbies in my life and I would like to start blogging here again as a first tentative step to building some healthy habits. I didn’t feel I could get that going again without acknowledging recent events, so here I am taking a scary step and daring to put into words some of the hardest experiences I have had to go through.
Anyone know of a mouse that can be paired with both a Mac and an iPad? I’m in need of a new mouse, my wrist is beginning to suffer after years of using a Magic Mouse and I want one that works with both my Mac for work and iPad for personal stuff. I’ve my eye on the MX3 but I can’t tell if it can pair with both devices…
Looking to simplify all my websites. Since I’m no longer freelancing and don’t need a portfolio online at the moment, I’m thinking to move away to something lighter than WordPress. Trouble is I don’t know what. I don’t want to maintain everything other than the design and want to reduce costs.