Wednesday, 11 November 2015


© Maggie Sawkins 2014 All rights reserved 

The thing I really love about living on the city's edge… is hearing the birds in the morning. They've made a home here too. We have ivy growing profusely, some overgrown shrubs and a few trees. I love the fact that they live here and are around to greet me every day, sometimes also with our own Mr Fox. It is a very precious thing. 

Even when three fully-grown trees were chopped after causing problems for the building. Even after the shrubs next door which were home to lots of little tweeters, were razed to the ground bringing a tears to my eyes when I discovered it, the birds remain. We (my neighbour and I), can't fill the bird feeders up quickly enough. They are resilient, ever present and life-affirming. 

Just stepping onto the balcony and sitting for a few minutes, can change my state of mind. I watch them, I listen and I'm so grateful for them. They remind me of my mum, who fed and watered the garden birds with love. They inspire and uplift and help me be ready for another, never-to-be-repeated day. 

The sound of the city in the background is always there, traffic rumbling before rush hour, and a siren of course periodically, but a morning in Hackney with the birds waking up, is precious indeed. x

Friday, 2 October 2015


© Maggie Sawkins 2014 All rights reserved 
Let me count the ways I’ve ‘tried harder’: it would be a very long list. 

These days, I am aim to let go and do life, without the permanent ‘never enough’ message whirling around. Don’t misunderstand me, its still there at every moment; I just need to listen to other, better voices, rather than register angry self-criticism at the beginning, middle or end of every step. 

I sometimes remember not to trust my first waking thought but instead sit on the balcony and listen to the birds. Some of the time these days, I get that I am a person doing her best. And despite my mind telling me to the contrary, I do a LOT.

At one point in my 30s, one of those life-defining moments happened. My flatmate’s boyfriend ('FMB') took it upon himself to tell me, with a sort of surprised tone, ‘Maggie, I’ve never seen you work really hard for anything!'

Ouch, that went in. It was not the first of his 'witty' put-downs but it was the most potent. Then one afternoon last year, as I was knee-deep in preparation for a big day, I had a sudden realisation. The stark, clear truth landed in my gut: ‘Oh my goodness, FMB was wrong… shit, HE WAS WRONG!’ And then the more important truth hit: I was wrong to believe him.

I had taken this, as I recall it, unsolicited, negative opinion and let it shape me for decades. How long, bless me, has it taken to wake to the discovery that I have worked hard at EVERYTHING. Worked too hard in fact, often without knowing truly what I was working toward, or why. 

As a culture we are gradually getting to know that we are not machines who must produce ALL the time. Looking over my colleague's shoulder, I see Sweden is experimenting with a six-hour workday: waddyaknow, 'staff wellbeing is high'!

After a hitting another wall re my unhappy relationship with my then work at the end of 2010, I finally stopped doing work that was making me miserable and/or ill. I’ve found help from so many of you out there… fellow creatives, ex-students popping out of the woodwork affirming my role, friends of Bill who are there through thick and thin, fellow workaholics seeking different way to do things, to break out of the urgent, ‘more-is-still-never-enough’ way of thinking. 

learnt to take more time. That less IS more. To live on very little and get creative: there is lots of free stuff out there I found to enhance my life. Making do and mending - living in the day became a necessity and an education. As Carl HonorĂ© outlines in his writing, ‘we are marinated in the culture of speed’. I didn't need truly to get anywhere. I needed to stop trying so damn hard.

I met an amazing performer and we agreed to meet monthly: to share and get witnessed, all that we’ve ever done. A wonderful chance to get a handle on, (curate?) our unique and complex work histories. Then there are my fellow entrepreneurs and mentors on a creative startups programmehelping me to harness what I offer and create a business. 

Where would I be without encouragement from those who 'see' me, and hold faith in me. I wouldn't be without any of it, even the dark days. Who was it who said, 'rock bottom is the foundation on which I built my life?' Ah yes, JK Rowling. She started from the bottom and look what resulted.  

Then there are those who are searching for simplicity, as I am. The ability to have enough, not need more stuff, to edit down the years of clothes, photos or freelance work materials. I'm gaining inspiration from The Minimalists and fellow Londoners on a similar path. 

What if all we needed to do was focus on the moment and make the utter most of it. Grateful for what I have - no need to chase 'must do more, better, faster' beliefs but to enjoy this moment, knowing that I am enough, I have enough, I do enough. Bless me, I was wrong. x

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

'Poetry is taking place...'

Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert for sharing today, this lovely quote from Philip Levine: 

Dont scorn your life just because it's not dramatic or it's impoverished or it looks dull or it's workaday. Dont scorn it.
It is where poetry is taking place if you’ve got the sensitivity to see it, if your eyes are open.’ 

Doing life imperfectly is all there is. I started today not too sure if a 'day off' was a good idea, bless me. So many things I could be doing: attending to the many and various needs of business startup, clearing clutter in my ongoing minimalism project, painting the words I need the most, currently re-working ‘EXTREME SELF CARE'.
Let alone writing to the landlords re the botched repairs, updating my website, you get the drift. 
© Maggie Sawkins 2014 All rights reserved 
My art work on Etsy

Yet today I’m following a suggestion to put one foot in front of the other and get out and about on this glorious nearly-spring day. Walking through the sunlit city has been a joy. Seeing Marlene Dumas’ amazing portraiture at the Tate Gallery, practising being 'off' on a Tuesday. I'm listening to the sublime harmonies of First Aid Kit and looking out at the sun and  the workmen dangling on the facade of the new Tate as I write. 

I tend towards an attention-deficit habit, a butterfly mind, always juggling ‘too many’ projects. Gradually though, simplicity is coming. Thirty minutes at a time, I’m reducing the paper of years of work as an employed then freelance mediator, a trainer of mediation, public speaking in schools, art teacher, illustration student, freelance artist. 

And so much has got so much simpler. More spaces in my home, letting go of the ‘evidence’ that I worked hard. I believed someone, who with his love of the harsh put-down, once commented once that he’d ‘never seen me work hard for anything’. I took that comment and let it damage me. These days, I know he was wrong and I was wrong to believe him. I'm curating my life's work to date: letting go of the things I don't enjoy. Finding ways to love my life - not wait for it to be 'better'.

Loving the sky today… big expanse of dusty blue with the smoggy horizon, soft sun on city cranes and buildings new and old. A glorious day. This moment is all we have. How do we make choices each day to do the thing that suits us most, whilst bringing in the dollars and keeping home and self together. Do we have to suffer to live? We are making new choices each day - finding a way to live and thrive, whether we are creating the self-employed shape that work can be, or riding the merry-go-round of a 40 hour work week. Whatever we are doing, we are creating. It doesn't have to be perfect. And don't scorn it. Poetry is taking place.