Fragmented Thoughts

A notebook for half-formed ideas and other things on the mind of Emma Cragg.

On my walk to work today I listened to an episode of On Being that was a conversation from 2016 between Krista Tippett and the poet David Whyte. About 10 minutes in, as a precursor to reciting his poem Everything is Waiting for You, Whyte said:

we have so many allies in this world, including just the color blue in the sky, which we’re not paying attention to, or the breeze or the ground beneath our feet.

I have to be honest, although the rest of the episode played on, I wasn’t giving it my full attention. I was too hung up on these words and how they made me feel.

I looked up to the blue sky above me, with barely a cloud in sight. My world felt vast. I turned my attention to the feeling of the solid concrete under my feet. I felt supported. Safe.

I know the benefits of feeling connected to the world around me, of grounding myself, and feeling a sense that I’m part of something bigger (sympatheia is what the Stoics call it). But, I haven’t had a hook that calls me back, or reminds me of this connection. Now I do. It’s the idea that when I need it most these things will be there, without fail, to support me and lift me up.

Tags: #quotes #DavidWhyte #OnBeing #nature

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Today’s quote for reflection is taken from Eleanor Roosevelt’s book You Learn by Living.

It is your life — but only if you choose to make it so.

This quote feels particularly pertinent this week as I try to make choices — especially in work — that have me swimming against the stream.

It’s so very easy to get drawn along in the flow with everyone else and not realise that there’s another way, a choice to be made to do something different. Something that sits more comfortably with who you are and what you want to achieve.

The first step, of course, is noticing. Noticing that something isn’t right, that your needs aren’t being met, that you’re struggling or frustrated, and that something needs to change. And with that comes the realisation that you do indeed have a choice about what happens next. That you can break free from expectation and first make, then walk, your own path.

That metaphor of the path is something I’ve used before and have returned to recently. I used it to help me in the early days of starting my current freelance career. The path is mine to build, brick by brick. It will meander and possibly need to divert to avoid an obstacle in the way but overall it’s headed in the direction I choose.

I have a reminder of this on my house keys. A single yellow Lego brick reminds me I choose where and when the next brick is laid.

Tags: #quotes #reflection #journaling #EleanorRoosevelt

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Today’s quote for reflection is taken from a lecture by Alain de Botton (it’s another one I was directed to from Dense Discovery #181).

It is our expectations that define what will anger us.

I really relate to this quote as I recognise that when I most often get angry it’s because I’ve set unrealistic expectations for myself or others. I’m also very aware that in those cases where I have expectations of someone else often I’ve failed to communicate them clearly or at all. It’s in the gap that anger festers.

I write this in the full knowledge that I have a history with anger and how I respond to it. I have spent a lot of time working on this relationship and I know giving it my attention has paid off. I feel different and see that my behaviour has changed. I knew this quote was coming up as today’s prompt and so I asked my partner whether she had observed the same and I’m pleased to say she verified it.

In fact, I can’t actually recall the last time I was angry had an angry outburst. I changed what I wrote there because it isn’t that I don’t still get angry (although it’s also happening less) but what’s changed is how often I act out as a result of that feeling.

Returning to an earlier thought, I feel a lot of my anger is bound up in non- or mis-communication on my part. Through bottling up my feelings and not letting the people close to me know what I needed from them and then consequently feeling frustrated and angry when my expectations weren’t met. Things changed when I started talking with those close to me about how I am feeling and allowing myself to be vulnerable. They’ve changed even more since I started a more regular dialogue with myself through journaling.

Another thing to explore further is this distinction between the feeling of anger itself and the response to it or behaviours that result from it. It’s natural to feel angry sometimes, what happens next is the important bit.

What’s changed for me is that I’m getting better at noticing when I feel angry. Spotting it before it has a chance to fester and cloud my judgment... and then pausing before I act. That pause gives me space to choose what happens next. Happily, more often than not these days that choice is to let go.

Tags: #quotes #anger #choice #behaviour #reflection #journaling

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I’m a member of a community who meet for daily mindfulness and journaling sessions. I host one session every week too and in this capacity it’s also my responsibility to contribute to the prompt schedule. This week we’re using quotes as prompts for our reflections. Writing in response to these quotes is something I had planned to do personally, to breathe life into this blog, and I decided to share them with the group too.

Today’s quote is...

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. — Lao Tzu

When I first came across this quote (in Dense Discovery #181) I felt a response to it physically. A jolt. A lightning bolt. As I repeated it again and again in my head trying to distil its essence, and its lesson, I settled on the line that things will happen when the time is right.

I think the reason these words stopped me in my tracks is because I know I have a tendency to want to be further ahead with things than I am. When I set my mind on doing something, I feel a pull, an urgency and I want it to be done... yesterday.

What is the rush? Where are the benefits of hurrying to get things done? What can be gained from slowing down and paying attention to the process?

The longer I sit with this quote, the more layers emerge. In this morning’s session I was thinking about the various cycles in nature. Sunrise and sunset. The tides. The seasons. Migration. Metamorphosis. They happen without fail. Again and again. There’s no rush. No fuss. And yet again I came back to thinking about the routines in my own life. How they help me stay calm and balanced. How they help me to slow down.

I’ve got far more to explore on this topic than I have time for today. And so I’m taking a lesson from Lao Tzu. I’ll not hurry it. I’ll sit awhile longer and ponder it. And come back another day.

Tags: #quotes #journaling #nature

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When you turn to the sports pages today you'll see elated Newcastle fans celebrating the end of the Mike Ashley era. That's something I can join in with but what comes next is not.

I can't ignore the human rights abuses of the new owners. I don't want to support a team that is funded by the leaders of a country where people like me are flogged and put in jail.

I hoped for something better for Newcastle but this isn't it.

I'm out.

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Within the space of two hours today I've been addressed as brother and, as part of a group, ladies. Neither is correct. On both occasions the speaker made an assumption about me. In the case of the former that assumption was based on my appearance. And in the latter, on my name.

I know that the intention behind the use of each of these words was to be friendly and welcoming, but that's not necessarily how they are received.

I wanted to share this experience to encourage you to take a moment to think the next time you find yourself default to using gendered language. Especially when it's in conversation with a group or someone you don't know. Who are you addressing? What assumptions are you making about them? What non-gendered term could you use as an alternative?

This is day 39 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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Everything is changing all the time, and we keep wanting to pin it down, to fix it. So whenever you come up with a solid conclusion, let the rug be pulled out. You can pull out your own rug, and you can also let life pull it out for you.

I've been sitting with this quote from Pema Chödrön's book start where you are for a few weeks now. Today feels like the right time to put some of my thinking down into words.

Why today? Well, on this day seven years ago I packed all my worldly belongings into my car and left town to start a new life. It was a leap into the unknown after the future I thought I was stepping into was taken away.

I've always described this experience as having the rug pulled from under me. It was the lowest point of my life and at the time I couldn't see how I was going to get out of it. I'd been holding so tightly to one specific outcome and suddenly it felt like there was nothing in front of me. Everything was fuzzy. Everything was uncertain.

When I was in the midst of it, it was hard to imagine life being any different. Anything beyond the day in front of me felt unclear. Somehow I knew that all I could do was to take things one day at a time. To put one foot in front of the other and slowly make my way forward. As time passed, the world started to open up again and I was eventually able to start making plans further into the future. To rebuild my life on my own terms.

With the perspective that each new year brings, I can now look back on that time and feel grateful for what the experience has taught me. I learned:

  • to allow myself to sit with uncomfortable emotions
  • to focus on what is in my control
  • to open up about how I'm feeling and ask for help
  • and, that no matter what I'll be OK

Five years on from this, I chose to pull the rug out myself, to make another leap into the unknown. I moved from the security of employment to the rollercoaster of running a business of my own. It was a step I'm certain I would never have taken without that previous experience.

What I think I've learned over the past seven years, and what I read in the words that started this whole piece, is that the less tightly we hold onto certainty, or a fixed outcome, the easier it becomes to deal with both planned and unexpected changes in our lives.

This is day 38 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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At the end of last week, I managed to rupture the tendon of my right index finger. Apparently it's an easy thing to do. The upshot of this is that my finger is in a splint for six to eight weeks while the tendon heals.

This morning I joined Sanctus' daily journaling session where the prompt was 'What are you aware of?' It got me thinking about how the splint has affected me over the past few days as I've been getting used to doing things a bit differently. Most things are OK as I can still grip with the remaining three fingers and thumb. Where a bit more dexterity is needed, for handwriting, eating and tying my laces etc, I'm having to modify my technique.

What I am most aware of is:

  • the level of patience needed as everything is naturally taking me longer
  • how it's forcing me to slow down and be more deliberate in my actions
  • that I will inevitably need help with some things and must be prepared to ask for it

I'm only a few days in to this but I can already feel I'm going to learn a lot over the next couple of months. And that those lessons will apply more broadly to life than just what I can or can't do with my hand.

This is day 37 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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Last week I did a couple of things that I've not done in around six months: slept in a bed that's not my own and went to the pub for a pint. When the roadmap out of lockdown was announced we booked a few nights away in a holiday cottage for the earliest available opportunity. And the time to take that opportunity rolled around last week.

Until we arrived in this peaceful spot, I hadn't realised how much I needed both the change of scenery and the time to fully disconnect and immerse myself in the beautiful countryside of Northumberland and Cumbria.

View from the cottages at Common House Farm

Our only neighbours on the farm where our cottage was located were a family of friendly goldfinches and a field full of sheep and their lambs.

We had some wonerful weather for walking and did a couple of varied routes. First, a loop from Lambley Viaduct that included sections of both the Pennine Way and South Tyne Trail. We got to go under and over the viaduct at varuous points on the route.

Lambley Viaduct from below View of South Tyne river from Lambley viaduct

Our second walk took us along a section of Hadrian's Wall, from Walltown Quarry to Great Chesters. We walked back along the vallum and crossed farmland to Tipal Burn and returned to the start via the ruins of Thirwall Castle.

View of Hadrian's Wall looking East towards Turret 45a

We ended our stay with visits to RSPB Geltsdale and Talkin Tarn.

View over Tindale Tarn from bird hide Derelict buildings at Forest Head Quarry

Other than walking, we did a lot of birdwatching. Over the week we saw:

  • lapwings
  • a curlew
  • a snipe
  • a red grouse
  • partridge
  • tufted ducks
  • whinchats
  • wheatears
  • a reed warbler
  • a great spotted woodpecker, and
  • a skylark

When we weren't outdoors the main activity was reading. I chose to take Matt Haig's The Midnight Library, which I devoured, and Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways, which helped me think about the paths we we walking in a new way.

I feel ready to return to work next week rested and recharged. Also with a renewed commitment to get out here more regularly for longer walks to top up my personal battery.

This is day 36 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Tags: #holidays #gratitude

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I've had a few weeks off from writing this list. That was not because there was nothing to say, but because I've been trying to spend more time disconnected and enjoying a wider variety of activities that don't require a screen. So let me catch you up on the things that have been making me smile recently...

  • new binoculars; a great boost for my newfound love of birdwatching
  • discovering #BirdsSeenIn2021, this alongside Dean Wilson's pebble of the day series is reason enough to be on Twitter
  • taking a new approach to my phone use and really feeling the benefits
  • a couple of long walks a little further afield; exploring different sections of the region's waggonways and including a return to the coast
  • another successful virtual weekend away
  • and last but not least, a win for Newcastle today

Tags: #gratitude

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