What does wellbeing mean to you?
To be me
To be me well
To be a well, being
Being me. Well.
Or as my grandparents might have said:
“Well I’ll be!”
And as I come to think of it, or come to be it, I begin to think sometimes, it’s an effort to just be.
How do I attend to being?
With careful quiet attentions; gentle steering, deep listening, powerful dreaming; with mulling and musing and many ways of witnessing; creating space, for: questioning, noticing, gathering, re-imaginings; sharing, celebrating, different ways of being, in the world together.
What do I understand as well?
By re-imagining loss
To tend to what’s not lost.
To question ideas of what’s whole or well or usual or better.
To love, all the holes and cracks and the very weathered bits.
To be, not for fixing, but, for being with what is.
And that includes all the uncertain somethings, the extraordinary inbetweens
And to notice
What’s well for me
May not be well for you.
So, when we were asked about what wellbeing meant to us, for us, we began to wonder. And wander about, about our practice, about our conversations over coffee, wining and laughing whilst we blether, how we check in, in person and with virtual chatter, and what all of that does, for our wellbeing. We tasked ourselves with daily checking, listening to each other and these thoughts arriving.
We found ourselves listing – we have a shared love of lists – and turning things on their heads, to look another way.
So, here’s a little list of things we noted, keep us well:
Taking time to reflect
Listening to my gut
Having a word with myself
Trying to be true to what I call my values
My compass for my heart, the compass for my art
Taking time to notice, to get closer
Turning the volume up
Bubbles in the bath
To look through other lenses
Candlelight, starlight, morning
Long and little lists covered in crossings, circles, notes and ticks
The woods, the mountains and the mist, the light, horizons, water
And my growing stacks of hardbacks
And when you hold my hand.
Not doing, being, eating, drinking, thinking, trying, one way all the time
To feed my imagination,
Words and movements, images, textures. Touch and smell and making mess
Play. And clearing things up after
Beginning something growing
And as we walked in further, dug down deeper, nattered until it got darker.
We found ourselves in shadows. Sharing some of ours. Our open wounds and cuts and scars. Turns in temper. Nags and niggles. Mornings when we keep sinking down beneath the duvet. The overwhelming lists of things to do, all that busy being busy, amongst discombobulating gripes and sulks, with peers and pals and lovers. Then came making mistakes, missing the mark, getting it wrong. Messing up and being messed about, compromising self and values.
And then we found distraction and ourselves tucking into great plates of buttered toast and crumpets and chips and cheese, with gravy. Washed down with wine and chocolate, whilst staying very still and flat, sort of watching telly. Gazing out of the window at that chimney, those phone wires, grey seagull, puce pigeon, satellite dish and antenna, anything other than this writing that’s at hand.
Taking time, to make this writing, made a connection stronger.
We noticed in exploring this ‘well’, our capacities, our sources of wellbeing, that we need time spent both with light and the dark. One doesn’t come without the other.
Because both sides of the paper, each bit of the list, all of our spare and missing parts, our loose wires, fine threads, the peaks and the fallows
Make us. Well…
Luke Pell in conversation with Alice McGrath
Alice is the Creative Director of Red Bridge Arts, which she established in 2015. Red Bridge Arts is an ideas-led organisation that aims to provide a supportive structure to stimulate and sustain artists’ development and practice. The company’s mission is to nourish creativity and encourage curiosity. www.redbridgearts.co.uk
Alice previously held posts at Scottish Dance Theatre as Executive Producer, at macrobert arts centre, as Director of Creative Development, Participation and Research and at Imaginate, Scotland’s development agency for children and young people’s performing arts as Creative Development Director.