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Women Aloud open day Monday 29 April

Back on Track’s Women Aloud group are holding an open day on Monday 29 April, from 1.30 to 3.30 in the afternoon. It’s open to all women who are interested in the group, whether they’re thinking of joining or referring someone else.

There will be lunch, chat and fun activities, so please do come along or tell someone you think might be interested. In the past the group have done all sorts of interesting and creative things, including trips out and making this brilliant zine.

If you want to ask anything  about the open day or the group in general please contact kate.hardy@backontrackmanchester.org.uk.

Reflection

During the past month, a lot has changed for me. I have started my eight-week placement in a primary school and life has got very busy to say the least! However, on Thursday, as I had been back at university for a week before placement commences again, I was sat down for a long tram journey. This gave me the time and the space to do some thinking about my life and I found myself reflecting and making an important decision about whether I had the time to do more writing in my life.

Perhaps you have been busy too and you may then be reluctant to slow down and feel unproductive. Yet it is in these periods that we can actually work out a lot about our lives if we use them wisely. In fact, I’ll give you another example. I was out doing my clothes washing today when I had what might seem like a bit of an epiphany for me: I realised that the times in my life when I have most suffered have been when I’ve either had too much or too little to do. It was only because I had slowed down for a bit that I had this revelation and the importance of balance in life came to the forefront of my mind.

Our minds can help guide us a lot, but it is only when we give them the freedom to do this once in a while that they can start working for us. On the tram, I concluded that I didn’t have time for more writing right now, but it helped me to think more long term and look at the bigger picture: I would have the whole summer to do it if I chose. Yet this also got me thinking about the amount of free time I would have if I took on primary school teaching as a career. Perhaps I could take an unconventional approach to my career or do something related instead. This was all food for thought and, although I don’t have all the answers, I do know it’s important to regularly ask yourself what is going well in your life and what you can improve on. Scott Smith, on his podcast, ‘The Daily Boost’ recommends doing this as ‘homework’ every Monday.

Perhaps if you are at Back on Track though, you might already be doing this regularly by sitting down with an advisor. I often find that the process of using somebody else as a sounding board and confidante when looking at and making decisions about your life can be very useful. Yet it is better to do your ‘homework’ first as then you have something to work with. An additional person can then help to put your ideas into perspective. Seeing a careers advisor has helped me with this same process recently.

If you are ever confused about or not paying attention to where your life is heading, take some time out to reflect. A walk in nature or long tram or train journeys have always given me the structure to do this. However, it is about finding out what helps you get into a pensive state.

Maysie Stott-Morrison

Kel – a new start in a new town

It was great to just catch up with Kel, who has been a big part of Back on Track over the past few years.

Kel performing at our 40th anniversary event

Everyone here knows her. She’s been all kinds of things including our choir, Tony Walsh’s poetry group, and the Manchester Street Poem project. Recently, though, she took the plunge and moved out to Blackpool, where some of her family live. She is starting a new life there with a new flat there and new adventures.

‘I’ve now got my flat really nice,’ she says. ‘I’ve been spending time with my mam and two brothers. I’m going to a place called U R Potential with my housing support officer, also she is looking into what other little projects there is for me too…’

Life hasn’t always been easy for Kel, and she says that when she first came to Back on Track she was at rock bottom. And just before Christmas she split up with her partner, which was tough for her. But she’s also spoken about the huge strides she’s made – something clear to everyone at Back on Track.

‘God knows where I’d be without Back on Track,’ she tells me. Whatever’s going on in my life I’ve always known that’s Back on Track is here for me. Samantha (our Employability Coordinator) has always been there for me, so have lots of the staff. I’ll miss it loads. At Back on Track it doesn’t matter who you are – service user or staff or volunteer – nobody’s better than anyone else.

I’d never have been able to make this move three years ago. I didn’t have the strength to do it. Now I have.’

What were the highlights from her time at Back on Track? Not surprisingly, all the friends she’s made here come top of the list. But what else?

‘I loved singing in the choir. And creative writing – I actually suggested creative writing when they were asking for people’s ideas on what courses Back on Track should do next. So I had a part in making that happen.

And then being part of Tony Walsh’s poetry group for Back on Track’s 40th anniversary event, being part of making all come together – that was really special.’

Kel with Tony Walsh

We all remember her performance that day as a major highlight. Like everything else she does, Kel wears her heart on her sleeve with her poems, and she initially struggled to get the words out because they were so personal and meant so much. But the other members of the group shouted encouragement, and Kel somehow managed to get through it, leaving plenty of people watching feeling pretty emotional.

‘Yeah well it’s like Tony said in the workshops: poetry is “one heart speaking to another”. That’s all it is really. One heart speaking to another.’

Kel touched a lot of hearts at Back on Track. And you know what? We’re sure she’ll do the same in Blackpool.

Women’s group open afternoon

Our Women Aloud group are holding a special open afternoon on Monday 25 February to kick off a new series of workshops. There will be the chance to chat, enjoy lunch, try out some activities and find out all about what’s going to happening in the group over the next couple of months. It’s happening from 1.30 to 3.30pm at the Back on Track centre.

Our Women Aloud group is aimed at women with experience of homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, mental health problems and offending. If you’re interested in being part of the group then do come along and find out what it’s all about!

The group is for women, supported by women. Back on Track is a women only space on Monday afternoons.

Take a step back and enjoy life

As I write this, I reflect on how the Christmas holidays has been a new space for me to slow down and spend time with my family. It has also been a period of assessing my own values and goals as I prepare to start a new year. Whether you like this time of year or not, time off for festivities can definitely have an impact on daily routine. For me, although I honestly prefer being busy as it gives less time for brooding, it has however made me think about how I can get more enjoyment out of life.

Admittedly, spending a few days at my mum’s over Christmas meant that I decided not to go for a jog. To be blunt, I enjoyed not having to worry about this! Despite this, it has made me think about how I have definitely preferred my kickboxing and Zumba sessions and I have only been holding onto going for a jog sometimes as a way to punish myself. This may sound strange, but I’m sure we all do this with our lives to some extent, clinging on to past habits just because it is the way things should be done even if it gives us no joy. Why not consciously choose more of the things which you love to do? As I have mentioned, this has been a hot topic on my mind recently and a concept I want to bring to 2019. I have realised, through past mistakes, that although hard work is often important and necessary in achieving goals, such as health and fitness ones, we should always allow ourselves to have some fun along the way.

In addition, Christmas is a time for most of us for spending time with our loved ones. I hope you have had the opportunity to do the same. One of my most personal goals for 2019 is to develop more meaningful friendships. In fact, I have realised that at times other than holidays, I have not put as much effort into nurturing relationships. Realistically, we are all generally busier but without strong friendships we will suffer (see my previous blog entry on strong support networks). Before I got ill with schizophrenia, I had shoved many people out of my life and this did not help my recovery. I was also leaving little time for happiness and laughter. When we truly connect with other people in a positive way, we enjoy life more and we feel lighter. Christmas has been a time for me of singing, dancing and playing games with the ones I care about – I just might have to figure out how to include more of this in my life whilst balancing my other responsibilities. Not always simple, but it’s good to learn!

As you start a new year, maybe at Back on Track or somewhere else, make a conscious effort to try and reward yourself with spending time with some of the activities and people you like the most. Back on Track nurtured some of my passions, including writing which I am doing now! It also allowed me to meet new people. Here’s to a new year and a happier you!

Maysie Stott-Morrison