Keep going…and the breakthrough may not look like you expect

We are not yet “post pandemic”.

Yes, most of us can…. do things now. Visit places which were closed before. See people live and in person. Go to restaurants, museums, parks. Book a holiday cottage and stay there with family. Even hug people! It’s so exciting.

But the last year to 18 months has taken a heavy toll on us all, and I am seeing it every day in every person I interact with. Online, or offline. There’s a weariness, an uncertainty, a grief we are working through. There’s a tangle of emotions which is riiiiight at the edge and the smallest thing can tip us off or tip us over. We’re a little more anxious or snappy or grumpy or quick to laugh hysterically.

Some of us are working through it by…working. Almost frantically. Hurrying back to “everything we did before” – the office spaces, the morning visit to a coffee shop on the way, the racing, the rushing. There’s a comfort in what was familiar and an almost desperate need to pretend the last year never happened.

Some of us are pulling back. Not sure yet about doing the things and going the places and seeing the people, so just…waiting. Feeling a little guilty, perhaps, like we ought to be relieved and excited but we feel nervous.

Some of us are trying to find the balance. Doing things, and then resting. Saying yes to a few things, but saying no to more things than we ever used to. Rising, and then falling. Enthusiastic, and then tired.

I feel like I’m in all of those categories.

Work feels comfortable – we’ve never had offices (even pre pandemic), so I’m still working from home, like I always was, like I did all through the past year. But I am starting to meet up with some of my team members and clients when I’m in the area, or planning a visit. I like it. And I’m still figuring it out.

I had a few weeks of Doing The Things – took a holiday on the isle of Mull, saw the puffins, did loads of walking, visited the distillery, traveled the island. Met up with people in restaurants for dinner and for drinks. Had people over to my house for dinner, or went to others’ to visit. Loved all of it…and then got sick for a week. (#notcovid sick, but still felt miserable, like my body didn’t know what to make of all this change and all these places and people.)

I’m consciously saying yes, and also saying no. I’m trying to think more carefully about the impact each activity will have on my energy, my spirit, my body.

I’ve started seeing a new counselor. That was hard to do, and also encouraging. I told a friend (and this new counselor) that I’d say I’m in a “high functioning depressive state”. It means I’m still doing my work, and even enjoying it. Writing a book, but slowly. Not hiding away entirely, but choosing that some days. Grateful, and still sort of blank. I’ve got a new me to figure out and we are not there yet. (And that’s okay.)

Breakthroughs don’t happen when we think they will, or in the way we imagine.

They are the accumulation of small decisions, small steps, little actions and contributions. Hour by hour, day after day, month after month.

We keep swinging the pickaxe, pushing through the dark and the dirt. The diamonds are ahead, but we have no idea how far ahead. One more swing? Twenty? Are there years of work still to go?

We don’t know. I don’t know. You don’t know. But I’m wondering now whether it’s less about figuring out how far ahead the diamonds are, and more about pausing to make sure I’m in the right place moving towards the right diamonds.

Sometimes we push through all that dirt towards a reward we imagined we wanted, and when we get there discover they’re not real diamonds – they’re fake. Or they are diamonds, when really what we wanted and needed was sapphires. (Or turquoise or maybe just slate.)

The past year-plus has been heavy and hard in so many ways. I believe I am, at least for now, in the right place digging for the right things. I’ve gone off on some tangents, into some tunnels which weren’t helpful, over my life, but I’m still moving the direction I want to be.

I’ve had some hints of breakthroughs, but if I know anything about a breakthrough it’s never as wildly exciting or climactic as i imagine. It’s just one swing of the pickaxe, and a little tiny diamond falls out of the dirt.

And that’s not the end, either. I don’t pick up that diamond, pick up my pickaxe, turn around, and walk out of the tunnel. I pick up the diamond, gaze at it in wonder, and then peer into the darkness further figuring out which direction to keep digging. I dig some more. A few more diamonds fall out, or none. I turn a different direction. I try another tunnel.

And even once I hit the motherlode, there then will be gathering of the diamonds and cleaning of the diamonds. And how am I going to use those diamonds? And who will I share them with? Or will I sell them, and will I go back into the tunnel or stay above ground for a while?

So yes, keep going.

But also….turn around if you need to. Sit and grieve if you need to. Try another tunnel if you need to. Enjoy the few diamonds you’ve found so far. Ask for help. Get another pickaxe. Join a team. Go back up to the surface and feel the sun on your face, and then go back down. It’s not as simple as “just keep going”: it never is.

Because it happens in pieces. In stages. Quietly, and usually in the dark.

That’s how breakthroughs happen.

Follow me


Well. So. Small update.

Was out hiking on mull and slipped on a rock crossing a burn, and broke my ankle. (I remember hearing an audible “crack” as I went down.)

No signal on phone. Managed to climb down a ravine to get to a more open place and hopefully signal. At that point still convinced it “wasn’t that bad”. Tried to walk along the path and realised yes, it was that bad.

Phoned coast guard, who were utter legends. Sent a boat AND a helicopter. Sun was setting and they didn’t want me sitting in the dark. Oh my word it was cold. Helicoptered out to fort William hospital (nicest people ever), then down to airdrie where I got a cast.

Ankle broken in one place. Doctors pleased (as much as you can be!) it’s a clean break & lining up well. I’ll be down for 4-6 weeks.

I’ve repeated myself a lot over the last few days so here’s the short version to all the questions, with appreciation for the care.

Yes, I’m okay. I’m also utterly exhausted & have hit the “damn, this is going to be a long road” phase. Taking it one day, one hour at a time. 

I’m being looked after. Very kind friends and things being delivered. My amazing sister @secondsunrise2 flying in tomorrow from america to be with me for a few weeks. SO grateful.

What do I need? I’m good on the basics. There have been unexpected costs and more coming so if you want to PayPal monies for deliveries or getting my car & belongings back or all the taxis or whatever, feel free. I’m hardly destitute so only do that if you want to send something useful and aren’t sure what. PayPal username karenlreyburn. Amazon wishlist in bio. Random care packages also happily received!

My car & belongings are up on mull. I have people to help and we are working on timing. But if you’re on mull and want to return a car near Glasgow, let me know :)

Shout out to the Coast Guard for being so swift, & that beautiful combination of sympathy and practicality.

Download the @what3words app. Literal lifesaver.

That’s all for now. All the love. Oh - and no, I don’t hold this against mull at all. It’s still my happy place. Things happen & the mull community has been beautiful. Shout out to @treshnish who couldn’t have been kinder. ❤️
Morning walk. I stood and watched the ferry come in and the sun lighten this little edge of the world.
Been going through old photos and letters - the last of the boxes i had stored at my sister’s house in america. 

When I first moved to Scotland, I only planned to live here for a few years and then go back. Then after a few years I wasn’t ready yet…then I got my residency…still not quite ready….then started a business…then Scottish citizenship…bought a house …finally accepted this is my home and I wasn’t moving back. 

And with every visit back to the states I would go through more boxes, more photos and letters and memories. I’d keep some and throw others away; take photos out of frames and give away the frames; and as time went on I was able to distinguish between the ones I definitely wanted and needed to keep, and those which were lovely at the time but didn’t need to be saved anymore.

Over twenty years on and this past trip I went through the very last of the boxes. I joked to my sister that I’ve now officially settled into Scotland 😆 

This photo of me and my Gramps is a fave and definitely a keeper. Most of the photos and letters I’ve kept are those of family - parents, grandparents, sisters, nieces and nephews. And as much as I love taking landscape photos, I noticed that 20 years later it’s the people photos I am more likely to keep. Thankful for the traditions and patterns of seeing family every year or so since moving to Scotland. They’re small things - baking Christmas cookies and going for walks and going for road trips - but it’s the time together and the continuing family jokes and the memories which remain. And a few photos.

My grandfather (and all my grandparents) have now passed on, but I remember with fondness sitting around at their kitchen table, eating fresh vegetables from the garden, playing scrabble, laughing and talking and drinking coffee.

It’s the small things, and the rhythms of family, which last. ❤️ 
#family #memories #grandparents #oldphotos
Made fresh mince pies for the first time ever. Over twenty years in Scotland and I’d never tried to make them from scratch, so I figured…now is the time! I’m doing lots of thanksgiving baking (yes, we stretch it out here so I’m still prepping!) and decided to buy the ingredients. 

Dried fruit…mixed peel…lots of spices…and Venezuelan rum :) I made up the mincemeat last night, and then today put it in the little pastries and even cut out the wee stars to go on top!

I think I can safely say they’re the best mince pies I’ve ever had. Fresh out of the oven sprinkled with icing sugar and with a glass of said rum alongside :) 

Now we are curled up with a Harry Potter marathon, with plenty of mince pies AND a thanksgiving feast still to come. Happiness! 

#mincepies #homebaking #maryberry #maryberryrecipe #happythanksgiving #happychristmas #harrypotter #hpmarathon