All it Takes is a Gnome

Accepting the challenge to honour my own heart this Valentine’s Day, before adding anyone else’s to the mix…

*Note this post is appended to the About Page to expand on the story behind the brand.

My ground floor neighbours put out a garden gnome. I noticed him, for the first time, on Wednesday morning. He looks a bit worn, like he’s spent several seasons outside and perhaps he has, but he’s new in my line of sight from an upstairs window. Despite his inanimate object status, he’s quickly transforming the garden, or I’d like to think he is. 

With a cup of morning tea in hand I proceeded to my regular before-getting-to-work routine, looking out as a number of Tube trains passed by taking NW Londoners into their offices. Enjoying a moment of gratitude, that my commute doesn’t involve that particular hustle to board a train, I noticed a fox sniffing around the yard. Hopefully, I thought, he’s making his way back to a warm den for a daytime nap… now, wouldn’t that be nice? Work begins. Later on, some rarely seen squirrels were jumping about as I glanced outside. In the afternoon, as I shifted my attention from one project to another, I noticed the pigeon population had exploded. Mr and Mrs Pigeon, who make their home in the green bush on the back fence, seemed to have invited their in-laws and all the kids for a visit. I counted eleven pigeons fluttering and conferencing together. Is this all coincidental, that on this very cold day, all these animals have chosen my tiny back garden to socialize and play? Usually it’s uninhabited, aside from the resident pigeon couple. Perhaps, however, it’s the welcoming sign of the garden gnome that invites an easy feeling of home. 

red cup

A week ago, as it would seem, without intention, I put out my own gnome. I made a short video and posted it on Instagram. It was made on a whim and its content was simple: gratitude for social media followers and a lite introduction of how my business came about. A now notable one-liner described my journey from physical and mental health challenges to spiritual growth and now creative products and a fun new brand. 

Suddenly, like the conference of pigeons in the garden, I am attracting friends, colleagues and people I don’t know sharing with me, their struggles with mental health. I welcome this conversation, it’s in my nature, but until recently I hadn’t fully accepted the struggles within myself.

It’s been a few years, but truth be told, this isn’t the first time I’ve attracted these conversations in a big way. At one job, even the Deputy Ministers (two in separate succession, years apart) would walk into my office, close the door and open up, even cry, and share their secret struggles with me. I’m not sure anyone else in the department was graced with this experience, nor did I ask or discuss it further. Those conversations happened long before I started to understand my energy or had a personal journey relevant to share, so, it baffled me how people were attracted to me for this… uh, service, or skill, or feeling?

It seems the mention of mental health in my video is my welcoming garden gnome for whoever needs it. I say bring it on, as I’m finally embracing my own journey out loud:

My mental health challenges are, for me, more understood than they once were, but I also do still catch myself. I have a deep understanding of crippling depression and anxiety. My depression came in two forms: hidden depression and hidden depression; no, that’s not a typo! The first (and if you google it, you will find definitions) where people are so active with hobbies, projects, skills, learning, more skills and yet newer hobbies… filling time doing and doing and going… In this I appeared to have it all together, as a happy social person, meanwhile dying to feel something -anything inside. The second, that, for me, I’ve also termed hidden depression, were the days and weeks and months when I literally hid from the world. I went cold on phone calls, socializing, participation in any and all parts of life, aside from work. How would anyone know anything was wrong? It’s a secret with ideal packaging from the perspective of onlookers. It wasn’t until almost simultaneously a doctor suggested medication and a very dear friend sent me an article, when I started to unravel and look for non-medicinal escapes. 

They say: “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Only, not all teachers are people. If only people knew the healing powers of those four legs and insightful brown eyes. She saved me and simultaneously taught me how to use my heart.

I happen to like this explanation:

Why am I sharing all of this? I know people who would and probably will say, ‘Keep your business to yourself.’ But when I learned recently of someone else in the midst of a healing process with another four-legged teacher, I didn’t think it mattered what the nay-sayers might advise, or those who make jokes about mental health. If my story, or my presence, or the gift of a healing bath can help someone who’s struggling rise out of the suds with a few pieces of themselves stuck back together and enough strength to continue forward, then the gnome analogy that brings us together, whoever we are, is a lovely place to start a conversation or simply be present. 

Friends tell me I should be a life coach, which is a nice sentiment, but not my path. If you want one I have an amazing contact who I discovered years ago while dog walking… one teacher leads to another! Until now, I’ve only shared this aspect of my journey with that person who sent me the article. I learned early on that this wasn’t the type of thing we share, but times are changing! Now, like it says above, it’s exhausting to remain concealed; so instead, and wanting to connect with authenticity with customers and people in general, I choose to accept all of me, even the darker bits, and be truthful about what drove my business start. Growth, since that time, has helped me see my years of depression as the gift that has helped pivot me toward what, where and who I’m starting to call home.

With whoever Refresh Tea & Soap is shared, it boils down to the undeniable importance of personal self-care. I find it in simple life-fulfilling rituals, two of which are mindfully sipping and soaking.

I wish you a Happy Heart Day, however you choose to honour yours.