Exploring Castles and Coffee Shops: Telling my blogging story

Blogging Insights 3.0 #8 – Your Backstory

When I read the prompt from Dr. Tanya of Salted Caramel asking how we came to blogging I knew I wanted to respond. I’m even thinking I might use the content from this post for my updated “about me” page. In addition to answering Dr. Tanya’s question, there is another question I’ve been bouncing about in my head and it fits in perfectly with Dr. Tanya’s prompt.

When I made the recent podcast with the lovely Vicki and Wynne of The Heart of the Matter, chatting before recording the podcast, Vicki asked me a question (I’ll share what the question was later as I don’t want to jump ahead). This post will answer the questions of both Dr. Tanya and Dr. Vicki. I might just finish off with some fresh questions of my own for future pondering.

The catalyst for the blog

I’ve had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) since about 1993 after catching Glandular Fever and starting to feel ill at a ceilidh – I think it must be the first time in my life I’d ever left a party early.  I thought the CFS/ME had gone into remission in time for Milleneum celebrations (not completely “cured” but about 80/90% back to normal) however, I had a relapse in about 2008 and its stayed around this time.

I’m now coping much better and realised that it would be possible to get a good quality of life. I was able to see a particular improvement over the various Covid-19 lockdowns and the opportunities presented by working from home. As my quality of life improved I was determined not to return to how I was before and one thing I needed to do to achieve that was to establish a better work-life balance (WLB). Now I had more energy I was keen to use it outside of work.

My vision of what WLB would look like involved 2 things that are key to the name of my blog – Castles and Coffee Shops – I wanted to have the energy to go exploring castles and other historic sites etc and be able to meet up with friends for lunch and coffees etc. Its a good idea but I realised that its fine having this idea but there needs to be some way to ensure it happens, and thus Curiosities, Castles and Coffee Shops was born to give me a level of accountability by sharing my adventures, making sure that the WLB was maintained and I don’t sit focused on work 24/7.  

The initial idea behind the blog was to go exploring towns and cities, their castles, museums etc and then settle in a cafe to write my blog posts. I discuss more about the origins of the full name in the podcast.

From accountability to creativity

I’m pleased to say that the WLB is being maintained even if I don’t manage to visit as many castles etc as I would like. Sometimes the CFS/ME slaps me on the head and says “you need to stop/rest” – its been kicking for a couple of weeks but I’m getting better at listening to my body. However, despite the lack of constant exploration, the blog and my interests within the blog have expanded so much that its given me such a strong interest outside of work that I have no problem maintaining the WLB, although there is some overlap when I write about study skills or HR/workplace issues.

I don’t think the interest in history will ever disappear, but I’m glad to see that my blogging focus has expanded now to include academic study skills, HR/Workplace issues; creative writing (which I’m enjoying exploring) and my recent expansion into posts to support and help new bloggers. I love learning and exploring, so I can imagine future diversions in the future.

Dr. Vicki’s question

I wonder if Vicki even remembers what she asked me?  I guess she’ll tell us in the comments (no pressure Vicki 😝😘)

Vicki asked if I was happy talking about the CFS/ME during the podcast or would rather avoid it. Anyone who is familiar with my blog will know that I do make reference to it sometimes, and have written a couple of posts about it, but its not something I focus on regularly (or hope I don’t). As I said, I have been thinking a lot about this question since the podcast and was planning to write a post about it.

CFS is a medical condition I have and yes, at times, it can have a debilitating effect, but I’m not prepared to be defined by it. I am happy to talk about it.  I know that the symptoms I have, even when they were at their worst, are not as bad as others but I hope that by talking through some of my experiences, they may provide some insight or support for others.  I don’t want to start writing a blog that becomes like a diary on a daily/weekly basis detailing life with CFS/ME.  I’d rather either write reflective pieces when things might be bad looking at how I can move forward/feel better, or celebrating when I achieve something, achieving that quality of life I am aspiring towards. if I become maudling, please feel free to apply a virtual kick up the backside.

I also think I maybe started off with a focus on CFS and my journey to be in control of it rather than the other way around – but the blog has grown so much since then, I guess that means I’m succeeding as I’m focused on life, enjoying the coffee shops and castles – and the curiosities that life offers us. CFS is where I started but that’s not me anymore; I feel like a part of society again and I want to get out there and party 💃

Next up

Dr. Tanya asked for a story, but stories usually have a beginning, middle and end.  As this is a journey, there is no end, and right now I can’t imagine not blogging. I’m not even sure where the journey is headed. Taking a leaf out of my Gran’s book (she loved mystery tours) I’m going to enjoy the journey, let curiosity guide me and see where the mystery takes me.

I do know that as I sit here today typing on this post it felt like this was a much bigger story and I found myself asking if this is the story I need to tell. My journey and fight with ME/CFS. I’m not sure if there would be an audience, but as others have said, sometimes its not about whether people will read it, but that its something we need to tell/write. While you tell me your stories, I’ll continue to ponder on this one.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your blogging backstory, Brenda. I really loved this, and I can truly relate to you motivation behind blogging and approach to discussing CFS. I love this in particular: “I’m not prepared to be defined by it.” I think that mindset is the difference between those who overcome the illness and those that are consumed by it.

    I’ve been blogging on/off for 15 years, but I started this blog about 5 years while in denial about being ill and trying to “prove” I had the energy for projects… gradually, health stuff crept in, and lately it’s been more of a focus, though, like you, I try not to be maudling, but instead focus on helpful treatments and mindsets… things I wish had been available to me. It can feel like a fine line, though.

  2. I for one am glad you started Curiosities, Castles and Coffee Shops. Your story about Stirling Castle was fascinating. I do not suffer from a chronic condition (my wife does), and as with events in your life, they can be embraced or allowed to define you. Embrace the WLB and enjoy yourself. All the best.

      • I really do appreciate your blog and I am glad you choose WLB instead of giving in to the condition but how does one say that without sounding patronizing or “fake.”

      • Thank you Danny I’m glad you and others are enjoying the blog and I don’t think you sounded patronising or fake. 😊

  3. Great example of growth Brenda! I’m not sure I know or follow any blogger who hasn’t started their blog for one or two specific reasons and then found that they need or want to explore more. Some start multiple blogs but I always wonder about that decision. We are human and we evolve so it seems logical to me that our blogs evolve as well. I think it’s just a part of that storey journey you mention and gives readers so much insight into who the blogger was and who they are becoming.

    • Thanks Deb. I think you’re right. I know when I started I did wonder about keeping the academic/professional side separate but like you said, it all combines to make the whole person

  4. Brenda! 🥰 I am in awe of you. I think sharing deeply personal stories about medical conditions and adaptations, triumphs, amidst pain are some of the most endearing and uplifting types of content — but I’ve seen the courage it takes to be vulnerable and open. I think you are brave and insightful and every bit of the sharing you’ve done…and will do…provides glimpses of goodness and strength to encourage others. Just as Deb said…you are growing and becoming…and your generosity to allow us in? It’s the best of what blogging offers. Friendships and kindness! xo! 💕

  5. From accountability to creativity – wow, doesn’t that say so much. Love this backstory and your journey because it’s so well said and inspirational! Love it! <3 <3 <3

  6. I think anything shared from the heart is worth sharing if you’re comfortable with it. If it’s a castle, coffee shop, motivation and information for other bloggers, or about a reflection on CFS. It’s all worthwhile, because someone somewhere is receiving the help or knowledge they need in that particular moment. Besides we do feel like we’ve gotten to know you here and I really enjoy your posts Brenda. No matter what they are about. Thank you for sharing! 🌸

  7. I absolutely loved reading this, Brenda…and the two reflections I especially enjoyed….

    I’m going to enjoy the journey, let curiosity guide me and see where the mystery takes me…. superb👌

    I’m not sure if there would be an audience, but as others have said, sometimes its not about whether people will read it, but that its something we need to tell/write…
    indeed, so true 🤍

    Thank for sharing 🤍🤗

  8. You do a great job of WLB. And you do not dwell on CFS/ME at all. Those who know and understand your ongoing battles and attitude to getting on with life read with the knowledge that you are achieving with this situation alongside. It makes us realise that, through your enthusiasm and enjoyment of activities in the words written down, that you are still determined to be positive. The comments from your followers show this response. As you say ‘Take your time to respond to the replies properly because it shows respect to those that have took time to comment’. This builds knowledge of and respect to the person you yourself are as much as your blogs. All the best.

  9. Thanks for sharing your story Brenda. I think you’re doing a fantastic job keeping a balance between your work, health and things that interest you. You’ve a lovely blog and I like reading it.

  10. Thank you for this inspiring and interesting post.
    I’m so glad my prompt got this lovely results.
    I love your attitude towards your CFS/ME; it is part of your life, but it not your entire life. I hope I’ve managed to convey what I mean.

    I love the concept of your blog and will look out for your podcast too.

  11. Thank you for sharing your journey and experience…and really enjoyed the podcast episode! 💞💞💞

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