Christopher Hoult

Software engineer, actor, speaker, print designer

Blog

As part of an exercise in self-love and self-compassion a couple of months ago, I wrote a letter to myself. It was a tough thing to write, and even reading it all this time later I find it hard to accept. Yet I know that this is, on some level, true, and I should revisit it more. It feels very self- serving to publish this on my blog, but it's about time I tried putting something more positive - and less foodie - on it.

Dear Chris,

I love you.

You are a kind, generous, talented individual for whom I have all the time in the world. Your sense of equality, your ability to listen, your willingness to help others in their time of need - all of these things prove to me that you are a good person.

I know you've lived with a lot of darkness over the past couple of years, but that is behind you - you've committed to learning more about why you feel the way you do, and to make sure you don't repeat the mistakes of the past. I know you don't put much stock in yourself when you look in the mirror, but that's because you can't see what I can see. You can't appreciate how you make me feel when you focus your attention on me.

You're only just learning how to open up yourself to others, how to show your vulnerability - I know it's scary, but it's so rewarding when you discover how it feels to have laid yourself bare like that. It will take a lot of time and work, but ultimately it will make you a happier person, I promise.

Keep looking for things that make you feel good. Keep looking for things that help define you as an individual. Keep looking into that hole inside you and working on finding things to fill it. Answers are out there, but if you stop looking, you'll never find it.

I know it's tough to accept, but mistakes don't define you. Stop focussing on them, and see all the rest of you; accept all the rest of you.

Perhaps if you value your positive achievements more, you push yourself more, lift yourself off that sofa and get those little things done, maybe you'll be able to achieve what you think you can. Or maybe just give yourself a break - you get so much done anyway, and regardless of whether you think yourself a fraud, on the outside you blow everyone away.

You're awesome - and that's because you're you.

All my love,

Chris

Image credit: Christopher Hoult

Part of my work on self care is to try to cook for myself - from scratch - at least one evening per week. I'm always really happy to cook for others, but I find it hard to cook for myself - there's probably something in there about not considering myself worth cooking for.

I've had this recipe for a while - since university, really, when my housemate taught me it. I'm sure it came from an Italian cookbook (knowing Neil, Aldo Zilli's), but here it is filtered through my memory. I have prepared it a few times - I cooked it for a very good friend and his partner once, and she labelled it (lovingly, I might add) "Space Weevil."

It's been years since I cooked it, but a friend was coming over a couple of weekends ago and I thought of doing it once more. When they eventually got to me, we figured the effort would be just too much and so ordered food for delivery. However, the next evening I found myself at a loose end, and with all of the ingredients, and so treated myself.

Before things went pretty far south for me a couple of years ago (and also partly causing it) I was marketing manager for a local theatre. I did all sorts of jobs as part of this - running social media, talking to the press, organizing programmes, running the website and making sure the printed media (posters and flyers) were created to a standard. As part of the latter, I also designed and delivered most of the publicity material over the three years I was in the job, either just typesetting someone else's art, or creating the artwork itself.

I was rather proud of my output, and how professional it looked (especially coming from someone with no real visual art background and an Adobe suite auto-didact. On top of this, other than the pressure that came with producing stuff on time, it was actually fun. Separating myself from the theatre meant I was no longer practicing these skills or creating tangible art.

So when I come to look at my own self-care, and coping with loneliness, I recognize the need to do something productive and creative with my time. A few months back I had the idea to work on a series of poster designs for prominent open-source software that I use and admire. A couple of ideas immediately sprang to mind and... I just didn't act on the concept.

Image credit: Ross Vernal

It kind of feels redundant to say, but I hate death. It rips me apart. I haven't experienced the death of a loved one - yet - but having seen the impact of that loss on others around me, those I love and respect, I definitely do not relish the day.

Instead, I experience that loss vicariously. I see the emptiness in them, that sudden void that once was filled with someone important to them opening up and sucking in their happiness, their hopes, their safety. A black hole, yawning and destroying them from the inside.

And that breaks me. As a Rescuer I see their pain and I can't fix it. As an empath, the sudden darkness in someone's eyes flashes through me and overwhelms me. There is absolutely nothing I can do about it - no filling in the hole, no telling a joke to cheer someone up, no promises about the future that don't feel vacuous in the moment.

So that pain transfers to me - and because of my own relationship with sadness I reject it totally and bottle it up. Tears leak out, but ultimately I swallow up that sadness and it eats away inside me. It feels like there's a big dam inside, holding back a flood of sadness, and this just adds to it.

Having struggled at times over the past couple of years with considering my own mortality, the one thing that kept me going was thinking about the horror of such a loss being visited upon those who love and care for me - the fact that there are such people is something I've had to drill into me due to my low self esteem. And so I carry on.

And so wounds will heal. And so hope will return.

And so we all carry on.

Image credit: Christopher Hoult

Part of my work on self care is to try to cook for myself - from scratch - at least one evening per week. I'm always really happy to cook for others, but I find it hard to cook for myself - there's probably something in there about not considering myself worth cooking for. So here is the first in a series of recipes (I hope) that I use to treat myself.

I've recently been playing with risottos - I've got a couple of friends with vegan or FODMAP dietary needs who I like to cook for. Risottos are excellent in that they're really easy to prepare and make tasty, and the rice provides a great base for all sorts of flavours.

Here's a recent recipe I've been using - like a lot of my cooking, it's formed from an understanding of how something is prepared, not necessarily from a formalized recipe from another source. I'm sure I do something wrong, or miss a trick with it - but this one works for me!