You’re a wearing a hat.

Yes, you. You’ve got a hat on right now, even if you don’t realise it, even if you don’t like hats. I imagine you in a deerstalker with the obligatory pipe too. And now you’re frowning, creating thick lines above your eyebrows as you wonder what the fu*k I’m on about.

It occured to me today that I should be wearing some sort of judges hat when I start reading stories and deciding what the order is from best to least-best at the end of each month (I already have ZERO bad stories in my inbox and it’s going to be tough). Why wouldn’t I wear a non-imaginative hat? It symbolises that I’m in a different mode, it might help me get in the right headspace to be constructively critical and it might even stop my family bothering me when I’m wearing it. 👿

Until I had the epiphany today (visible on Twitter thanks to a conversation with a writing friend), I had no idea of the plethora of hats my bonce has been changing in and out of throughout each day of my stress-filled existence. But these hats aren’t visible.

So now I navigate life with the understanding that I have several easy-to-access hats, ready for wear even now, and each one provides me with the information and skills to be a different version of ‘Steph’. The different ‘Stephs’ are managing things according to importance, urgency, the scenario, they alter the tone of my voice and volume (written and verbal), they alter the level of use for my usually liberal swear words, they alter the information I need to have available at short notice and, most importantly, they manage the amount of time I need to dedicate to the hat.

Then, completely unconsciously, I remove one hat, place it on the imaginary hatrack, and replace it with a new one.

I’m not full of shit. But I sense you want examples…

The Mum Hat – this hat is complicated because it requires me to be the biggest shape-shifter possible. I need to be able to understand the nuiances of an episode of Peppa Pig whilst still knowing how to tend to a cut or graze appropriately. The mum hat also requires that I have an encyclopedic knowledge of PlayMobil and a plethora of memorised Mum-gossip. I need to have a locator beacon for missing socks and misplaced tv remotes. The Mum hat comes with a complimentary calendar upgrade, which allows me to know the precise whereabouts of my child at any given moment, along with their upcoming appointments and associated locations. My favourite feature of the Mum hat is the ‘bullshit-o-meter’ that finds lies, fibs and bent truths in any conversation, not just with my child, but with her father (my partner) too.

The Partner Hat – my favourite hat, because it’s the only one I know that is reciprocated. My partner hat enables me to care, love and have concern about a special person. It reminds me that any important decisions or events in life, have to be shared with that important person. It helps me to consider them, remember them, love them, even when we are apart. It creates a permanently accessable photo album of our best (and worst) memories together. It also gives me access to every mistake he’s made so I can remind him of them randomly, normally during heated discussion (of course we never argue 😜). My partner has the same hat and utilises it in the same way for me.

The Writer Hat – One of my newest hats. It’s a beret. My Writer Hat contains all my random creative thoughts and ideas that I try to make note of throughout each day. My writer hat makes me incredibly self-critical and only allows me to celebrate my creativity when I truly feel I’ve earned it (it’s a rare occurance). This hat also contains some rules that I want my writing to adhere to, making it always ‘authentically Steph’. The rules cover things like swearing, setting, sentence structure, patterns, narrative, important messages, special occasions and filth (all as important as each other). The Writer Hat is the first hat I’ve worn that I’ve been congratulated for. It’s the first hat I’ve worn for genuine pleasure. It’s my first ‘hobby-hat’.

The Grief Hat – probably the heaviest and most difficult hat to wear. Sometimes I feel like it sits under every other hat and it’s never removed. In the Grief Hat are the memories and thoughts surrounding the life, death, funeral and missing moments of people I love that have now passed on. But it’s not just people. The grief hat also reminds me of the THINGS I’ve lost that I miss, from physical capabilities, mental stability, family, missing collectables and ornaments, friends, opportunities and athletic ability – they are all gone now and my Grief Hat reminds me just how hard life is without them.

The Reader Hat – I wish I could wear this hat more often. I wish I could spend all day every day wearing this hat. My book collection grows constantly thanks to the cheapness of literature available on eBay and Amazon. Often, I’ll receive a recommendation and be able to have it in my hands in a couple of days with just a £2 spend. But the reader hat isn’t a priority and it often feels like every time I put it on, another more important hat appears and I have to take it off again. I love the reader hat, but I feel guilt towards it because when I can put it on, in the dead of night, I end up falling asleep right on top of it. I think the reader hat dislikes me for the neglect, and I intend to rectify that in the future.

And recently I’ve been proud to add The Judge Hat, but I still have no idea whatsoever if the fu*king thing even fits me.

You see, the hat only fits if it’s a situation you understand and are managing appropriately. I mean, how do you ‘be’ a judge? Do I have what it takes? Will I make the right decisions? It’s likely my judging will involve lots of new considerations and knowledge, painstaking re-reading, excel spreadsheets and multiple tie-breakers (look, if I can’t work it out I’ll get the dog to make an arbitrary decision for me 😜. I’M JOKING!). Now I’m wearing The Stress Hat and I feel anxious, unsure and shoddy.

I’ll also mention that the hats are no a new feature for me. No, no, the hats have been about for a while. I know this because when I was 16 I had the ability to stop swearing unconsciously for the benefit of the better-spoken and easily-offended people in our family and known by my Mum. The Prim Hat.

I realise that, once again, I’m posting something that has the feeling of the ramblings of a mad woman. It’s only partly true. We are wearing imaginary hats (yes, I know they are imaginary).

Some people are wearing multiple hats at any one time, and I wonder if those people are at risk. When a jenga-style ‘hat topple’ takes place, are they likely to struggle with getting those hats back on in the right order, without causing disruption? They were balancing those hats carefully, taking care of each one as it needed attention. They were working like circus clowns managing spinning plates on sticks. Hat wearers running desperately to the plates that wobble and ignoring the ones that spin proud and perfect. Actually, I think I’m doing it right now, sitting here trying to focus on my writing, remembering the people I need to get back to, important meetings I have to attend virtually today, trying not to forget the needs of my family, making notes on the ideas I’ve had, imagining the drawings I need to finish, all while I’m aware that I desperately need to do some self-care today and spend time tending to my personal health and happiness (it’s Sunday – we all rest and normally enjoy a roast dinner. The only rules of the house for the day). I’m balancing the hats now, but later they’ll topple because something will have to take priority.

Stupid hats.

Do the hats help? Maybe.

If you look at my examples of The Mum Hat and The Writer Hat, there have some huge differences that I now realise I’m acting on completely unconsciously and automatically, just like 16-year-old ‘Steph’.

If I need to wear several hats just to get through the day, am I effectively managing my needs? Is this the equivalent a migration to managing multiple personalities? No.

We are just all trying our best to be perfect people pleasers, whether we’re tending to the needs of ourself or others.

The only important question is ‘Are we wearing the right hats to please ourselves?’. If we remember to prioritise our own health and happiness, balancing the hats SHOULD be a little easier.

Maybe I shouldn’t have discovered the hats. Maybe it’s a secret. Are hidden hats all that keeps us sane?

The Paranoid Hat.

Balancing the hats themselves, and balancing the use of the right hats at the right time, is the key to allowing them to help you lead a balanced life. A balanced hat life.

Each hat has a different level of neediness, a different level of importance and differing objectives.

If we can acknowledge each hat, understand it’s importance and what it needs, as well as how to take care of it, we will ultimately be giving ourselves a happier, more balanced existence. Looking after the things that matter most and leaving the less-important things until they need attention again.

So stop to think about your hats when you can, consider how important they are TO YOU, and which hats you WANT to wear more often. It’s a stupid-sounding exercise that might help us all to visualise the strain on our shoulders and take appropriate steps to manage that strain better.

Now, on to my picture. This took me ages! AGES! I listened to a podcast throughout, because the tedium of the work needed distractions. So what’s it all about? Have you heard of Mr. Doodle? If not, click the link and take a look at his work – it’s very possible you’ve seen it before. He has taken a very simple method of creating art, and given himself an MO that is 100% unmistakable. The style is very specific, using a huge black marker to create artwork not just on canvas, but sprawled across multiple walls, furniture, even crockery. His work sells for millions and he is often seen on the top 10 earning artist lists. He is UK born, weird and has unique style, so I’m fully on board with all his quirks, skills and creativity! In fact, I really love it.

I’ve wanted to try and replicate what he does in some way for a while, but once I started I realised just how clever he is. The use of the black pen on white canvas makes it LOOK simple, quick, a skill available to every man. But when you look closely, realise the neatness of the lines, the careful transition between each tiny drawing, the perfect spacing between each, and the number of miniature drawings and patterns he needs to come up with in order to not show repetition, you realise just how talented he is.

In my homage above I added some hats, which you should be able to find if you look closely. But the other images, the tiny pictures I had to invent, that’s what took the time. I looked at a section after a couple of days and the number of polka dots was insane. I definitely don’t have Mr Doodles broad range of ideas. In fact, my first draft looked like Mr Blobbys regurgitated dinner, so I started over. This happened multiple times and, Mr. Doodle, if you ever read this, I dof my Art Hat to you, my friend. The final hat I mention in this post because it belongs partly with him and his enviable, incredible, seemingly-endless imagination.

I hope I’ve done him just 1% of justice.

I will be trying this again.

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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