Brighton, I ❤️ you!

I’m sat in a coffee shop on this gloriously hot bank holiday Monday and am full of love for Brighton, the city I call home.

On a day like today it feels like I could be living abroad somewhere. The screech of the seagulls, the murmur of people on the streets, the bunting flapping gently in the breeze.

I love all the weird and wonderful things you can do in Brighton. The historical walks talking about important women of Brighton, 5k run and wine tasting (yes, that’s a thing!), psychodrama groups, volleyball…

I love how liberal we are as a city – waving our green flag with Caroline Lucas as our Member of the European Parliament, fighting against Brexit and speaking out in support of Greta Thunberg. She’s outspoken, radical, a force of good.

I love the community around me in Brighton. The conversations that spring up as I walk down the street and the families that I’m connected to. The nursery workers that look after Jenson with such love. The people I count on to look after my son in the absence of family close by.

I love how the Laines, a haven for independent shops, are thriving despite many high streets struggling to stay open. It’s great how people predominantly buy local here.

I love my hairdresser – the bomb – which I’ve gone to for close to 10 years. Still charging next to nothing for their work and doing so with a wicked sense of humour. When I went back to get my haircut for the first time after becoming a mother, I felt like a piece of myself was returning to me. And that was the same when they lopped off my hair a month or so ago, returning me to the pixie-cut Amy in which I feel truly myself.

I love how this city increasing reflects my vegan and ethical values – with delicious food to eat and zero-waste, fair trade shops springing up here, there and everywhere.

My vegan banana bread and oat latte from this morning

I’m also sad with the soaring levels of homelessness. The increasing numbers of people wandering the streets asking for money. Listening to Ross Kemp speak to Russell Brand about knife crime and homelessness, it feels like this is a hopeless situation borne of society’s safety net not being big enough to catch all of those in need.

But I have to hope that this will get better. I look to projects like the choir with no name, giving those who are homeless a chance to be more than someone struggling for their next fix or a place to stay. Creating a community and a hope for the future.

My city is by no means perfect, but it’s perfectly wonderful to me.


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Holding my breath

I’ve been thinking about how good I feel in myself at the moment and comparing it to all the other times that I’ve felt similarly free, happy in myself and able to eat moderately instead of experiencing low self-esteem and using food as a comfort when I feel sad/angry/frustrated/tired.

I always felt scared with my good fortune when I felt well in myself and when my eating was not disordered. I rarely shared what was going on for me when I felt as well as I currently do, because I feared it was only a matter of time before the penny would drop and I would return to my usual pattern of feeling unhappy in my skin and ashamed of myself.

The only way I can describe how I felt is like the experience of holding my breath under water. The pressure building and building until I have no option but to return to how I was before.

Disliking my body and eating to comfort myself.

But it feels different this time.

I’m asking myself what has changed…

How am I able to share my good fortune without feeling like I’m going to break?

What leads me to feel that things are different this time?

Here are my thoughts…

I accept who I am

I am quiet, thoughtful, assuming, gentle, fierce, loving, competitive, stubborn, talented, respectful, impatient, sharp, faithful, strong, playful, determined and so much more.

I prefer to be with small numbers of people instead of a large crowd.

I hate small talk and love heart-to-heart conversations.

A good time for me is being in a bath and reading, having a coffee and chat with a close friend, walking in nature or playing with my son and my husband.

I love time alone and need it to be at my best.

I love sleep and I need enough of it to function well.

As I accept who I am, I put myself in situations in which I can thrive.

I’m proud of who I am

This goes further than accepting myself. I actively allow myself to enjoy and be confident in who I am.

I’m rejecting the rhetoric that states I should be modest and not believe in myself, because I think that I’m good, kind, hardworking and am proud of who I am.

I was brought up hearing that ‘no one likes a show off’ and, while I don’t plan on marching down the street with a banner proclaiming how fan-f*cking-tastic I am, I see that the message I internalised was ‘don’t think highly of yourself’.

I focused on what was ‘wrong’ with me and didn’t speak kindly to myself, celebrating what I was good at.

But now I speak kindly to myself and think highly of myself.

I’ve battled and overcome an eating disorder which has claimed the lives of many.

I’ve created a career for myself which is meaningful and enjoyable.

I have a loving family and have people around me who care for me because of who I am.

I’m talented.

I’m proud of who I am.

I’m grateful

Brené Brown writes about the fear we can often feel when life is going well – like when I’m basking in love for my son and all of a sudden an image of him falling down a flight of steps pops into my mind.

She says the antidote to this is gratitude.

Likewise, in the past when I was feeling happy in myself, I’d have a thought pop into my head of ‘this is never going to last’. And I’d listen to this voice – I lived in fear for when my good luck would come crashing down.

But now I’m practicing gratitude.

I’m thankful for my body which is strong and beautiful.

It shows marks of my time on this earth – the laughter lines, the grey hairs and the freckles that come out in the sun.

I’m thankful for this time where I’m able to eat with balance and where I feel attuned to myself.

I’m grateful for being able to speak up and ask for what I want and need from other people.

My anger

I used to be angry with myself for being who I was.

How could I be so weak? Why was I so sensitive? Why couldn’t I get grip?!

But now I’m more angry at our society which paints beauty and how women should be in a certain way which is so black-and-white.

Woman should be strong but not threateningly so. Women should be easy going and always up for a laugh. Women should be beautifully turned out but not through any effort. Women should be slender and toned or voluptuously hourglass-like.

And now that I see this for the bullshit that it is.

I don’t know how I can be a part of a movement of change which redefines women as the individuals they are apart from breaking the societal conventions which put non-perfect women in their place.

Going running with just my crop top on when it’s hot outside, even though it shows my stomach.

Not hiding the bits of me that don’t fit with convention.

Celebrating that I’ve donated all my high heels to charity and never want to wear them again.

Refusing to push my true self down. Being a disruptively strong woman, allowing myself to be less ‘easy breezy’.

Expressing myself

I was in bed last night and was asking the universe for guidance about how to expel the emotions I feel so strongly – anger, sadness, disappointment, anxiety.

I know it’s when I don’t have a way to release them that things unravel for me.

I wish I could cry, but this is something that doesn’t come very easily.

This morning I spent an hour dancing around my living room with Jenson to angry songs, joyful songs, sad songs…a real mix of different emotions.

And it felt good to have a physical experience of jumping and dancing and swinging and singing. An outlet for everything going on for me.

I think this might be my way of expressing what is going on. It feels good to discover this.

Taking care of myself

In the past when I felt at peace with myself and balanced in how I was eating, I would only eat exactly what I needed.

Worried that one bite too many might make me free fall into a cycle of eating too much again.

But this time I’m feeling able to treat myself with more generosity and kindness.

I’m eating enough food. I’m having treats. If I’m still hungry after a meal, I know I can always eat more.

I want to eat well. I want to nourish myself. I want space for cakes and treats as well as vegetables and salads and fruit. I want to be able to have my favourite drink at the pub – currently alcoholic ginger beer – instead of opting for the ‘healthier’ G&T.

It feels like I’m taking good care of myself and, with this level of self-care, it feels like I could eat this way forever.


So these are my thoughts and I hope they’ve been helpful to you, dear friend.

The truth is that I don’t know what tomorrow will bring – I may well have other periods of time where I feel like I’m holding my breath under water. But I’m grateful for the current reprieve and the beauty of loving myself, being proud of who I am and taking as much care of myself as I take care of my son.

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This is the holiday

This is the holiday where I spoke my mind. I requested that we invited people who were able to stay for all the week instead of just part of the week. The latter makes me feel like everything’s a bit up in the air with new arrivals, new energy and new dynamics that make me feel jittery and unable to fully relax.

This is the holiday where I did what I needed and wanted. From a day of solitude to going to bed at 8:30pm to time swimming in the sea while Gregg looked after Jenson. I left the holiday knowing that I wouldn’t change a thing.

This is the holiday where I didn’t strain myself to make small talk, where I didn’t take on the responsibility for other people’s happiness or enjoyment. I relaxed with others, had some beautiful deep conversations and just enjoyed the silence. The few times I filled in the gaps didn’t feel good and reminded me that my responsibility is for my own happiness just as others are responsible for their own.

This is the holiday where I ate ice cream for breakfast on the final day without any guilt, where cakes stayed in the kitchen and were almost forgotten, where I enjoyed a variety of food and didn’t comfort eat, because I was comforted enough in being my own best friend, voicing my needs and not doing anything that wasn’t right for me.

This is the holiday where I appreciated my body. I dressed in a bikini and, instead of internally criticising all my bits that aren’t firm and toned, I felt good.

This is the holiday where I fully enjoyed my son. His inquisitive nature, his humour, his sweetness, his burgeoning love of art and his never ending cuddles.

This is the holiday where I appreciated those around me. Their help with Jenson, the kindness of other children playing with and looking after him, shared drinks and meals and laughter.

For the first time in a long time I feel like I could have continued this holiday. It’s a lovely feeling to have ❤️


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My beautiful body

I wrote a few days ago about how I’ve experienced a shift in myself. An influx of love and a grounding in myself as I feel well in my skin, full of love for who I am physically and as a spiritual being.

Since this shift, I’ve experienced an acceptance for by body.

I’d go even further than that actually.

I like who I am physically.

I find myself looking in the mirror and, instead of listing all the things that I’d like to change, – the extra fat on my sides and stomach, the grey hairs on my head, my chubby cheeks and dimply bottom – I find myself looking at myself with pleasure. IMG-0062

And instead of pinching the bits of fat on my body, sucking them in or hiding them away, I find myself stroking them, showering them with love, getting them out on display.

Getting into a swimming costume at the beach as I’m on holiday in Wales, I’m fine with not being ‘body perfect’ because I find my body perfect as it is.IMG_0048

I don’t mind when my tummy wobbles as I jump into the waves.

I don’t mind when I sit down on the sand with my son and my stomach bunches up.

I notice a curious echo of the past as I’m in the moment which says ‘you would have sucked your stomach up as this point‘ or ‘you’d have sat back to make your stomach flatter‘ but that’s not me anymore.

I feel the same wonder with my body that I did straight after I gave birth to my son but it feels different.

I don’t feel wonder for it because of how capable it is of creating another human being (although that is an amazingly spectacular super power!).

I feel wonder for it because it’s the house for my self. The vessel for the inherently precious and imperfectly perfect individual that I am.

And I find it to be enough.

More than enough. I find it to be beautiful.

I look back on the Christian messages I received about my body ‘your body is a temple’ and feel sadness for the Amy who read these words and felt that I was failing at another area in my life – not treating my body as a holy temple and instead of feeding it ‘good’, nourishing food, stuffing it full of cakes and sweets that weren’t ‘good’ for me.

For me, knowing my body is a temple is nothing about what I should do. It’s a fact that it is holy, whatever I do to it.

As I sit in a cafe tucking into almond butter, banana and maple syrup on toast, it is holy.

As I run along the beach in Abersoch, it is sacred.

As it brings my son comfort and enables me to show love for my husband, it is perfect.

And the irony is that as I shower my body with love, knowing it is enough just as it is, I feel fewer impulses to gorge myself with sweets.

I’m able to take or leave food if I’m not hungry.

I find myself wanting to nurture my body with nourishing food alongside the delicious desserts that I also enjoy.

With no ‘shoulds’ about what I need to do, but out of love and kindness and respect for it.

My body is beautiful and so is yours, dear friend. No matter whether it is fat or thin, wrinkly or smooth, short or tall, disfigured or untarnished.

It is perfect.


Thanks to Jess, who supported my writing and paid for the chai latte I enjoyed whilst writing this post. IMG_0065.jpg

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Love

I had a deeply powerful experience on a course I attended a few weeks ago.

I’m just starting to digest what this experience means to me and my life and while I do that I want to share with you one of the biggest messages I got from it –  a message of love.

You see, for so long I’ve lived in fear.

I’ve made decisions out of fear.

I’ve felt like love and joy were scarce, finite resources that could leave me at any moment.

And my experience had taught me that this was true.

Whenever I started to have a ‘good run’ with comfort eating – not turning to cakes or chocolate or crisps to push down my feelings – and dared to share this good news with other people, I’d stumble and fall back down into my comfort eating cycle.

I internalised the message of not becoming too big for my boots – “no one likes a clever clogs” – and tried to not make myself look too sparkly or too special because I felt that somehow my greatness would tarnish the greatness of other people or show me as lacking.

I always felt like the imposter. That people – friends and co-workers – were one moment away from seeing me as I truly was – a nothing-special-about-her fraud. And so I was grateful to them for any scraps they threw me.

I felt amazing making others feel amazing through my coaching, because that’s what I longed to be.

Believed in.

Seen.

And the moments when I felt externally validated – when I got a raise or a bit of praise – I drank it in like someone dying of thirst who happens upon an oasis.

I chased the high of being told I was good, worthy, enough.

Because I didn’t believe it myself.

But on this weekend away, something clicked for me.

I felt what it is to love myself unconditionally.

Completely overwhelming, joyous, beautiful, precious self-love.

I never knew it could feel like this.

To feel truly ok because I love myself.

To be able to look at decisions – in work, with friends and family, with myself – and know where I’m making decisions out of fear instead of love.

This love shows me that I’m perfect as I am physically. With my lumps and smoothness, fatness and thinness. I’m enough.

This love has made clothes shopping a different experience. I went charity shop shopping a week on Monday and found myself thinking ‘does this suit me and my body’ instead of past experience of feeling smug if I could fit into a size 12 – even better a size 10 – and wretched, ugly, no good if the size 12 clothing was too tight.

This love has made me feel secure in myself. I know I’m good at what I do. I know I’m an asset at work. I know I’m a good friend/wife/daughter/mother.

I’m not perfect, but I don’t require myself to be so.

Instead of hustling to feel worthy, I feel more content.

This love has let me cry more as I experience the good and bad, the ups and downs without trying to be anything other than myself.

This love has led me to smiling more, as I appreciate the beauty of flowers and trees around me. The leaves dancing in the trees. My son dancing his way up the hill home.

This love has let me find peace with not being the best wife at the moment.

Peace with not saving my best for my husband and all too often serving him up the dredges of myself after a long day of caring and working and being and doing. I’m not beating myself up or feeling unworthy because of it.

This love has let me see that something needs to change, but I know I can’t change by trying harder, pushing more, putting myself last to put him slightly higher up the pecking order. Something has to give.

This love has let me bounce back from stress – a hire car breaking on my way to a senior leadership meeting, my husband waiting for me alone in a no-phone-signal zone.

I see that these experiences don’t define me.

This love lets me know that I’m not one mistake away from being found wanting. I am imperfectly human, surrounded by love.

This love gives me room to grow and stretch and stumble and fall.

To eat cake at 11am and not go into full-blown food free fall.

To examine things I didn’t handle well and get back up, learning for next time.

To make decisions and change my mind if that’s right for me in the moment.

I see what self-love is, for what feels like the first time in my life.

It’s truly beautiful.

And part of me wants to hold it tight, scared that I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling like I did before – grey and wanting.

It makes me feel scared that, on holiday for a week with friends, I’ll stumble and not act out of love all of the time and I’ll see what a fraudulent experience this has been.

It makes me want to hide this news in fear that, by sharing it, I’ll snuff a little candle out.

But I know that this love isn’t dependent on me being perfect. It won’t leave me if I stumble.

So that’s what has been happening for me. A truly special experience that is so hard to describe but so incredible.


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The other side

I’ve had a difficult time over the past three months. It’s been the most challenging time that I’ve experienced in motherhood and I’ve felt my sanity balance on a knife edge at times.

But it’s also been a time of immense growth and I’m appreciative of what it has taught me.

How my struggles have stretched and shaped me.

And as I’m coming out the other side, I’d like to reflect upon what I’ve learnt and am still learning.

I must come first

I always thought the analogy about putting your own oxygen mask on before putting anyone else’s on was trite. But I’ve realised that I’m good for no one when I’m on my knees with exhaustion.

So I’ve started to prioritise my needs.

I’ve made plans to get away to have some time of solitude every month and Thursday evenings are for me to have time alone. I’ve so far tried an African drumming circle, gone for drinks with friends, had dinner with my parents, spent the evening working late to do some things that I don’t usually get the chance to do in my working day.

Being free to do things as an adult, not a mum or carer, has been life changing. It’s brought me so much joy and has refreshed me for the week ahead. I don’t know how I coped without this time before.

Now that I’m over the worst, it’s hard to keep finding the discipline of time alone.

Since I’m not at crisis point, time to myself can seem less important than getting on with life. Making sure I’m pulling my weight at home. Being there for Jenson.

But then I remember that for 18 months, I gave more than my fair share to this family.

So it’s not about an even 50:50 split, but about communication and asking for what I need so that I can thrive as a mother, wife and woman.

Asking for help

I’ve asked my husband over the past months to step up with the caring of our son – we now share the bedtime routine and co-sleeping so the other can enjoy a night of disruption-free sleep.

And with me no longer taking the caring role with everything, I’ve let my husband care for me more and I’ve felt closer to him than I have in a long time.

I was so busy caring and coping before that I’d lost what it was to be a wife.

What it was to be vulnerable and gentle and soft. Cared for, desired and with desire

It’s not been easy.

We’ve had more disagreements than we have had in a long time.

I’ve pushed him and pulled him into me.

I’ve been more vocal about my needs and have confronted him when I’ve felt hurt or ignored or misunderstood.

Instead of burying my feelings deep inside me, I’ve spoken up.

But it’s been good.

Because instead of feeling complacency – a foreboding of the death of a relationship – I’ve felt fire.

And that has kindled us in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I’m not an island

I’ve also asked other people to step up and help in our lives.

Friends have rallied around to babysit Jenson and give us some precious time alone.

When Gregg’s parents or my own parents have come to visit or had us to stay, I’ve asked them to look after Jenson so I could rest and find moments of solitude. I’ve taken time for myself without worrying that I was being ‘rude’ or ‘inhospitable’.

Because I recognise that this time alone is what I need and their love for Jenson means that time with him isn’t a chore.

I remember writing on this blog, at the start of Jenson’s life, how important it would be for me to ask for help. How I longed for Jenson to know that he doesn’t need to be strong, independent, self-contained. 

And I find myself reflecting back now and seeing that my desire has come true – I’m living how I want him to.

In community.

Asking for help.

Accepting the support of other people even though I can’t always give back in turn.

New season

I’m finding myself in a new season in life.

Connecting with the beauty of nature and the spirituality of the world.

Not through any religious beliefs, but through an awakening to the ancient wisdom of the planet and the inherent spirituality I feel as a human being.

I know that what I’m saying is quite vague, and that’s because I can’t quite articulate it myself.

All I know is that I feel connected to something bigger than myself.

And with that, I’ve felt a love for myself and a self-compassion that I’ve never felt before.

I’m finding myself able to say ‘no’ to invitations that aren’t right for me.

I’m looking at my body in a way that I’ve rarely been able to in the past – with true love and acceptance for all that I am, complete with stomach rolls, a slight double chin, my wrinkles and grey hairs.

It’s all me and all worthy of love.

Over the past month, I’ve danced with joy.

I’ve cried with sorrow.

I’ve started to reconnect to the wild Amy who has been tamed by society but is bursting to break out.

And this feels like just the beginning.

Taboo

I feel like I’ve broken one of the biggest taboos in the world – speaking about how motherhood isn’t always pretty.

How I have regrets for the child-free life I left behind.

How I know that I could have been happy without a child, even though I love Jenson with all my heart.

We do women a massive disservice in silencing the truth about the brutalities of motherhood.

It’s exhausting.

It’s relentless.

It’s the best and the worst experience.

And yet we only speak about the beauty, and at most, laugh about the witching hour before bed or whisper to our friends in secret ‘I’m not happy’. 

And I’m so proud of myself for having spoken up and started to challenge the taboo.

I’m so proud that I’ve been loud in saying how hard it is.

And I hope that others have felt permission to be truthful and honest, even if only to themselves or to me.


And so while this time has been one of the trickiest in my life, it has brought more growth than I could ever have imagined.

And I’m looking forward to seeing where this next season in life will take me.

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Boundaries

For the past ten days, I have been part of an online challenge with other mothers, focused on tapping more into our intuition. I’ve enjoyed connecting with others, reflecting on the questions set for us (such as ‘what would your ideal life look like?’ and ‘what are the words that your inner critic says to you?’).

The question that impacted me the most was ‘where have you been criticised as a parent and what did you do about it?’. I reflected on the criticism I received from someone about my choice to co-sleep with Jenson, a choice which we intent to make for the foreseeable future.

I don’t think it was meant purposely to hurt me – I imagine that it was a throwaway comment that the other person made but it has stuck with me and influenced how I feel about them.

It made me retreat, trust them less, not want to spend as much time in their presence.

And that also makes me sad.

As I reflected on this in the group, the facilitator asked me what it would take to restore this relationship.

Straight away, I knew what it would take.

Boundaries

And in knowing that, I was made aware that it’s not really anything about them.

It’s more about me.

Knowing what my boundaries are and respecting myself by sticking to them.

And really when I think about it, there’s only one boundary –

I listen to myself and respect my wishes and limits

It’s so simple.

And yet so hard for me as someone who has lived so many years living for what I think other people need and hasn’t listened to my own inner compass.

So I’ve taken some time to ask myself what I need to put this boundary into practice in my life…

Listen to my body

Often I’m not sure what I want, but I’ll feel some resistance in my body if what is going on isn’t right for me.

A tightness in my throat, an unease in my tummy, a quickening of my pulse.

My body knows before my consciousness does that I’m stepping outside of what is right for me and I need to learn to listen to it.

An example of this is something that happened at work on Thursday, when I was speaking to a senior leader. We were discussing something to happen in the future and what was agreed didn’t sit well with me. My throat went tight and I went a bit hot.

So I listened to what was going on and spoke up.

It turns out I had reason for feeling as I did and, as a result we changed our plans.

Take my time

I’m so unused to listening to myself and my desires. And as such, I acknowledge it’ll take time to understand what is going on for me.

It’ll take time to listen to my body and translate what I need – whether that is to be heard, to listen to myself, to do something different, to acknowledge and communicate a need I have.

And that’s ok.

With any new skill, it takes time to master it.

So I need to give myself that time.

Be brave

The scariest thing about having this boundary of acting in the way that I need is speaking up for myself.

But it is possible.

An example of this which springs to mind was when I was going to London to meet my mum a few weeks ago.

It was a belated mother’s day present to spend the day together but I was on my knees with exhaustion. We’d made plans to visit a graveyard that my mum wanted to see and had talked about doing a number of other things together. But I knew that I needed a relaxing day without jumping from plan to plan to plan, and so I spoke up and said that.

Knowing she might be a bit disappointed that her day was being monopolised by my needs.

But I also knew that I was likely to crack if we spent the day running from one thing to the next and so I spoke up.

I said that I needed us to take a more relaxed pace.

And that’s what we did.

She heard me and, as we took it easy, I was able to be fully present with her.

I didn’t have to contort myself into the Amy who was ‘fun’, ‘up-for-anything’, ‘without a care in the world’ – the Amy I wasn’t at that moment.

And it increased my level of trust in and love for her. Knowing that she is willing to meet my needs. Seeing that she is able to hear me and meet me where I am.

No other option

It’s a scary thing to vocalise what I need instead of pushing my needs down to accommodate others.

But the truth is that this isn’t a choice any more.

I’ve ventured into the realm of speaking my truth and, like a butterfly who has burst from its chrysalis, there’s no going back.

There’s no way that I can contort myself into having no needs.

There’s no way I can live to just please other people.

And so on I will go – setting my boundaries, stumbling and getting things wrong but then getting back up again and moving forward.

And I hope the relationships that have been broken or damaged because of my lack of boundaries might be built back up.

I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I can only try.

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Wisdom from my tomatoes

Strange title of a blog post, eh? But it’s one that I’ve been pondering on my ride to work.

Thinking of the tender tomato plants I grew inside my house.

Sheltered from the wind and the rain.

Given access to water, feed and sunlight.

Protected to grow tall, stretched towards the sky.

And yet who have all snapped as they have been moved into the garden.

Unprepared for the elements.

Too delicate for this world.

And I see the gnarled, thick-stemmed plants who have continued to grow, despite being abandoned outside as saplings who were in my ‘B’ team.

Unlikely to grow so left in the garden where they have adapted.

Grown thick to protect against the rain.

Become hairy-stemmed to protect against being nibbled from garden creatures.

Bent over to not be tossed around in the wind.

I think about myself

How it is through the conditions I’ve lived through – the storms I’ve weathered of anorexia, orthorexia, people-pleasing, finding myself in the patriarchal society, stepping out, stepping into conflict, abandoning old beliefs, learning to stop numbing – that has made me strong.

I am here, who I am, because of these storms.

I think of my son

And how my job is not to protect him, lock him away, enable him to not have to deal with the brutalities of this world.

It is to provide good soil for him.

To water his spirit when there’s not enough abundance around him.

To bring him up in an environment that allows his growth – the human equivalent of sun, clean air, protection from the wind.

Love

Acceptance

Us role modelling the behaviours we want to instil in him – setting healthy boundaries, being self-accepting, following our passions.

I’m amazed by how these outdoor plants have thrived.

They’ve been knocked down, buffeted around, left out in the elements.

And likewise, I take a moment to recognise how I’ve thrived despite challenges in my life.

In part due to the conditions my parents provided for me to grow up in – secure in their love for me – and in part due to the trials-by-fire that I’ve gone through and emerged stronger.

I’ve got enough

I’m nearing the end my year of not shopping. Not unnecessarily buying clothing, toiletries, nail varnish, books, stationary. All the things that would be nice to have but I don’t need.

I’ve bent my rules a little over the year, buying ebooks that I want to read, especially when my library doesn’t have a copy on hand, and I’ve bought four items knowingly – a teething necklace (complete waste of time), a dress (lovely but I didn’t need it), a lip stain (good purchase, but I could have coped without) and a notebook which was on sale and I’ll keep for when I need one.

But apart from these three items, I’ve let numerous other ones go. Wanting to jump into a purchase but holding back and finding, after the initial urge, that I didn’t really need them.

I’ve also changed the way I buy for others, not just throwing money at things because I need to buy them a present but asking what they want if I don’t know and learning that my worth is not connected to my skill of present buying.

And while I think I’m going to relax my rules and allow myself to buy in charity shops across the year, I’m going to keep going with my ‘stopping shopping’ lifestyle.

And here’s why:

I’ve been reading a book called ‘doughnut economics’ – I’d highly recommend it. It shows how current economic theory, built on continued growth as it’s defining measure, isn’t viable for ongoing life on Earth.

We need to find a sweet spot between people having enough to survive (access to water, healthcare, education, food, social support networks) and not pushing our planet above the threshold of what it can sustain (leading to climate change, ocean acidification, air pollution).

There is a balance, and it’s found through churning out less.

It’s found through valuing what can’t be bought. Finding happiness in connection, contentment in having just enough.

And that’s what I’ve discovered this year – I have enough already. A roof over my head, enough food to eat, clothes on my back, meaningful work, a family I love.

I actually have more than enough – means to take a holiday, a salary that pays enough for me to work a reduced week and still cover my mortgage, enough to save a bit away for Jenson.

I do wonder whether this experience of mine shows just how privileged I am. I have the ability to shop, I just choose not to. Whilst others don’t have that luxury…but I am where I am and I’m trying to do my part.

I’m coming from a place of privilege but what I’ve done isn’t nothing. I’ve managed something of substance through questioning how and why I consume things…

So what’s next?

I’m always one for moving onwards and upwards, but there’s maybe a lesson for me in the doughnut economics.

Finding a life which has a smaller environmental impact whilst not breaking myself through unrealistic expectations.

Yes, there’s a climate crisis which needs us all to act. But I don’t need to berate myself for not being perfectly carbon neutral.

But I can’t help but feel a ‘what next’ and I feel in my body a discomfort with the amount I fly and the environmental impact it has, which blows out of the water any environmental kindness I’m trying to make through veganism, my move to stop shopping and the eco choices I’m moving to (such as cloth nappies).

I’m also aware of how mass farming of crops is destroying our land through the use of harsh chemicals. So I’m finding myself wondering whether buying organically where possible might be something I’m called to.

But I’m going to pause for a moment and celebrate how I’ve not contributed (much) to the consumerist machine this year.

It’s a small step, but I’m doing my part, and that feels pretty good.

What small thing could you do, friend? We all need do our part, however small, if we’re to save the world.

The realities of motherhood

Things have been really hard over the past few months.

And I’ve shared it with you in bits, ranting about how hard things are right now, how I’m lowering my standards to cope and accepting that things are hard.

I’ve been a bit worried (and so have people around me) that I was going to crack and I asked myself whether I was going through a delayed post-natal depression.

Things were unbelievably hard.

So hard that I’ve found myself wishing that I wasn’t a mum.

And if I’m honest, going a bit further, wishing that I didn’t have Jenson.

This latter point feels a lot more worrying to me because it wasn’t just a wishing for times gone by, but wishing that the son I adore wasn’t in existence.

This wasn’t how I knew I felt when I thought about it logically.

I love him.

I’d give my life for him.

I truly believe he’s here to teach me as much as I’m here to guide and support him as he develops.

But I felt so depleted, with nothing to give, and I noticed how he had started to bring less of a smile to my face. A smile that had always come regardless of the hour he awoke or the naughtiness of his actions.

Why am I telling you this?

Because it’s a narrative which is not spoken about much in the world.

Parenting is talked about honestly among good friends, but there’s not a dialogue in society about how hard it is to be a parent.

There’s the truth-based comedy about parenthood found in ‘hurrah for gin‘ or the ‘unmumsy mum‘. It allows us to laugh about waiting for 5pm to reach for a glass of wine to take the blunt edges off motherhood. We smile at the raggedy mother with her little despots who refuse to eat anything other than beige processed food.

But it doesn’t go as far to say ‘seriously, being a mother can push people over the brink’. (Or at least, this is not what I’ve seen in the parts of it I’ve read).

We remain mostly silent as a society about the realities of motherhood:

How far it pushes you.

How serious an endeavour it is.

How challenging it can be.

And in this silence comes a lack of understanding, a lack of support, a lack of honesty.

There are the reassuring looks of other mums when they see other children in meltdown and the ‘how’s it going?’ that we give out to new mums. But there is the sense (at least from the experience I’ve had) that once the newborn stage is over – with the lack of sleep, poonami explosions and trials of breastfeeding – that you should just be able to get on with it.

And in my experience, this is a relatively easy stage compared with what comes after.

Don’t get me wrong, I found the newborn stages hard, but not nearly as hard as the shuffling around of my life to make space for the desires and wishes of my son as he starts to know what he wants.

Now life is dictated by his desires, his wishes, his needs.

And mine have to come second for the most-part, which is so hard if you’re like me and need space and time alone to stay sane. If you’re opinionated and have wishes of your own.

At the early baby stages, Jenson was my shadow and I was allowed to pretty much do as I wanted.

But now, even when I get to meet up with other mums and friends, I’m only able to be half-present as my mind is scanning for hazards to Jenson – where he is, what he might do to himself, how he is interacting with other children.

And yet I’m left to get on with it.

There’s no support apart from the support I cultivate around me, risking other people’s judgement as I dare to say how I sometimes wish I wasn’t a mum.

How I sometimes wish that I didn’t have Jenson.


I thought long and hard about sharing these thoughts with you, dear friend, because they seem like a slap in the face to all those I know who wish beyond measure to have a child and are struggling to do so.

And I’m half-worried that, in a Handmaid’s Tale-like twist, these words will be used against me in the future. Judging me unfit to be a mother in the same way that June and Luke’s relationship was invalidated because of their past.

But I want to change the narrative that we hold as a culture.

I want to see more honest, open conversations about the challenges of parenthood at all stages.

I want us to be honest as a society about how hard parenthood is – it’s the most difficult job I’ve ever had.

And I believe that starts with people speaking out about their truth.

Thankfully I’m starting to feel more like my own self, due in part to the support of my family and close friends and in part due to speaking up more and saying what I need from my husband.

Thankfully I’m wishing less that I wasn’t a mum and am grateful for having my son.

Thankfully I’m able to smile more.

But it doesn’t take away from the truths I’ve shared with you in this post. Motherhood is the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to go through.

And I know it will continue to be challenging along the way.

I know I’ll continue to need the support of family and friends to get me through it.

I hope if you’re also struggling, you’re able to share how you’re feeling with those close to you.

Or I hope that, at least, my words help you to feel less alone.

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