Feeling

I’m feeling so many things at the moment as my life prepares to shift dramatically again.

I’ve only got 2 weeks left of my maternity leave in Brighton before I go off on an adventure of a lifetime to Asia with my husband and my baby boy. And then after that I’m going to be returning to work full-time and my husband is going to take over the full-time care of my son.

I know these things are right for me – going abroad in search of new experiences as a family is sure to strengthen my family and it fills me with such excitement.

And going back to work and giving my husband time to bond with our son – time I’ve already had – is also so important and right for us as a family.

But I’m still feeling all shook up as the end (or the start of a new beginning) is upon us.

And it would be so easy to push down all the negative feelings with food in this moment, as I have so many times before. The anxiety, the fear, the feeling of wanting to freeze time, the frustration.

But I know that this doesn’t serve me at all.

It just buried the pain deep inside me. A pain I’ll have to feel at one time or another.

So I’m choosing to feel how I feel at 4am as my son plays next to me.

Sadness that our precious time together is coming to an end and that I’ll miss so many ‘firsts’ as I’m back in the office.

Frustration that so much of the next 2 weeks is jam-packed with plans when I just want to be in my baby cocoon and just be with my son.

Anxiety about the unknown – how we’ll cope with a jet-lagged baby (by taking things easy I suppose), whether my husband will cope with the constant haggling we’ll need to do abroad, how our time in Vietnam will work out.

These feelings are sad ones, hard ones, feelings that are due to projecting into the future and thinking ‘what if’ ‘what if’ ‘what if’. So they’re not feelings I can deal with by being proactive.

There are some things I can do –

Reduce the plans in my diary over the next 2 weeks.

Feel the anxiety, frustration and fear – these feelings sit in my stomach and on my chest like a weight.

Acknowledge that this is how I feel. Just getting it out there by sharing what’s going on with you, dear friend, is enough to reduce some of the urge to push down my feelings with food.

So I’ll keep feeling what I’m feeling. It’s the only way of being which doesn’t end with self-destruction.

Freedom

If I was going to tell you a few things about me, it invariably would come up that I’m a planner. Part of my story would be: I lock plans in place well in advance, my diary is arranged weeks, if not months, ahead.

The planning doesn’t stop there. I’ve had conversations with my sister about how, when she gets married, I will be in charge of planning her wedding day (she was probably joking, I was mentally going through all the things that would need to be done) and my husband and I refer to me as the ‘social secretary’ – I’m in charge of our plans as a couple.

But for the past few days, I’ve felt a strange aversion to putting any plans in place at all. The only way I can describe it is how I’ve gone off soup since being pregnant. The thought of eating anything soup-like makes my stomach turn. And the idea of putting any plans in place gives me that same feeling of disgust.

So why am I sharing this with you, dear friend? Partially in hope that friends will read this and not feel offended when I don’t want to make any plans. Heck, that you will not even ask me to put plans in place with you over the next few months.

But the reason I’m writing this is also because I know that I need to do things differently, I need a different response to live a life of less plans and greater freedom. I need to learn how to say ‘no thanks‘ or ‘let’s just play things by ear‘. I need to work out how I might change my plan-filled diary to one that has space for me to be spontaneous.

I take inspiration from my husband who, yesterday morning, saw there was an Oktoberfest event at our favourite spot in Brighton, Cafe Plenty, texted a load of friends to see if they were free and ended up with a table full of friends to hang out with. So I know it can be done…but when I think about doing things differently myself I feel a number of different things…

Hurting other people

Saying no feels really uncomfortable if I think about how the other person might feel. To me, it seems to indicate the following:

  • You’re not a priority to me
  • I have better things to do than see you
  • I don’t care about you

And if someone said these things to me, I know I’d feel really hurt.

But I know that this is not what I’m saying when I want to hold back from filling up my diary. What I’m really saying is:

  • I respect myself and my need to have more space and freedom in my life
  • I feel so much pressure in my life right now – I need to take a step back and give myself some breathing room
  • I’d love to see you, let’s just be a bit fluid about when that is

Transaction

I’ve noticed that it’s harder for me to say no when someone says ‘I’ve got something for you, can we get together?‘ It’s like there’s an added pressure to fit them in because of not wanting to snub their offering and be rude.

But I want to remember that the other person isn’t trying to buy me and, if they are trying to buy me, I don’t want to be bought. In truth, I’m sure that the other person is being generous and kind and I’m sure that their offering is not dependent on me dropping everything to see them in the near future.

So I need to listen to my own voice saying ‘you shouldn’t make plans‘ over that which says ‘you shouldn’t be rude‘. I’ve got to remember that respecting my boundaries, giving myself space, having time just for me isn’t rude.

And even if it is rude, it’s what I need. And that’s more important than what other people think.

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Authenticity

The principle of being authentic, honest, truthful is so important to me. It’s why this website of mine is so dear to my heart as it allows me a weekly, if not daily, practice of being authentic and expressing myself to the world.

When I was speaking to my coach, Helen, about my need to make less plans in a coaching session this week, I explored how I might be able to not just push plans with friends back (i.e. ‘can we meet next month instead?’) but be able to not even put plans in place in the first place to give myself a bit more breathing room.

At the end of our session, I realised that the answer probably lies in being my authentic self – sharing with other people that I’m feeling overwhelmed with life at the moment and that I need more space, quiet and time to reflect in order to stay afloat.

So I think this will be part of my journey to having more space in my life – being open and honest with friends about what I need and why I need it.


There is so much more I could write to explore why I find it so hard to respect my new need for freedom, but my gut says that the important thing is to get practicing. To say ‘let’s just see how things work out’ even though I feel discomfort in saying it, to be ok saying ‘it’s so kind that you’ve got some stuff for me, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to see you though’ and to share how I’m feeling when people invite me to take part in their lovely, generous plans.

I know this different way of living – having greater space and freedom – is part of my desire to have a life of greater courage, truth and love. It won’t always be easy, but I know that it will be worth it.

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Conflict

I’m in a situation of conflict at work and I’ve been thinking about how I can handle it over these past few days with the support of my lovely friend, Nadine and my husband.

I don’t really do conflict – I’ll avoid it at any cost usually – but it felt like I needed to address it in this particular circumstance and I wanted to spend a few moments reflecting on what I’ve done so far and how I can deal with it in the best way possible going forward. And here are my thoughts:

Ego

When the situation first occurred, I felt confused, hurt and frustrated and so I took the evening before responding as I didn’t want to react out of anger. The next day, I tried to temper my response by asking myself how much of my feelings were to do with my ego being bruised – feeling personally snubbed and hurt by the situation and how much was to do with the situation. If I’m honest, it was a 50:50 split – feeling hurt but also the situation being a bit of a mess – but when I responded to the individual, I tried to keep my feelings out of it and just speak to the factual elements of the situation.

Generosity

When I did respond, I tried to imagine the other person’s perspective with as much generosity as possible and responded to them saying ‘I imagine that you did X because you want to support me but don’t have the time to fully engage with my project. I wish you had spoken to me before you acted though because…‘. I think this was really helpful and I hope they saw that I was trying to be generous and not think the worst about them.

Sometimes the circumstances aren’t the best

I wanted to speak to the individual once I’d had a chance to calm down but wasn’t able to get in touch by phone for a variety of reasons. I really wish I could have responded face-to-face or by phone instead of through an e-mail…but deadlines and the situation itself meant that I had to respond by e-mail.

I need to come to peace with the fact that it wasn’t handled perfectly and realise that it’s enough that it was handled to the best of my ability.

What do I want?

When I spoke to my husband about the situation, he was really helpful in asking me what I want out of the situation and suggested that I act in a way to reach the best outcome I’m looking for instead of blindly trying to resolve things without considering what I want. I suppose what I want is for the situation to resolve itself in the best way possible for the project I’m running. And I also want to maintain a good relationship with the individual involved, because we work alongside each other in so many areas at work and we’ve both been working on building as good a personal and professional relationship with each other as possible. It would be such a shame to lose that. As it’s relational, I know that I need to sit down with the other person and address what happened so we can work together well in the future.

The bigger picture

I’ve been watching some videos this weekend of Brené Brown speaking about her new book ‘Braving the Wilderness‘ and they’ve been really helpful to order my thoughts about this situation. One of the things she said really touched me:

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” 

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I realise that my discomfort with the conflict is partially about the situation – I’ve not often resolved personal conflict by addressing it head on (instead sweeping it under the carpet) and so it’s a new learning curve for me, which is uncomfortable.

But part of the conflict has emerged because I want to share my most authentic self with the world and being accountable to others and holding others accountable to me is really important to who I am. I know that I’ve danced around other situations with this person in the past – not offering gentle challenge when I really wanted to do so in my heart, not sharing my true self with her and in addressing this situation, this is the first step on my journey to being my most authentic self with her.

And when I stand in the knowledge of who I am and how this is part of expressing my most authentic self, I no longer feel overwhelmed with nerves about how the other person will react. I know that I did the right thing and I know that it’s part of the journey I’m taking to express my most authentic self in all areas of my life.

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A wave of emotions

I’m in London this weekend studying my third module towards my transformational coaching diploma (all about being present in the moment) and, if I’m honest, I’m feeling a bit raw from the session yesterday.

The weekend didn’t start with me feeling super pumped and full of energy to get going. As I’ve shared in a recent post, I’m feeling a bit stretched and know I need to readjust to get a better balance in life. But the day was really thought provoking and insightful and I got a lot from it.

In the afternoon our teacher suggested he could do a demonstration in how to hold space in a coaching session, working in the here and now, being completely available and letting go of the need to ‘fix’ anything. All the things that he had been exploring during the day. He asked for someone to step forward to volunteer as a coaching client and after a few moments of silence, I volunteered.

And oh gosh, I didn’t expect what was going to happen.

He asked me what I wanted to talk about and I shared how some changes in my life are making me feel quite anxious. I feel myself projecting into the future about so many things – ‘what will happen with X, will I be good enough, what if I’m not able to cope…?’. I also find myself being pulled back into the past as I ruminate and dwell on the lack of control I’ve had in certain areas of my life.

And suddenly as I explored these areas, I found myself breaking down in tears in front of the class. The strength of the emotions I felt shocked and surprised me, like being unexpectedly bowled over in the sea by a powerful wave.

And with the surge of emotions, out surfaced so many of my old negative thoughts that I felt I’d let go of long ago:

  • The need to be in control of everything
  • Wanting the acceptance of others and thinking I need to be perfect to get it
  • Needing to be the strong one that people go to for help, not the one who needs help
  • The fear of showing my flaws or reaching out for help
  • The belief that I’m broken and need fixing

I don’t have the answer to how I can remove these limiting beliefs, although I know that I’d like to release and no longer be bound by them.

I suppose part of the answer is accepting that this is where I am and allowing myself to just be here, now, in the moment.

I also know that part of it is reaching out to other people and saying that I need some help –  a bit more tender treatment and support as I go through this bumpy part of my life.

And perhaps it’s letting myself stay in the mess instead of scurrying to put myself back  together. Mulling over the thoughts that I have around perfection, feeling ‘broken’, being strong, showing my flaws.

So thanks for being on this journey with me. I know it’s not always pretty and light, but I know it’s the most important journey I can take on life and it’s easier for having you by my side.

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Difference

I’ve been feeling divided recently. I think a lot of us are feeling the same way.

Brexit, the outcome of the general election, the crippling of the NHS, police shootings in the USA, Donald Trump, the women’s march, the fallout from social care reforms, changes needed in the agricultural industry.

All these things are leading me to feel divided from those whose opinion is different from my own. I can feel the anger and frustration growing in me as I look upon these issues and feel pretty powerless to change anything.

There’s also a part of my that is outraged at those who have a different point of view from my own. I can’t see where they’re coming from at all! I mean, who would agree with what Donald Trump is doing in America or agree that restricting EU immigration is a good thing for the UK?!

After the UK elections, I couldn’t even begin to understand why people would vote for a party that’s committed to reducing the diversity that has made our country great or how anyone could support a government who seems hell bent on reducing support for those who need it through welfare reforms and stricter criteria to get much needed help.

Yes, without doubt reform in our system is needed – to reduce bureaucracy and remove duplication. But not a dismantling of the system all together, which is where I can see things going in the future.

But at the same time, I know that being divided from those who voted differently to me, who support a different political party, who have a different opinion to my own is not the right way to change anything.

My anger will not bring about peace. Dividing myself from others will not bring about harmony.

So I need to find a way of being able to walk in these people’s shoes. To understand where they come from. To sense the need that is driving their actions.

And perhaps this will in turn give them space to contemplate where I’m coming from.

If we don’t do this, the division will just keep on growing and our difference will be polarised even more.

And that’s not going to help anyone.

Trusting myself

I was sat in my kitchen early this morning, deep in my morning ritual of meditation and contemplation to start my day off well. And for no reason at all I thought of the cake tin full of cookies that is currently sat on my counter and experienced the wave of exhilaration and numbing I could get through stuffing a load of these delicious biscuits in my mouth mindlessly.

I felt scared by the power of this vision…perhaps it was in response to the words I had just read on a Rumi Oracle card:

“You may be wondering if you can attain this next stage of growth in your life. You are already well-equipped to do so, no matter what you might believe about the situation, circumstances, or others involved, even yourself.”

In the following moments after experiencing this powerful rush of feelings, I asked myself whether I was afraid of drinking all the alcohol in the house…and I felt myself firmly say “no”. So then, I told myself, trust that you won’t run to food.

I know my eating patterns are more complex than that – it’s about truly embracing and acknowledging my feelings, allowing myself to let my emotions be felt and releasing them, putting my voice out there in situations instead of shying away from how I feel.

It’s not as simple as just telling myself not to eat.

But it is about trusting myself. Daring to believe that I can attain this next stage of growth in my life where I start to step away from my crutch of food. Believing there may be a future where food is a pleasure, a necessity, a social event, a source of nourishment.

I trust myself.

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See things through love

I’m so happy for two lovely girl friends I know who are getting married this year. The lead-up to their big life moments has included some celebrations and I was at a hen party (bachelorette party for you non-Brits) last weekend in Bristol and when I post this blog to you, dear one, I’ll be at another hen party in Barcelona!

It’s such a happy time for these friends and I’m so glad to be sharing in their celebrations…but I have to admit that I have been feeling a bit nervous in the lead-up to the festivities.

I don’t know why, but something in me is angst-y and has been for a few weeks. I have fretted about whether other people will have a good time, what will happen if I want to go to bed earlier than other people and, most importantly, whether I’ll be accepted by the group. To be honest, these feelings of mine are not just reserved for hen parties – I often feel this anxiety in advance of being in a big group.

I’ve even stepped away from some events in the past because I’ve felt sick with nerves.

I don’t know why I feel like this. But I do and it doesn’t help me to deny feeling like I do.

As I’ve started to become more comfortable in my own skin, I’m able to rationalise my way out of my anxiety more often than not. I can calm myself down by reminding myself that:

  • whether other people enjoy themselves is not my responsibility to shoulder
  • I’m a grown-up and can leave/go home early if I’m tired or not having a good time
  • I’m a nice, kind, fun person and, although I’m not the most out-going/crazy person in the world, I’m generally liked by people, so chances are that people in the group will accept me

Still, these feelings persist. I’m not able to make them go away. And it makes me feel pretty shitty to be honest.

It was during a meditation by Gabrielle Bernstein that I had a bit of an Aha! moment about how I feel. A line she said that went like this: 

“See things from a place of love, not a place of fear”

It hasn’t solved anything or totally shifted my nerves but it has helped a bit. It was her words that helped me to see how I’ve been approaching these big group events from a place of fear.

Putting on my scaredy-specs, I’ve been picturing the worst – that everyone will be disappointed, mostly in me and how lacking I am. However, when I stop, still my mind and pause for a moment to think of the up-coming weekend from a place of love, I feel completely different. I feel:

  • joy for my friends who are taking this huge step in their lives to get married
  • optimism for the weekend – a chance to get to know new people on a personal level and share my true self with them
  • a security in myself that I am ok just as I am and that I am enough

This is the feeling that I want to hold onto as the weekend unfolds – a feeling I can get by seeing things through love.

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Offer it up

This is the first post I’ve written since starting my new job and it’s so nice to be writing to you, dear one, instead of reading policies and taking in a wealth of information that doesn’t quite make sense at the moment. Writing to you here feels like coming home – it’s a beautiful constant in my life and I’m so thankful for it.

Starting my new role in a different company is a step change like I’ve never known before. It’s scary, exhilarating and beyond a doubt the right move for me to have made.

It’s not just in my role that I’ve experienced a change though…every morning this week I’ve set my alarm 30 minutes earlier to meditate, journal and get myself in the right headspace to cope with the manic day ahead.

Yes, it’s painful initially to wake up 30 minutes before I have to and I’ve wanted to turn off my alarm and dive back into bed, but I’ve gained so much from this time and it’s a practice I’m keen to continue.

I’ve had space to ask myself what I’ll need for the day ahead – peace, confidence, compassion, stillness – so there’s less rushing ahead with the day and more awareness of what I need to feel my best.

I’ve spent 10 minutes writing in my journal about how proud I am of myself and all I’ve done over the previous day which has shifted my mindset to being one of love and compassion instead of worry and criticism.

I’ve also used my oracle cards a few times as a prompt to consider different perspectives and all the cards I’ve pulled over this past week have had a similar message on them.

This is what I want to share with you today, dear friend.

All the cards were about speaking up, putting what I had to offer out into the world. The wording on one of the cards explains what I’m trying to say so much better than I ever could. So here it is:

“Perhaps you look at the world and already hear so many voices speaking. You may wonder if your contribution would simply add noise. You may wonder if you can really help, if you have anything genuine to add, or if there is just too much noise anyway! Do not despair. It is part of your divine destiny to add something of great value to the world, something that has its place even amongst all that activity, something needed in the hearts of all.”

This spoke to me so powerfully because I’m wanting to dive deeper into the work I’m doing here on Courage, Truth, Love. 

I want to write more frequently.

I hope to start a podcast to learn how to speak my truth with as much confidence as I do in written form.

I want to grow and extend the help I offer in this world through training to become a coach…but I’ve been questioning whether there’s enough space in this world for me. 

I’ve seen how many websites, podcasts and coaches there are out there and I’ve been doubting whether my voice is needed, important, valuable.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that doing all these things is valuable for me – I can’t imagine where I’d be if I didn’t have this safe space to share all that I’m learning with you…but I was doubting if what I had to offer was of any use to anyone else.

And this card confirmed that there is a space for me – my voice, my reflections, my offerings – in this world. When I step back and read the words of this card again, I see the truth there is space for all of us to offer up what we can.

So if you’re wondering whether there is space for you in this world, take these words as confirmation that there is space in abundance, that there is a pressing need for you to step forward and offer up what you can to this world.

It may be that your ‘divine destiny’ is to offer up acts of kindness, speak words of comfort to others, bring laughter and joy to this world or share a different perspective that makes others think.

So bring forth what you have to offer and know that there is enough space for you and there’s enough space for me.

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See the world more clearly

My overriding sense of 2016 is that it has contained much division…with the UK deciding to leave the EU, the USA electing Trump.

I’ve stood strong in my opinions about the above – I believe we’re stronger together in the EU and am prepared to fight against all that Trump stands for. However, I’ve been thinking lately about a quote I heard 6 months ago when watching a TED talk by Julia Galef:

“Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs? Or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?”

I have a feeling that Julia’s words have followed me around for so long because I know I so often resist hearing the opinions of others – I am pulled to defend my own beliefs at all costs. And I have an inkling that this way of being perpetuates the cycle of conflict and division in the world.

A personal example of this is the love my mum has for the author Fanny Flagg, who wrote ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe’. She has spoken about this author for so long and for no reason at all (apart from disliking the author’s name) I have stubbornly refused to read her books. Instead I have preferred to hold onto the opinion that I don’t want to read her books. I have to be honest, I feel sick writing this to you, dear friend. I know that sharing this little anecdote will compel me to read her books and there’s a good chance I will find out that I’ve been wrong for years and will have to swallow my pride about this.

But I know pride does me no good and there is much to gain in being open-minded – it can help me to see the world more clearly…for example, when I step back from my outrage about the UK’s decision to leave the EU, I see a lot of the reasons why people voted to leave.

Some people thought it would move us towards a relationship with the EU akin to Scandinavian countries. Other people voted to leave because they felt the bureaucracy of the EU was broken and in desperate need of reform. People voted to leave out of fear – fear of strangers and scarcity – and other people felt the British welfare was more important than our collective good (calculations of how much money the UK would save if we left the EU, which could be used to bolster the NHS, is a great example of this).

busSo what am I trying to say to you, dear one?

I know it’s easier to just condemn the ‘opposition’, but to live in a world of peace, we need to be open to understanding where other people are coming from…otherwise how will I ever see the world as it is and why would anyone ever pause to see things from my point of view?

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Forgiveness – my recent experience

I’m now on my 47th day of being comfort eating free, which is an amazing achievement for me. It’s truly wonderful to know that I’m able to feel so much freedom on days when it comes easily – having more focus and space for other things in my life.

It’s also so good, however difficult, to confront my demons on days where all I want to do is eat to bury the pain I feel. It’s on these dark days that I experience exponential growth, confronting the pain and making leaps and bounds forward in this new life of courage, truth and love.  Continue reading