husband, motherhood, self-discovery

Allowed to be me

I stood in the kitchen 3 nights ago and, half-crying, said to my husband “it’s not that I don’t love Jenson – I love him so strongly – but I’d just like a few hours to be me again. To not have my constant companion by my side or be called away from the passions I have to feed or cuddle or hold him. I miss being me.”

Motherhood has been the best thing to happen to me. I can’t express how much I love this little, wonderful being. My love is a force that keeps me smiling when I’ve been up half the night with him or had to sing songs to him for hours to calm him down.

But I miss being me.

I miss just going to a coffee shop and reading or blogging for hours. I miss spending untethered time in the kitchen whipping up cakes and cooking batches of food for the week. I miss going out without being tied down with a backpack full of baby stuff.

The freedom, the focus on me, the ability to do exactly what I want to do.

And here’s where I hear Jenson’s voice of the future – saying “but you chose to have me”. A sentiment I had as a child when I didn’t get my way or the few times my wishes didn’t come first for my parents. And now I get it.

Yes, I did choose to have him. With all my heart and much time spent thinking about whether I did want to become a mother. It was an active choice. But this choice doesn’t take away who I am. My passions. My dreams. Things I just like doing because I just like doing them.

And I’m ok 80% of the time that I’m not where I was anymore. I’m a mum and that means that I am no longer my own. I’m his as much as he is mine. But it doesn’t stop the fact that I’m allowed to be me. I’m allowed to still have my desires and wishes and dreams. I’m allowed to take time for myself.

I’m also incredibly lucky to have a husband who is in this with me 100% and is able to hear me and my needs. He gives me the space to be me, just as I give him the space to be him.

What does this look like?

Gregg gets Wednesday evenings to play football with colleagues at work. I support him to have this time, even if it means that I have to take care of Jenson well into the evening by myself. I’ve also been up for him having nights out with friends and other evenings out to do things he enjoys even if it leaves me alone with a baby who can, as much as he’s adorable, be a challenging little so-and-so.

And Gregg allows me to follow my passion for coaching people who struggle with comfort eating, binge drinking and people pleasing. He takes Jenson out of the house when I have my sessions scheduled with the people I love to work with so I can focus 100% on this work that I feel called to do.

But I know I need more time to just be me without relying on the squeezed little chunks of time I grab for myself. Yes, I get time to coach, but I need time for me. It’s not selfish to take this time. And even if it is selfish, it’s time I need so that I can be a good, patient, loving, kind and generous parent to my son and a good, patient, loving, kind and generous wife to my husband.

So tomorrow (well, today – I’m writing this at 4am now that Jenson has gone to sleep after being up for an hour), I’ve been given a pass by Gregg. The promise that he’ll take Jenson for a good two or three hours so I can just be me. I can get my hair cut, sit in a cafe and read a book or write another blog, post or wander the streets of Brighton without a nappy bag and papoose.

And I think we need to make a regular event of this. Giving each other time so we can be ourselves and have a bit of space to claim back who we are.

I’m allowed to be me. It doesn’t mean that I love my son any less. It means that I’m human with needs of my own. And that’s ok.

blogging, eating disorder, husband, Love, motherhood, self-discovery

Reaching out

I spoke to my husband today and told him that, for the first time in a long time, I felt the urge to overeat. To comfort eat.

It’s not surprising since I’ve recently gone through the biggest change in my life, my world has been turned upside down, I’m managing not only the needs of my own but that of a new human who I don’t understand and have lots of people visiting, which brings other dynamics to juggle.

I’m not trying to be ungrateful for all of this, I’m just being honest – it all just feels a bit overwhelming at times.

And in this moment, I felt a weight press on me and the only thing I knew would remove the weight was to force it down with food. Lots of food.

And then I realised that food wasn’t the only thing that would remove the weight of pressure bearing down on me. I knew I could remove it by reaching out.

And so I reached out and I told my husband I was feeling suffocated and was struggling. I shared the feelings I was having.

And as if by magic, the feelings went away. I suddenly didn’t have the urge to push my feelings down because I allowed myself to feel them. I listened to what was going on for me.

Not only did this help me in the moment but, knowing what was going on, my husband then was able to help me. He sat me down, got me a drink, gave me a cuddle and left me alone for a few hours of peace and alone time as I fed Jenson.

If only I had known so many years ago how little it takes to make this feeling go away – just acknowledging what’s going on for me and reaching out to someone I trust.

This new life as a parent is so wonderfully beautiful and impossibly difficult and I have a feeling that I’ll need to keep on reaching out over and over again.

And so that’s exactly what I’ll keep on doing.

blogging, husband, motherhood, pregnancy, self-discovery

Neediness

I asked my husband a while ago how I’ve been during my pregnancy. I’ve felt myself be needy; leaning more on him for support (both physical and emotional) and have felt uncomfortable about this at times. Because I’m used to being strong, being self-contained, able to stand on my own two feet without needing anything from anyone.

To be honest, I was surprised by his response. He said he preferred me pregnant with all the neediness I’ve displayed.

I’ve been digesting what this means for me now and what this could mean going forwards.

From my head to my heart

I’ve been thinking about my recent blog post where I acknowledged that I needed to reach out more and ask for help and support from others in order to show my soon-to-be-born son that it’s ok to need the support and care of other people.

When I wrote this post, I knew in my head that this was what I needed to do, but it hadn’t reached my heart and hadn’t really changed my behaviour.

However, hearing Gregg say that he prefers me as someone who asks for help has started to shift something inside me. It’s made me curious to what life could be like if I continued to ask for help and reach out to other people.

Melting the ice queen

Over the past months of pregnancy, I’ve become aware of what I’m capable of doing and what my limits are. I haven’t been weedy and weak – in fact, I’m bloody impressed with myself about how much normality and lack of change my life has had despite growing a human being. Ive continued to work full time, coach outside of work, stayed socially active and walked over an hour a day to get to and from work.

However, there has been a change and this has been how I’ve voiced to Gregg what I’ve needed from him.

There have been times when I’ve felt the brittle anger of my inner Ice Queen start to form because I’ve approached the edge of my limits. Whether it’s that I’ve wanted to go home early from a night out with friends or needed him to step up and take greater care of me around the house. Usually I would have bottled up my frustration or my anger but I’ve found myself instead voice what I’ve needed from him and have found that he has been receptive to my needs. And with this receptivity, my Ice Queen frostiness and anger have melted.

My neediness has enabled me to navigate through these different situations with Gregg by my side.

It’s nice to be needed

I know from my own experience that it’s nice to be needed by close friends. To know that you can bring a smile to their face or can lighten the load when they’re going through periods of difficulty. But I don’t think that I let myself need other people as much as I’d like…because I don’t want to be a burden or cause problems for others.

But I’ve seen Gregg step up and enjoy being needed by me – whether it’s me needing a cuddle from him, asking him to sort dinner out or rub my feet when the dreaded restless leg syndrome strikes as I’m trying to go to sleep.

Now that I think about it, I’ve seen myself start to reach out to other people and have relationships strengthen as a result. My sister, close friends, workplace colleagues.

Starting to allow myself to be needy has allowed others to enjoy being needed.

So I’m going to continue to explore being ok with my neediness to see where it takes me.

blogging, Brené Brown, forgiveness, husband, marriage, self-discovery

Forgiveness

It’s my last day in beautiful Hawaii…I’m so thankful for the time and space this trip has given me to reflect, connect with my husband and explore this part of the world. Just before we start to pack up and decide what we’re going to do in our final hours on the island, I want to spend a few minutes exploring with you a thought about forgiveness from Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong

I know you’re probably sick to death of hearing me talk about her book, what with this being the 5th or so post about it but reflecting on her words with you, dear friend, is how I’m able to move the learning from my head to my heart and integrate all the wisdom into my life. So I hope you’ll bear with me. Here’s what she said:

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make the choice to forgive, you have to face into the pain. You simply have to hurt.”

These words hit me so deeply because of a recent conversation I had with my husband on the night of our second wedding anniversary. We both shared one thing that we’d like the other person to work on, something that impacts our relationship.

I shared with Gregg that it hurts me when he calls me ’emotional’ as I feel that it’s a negative judgement about the feelings that I experience. I said it was fine for him to describe me as ‘complex’ or even ‘complicated’ because I know that I’m both those things, but I think that my emotions are a positive thing and I don’t want them used in a put-down. And to his credit, he hasn’t used this word since.

He then had his chance to share his desire for me and said that he’d like me to forgive him more quickly and not freeze him out when I’m angry. This was not really a surprise, I know I struggle with forgiveness, as described in a fairly recent post about being an Ice Queen.

I don’t want to go all cold and freeze him out, but I was unsure how I could change as it’s how I’ve been for most of my life. When  I experience difficult emotions – anger, conflict, disagreement – my go-to pattern is to lock down my feelings, which results in me distancing myself emotionally and can be experienced as a frosty, brittle anger which makes forgiveness so tricky.

And so Brené’s words about forgiveness are a revelation to me in considering how I might become quicker to forgive…it seems that the missing piece in my puzzle is to allow myself to feel the anger, pain and hurt that comes from being in conflict.

Gah, the truth is that this is such a scary prospect and I see that I have coped in the past by putting my feelings on lock-down and shutting myself down.

It’s so scary to face into the possibility of hurt, to let myself feel pain, to not numb out the feeling and instead let myself fully experience the conflict, each moment of anger, the pain.

But I can’t help but feel that Brené’s words are the key to being able to forgive, the key to living a more wholehearted life.

So I’m going to take these thoughts and share them with my life coach and work through, with her help, what this different path could look like for me.

I know this exploration and journey will take courage, grit and determination…but I can’t help but feel that this is the right path on my journey to a life of greater courage, truth and love.

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blogging, husband, marriage, self-discovery

Soul mate

I’ve been listening to an excellent audiobook about marriage this week. It’s called Committed and is written by Liz Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love.

Having been married for coming up to two years, it has been interesting to hear Liz’s sceptical views about marriage and see some of the worries I had leading up to the big day reflected in her thoughts.

You see, dear one, I was really excited to commit to my husband and declare our intention to remain faithful to each other, but I was acutely aware of the tension between committing forever when I had no ability to see what was going to come the next day, let alone the next week/month/year/decade.

Something else was playing on my mind too. In the lead-up to the big day, I had become a tad obsessed with wedding shows such as say yes to the dress and don’t tell the bride. If it had weddings in it, chances are I was watching it. And I became anxious about how these women in the programmes expressed their feelings for their husbands-to-be; describing them more often than not as their soul mates. Don’t get me wrong, I dearly love my husband – he makes me laugh, has endless patience with me, is so kind. But I didn’t, and haven’t ever in our relationship, feel that he was my soul mate. And I started to question whether there was something wrong with me, with him or with us.

This anxiety was never enough to doubt the commitment we were making to each other. But it did play on my mind so much that I brought it up with Gregg.

And with nearing 2 years of marriage under my belt and a bit of perspective from spending less of my life watching wedding reality TV shows, here are some of my thoughts:

In terms of saying “yes” forever, it was Gregg who calmed me (as he always does) by stating that if we didn’t work out, we’d get a divorce. And that we’d be ok. It might sound strange to have my husband-to-be consoling me by talking about divorce even before we made our vows, but it showed me that he was willing to explore everything I needed to explore and to put my needs above his, even if it meant discussing difficult things like divorce. And it put the wedding vows into perspective of being intentions, aspirations, hope for our future together as much as they were promises.

And two years on, I can see the beauty of this commitment. That when things are hard, we’ve promised to move through them together. That when he does things I’m not happy with, he knows I’m not going to walk away. That when I’m a hot mess, I know he’ll stand by me. And I think these promises give us energy to make us work – to keep spending quality time together, keep on falling in love with each other, keep growing and developing together.

The commitment and promises bring a stability to us.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a marriage is always needed to bring this stability, but I think that’s what the promises we’ve made bring us.

Now, onto the problematic pickle of the soul mate declarations that I couldn’t make about Gregg and that he couldn’t probably make about me.

Now that I’m not as wrapped up in these programmes as much, I don’t care what these other women say or feel about their spouses. Whether they are soul mates or not has no bearing on my relationship.

I still don’t think that Gregg and I are soul mates. But I’m ok about that. We’re not soul mates because we’re so different. As much as we love time together, we need time apart. We need our own friends and hobbies of our own too.

And now I’m more comforted in knowing that our relationship is one based on honesty and truth, seeing each other with all our flaws and accepting each other as we are instead of expecting each other to be something we’re not. I think it places less stress on our relationship in not putting the label of soul mate on each other.

As a society, we have a tendency of expecting that our spouses will be our all – best friend, confidante, missing puzzle piece, completer. When in reality we’re just people who can never be someone’s all. And, as Liz explores in her book, people entering marriages in the past were never subject to this level of pressure or expectation. So why do we have this expectation?

So I’m not going to put any more pressure on my marriage and just enjoy it for what it is – two imperfect people who love each other and who are committed to trying to make the relationship be the best it can be.

 

blogging, husband, self-discovery

Ice Queen

I hope that few of you have experienced my icy coldness…the brittle shell I retract into when I’m overwhelmed, overtired and pushed over the edge of my capacity.

Sadly it’s those closest to me who have experienced this most frequently, namely my mum and my husband (although there have been a few embarrassing times that I’ve shown my ice queen nature to people I don’t know well – I still feel mortified about these times to this very day).

I want to explore with you, dear friend, why I sometimes make the gremlin-like metamorphosis from a normal, happy Amy who is having a great time into the Ice Queen who responds monosyllabically, pushes people away and retreats into herself…

I want to stop being like this as it’s no fun for me or anyone around me, but I’m coming to realise that I can’t keep on doing what I’ve always done and expect to just magically change this pattern…I need to do something different to banish the Ice Queen for good.

When does the Ice Queen appear?

When I morph into the Ice Queen, it’s usually at the end of a night when I’ve pushed myself to stay out beyond my energy means and not listened to my body or my heart that knows all too well that I have no more to give.

Regardless of all the signs pointing to meltdown, I keep on going, keep on pushing, and pour any remaining energy into the situation I’m in.

Looking at this from a distance, it’s almost like I’m pretending to be someone that I’m not – a person with infinite energy, relentless sociability – when I’m a real, infallible person who gets tired. So perhaps I need to shift my mindset and see that part of the Ice Queen melting is about me owning how I feel and being ok with being imperfect.

The final straw

Generally the Ice Queen doesn’t appear by magic…it takes one final thing to nudge me over the edge. A thoughtless, throwaway comment that upsets me, a joke I take badly, or an action someone takes which prevents me getting what I so desperately need (like food, sleep or time alone).

So how do I prevent myself from free-falling into Ice Queen territory?

Verbalise my needs

When I’m exhausted and about to break, I can say to whoever is with me ‘I’m feeling a bit sensitive and a bit close to becoming the Ice Queen, can you please be kind and gentle with me and not say anything that might push me over the edge.’

This might not always work, but at least I’ve given them a fighting chance to choose their words carefully and not provoke me.

Take control

The other main area which sends me spinning is when control is taken away from me.

But part of me knows that I give my control away. I choose to be a victim.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean by this. At the end of a recent night with lovely friends, Gregg and I were waiting at the train station to go home. He suddenly realised he had left his keys behind at their house and ran back to get his keys. I knew we were going to miss the train, meaning that we had to catch a slower one that would see us arrive home 40 minutes later than the earlier one.

And I morphed into the Ice Queen.

But I had a choice. I stayed at the station while he ran back. I could have taken the earlier train home and arrived home before him.

I just didn’t speak up and take action to get my needs met.

Another shameful example is when I went to London to take part in a monopoly pub crawl. 8 hours into the day, I wasn’t in a good state. I was tired, slightly drunk and peopled-out.

I wanted to go home.

But others said to me ‘keep on going, we want you to stay, don’t go home, you’re so close to the finish’ and so I stayed out, and was a thorough misery.

But I had a choice. I could have gone home early.  I just didn’t take action to get my needs met.

I always have a choice.

Final thoughts

Sharing this with you has really helped me to consider why I turn into the Ice Queen and how I might prevent this from happening in the future.

I suppose part of this journey is realising that the actions that lead to becoming the Ice Queen are good ones – I want to be my best for other people. I want to be merry and bright and sparky and energetic.

But I can’t always be this way.

Part of this journey is coming to peace with who I am, whatever that is. Whether it’s merry or tired, bright or mellow, sparky or quiet, energetic or sleepy. So an underlying need I have to to accept who I am in each moment.

The other big realisation is that I always have a choice.

And perhaps part of the Ice Queen behaviour is suppressed anger with myself for not being strong enough in the moment to make the choice that is right for me. Anger that I haven’t been able to express what I need. Anger that I’m pushing myself to be something other than I really am.

Wow.

It’s like I’ve been punched in the stomach, such is the surety that this is the real truth lurking behind the Ice Queen.

And I’d be a softer person in that moment if I said to my husband, my mum, my friend…anyone…that I’m upset at not supporting myself, not being able to give myself what I need in that moment.

And with this knowledge, it makes me feel that there is hope for finally melting my Ice Queen heart.

It’s just a case of lovingly standing up for myself and courageously speaking the truth of what I need in that moment.

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blogging, husband, marriage, self-discovery, truth

Rollercoasters & Anchors

In the past, I’ve described the roles my husband, Gregg, and I take in our relationship as rollercoasters and anchors.

In many ways, I’m the rollercoaster in our relationship –in terms of my personality, my emotions fluctuate between soaring joy and terrible despair, covering everything in between. I have heightened experience of different emotions whereas Gregg is far more steady and anchor-like with his highest level of praise often being ‘that’s not bad’.

I also think that I’m far more up for rollercoastering in life when it comes to the future – often coming up with crazy and out-there plans for things I want us to do together. If we acted on every thought I’ve had, we’d have walked the month long Compostella pilgrimage through Spain, have got matching tattoos, moved to Italy and Australia, travelled for months through India… Yes, these dreams often come to nothing, but I feel I fuel the twists and turn of our future far more than he.

I was surprised to realise, however, that my dreaming can often leave me unable to act in the present and that my husband is a reality rollercoaster. Bear with me…

We had some friends visiting us from China – they stayed in Brighton for two days, exploring the city during the day and exploring further afield with us by night. One evening we took them into Lewes for dinner and were going to take them to the countryside while it was still light. The meal took longer than anticipated and by the time we’d finished, it was close to 7:30 and daylight was fading fast. I wanted to be close to home, perhaps coming back to Brighton instead of venturing into the fast-invisible wilderness. But Gregg pushed for going somewhere different in the opposite direction from Brighton.

I felt myself wanting to anchor to what I knew – the beach at Brighton, the closeness of home. I didn’t want to experience the unexpected twist of my evening if I was honest with myself…but everyone else was in favour of Gregg’s choice and so we got into the car, me a little reluctant, to drive to the secluded beach.

Oh my goodness, I am so glad I followed Gregg’s lead and didn’t resist this experience because it was so magical.


The sun blushing pink as it disappeared below the horizon, the soft inky black water, the moon shine illuminating our dip, the empty expanse of the sea…I felt truly free and giddy, high on life. It was such a beautiful moment that I will remember for years to come.


With our friends we ran into the water and had 10 minutes of laughter, were tossed around by the waves, revelled in this magic, the magic I would have never experienced without following Gregg on this rollercoaster ride.

It was this experience that made me see that the label of ‘anchor’ I give to Gregg is not the whole picture. He’s so much more than that. Where I steer the course of our future, he lives fully in the present and doesn’t resist the twists and turns that come his way like I so often do.

So yes, we are rollercoasters and anchors but in a different way than I had ever appreciated before.