The stories I tell myself

I had the most inspiring conversation with my chief executive yesterday. It’s left me with so much to ponder that I’m left thinking about it (and feel called to talk about it) at 3am as I’m awake feeding and holding my son.

I’m sat here in appreciative thanks and gratitude that I’m in a role where I get time and insight into someone I see as deeply inspirational and wise. That I have the opportunity to learn from his wisdom and that I even get some of his time is not something I take for granted. It’s a privilege.

He’s the one who let me borrow the book ‘presence’ which I wrote about recently. And he is the one who yesterday articulated what I’ve sensed myself for a while:

The only thing that will hold you back is the stories you tell yourself

  • The story that I’m not good enough
  • The story that I can’t lead because of so many reasons – my call to explore and share my vulnerability, not having a ‘business’ background, not being the finished product
  • The story that intrinsically being who I am (female, with a big heart, someone who cares, with a background of sometimes poor mental health) sets me up to have less impact on the world
  • The story that I’m 34, it’s too late for me to start something big in life
  • The story that I have to choose between being a great mum and making a difference in this world
  • The story that I’m only as good as my most recent mistake
  • The story that people will realise that I’m an imposter
  • The story that I’m only as good as how much people like me
  • The story that the deep work I do here will hold me back professionally
  • The story that being vulnerable and real is weak
  • Uncovering and vocalising these things – areas that have more or less weight in my life at different times (sometimes on a minute by minute basis) – shows them for what they are.
  • Just stories.
  • Stories that could influence and impact my life. Or stories I could realise are not reality and gently let go of.
  • It’s what I’m doing as I receive coaching on a fortnightly basis. Uncovering these stories and letting them go.
  • And it’s what I’m offering to the wonderful people I have the honour to coach myself.
  • We all have stories we tell ourselves – it’s only these stories that have the power to hold us back.
  • Now is the time

    I’ve been hearing for a number of years about scary environmental things, like how ‘overshoot day’ (when we use all the resources the earth can regenerate in a year) was 1 August this year, how bees (crucial to pollinate and enable our food to grow) are on a teetering path towards extinction and how we’re 1 degree away from a planetary domino effect which would render much of our planet inhabitable.

    I’ve got to be honest, it scares the fuck out of me.

    I look at my son and am desperate to ensure that he has a planet to live on which isn’t plagued by famine, lack of land as the water level rises (because of polar ice melting) and drought.

    Instead of retreating into myself and consuming a vast quantity of chocolate to placate myself, I’m going to be vocal about it.

    I feel heavy of heart but also propelled to act, to shout to everyone about it.

    We must to do something about this.

    Each and every one of us.

    Individually and collectively. We must take action, whatever we can. You must take action, whatever you can. I must take action, whatever I can.

    It could be:

    • going without a car where possible,
    • eating less meat and dairy (the second biggest cause of climate change),
    • putting on a jumper before you turn on the heating (hard to think about in the summer!)
    • not buying food made with unsustainable palm oil (responsible for mass deforestation of the amazon rainforest – our planet’s lungs),
    • taking plastic bags to the shops instead of buying new ones,
    • buying less ‘new’ stuff
    • stopping using chemical cleaners and returning to old, kinder methods (like vinegar instead of bleach)
    • opting to refill products to use less plastic

    There are so many choices we can make. Overshoot day has some interesting thoughts too – see here)

    Yes, it needs heavy legislation from the government to stop the practices that damage the planet on a large scale – a ban on non-sustainable palm oil, financial aid to allow farmers to switch from dairy/meat industry to more sustainable practices, heavy taxes on the production of single-use plastic…

    But to say that it’s all down to legislation (that individual, small actions can’t lead to mass change) is shedding ourselves of our responsibility to this planet and future generations.

    Putting the blood of future generations on our hands.

    So I invite you to stand with me in whatever way you can – if that’s opting for one of the choices above, joining in the debate about what else is possible, sharing this post on social media to get the message out to more people…we need to act collectively and individually.

    Now is the time.

    cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

    Crossroad

    It seems like an age since I wrote my last post. In reality it’s been a few weeks but so much seems to have happened in this time. I’ve prepared for a month-long trip away to Asia with my husband and 5 month old baby, I’ve spoken to work about my imminent return to the office, I’ve started to be regularly coached, I’ve spent quality time with my son enjoying everything we (ok, I) love in Brighton – baby groups, ice creams in the sun, time with close friends – and I’ve had a visit from my very close friend, Nadine, who flew over from Texas to stand by my side for a bit and support me with looking after Jenson.

    It’s been a very full time and so I hope you’ll forgive me for my silence.

    I wanted to take a moment before the day starts to ponder upon what I explored in my recent coaching session – the thought of being selfish.

    I know that I can’t do everything I want to in life now that I’m going to become a full-time working mother. Or more I could do everything but it would mean that I can’t do much of what I want for myself.

    And what do I want for myself?

    I want to live a life that lights me up.

    A life full of time with close friends instead of saying ‘yes’ to every offer made to me. A life with time to spend playing with and loving and treasuring my husband and son instead of rushing around. A life where I have space and time instead of rushing around from commitment to commitment. A life where I have time to coach those looking to find freedom from comfort eating and people pleasing instead of having no time for this vocation that I so love. A life where I can save up to travel around the world instead of frittering away money doing everything offered to me.

    But the thing that is holding me back is this one big, dirty thought that I can’t seem to shake.

    That taking this path I so long to follow is selfish. 

    Selfish – such a loaded word. It blunts the enjoyment of pursuing my dream of a life that lights me up as I feel that to do what I want, I’m trampling on others and am taking up too much space in this world. It makes me feel like I’ll stop being loved if I show my true self and follow my own compass instead of being easy-breezy and always going along with the flow.

    And then I remember this amazing quote by Nayyirah Waheed that my friend, Heather, sent to me:

    What about this theory – the fear of not being enough and the fear of being too much are exactly the same fear. The fear of being you.

    Because who am I? I am someone who is both selfish and selfless. And for that matter, I am so much more. I am also someone who is both strong and weak, loving and hateful, patient and impatient, opinionated and shy. But I try to push down that which I deem to be ‘wrong’ – being selfish, weak, hateful, impatient, shy.

    But I am these things.

    And to deny who I am is to deny my true self.

    I don’t know if any of what I’m saying is making sense. I feel like it’s only half-sense to me.

    But the bit that does make sense is to embrace who I am. To acknowledge that I’m selfish sometimes and that’s ok. And I’m hateful sometimes and that’s ok. And that I’m weak sometimes and that’s ok. And I’m impatient sometimes and that’s ok. And I’m shy sometimes and that’s ok.

    It’s only in writing that paragraph above that I realise the feelings I am ‘ok’ with are those which don’t take up too much space in the world – I realised this because I wrote ‘And I’m shy sometimes’ but felt that it was more ok for me to be small and shy than loud and opinionated. I’m ok with showing the emotions that don’t clamour for attention. Being loving, patient, strong, shy, strong, selfless are feelings that seem ok because they take up less space in the world…but when I’m my true self – the Amy who is both selfish and selfless, loving and hateful (you get the gist…), that’s not ok because it demands me to take up more space and be seen as something that might not be accepted.

    Oh geez, this is tricky.

    I’m getting to a space where I’m starting to see what it would be like for me to accept exactly who I am. It feels scary because I feel that to be me would be to show the ‘true’ Amy that might not be loved by everyone or anyone.

    I know that’s not true – I know that most people in my life will love me exactly as I am because as much as I try to hide that which is unacceptable to others, I can’t help but be me at times. Plus, I don’t think that most people’s love for me is based on me saying yes to their invitations or me doing things I didn’t want to do or not speaking my mind.

    But some people may not like me as much. And it feels scary to risk that love, even if it is a love paid for by being less than I am.

    And so here I am at a cross roads. Knowing that I want to become more ‘me’ but unsure how to start that journey. Feeling the fear of showing myself but knowing that it’s the only way to be, dreading  the discomfort of this journey but knowing that it will be worth it.

    It is the only path I can take for it is the path I want for myself – one where I show courage to take a route I’ve never taken before. Where I speak my truth, even if it’s scary. Where I start to love myself for exactly who I am without hiding.

    A life of courage, truth and love.

    cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

    Breaking up with my phone

    I wrote a few weeks ago about disconnecting a bit from social media and my phone – since I’ve been on maternity leave I’ve been finding myself going from app to app more often than usual and mindlessly passing time scrolling through pages and pages of content without really being aware that I’m doing it.

    I initially bought the book ‘how to break up with your phone‘ for my mum as I think she’s as prevalent as I am online, posting things, commenting and getting drawn into the dopamine high of online life (sorry mum!). But when I had a sneaky pre-read of it, I could see that it would be really useful for me so I decided to keep the book and offer it to her (if she wanted to look at it) after breaking up the relationship I have with my own phone.

    There’s a 30 day programme you can follow which involves a lot of reflection about my online habits and I thought I would do them here since, reading this, chances are you spend a lot of time online too, dear friend. And if you want to, you can also follow the headers I will use to assess your own relationship with your phone.

    Our lives are what we pay attention to…so what do I want to pay more attention to as I disconnect from my phone?

    I want to be fully present moment-to-moment – with my family, with friends, when I’m walking out and about. I want to spend more time actively choosing what I do – playing the ukulele, watching my favourite TV shows, seeing people, reading books, getting out into nature – instead of passively passing so much time online.

    What do I love about my phone?

    I love that my phone connects me to people all over the world. Some of my closest friends don’t live near me (in fact, they live about as far away as they could be!) and I love that my phone allows me to connect with them and stay in touch. I also love how I can record audio messages to these friends so I can still keep in touch even if we’re not able to talk. I love that I have a camera close by most times to capture lovely moments I’m having. I love that I have helpful apps (google translate, a calculator, internet browser, wordpress – the site which hosts my website) at my fingers all of the time. Oh, I also love podcasts on my phone, I listen to loads of them as I’m walking out and about and when I’m feeding Jenson at night or can’t sleep.

    What don’t I love about my phone?

    I don’t like how often I’m drawn away from the present because of my phone. I find myself reaching for it compulsively to check whether anything has happened online. I’ve disabled all notifications apart from for text messages, so my attention isn’t pulled away when I get a new whatsapp messages or e-mail but quite often I’ll find myself logging onto my phone just to check whether I’ve received a message. I don’t like how instant everything is – I feel like there’s a pressure to respond to things as soon as I’m contacted and, as someone who can feel anxious, it puts another pressure on my mental to-do list. I also don’t love how much time I spend on my phone. It feels like such a waste of life – all the hours I spend just mindlessly looking online. I also don’t like how pushy some apps are set up to be – I’ve disabled facebook messenger notifications and every time I go on there, I’m asked to enable notifications. It’s annoying and quite intrusive.

    What changes do I notice in myself – positive or negative – when I spend a lot of time on my phone?

    Positive: When I receive a personal audio message from someone, filling me in on a friend’s life, it makes me feel connected. When I see happy news from a friend on Facebook, I light up. When I witness something wonderful or interesting or funny, I’ll really like being connected online. I also love all the inspiration I get from vegan recipe pages I see on Facebook or Instagram.

    Negative – I can feel a bit twitchy when I’ve been on my phone for a while – especially if I’ve been switching from app to app to app. I feel a response, negative or positive, depending on how much real connection with people I’ve had online. My head also feels very full with all the interactions I’ll have had. I’ll also feel bad if I’ve spent loads of time on my phone as it makes me feel like I’m wasting so much time doing something which adds so little to my life. It’s also a bit like sweets for me – the more I have sweets (at dinner, at lunch, a mid-afternoon snack), the more I want to eat them. So the more I spend time online, the more I crave going online. I don’t like this behaviour in myself as it starts to spill over to when I’m with friends, when I’m walking along the street, at work…

    Imagine myself a month from now. What do I want my new relationship with my phone to look like? What would I like to have done or accomplished with my extra time? What would I like someone to say if I asked them how I’ve changed?

    A month from now, I’d like to be spending less time passively looking online. I’d love to regularly have time when I don’t take my phone out with me, or have it in another room of the house. With the time I’d get back, I’d like to choose something I’d like to do…I think I’d like to read a book that is relevant to my work or go over my coaching notes. More than anything, I think I’d like to be more present with whatever I’m doing. So with friends, I’d have my phone stored away in my bag – not on the table. At meals, I’d not have my phone out. When watching TV, I wouldn’t also be scrolling online. When feeding my son, I’d be either engaging with him or doing something I actively wanted to do. And people would notice that – my increased presence.


    So that’s my day 2 activity for breaking up with my phone (day 1, FYI, was installing an app to track my phone usage – I’ve got an iPhone and downloaded ‘moment’. This app which showed me that on a day of low phone usage I spent 7% of my waking time on my phone, which really scared me).

    I’m actually on day 3 – which is all about noticing how I feel about my phone:

    • Why I reach for my phone – nearly always to fill space – when I’m in a queue, waiting for someone, when Jenson is quietly feeding – or when I’m doing something I’m only semi-engaged it like watching TV
    • Changes before and after I reach my phone – excitement, curiosity, a bit of a rush which doesn’t really last or leaves me feeling a bit lower if there’s no interesting new message. Also a feeling of anxiety if I’m pulled away from my phone but haven’t finished responding to people online.

    I hope this has been of interest or has maybe prompted you to think about your phone habits. I’d love to hear your thoughts about your relationship with your phone.

    cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

    The waiting game

    After nine months of waiting, I’ve now passed the due date for my baby’s birth and am tussling with the to-and-fro waiting game. Swinging from patience and a philosophical ‘he’ll arrive when he arrives’ to a childlike frustration and inability to comprehend why he’s not here right now!

    There’s nothing for me to do…with the move to maternity leave I’m left without the purpose that I’m used to having in my life. All I can do is just be. And it’s uncomfortable for me to occupy this space. I mean, sure, I’ve revelled in the past week where I had 2 hour baths every day, read five books, wrote loads of blog posts, met up with friends for coffee and spent time with family.

    But I don’t know how much longer I can continue at this slow pace and yet I don’t have a choice.

    I’m in the waiting game.

    I’m partly anxious for his arrival to be before the New Year because we need him to be one year old in January 2019 so that he can attend the nursery we’ve found and love but which only takes children from the age of one onwards…and we won’t have enough leave to cover the time we’ll need to have off from work if he decides to arrive at the latest possible day in mid-January.

    And I know how ridiculous this is…worrying about something that will take place in 12 months time and that we will face together if needed. It shows me that:

    • I could benefit from having some coaching to consider how I can live more in the moment, projecting less into the future
    • I’m still not comfortable with the idea of asking for help. I know that I have people in my life who love me and would be more than keen to support me and my family, potentially stepping into the gap. Yet the idea of asking for and accepting their help is of such magnitude and feels so uncomfortable

    But it’s not just the future projections that are making the waiting game so uncomfortable. It’s the space, the vacuum, that this waiting game is creating in my life. I’m not really in the adult world…not able to drink and be merry, book in coaching clients or really do much with my life as I wait for my waters to break, for my contractions to start, for my life to change forever.

    But neither am I in the parent world where my every thoughts will be consumed with nappies, feeding and overwhelming love. The pattern of life which will come with the arrival of my baby.

    I know that I need to accept, I need to surrender, I need to just be in this space. But it’s so bloody difficult and I find myself again in the childlike space of foot-stamping frustration.

    It’s not like there’s anything I can do, this post isn’t really meant to help me sort through my thoughts but instead to just vent and express how difficult this moment is. I know that when my little boy arrives, I’ll think ‘why didn’t I enjoy this time of space more?‘ but this is how I feel at the moment – frustrated – and there’s no point in denying it.

    The waiting game will eventually end…it’s just a question of when.

    cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

    Letting go

    It’s been a funny old day. I’ve felt a bit strange, out of sorts and a bit crotchety. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that I realised why I was feeling this way…because I was living my last day in Brighton as a non-parent. It feels like there should be another word for ‘non-parent’ as it seems so very opposite to the state of being a parent. Like being single or in a couple. The inverse of each other and yet there’s not a defined word for it as far as I’m aware.

    But back to this funny day and how weird I find it to contemplate that I’m going to be a parent when I come back to this city I call home…and I don’t think I’ve quite come to terms with what this means. To me it means relinquishing carefree weekends and evenings, less time and money to spend doing whatever I like, few evenings with friends without having to think about getting up early the next day.

    And the biggest one – letting go of being part of a pair to make way for a family unit.

    I feel so selfish stating these things because I know others dream of being in my fortunate position of being pregnant and others long to just find their place in a pair – I’ve got so much going for me. It seems wrong to be so ungrateful for the beautiful thing which is going on for me.

    But it’s my truth, it’s where I am and I know from past experience that there’s no point in denying what’s going on.

    When I think about what’s happening and why I feel the way I do, I understand that I’m mentally and emotionally having to let go so much stuff (my freedom, career, ability to spend lots of time with friends, no-one to think of but myself) without truly understanding what I’ll be picking up. I’ve seen and heard from so many people what a joy having children is but I can’t quite see it yet. I can understand theoretically but it doesn’t quite seem real. And so I feel like I’m sacrificing so much for something I’m a bit unsure about.

    Not unsure as in I’m not happy to be having him. Not regretting the active decision to grow this child of mine. But unsure about what it’ll be like, whether I’ll miss my non-parent life, how my marriage will change as a result of this new life.

    And maybe that’s ok. Normal even.

    And part of this letting go isn’t understanding it all or working it out; coming to peace completely with it in my head and my heart. I’ve a feeling that I might feel this way until (and even after) the baby is here. And what I need to do is just acknowledge what feels a bit off and cut myself some slack, share what’s going on with both my husband and with you, dear friend so that I’m not going through this alone.

    The funny thing is that when I acknowledge how I’m feeling – regardless of whether I’m able to solve what’s going on or not – I find myself able to let go just a little bit and enjoy my last moments as a non-parent.

    cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

    Poor as I am

    I’ve been up tonight with one of the only side effect I’ve suffered with in pregnancy – mild insomnia – and after lying here in bed for an hour thinking about things (life, relationships, the past, the future) I thought I would get some of my ponderings onto this blog and hopefully get back to sleep.

    With December fast approaching, and with it the due date of my son’s birth, I’ve had the words of some Christmas carols in my head lately. The one that is going around my mind in the early hours of this morning is ‘In the bleak midwinter’. Or more precisely, the final verse of this song:

    What can I give Him, poor as I am?

    If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

    If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

    Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

    And here’s what these words have triggered in me at 3am:

    Calling

    Sometimes we have a role to play in life. Like the wise men or shepherds in the nativity. But other times we don’t. Like with the post I wrote yesterday about just being, we might be called to just be there for someone – to witness their pain or to offer up our friendship. And that role can be enough. In fact, this role can be the most valuable one that we can provide.

    Reality

    This carol isn’t the usual one, speaking of glory and triumph at God coming to earth. In fact, it’s a very strange song which, apart from being quite jumbled up in its message, speaks of incredible difficulty next to immense glory.

    And I think that sums up life quite well.

    We may all be faced with incredible difficulty and suffering in life – for me, I see this as part of the human condition. But in that difficulty, there can be immense beauty. Although we might find ourselves face-down in the mud, we can also find a wonder in the strength of standing back on our feet.cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

    #Metoo

    I am an avid listener of the guilty feminist, a comedy podcast which manages to both make me laugh out loud and consider what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.

    The most recent podcast was about Harvey Weinstein and it gave me a lot to think about.

    Almost a week after listening to it, I’ve still been thinking about this episode. It’s made me reconsider what I accept as normal behaviour towards women and the conditions I am subject to due to the fact that I am female.

    Up until listening to the podcast episode about Weinstein, I had been aware of #metoo – you’d have to be a social media recluse to not see the scores of women admitting that they have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault. But I had felt quite uneasy about it and had turned a blind eye to their accounts of suffering.

    I’ve been thinking about why this is and want to share some of these thoughts with you, dear friend:

    • It’s uncomfortable to witness the wide-scale reality that so many of us have been victims of assault or harassment. I’d rather close my eyes to it than face this truth.
    • My taught belief is that women should be compliant and not speak out – women stepping forward to share their stories of suffering is uncomfortable to witness. I know it’s right for them to speak up, but it makes me uneasy nevertheless.
    • There’s something about the testimony of women that I take less seriously than that of men. I don’t like this belief…but I’m noticing it’s there. I’m more likely to believe a man than a woman and so it makes me question the testimony of all these women who have said #metoo. Being aware of this belief has started to make me question how I view the experiences I’ve had of sexual harassment in the past. Experiences I’ve belittled or have passed off as unimportant. The man who exposed himself in front of me when I was a shop assistant. The boyfriend who didn’t listen to me when I said ‘no’. Perhaps I’ve felt uncomfortable with #metoo because it’s made me aware of my own experiences that I’ve hidden away and refused to acknowledge.
    • There’s also something about how I view the gravity of what a sexual harassment charge can do to an individual externally (being fired, having a criminal record) and the gravity of what a sexual harassment victim experiences internally (shock, PTSD, feelings of being to blame, helplessness). I take the external damage as being more serious, which is ironic given my knowledge of what internal trauma can do to an individual. When I suffered from an eating disorder in my 20s, I became so thin that I could have died. I could have died. That’s how serious internal trauma can be. So why do I consider the external impact of a sexual harassment charge as being more important?! I’m left speechless and at a loss as to why this is.

    I hope my thoughts are making sense to you, dear friend, and that you don’t judge me for the hidden assumptions and views I’ve shared with you.

    The thoughts I’ve shared with you have made me aware that how we view sexual harassment and how women are treated in society is an incredibly complex issue. One that I won’t be able to solve with one blog post. But it feels good – it feels right – to uncover why I think what I think and to start to challenge some of these assumptions that I hold.

    However uncomfortable it is to talk about sexual harassment and the power dynamic between men and women, these are the topics that we need to grapple with. These are the subjects that need to be brought to our collective consciousness.

    Engaging in the debate and openly listening to the views and experiences of other people is the best way for us to move forward and build a more equal world. A world where no-one is victim of sexual harassment or assault.

    cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

    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.

    Adobe Spark (10)

    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.

    cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

    This is normal

    I’m back from my holidays – straight back into the rush and hustle of my life – and am reminded of a conversation I had with my midwife at an appointment a few weeks ago.

    I shared with her how I might need to slow down for my own sanity as things have been so busy recently. And she surprised me with her response. Instead of agreeing and telling me to slow down, she said:

    I used to think that I was just going through a busy time and waited for everything to slow down…until I realised that the ‘busy’ was normal. It was part of my life.

    And I felt something click as I saw her experience mirrored in my life.

    You see, I keep on having the expectation that something will change – that this ‘busyness’ will one day stop by itself – when really it’s just how things are.

    And so where does this leave me?

    Because I’m certainly not happy to just accept that this is my life and to continue on this ever speeding-up merry-go-round existence but nothing will change unless I do something differently.

    And here are my thoughts about what I might do.

    How I react

    After the first day of my coaching course, I can see that part of me reacts to this level of busyness from a child ego state:

    “It’s not fair! Why is my life so busy! Why won’t people just leave me alone and stop expecting so much from me!”

    I know this isn’t right – I’m the one who accepts the engagements, makes the plans and puts the level of expectation on myself…and so I’m the one who can take the choice to react differently – consciously, appropriately – to the situation.

    Choices

    I know deep down that I need to make different choices – having this level of busyness in my life isn’t how I want to live. I’ve written about this so much before on this blog that you’re probably sick of hearing me and unless I make different choices, I will always experience life in the same way.

    The choices aren’t necessarily huge ones that need to made. I’m talking about small incremental changes.

    This may show up as not squishing things into every moment of my life – I’ve done this by asking my mum if we can speak on Monday instead of speaking tonight I am tired and unfocused. Or it may be taking some decisions about whether I’ll accept invitations and make plans (or not) based on what truly matters to me in life.

    Motivation

    I also feel it’s important to recognise what is behind the behaviour that leads me to feel so busy and overwhelmed:

    • Wanting to please others by doing what I think they want
    • Lack of foresight – accepting different invites without considering all the other things going on in my life
    • FOMO – a fear that something awesome is going to happen without me being there
    • Not communicating my needs or expressing my expectations

    I’m not saying these things to be down on myself but because I know I need awareness to bring about change.

    Where does this leave me? 

    I know I’ve been like a cracked record, dear friend, writing so frequently about being overwhelmed and how I need things to change…and I feel something changing.

    A resolve in myself to now move to action. A refusal to push things down and keep on going despite feeling overwhelmed. A determination to not put any of the expectations I carry onto my son.

    A whisper coming from inside me that I can be free – that there is another way to live.

    And with that, there is hope. There is a promise of what could be. A life with more space, more joy, more presence. A life with greater courage, truth and love.

    cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg