blogging, motherhood, self-discovery, Wellbeing

I am his. But I am also mine

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll have noticed that the subject of my posts has changed since I’ve had my baby boy. And that’s to be expected because, as a new mother, he is my world.

Since I’ve had him, I’ve realised that I am no longer my own. In fact, I’m coming around to the realisation that I will no longer come first. He comes first regarding how I spend my time, my money, my love and my energy and I know this will continue to be the case even as he grows and relies less on me. He’ll still come first.

I well and truly belong to Jenson. I am his.

But it doesn’t change the truth that I am also mine.

In fact, I have a tattoo on my right foot which says “I am mine”. A tattoo I had done after a bad relationship break-up where I realised that all too many decisions in my life were being made to please other people (in this case a boyfriend who told me I was too fat, my hair wasn’t pretty enough, my taste in clothes wasn’t right…) instead of following my internal compass and my own desires.

And while I love Jenson with a selfless love that I have never experienced in my life, it doesn’t change that I am still mine.

I still have needs, desires, hopes and a personality that is at its best when I have regular time alone to process, to think, to breathe, to exercise. And that’s ok.

So I’ve started to take a few hours for myself in the weekday evenings and to have a period of time by myself while my husband hangs out with our little monkey at the weekend.

And this time alone is so sweet. I can’t express just how marvellous and precious it is to me. It’s like oxygen to my soul.

A time to go for a run in the spring sunshine, a time to geek out revising my coaching training notes, a time to put music on and write this post to you in uninterrupted bliss.

And I’m reminded that it’s ok to be mine. It’s ok to need this space. It doesn’t make me less than a mother – it gives me the capacity to be a better mum. And I feel lucky that I’ve got a partner in life who supports me to have this space and time just as I support him to have his own space and time doing things that he loves.

But I want to look at my tattoo more often and remind myself of it’s new meaning – that I’m allowed to my own person and take time for myself, even as a mum to a new baby.

I belong 100% to Jenson but I also belong to myself. I am mine.

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blogging, self-discovery, Wellbeing

Feeling lighter

I’ve really enjoyed reading emails and content from the website ‘be more with less‘. The founder of the website, Courtney shares online how she simplified her life in all areas. Cleared out the possessions she didn’t use from her house, reduced her clothing down, paid off her personal debt and removed most processed foods from her diet.

There’s so much more that she did to simplify her life and I’ve felt inspired by her to, likewise, remove the clutter in order to feel lighter.

I used to enjoy having lots of possessions – as a child I had a huge collections of cuddly toys and collected anything pig/frog related. Skip forward a decade or two and I had a wardrobe full of irregular choice shoes which although stunningly beautiful I rarely wore because let’s be honest, they’re made for their looks, not for comfort. But  as the years have passed, I started feeling that all this stuff around me was weighing me down and just causing more busyness in my life.

So I started to de-clutter. I thought I would share some of the things I’ve done to take a step back and see how far I’ve come but also to hopefully give you some inspiration about how you could take some steps to find freedom through less…

Walk away

Living with less first started for me when I needed to budget – probably in the lead-up to my wedding or saving for a holiday. When shopping for any ‘indulgent’ item (a new dress, make-up, stationary – anything I wanted but don’t really need), I walked away from it and only went back to buy it if I still was thinking about it later on and really, really wanted it.

Now with a baby, things have changed. I have less time to mooch around looking at beautiful things and he’s not really a fan of over-heated stores so we tend to stay clear of them…so perhaps Jenson is helping me to never shop again 😛

Marie Kondo your wardrobe

Encouraged by my university friends who said how amazing she was, I turned to Marie Kondo for advice about how to organise my wardrobe. Apart from her clothes folding technique I’ve used to fit all my clothes into a reduced wardrobe space (see the video below for an idea of how she does it), I’ve slimmed down the amount of clothes I possess by asking myself about each item ‘does this bring me joy?’. Each piece of uncomfortable clothing I bought because I thought it made me look slim, each worn out top and each bargainous charity shop item which never really suited me has been put for sale on Facebook marketplace or donated to charity.

I know I’m in the fortunate position – one I won’t be at the end of my maternity leave when money is really tight – to have a surplus of clothing and be able to give things away knowing I can buy anything I need, but the principle of ‘will this bring me joy’ can apply to anyone when it comes to buying clothes. And what brings me joy?

  • Wearing something which make me feel gorgeous
  • Wearing something that is so comfy and not restrictive
  • Having clothes in my wardrobe that I love putting on each day

Easy peasy!

Ditch the ‘shoulds’ and forget the ‘what ifs’

I’m fortunate to be the owner of a kitchen aid. It’s a brilliant cake mixer which can also whisk eggs and knead dough. The only thing is that vegan cakes are best if mixed by hand, I don’t eat eggs and when I make bread I enjoy kneading it with my own hands. So my kitchen aid has sat around in my kitchen for about 5 years not being used.

I feel I should keep it because it was an expensive gift given to me and I’m worried about what if I ever want one again and have to spend money on buying one. But the truth is that I’m unlikely to want ever one again and, if I find I absolutely can’t live without it in the future, I can always save up and buy one again.

Focus on the benefits

I’ve started to sell my unwanted clothes and other items online, have got rid of the DVD collection I never watched and gave away the books I knew I was unlikely to want to re-read. I really love having less stuff around.

Knowing how great de-cluttering makes me feel has inspired me to continue to shed and simplify my life. The items I’ve sold have funded some lovely trips out with my son and I enjoy having a house that is less cluttered. It is so great to live with less – it makes me feel lighter and keen to keep on shedding stuff I don’t really need.


These are a few things I’ve done to simplify my life. I’d love to hear any ideas you have.

And I want to toast with you, dear friend, to a simple life. One with less stuff and more space. With money spent on experiences with loved ones, not on unneeded possessions. Where everything we own fills us with joy instead of weighing us down.

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blogging, break up with your phone, self-discovery, Wellbeing

Why now, what for, what else?

I’ve been continuing to read my book ‘how to break up with your phone‘ (I wrote about it in another blog here) and enjoying the day-by-day activities to reduce the amount of time I mindlessly spend staring at social media apps.

It’s been straight forward, albeit a bit scary as I deleted all the apps from my phone that I go to automatically in moments of boredom – Instagram and Facebook being the main culprits (yes, Facebook had snuck back onto my phone after being deleted a few weeks ago) and I found the following activity in the book particularly helpful – when you reach for your phone, ask yourself:

Why now? What’s prompted me to pick up my phone right now?

What for? Is there a particular reason for doing so?

What else? What could I do to better respond to the reason why I was reaching for my phone in the first place?

What I’ve discovered in following the exercise is that I pick up my phone quite a lot out of boredom or when there’s any space in my life (like when I’m breastfeeding). It’s like a second reflex.

I also pick it up when I’m feeling a bit socially awkward – with no one to speak to or not sure where I fit in, I reach for my phone.

And I also pick it up out of FOMO – wondering what I’ve missed online.

This awareness is really helpful to reduce my time online. And what I’m discovering is that the exercise is also brilliant for any other areas of my life that have a tendency to get out of balance

  • The cake I reach for when I’m feeling anxious
  • The things I buy to fill a void in my life
  • The TV I watch out of tiredness/boredom

Not that these things control my life or are particularly dysfunctional but asking myself ‘why now, what for, what else’ gives me the option to truly respond to what is going on underneath.

And that’s always a good thing!

blogging, break up with your phone, self-discovery, truth, Wellbeing

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.

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blogging, compassion, eating disorder, self-discovery, Wellbeing

My personal mean girl

I have a mean girl voice inside me. I think we all have a version of a mean girl, although many of us don’t listen to her much.

I’ve been a bit poorly over the last couple of days. Nothing major, just bunged up with cold and with a bit of a cough. And coupled up with broken baby sleep (albeit around 7 hours a night), my usual defences against my mean girl had been lowered.

I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a puffy face, eyes without their usual shine and then my gaze lowered and I saw my post-pregnant body through mean girl eyes. I don’t want to share what went through my mind, but my thoughts were less than kind about how I looked.

In the past these thoughts would have sent me on a spiral down a rabbit hole of promises ‘I won’t eat any sweets today’ that I would most probably break because it was a promise made out of meanness, not kindness. And then the cycle would continue – promises (broken) and overeating followed by such shame and guilt.

I would perhaps look at myself through the day, pinching any excess fat, or would desperately avoid looking in the mirror so I wouldn’t have to see myself through these mean girl eyes.

But today I saw my mean girl for what she was – mostly tiredness, perhaps a distraction from the reality of being dog-tired and a habitual way of thinking which no longer serves me.

And with this knowledge, I was able to say ‘thank you, mean girl, for your input, but I don’t need you today’.

And instead I showed myself kindness.

It’s taken me over 30 years to get to this point – able to show myself kindness in moments of stress and when I’m a bit low – but now that I’m here I couldn’t be more thankful.

blogging, self-discovery, Wellbeing, Work

What’s going on?

I went to an amazing training programme through work a little while ago and have found it truly transformational to how I think, see and interact with the world. I feel like this training has changed me but I haven’t been able to vocalise the change very well (it’s all a bit muddled in my head).

This morning, I want to work out how I might communicate it with others and so I thought I would start by sharing what I’ve learnt with you, dear friend.

It touches on how we interact with each other and how we interpret the world; how we make sense and meaning of what’s going on in each and every moment and in the words of what I learnt on the course, it’s all about perspective taking.

What do I mean by this?

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First Person Perspective

Well, we can all see things from our own point of view – what’s going on for us (how we feel and think about things). Sometimes it is all that we can see (especially when we’re feeling a strong negative emotion) and when this happens, it can limit our ability for connection with others.

Second Person Perspective

img_4042.jpgHowever, we can often also see things from another person’s point of view (what we think is going on for them – how they feel, understand and think about things). It’s not to say that what we understand about them is right, but the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes impacts how we understand the world and other people. 
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Third Person Perspective

Another way we can see the world is by stepping back and asking ourselves ‘what’s going on here?‘ – looking at the dynamics of the situation between two or more people to get greater understanding.

In this example, where I’m cross and my husband is defensive, it’s more often than not because Gregg will have put his dirty plates on the kitchen counter instead of directly stacking things in the dishwasher. When he does this (and when I’m at my least generous) I get angry because I think he’s being lazy, inconsiderate and more importantly, I feel he expects me to tidy up after him, because invariably I’m the one who puts all the dirty dishes away.

Another more meaningful example of asking myself ‘what’s going on?‘ is when I meet new people and find myself comparing myself to them – looking at how I stack up against them in terms of looks, body size and what other people’s reactions are to us. They may be completely oblivious to this, but when I ask myself ‘what’s going on between us?’ I know that I’m feeling insecure and am making comparisons for reassurance of being ‘better’ or confirmation of being ‘lacking’. It’s not something I’m proud of, but knowing this can give me greater clarity and (hopefully!) help me to react differently.

Fourth Person Perspective
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The final way we can look at the world is through taking a further step back to inquire and ask ‘what is shaping how I view what’s going on in the situation?’

This step makes my brain go a bit funny if I think about it too much, but if I relax and answer the question without thinking too much, the outcome I get is truly staggering.

With the situation with Gregg and the dish washer stacking, I realise that my view is shaped by my desire for him to do things exactly the way I would do things. And I see that this leads to me having little patience for him doing things in his own way. I also realise that I equate his actions of stacking the dishwasher as a sign of how much he loves me. In asking myself what’s shaping how I view the situation, I’m not excusing his defensiveness or taking responsibility for the whole situation. It allows me to distance myself and, instead of just getting angrier and angrier over time, choose a different path.

It has enabled me to know that my way isn’t the only way of being. So I’ve started to leave his plates on the side and see that he eventually puts them in the dishwasher. Not in my ‘perfect-straight-away‘ time, but in his own ‘perfectly-ok‘ time.

It also allows me to have a conversation which cuts through his defensiveness:

“…when you don’t put the plates away in the dishwasher, it makes me feel like you don’t value me and expect me to do all the work around the house. It makes me feel like you don’t respect me.”

In short, this question and different way of looking at things gives me choices. It gives me options. It gives me greater clarity.

And what about when I’m with new people and find my comparison going into overdrive…? Asking myself what’s shaping how I view the situation is truly life changing. And here’s what I’ve been able to tell myself:

You’re feeling uncomfortable in a new situation and in the past when you’ve felt uncomfortable you’ve brought yourself comfort by reassuring yourself about how you measure up to other people. But now you know better, dear one. You know that who you are and your self-worth isn’t defined by other people or how pretty/slim/clever/desired you are compared to others. You know that your self-worth is defined by how much you love and accept yourself. And you love yourself fully and accept yourself completely. So stop measuring yourself against others and be present in the moment.

It is life changing. To step out of this cycle of comparison and look for feelings of security within instead of the reassurances I get from others. It makes me so happy, it fills me with such contentment, it allows me to be fully present in the moment with that new person.

When I started the training, I never dreamt that it would bring me such transformation. But it has. And I hope that what I’ve shared with you – these different perspectives – can also lead to transformation in your life.

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blogging, eating disorder, Wellbeing

Being

I’m a do-er, or I have been for much of my life. Faced with an obstacle or set in front of a problem, I would do, solve, work, push, accomplish.

And when I wasn’t able to do, solve, work, push, accomplish my way out of something (more often than not the emotions I was feeling) I’d eat to distract myself from the discomfort of inaction. Stuff down what was going on inside with handfuls of crisps and piles of sugar.

But I’ve realised that sometimes what we’re faced with in life doesn’t call for action. It calls for space. For time. For listening. For quiet. For reflection. For accepting all that is going on.

For feeling all the multitude of emotions underneath. Whether it is sadness, anger, upset, gloom, guilt, shame.

And when I let myself surrender to the inaction of simply being, I am alive to what’s going on for me. And I can let the emotions pass through me.

I can just be.

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blogging, life coaching, respect, self-discovery, Wellbeing

Permission

To all the people pleasers, all those who live by ‘shoulds’, all those who suffer from comparison-itis, I want to share with you a technique I’ve been using which has given me freedom in how I experience my daily life.

It’s one that I often forget, but one that has helped me on a couple of occasions and has brought me much joy….and it is the phrase:

“I give myself permission to…”

I had taken last Monday off work to recuperate from my coaching course, which can be pretty full-on and was feeling a bit antsy in myself. My inner dialogue was going something like this – “A whole day off – I should be doing something with it!” and although I didn’t really want to have a busy, packed day, I was forming a list of things I could be doing.

Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t noble things that would make a difference in the world, they were things like:

All lovely things, but things that missed the point of my day off and what I knew I truly needed – recuperation and relaxation. Yet I still felt antsy until I used my magic words:

“I give myself permission to relax”

And in the moment that I said these words to myself, I felt my body let go of the tension it was holding. I was able to breathe more easily, I felt pressure in my chest ease and I spent the next couple of hours lying in bed, reading and watching some of my favourite programmes. I got out of my pjs at 3pm and felt that I had really, truly had a day of recuperation that my body so desperately needed.

These words have the power to transform so much of my experience – both at work and in my personal life. I’ve got a note on my laptop at work which outlines the permission I give myself at work:

I give myself permission to be myself, get things wrong, have fun, respect my boundaries. 

Even this morning, a day I’m taking off to spend with my friend, Nadine, was filled with the ‘shoulds’ when I first woke up – we should have the best day ever, we should make the most of our time together, we should do loads of things with the day off and it was only when I gave myself permission to do some tidying around the house, to just be myself, to go to bed early if needed so I’m ready for work tomorrow…that I felt ready to experience this day without expectation or pressure.

So give it a try if you feel so inclined…give yourself permission for exactly what you need today and see where it takes you.

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blogging, eating disorder, recovery, rest, Wellbeing

Pace

This is my first free weekend in quite some time, and the first day that I have not many plans besides meeting a good friend for coffee. I feel jittery inside, like I’ve been running at a speed for quite some time and am not sure how to slow down and find a slower pace in my life.

It’s like I have become accustomed to going at 100 miles an hour and although it’s not a comfortable speed to keep up, it’s the speed I had settled into.

Constantly on, busy in and out of work, lurching between being highly of alert or dead to the earth in sleep.

I know I wasn’t calm or content (and geez, you’re probably sick to death from hearing about it in the numerous posts I’ve written complaining about how full my life is!). I know that the speed wasn’t sustainable. But at the same time, I’m not sure how to go slower.

In the past, I would either write a long list for myself of things that I needed to do during the day, keeping up the busyness in solitude, or I would eat away the day to push down the jittery feeling of trying to find a new speed.

And I don’t want to do either of these things.

I have to say how deep my relief and gratitude is that food no longer holds the same sway in my life today as it has in the past. Yet still I’m unsure how to find a new pace.

I think over what I could do – things I’ve explored here on this blog before with you, dear friend. Spending time playing my ukulele, putting on a face pack, using my oracle cards, watching a film, reading a book…and there are some things that I need to do as well – shopping for suntan lotion and packing for my upcoming holidays to Hawaii!!!

But I still feel like I’m coming down from a high, and I suppose I am – coming down from the adrenaline that has been pumping through my body over the past months.

And there is something to be gained in recognising this experience for what it is – coming down from the high, sinking into the itchy, twitchy, discomfort of finding this new, slower pace.

And there’s also something in remembering what I wrote in my recent blog post about being in the moment. I don’t need to know that today will be a ‘success’ or that I’ll be able to ‘cope’ or have a ‘productive’ day – these are all judgements of what I think I should do. I just need to be here, now, writing this post to you…and when this is done, move onto what instinctually feels right for me. I don’t need to have a plan for the day, or accomplish anything, or feel like the day has achieved something.

I just want to settle into this new, slower pace. To be in the moment and replenish myself. To rest and recuperate. And that can be enough for today.

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blogging, pregnancy, self-discovery, Wellbeing

Here. Now.

I shared the happy news with many people yesterday that I’m pregnant and am expecting the arrival of a little boy in late December. It’s such a happy and exciting time, but it’s also a time of so much uncertainty.

Will I be a good mum? Am I going to mess this little chap up? Will he be as sensitive and complex as I am and how will this impact his experience in the world? Will he be as logical and straight forward as my husband and not be able to ‘get’ me? Does he need to ‘get’ me? Is this too much to ask of him? What about going back to work? Will I be able to return and do a job that I love with as much zeal as I do now? Will I be able to keep up this blog and continue to grow my coaching business? How can I be a mum and still be me? Will I lose myself in the love that I’ll find for this new person? 

These are just a few of the questions that I find myself being inundated with on a fairly frequent basis.

And there is so much out of my control, so much I’m trying to squeeze into work before I leave for 6 months of feeding and staring in wonderment at the little person we’ve made, 6 months of sleepless nights and squidgy baby cuddles.

I care so much about it all – my work, my coaching, my little person, my life – and I just don’t see how all this can fit in.

The expectation and pressure I’m putting on myself is too much.

And then I feel a little baby kick, a movement from the very depth of me. A gentle reminder of this life that is growing. Here. Now. Perhaps this little one will teach me the lesson that I’ve found so hard to grasp – how to let go of control and just be here, now, in the moment.

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