Finding joy

I’ve found such a sense of joy during these lockdown months as I’ve spent more time with my immediate family. Weekends are made of rambling walks, barbecues if the weather is right and movie afternoons with us all snug on the sofa.

Don’t get me wrong, the time hasn’t been perfect with a strong-willed two year old with a penchant for 5am wake-ups and it’s uncomfortable to be finding such happiness when others are struggling so much, but I’ve realised that if I had to spend the rest of my life in isolation, I’d be happy with this company to keep me happy and sane.

I want this to be my life predominantly when we get out of lockdown – life is better lived at a slower, gentler pace.

But I have fears too.

What will happen to friendships that maybe need to be gently let go of to keep this space? Is this just going to tumble around me one day, leaving me with no friends and regrets for those I let overtake me in their faster life?

But this feels right for me and so I’m going to keep unfurling in the gentle joy of being a family of three.

Work, if I’m honest, has been less joyful.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not to say that my life at work is not full of satisfaction. But I’m realising that there’s something about how I’m approaching work and the distance between people which is starting to rub a bit.

And so here are my thoughts about how I can bring more joy to my working life over the coming weeks and months.

Connecting

Connecting with peers and people who inspire me on a 1:1 basis is so important for me. After a good conversation – talking through challenges, connecting with others on a very human level – my heart feels bigger, my spirit feels lighter.

I feel joy.

But the connections I’d usually have over lunchtime walks and meetings have been fewer and further between.

And conversations with people in the organisation who inspire and spark something in my have been fewer and more focused on the immediate than the spacious time they were in pre-covid times.

I’m learning that these are conditions are important for me to thrive and so they should be one of the priorities that I take forward – thinking who I need to connect with and looking at how I can be intentional about this in the weeks ahead.

Finding fun

One of the permission slips I’ve written for myself at work is ‘the permission to have fun’. I notice how uncomfortable this feels to share with you, dear friend, because having fun isn’t ‘serious’.

It might be seen as wasting time or not being productive.

So let me clarify, this isn’t having fun in the sense of playing video games or fooling around instead of get things done. It’s a mindset, and an important one for creativity, reimagining what’s possible, stepping into new roles at work.

For me, fun is setting myself a hard task and being intentional about the areas where I can gain enjoyment from it.

Fun is looking at other people and organisations to see what I can learn from them.

Fun is trying out new things, knowing that the point is to try – not get things perfect.

Fun is working with people who are as open and imaginative as I am.

And I haven’t really allowed myself to have much fun recently. I haven’t prioritised it.

So I’m going to bring this back.

Distance

Until now, I’d said that I’d be happy to work from home for the rest of my life.

I like not having to leave the house by 6:45am to catch the right train to work. I like being able to eat lunch with my husband. I like spending the time I used to spend commuting running along the seashore and through the fields near my house. I like sometimes working from my sofa, in my garden, at different times of the day.

But I recognise now that it’s a bit lonely.

There are limited spaces for interaction outside of the meetings I’m part of and the online presence means that these meetings have less chat at the strt are are more focused on a particular purpose.

And meetings set up for connection are in big groups, which I don’t enjoy or feel nourished from.

There are no conversations in hallways that lead onto something.

There’s less laughter, less spontaneity, less connection.

So, while I like the better balance of working from home, I can see the importance of finding a way of being together in a group and recognising the impact of online connections on my joy.

So what does this mean?

There are some easy things I will be doing over the coming weeks – it feels good to have ordered my thoughts with you to look at what’s going on and what I need:

  • Considering who I want to connect in with over the next few weeks and months
  • Finding a sense of joy through looking at the road ahead and where I want to be intentional in bringing some fun and lightness
  • Acknowledging that it’s hard to connect online, reminding myself that this will pass

Kindness

When I got married, my mum gave me a card with some advice to me as a newly wed.

She said the most important thing in a successful marriage is kindness. I couldn’t agree more with her – it’s been one of the most vital things for my relationship to stand the test of time – we’ve been together for close to ten years now!

And as I spent a day off work last week, completely exhausted from the ups and downs of covid life and lack of sleep (thanks for the 5am wake ups, Jenson!), I was reminded of the importance of kindness not just towards my husband but towards myself.

I spent the morning having a wonderful run to the seaside and into some countryside – time in blue and green space was just what the doctor ordered, but after that, I started to feel really antsy and uncomfortable. The day that had started so well was no longer going so well – I was doubting myself and feeling like the day was going to be one big disaster.

And then I remembered that what I really needed was a huge dollop of kindness.

I started to ask myself ‘what would be the kindest thing to do for myself?’.

And here’s what I was guided to:

  • Get back into your PJ bottoms to stay cosy
  • Listen to the sound of rain on an app you’ve got as you spend a bit of time just chilling
  • Have lunch in bed, watching a feel good film
  • Enjoy the nice full feeling you’ve got from having eaten slightly too much chocolate
  • Have a nap
  • Take it slow

It’s such a different approach to a child-free and work-free day of the past where I’d try to cram in so much – needing to feel like I’d achieved something from the day instead of asking what I needed from the day itself (rest, fun, reflection…).

Instead of telling myself that I need to be productive or do something with my time, it was such a relief to just be. 

To allow myself to unwind from the pace of life for a moment. To sink even deeper – if that’s possible – into the potential of a life designed around taking care of myself with loving kindness.

And I’ve really appreciated a tip I took from a resilience webinar I attended on Wednesday (shown in the photo below) – in every choice we make throughout a day, we have a range of options – from something that’s the best possibility, to the worst possibility.

Our days are made up of these possibilities, stacked one after another in each decision we make. They can make us ascend or descend – the image shows how you can make the least kind decision but then bound up and ‘recover ground’ by making the most kind decision next.

Yet I rarely lived like this before. In the past, if I made one unkind choice towards myself (usually around eating my feelings away instead of acknowledging what I was feeling) I’d immediately discount the day and would spiral into some form of hell – beating myself up, eating even more, feeling crap about myself…it’d usually continue in that way for some days after until I managed to jolt myself out of the cycle.

But what I see now, what the model shared in the webinar showed, is that after that initial ‘worst’ choice, there is always another opportunity, another decision, another path to take which can lift us up – whether that’s the choice to:

  • stop eating and acknowledge what is going on to us instead
  • take a step back and assess our options
  • start speaking to ourselves with kindness
  • take the higher ground

It can turn around a day that has started to spiral

It’ reminded me that it’s never too late for kindness.

So what are you going to do with your day? How are you going to show yourself kindness today, friend?

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Write your own essay question

I was speaking to my coach yesterday about the work that I do, planning out what the next period of time looks for me in my role developing people in Local Government.

As I was speaking to her, I could see how I have developed incredibly over the last two years of working with her – growing more in my ability to use my intuition and emotions to guide me and reading what my body is telling me to inform my actions.

An example of this is when I feel a knot in my throat when I’m talking to someone. This often happens when I am disagreeing with them. Knowing that this knot means something, I have increasingly started to use this information to explore what actions I need to take.

Is it that I need to surface my thinking more?

Is it a sign that I know the person isn’t going to be receptive to my thoughts and I need to take a different approach?

Is there something else my body is telling me about how I need to go about my work?

But when we met yesterday we spoke about my brain and how I can better use my intellect to make progress in my role. We spent 90 minutes looking at what data and information I need to look at, what research I need to do, what facts I need to have clarity on in order to decide my best course of action.

It was hard work – after the time, I felt like I’d had a massive brain workout. It was hard to do, not because I’m lacking in this area but because I haven’t done a lot of this of late.

I’ve got such a lot of emotional and physical awareness but I have less experience looking at what my intellect is telling me. I’ve been less diligent in analysing the facts and gaining expertise doing that.

And she said to me something which resonated so strongly and is continuing to resound in my brain and this is it –

The next years ahead of you are less about responding to what other people tell you to do, being brilliant at answering their questions. This is about setting your own exam question and answering that.

And as she told me that, I got it.

I can see that for so long I have been brilliant at responding to the question other people set me – you tell me to do something, and I will do it well.

But I haven’t gone further than that very often.

But I know how to do this as I’ve set my own exam question with my emotions and my reading of how I am through physical wisdom.

I’ve not being willing to confine myself to what I’m told a woman is meant to be, what a mother is meant to be, what a daughter is meant to be.

Instead of that I have set my own exam question.

II’ve challenged and gone beyond the structures to create my own sense of self.

I am me.

I am angry and wild and gentle and loving and impatient and expansive.

I don’t confine myself to what other people say I should be, because I have set my own exam question.

But I have not done this intellectually yet – looking at data in depth to set out my own course of action, and so I felt scared.

Until I saw the possibility of setting my own exam question. Holding the reigns. Being my own creator.

And so I challenge you, dear friend, to think about what this might mean for you.

Is it a challenge for you to set your own exam question of what a family should be? What a woman or man should be? What a mother or father should be? What a relationship should be?

Is it listening more to what shows up for you in your body and using that to inform your next steps?

Or is it learning – like me – to consider things differently on an intellectual level? Taking data, facts, information – to decide your next course of action?

Because as I think about writing my own exam question for looking at my next steps at work, I see that the possibilities are endless and I feel excited at the level of mastery I will be stepping into!

I can’t deny though, this intimidates me as it’s a new way of being.

And I can’t say that I’m relishing the thought of looking at data and facts and information. Leaning less on my gut and on direction from others all the time and instead gathering and distilling information to firm up a logical next step forward.

But I know it’s for a purpose.

I know this work is to define my own exam question.

And that makes all worthwhile.

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To thine own self

For years and years I pushed my own needs and desires to the background in order to survive in this world.

If others think I’m ok, I’m ok was the unspoken mantra of my life and so I’d peddle, push, placate by following what I thought others needed me to be for them.

Often pushing myself over the edge and having bi-annual breakdowns where I’d cry for hours, releasing the tension and pressure of putting my needs to the back of the line.

And then I’d stick a smile back on my face and revert back to this pattern.

There’d be times where I’d get some counselling and feel a freedom as I allowed myself to surface my needs and desires.

And slowly I started to change my way of living, acknowledging my own needs and allowing myself to be a priority in my life.

I stretched, through relationships, into new territory.

Learning I didn’t need to be thin, pretty, demure to be loved. Learning I could voice my needs to my partner and I deserved to have a say in what was going on.

But I feel stuck at the moment.

I really don’t have a clue about how I can be true to myself – my needs, my desires, my introverted nature – where I am.

The nature of life at the moment is stretched and it doesn’t show signs of letting up.

I feel like something has to give.

Work is great, but full on.

Motherhood is a journey that I’m privileged to experience, but comes at a great price and requires constant patience, a tempered nature that isn’t naturally easy.

I am growing, expanding and stretching developmentally and spiritually, but it takes energy and focus. 

My partner has different needs to me, with each of us on opposite sides of intra-extroversion and it feels like we’re running in a different direction to each other at the moment. Needing different things from each other.

It feels like my life is a jigsaw puzzle, one which isn’t fitting together at the moment.

And I asked myself this morning whether it is possible to be true to myself in all this – to prioritise myself while still keeping the world spinning.

And the phrase ‘to thine own self be true’ came to mind.

So I turned to Shakespeare to see what ‘to thine own self be true’ actually means. What was he talking about?

I learnt there are several interpretations – firstly, it could be a call to do ‘the right thing’ (whatever this means). It could also mean that you should be honest in your actions. Finally, it could be advice to put yourself first.

So the literary father isn’t as clear in his directions as I first thought…and I’m just as lost as I was before about what I should do.

One thing is sure though, my puzzle pieces of life aren’t fitting together and I need to do something about it.

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Hands in the earth

I’m someone who always used to think of gardening as boring and for the middle-aged.

I’d wonder why people would spend so much time working on something that I felt so little for. I didn’t see the point of pretty flowers or growing things you could get so easily in a supermarket.

It pretty much reflected my relationship with nature. I didn’t have one.

But things have shifted this year and I’m having to swallow my pride (or acknowledge that I’m entering an early middle age!) as I start to spend time gardening.

That’s what I did last weekend and I want to share with you here the things I noticed from my experience:

Noticing

I have never been one for paying attention to detail.

It’s just not that important to me.

A friends birthday party? Great, yes I’ll accept but only have a cursory think about how I’ll get there the moment I have to leave the house, which often leads to me being late!

But I found a real beauty in slowing down and noticing what was going on around me. The garden bed which I considered to be mostly empty was actually full of clever bind weeds that had tentacles spanning over the whole of the bed.

I suddenly saw how prolific they were – a lesson from Mother Nature that things are not always as they seem and how slowing down and paying attention can be worth it.

The web

Oh my gosh, the amount of roots I discovered as I dug around the patch of earth!

It was like the earth was webbed together with roots. The flowers woven with the honeysuckle, the weeds and the vine we have growing in there.

Little thread veins were EVERYWHERE and I loved the living metaphor for how much we too are connected. With each other, with nature and with something beyond us.

It was beautiful. And so comforting to think about the world beneath our feet. The wildness under our pavement and roads of tree roots and plant roots which network and co-exist together.

As I stare at the Level Park nearby where I’m writing this, I imagine the trees that have been here for hundreds of years and must have a web of interconnected life beneath us. A source of power and strength that we can’t see with our bare eyes but very much is there.

Shifting problems

As I attempted to clear the weeds from the bed, I soon realised why a gardening fork is needed for this work. Because attacking a weed front on – attempting to pull it straight up from the earth – doesn’t work.

The leaves snap off and the weed will soon grow back.

So instead you need to first loosen the weed’s hold on the earth. Wiggling and jiggling the earth around it until it is loose enough to pull out.

There again, another cup full of wisdom from the earth!

How often do we try to solve our problems face on and fail? Try to get healthier by dieting until we fall off the wagon as we haven’t addressed all the things around it –

  • The comfort we get from food
  • How we associate it with a past we haven’t been able to let go of
  • Our disassociation from the raw ingredients that make up our food in this fast-consumption society.
  • Our life that is too busy to take time for real self-care
  • The numbing that foods high in sugar, fat and salt gives us

But start to wiggle and jiggle these things and we might be able to let go of what binds us.

Being physical

My back ached at the end of my weeding session but I adored the focus on being physical. It’s not something I often get in my office job.

In the garden, I used the power in my arms to chop back the blackberry plant. I felt the wind against my skin as it whipped around me. My senses were heightened as I heard the birds calling in the skies.

It was a pleasure to get into my skin and just be there instead of living inside my head – being hijacked by the galloping pace of my thoughts and my emotions.

Being physical brought me peace.


So there you are – a few reflections from my time in the wonderful world of plants.

I’m sure there’ll be many more musings to come.

I’ve not been here

I’m aware that I’ve not written a blog in a good few weeks now. I’ve started a few – one about my choice to be vegan, one about death and rebirth and another about the connection to each other that I’ve sensed we’ve lost.

But none of them have felt right.

I’ve been asking myself why I haven’t been able to finish/share them.

Part of me knows that there’s a hesitation to be open about my recent experiences which are a bit ‘hippy dippy’ and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Will you accept me? Will people think I’m crazy? Are these precious, new things right to share as they unfurl within me?

Another part of me doesn’t want to alienate anyone (or perhaps make anyone uncomfortable) in sharing why I don’t eat meat, dairy or any other animal products. Or my controversial (and privileged) views about how we should consume less and step into different ways of being that hurt the planet less.

I shy away from confrontation and I know that writing about these issues can trigger responses in people that are not comfortable for me. And they might reflect things about myself that I’m not comfortable with – my white, middle-class privilege, for example.

I’ve also been hibernating to nourish myself so I can be present for those I love who are going through hard times – a friend whose child is very sick and has been on the brink of death, friends going through relationship break-ups or those trying to cope with redundancies at the worst possible moments in their lives.

And I’ve been hibernating as I ask myself some fundamental questions about who I am, what I need from relationships and where I want to be focusing my energy and time.

I also feel a new chapter of my life start to emerge. One that is focused less on introspection – asking the big questions of myself and exploring my experience as a woman on this earth – and focused more on discovering (and creating) who I am in action and in the moment. 

So why am I sharing this with you?

Because I’ve been present on this blog, week in week out, for years now. And it doesn’t feel right to not be here without sharing why.

And because I sense this blog might change slightly in its focus (or I might even question whether it needs to be here at all going forward) and I needed to work this through out loud to you, my friend. To start planting the seed of ‘what is needed’ for me.

I’ve not been here, but I am still here.

So watch this space if you’re interested in what might come next.

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Holding my breath

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

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

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

Disliking my body and eating to comfort myself.

But it feels different this time.

I’m asking myself what has changed…

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

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

Here are my thoughts…

I accept who I am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m proud of who I am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m talented.

I’m proud of who I am.

I’m grateful

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

She says the antidote to this is gratitude.

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

But now I’m practicing gratitude.

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

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

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

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

My anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expressing myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking care of myself

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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This is the holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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My beautiful body

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

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

I’d go even further than that actually.

I like who I am physically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I find it to be enough.

More than enough. I find it to be beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is perfect.


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

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Love

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

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

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

I’ve made decisions out of fear.

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

And my experience had taught me that this was true.

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

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

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

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

Believed in.

Seen.

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

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

Because I didn’t believe it myself.

But on this weekend away, something clicked for me.

I felt what it is to love myself unconditionally.

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

I never knew it could feel like this.

To feel truly ok because I love myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I see that these experiences don’t define me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s truly beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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


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