Merry go round

In the past, I’ve had so many conversations with people about how overstretched I feel. I can’t count the amount of times over the year that I’ve said “I wish this merry-go-round would stop”; talking about my life and how I wish I could just get off it for a moment to catch my breath.

I think I’ve even written it here on this blog.

Life pre-covid-19 was so busy – family time was demanding with a young child, work was stretching (in a good way) and my social life kept me busy with plans stretching months ahead.

But the other day I was speaking to someone on the phone, asking each other how we were doing and I realised that with the current lockdown we’re living through, I’ve slowly unfolded into a new slower pace of life.

The merry-go-round has stopped.

And I’ve loved it.

Sure, there have been challenges – I’ve written about them on this blog – but the overwhelming feeling I’ve had in my life is relief for the time and space I now have in my life. 

Relief of having weekends filled with nothing but family togetherness; the highlight being a pizza night or a cycle down to the seafront and time throwing stones into the sea.

Relief at having time to properly care for myself – running through parks instead of commuting to work, reading in my newly set up ‘cosy corner’ in the afternoon sun, finding moments of kindness and connection as I wave to people on the walk up my road. 

Relief to find myself suddenly in a pace of life where I don’t expect myself to do anything or be anything.

I just am.

And part of me feels awful for feeling thankful in this time that is so deeply challenging for others – people pushed to the brink of breaking point psychologically, emotionally, financially, physically.

Is it right to flourish and have gratitude for the sudden break in life when people are losing their lives to this pandemic? 

But as I find myself whirling into a tailspin, wondering if I can even share these words with you, dear friend, I’m reminded of a podcast I listened to recently on comparative suffering, knowing that my lack of suffering at this moment doesn’t take away from what others are going through.

There’s room in this world for all our experiences. 

And I recognise that I was suffering before this pandemic slowed me down. 

Suffering from lack of space, a life that was unsustainable, an unhelpful pattern of constantly saying ‘yes’ to things that didn’t serve me, FOMO, not listening to myself and what I needed. 

And part of me is scared about what will happen when this lockdown ends – when I am back in a life that has more hard edges to it – with commuting, for example – and more soft edges too, with the possibility of socialising. 

I feel like a freak for loving the additional time alone, for not wanting to be with lots of people, for having a life that is full enough as it is. 

And yet, this is my truth. 

  • I love time alone. 
  • I only need a few close friends to feel like the richest person in the world. 
  • I’m happy living a simple life, with the company of my family and time out in nature. 
  • I like living somewhere with neighbours who look out for each other. 

I love this world where the merry-go-round has stopped – not for the suffering it has caused others but for the simplicity it has brought to my life. 

I hope I find a way to not get back on the merry-go-round – or to find a way to regularly get off it – when it starts to turn again. 

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It’s a marathon

Over the past three weeks while we’ve been in a covid-19 lockdown, I’ve seen incredible reactions from organisations and individuals, helping those most in need to get through this period of time.

Informal groups have formed on streets to look out for each other, people have stepped into new roles where needed to fill gaps, people have stayed indoors during this glorious period of sunshine to protect others and individuals have burned the midnight oil, working well into the night and into weekends to sort out the logistics of changes to services and the volume of work that needs to be done.

I’ve started working shifts at a crematorium that is part of my organisation because they need to increase capacity (a sad but necessary task so we can support people to say goodbye to their loved ones in a dignified and meaningful way) and have been working to support the work being done to link up volunteers with those in the community who are vulnerable and in need of help.

And I’m working on some resilience support for people within my organisation.

And am at home with a two year old a lot more than I have been in the past.

It seems to me that we need to shift from ‘sprint’ mode to getting into a marathon stride. One that is slower paced, but necessary to not burn out.

It’s needed if we’re to accept that we’ll probably be living this altered reality for some time yet to come in order to protect our health system from being inundated with sick people and to protect ourselves and our communities from covid-19.

So here is what I’m doing to keep my marathon stride:

Keep some sort of routine

Life seems more manageable if I’ve got some sort of routine in it. And that’s fairly easy to do because of childcare and work…but it’s been a bit challenging around the Easter weekend when we would usually be going out with friends or having lots of plans for how we’ll use our time.

So we’ve had discussions each day about what the bank holiday would have in store for us.

Usually some form of exercise outside – a hike or bike ride, a film in the afternoon, the games or activities planned for the day (I’d highly recommend playdough pictionary!) and an idea about dinner, whether that was a BBQ in the back garden or a pizza night, which we’re looking forward to this evening.

With a toddler who has the need for attention, routine has been helpful to not go crazy and to feel like we could carry on with this, even if it was for a few more weeks, months or longer.

Take care of the basics

I’ve been making sure to take care of the basic things that make me function well. The boring stuff, like getting enough sleep, exercising, not just eating trash (Easter Eggs aside), meditating, blogging…

Someone in my team sent this around in our team Whatsapp and it sums up how I’m trying to live through this time – remembering that it’s the normal self-care practices that enable me to make the difference and not go into meltdown.

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Find ways to get my ‘time out’

If you know me well, you’ll know that there’s nothing more that I like to do than go to a cafe and spend hours there – reading, writing, eating cake and drinking coffee.

And while it’s an easy sacrifice to no longer get this time outside, I still have the need for space by myself – the main reason for my cafe addiction.

And so I’ve created my own comfy space, where all my trinkets are now stored and where I can keep all the books I want to read. I’m currently sat in this little cosy corner – tap, tap, tapping away on my laptop in happy solitude.

And I’m keeping my ‘alone time’ routine – spending the Thursday evenings I’d usually be by myself off parenting duty – in my chair in happy solitude. WhatsApp Image 2020-04-04 at 18.10.36

Acknowledge what I am doing

At the start of lockdown, I felt hopeless. ‘I’m not doing enough’ was the story I was telling myself. ‘I should be taking more of a leadership role at work’ was another of the stories floating around in my head.

But I was doing all I could – in work and outside of work.

I wasn’t perfect, I could have perhaps done more, but I did what I could.

So I want to say the same thing to you –

  • If you’re a key worker, going out still, you are doing your bit.
  • If you are staying inside and socially distancing when you’d really love to go out, you are also doing your bit.
  • If you are phoning up friends and family to make sure they’re ok, you are doing your bit.

Now is not the time to be unkind to yourself about your shortcomings. Now is the time to acknowledge all that you are doing for yourself and others.

Finding gratitude

For all the fear and uncertainty that covid-19 is bringing, there are also things to be grateful for. Finding them has been key to keeping my mental health as well as it is.

I feel grateful that I’ve kept my health and that most of those around me have stayed healthy and well too.

I’ve also felt grateful for the simple things that are having so much more meaning to me now, exercise outside once a day – a jog has never been more of a treat than it is now – the sunshine we’ve had this weekend, time saved not commuting to work that I can spend having a longer lunch break to do said jogging or to spend time reading.

Before covid-19, my time was mostly allocated – weekends had things booked in, evenings were busy for two months ahead. And I’ve been grateful that this has stopped and I’ve had time to breathe and be still. To live a simpler life co-parenting and enjoying less plans and more living in the present moment.


So here are some of my thoughts about staying sane during this time and getting into the stride of a longer period of isolation.

I hope some of my words have been useful to you and give you inspiration of what you can do to look after yourself.

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Taking my own advice

I’m sat here, quickly typing away at this post before I go to London for my birthday weekend. I thought to myself this morning, as I was looking after Jenson at 5:15am, “what a different place I am this year compared to last year”.

In some ways it’s the best different in the world but in other ways, I desperately miss my old life. Miss being able to lie-in. Miss hours at cafes to blog. Miss having time as my own when I get home from work. Miss having more energy for things. Miss not having to feel pushy to have some time to myself.

Motherhood is beautiful but I’m also finding it brutal.

I want to do the best thing by Jenson – want him to have the best start in life – but I also know that this comes with a price for me as his needs stand firmly above my own.

For now at least. 

And so I just quickly looked back at my birthday post from last year and couldn’t believe that what I had written there spoke so clearly to me. 

I had written about how great my life was – job I loved, happy place with relationships, feeling I was starting to let go of people pleasing and start prioritising my own wellbeing – and shared my wisdom from when I had been in a darker place:

  • Reach out to someone
  • Take steps for the better but accept the present
  • Find gratitude
  • Know that this will pass

I couldn’t have known that I, a year later, would so desperately need these words of encouragement and support.

But my advice was spot on.

So I’m going to reach out and share that I’m struggling a bit – I suppose even writing this is me doing that.

I’ll think about what ‘steps for the better’ look like  – I think it means taking more time at the weekend to take care of myself, continuing to work from home as much as I can to have longer in bed and a gentler day, perhaps having one evening a week where I don’t snuggle down to watch a TV programme with Gregg but do something that is extra specially nourishing for me.

I’ll spend some time on my trip to London with Gregg reflecting on the gratitude I have for being a mum and for the lives that we’ve got. We’re pretty damn lucky. 

And I will take heart that this will pass. Jenson won’t always be so reliant on me and I’ll be able to be a bit more independent. Breastfeeding will end one day, and while I love nourishing him, it will lead to more independence for me. Just this moment too will pass. I’ll feel less loss for my past life and will be swept up in joy of my son’s laughter, love for my family as we cuddle and play together, pride as people remark what a sweetie he is. 

In a funk

I’m sat down, having just put Jenson down to sleep, and am reflecting on the intermittent funk that I was in yesterday. I had moments of joy – seeing a friend, going to a yoga class, time in a cafe by myself, time laughing about what Jenson was getting up to – but kept on falling back into a bit of a mood. An itchy, scratchy feeling that things weren’t quite right.

And, having reflected on it, I think I know why this was…because I haven’t let go of my old life.

I keep on thinking  about how I’d love to be able to sleep in until noon, spend all day marathoning films, go out to eat in the evening with friends, read a book in the bath for hours and hours…and on the list goes of what I’d love to do for just one day.

And while I would never wish to be without my gorgeous little one, who is one of the very the best things in my whole world, I’ve been keeping hold of what was and is no longer.

I don’t think this has been a problem up until now because prior to this stage Jenson was amiable and willing to tag along doing whatever I wanted to do. But with his new found crawling and his little personality coming through (he’s got my stubbornness!), he’s no longer content to be my little shadow. He wants to be centre stage.

But despite this, I’ve been trying to keep my life as it was. Going out to cafes where there’s nothing much for him to play with, wanting time to chat when I need to be occupying Jenson, wanting to come first when, for now at least, that’s not how things are.

In sharing this with you, it’s helping me to let go of what once was in order to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of what is. And there’s so much to appreciate – my healthy, radiant, cheeky little boy, my family of three who I love spending time with, the possibility of doing other stuff – autumnal walks, craft activities, coffees in soft play centres, dancing around the kitchen, dressing Jenson up in ridiculous outfits, trips to the swimming pool.

And I know that things will get easier. Jenson will become more independent and will need me less which will bring with it the possibility of hours to read by myself, trips out with friends, trips to the cinema, time to cook up a storm in the kitchen. But I’m sure that, when that day comes, I’ll also feel in a funk and will mourn the days when my little boy needed me so desperately.

So I’ll try to appreciate what I have, for I have so much to be grateful for.

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Stopping shopping #2

So I shared with you about three weeks ago that I’m on a shopping ban for the next three months. Three months to simplify my life, reduce the amount I spend and enjoy what I have instead of always wanting more.

Since I committed to this way of living, I’ve found myself challenged a few times but have so far managed to avoid spending anything off my list of unallowed items.

The first time I was super keen to buy what I didn’t need was in Dubai airport on the way home from our travels. After five weeks of mostly no coffee (caffeine + breastfeeding = 🙅🏻‍♀️) I came across so many cafés selling the beautiful elixir that is decaffeinated coffee. And I wanted one so badly. To be honest, I could have bought one – it wasn’t on my banned list (I only said no to buying coffees when at work) – but it felt wrong so soon after my commitment of living on less to buy one. And so I did without one and felt quite smug until I walked past another café which brought new temptation. But I stayed strong, I resisted and then Gregg found something so wonderful…free ice cream given out by Emirates. It was better than any coffee I could have ever bought (and, I won’t lie, I may have had two of them 😬).

In the lead-up to my return to work I went into a frenzy of simplifying my life which I might write about in more detail at another point. I reduced my wardrobe to 25 items of clothing (the thought being that less choice leads to less anxiety), got rid of so much clutter in my bathroom cabinet (moisturiser I have had for years, make-up I have bought but never used) and put away the many pieces of jewellery that I have but rarely wear.

I found myself wanting to have different clothes – ones that were more ‘professional’ or ‘smartly-quirky’ to go back to work but my determination to not buy clothes made me dive into what this desire was about – wanting to be more (what ‘more’ is I’m not sure) and wanting to pin my confidence on my external appearance instead of knowing that I am enough just as I am. I know these thoughts of ‘not enoughness’ are perfectly normal for a returning-to-work mum so I’m not sharing this to berate myself. I found it good to notice what was going on for me and to remind myself that I am enough as I am, that I am not just what I look like.

On my first day back to work I had another stumble. I needed to buy a new tupperware container to store my milk expressing kit (sorry if this is TMI) and suddenly found myself in the kitchen aisle picking up a pretty new mug. It had a lovely geometric print on it, it was fairly large for a lovely big cup of chai or peppermint tea and I felt I needed it. I was putting it in my basket before I remembered that this was not something that was on my list of approved items to buy and so I put it back on the shelf. In that moment I felt disappointed to not be buying it – it was so damn pretty – but I knew it was the right thing to do.

And this was a pivotal moment for me where I realised how much I have a ‘disposable’ mentality.

Let me explain more.

Because I bought things with such haste and ease in the past, I was ok with the possibility of losing them or mistreating them so they fell apart. But I don’t like this way of being, such little care shown my possessions. I’d never buy real quality items – sunglasses would be cheap £5 ones, clothes would be what I could find in the sales. Part of this comes down the thriftiness – not wanting to part more money because of the item having a recognisable brand name – but it also comes down to my disposable mentality. Not wanting to buy something I knew wouldn’t last long.

One fear I had was that I’d feel restricted during the weekends or times where I’d usually potter around the shops (although those times have pretty much melted away since having my son!). But instead I’ve found this ban to be refreshing. We’ve enjoyed time in the park as a family, scrounged a picnic together from left-overs, spent time together just enjoying each other’s company. Taking shopping off the table has made more time in my life.

Almost a month into my shopping ban, I feel really good. Positive that this is the right step for me, happy with the level of challenge it is bringing me and sure that I will be able to complete this three month challenge – and even extend it to six months or a year!

Our NHS

I saw from a friend’s profile picture on Facebook that the NHS is 70 years old and I’m so grateful for all that this epic institution has done for me in my life as well as for those around me.

I can’t express eloquently enough the role it has played in my life – it has saved me multiple times. And that’s not an exaggeration.

When I was younger, I was a troubled young thing. So sensitive, bullied at school and unsure of my place in this world. There came a time in my young, naive life where I was so low I couldn’t see a future for myself and I took an overdose. Not a huge amount but enough that if I hadn’t told my brother in tears what I had foolishly done, I most probably would have died. It seems like another person’s story – not mine – and yet it was a page in my life. And thanks to the NHS, I had my stomach pumped, received counselling and started my wobbly journey to finding my footing in this life.

Sadly this isn’t where my mental health improved completely and, as I’ve shared with you on this blog before, dear friend, I went through another dark period during university where I battled with eating disorders. At my lowest weight of five stone I felt that I wanted to curl into a ball and hibernate against the brutalities of this world. Again, my sensitivity, people pleasing and feeling torn between my (then) Christian belief and what seemed like a polar opposite world that I wanted to fit into and be part of all culminated into a period of extreme mental sickness and it was the NHS that picked me up and gave me the support I needed to survive. An amazing specialist, access to medication, regular medical checks to protect my health as best it could whilst depriving my body from much needed nutrition.

Thankfully that’s a long way in my past. Again, this Amy and who I am now feels a lifetime away. A lifetime I’ve had thanks to the medical support and services of the NHS.

And at the start of this year the NHS again saved my life as I experienced severe blood loss following the birth of my son as my uterus failed to properly contract. In the moments following his birth, my midwife sounded an alarm and suddenly I had five expert doctors surrounding me. Giving me medical support, pumping me with liquids, putting an oxygen mask on me for the shock, guiding my husband and our new baby down to the unit where I was being treated. It all happened in a blur but I never panicked because I knew that the medical experts had my health firmly in their competent hands. Again, I was saved by the NHS.

These are the big ticket uses I’ve made of the amazing NHS and they don’t even begin to cover all the other times I’ve been supported and treated by our medical system. The tetanus jab I received when my finger was bitten by a friend’s rat when I was young. The injections I received for free before coming away on my current travels. The midwife appointments I had when pregnant. The free contraceptive implant I have used for years.

And it doesn’t cover all those who I know whose life the NHS has saved. My cousin, Tom, who had life saving heart treatment as a baby. Charlie, the baby of an NCT friend who had similar treatment for his heart condition and continues to receive outstanding support. My grandma who developed and was treated for pre-eclampsia when pregnant with my mum. My grandad who was cared for by the NHS when he developed gangrene in his foot. And the list could go on…I’m sure we all have stories of what the nhs has done for us.

Sure, it’s not a perfect system. Far from it. I know this all too well after reading ‘this is going to hurt: diaries of a junior doctor‘ on this recent trip away.

But it is special. Granting all access regardless of social standing or how much you have contributed to its running costs. As an institution, I believe it should be cherished and supported and protected.

NHS, I love you. Happy 70th birthday ❤️

Life is good

I’ve been in Bristol for a few days to visit my family before my maternity leave is over and Gregg takes over in caring for our son, Jenson. It’s been a lovely, relaxing time and I’m sat here before I set off back to Brighton thinking about how good life is and how fortunate I am.

My dad and I were talking about travels we’ve done over the past year and our favourite moments. He spoke about how he learnt to windsurf in Jamaica and, whilst surfing along, had a visit from a turtle who popped up next to him. It reminded me of a memory I have from when I lived in Japan – a snapshot from my time there which I still remember vividly and fills me with such happiness.

I was training for a half-marathon and was going out for a run along the rice fields of Toyosato, the town I lived in. The sun was shining, I was in my stride and was listening to one of my favourite artists, Ingrid Michaelson. I was in a state of flow, just present in the moment and only aware of my immediate surroundings. My heart beating, my feet pounding, the feeling of the warm sun, no particular thoughts in my mind.

And then a beautiful butterfly suddenly appeared next to me and flew with me for the duration of the song.

It fluttered, almost dancing along and in that moment, I knew that I was truly blessed in life. Life was good.

It was such a small thing – the presence of this tiny thing of beauty while I ran – but summed up how good life is.

How I had my health, as I still do.

That I had no immediate, burdening concerns in my life, like now.

How life is ripe for the picking and filled with moments of beauty and grace. If only I open my eyes to them.

I knew in that moment that all was well in my life. And I know this is true for my life now.

And in many ways, my son is my butterfly. Bringing me back to the present moment, showing me the beauty of the world in his gorgeous, gummy smile and helping me to see things anew as her shows such curiosity and wonder at each new experience he has.

Sure, life can be full of hardships – suffering and struggles, pain and predicaments.

But life is, for me at least, fundamentally good. And I’m so very grateful for it.

The promise of spring

A few people have asked me if I mind going back to work just when summer arrives. You see, I’m sharing my maternity leave with my husband and he’s taking 6 months off from July onwards to look after our son instead of me taking the full year off.

I have to say, I’m not sad about ‘missing’ summer at all. Because I’m so glad that I’m out and about with my son and get to experience all of spring in it’s splendour. It’s the season I love the most.

There’s so much promise for me when I look at the spring season starting to unfurl. Trees sprouting little buds of leaves, cherry blossoms coming into bloom and the sun appearing earlier and setting later.

Unlike many people, I don’t get fed up of winter and the cold, because I get to enjoy the frosty and festive lead-up to Christmas when it starts to get dark and cold and once New Year has passed, I can already see the early signs of spring starting to appear. The slightly later days and early birdsong you hear on a mild winter day holds with it the promise of spring.

I’ve been thinking over the last week about how the experience of spring gives me hope on a wider level and reminds me that whatever is going on in my life, new possibilities are always around the corner. As much as there are seasons of hardship, there are also seasons of new beginnings never too far away.

When Jenson is going through an unsettled spell, I know that it will pass and he will soon be back to smiling and being content.

When I’m frustrated that I don’t have enough time to devote to taking on lots of new coaching clients, I know that there will come a time when I have my evenings and weekends back to be able to do so.

When I feel sad with the lack of community as I shared in my last blog post, I know that things will change and I’ll one day find my tribe of people in Brighton.

I’m so grateful for this season and all the promise it holds and hope you enjoy the beauty of spring too, dear friend.