Power

I had a dream last night that I’m sharing with you partly so I’ll remember it but also because it may speak to you as it did to me.

I’ve always considered dreams to just be something our mind does to process our experience or a time where we can access our imagination and the treasures of our mind. However, some books I’ve been reading recently have intrigued me in the power of dreams to not just access our unconscious but to also tap into something deeper than that…this is why I’ve been paying particular attention to them of late and perhaps why I’ve noticed more of them recently.

The dream last night was almost marvel or DC Comic-like in its plot. Where several people were waging against a tyrant with the intent for destruction and domination. His hunger was for control, for all to surrender to his power and to be under his influence and doing his bidding.

His cronies were destroying someone – perhaps it was even me (or part of me?) – who was daring to speak up and stand up to him.

And then I saw the master himself, smooth-tongued and hell-bent on destruction. He had gathered some people to him who could take a stand against him.

He was telling them the contracts they had taken with him – the deals to keep safe, but keep small. He was promising them their safety if only they bent to his will.

And then one of the people in that line said ‘but this contract isn’t signed in my true name’.

It wasn’t a trick that the person had played upon this tyrant, signing with a fake name to deceive and render the contract null and void.

It was deeper than that – the realisation that the role we step into of worker, carer, well-behaved, rebel – is not the true nature of who we are and the power we give away doesn’t have to be our path in life.

For we have different names – that speak to our soul’s calling and the irrevocable belonging that is our right.

It reminds me of the final main scene in the Labyrinth when the female lead, Sarah, breaks the spell of the Goblin King, realising that the only power he has over her is the power she gives away to him.

And it also reminds me of this beautiful poem by David Whyte from RIVER FLOW: NEW & SELECTED POEMS:

I can’t say I know my ‘name’ yet – and I’m not fully acquainted with my wild mouth and my song – and perhaps it’s naive to think that I will get ‘there’ in a swift, decisive moment or that it’s a fixed thing.

But I do know that the roles I’ve complied with in life – the carer, the ‘well behaved’, follower of rules, striver of excellence – are not ‘it’ and I feel the call within – the possibility of what it might be to step into my power.

Holiday reflections

I’ve spent a glorious week away on holiday in Wales and want to take a few minutes with you to reflect on what I’ve experienced during my time here.

I’d felt a bit apprehensive about this trip, having felt stretched beyond measure on previous visits here in the early years of motherhood and in need of a proper rest after the past four months of lockdown.

But despite having planned in time alone, I didn’t need to take any space by myself. I truly enjoyed everything that we did as a group – swimming, hiking, chilling, cooking – so much so that I felt out of sorts last night….a feeling I discovered to be a sadness of leaving this bliss, this reprieve from ‘normal’ life.

So here are my thoughts from this week.

Grounded

I can see and feel how much I’ve changed over the past year.

Part of the joy this week was thanks to the company – people who had no expectations of me – and the love and care that they showed Jenson, my son, which gave me a bit more time alone.

However, a big part of the peace was down to me being ok just doing my thing. Not worrying about what others think, not taking on responsibility for the happiness of the people who were here with us, being ok stating what I wanted to do and not worrying about the opinions or needs of others.

I can see that I’ve grown to be ok in my skin. I’m grounded in myself.

And it feels good.

Moving

I also can see how my relationship with my body and exercise has changed too.

I went on two gorgeous long runs in my time away and went hiking with the group in Snowdonia.

But unlike before, what I loved about this exercise was the feeling of my muscles straining, my heart beating, my body feeling alive with the effort of movement.

Instead of running to be able to eat more or to offset over eating, I ran and hiked for the love of it.

Watching my thinking

I also witnessed my thinking a lot on this holiday. I was able to step back and inquire into unhelpful thoughts.

The few times that I worried about whether it was ok to be spending my time reading or going to bed at 10pm when everyone else was up until 2am, I was able to step back and ask myself what was going on. Why I was worrying about this.

Usually it was from fear of not fitting in, worry of what others were thinking about me, feeling tired and so more critical of myself.

And being able to witness my thoughts, I was able to not be swept up in these thoughts. I was able to challenge them and be more choiceful in my response.


So there are my thoughts from this perfect week away. I wish I had another week to go but will have to wait until next year…I wonder what will have changed in me by then.

I’m learning

I’m sat here in a café in Australia, whilst my beautiful sister takes care of my son, Jenson, for the day.

Ahead of me is a wonderful day of celebration as one of my closest friends gets married and I celebrate the solstice where in Australia we have the longest day and in the UK we have the shortest day. A moment from which we will fall into greater darkness as the nights draw in or greater lightness as the days get longer.

It’s a day that is so special to me, pairing up both a celebration of love with the wedding and the celebration of the changing seasons of Mother Earth.

All the while being in Australia on holiday, how fantastic!

But over the past few days I recognised that I’ve not been my best self on holiday.

Because I haven’t put in place the measures needed for me to take full care of myself.

The first two weeks were spent in action. Working up to the wire, taking the plane over to Australia, dealing with jetlag, visiting Brisbane and having days full of fun based around my son and his needs. I’m so lucky that my family were happy to go with his flow, but it meant that we didn’t go with the flow of anyone else.

And my flow very much requires time alone to slow down, listen to myself, decompress and reenergise.

But instead of doing that I just kept on pushing, kept on going, kept on surrounding myself with people.

This was to the detriment of myself, other people and the detriment of my experience here on holiday.

I attended a solstice yoga session yesterday and it felt so good to be doing a practice that was so physical, releasing the anger and frustration I feel at myself for not having listened to my needs, for still being on this journey where I find myself again and again pushed beyond my means.

But as I said here, I realise this is a learning process.

Finding myself after the fact not having done what I needed.

And one day this will shift and I will find myself in the moment thinking “hang on a second Amy, you need time by yourself.”.

And then it will become natural, and I won’t even think twice about taking time for myself and finding moments of quiet to re-centre and the balance myself.

So with kindness I remind myself that I have not waited until after the fact, after the holiday when I feel battered and bruised, metaphorically lying on the floor a broken person, to take action. I started my journey earlier than before. I reached out and asked my sister for help and support.

I’m learning.

The cards I was dealt

It’s my birthday!!!!

And as per every year I wanted to spend a bit of time reflecting this past year and thoughts I have about getting older, where I’ve been and where I’m yet to go.

This year has been a BIG year!

But then again every year is a big year for me!

With lessons learnt and adventures had and lots of paths travelled.

As I cycled into work this morning I was messaging my friend and thinking about what I’ve learnt about myself through my experience of birthing my son, Jenson.

I reflected to her on the conversation I had with a friend yesterday about our sons and how their personalities were set before they came into the world. Hers so confident and independent. Mine in need of company, screaming if he wasn’t being held in someone’s arms for the first five months and, even now, constantly asking for cuddles, tugging us towards him to play and wanting to be side-by-side with us at most moments of the day.

And so I think about what I must’ve had in me the moment that I entered this world. Curiosity, kindness, gentleness, tenacity, enjoyment being in my own company, only needing a few friends to be fully replete, a deep thinker.

As with him, my cards were dealt before I was born – and I had a good hand – but I feel like this is the year that I’ve started to really play my hand.

I’ve started to see what I’ve got and how I can use my skills, my gifts, my self to my full advantage and in service of what I feel I’m here to do on this world – challenging and rebuilding the structures of our society. Whether that’s the role of woman, our treatment of the planet, our political or educational system, the healthcare system. This is what I’m here to do – I feel it deep in my heart and in my gut.

This is the year that I stepped into the possibility of my future.

This is the year where I started to think about how I show up and how this influences outcomes.

I have started to settle deep into my body and listen to what’s going on for me on many levels – not just intellectually, but in my heart and in my body physically.

This is the year that I’ve realised I don’t only have the ‘enthusiastic’ card to play. I don’t have to show up as the sparky, bright, pretty thing to have influence in this world.

I can show up with the presence of a mature, powerful woman.

I can show up as the renegade.

And I have started to see, just this month, how I might be able to be effective in spaces where people have conflicting views (myself included), helping to find a way forward when no way has been found for years.

I’m taking huge strides, jumping forward in my development whilst being kind as I stumble and fall whilst doing new things.

And as I play my cards to their full effect I’m also grateful for those people around me who play their cards in support of mine.

To my husband who supports and champions me, cheering me on as I seek to experience new things and go to different places.

And my friends, who, showing up fully themselves, make space for me to do the same.

To those people at work who have not needed me to be ‘sparky’ or ‘bright’ to be accepted but have called me into showing my full self at work.

To my family who are my safe place to retreat when times get hard.

So here’s to another year of adventure, learning, leaping and stumbling forward.

Here’s to another year stepping more fully into courage, truth and love.

No more apologies

I’ve started to prioritise myself a bit more.

It started when I realised that I was carrying so much with work and motherhood, leaving no space for myself.

My mental health was suffering from not giving myself any room to breathe, to rest, to have joy in things that are my own.

And so I started to take the space I needed.

Thursday evenings are my own to rest, reflect, explore or connect with others and each month I take a longer period of time for myself. Whether that’s a night away or a longer time alone.

But I feel judgement – mostly self-judgement – about my motherhood not fitting into the archetypical experience of what is ‘should’ be.

And on some days, I feel brave and strong when I respond to the ‘don’t you miss him when you’re away from him’, the ‘don’t you feel guilty’ or the ‘I bet you’ll miss him when you’re on holiday’ with the truth.

That I don’t miss him all the time, I don’t feel guilty for taking time for myself and that sometimes I could do with more time alone.

And some other days I find it hard to step into the greater truth.

The truth motherhood hasn’t made me. It’s challenged me, pushed me, forged a new strength in me but it hasn’t been the bright star that has given me a purpose missing in my life before.  I was purposeful enough already.

The truth that I wasn’t made to be a mum, I’ve stepped into motherhood. And if anything I feel broken apart due to the stretching that comes with my universe having to encompass another person’s needs.

The truth that I find the routine of motherhood boring at times. The rhythms of my son wanting to spend hours playing with his cars, the 5:50am wake-ups and the splitting up conversations and connections as I rush over to him to keep him safe from a height, a surface or whatever trouble is just around the corner for him.

Don’t misunderstand me, my love for Jenson is as fierce as a lioness and I’m bowled over by the joy that he brings. Yet motherhood is not enough for me in itself.

I used to get mad at myself for not having it in me to fit into this perfect motherhood box.

And I used to feel a sense of failure about this all.

But now, instead of telling myself about all the ways that I’ve failed, I feel more angry with the world and our structures which set me up for failure.

The world makes it seem possible for us to have it all – work hard, parent hard – without the social structures around us to catch the bits that are impossible to do.

The world fails me.

The social constructs with attachment parenting talks about the vital importance of the mother to instil a wellbeing in the child. But where’s Gregg’s role in this model to comfort, to feed, to be our son’s centre of gravity until he finds his own?

Our models of understanding fail me.

Our very ways of being with each other as human beings which can polarise different views of motherhood – you only have to spend a moment on Facebook to witness this behaviour. Those who say ‘it’s not natural for children to be breastfed for so long’ and those who say ‘but have you really tried?’ when a mother decides to stop breastfeeding because it’s not working for her or her child.

Our inability to listen deeply to understand the other fails me.

Our expectation that social structures – from the patriarchal vision of ‘what women should be’ down to schooling which teaches the importance of external validation -passing exams – over following what lights you up.

Our society fails me.

And where does it leave me?

Set up to feel like a failure for not being able to be everything to everyone.

The story of my life, which would have, in years gone by, led me to just try harder feeling like the impossible was due to my ineptitude and would be solved if I only worked at it a bit more.

But instead I’m starting to walk a different way.

A way which challenges the ‘don’t you feel guilty’ by asking whether that’s a question that would be asked to a man…and if not, why should I be held to account for it?

A way where I declare, starting with this blog, that motherhood is an individual journey and no two are the same. I’m no less a ‘good’ mum because I want to work and find parts of the experience boring than a mum who wants to be the sole carer and is in rapture at everything their child does.

A way where I take more time for myself and don’t have to attribute it to how good it is for my son to see a strong woman taking time for herself. I do it because I want the time alone, I need the time alone. And that’s a good enough reason to take it.

I’m not going to apologise for my experience anymore.


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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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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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I’ve got enough

I’m nearing the end my year of not shopping. Not unnecessarily buying clothing, toiletries, nail varnish, books, stationary. All the things that would be nice to have but I don’t need.

I’ve bent my rules a little over the year, buying ebooks that I want to read, especially when my library doesn’t have a copy on hand, and I’ve bought four items knowingly – a teething necklace (complete waste of time), a dress (lovely but I didn’t need it), a lip stain (good purchase, but I could have coped without) and a notebook which was on sale and I’ll keep for when I need one.

But apart from these three items, I’ve let numerous other ones go. Wanting to jump into a purchase but holding back and finding, after the initial urge, that I didn’t really need them.

I’ve also changed the way I buy for others, not just throwing money at things because I need to buy them a present but asking what they want if I don’t know and learning that my worth is not connected to my skill of present buying.

And while I think I’m going to relax my rules and allow myself to buy in charity shops across the year, I’m going to keep going with my ‘stopping shopping’ lifestyle.

And here’s why:

I’ve been reading a book called ‘doughnut economics’ – I’d highly recommend it. It shows how current economic theory, built on continued growth as it’s defining measure, isn’t viable for ongoing life on Earth.

We need to find a sweet spot between people having enough to survive (access to water, healthcare, education, food, social support networks) and not pushing our planet above the threshold of what it can sustain (leading to climate change, ocean acidification, air pollution).

There is a balance, and it’s found through churning out less.

It’s found through valuing what can’t be bought. Finding happiness in connection, contentment in having just enough.

And that’s what I’ve discovered this year – I have enough already. A roof over my head, enough food to eat, clothes on my back, meaningful work, a family I love.

I actually have more than enough – means to take a holiday, a salary that pays enough for me to work a reduced week and still cover my mortgage, enough to save a bit away for Jenson.

I do wonder whether this experience of mine shows just how privileged I am. I have the ability to shop, I just choose not to. Whilst others don’t have that luxury…but I am where I am and I’m trying to do my part.

I’m coming from a place of privilege but what I’ve done isn’t nothing. I’ve managed something of substance through questioning how and why I consume things…

So what’s next?

I’m always one for moving onwards and upwards, but there’s maybe a lesson for me in the doughnut economics.

Finding a life which has a smaller environmental impact whilst not breaking myself through unrealistic expectations.

Yes, there’s a climate crisis which needs us all to act. But I don’t need to berate myself for not being perfectly carbon neutral.

But I can’t help but feel a ‘what next’ and I feel in my body a discomfort with the amount I fly and the environmental impact it has, which blows out of the water any environmental kindness I’m trying to make through veganism, my move to stop shopping and the eco choices I’m moving to (such as cloth nappies).

I’m also aware of how mass farming of crops is destroying our land through the use of harsh chemicals. So I’m finding myself wondering whether buying organically where possible might be something I’m called to.

But I’m going to pause for a moment and celebrate how I’ve not contributed (much) to the consumerist machine this year.

It’s a small step, but I’m doing my part, and that feels pretty good.

What small thing could you do, friend? We all need do our part, however small, if we’re to save the world.

Not the whole truth

I’m feeling a bit better since I ranted to you a few days ago. A night out with my husband did wonders for me feeling like an actual human being instead of being in a constant state of mum.

A lie-in has also left me feeling a bit more replenished as well as the day ahead of me – in London with my mum.

From this, I know that:

  1. Feelings are better out than in
  2. I need to get out more with Gregg
  3. Sleep needs to take more priority
  4. I’ll need to ask for more help from people around us to babysit – already two friends, Laura and Ellie, have been amazing taking Jenson for an evening. Big love to you both if you’re reading this.

I’m also left feeling better after a coaching session I had yesterday which showed me that my inner critic has been rampaging around me recently. Due to tiredness, being stretched beyond my means, keeping in all my feelings, I’ve had little resources to keep her at bay and she’s been busying herself.

You’re only a good mum if you manage to breastfeed until he’s 2.

You’ll never be able to express yourself.

You’re broken.

You don’t know how to do this.

You didn’t come up with the best idea for the session and this is the area you’re meant to be an expert at. You’re a fake.

You’ve got no clue what you’re doing.

Hold it together, you need to be perfect.

What would they say if you fell apart. They’d never trust you again.

You don’t have this.

You called your boy a little shit to someone else, what a terrible mother you are.

I can feel these words pressing on my chest like a weight. Making me retreat, feel small.

And I feel the anger towards myself for not managing to hold things together. For not being perfect. For not coping when I think I should be able to bloody well cope with something that appears, on the surface of things, so simple.

And as I spoke to Jenny, we talked through how I might talk to my inner critic.

Acknowledging that she’s just trying to keep me safe by keeping me small.

It’s safe if I measure my life and success by the standards of some external expectation – others, society, perfection.

I’m less likely to trip and fall in front of others if I stay small.

It’s not what I really want. I want an expansive, large, messy, bold, brave life of exploration, courage, excitement.

But that’s really scary too.

I also acknowledge that she’s piping up because I’m reaching breaking point. I’ve been doing too much for too long, giving too much of myself for too long without replenishing myself.

But she’s got her wires crossed and instead of saying ‘Hey, Amy! You need to take care of yourself and sack everything else off’ she shouts at me military-style to try to get me to keep on going.

Awareness that what she’s saying isn’t the whole truth

When I’m in this situation, her voice can be all consuming. And I believe what she’s saying – I’m broken, I’m a failure, I’m shit.

But what she’s saying isn’t the whole truth.

For example, it’s not the whole truth that I need to get everything right every time.

It’s not the whole truth that I need to breastfeed Jenson to be a good mum.

It’s not the whole truth that I don’t know what to do.

It’s not the whole truth that I’m broken.

There are part-truths in there for me –

My role requires some mastery but I don’t need to be right every time – I need to have a learners mindset and ask good questions to help others make progress.

Being a good mum to me means putting the needs of my child first – but I can fulfil Jenson’s need for nourishment through other sorts of milk and lots of affection. It doesn’t need to be through breastfeeding.

I don’t always know what to do, but I do sometimes.

I’m struggling at the moment but I’m not completely broken. And it’s not the whole truth that struggling and even cracking is a crime, a judgement of my worth, a sackable offence.

Calling on another part of me

At the moment my inner critic is pretty loud. But there are other parts of me that have something to say.

The wise part of me able to say that breastfeeding is more about nurturing and loving Jenson, which I can do in other ways.

The cheerleader in me who says ‘you’re a bloody brilliant mum, I’m so proud of you.’

The gentle part of me which says that I need to let Gregg step into the nurturing role with Jenson more so that I can nurture myself and continue to be a good mum to him and be an example to him of the importance of putting yourself first. I want that for him – that he puts himself, his happiness, his well-being, his desires, first – and so I need to show him me doing that in action to role model this behaviour.

Will this ever get better?

I asked Jenny if I’ll ever get to a point where this voice isn’t so loud.

And disappointingly she said ‘no’. But she did say that I’ll get quicker at noticing my inner critic and will get better at telling myself that what she’s saying is only partly true. I’ll get better at calling on different parts of myself to give different perspectives.

It’s not what I wanted to hear, but that’ll have to be enough.

A narrow set of rules that just don’t work

I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.

And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.

I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.

I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.

I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.

But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…

But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

What if I lived by Grace’s words?

Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.

And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.

Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.

And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.

But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.

It’s not realistic.

It’s not something that works for me.

It’s not ok to not be ok

Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.

When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.

When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.

And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.

It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:

  • I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
  • I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
  • I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
  • So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
  • But that’s ok.
  • When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
  • And that’s ok.
  • I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
  • I’m making headway.
  • What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body? 

    Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.

    He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.

    He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.

    He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.

    He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.

    He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.

    He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.

    He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.

    And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.

    To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.

    What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?

    It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.

    To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.

    To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.

    To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.

    To not be defined by how I look.

    To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.

    When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.

    It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.

    It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.

    Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.

    Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.

    So where do I go from here?

    I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.

     I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.

    I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.

    I see the small seed of hope for the future me.

    I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.

    And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:

    “You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”