Ouch!

I was walking down the street a number of months ago, hurrying to pick up a last minute addition to my husband’s birthday presents and passed a father and his son. The son was walking in the same path as I was, and we both did that weird side-to-side shuffle, trying to avoid each other but failing miserably.

He ended up falling to the ground, tripping over my feet. Not hard enough to hurt himself, but he fell.

And the father looked at me angrily after I said ‘sorry!’ and said something I didn’t quite catch.

Perhaps a ‘watch where you’re going’ or something of the sort.

I was a bit shocked – it wasn’t really the fault of either of us – and felt taken aback by his response.

I’m sharing this with you because, unlike my usual reaction, I allowed myself to feel what was going on in my body. The slap-like feeling to my temple, pressure on my chest, the tightening of my throat, the twisting of my stomach.

I allowed myself to feel the hurt physically and it was a new experience for me.

One which I found really interesting.

Likewise, I’ve had a number of situations recently where I’ve felt stung by something someone has said, I’ve felt the hurt of being let down by another.

It links into a comment I’ve heard from a relationship podcast by Esther Perel:

There’s one word that can defuse a conflict with your partner: “Ouch.” As in: “Ouch. That one hurtI don’t know if you were meaning to hurt me; but it hurt.

Through experiencing the feelings that were pulsing through my body, I embodied the feelings.

I felt the ‘ouch’.

I acknowledged the injustice I felt at being snarled at by a stranger for what was an accident. Hurt by a comment. Felt insignificant by being second place.

And it defused the inner conflict I had. The part of me that would refuse to acknowledge what was going on and would push down the feelings deep inside.

I realised it was all about how I was feeling and ouch, it hurt!

On reflection, I think this might be the way fowards for me in dealing with all the emotions I have.

To sit in the pain and feel what’s going on for my body.

To feel into what’s going on for me physically as much as emotionally.

As I do that, I recognise my inter critic. The voice trying to keep me safe by saying ‘you’re not enough, retreat back to a place where you feel safe‘.

And in this moment I choose to instead return to my inner grounding. To recognise that I’m exactly enough for myself.

I see that my ego was hurt by feeling unjustly accused, unjustly hurt, unjustly disregarded.

And, again, when I return to my inner grounding, I hear quiet, powerful voices that say ‘we know it was an accident’, ‘we’re here to comfort you’, ‘we value you.’

I feel the pain and I let it go.

I wish I’d been kinder to myself

I was in a conversation with some mum friends recently, talking about recovering from pregnancy. Some shared that they’d put on weight since their child came on the scene. Due to the pressure and strain of little sleep, struggling with parenthood or just not having enough time to exercise or take care of themselves as they would have in the past.

I understood them, struggling myself at points with not having the time, energy or drive to get back to where I was physically before being a mum.

I fit in my old clothes but my body is different than it was before having Jenson and my diet is less healthy than it was before he came on the scene.

I reach for cake more than I did before and my exercise consists of rushing around from thing to thing and running for the train. I don’t go for runs, I don’t stretch in yoga class, I don’t go anywhere to physically sweat and work out.

But I’m actually ok with that.

As I shared with these mama friends of mine, when I’m on my death bed, I won’t wish I had lost weight or toned up.

I’ll wish I had been kinder to myself.

I’ll wish that I had taken a step back and said ‘you’re doing a great job; working full time, being quite a badass new mum, running a coaching business, keeping friendships going, working on yourself.

I want to be kinder to myself and this means not pushing myself to be at my physical prime at this moment in time. Heck, probably accepting that I’ll never be at a ‘physical prime’ and knowing this is ok!

This kindness means not giving myself a hard time. It also means keeping an eye on my diet and making sure I don’t slip back into comfort eating to soothe myself from the hardships of life. It means accepting myself and not forcing myself to do any sports because I think I ‘should’ do them. It means eating a variety of fruit and vegetables to get adequate vitamins. It means keeping on going to bed at 8:30pm if I need to so I get enough sleep. It means continuing to give myself time along at the weekends to process and reflect on important things like kindness.

And as I think about kindness, I realise what a different place I am in. The old me of a few years ago would not have been able to practice such self-compassion and understanding.

I feel so grateful for where I am and how far I’ve come.

Life is wonderful.

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A tiny step

I am currently sat on the train going to work and wanted to share a quick experience with you, dear friend.

It’s been a bit of a night for me, well, to be honest, every night is a bit of a night at the moment with 4+ wake-ups with Jenson where the only way to settle him is to sit up and cradle him in my arms.

And so today I’ve got out of the bed on the wrong side. Too quick to temper, my inner child stamping its feet if something isn’t 100% right off the mark, feeling like a grumpasaurus. And it’s only 7:15!

I was reading my book on the train – one about developing as a leader – and judged for myself for my shortcomings. I feel I have still so far to go to become anywhere near proficient at what I was reading.

But then I found myself looking at what was going on, as if from a third person’s point of view. And I realised that I was being less than kind to myself when what I really need is patience, understanding, gentleness for myself.

It hit me then and there that this voice was the gentle, balanced one that I’ve been wanting to find for a while. She was finally speaking out! Not after the fact of me being mean, judgemental, less than kind about myself, but joining in with the conversation, appearing in the moment!

Her voice is one that counters all the internal ‘mean girl’ comments I make to myself, the qualifier voice that discounts my experiences (you can’t be sorry for yourself because ‘X’ person has it worse off than you) and the part of myself I fondly refer to as ‘Mabel’ – the timid, scared child side of me who is constantly trying to make me feel safe in an unpredictable world.

To me, this new voice seems like a witness of sorts. Able to step outside what is going on and give me a more balanced view.

I know that this experience is a small thing, a tiny step on my journey to greater kindness for myself, but it feels like a massive thing that I want to celebrate! So even though part of me feels weird sharing this with you (will you think me strange for giving names and characters to all these sub-personalities that I’m formed of?!), I’m putting it out there.

Because this is huge! The start of an internal rebalancing, the discovery of a kinder internal voice, a hope for greater peace and self-love in my life.

Tender

I shared with you recently about a lot going on in my life. Connecting so strongly with the grief in my heart, feeling the call to more, returning to work after the life changing event of becoming a mum, learning all the lessons in store for me about mothering my beautiful, spirited son.

I was lying next to him tonight, feeding him and missing Great British Bake Off (thanks, my little joker. You knew I was wanting to watch it, I’m sure!) and once I accepted the reality that I was going to miss it, I stopped fighting the frustration and tapped into what I was feeling.

And here’s what I felt – a tenderness inside me like a bruise.

Being bashed around so much with exponential personal growth, changes to everything I know and the uncertainty and unpredictability of being a mother and not knowing what the future holds for me.

I am tender and a bit battered and a bit bruised.

There’s no denying how I feel – if just is. And there’s no real changing what’s going on for me – it’s my journey.

What I do know is that I need to show myself kindness and gentleness. I need everyone around me to show me the same gentleness and kindness too as I live this season of my life.

I know if won’t always be this way. But it’s this way at the moment.

There’s no great reveal or revelation about what I can do about where I am. But just expressing it – sharing it with you, dear friend – lightens the load and helps me walk the path that I’m on right now.

It’s not the easiest of roads but I’m sure it’ll lead to somewhere great.

Have I…?

I was sat in my living room tonight, just relaxing while my husband got us a little pudding to eat. Instead of busying myself – reading, texting or doing something or other – I just sat and breathed deeply, observing what was going on for me.

And I realised in that moment that some part of me still judges a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ day based on what I’ve eaten. A vestige of my days ruled by disordered eating.

I knew it wasn’t a way that I want to live. For I know that I am so much more than what I eat or don’t eat. And so I asked myself what other measure I’d like to have for deciding how I felt about my day…and the following questions came into my mind:

  • Have I tried my best today?
  • Have I been the best mum I could possibly be?
  • Have I been the best wife I could possibly be?
  • Have I treated myself with as much kindness as I could possibly show myself?

And in that moment I knew that I could say ‘yes’ to the above. I had done my best at work, I had been the best mum I could be – patient, loving, encouraging, I had been the best wife I could be – grateful, loving, helpful, and I had shown myself kindness. Especially in the act of redefining how I want to measure myself and my success.

Not focusing on what I had eaten – an arbitrary amount that I’ll forget in a few days. Not focusing on what size I am – something that isn’t a reflection of the the size of my heart, the speed of my brain or the measure of my courage.

Instead judging myself with kindness and care.

Today has been a good day.

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Tread lightly

I don’t often write about my choice to eat a plant based diet on this blog of mine but the concept of treading lightly on this planet has been on my mind for a good while and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you. It probably sounds weird to be writing about this as I’m on amazing travels around Asia but, without many dairy/meat free options here, I’m being challenged daily about my lifestyle choices.

Until recently I used to call myself a vegan. I was proud of this way of life and of being part of a community of people, but I’ve realised that I can’t truly call myself vegan because of some of the choices I’ve made recently. And I’m ok with that.

For example, I re-introduced locally sourced, free range eggs to my diet in the attempt to increase the amount of breastmilk I was creating for my son. I don’t know how much it has helped but after weeks of struggling, I feel like I am now able to provide well and I also feel morally fine about eating the eggs of chickens that are treated well. I don’t eat many eggs, but I won’t refuse to eat them.

And then there was my last minute dash around town to get the final bits for my trip. The realisation that my sandals weren’t going to last me through the journey and a frantic trip around town to get some replacement ones.

I tried on some shoes from the vegetarian shop in town and, although they looked like my usual Birkenstock sandals, I could feel that they’d slice my feet up within minutes and I didn’t have time to get my feet blistered and heal before going away the next day. And so I got a pair of leather Birkenstocks. In that moment walking away from the shop, I felt so wrong and I still do today. I feel like I’m wearing death with animal skin on my feet.

But the truth is that most people are wearing, eating, using things that cause harm to another living being. The cheap clothes that come from sweatshops, the glue made with animal products, the medicine made through the testing of animals.

So I’ve accepted that I am not officially vegan. I eat a plant-based diet and am trying to tread as lightly on this earth as possible.

On my trip around Asia, I’m eating vegan when I can and always veggie where not possible. I’m not buying countless souvenirs which will sit on my shelf or in my wardrobe and then get taken to a charity shop or thrown away. I’m considering a personal shopping ban (inspired by reading ‘the year of less’ on holiday). And when I get back, I’m going to have my old Birkenstocks re-soled so I won’t need to buy another pair in the future (or will plan in advance and try a pair of sandals from their vegan range.

I’m doing my part to make as little impact on the earth and to harm as few beings as possible. I’m not perfect and I’m going to leave some sort of mark on this planet, but I hope to be gentle, be kind and do the best I can.

Perfection

I’m sat here at 4am next to a sleeping baby who was, until a few moments ago, wide awake and more wriggly than a sack of frogs. Now that he is sleeping I find myself unable to get back to sleep so thought I’d share my thoughts about the coaching that I’m going to invest in for myself over the next few months.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I’m a coach and will also probably know that I’m really passionate about the power of coaching to help people make the changes they want in their life. And over the last few months I’ve become aware of some changes that I’d like to make for myself.

  • Stopping the negative self-talk and self-berating when I don’t do something ‘perfectly’
  • Getting some support as I go back to work and find myself stretched and pulled between wanting to be the best I can at work and doing my best for my son
  • Finding kindness for myself as I find my way along this new journey of parenthood

For me the perfectionism is where I really want to make some progress and I can see it in all three statements above. I know that the high standards I hold myself to have meant that I’ve achieved a fair bit in life (cue Ms Perfectionism – “have you really achieved that much?! I mean, it’s not like you’re in a really high flying career or have done something really significant with your life”) and I’m not looking to get rid of my desire to strive. It’s such a big part of me that I don’t think I could change this even if I tried.

But I do think that I could be kinder to myself when things don’t turn out perfectly. I could learn to change what I measure my perfection against. I could expect myself to try my best in any given moment and knowing that this is enough.

I was struck by the blame I put on myself when I wrote about how Jenson put on such little weight over a three week period. I felt I should have done more but I know that I didn’t knowingly take actions that negatively impacted his weight gain and I know that I did my best in each and every given moment. I wasn’t perfect, but I did my best.

And I’m taken back to all the other occasions in my life where I’ve blamed myself for not doing enough – the development programme at work that had some hitches, a reflective session I ran with my previous employer which tanked, the coaching sessions I’ve done which didn’t go as well as I wanted, the Christmas presents I agonised over which weren’t the best.

I don’t want to live like this any more.

Yes, I want to strive, do my best, achieve greatness through my efforts. If it wasn’t for my strong drive:

  • I wouldn’t have completed my professional HR qualifications alongside working full-time,
  • I wouldn’t have become a coach in the year that I started a new job, had a hectic social life and was growing a baby,
  • I wouldn’t find the energy or time to build my beautiful website alongside raising a baby,
  • I wouldn’t have such big future plans, goals and dreams for myself

But there must be a kinder way to be with myself. A way that can bring greater ease into my life. A way that I can also role model for my son so he knows that his best is enough.

And that’s what I’m hoping to get from my coaching. I can’t wait to get started.

Help

I was at a friend’s house yesterday. She’s got a little boy the same age as Jenson and has really hurt her back. She’s in agony and I’ve come over to help her during the day.

I’m not saying this to get brownie points for how awesome I am, I’m sharing this because it’s given me a lovely glimpse into what a gift it is to accept the help of other people.

When she was in the most early agonising moments of her injury, I offered to come over to do what I could do help her and she was reluctant to accept the help. She said she couldn’t accept my help. Like me, she’s a strong, independent and giving person who is more used to being the helper and is uncomfortable needing to lean on other people.

She’s probably even more strong, independent and giving than I am. I’ve practically lived at her house since our boys were born and she has invited Gregg and I over for dinner so often. Honestly, she’s cooked for us more than I have cooked at all since giving birth to Jenson! She’s been super thoughtful in sourcing special breastfeeding remedies for me to help with the troubles I’ve been having and is one of my biggest cheerleaders on my journey as a Mum.

So when she injured her back, I wanted to support her as best I could. And it was, to be honest, really frustrating to have her reject my offers of help due to her discomfort at needing to lean on other people.

My help was a gift I could give back to her in the face of all the kindness she has shown me and I was delighted when she messaged me to take me up on my offer of help.

It was a lovely day. Catching up, talking about our hopes for the boys, dreaming of travels and helping her, here and there, to lift her son or soothe him when he needed a jig around the room.

Helping someone I want to help is a pleasure.

So if I turn this around and think about how I often turn down help because of the discomfort I feel being ‘needy’, I see that I’m depriving people of a chance to feel special, to give back in and to get closer to me as they see me vulnerable and in need of a helping hand.

I’m sure this experience isn’t going to bring about a massive shift in me overnight and I doubt I’ll feel absolutely at ease accepting help going forward. But at least I’ll have a very good example to draw from about how good it feels when someone allows you to help them and I hope it will allow me to say ‘thank you so much, I’d love to accept your help’ more often.

My personal mean girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And instead I showed myself kindness.

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