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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I dream

I dream of a life where I’m connected into community – supported and supporting those around me through daily, close interactions. We rub against each other and live alongside each other, imperfectly together.

I dream of a life where Jenson may be an only child, but he has a multitude of other children to call his kin. Where he may not have uncle and aunties physically close, but he has a band of adults stewarding him from the early steps of childhood, running wild in nature, to the first tentative movements into adulthood, nurtured and supported by his tribe.

I dream of life where we live in seasons – not taking part in the frenetic sprint that is the western hustle – but allowing for quieter time. Moments of calm. Accepting the softness of idle time in all aspects of life.

I dream of cities being re-wilded – surrounded once more by nature instead of being concrete and bricks. Tamed no more within our clinical setting, we’d allow for the snuffling hedgehog roaming through our shared gardens, see the wild fox slink around the neighbourhood, hear the call of the owl late in the night.

I dream of fashion being a celebration of who we are individually instead of something we use to prop up our inadequacies. Consuming to forget the pain we feel.

I dream of the world being flipped right. With those working in care being rewarded properly for their invaluble contribution to society. With generations respecting each other – the elders for their knowledge and temperance, the youth for their passion and hope.

I dream of everyone recognising that we’re only where we are thanks to the random lottery, the chance fusion of embryo and sperm which saw us born into more or less privilege than another. And in knowing that, openly share the riches we have with our fellow humans.

I dream of everyone knowing the sentience of all life forms – insects, animals, fish, nature – and moving to food and life systems that do no harm to other living beings.

I dream of unhealthy addictions to food, drink, drugs, gambling and pornography being no more as people are able to say ‘I’m hurting‘ and, supported with love, work through their pain to no longer need these crutches.

I dream of wholeness – of individuals, communities, nations, the world. Not wholeness through perfection but wholeness through accountability, love, forgiveness, acceptance.

As I write this, there are many counter-arguments in my mind – how could we forge a new economy? Is this practical or doable? How would I survive in community, needing my own space? Is this just idealistic, unreasonable bollocks?

But this is the dream which brings me hope.

And I need hope in this dark time.

So I continue to hope and I continue to dream.

And I will keep taking small steps to do my small part in bringing this dream to life.

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A sustainable life

I’m currently in the middle of an amazing trip visiting my dear friend, Nadine, in Texas.

On the cusp of this first prolonged trip away from my family, I felt apprehensive. But another part of me knew this trip was vitally important.

It was a time to find myself again after living in the reality of new motherhood for the past two years.

During these years, I tried to find a balance between my responsibilities to my son and my work, but looking back, I can see that other things suffered – myself, the relationships I hold dear, my health, my sanity(!)…

Balancing everything in a world that promises us that “we can have it all” is an impossibility. Because I believe that “having it all” is a lie.

Even if I were a millionaire, I might have more rest through the help of a nanny, but this would be at the cost of my motherhood.

And as I meditated on my way over in the airplane, I received the following wisdom;

Amy, you have 100% of your energy available to you. So how are you going to use it? Compromises will have to be made, certain things will have to fall away. But you have the ability to make a choice in all this. 

And so sat in a beautiful cafe in south Austin, I looked at what my life currently looks like with everything important to me.  

Here are my thoughts about certain parts of it:

Work

Work is deeply important to me. It fuels my creativity, allows me to feel mastery and it contributes to being an active citizen (working for local government) as well as contributing to my personal growth. It’s important…and yet, it takes up most of my energy. I know as it is it’s not sustainable for the long-haul.

Love

I miss my husband. I miss lazy lie-ins and carefree evenings spent with friends. I miss the time to love him, the energy to go on dates, lying next to him in bed, the spare money with no nursery to pay for to go on dates without thinking about the cost, the time to both enjoy TV shows together and also catch-up without any bedtime pressure.

I know this will pass, but it’s hard.

And I want to be aware of this so that we don’t come out of the early years of parenting fog to find ourselves on different tracks in life, lost to each other.

Recuperation and rest

This is another one which will change as Jenson grows and starts to sleep through the night. At present, my husband and I take turns to respond to our son’s cries and so at least half the week is made of broken sleep. This means that ideally bedtime is 9-9:30, which eats into my connection with Gregg and ability to tap into other areas of the circle – health, connection with friends, my spiritual life…

But it is what it is.

I’m realising how important it is to have an extended period of time – a night or two – away from the daily grind each month.

It’s important to have time just being me, time of sleeping in, time of not having every minute accounted for and a countdown to when bedtime should be.

It’s also a time of connection with friends and nature (where I get my spiritual connection), so I recognise that this isn’t just about rest, but about many more things.

I’ve not been as disciplined with prioritising this time away as I should be, but I will be moving forward.

Household & health

Sure, in an ideal world I’d do a yoga class weekly. I’d a tidier house. I’d stay fit by going for jogs instead of the continual late-sprint for my train or pedalling home on my bike. I’d eat less processed food. I’d do washing in my spare time instead of when I’m looking after Jenson.

But these aren’t priority areas for me at the moment.

And that’s ok.

Motherhood

I recognise that Gregg is stepping up and caring for our boy more than I am at the moment. And it’s not just when I’ve been here on holiday – he’s stepped into a 50:50 role if not slightly more of the care role at times.

I’ve needed him to do so when I’ve reached burnout and felt like I had nothing left to give.

And that’s ok.

I’m allowed for parenthood to be 50:50 at this early stage despite every cultural bone in my body proclaiming that I should be the carer. I should have the bigger role in Jenson’s early years.

This is compounded by a noticing of how I’m less capable of staying in the role of the ‘perfect’ mum – I don’t have enough energy for it.

The reality is that Jenson spends time watching Netflix if he wakes before 6am and I often find quick fixes to entertain him as I balance the minimal amount of housekeeping and food prep I do around time looking after him.

All the while, a little voice in my head tells me that I should be engaged with his play 100% and should leave the other stuff. Should leave my needs.

But I can’t.

And so I accept the reality of what is.

Interdependencies

I notice that several of these areas are linked together. Motherhood, work and love all jostle for my time and one area reducing leads to a gain in another.

Likewise, rest and recuperation is met through travel (often to see friends) and provides time for me to seek a spiritual connection outside myself.

And my spiritual opening links to better health outcomes as I live with less anxiety and live more in my truth, which positively impacts my relationships with friend and family.

And so this wheel of life turns, ever adjusting for my awareness of it. Constantly dancing as I find space for that which I hold dear in my life.


Thanks to Nadine, who treated me to a night in the incredibly cool Carpenter Hotel, whose coffee I’ve been sipping while finishing these reflections.

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Good boy

I’m just on my way back home from a gorgeous wedding of close friends, Jake and Ash.

It was lovely to have a few hours away from parenthood as my husband and I danced up a storm and didn’t have any parental responsibility for an afternoon.

But despite being away from my little poppet, I was still thinking about him.

More specifically about the phrase ‘good boy’.

I’ve heard Jenson’s nursery workers use that phrase when praising him for something he’s done and I’ve heard others tell him that he’s a ‘good boy’ for similar circumstances.

But it sticks in my throat when I hear someone say ‘good boy’ to him and it’s not something I say to him when he’s shown skill or kindness or compliance.

Because I want to know that he is intrinsically good.

Regardless of his skill, kindness or compliance with my desires.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’ll give him a free pass to do whatever he likes or that I don’t acknowledge what he’s done well.

If he does something out of line, I’ll say ‘that wasn’t nice’ or ‘be gentle please’.

And I say ‘bravo’ (I speak to him in French, this isn’t a reflection of my gentleman’s english!) or ‘bien fait’ – well done when he’s done something well.

I say the behaviour is out of line instead of saying he is out of line for doing something I disapprove of.

And I say the behaviour good instead of telling him he is good for doing something I approve of.

It’s semantics, but I think it’s important nevertheless.

Because I want him to grow up knowing that he is good.

Regardless of what he has done or not done.

Words do not do justice to the strength I feel for these words and the intensity of desire I have for him to know that he is good.

Because I believe this is a foundation – the belief that he is good – which is key for him to stand strong in life.

To feel able to follow his heart instead of hustling for the approval of others.

To not overly question his decisions but to trust his instincts.

To be happy in his own skin knowing that he is ok just as he is.

Part of me thinks ‘is this really important enough for me to raise this with his nursery?’

It’s just semantics.

And it’s not the only thing that will decide whether he has good self-esteem or a knowledge that he is fine as he is.

It’ll be Gregg and I showing him that we love ourselves, trust ourselves, believe we’re intrinsically ok.

It’ll be us respecting him and giving him enough freedom as he makes decisions for himself.

It’ll depend on us engaging in dialogue when he questions our boundaries.

Not to bend to his will, but to show him that he has a voice, is important, is intrinsically worthy of love and respect.

But stopping the ‘good boy’ comments seem like a good start.

And my gut tells me to raise it with his nursery.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, dear friend.

Creator of my own destiny

I had another amazing coaching session yesterday morning with my coach. Honestly, if you have something you want to make progress on, I’d really encourage you to get a coach. I can do a free coaching trial session for anyone interested or can link you up with a coach (potentially a free trainee one) if you think that we know each other too well and you wouldn’t feel comfortable working with me. But I’m not here to talk about coaching…I’m here to share what happened in my session. So here I go!

I’ve noticed in myself that I have a propensity for taking on too much of other people’s stuff. With almost a saviour complex (albiet a well-meaning one), I often feel responsible for other people’s happiness. From trying to avoid my parents having arguments when I was younger to taking on responsibility for people enjoying themselves at social events, to trying to bend myself in half to get people to be happy with what I do at work. It’s how I’ve always been.

I want to change but don’t know how.

When talking to my coach about this situation, I couldn’t see how I could be anything other than the two polar opposites that I described as this:

At one end, caring so much that I take on everyone’s stuff and at the other, not giving a damn about anyone or anything. 

We talked about the assumptions I make – that people want to be rescued, that it’s my responsibility to change stuff, that people aren’t able to make changes in their own lives…and it surfaced a thought I’ve been having for quite some time about how so much in life – our education, job hierarchies, the way society works – seems to breed a false impression that we are unable to change our own lives.

You’ve probably known people who hate their job (or you may recognise this in yourself!). They find it boring or think they’re underpaid or are frustrated by it on a daily basis. But they don’t do anything about it. They stay there stuck, moaning, unhappy, resentful of what they have to do.

But it’s not like they’re imprisoned in their job. They could do something to change their situation. They could look for a new job, talk to their manager about changing some of the things they do, start proactively changing how things are done, volunteer to get involved with other stuff at work to mix up their day, cultivate gratitude for what their job does give them (a pay-check, stability, nice co-workers, ability to pay rent/buy food for their family).

I’m not saying this from a privileged place, never having been unsatisfied at work myself. I know how hard this can be. I’ve been stuck in a job for what seemed like far too long whilst I searched for a new one that suited me better. It sometimes seemed agonising but I kept on looking, got some coaching to figure out what I wanted to do, kept on applying for new roles and, in doing so, I took control of my own destiny.

It paid off when I found a role – about six months down the line – that satisfied me more than I could have ever imagined.

In the same way that I did, I believe we can all take charge of our lives and shape them to our liking. We might not get there perfectly every time because of our circumstances (my new role didn’t pay more but was more mentally satisfying) but we can take small steps to improve where we are with every aspect of our lives – our relationships, health, work, money.

We are the creators of our own destinies.

And that is when inspiration struck me and I could see the middle way which was not taking on responsibility for other people’s happiness nor hardening my heart to others. In the following two phrases I outlined how I want to live my life:

I want the best for you and I know you can go out and shape your own life. 

I want the best for me and I know I can go out and shape my own life. 

It brought me such clarity. I want the best for others but my job is not to shape anyone’s life (not that anyone has ever told me they want me to!). My job is to shape my life.

With this knowledge I feel freer, less burdened and hopeful for myself and others. We all have the ability to take steps towards creating a better life for ourselves. It’s up to each and every one of us to look for opportunities and seize any chances that come our way.

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Stopping shopping

I’ve been reading a lot about living a minimal life recently. A life where you scale back what you have, are intentional about what you buy and simplify all areas of life (from how much you pack when going on holiday to reducing the amount of stuff you do just because you do it, not because you necessarily want to do it). It’s been really eye opening.

If you’re interested, some of the people I’ve been learning from are:

I mentioned in a recent post that I’m considering doing a shopping freeze. Where I don’t spend unintentionally for a period of time. I’m thinking of doing a month with the view to maybe extending it for longer.

Sure, since Jenson has come on the scene I’ve bought less for myself (it comes with the territory of having a baby who wants to be constantly on the go and doesn’t like wandering around in shops) but I’ve often ordered things on amazon on a whim, mindlessly bought stuff I don’t really need in the supermarket, made impulse buys in the few moments I’ve had in shops. And I’m starting to yearn to live a different life where I’m more intentional about what I spend my hard-earned money on.

There are several reasons why this idea has been brewing within me in recent times.

  • Now that Jenson is on the scene, the income we’ve got this year has been reduced by about a third. We’ve decided to give ourselves £200 spending money a month (£50 being dedicated to coaching sessions I’m having each month). This money is to pay for dinner out with friends, any necessities I need for myself, the cost of running this website, vegan treats, to pay for upcoming hen parties and weekends away etc. I know this is a lot more than some have but it’s a reduction in what I used to spend before.
  • When I go back to work, Jenson’s childcare will cost close to £1000 per month. That’s what Gregg and I used to save every month so if we are going to still be able to still put money aside towards future holidays and future dreams, I’ll need to spend less in my daily life. On this trip we’ve hatched another travel dream of spending 3+ weeks in India in late 2019 (just before we’d need to pay for a full priced plane ticket for Jenson). If this is to happen, my daily spend will need to decrease.
  • I’ve become aware of just how much I’m being manipulated by companies into believing that I absolutely need something to just find out that I don’t need it at all. There have only been a few things I’ve bought and still love from over the years – my computer which I use to write my blogs and coach people via Skype, my chakra necklaces that I wore regularly until having Jenson and intend to put back on when I return to work, my cornflower blue accessorize bag which I bought myself as a treat for passing my HR studies, makes me feel so pretty and which comes out every summer, my magimix food processor which gets used weekly if not daily. I want my life to be filled with things I love, not things I feel luke-warm about.
  • I find myself getting rid of things and replacing them with stuff that I then get rid of. Shoes that are uncomfortable, clothes that are pretty but not practical for daily use, charity shop purchases I make because they seem like a bargain or they are a good make (regardless of whether I really love how the clothes look on me). I’m no longer happy doing that.
  • My life is going to become more complicated juggling work and motherhood and my rich social life. I want to simplify every other area in my life so I have as much brain space to focus on what really matters to me. A tidy, minimalist house and wardrobe will help me to have a tidy, stress free mind.
  • I want my life to be rich in experiences, not in possessions but for the former to be the case, something needs to change.
  • I know that sometimes I push down my feelings with shopping. It’s not my poison of choice – food will always be my number one vice – but I get a thrill from shopping which feels like an endorphin high and I’m curious of why this is and what life would be like without the rush. Would I deal with emotions underneath more?
  • I want to tread lightly on this earth and so buying less seems to be exactly the right thing to do.
  • I want to enjoy and appreciate what I have instead of always wanting more.

So there you are and well done if you’ve made it through my massive list of why I want to do this ‘stopping shopping’ challenge. Why it is the right call for me at this point in my life.

So what do I need to do in order to bring this challenge to life?

I need to de-clutter my life – sort out and get rid of the clothes, shoes and possessions which are dead weight to me. This will partly have to wait until I’ve finished breastfeeding and no longer need the tops that allow me to feed Jenson/express milk but it can start now.

It would also be good, like Cait Flanders who did a two year shopping ban to draw up the rules of engagement.

Here are her rules:

What I’m allowed to shop for:

▪ groceries and basic kitchen supplies (plastic wrap, tin foil, etc.)

▪ basic cosmetics (like eyeliner and mascara, but only after I run out)

▪ toiletries (toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.)

▪ cleaning products (namely laundry detergent)

▪ a few essential clothing items identified at the beginning of this challenge

▪ gifts for others

What I’m NOT allowed to shop for:

▪ “fun” cosmetics (namely nail polish)

▪ clothes (except for a few essentials, or if I lose weight and nothing fits)

▪ shoes (this will be easy, as I hate buying shoes anyway)

▪ books, magazines and notebooks (this will be tough)

▪ household items (candles, decor, furniture, etc.)

▪ electronics and appliances

While Cait writes about physical purchases she makes, I want my list to include all the things I spend money on. Here’s what I’m contemplating as rules for myself:

What I’m allowed to spend my money on:

  • Groceries on my pre-written shopping list (removing the impulse buys I so often make)
  • Basic home supplies when I run out (cling film, cleaning products, etc.)
  • Toiletries for myself, Gregg and Jenson (toothpaste, soap, shampoo, nappies etc.) but only when I have used up everything I already have.
  • Essential clothing – a new pair of work trousers, a pair of flat work shoes that are comfortable, can be worn with every work outfit I own and are good for my back (I suffer from lower back pain but never usually bear this in mind when I buy shoes).
  • Replacing clothes that break over my time stopping shopping (i.e. my jeans that are on their way out)
  • Transport to work
  • The cost of house up-keep (basic paint, repairing our broken gate)
  • Resoling my old Birkenstock sandals so I can continue to wear them in the future and avoid buying another pair.
  • Gifts for others
  • My ‘vegan living’ magazine subscription which inspires me and helps me to stick to my plant-based lifestyle
  • Printing out photos to put up at home of recent adventures
  • My annual website subscription
  • My coaching sessions
  • Occasional meals and coffees out with friends
  • Experiences I want to have – trips to the cinema, massages, weekends to see friends, holidays

What I’m NOT allowed to spend my money on:

  • Clothes and shoes (except for a few essentials listed above)
  • Books, notebooks and cards
  • DVDs, music etc
  • Cosmetics
  • Household decor
  • Coffee out at work
  • Electronics and appliances
  • Trinkets and momentos on holiday

Some of these things make me feel uncomfortable – stopping the impulse buys at the supermarket, not spending money on pretty notebooks, not buying very many clothes. But I also see that there is a lot that I am allowing myself to buy. I’m hardly depriving myself!

And immediately I feel like I need to do this for longer than a month in order for me to see how this goes. What about three months? Six months seems too long so there it is! Until 19 September 2018 I’m going to have a go at stopping shopping. It feels scary, exciting, liberating and right all at the same time.

I’ll let you know how it goes, dear friend!

Crossroad

It seems like an age since I wrote my last post. In reality it’s been a few weeks but so much seems to have happened in this time. I’ve prepared for a month-long trip away to Asia with my husband and 5 month old baby, I’ve spoken to work about my imminent return to the office, I’ve started to be regularly coached, I’ve spent quality time with my son enjoying everything we (ok, I) love in Brighton – baby groups, ice creams in the sun, time with close friends – and I’ve had a visit from my very close friend, Nadine, who flew over from Texas to stand by my side for a bit and support me with looking after Jenson.

It’s been a very full time and so I hope you’ll forgive me for my silence.

I wanted to take a moment before the day starts to ponder upon what I explored in my recent coaching session – the thought of being selfish.

I know that I can’t do everything I want to in life now that I’m going to become a full-time working mother. Or more I could do everything but it would mean that I can’t do much of what I want for myself.

And what do I want for myself?

I want to live a life that lights me up.

A life full of time with close friends instead of saying ‘yes’ to every offer made to me. A life with time to spend playing with and loving and treasuring my husband and son instead of rushing around. A life where I have space and time instead of rushing around from commitment to commitment. A life where I have time to coach those looking to find freedom from comfort eating and people pleasing instead of having no time for this vocation that I so love. A life where I can save up to travel around the world instead of frittering away money doing everything offered to me.

But the thing that is holding me back is this one big, dirty thought that I can’t seem to shake.

That taking this path I so long to follow is selfish. 

Selfish – such a loaded word. It blunts the enjoyment of pursuing my dream of a life that lights me up as I feel that to do what I want, I’m trampling on others and am taking up too much space in this world. It makes me feel like I’ll stop being loved if I show my true self and follow my own compass instead of being easy-breezy and always going along with the flow.

And then I remember this amazing quote by Nayyirah Waheed that my friend, Heather, sent to me:

What about this theory – the fear of not being enough and the fear of being too much are exactly the same fear. The fear of being you.

Because who am I? I am someone who is both selfish and selfless. And for that matter, I am so much more. I am also someone who is both strong and weak, loving and hateful, patient and impatient, opinionated and shy. But I try to push down that which I deem to be ‘wrong’ – being selfish, weak, hateful, impatient, shy.

But I am these things.

And to deny who I am is to deny my true self.

I don’t know if any of what I’m saying is making sense. I feel like it’s only half-sense to me.

But the bit that does make sense is to embrace who I am. To acknowledge that I’m selfish sometimes and that’s ok. And I’m hateful sometimes and that’s ok. And that I’m weak sometimes and that’s ok. And I’m impatient sometimes and that’s ok. And I’m shy sometimes and that’s ok.

It’s only in writing that paragraph above that I realise the feelings I am ‘ok’ with are those which don’t take up too much space in the world – I realised this because I wrote ‘And I’m shy sometimes’ but felt that it was more ok for me to be small and shy than loud and opinionated. I’m ok with showing the emotions that don’t clamour for attention. Being loving, patient, strong, shy, strong, selfless are feelings that seem ok because they take up less space in the world…but when I’m my true self – the Amy who is both selfish and selfless, loving and hateful (you get the gist…), that’s not ok because it demands me to take up more space and be seen as something that might not be accepted.

Oh geez, this is tricky.

I’m getting to a space where I’m starting to see what it would be like for me to accept exactly who I am. It feels scary because I feel that to be me would be to show the ‘true’ Amy that might not be loved by everyone or anyone.

I know that’s not true – I know that most people in my life will love me exactly as I am because as much as I try to hide that which is unacceptable to others, I can’t help but be me at times. Plus, I don’t think that most people’s love for me is based on me saying yes to their invitations or me doing things I didn’t want to do or not speaking my mind.

But some people may not like me as much. And it feels scary to risk that love, even if it is a love paid for by being less than I am.

And so here I am at a cross roads. Knowing that I want to become more ‘me’ but unsure how to start that journey. Feeling the fear of showing myself but knowing that it’s the only way to be, dreading  the discomfort of this journey but knowing that it will be worth it.

It is the only path I can take for it is the path I want for myself – one where I show courage to take a route I’ve never taken before. Where I speak my truth, even if it’s scary. Where I start to love myself for exactly who I am without hiding.

A life of courage, truth and love.

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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.

Feeling lighter

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

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

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

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

Walk away

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

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

Marie Kondo your wardrobe

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

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

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

Easy peasy!

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

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

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

Focus on the benefits

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

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


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

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

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Pace

So far I’ve loved the slow, dreamy pace of motherhood. I’ve spent hours lying on the sofa feeding Jenson, forgot about housework and done very little with my time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written about my experience as a new mum, gone out to lots of groups and met up with loads of people. So I haven’t done nothing with my time. But I’ve been a ‘human being’ instead of acting out my usual ‘human doing’ rush, rush, rush. And it has started to feel a bit uncomfortable.

Yesterday Gregg was off work and I had written a list of things that I wanted to accomplish during the day. Not big things but some things that I was looking forward to getting done.

  • Batch cooking some pasta sauce to have the rest of the week
  • Going to the GP
  • Sorting out my wardrobe and putting away my maternity clothes
  • Uploading shoes and other items I no longer wear onto Facebook marketplace
  • Doing my ‘break up with your phone’ activity of the day
  • Putting some photo frames up in the bedroom

These were things that would have taken me a few hours to accomplish in the past but I would have stretched them out over several hours, enjoying the feeling of de-cluttering and streamlining my life. I would have perhaps extended my cooking to include baking some cookies or cakes and then I maybe would have also used my busy energy to give our bathroom a well-needed clean or left the house to sit in a cafe for a few hours, writing a blog post or a letter to a friend.

But that was not my experience yesterday. I managed to accomplish some of the essential tasks – cooked the pasta sauce (a task left over from the day before), spent 45 minutes frantically clearing out my wardrobe and put a few of my shoes on Facebook to sell. But it was punctured by Gregg bringing me Jenson for a feed or taking him outside for a walk so Gregg could do some of the jobs he’d set his mind to in the day.

It felt so frustrating to be going at this slower pace. To not be able to get things done and instead just surrender to being with my boy.

I feel so horrible saying this – like a really undeserving mum – because it’s a beautiful thing to spend time with Jenson. To witness him feeding, sleepy and content or looking at the world with wide eyes.

But it’s also frustrating to have my wings clipped and to find myself unable to do all those small things that would have taken up a mere fraction of the day in times gone by.

And I’m also finding the ‘break up with your phone’ book hard to put into action. Because the premise of the book is to do something else with the time you would have spent on your phone. But activities I’m able to think of that are possible with a little 7 weeker in tow (especially one who wants to do nothing more than feed and sleep on me!) are near impossible.

So I suppose today I’m having a bit of a moment of feeling a bit down. Looking back on the ease of my pre-mum life and wishing I could be back there for just one day. And I’m also becoming aware that parenthood is going to teach me so much about just being – something which feels so uncomfortable for me when I’m used to rushing around and accomplishing so much.

I think this is one of the biggest lessons in my life – letting go of doing and allowing myself to just be. Relaxing into this moment, whatever it brings. Learning to adapt and let go of what I want in order to enjoy what is.

I know it’s good for me but I also know that it’s hard for me. So I will have hard days, and that’s ok. It’s all part of the experience of being a new parent and finding my feet in this new reality.