By myself

I’ve come away on holiday for the first time by myself since being a mum. Despite feeling anxiety about leaving Jenson, I knew it was right to have time by myself.

I need it to be at my best.

And I’ve already had such breakthroughs and moments of clarity with the time I’ve had by myself.

I’ve started to read a brilliant book called Soulcraft which is enlightening and mirrors what’s going on for me in my life (here’s a few lines that inspired me):

“the wanderer must move beyond her dependence upon others and upon her social roles. She will no longer adopt, in whole or part, other’s identities or ways of belonging to the world. She will no longer sacrifice her one true life in order to make herself or others comfortable. She knows what she has to do. She must leave her old home and step out into the wild night of her life”. 

Amidst the joy of this holiday, I’ve also been challenged by a difficult interaction with someone in my life. And while it isn’t spoiling my time away, I’ve been thinking about my reaction to what’s going on.

What I should do.

What might allow me to not sacrifice my one true life whilst also being kind to the other.

This morning, I did a meditation – it’s one with drums (and one that I’ve enjoyed lots recently). But as I laid there, listening to the rhythmic beats as I usually would, I was struck anew by all the sounds going on in the background of the track that I had never heard before.

The clinking and clanking of what sounded like someone eating cereal or stirring a cup of tea.

And as I laid there, I also heard the sounds of people around me. Others walking, talking, banging doors.

It reminded me that, whatever is happening on the surface, there’s always a cacophony of things going on beneath.

The interactions I have with others and with myself are layered with rich textures.

Assumptions made based on past experiences, hurt from other things going on that seep into interactions, illnesses colouring views.

And in knowing this, I’m able to be even more detached from the situation.

I’m able to step back and see that what is going on is impacted by a lot of stuff under the surface.

And while I knew this already, it was good to be reminded.

So the question remains, how do I react without sacrificing my one true life whilst acknowledging the complexities of the situation?

One to ponder on…


Thanks to Sara who supported me and bought me the coffee I enjoyed whilst writing this ❤️

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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.

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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Boundaries

For the past ten days, I have been part of an online challenge with other mothers, focused on tapping more into our intuition. I’ve enjoyed connecting with others, reflecting on the questions set for us (such as ‘what would your ideal life look like?’ and ‘what are the words that your inner critic says to you?’).

The question that impacted me the most was ‘where have you been criticised as a parent and what did you do about it?’. I reflected on the criticism I received from someone about my choice to co-sleep with Jenson, a choice which we intent to make for the foreseeable future.

I don’t think it was meant purposely to hurt me – I imagine that it was a throwaway comment that the other person made but it has stuck with me and influenced how I feel about them.

It made me retreat, trust them less, not want to spend as much time in their presence.

And that also makes me sad.

As I reflected on this in the group, the facilitator asked me what it would take to restore this relationship.

Straight away, I knew what it would take.

Boundaries

And in knowing that, I was made aware that it’s not really anything about them.

It’s more about me.

Knowing what my boundaries are and respecting myself by sticking to them.

And really when I think about it, there’s only one boundary –

I listen to myself and respect my wishes and limits

It’s so simple.

And yet so hard for me as someone who has lived so many years living for what I think other people need and hasn’t listened to my own inner compass.

So I’ve taken some time to ask myself what I need to put this boundary into practice in my life…

Listen to my body

Often I’m not sure what I want, but I’ll feel some resistance in my body if what is going on isn’t right for me.

A tightness in my throat, an unease in my tummy, a quickening of my pulse.

My body knows before my consciousness does that I’m stepping outside of what is right for me and I need to learn to listen to it.

An example of this is something that happened at work on Thursday, when I was speaking to a senior leader. We were discussing something to happen in the future and what was agreed didn’t sit well with me. My throat went tight and I went a bit hot.

So I listened to what was going on and spoke up.

It turns out I had reason for feeling as I did and, as a result we changed our plans.

Take my time

I’m so unused to listening to myself and my desires. And as such, I acknowledge it’ll take time to understand what is going on for me.

It’ll take time to listen to my body and translate what I need – whether that is to be heard, to listen to myself, to do something different, to acknowledge and communicate a need I have.

And that’s ok.

With any new skill, it takes time to master it.

So I need to give myself that time.

Be brave

The scariest thing about having this boundary of acting in the way that I need is speaking up for myself.

But it is possible.

An example of this which springs to mind was when I was going to London to meet my mum a few weeks ago.

It was a belated mother’s day present to spend the day together but I was on my knees with exhaustion. We’d made plans to visit a graveyard that my mum wanted to see and had talked about doing a number of other things together. But I knew that I needed a relaxing day without jumping from plan to plan to plan, and so I spoke up and said that.

Knowing she might be a bit disappointed that her day was being monopolised by my needs.

But I also knew that I was likely to crack if we spent the day running from one thing to the next and so I spoke up.

I said that I needed us to take a more relaxed pace.

And that’s what we did.

She heard me and, as we took it easy, I was able to be fully present with her.

I didn’t have to contort myself into the Amy who was ‘fun’, ‘up-for-anything’, ‘without a care in the world’ – the Amy I wasn’t at that moment.

And it increased my level of trust in and love for her. Knowing that she is willing to meet my needs. Seeing that she is able to hear me and meet me where I am.

No other option

It’s a scary thing to vocalise what I need instead of pushing my needs down to accommodate others.

But the truth is that this isn’t a choice any more.

I’ve ventured into the realm of speaking my truth and, like a butterfly who has burst from its chrysalis, there’s no going back.

There’s no way that I can contort myself into having no needs.

There’s no way I can live to just please other people.

And so on I will go – setting my boundaries, stumbling and getting things wrong but then getting back up again and moving forward.

And I hope the relationships that have been broken or damaged because of my lack of boundaries might be built back up.

I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I can only try.

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Wisdom from my tomatoes

Strange title of a blog post, eh? But it’s one that I’ve been pondering on my ride to work.

Thinking of the tender tomato plants I grew inside my house.

Sheltered from the wind and the rain.

Given access to water, feed and sunlight.

Protected to grow tall, stretched towards the sky.

And yet who have all snapped as they have been moved into the garden.

Unprepared for the elements.

Too delicate for this world.

And I see the gnarled, thick-stemmed plants who have continued to grow, despite being abandoned outside as saplings who were in my ‘B’ team.

Unlikely to grow so left in the garden where they have adapted.

Grown thick to protect against the rain.

Become hairy-stemmed to protect against being nibbled from garden creatures.

Bent over to not be tossed around in the wind.

I think about myself

How it is through the conditions I’ve lived through – the storms I’ve weathered of anorexia, orthorexia, people-pleasing, finding myself in the patriarchal society, stepping out, stepping into conflict, abandoning old beliefs, learning to stop numbing – that has made me strong.

I am here, who I am, because of these storms.

I think of my son

And how my job is not to protect him, lock him away, enable him to not have to deal with the brutalities of this world.

It is to provide good soil for him.

To water his spirit when there’s not enough abundance around him.

To bring him up in an environment that allows his growth – the human equivalent of sun, clean air, protection from the wind.

Love

Acceptance

Us role modelling the behaviours we want to instil in him – setting healthy boundaries, being self-accepting, following our passions.

I’m amazed by how these outdoor plants have thrived.

They’ve been knocked down, buffeted around, left out in the elements.

And likewise, I take a moment to recognise how I’ve thrived despite challenges in my life.

In part due to the conditions my parents provided for me to grow up in – secure in their love for me – and in part due to the trials-by-fire that I’ve gone through and emerged stronger.

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.

Re-defining success

I was speaking to my sister this morning – what a wise one she is! I was sharing how hard I was finding life right now and talked about the standards I hold myself to. 

These standards are partly helpful – they guide me to be the best mum I can be to Jenson. But they can also be unyielding and can cause me pain as I hold myself to them regardless of what’s going on around me.

So I thought I’d list out all my standards to take a step back to see whether they’re standards I want to hold onto so tightly.

So here I go!

Standards

  • Jenson shouldn’t watch very much TV – it’s a last resort when I’m running late, not something to make my life easier
  • I need to talk to him as much as possible, a running commentary of what I’m doing if I’ve got nothing to say to him
  • I should enjoy all my time with my son
  • I must speak French to him – it’s an important gift to pass to him
  • I have to be fixed so I don’t pass on my struggles – comfort eating, avoidance of confrontation, people pleasing, lack of boundaries – onto him
  • I should be able to cope at all times and never loose my temper with him
  • He needs to spend loads of time outside – there are studies about how children aren’t nearly as active anymore and I’m a bad mum if I don’t take him out

As I list them here, I feel such relief at thinking “I don’t need to hold onto these things. They’re not mine”.

And I love what I saw on twitter this morning linked to this very topic:

Screen Shot 2019-06-23 at 14.05.01.png I love the final point from Beth – re-define success.

What if the standard (and definition of success) I held myself to were to model what it means to be a person who puts their wellbeing first.

  • About TV, I’d ask whether I needed a moment for myself that morning/afternoon/evening. If so, I’d put the TV on for a little bit. It’s not going to kill him.
  • About constantly talking to him, I’d ask myself what I needed in the moment and what my son needed. Some meaningful interaction – singing and dancing, reading a book, chasing around – or some time in silence as I walk somewhere or just potter around. Both are ok. I’d know it was about balance.
  • About enjoying time with him, I’d ask what I needed to enjoy my time with my him. And that probably is an acceptance that it’s not going to be enjoyable all the time (especially when I’m playing peepo with him for the 1,000th time, that shit gets old!)
  • About speaking French, I’d continue to speak French to him – my imperfect, messy French, because it is a gift that I’m keen to pass to him. But I’d also look out for other French parents to hang out with so I don’t feel so alone in it.
  • About worrying about passing my issues onto him, I’d know that worrying about this wasn’t doing me any favours in dealing with them, so I’d speak kindly to myself and remind myself that it’s not the whole truth. I’ll pass on some of my habits that I’d rather not pass onto him, but I’ll also pass on the good. My passion, my ethical compass, my love of cooking, my book wormery, my kindness, my strength.
  • About coping, I’d know that I’m not able to cope all the time and that it’s ok. The most important thing is showing him how to get back up. How to apologise when I shout at people or am short with others and self-kindness to myself when times are hard.

I’d know that I’m doing my best. My god-damn best. And that’s all that is important.

And as I read this, I feel overcome with emotions. I feel a relief knowing that life can be different.

That I can rewrite my story.

And yes, I’ll probably fall as I try to do the above, but that’s part of it, right?

Falling down but then getting back up and trying again.

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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.

Trust myself

I’m on a weekend away with my husband’s extended family. I suppose being married to him, they’re also my extended family, which is lovely to think about as I adore them.

But in the lead-up to coming away, I was feeling the same anxiety I always have in the lead-up to going away. The kind where I feel like eating the entire contents of my cupboard to squash the intensity of the feelings inside.

And yesterday, I asked myself why this was – what was the reason behind how I was feeling?

And I realised that in the past a weekend away would have been a weekend of squashing myself.

Bending in each and every way to make sure I chatted to everyone, tried to make everyone feel included, people pleased at each and every turn.

Even if this wasn’t anyone’s expectations of me, this is what I did. I didn’t know how to be any different.

It included me going along with the crowd consensus even if the activity suggested wasn’t what I wanted to do.

And I’d have ended what should have been a beautiful weekend feeling depleted and sucked-dry of the little energy I had started the weekend with.

Or perhaps the weekend would have surprised me and I’d come away feeling recharged and energised from the conversations I’d had.

Either way, I’d always feel anxious in the lead-up to time with other people.

But yesterday, I reassured myself that this wouldn’t be the case.

I know myself better than I ever have done before.

I love myself and am able to look out for what I need in any given situation.

I advocate for what it is that I need.

But this is still new – loving myself and allowing myself what it is that I need in any situation – and so I am aware that I’m still building up trust in myself.

Trust that I will listen to myself.

Trust that I will be aware in the moment when I want to make conversation to fill the silence in between. And instead of peddling, hustling, finding things to say and questions to ask, I’ll allow myself to hold the silence.

Trust that I will do whatever it is in that moment that I want to do.

And that’s exactly how I find myself this morning.

Having listened to myself, I’m now alone in the house having some peace and quiet – time for reflection and quiet and stillness – while other people are out and about exploring the area, visiting crazy model villages and walking in the countryside.

I listened to what I needed and said ‘no thank you, I’m going to stay inside and have some time to myself‘ when people were making plans for the morning.

And so while I still felt the anxiety in the lead-up to this weekend, I know that it’s ok.

Because I recognise that trust takes time to build up, even trust in myself.

And I know that I will get there.

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Shoutout to my ex(es)

I was cycling to the train station this morning, listening to ‘Shoutout to my Ex’ and smiled thinking about all I’ve learnt from past relationships.

It was a bittersweet moment, mostly sweet, now that I’m over a decade past my last relationship outside of my marriage.

In my first significant relationship, I remembered how I listened to my boyfriend telling me how I wasn’t thin enough, well dressed enough, didn’t have nice enough hair, how my friends weren’t good enough, how my French wasn’t perfected enough.

How I wasn’t enough.

When I look back on this relationship, I think it was emotionally abusive and when it ended, I remember thinking how I would never let someone treat me in the same way.

I was worth more than being with someone who was essentially trying to change everything about me to fit into some sort of ‘acceptable’ version of myself.

And it’s something I’ve never gone back to. Sure, I’ve told myself frequently that I’m not enough (something I’m working on) but I’ll not stand for anyone else saying these sorts of hurtful things to me.

My other significant relationship taught me to put myself first.

Not in a selfish, stampeding over others way. But I truly believe that everyone’s job is to look after themselves in relationships so they can be the best person they’re able to be for the other person.

With this relationship I put his happiness first. I bent backwards to accommodate him and his needs – some very serious needs since he suffered from clinical depression.

I crushed myself into a little ball within myself so that there was more space for him.

I didn’t state my needs and stand firm with the expectation that they should be met to the same extent that his needs were being met by me.

I remember the first time I said ‘I love you‘ to him was when he was going through a period of bad depression. We were lying on his bed and he was so low he couldn’t even speak.

I cared for him so much and wanted to fix him. But that wasn’t what my role should be as his girlfriend.

I look back at that moment and internally cringe at what my younger self was setting herself up for. If I could have a re-do, what I would have said was ‘I really care for you and love you, but you’re in no position to be in a relationship right now. You need to focus on getting yourself healthy. And when you’re there, come look me up.

But I’m glad for that experience looking back because it taught me to put myself first when it comes to my significant other.

Without doing that, I’m good for no one.

I met my husband, Gregg, not long after breaking up with this final ex, and because of this experience of putting myself last, I was forthright about what I wanted and didn’t want.

And to my surprise, Gregg was into it.

He was ok with me being clear about my expectations, setting out what I wanted and what was acceptable for me.

And whilst this relationship isn’t perfect, it’s a pretty awesome one.

So I’m giving a shout out to my exes.

Thank you for what you taught me and for how that’s taken me to where I am now.

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