Holiday reflections

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

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

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

So here are my thoughts from this week.

Grounded

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

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

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

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

And it feels good.

Moving

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

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

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

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

Watching my thinking

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

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

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

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


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

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 ❤️


Have you enjoyed this post? If so, please consider supporting me and my writing.

Not the whole truth

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

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

From this, I know that:

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

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

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

You’ll never be able to express yourself.

You’re broken.

You don’t know how to do this.

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

You’ve got no clue what you’re doing.

Hold it together, you need to be perfect.

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

You don’t have this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s really scary too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are part-truths in there for me –

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

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

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

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

Calling on another part of me

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

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

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

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

Will this ever get better?

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

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

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

Raising my voice

I’ve been lone parenting this weekend as Gregg is at a stag party. I took Jenson to an animal rights protest in London yesterday, partly out of desire to be an active citizen and partly to have some plans to fill up my three days alone with him.

I’m so glad I went.

I loved hearing from animal activists who had so much information to share.

I loved the atmosphere as we marched through the streets of London, handing out flyers to the public.

I loved being part of something bigger than myself as we showed images of how animals are killed for our pleasure, kept in tiny cages so businesses can make as much profit as possible, viewed more as a commodity than a being who feels, fears and loves just like we do.

But that wasn’t my feeling right at the start of the march.

I felt uncomfortable, out of sorts, anxious as I made my presence known on the streets of London.

I felt like I didn’t have a right to be there.

It felt wrong to be speaking out – and speaking loud – instead of being in my safe little zone where I am vegan and will gently say why I am if people ask why (the reason, if you’re interested in for the planet – we can’t survive whilst still consuming such high levels of meat and dairy – and because of how animals are kept, treated and killed).

But I keep myself to myself.

I don’t push limits.

I keep my vegan views, my ‘controversial’ views of parenthood, family, love out of this blog for fear of offending you, dear friend.

And in that moment, something clicked for me. I realised that I don’t allow myself to be fully seen.

I don’t allow myself to share my views unless I’m given express permission to do it by someone.

And there are so many reasons I can think why.

Girls aren’t brought up to be forceful and I feel like I’m ‘too much’ when I think about my opinions and views on a range of topics.

I’m fearful of speaking out as that reminds me of my Christian experience growing up where we’d be encouraged to try to ‘convert’ people to our way of thinking.

I don’t feel comfortable dealing with conflict and, in putting my opinions ‘out there’, there will be many people who will disagree with me.

But that’s ok to live with these reasons – I can grapple with them as I work through giving myself permission to be seen and my voice heard.

And by that I mean all that I am, not just the bits of me that are mainstream and not controversial.

It feel scary and new and different to do this, but living this way feels aligned to the name of my blog – courage, truth and love – and so I know it’s the right thing for me to do.

ctl-logo-01

Reconnecting

I’ve not written on here for a few weeks. The longest time since I started this blog of mine. Despite job changes, pregnancy, new motherhood, travels around the world, I’ve managed to keep on writing…but there’s been a lot going on and it’s felt like a time to reflect inwardly, not externally.

I wanted to reach out and reconnect a little with you…just for a moment to outline a bit of what I’m dealing with at the moment…before I jump offline for another few weeks. Maybe even until the start of the Christmas holidays.

Values

My values are being challenged as I’ve been advised to change my sons diet from mostly vegan to definitely vegetarian. It’s brought up a lot of questions in me – which I’m looking into.

Are aspects of my son’s health more important than the future of the planet or more important than animal suffering?

How do I find peace in the middle ground?

How do my ever-strengthening beliefs in veganism sit within my marriage, how I show up and speak up, how I live my life?

If Jenson is veggie, how do I tell him about my lifestyle choices?

How do I tell him about my lifestyle choices whilst still giving him self-advocacy to decide what is right for him?

Numbing

I’ve been free from major comfort eating for some time now…but I’m becoming more and more aware of how I refuse to acknowledge difficult emotions.

Anger

Fear

Shame

I shield myself from them…and they get buried away in me, biding their time to emerge.

I’m trying to stay present with them more often but it’s hard and it’s emotional. It’s the right path for me – but it’s a challenge at the moment.

Assumptions

Unconditional love, being inherently worthy of love and acceptance, not needing anything from anyone to know that I am enough.

These are words that I see written down and have wanted to live them…but I’m becoming aware that I don’t really know what they mean and how they might show up. I don’t know. And so I’m taking some time to question them without pressure.

Who am I?

I’ve been a mum for nearly 12 months and love it dearly.

I couldn’t be happier with my gorgeous son. But it’s taken me away from who I am as a person, as a wife, as an ambitious woman, as a feminist. And I feel the call…as well as a pressure, to get back to who I am in these other arenas.


So as you can see, there’s a lot going on!

But I’m ok, I’ll get there.

I just wanted to check in.

Acknowledgement

I had another coaching session yesterday – there’s a common pattern starting to emerge that each session brings with it a blog post. Because each session allows me to reflect on some aspect of my life and make small steps towards where I want to be – able to love myself unconditionally.

So what did my session bring yesterday?

In a way, not much happened. I reflected on how challenging I had found my recent break away. It was lovely to see friends and beautiful to be in Wales, but it was not the restful time I needed it to be. Because I didn’t let it be.

The one day when I did nothing – I let the others go off on a walk and spent 5 happy hours in my own company – was the one time where I felt myself relax and unwind a bit. The one time that I felt I gained a bit of energy and resilience…which was taken away when Jenson awoke at 2am and wanted to play for two hours before going back to sleep.

I reflected with my coach that I’d have really done better if I had stayed back every day. Let the others go on walks, rambles, trips out and instead stayed and cocooned by myself for a few hours. But I hadn’t even seen that as an option because I hadn’t checked in with myself about what I truly needed each day until I got to breaking point.

So I ended the session with the acknowledgement that I need to get more in touch with myself to know on a moment-by-moment basis what I need. Whether it’s to go out, stay in, say ‘yes’ to an invitation or gracefully say ‘no’. But I don’t know how to get more in touch with myself…the voice that said ‘ENOUGH!‘ when I was at breaking point only comes out when I’m on my knees through fatigue, over-stretching myself and doing things that are not right for me for an extended period of time. It’s something that I’ll mull over for the next few weeks – how to listen to myself more without piling on another task for myself to do (i.e. committing to meditate for 15 minutes each day).

I also acknowledged that motherhood is hard. Beautiful, rewarding, exhilarating, but HARD.

Oh so hard!

It has stretched me thin with sleep deprivation, requirements for more patience than I’ve ever had, selflessness that I’m not used to. A surrendering of myself again and again and again to protect and nurture and raise my little son.

And I also acknowledged that this deep heart work I’m doing – the sort of thing I do with the people I coach – is hard.

Oh so hard!

It is work that involves looking deeply within myself, leaving no stone unturned on my mission to live with greater courage, truth and love. Actively looking at why I don’t consider myself as being ‘enough’ and asking why that is, reflecting on where I still people please and analysing why that might be, looking at the internal critical voices that drive my behaviour to start to rebalance them with kinder, more loving voices.

So I didn’t leave my session with any great revelations, but I know that being able to acknowledge what is going on for me is really important. As I write and reflect on this, I realise that it’s the start of rebalancing the critical voices with a kinder voice that says ‘you’re doing important work Amy, and it’s ok that you find it difficult. Keep on going, dear one’.

So I’ll keep on going, even if it is hard. For I sense that while the price of being here is high, the reward is going to be great.

ctl-logo-01.jpg

What he’s teaching me…

My little peanut is almost eight months old. I can’t believe it! He’s nearly been out in the world for longer than he was inside me growing. At times these eight months have seemed like a life sentence (sorry Jenson, but it’s true!) with sleep deprivation, inexplicable crying and endless rounds of nursery rhymes and distraction techniques to soothe him. But at times I look back and think “how can he already be two thirds of his way through his first year?!”.

One thing is for sure – he’s my biggest teacher. One I didn’t know I needed and couldn’t have planned for when he made his appearance known to me.

I was lying in bed yesterday morning, looking at my sweet boy as he slept next to me and I thought of all the things he’s teaching me…and here are the three things that spring to mind most keenly.

Patience

Oh I’ve had to be patient so often with my little one in these first eight months. When he’s up at 5:30 on most days and I want to shout to the heavens “why will my baby not sleep past daybreak?!?”. When he’s crying and I can do nothing to settle him. When I’m feeling a bit under the weather but have to bring it for him. When I cook a lovely meal for him only to have it rejected. When he wanted to be held in my arms to sleep for the first six months of his life.

Patience, he’s teaching me to have a bucketful of patience.

I’m sure there will come a day when I snap at him, yell with frustration and scream to who-knows-what about what a difficult life it is to be a parent, but for now I feel like my little guy is teaching me slowly what it means to have patience. The importance of taking a deep breath, the ability to look at the bright side of things I’m finding challenging (never have my days been so long with the early starts!), the joy of having him which makes up for all the inconveniences of parenthood.

He’s teaching me to go with the flow and let go of every notion of control I had before.

Presence

I’ve always been a planner. I’m first in line (or maybe a high second place) to plan my sister’s wedding when she meets Mr Right. I know where I’d like to be in 3 years time. I’m always looking ahead.

Too much sometimes.

And I quickly discovered that my little boy is the medicinal tonic to my future focus. He calls me to stay firmly in the present with him. Especially when I’m on my phone – how he hates it when I’m glued to the screen!

He drags me firmly into the land of now as we explore the world around us. Time speeds past as we examine our reflections in a doorknob, splash around in the bath, laugh at games we play together. When we’re together, there’s no thoughts of work or relationships or anything other than being with him.

And it’s beautiful.

Sometimes it’s frustrating too (see above for the patience he’s building in me!) as I want to gallop away to plan future stuff. But for the most part, being called to be present with him is a reprieve from how I’ve learnt to (dis)function and it’s brought so much peace to my life.

Some people pay hundreds of pounds on a retreat and in yoga or meditation classes to learn how to stay present…but I’m learning it from my baby who seems to be a natural, my own little mindfulness guru.

A different path

Becoming a mum has shown me what is truly important in life – my family, having a job that stretches me, being able to travel and explore this world. But it has also thrown so much up in the air for me as I question how I can contribute more, how I can leave this world in a better state for my boy and those who are growing up with him.

I can’t just go to work and return to be with him. It’s not my path to just do my job and return home to pour everything into my son. I feel the call to contribute more.

The weight of responsibility of being his mum has made me discover the responsibility of being a citizen of the world and has started me questioning what this means to me. Whether it’s playing a part in reforming local government and politics, the medical system, the environment or the education system, I feel something developing. A path just out of sight beyond my vision that I know I’m going to tread at some point in the future.

He has shifted my priorities and shown me a new path I never thought possible.


So here’s to my boy as he’s on the cusp of eight months old. I can’t imagine my life without him.

IMG_7246

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

Questioning

I’ve now been back at work for two weeks and as I’m sat in the car on the way to a family day out I’m reflecting about how much motherhood has changed me. I feel like everything has been thrown up in the air and I’m left questioning the fundamentals in my life.

Who am I?

What do I want to do with the time I have on this Earth?

What is my greater purpose?

It feels like I’ve been upturned or my world has been flipped upside down. I just don’t know anything anymore.

Well, that’s not true. I know that I love my family more than I’ve ever loved anything else. I know that I want Jenson to come first at this time in life. I know that I need to express this uncertainty instead of keeping it hidden inside me like a secret. And I know that it’s ok to not have everything sorted, all the questions answered.

So I know a lot.

And instead of jumping into finding my purpose – studying something new to change career, change the colour of my hair to feel different or strike into action, I find myself being called to listen in stillness. I’m drawn to paying attention to what I’m noticing, I find myself wanting to slow down. It’s different to what I’ve usually done and I’m willing to give it a go.

So here I go on this new adventure into who I am and what I’m called to in life. Thank you for being here for me, friend, as I express what’s going on for me. It may be a journey I take along, but one that feels less lonely with you by my side.

Six months

I’ve been a parent for six months…bloody hell! How did that happen and how did this time pass both at a snails pace and in the blink of an eye?!

From a sleeping, crying, mewling little baby to a little being looking more and more like a toddler with each passing day. It’s incredible to see how much he has changed and how much I’ve changed during this time.

He now stands (sometimes unaided when he’s holding onto something), sits with such core strength, grabs anything in his reach, beams for us, strangers and for the camera…and yet some things don’t change. He’s still as determined as ever to sleep curled next to me, to feed or be rocked to sleep.

And he’s still as spirited as the very first day when he screamed the hospital down. The loudest, most determined baby on the block.

What about me? My changes are less perceptible, more internal but life changing nevertheless. My ability to be patient has increased, I now know I am stronger than I could have ever believed (from pushing his 4 kilo heft out of me to surviving on little sleep and getting twice done what I would have before), I have less tolerance for bullshit and for getting involved in those silly games that people play in life (psychological ones, not things like buckaroo or uno 😜).

And I feel a new steeliness inside me. If I’m going to leave my little person in someone else’s care, it better be for a job I am passionate about – something that lights me up. Otherwise why would I leave my little one?

And my decisions have more weight than before. Staying binge free and dealing with what’s going on underneath the surface is not just for my own good but for him too. So he doesn’t take on the practices that have been so harmful to me in the past. Sure, he’ll have his own struggles, but as much as I’m able to, they won’t be passed on from me.

And I’ve found joy in the small things. Seeing him smile, making him laugh by singing silly songs, watching Gregg being a better father than I could have ever dreamt him becoming, seeing the love of our families for Jenson.

I’ve also learnt to reach out and ask for help, to maintain boundaries and say no. To ask for what I really want instead of just wishing people could read my mind.

All in six short months.

And I find myself asking what the next six months will bring for both myself and my little half-Birthday boy. Adding in work to the mix for me, him spending most of the time with his father who will be on shared parental leave…

What I do know is that it will go by in the blink of an eye and that I will share what is happening with you, dear friend.