Love

I had a deeply powerful experience on a course I attended a few weeks ago.

I’m just starting to digest what this experience means to me and my life and while I do that I want to share with you one of the biggest messages I got from it –  a message of love.

You see, for so long I’ve lived in fear.

I’ve made decisions out of fear.

I’ve felt like love and joy were scarce, finite resources that could leave me at any moment.

And my experience had taught me that this was true.

Whenever I started to have a ‘good run’ with comfort eating – not turning to cakes or chocolate or crisps to push down my feelings – and dared to share this good news with other people, I’d stumble and fall back down into my comfort eating cycle.

I internalised the message of not becoming too big for my boots – “no one likes a clever clogs” – and tried to not make myself look too sparkly or too special because I felt that somehow my greatness would tarnish the greatness of other people or show me as lacking.

I always felt like the imposter. That people – friends and co-workers – were one moment away from seeing me as I truly was – a nothing-special-about-her fraud. And so I was grateful to them for any scraps they threw me.

I felt amazing making others feel amazing through my coaching, because that’s what I longed to be.

Believed in.

Seen.

And the moments when I felt externally validated – when I got a raise or a bit of praise – I drank it in like someone dying of thirst who happens upon an oasis.

I chased the high of being told I was good, worthy, enough.

Because I didn’t believe it myself.

But on this weekend away, something clicked for me.

I felt what it is to love myself unconditionally.

Completely overwhelming, joyous, beautiful, precious self-love.

I never knew it could feel like this.

To feel truly ok because I love myself.

To be able to look at decisions – in work, with friends and family, with myself – and know where I’m making decisions out of fear instead of love.

This love shows me that I’m perfect as I am physically. With my lumps and smoothness, fatness and thinness. I’m enough.

This love has made clothes shopping a different experience. I went charity shop shopping a week on Monday and found myself thinking ‘does this suit me and my body’ instead of past experience of feeling smug if I could fit into a size 12 – even better a size 10 – and wretched, ugly, no good if the size 12 clothing was too tight.

This love has made me feel secure in myself. I know I’m good at what I do. I know I’m an asset at work. I know I’m a good friend/wife/daughter/mother.

I’m not perfect, but I don’t require myself to be so.

Instead of hustling to feel worthy, I feel more content.

This love has let me cry more as I experience the good and bad, the ups and downs without trying to be anything other than myself.

This love has led me to smiling more, as I appreciate the beauty of flowers and trees around me. The leaves dancing in the trees. My son dancing his way up the hill home.

This love has let me find peace with not being the best wife at the moment.

Peace with not saving my best for my husband and all too often serving him up the dredges of myself after a long day of caring and working and being and doing. I’m not beating myself up or feeling unworthy because of it.

This love has let me see that something needs to change, but I know I can’t change by trying harder, pushing more, putting myself last to put him slightly higher up the pecking order. Something has to give.

This love has let me bounce back from stress – a hire car breaking on my way to a senior leadership meeting, my husband waiting for me alone in a no-phone-signal zone.

I see that these experiences don’t define me.

This love lets me know that I’m not one mistake away from being found wanting. I am imperfectly human, surrounded by love.

This love gives me room to grow and stretch and stumble and fall.

To eat cake at 11am and not go into full-blown food free fall.

To examine things I didn’t handle well and get back up, learning for next time.

To make decisions and change my mind if that’s right for me in the moment.

I see what self-love is, for what feels like the first time in my life.

It’s truly beautiful.

And part of me wants to hold it tight, scared that I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling like I did before – grey and wanting.

It makes me feel scared that, on holiday for a week with friends, I’ll stumble and not act out of love all of the time and I’ll see what a fraudulent experience this has been.

It makes me want to hide this news in fear that, by sharing it, I’ll snuff a little candle out.

But I know that this love isn’t dependent on me being perfect. It won’t leave me if I stumble.

So that’s what has been happening for me. A truly special experience that is so hard to describe but so incredible.


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The other side

I’ve had a difficult time over the past three months. It’s been the most challenging time that I’ve experienced in motherhood and I’ve felt my sanity balance on a knife edge at times.

But it’s also been a time of immense growth and I’m appreciative of what it has taught me.

How my struggles have stretched and shaped me.

And as I’m coming out the other side, I’d like to reflect upon what I’ve learnt and am still learning.

I must come first

I always thought the analogy about putting your own oxygen mask on before putting anyone else’s on was trite. But I’ve realised that I’m good for no one when I’m on my knees with exhaustion.

So I’ve started to prioritise my needs.

I’ve made plans to get away to have some time of solitude every month and Thursday evenings are for me to have time alone. I’ve so far tried an African drumming circle, gone for drinks with friends, had dinner with my parents, spent the evening working late to do some things that I don’t usually get the chance to do in my working day.

Being free to do things as an adult, not a mum or carer, has been life changing. It’s brought me so much joy and has refreshed me for the week ahead. I don’t know how I coped without this time before.

Now that I’m over the worst, it’s hard to keep finding the discipline of time alone.

Since I’m not at crisis point, time to myself can seem less important than getting on with life. Making sure I’m pulling my weight at home. Being there for Jenson.

But then I remember that for 18 months, I gave more than my fair share to this family.

So it’s not about an even 50:50 split, but about communication and asking for what I need so that I can thrive as a mother, wife and woman.

Asking for help

I’ve asked my husband over the past months to step up with the caring of our son – we now share the bedtime routine and co-sleeping so the other can enjoy a night of disruption-free sleep.

And with me no longer taking the caring role with everything, I’ve let my husband care for me more and I’ve felt closer to him than I have in a long time.

I was so busy caring and coping before that I’d lost what it was to be a wife.

What it was to be vulnerable and gentle and soft. Cared for, desired and with desire

It’s not been easy.

We’ve had more disagreements than we have had in a long time.

I’ve pushed him and pulled him into me.

I’ve been more vocal about my needs and have confronted him when I’ve felt hurt or ignored or misunderstood.

Instead of burying my feelings deep inside me, I’ve spoken up.

But it’s been good.

Because instead of feeling complacency – a foreboding of the death of a relationship – I’ve felt fire.

And that has kindled us in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I’m not an island

I’ve also asked other people to step up and help in our lives.

Friends have rallied around to babysit Jenson and give us some precious time alone.

When Gregg’s parents or my own parents have come to visit or had us to stay, I’ve asked them to look after Jenson so I could rest and find moments of solitude. I’ve taken time for myself without worrying that I was being ‘rude’ or ‘inhospitable’.

Because I recognise that this time alone is what I need and their love for Jenson means that time with him isn’t a chore.

I remember writing on this blog, at the start of Jenson’s life, how important it would be for me to ask for help. How I longed for Jenson to know that he doesn’t need to be strong, independent, self-contained. 

And I find myself reflecting back now and seeing that my desire has come true – I’m living how I want him to.

In community.

Asking for help.

Accepting the support of other people even though I can’t always give back in turn.

New season

I’m finding myself in a new season in life.

Connecting with the beauty of nature and the spirituality of the world.

Not through any religious beliefs, but through an awakening to the ancient wisdom of the planet and the inherent spirituality I feel as a human being.

I know that what I’m saying is quite vague, and that’s because I can’t quite articulate it myself.

All I know is that I feel connected to something bigger than myself.

And with that, I’ve felt a love for myself and a self-compassion that I’ve never felt before.

I’m finding myself able to say ‘no’ to invitations that aren’t right for me.

I’m looking at my body in a way that I’ve rarely been able to in the past – with true love and acceptance for all that I am, complete with stomach rolls, a slight double chin, my wrinkles and grey hairs.

It’s all me and all worthy of love.

Over the past month, I’ve danced with joy.

I’ve cried with sorrow.

I’ve started to reconnect to the wild Amy who has been tamed by society but is bursting to break out.

And this feels like just the beginning.

Taboo

I feel like I’ve broken one of the biggest taboos in the world – speaking about how motherhood isn’t always pretty.

How I have regrets for the child-free life I left behind.

How I know that I could have been happy without a child, even though I love Jenson with all my heart.

We do women a massive disservice in silencing the truth about the brutalities of motherhood.

It’s exhausting.

It’s relentless.

It’s the best and the worst experience.

And yet we only speak about the beauty, and at most, laugh about the witching hour before bed or whisper to our friends in secret ‘I’m not happy’. 

And I’m so proud of myself for having spoken up and started to challenge the taboo.

I’m so proud that I’ve been loud in saying how hard it is.

And I hope that others have felt permission to be truthful and honest, even if only to themselves or to me.


And so while this time has been one of the trickiest in my life, it has brought more growth than I could ever have imagined.

And I’m looking forward to seeing where this next season in life will take me.

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My ‘why’

I recently wrote about how I’ve been questioning and feeling in a state of uncertainty about so much in my life. I’ve been thinking about this and exploring it over the last few weeks and feel like I’ve made some headway in understanding what it’s all about.

This partly explains the reduction in my posts but now that I’m starting to form my thoughts, I’d like to share my them with you, dear friend, if that’s ok.

When I returned to work, I felt like something profound had changed in me. And, as I’ve shared in a previous post, nothing seemed to fit right. The work I was doing didn’t seem to suit me, the goals I was working to didn’t resonate anymore. It was hard to feel this way because, pre-maternity leave, I loved my role so very much and (although I was glad to step back the pace a bit before having my son) I was happy at the prospect of returning to my role six months later.

I asked myself why I felt so detached from work and I realised that it was because I wanted more. Not in a ‘I want more money/excitement/power’ way, but it suddenly was important for me to make a more profound mark on society.

To leave this world in a better state for Jenson.

I’m aware of so many things that seem to be broken in this world – our healthcare, education system, political system, the patriarchal framework of society – and I want him to grow up in a world with less inequality and more hope. I want to contribute to more.

And then I started reading a book during my morning commute to work and something shifted inside me – I started understanding what this ‘more’ might look like. The book is called ‘Presence‘ and talks about about how to bring around profound change in people, organisations and society. A topic that is so important to me. If I’m honest, reading this book has been deeply inspirational and profoundly encouraging, bringing together all that I discovered in my time at work before going on maternity leave and calling me into a new future, a new reality.

It has blown my mind and, having just finished it, I’m about to launch back in to read it for a second time and get some more wisdom and insight from its contents.

Instead of being a traditional ‘change’ book with models, frameworks, processes, talking about stakeholder engagement and communications, it talks about deepening our ability to be still to see what is truly happening, to bring about change not just using our head but also our hearts – using our full self. It goes so much further, becoming so aware of what’s going on that we can bring forward our highest Self (whether you call that God, the universe, your most wise self) to create the best possible future.

It sounds a bit ‘woo woo’ and I might have been more skeptical if not for having experienced moments with my highest Self in the past. When this has happened, I’ve sensed the right thing to do in that moment as if someone other than me was showing me the possible or I’ve just known what to say as if I’ve been tapped into the moment with acute clarity. Time has seemed to slow down in these moments. Do you know what I mean?

Since reading this book, I know that my work is all the tasks and objectives that I want to get done, but it’s so much more. It’s calling people into a place of stillness and reflection to be able to integrate the different parts of themselves. It’s about working on myself so I find a greater sense of stillness and an ability to see what is truly going on in any given situation. It’s about finding opportunities to give people a glimpse of what is possible.

And so while my work might draw me into the world of education, healthcare, feminism or something else in the future, I have found a contentment where I am. Giving myself permission to call people into stillness, finding a more regular connection with my higher Self, showing those I meet that we have such greater capacity to create the world anew if we would only stop, listen, and be truly present.

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