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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Today

I’m off work today!!! Yippee!!!

Not that work is a bad thing – I enjoy what I do – but I’m so excited because this is the first ‘me’ day since Jenson came on the scene.

Yes, Jenson is at nursery, Gregg is at work and I’m able to spend the whole day doing exactly what I want to do. So I’m sat here, just after nursery drop-off, having a cup of chai tea and thinking about all the things I’m going to do today.

And, gosh, from the photo I just took to accompany this post, I can see that I need it! I can see the tiredness on me, the stretch of the last few weeks, the bleary eyes from too little sleep and the sinusitis I’ve been suffering with.

I’m going to do an exercise class – I know, not how I’d have planned to spend time alone a year ago. But I miss moving, I miss sweating, I miss feeling strong and accomplished physically (although I’m not sure how accomplished I’ll feel – I might be more of a hot, snotty, sweaty mess!).

I’m going to spend some time in a cafe with a huge slice of cake, writing and reading and pondering without a time limit on these thoughts!

I’m going to go to the cinema to see any frivolous film I fancy.

I’m going to get my hair cut.

I might even contemplate breaking my no shopping ban and looking for a new pair of trousers.

As I’m writing this, I feel a voice inside me saying how selfish this is, how stupid this will seem to you – all this bother over 8 hours alone -, how ungrateful I must sound to have such a gorgeous baby, such a supportive, caring husband and yet to crave more than anything time just by myself.

But then again, I think it’s important to share my truth. The truth that this day feels like EVERYTHING at this moment in time.

Because when you’re a parent, you don’t stop being yourself.

You don’t stop having needs.

And my need for quiet, for solitude, for time alone has grown bigger and bigger over these past months.

But this need doesn’t negate the love that I feel for my boys.

It doesn’t cancel out all that I do for Jenson and Gregg.

It doesn’t invalidate all the love I pour into my family, my work, my friends.

And so, without regret or shame I’m going to get this day started.

I can’t wait!

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Change

I’ve just finished reading a truly beautiful book on the physiology and anatomy of love. It’s called ‘a general theory of love‘ – check it out! It may sound strange – love doesn’t sit easily in our minds as a physiological response – but love stems from the limbic part of our brain. From there flows connection, affection, love in all its bright and shadowy forms. The book is written by three doctors and looks at what love (or the absence of love) does to us in our childhood, explains the evolution that led is to become social creatures and explores our fundamental need for belonging.

I’ve found it really reassuring from an ‘attachment parenting’ viewpoint since that’s the parental style I most identify with. It’s a parenting style which includes things like co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding and responding to my son when he cries in all situations to give him comfort. But this isn’t a post about parenting, I just thought I’d mention it for all the parents out there who might like to read it!

So, what do I want to say about this book…?

Well, it’s been really helpful following my post last week where I acknowledged how difficult and arduous it has been to get to where I am with my personal journey to greater courage, truth and love.

You see, I felt frustration with how long it’s taking to change my inner patterns to respond to myself more often with patience, not anger. To look at myself with grace when I’ve slipped up. To have a default setting of unconditional love towards myself.

And this book explained from a physiological perspective why it is taking so much time. You see, when we’re children, our brains have plasticity. Our brain is able to morph and learn and grow (hence why the first 1000 days are so crucial to a child – it’s this period of time where they are able to more easily change the ‘nature’ settings – a propensity for moroseness, for example – by being nurtured to have greater levels of confidence, self-assurance and acceptance).

When we’re older, however, changes around how we view ourselves – our default settings – are harder to make as our brain has less plasticity. Our limbic brain where all the emotions come from isn’t as easily changed.

And so it takes more time – sometimes years – to rewire our brains.

Knowing this allows me to have greater patience on this path I’m on. I’m able to see that things will change in their own sweet time.

Knowing this also allows me to feel less like a failure. It’s not down to a lack of effort or ability that I’m struggling with shedding what holds me back. That I still hold on too tightly to the opinion of other people, that I find it tricky to cut myself some slack, that I sometimes talk to myself with anger instead of love.

It’s biological.

And while it doesn’t make the process any easier, it allows me to accept that this is where I am and to trust that things will change over time if I keep on keeping on.

It also gives me greater faith in the process I go through with those I coach.

There are people I’ve been working with for a year or so. I’ve seen amazing progress in their lives – some have changed their relationship with food, increased their confidence or have fostered greater love for themselves – but some still have progress they want to make. And this knowledge has allowed me to have more assurance that my role is to support them and trust in the coaching I’m doing with them. Although it may take time, they will get to where they long to be.

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Time for me

You may start to notice a theme arising in the time I post my musings and general thoughts about life…they are starting to coincide with the 30+ minutes I have to myself as I travel to and from work. These minutes are truly time for myself.

Time where I don’t have to think about the well-being of my little man or tasks to do at work or things I need to do at work (although all those thoughts are permeating somewhere in the back of my mind).

This transit time is, I firmly believe, going to become the firm ‘me’ time in my day.

Time where I don’t talk to anyone.

Time that I can use for myself and exactly what I want to do.

Time that I don’t hold any expectations about.

And if I was the leading lady in my own life, I know I would protect this time fiercely. I’d choose to take the train alone and kindly tell people who made conversation with me that I was busy during this time (I feel ashamed saying this, like I should be grateful for people wanting to talk to me or that I’ve just outed myself as being the hermit I truly am!).

I’d do things I wanted to do in this time – read a book, listen to messages from friends, stare out the window – and only what I wanted with this time.

I’d stay off social media and messaging apps that sometimes muddy my head with the constant flurry of input. I’ve got other time for that in my life. My ‘me’ time doesn’t need to be filled with that.

I’d enjoy writing here to you, dear friend, but only when I wanted to. With no expectation about how many posts I should write a week. Writing to you (and for myself) is a passion of mine that I want to nurture with energy and love, not strangle or stifle with expectations.

I suppose I’m writing about this to you because it is dawning on me just how important this time will be for me (for my sanity, my wellbeing, to feel energised for the coming day, to thrive in my life) and I want to give myself permission to seize this time for myself.

I’m also grappling with how to be selfish boundaried with this time so that I consistently get it to myself. How do I tell people that this is my time for quiet and reflection without being rude? Or more so how can I be ok with being seen as rude to get this time that I most desperately want?

And I suppose, if I’m honest, my grappling here comes down to fear.

Fear of not being accepted.

Fear of being too much or not enough.

Fear that I’m not acceptable.

And the frustrating thing is that I know in my head that I am enough as I am. That I’m allowed to want stillness, that my need for stillness and solitude are just as important as other people’s needs for companionship and conversation.

It feels like I’m on the edge of a diving board. Knowing what I want and being at the precipice of jumping in but still being fearful of what this could mean. And it will be scary until I take that leap and jump into the life I want to live.

Just one day

I promised myself that I would be honest on this website and so I’m going to write something that most parents will think (and many will say to their friends) but is not something I feel very comfortable sharing and putting out there on the Internet. But here we go…

I wish I could not be a parent for a day. No, that’s wrong. I wish someone would take care of Jenson and I could let go of all the responsibility of being a parent for just one day.

This wish comes from having spent 4+ hours on a coach ride with him from Da Lat to Nha Trang and, arriving at a paradise-like beach with plenty of bars and sun loungers but having my little man to jiggle around and keep happy. It also comes after a few days of him being extra clingy to me – perhaps due to a wonder week development (a wonder week is scientifically verified a period of time where a baby is leaping forward in their development – check it out!) or perhaps due to the upheaval of travelling that I’ve put him through. If Jenson isn’t attached to my breast, he’s been keen to be on me for most of the day and when he has been distracted by someone else and then sees me, he starts crying. Reminded that he wants to be with me.

I love my little baby to pieces. So much so that I feel I’m going to squish him to death sometimes with all the cuddles and kisses I give him. And I don’t regret choosing to have him one bit. As I sing to him, he is my sunshine, my greatest sunshine. But I sometimes miss being just a team of two with my husband. I miss having uninterrupted lie-ins, going for late night drinks with friends, being able to read a book on a journey, spending my time with no one to answer to but myself.

I wouldn’t change being a mother to Jenson for anything in the world. I know there will be a time where I can leave him with family or a babysitter. Heck, I know there will be a time where I’ll wish for him to want to spend time with me.

But just in this moment I wish I could pause time and have a bit of a break. And that’s ok.

I am his. But I am also mine

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll have noticed that the subject of my posts has changed since I’ve had my baby boy. And that’s to be expected because, as a new mother, he is my world.

Since I’ve had him, I’ve realised that I am no longer my own. In fact, I’m coming around to the realisation that I will no longer come first. He comes first regarding how I spend my time, my money, my love and my energy and I know this will continue to be the case even as he grows and relies less on me. He’ll still come first.

I well and truly belong to Jenson. I am his.

But it doesn’t change the truth that I am also mine.

In fact, I have a tattoo on my right foot which says “I am mine”. A tattoo I had done after a bad relationship break-up where I realised that all too many decisions in my life were being made to please other people (in this case a boyfriend who told me I was too fat, my hair wasn’t pretty enough, my taste in clothes wasn’t right…) instead of following my internal compass and my own desires.

And while I love Jenson with a selfless love that I have never experienced in my life, it doesn’t change that I am still mine.

I still have needs, desires, hopes and a personality that is at its best when I have regular time alone to process, to think, to breathe, to exercise. And that’s ok.

So I’ve started to take a few hours for myself in the weekday evenings and to have a period of time by myself while my husband hangs out with our little monkey at the weekend.

And this time alone is so sweet. I can’t express just how marvellous and precious it is to me. It’s like oxygen to my soul.

A time to go for a run in the spring sunshine, a time to geek out revising my coaching training notes, a time to put music on and write this post to you in uninterrupted bliss.

And I’m reminded that it’s ok to be mine. It’s ok to need this space. It doesn’t make me less than a mother – it gives me the capacity to be a better mum. And I feel lucky that I’ve got a partner in life who supports me to have this space and time just as I support him to have his own space and time doing things that he loves.

But I want to look at my tattoo more often and remind myself of it’s new meaning – that I’m allowed to my own person and take time for myself, even as a mum to a new baby.

I belong 100% to Jenson but I also belong to myself. I am mine.

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Why now, what for, what else?

I’ve been continuing to read my book ‘how to break up with your phone‘ (I wrote about it in another blog here) and enjoying the day-by-day activities to reduce the amount of time I mindlessly spend staring at social media apps.

It’s been straight forward, albeit a bit scary as I deleted all the apps from my phone that I go to automatically in moments of boredom – Instagram and Facebook being the main culprits (yes, Facebook had snuck back onto my phone after being deleted a few weeks ago) and I found the following activity in the book particularly helpful – when you reach for your phone, ask yourself:

Why now? What’s prompted me to pick up my phone right now?

What for? Is there a particular reason for doing so?

What else? What could I do to better respond to the reason why I was reaching for my phone in the first place?

What I’ve discovered in following the exercise is that I pick up my phone quite a lot out of boredom or when there’s any space in my life (like when I’m breastfeeding). It’s like a second reflex.

I also pick it up when I’m feeling a bit socially awkward – with no one to speak to or not sure where I fit in, I reach for my phone.

And I also pick it up out of FOMO – wondering what I’ve missed online.

This awareness is really helpful to reduce my time online. And what I’m discovering is that the exercise is also brilliant for any other areas of my life that have a tendency to get out of balance

  • The cake I reach for when I’m feeling anxious
  • The things I buy to fill a void in my life
  • The TV I watch out of tiredness/boredom

Not that these things control my life or are particularly dysfunctional but asking myself ‘why now, what for, what else’ gives me the option to truly respond to what is going on underneath.

And that’s always a good thing!