Pity party

I’m feeling bad because I haven’t written in my blog for ages. The last thing I wanted was for it to fizzle out because I didn’t know what to write, but I realise the reason I didn’t know what to write was because of how I was feeling. Not because I was suddenly devoid of all imagination and creativity. I’m not ever so sure what happened, but I’ve had a week of feeling really sad and horrible and I have to admit I’ve done a bit of wallowing in self-pity.  I don’t think it’s a very nice quality and I feel a bit guilty when I do it, but I think it has a purpose – provided it’s short term. I’d got into one of those episodes where I haven’t believed that anyone really understands what I need, understands what I’m finding difficult, or even caring very much about me. To make this worse I radiate the resentment – I’m sure under the right light you would actually see it shimmering aggressively around me! So obviously I’m not very nice to be around, I’m over sensitive and people treat me differently or avoid me, thus reinforcing all of my negative feelings.

I understand now that I was feeling this way for several reasons, hormones, tiredness, end of month finances, underlying worries that I hadn’t acknowledged, my weight loss going a bit awry, and a soaking up of the end of term stress and exhaustion that the students I support are sharing with me in sessions. It all has played a part and cumulatively left me feeling a bit shitty. Don’t you ever have those times when you just want everything to stop for a moment, so you can take a breath, and have a proper rest? It doesn’t ever happen though and you need to find the respite some other way.

I guess the way I deal with these episodes is to firstly acknowledge that I’m having one, then I need to understand why it might be happening and then I can decide what to do about it. When I’m really low I get desperate for change. I almost want everything to change because I feel unhappy and I want to feel different so badly. I don’t always need circumstances to change, just my way of thinking. This is the point where I make decisions – do I need to take action, or just let things go for a bit, trusting that I will feel better again soon. I know on this occasion it won’t be long before term ends and my time won’t be quite so stretched, I’ve got some training to do for my new job which will be exciting and as the weather improves I’m sure it will all look brighter. So my plan for now is to do nothing drastic, try and look after myself a little better, try and keep things in perspective and try and make time for some fun things. I haven’t felt much like a fun mum this last week, just a moany mum 😦

Another strategy I’m employing while this passes is to take on a project. I find this is the very best way for me to alter how I feel. Something to get my teeth stuck in to. Hum drum routine, lack of excitement and boredom are my enemy. I don’t think I know how to be content. Fortunately it is my daughter’s 6th birthday in just over a month’s time, so I’m throwing myself into party planning! She is desperate to have a garden party so I am Googling gazebos, chair hire, banners, colour themes, cake ideas, all sorts. Now obviously it will all be massively scaled down, but for now I’m pretending that money is no object and I’m getting all the inspiration I can, and I’ll probably end up making my own home-made versions of everything. The main thing is that she has a great time with her friends, her face when she sees the garden is all set up, and creating magical memories that she can look back on fondly when she’s all grown up. A nice happy project to focus on.

So that’s where I’m at today. Apologies again for the huge gap between posts, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Sometimes how much you can do does depend on how you are feeling, and thank goodness, I’m beginning to feel a bit better.


Taking positive action

I have exciting news! I have got myself a new job, well, an additional job actually as I love mentoring too much to give that up. But during the summer, out of term time, my income gets a little thin. This puts me in the familiar dilemma of how to balance childcare and work, the conflict of really looking forward to spending some time with my children, but having no wage to take them anywhere and do interesting things. Aghh. Last summer I saw an opportunity, and applied. My first attempt got me invited to an assessment day – but it was arranged during the one week we had booked a little holiday in Norfolk. I was gutted. Fortunately they said they would be recruiting again this January, so I re-applied. I got through and after an interesting assessment day, and then a further interview, handwriting and IT test I got offered the job! I am going to be a Celebratory Officer. What is that? Well, eventually I will be conducting civil ceremonies for people getting married, first I have some training to do and then I’ll be the person writing in the register for a while until they let me loose with the speaking parts!  How brilliant is that? It’s a weekend job in the main, so I can spend most of the week with my children in the holidays and still earn some money doing a really unique and interesting job. Surely you can’t hate going in to work when you are surrounded by happy, joyous people at a wedding. 🙂

So today’s by blog is really about chasing dreams and taking positive action. I felt I needed to improve our future outlook, and I had to find a way that would fit in with our family, my needs as a mum, and as a working woman and my husband’s work pattern too. When I applied I honestly could visualise myself doing it, and that picture has stayed firmly in my mind from that day on. There are several theories about positive visualisation, cosmic ordering, and the like; and it does make me wonder about the power of these theories. I would describe myself as ‘open-mindedly sceptical’ if that’s possible. I do think you have to put things ‘out there’ for them to come to fruition. I don’t believe in hoping life will change and then sitting back and waiting for it to happen. It won’t. The future me is successful (although I guess actually I’m not doing too badly in the present!) When people ask what I do, I want to be able to say, “oh, I’m a mentor, an author and I marry people at weekends” I like how it sounds, and it looks as though I will have three jobs that I love. I am so lucky to say that. (I am making a massive assumption here that my book will be published, but today it feels like anything is possible!)

But there’s the thing – is it luck? Or is it that I’ve always got my eye open for an opportunity, always looking for the next step, seeing how I can make things better. It also takes a bit of hard work and a massive leap of faith. It means taking a risk and actually taking action rather than just talking about it. Because I have hardly any self-esteem at all I find myself thinking I’ve somehow cheated or got here by mistake, but deep down I know that’s not really true. I have to get better at believing in myself. This time a year ago I thought I was stuck in the same house forever, thinking things would never change, and now here I am – a wonderful new house in the countryside (our previous landlord needed their house back) a new exciting job, a current job that I love and who knows what else in the future.

So if you’re fed up with the status quo, whether you’d like a big change or a small change – take some action, take a risk, you never know where it might lead….

Food, glorious food…

My lovely sister suggested that the next thing I wrote about was food, and considering that food seems to be a huge focus in my life (particularly at the moment as I try to lose a bit of weight) I thought what a great idea. My blog gives me a wonderful opportunity to process my thoughts and feelings and get back ‘on track’ with a healthy lifestyle again.

I understand that my relationship with food isn’t a very healthy one. When I have something to celebrate, I eat. When I have something to commiserate, I eat. If I’m tired and lonely, I eat. Even if I’m having a lovely time with other people, I eat. It’s a pattern – essentially any emotion at all results in reaching for something edible to celebrate or counter that feeling. I wonder why that is?

I’ve been doing some reading about procrastination to support my students and there was an interesting bit about how, as humans, our brains have a tendency to value instant gratification over long term benefits and I think that can also be applied here. Whilst I am very committed and keen to get to a healthy weight and find my confidence again in how I look, the thought of a sugary, greasy jammy doughnut in my mouth can shatter my resolve in an instant. I like food. A lot. (Not just doughnuts) I crave savoury as well as sweet but there is a definite longing for fat, salt and sugar.

Saying that, however, when I am eating well I really do feel so many benefits. My stomach behaves much better, I like not feeling guilty about what I’ve eaten, there is also considerable research on how food affects mood, and I believe I notice this too. It just feels like I need to cut this enormously strong connection between feeling and food. When I think about nice events; past, present and future, it’s often the food element that stands out:

Like swimming with my sister at Biggleswade outdoor pool as a child, and being wrapped up in a towel on the grass eating hot buttered toast, staying away somewhere for the night and feeling excited about the cooked breakfast in the morning, going for a walk with my friends when I’m not working, and the reward at the end is the coffee and cake after, especially as one of those friends makes fantastic cakes! – shameless plug to local readers for ‘Pippa White Event Catering’ 🙂 I could go on and on…

Now the silly thing is that I know good, delicious food can also be healthy. Some of the recipes I have tried since starting to lose weight have been really tasty and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them, but still this isn’t the food I reach for in those emotional moments. Some vegetable crudités are never going to cut it, even against a simple chocolate hobnob.   

I also know that I am most successful at eating well and feeding my family good meals when I have invested some time in planning. On the weeks that I am ‘on it’ I’ve meal planned for the week, choosing tasty, mainly healthy things – not that everyone will like of course, that’s a mere fantasy in my house – but at least a balance across the week where most of us like something most of the time. It’s also incredible how much stress and anxiety this takes away from me – just by knowing what’s for dinner that night. Every time I do it, I’m surprised how much anxiety I shake off by this one process alone. I acknowledge that my most vulnerable times are when I’m tired and hungry and can’t be bothered to think about what to eat, let alone cook it. My love of food diminishes at that point and it’s about filling us all up quickly with as little effort as possible. I have to admit that I don’t really enjoy cooking very much and I can easily feel resentful about being the person who has to choose the meals. I can also feel resentful when I’ve tried very hard to produce something nutritious and delicious and the children pull that face at me after the merest hint of it touches their lips. It’s as if they have made up their mind before it’s got on to their fork. There is nothing more disheartening than watching your child spit out a mouthful of the dinner you’ve slaved over into the bin. It’s often the meals I’ve thrown together, out of seemly nothing, that have been more successful, a skill I’ve developed from my mum I think. The ‘odds and sods dinner’ we called it, they were great.  

So I guess, as with everything, balance is the key. It’s ok to have some not so brilliant meals as long as there are others that I’ve invested a little time and effort in. It really is worth allowing a little time at the start of the week to plan what to have, then I can have that balance – low effort dinners on days when I’ve worked late or I want a bit of a night off, a day for experimentation, a day for a treat etc. It should also help with shopping as I know what I’m buying for, rather than hope that inspiration is going to descend on me whilst I’m staring at the meat counter vacantly, wondering what to do with the same bloody pork chops we have every Monday!

I also think I’d think I’d like to get the children more involved in the cooking too. This year, in our new house, we have a wonderful big and empty veg patch. I feel very excited about it and intend to grow lots of different things. Hopefully the children will start the whole process out there with me and then can enjoy harvesting it and cooking it with me too. Like I’ve said before, always dream big 😉 ……but for now, I think it’s time for a coffee and that hobnob…

P.s If any of you reading this have alternative instant gratification strategies – that don’t involve food, please let me know!

Pps. Rachel, Nina – mum says my roast potatoes are the best!

Not so guilty pleasures please..

I wanted to talk about guilt today, it seems to play a considerable part in my life and I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. In my work I often discuss guilt in the context of balancing academic workload and time off. I frequently tell students that if they are going to do something nice instead of their study they don’t need to feel guilty about it. Otherwise they can, in effect, waste their relaxation time and spoil the fun of what are doing; because they think they ‘should’ be doing something else.  ‘Have a great time,’ I say, ‘guilt free – knowing that you are going to be refreshed and productive later’. They’ll do better in the long run, much better than half-heartedly doing work, or going out and not enjoying it because of the guilt.

I feel as though I have said this quite a bit recently, and it’s just highlighted how entrenched in guilt I actually am.

I’ve realised I feel guilty about most things, most of the time. Even things that I should not feel guilty about at all. For example; asking my husband to do the school run because I am at work. How ridiculous! My husband never complains about it and clearly doesn’t mind doing it because they are also his children and I am out meeting my employment obligations. Yet I do. Perhaps it comes from an underlying feeling that I should be responsible for everything. If I am spending time with the family I’m thinking I should be doing other jobs, like washing and ironing, cooking dinner, the hoovering, all the normal stuff that has to be done. If I am doing those jobs I am feeling terrible that I’m not giving my family the attention I’d like to.

I feel guilty about the boring lunch boxes I put together, not being romantic, hardly ever walking the dog, not ringing friends and family often, forgetting the spelling practice, the list goes on and on.

It makes me wonder what’s beneath it? Do I think I am responsible for making everybody happy and ok all of the time? Or that I don’t deserve it? Why is that?

When I was at the pain management clinic the other day, the practitioner told me I had to make time for exercising and relaxation. Make time for me. He recognised that this may be a difficult thing to do, especially as I am a ‘giver’ rather than a ‘taker’. He wanted me to have half an hour a day that was for me, ideally an hour, but I think he saw my expression as I mentally tried to calculate how to fit an hour into the day that wasn’t already filled up.  He gently reminded me that if I looked after myself properly I would be able to look after everyone else more effectively. When I’m tired and painful I can’t do that. It’s an investment.  

It all made perfect sense and I wholeheartedly agreed, but even by the time I got to the car I was feeling guilty and wondering how to tell me family that I needed half an hour a day. It feels selfish, even though I know it’s not. When I think through a typical day and try to identify how often I choose what to do with any given moment I realise that I hardly ever choose what to do with my time. It’s always what needs to done next. But my husband and children are very often choosing how to spend their free time. So, how do I find free time and not feel bad about it. No-one in the world has said I can’t have it. I’ve got to make it for myself…

I’ve even been feeling guilty about not writing this next blog, it’s been a busy week but I guess I’ve taken the first step by claiming a few minutes now. I must keep in focus what I want to get out of life as well as everyone else getting what they need. I know my mental (and physical) health is so much better when I am doing things that further my dreams and that means taking a little bit of time for me.

So I’m going to try, really hard, to let myself off the hook. It will probably make us all happier. So there we are, advice for this week:

Ditch the guilt 😃

How to get out of a grump

I have had my next blog in mind for a while. I had intended to write a piece about positivity, inviting opportunities into your life, seeing the best in situations and the impact of a ‘sunny’ outlook.

However. The last couple of days I have felt really grumpy and tearful and I knew I wouldn’t be able to write it the way I would have done last week. So today I am going to talk about what I will do when I feel like this and how I’m going to get out of it. I’m not even sure where it’s come from, things are going pretty well for me right now, with the exception of one thing maybe: I’m having a bit of a bad spell with fibromyalgia at the moment. Thankfully it’s not debilitating, but I currently have lots of pain in my back, my knees and my feet and rather strangely a massive intolerance to noise. This can be the tv being on ‘too loud’, people talking over each other, even my children chatting to me when the radio is on, which is really sad. I don’t really want them to shut up, but when I feel this way I long for peace and my own thoughts. Just for a minute or two.

I try not to let my fibromyalgia dominate my life (I also have osteoarthritis too, which is apparently quite common) and most people probably wouldn’t know that I have anything wrong at all. But by the time I’ve finished work, done the school run, cooked the dinner, done the usual things with the children I’m pretty sore and totally out of energy. I still feel optimistic about improving my condition, I am just about to start a programme with the pain management clinic and I have lost 2 and a half stone in weight since last summer. You have to do what you can to give yourself the best chance of feeling well, don’t you?

So, I didn’t want this blog to be a moan session about my misery and my ailments, but rather a plan of action to feel better. So here’s what I’m going to do:

  • Firstly I’m not going to beat myself up for having a couple of days when I am not super positive, optimistic and ready to face the world.
  • Secondly I’m not going to try and analyse my entire life, relationships and failings to ‘discover’ why I feel this way.
  • I am going to totally accept that this is a temporary feeling and allow myself to feel this way, with the confidence that I will come out of it soon. (3 days is my max!)
  • I am going to keep in mind the good things that are still happening and not let my inner voice devalue them, or negate them in any way.
  • I am going to try and do a couple of nice things for me to lift my spirits, without feeling guilty!  I might choose to start reading a new book, a relaxing bath, write some of my own book, something like that…
  • I am going to recognise and acknowledge when I achieve something good. (Writing my second blog is a good start!) Each little thing will help me feel like I am on the way to getting my positive momentum back. Small steps make a big difference…….

On the cusp…

It’s a running joke with my mum: “I feel like I’m on the cusp” I say. It’s that feeling that things are going to change, and they feel like big changes that are coming, a new greatness that my life hasn’t yet achieved. I am almost 46, I have a wonderful family and a job I love. I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful and rural part of the Kent countryside and on the face of it I should feel content, but I feel as though I haven’t quite got there yet. Life hasn’t always been easy, (it’s really thrown some curve-balls my way), and last spring, when I felt like nothing in my life was ever going to change or get better, our Landlord asked us to move out because he wanted the property back. I was gutted at the time, the house had it’s issues but I’d spent my whole married life there, it’s where we raised our two children and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. After the shock had subsided I started to feel excited, things were going to change, life was going to be different. In my head I decided that this would be the catalyst for everything improving, the path to achieving everything I want from life. I’ve made a start and I have created this website for two reasons: Firstly because it will help me believe I can do it and secondly because I would love to help other people along the way.

A bit of background

I have spent many years helping people with their personal development, training and mental health. I currently work as a mentor supporting University students who have mental health difficulties. I love it, it’s such a great job, wonderful young people with bright futures, and seeing them graduate successfully and be more confident and happy is just the most rewarding thing I’ve experienced. I would love to do some Life Coaching, as many of the approaches and tools I use in my work are translatable to everyone of any age, so this is something I am going to look into and I hope that this website might be the start of that particular journey. So that’s ‘work’.

I also love to write, I am currently halfway through writing a novel, I’ve never written anything that serious before but my big dream is to finish my book and get it published. (It’s a sort of ghostly romance if you’re wondering) I’ve had positive feedback so far from my friends who have had a look at it, but I am well aware that they are my friends and a potential publisher may not feel the same. However, I truly believe in having dreams and not living with regret. So I will get my book done and I will send it out. If it never ends up in Waterstones (or any other book retailer) it won’t be the end of the world because I will have actually written it, I will never look back and say ‘I wish I’d written that book’. Of course I will be hoping that it does get published, maybe even turned into a film or series….(you have to dream big!)

I’ve mentioned my family already; I have a husband who is a little older than me, a Step-daughter who is married and has given us three wonderful grandchildren and we have two children of our own; a son who is 11 years old and our daughter who is 5. We experience all the normal difficulties that a family has; sometimes I feel like I’m the worst parent there is and other days I am like some kind of Super Hero mum. Standard stuff I believe. So that’s me in a nut shell. I’m not going to go through all the difficult things I’ve faced in my story so far as I am looking forward, not back. I am on the cusp.

I hope you’ll join me.