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Category: Mind, Body & Spirit

Learning to Trust the Body’s Ability to Heal

Do you believe that your body has the ability to heal itself? Or do you think that some things like age, chronic illness, and mental health problems are beyond any natural healing ability we may possess? Are some people naturally gifted with good health, whilst others suffer with no hope of a life beyond their limitations, or do we all have the opportunity to gain optimal health, whatever that may look like for each one of us?

learning to distrust the body

I’d love to say that there has always been a part of me that at some deep level believed in the body’s ability to heal, but to be honest with you that simply isn’t true. I have been sick, to some degree or another, for most of my life. I was diagnosed with Asthma aged 2, and so some of my earliest memories are of concern over my ability to breathe comfortably. Whilst I seemed to naturally outgrow this particular challenge, by the time I reached puberty other health issues had already stepped in to take their place.

My hypermobile form of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) had made me so clumsy I was regularly at A&E for an x-ray or because I’d got concussion or needed a wound cleaning. And once puberty arrived I was debilitated with crippling cramps, horrific nausea, and incredibly heavy and irregular periods. My teen years were spent trying to cope with these changes in my body, things I believed I had no control over, and I ended up heading into adulthood thinking that this was just my lot.

belief in others vs belief in self

As a result of this, I began to trust in doctors and medication as my only real option for any semblance of a “normal” life. And whilst there is nothing wrong with putting faith in modern medical science, there is a real danger in putting all of your hope into a medical system that still has no answers for many health conditions affecting the world today. If I had an accident and required emergency treatment, for instance, then I would seek out the help of a trained doctor. Likewise, if I developed an acute infection, I would visit my GP. These are areas in which modern medicine excel. But when it comes to chronic conditions, this is often far from the case.

My own experience has been one of seeking help from a variety of doctors and specialists over many years, always putting my hope in the chance that this doctor may finally have an answer for me, and almost always being highly disappointed. I was 17 when first diagnosed with Hypermobility, and 31 before anyone mentioned the term Ehlers Danlos Syndrome to me, explaining that my digestive health issues were probably connected to the same condition affecting my joints. But even with that explanation, there was no real helpful treatment options.

Endometriosis is another condition which has plagued my life, leading me to be on some form of contraceptive since I was 15 (most with very negative side effects), and going through no less than 4 pseudo-menopausal states in attempts to limit my symptoms. Yet you can imagine how many extra symptoms those brought up for me. So, you see, putting all of my trust in the doctors who have no real answers as to why these conditions occur nor how to adequately treat them, led to a deep distrust of my own body. If the doctors can’t even manage it, then how can I?

Image of a stethoscope with the words, "putting all of my trust in the doctors who have no real answers as to why these conditions occur nor how to adequately treat them, led to a deep distrust of my own body. If the doctors can't even manage it, then how can I?"

changing the dynamic

Which brings me to where I find myself today. After 3 decades of believing I was simply a “sick person”, whose lot in life was simply one of physical pain and discomfort, I am finally starting to challenge that belief. I’ve spent the past 3 years of my life becoming increasingly more and more debilitated, to the point where my body barely functions most days. I can trace the initial increase in symptoms to a very specific point in 2015, when a virus combined with a very busy period in my life led to a complete overwhelm of my system. And yet I know that whilst this was the tipping point, it wasn’t the start of this downfall.

A series of events following my pregnancy and becoming a parent to a child with additional needs, led me to disregarding my body’s own needs and placing everyone else’s first. This was a recipe for disaster, given my body’s natural disposition towards ill health. But I didn’t listen to my body’s needs, nor the messages it sent me through my intuition and increasing symptoms. Because I already believed that this was simply my lot in life, to suffer. And that belief goes right back to my childhood.

This ill health I have now is not a new thing, it is something that has developed over a lifetime of distrusting my body, and placing my belief in external sources rather than my internal ability to heal. And when I began to realise just how far back this goes, I realised that I had impossible expectations of what healing might look like. I was hoping for a “quick fix”, something which would take away the most unpleasant symptoms I have each day, rather than building up healing and resilience from my very core beliefs about myself. Those “quick fixes”, which are often medications to alleviate symptoms, are fine in and of themselves, but they won’t lead to long-term healing. That has to come from within.

Image of two women doing yoga with the words, " I will always have a genetic condition that affects the connective tissue in my body, and so I will always have to adapt what I do to support that rather than aggravate it. Yoga postures must be adapted, diet must nourish without irritating, adequate rest must be incorporated into my day, and some days I'll just have to accept that it's a bad day"

healing to your optimal version of health

Now, before I go any further I want to make something abundantly clear. I am not proposing the idea that the body can heal from anything and everything. This isn’t some ‘miracle cure-all’. Neither am I suggesting that it is our own beliefs that cause illness. Such thinking is overly simplistic and, quite frankly, dangerous. It suggests that those with serious health conditions can simply will themselves to be better through the power of positive thinking. And that’s bullshit.

Too often those of us in the chronic health community are told that if only we did this, or changed that, we’d miraculously heal. Such recommendations, no matter how lovingly given, are dis-empowering at best and damaging at worst. People need to be believed, they need to have their symptoms respected, and their daily efforts recognised. Life is hard for all of us, and for some people that is most profoundly felt through their physical and/or mental health.

But that doesn’t mean that those of us who do struggle with our health cannot aim for our own personal version of optimal health. And that will look different for everybody. For me it means that I will always have a genetic condition that affects the connective tissue in my body, and so I will always have to adapt what I do to support that rather than aggravate it. Yoga postures must be adapted, diet must nourish without irritating, adequate rest must be incorporated into my day, and some days I’ll just have to accept that it’s a bad day and in order for my body to heal I need to honour what it’s telling me in that moment.

The same goes for my anxiety and the pain felt regarding certain events that have happened in my life. No amount of positive thinking and lifestyle changes will affect my ability to have more children. But I can work on honouring the fact that my body carried and gave birth to this beautiful child of mine, and that my love for him is enough. I can stop beating myself up for not doing more, and cherish what I can do.

Image of a woman looking out to sea with the words, "Sacred work is beautiful, but it isn't easy. It means facing those parts of yourself that you hate the most. It means working with your limitations, rather than trying to work despite them. And it means knowing that it took you a lifetime to get to the place you are right now, so it's going to take you a lifetime of learning to trust yourself and your body."

healing work is sacred work

Over on instagram, my profile says that I am on a “sacred healing journey”. This is something I came up with last year, and it has stuck. Healing requires going into the very depths of your being, having the courage to face the darkest parts of your soul, and learning to trust in your body’s ability to heal. If that isn’t sacred work, then I don’t know what is.

But it’s hard to recognise the power and impact of what you’re doing, when it feels like you’re simply lying in bed,  or battling through your inner demons just to make it through the day. Some days it feels like you’ve done nothing but simply survive – and that’s sometimes exactly how it is. You need to acknowledge these days as a part of your journey, but don’t let them define you. Because those days are the ones which remind you of your feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness. Those are the days which whisper that you aren’t enough, and that this is simply how it is. Those are the days you simply have to survive, knowing that a new day will come.

And when that new day finally comes, you do the sacred work. You go within, you trust yourself, and you learn to find a new way of living. Sacred work is beautiful, but it isn’t easy. It means facing those parts of yourself that you hate the most. It means working with your limitations, rather than trying to work despite them. And it means knowing that it took you a lifetime to get to the place you are right now, so it’s going to take you a lifetime of learning to trust yourself and your body. This isn’t a quick fix. This isn’t a cure. This is life.

image of a woman using her laptop whilst sitting in bed with the words, "we need friends who understand where we're coming from and will walk with us. In the past this was often limited to what was available in your local area, but nowadays you can easily connect with people from across the globe via the internet too."

trust your intuition, choose your tools, and find your community

Because sacred work is so hard, you need to surround yourself with the tools and community to support you along the way. Nobody can hope to do this alone. There is a reason that humanity has long sought community with those who are also on the same path – we need friends who understand where we’re coming from and will walk with us. In the past this was often limited to what was available in your local area, but nowadays you can easily connect with people from across the globe via the internet too.

Of course, the problem with this is that there can often be too much information and too many options to choose from. How do you know what will work for you? Well, I’ve found that the best way is to try out a few things and see what your gut instinct is telling you. If something feels right, go with it. But if something feels wrong, drop it, even if everyone around you thinks it is the best thing ever. It is only the best thing if it feels right to you.

I experienced this recently quite significantly. During meditative time (which I have always resisted), I felt an overwhelming rush of love, and realised I was far from alone. From that experience, I began to realise areas where I had been trying to control the uncontrollable. For me, this was most pronounced in my diet. Because of my digestive issues I had gradually restricted my diet more and more over many years, and I had ended up surviving on mostly dry carbs (jacket potatoes, oatcakes etc) and snacking rather than eating proper meals. I was missing out on so much protein and fat, and not allowing my digestive system the power to work effectively (and it’s a sluggish system, so it needs all the help it can get!)

As I began to consider changing my diet, bringing in foods I’d have never eaten before through fear, I started out on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). However a week into it I realised that it was not healthy for me. I was beginning to fear eating the wrong things, and my body was wanting less meat and a few more carbs. So I followed my gut (pun intended) and dropped the AIP diet in favour of trusting what my body was specifically asking me for. I had begun to recognise the difference between a craving (chocolate) and an actual need (carbs), as well as recognising that my body was happier eating stews and soups rather than roast dinners.

Image of someone eating soup with the words, "My intuition, once I actually tuned in and listened, had told me the same thing an ancient medical practice was also suggesting. By learning to trust my body's ability to heal, I had tapped into what I needed."

About a week later I stumbled across an Ayurveda dosha quiz, and discovered that my constitution is strongly Vata (air). The description of Vata not only perfectly described my natural characteristics, but it also explained many of my current symptoms. It even recommended eating soups and stews, to avoid food that was too “dry”. My intuition, once I actually tuned in and listened, had told me the same thing an ancient medical practice was also suggesting. By learning to trust my body’s ability to heal, I had tapped into what I needed.

Whatever tools you choose to use, and whichever community you choose to join, remember always that flexibility is the most important thing you can ever embrace. Your needs and preferences will change over time, both as you age and as the circumstances in your life ebb and flow. What works for you now will be completely different to what worked for you last year. So don’t feel as if you have to stick to something long-term if it isn’t working for you anymore. Try new things and go with the flow.

belief is everything

More than anything else, healing is only possible when you believe it is. This has been shown countless times within studies using placebos, for example. That’s not to say that the things you do or take, be that lifestyle choices or pharmaceutical medication, have no effect. Of course they do. Exercise has an impact on the body. Meditation has an impact on the body. Diet has an impact on the body. Medication has an impact on the body. It all does. What I mean is that it is your belief in the possibility of healing that amplifies the effect.

For instance, I have been seeing the herbal medicine team at my local college for about 18 months now. I have a review with them every 4-6 weeks, and we tweak the tincture accordingly. And whilst there was a small, immediate effect from taking the tinctures, it was only once I truly began to believe that this medicine had the power to change my life that I started to see real effects. And, interestingly, most of the effects have been psychological rather than physiological so far.

I’ve begun to trust in my body’s ability to heal itself, and been making changes accordingly. I removed my Mirena and became contraceptive free for the first time since my teens last Summer. And over time I have started to understand and accept that some of the very physical challenges right now are not going to vanish overnight, because my body has to rebalance itself after years and years of neglect and abuse on my part. I have hated on my body for such a long time, learning to love and trust it is a huge thing. And I truly believe therein lies my ability to heal.

Lady standing in summer dress with arms wide dancing as the sun goes down in the distance

Self Care

Prioritising Self Care: Why Do We Struggle With This So Much?

How often do we put everyone else ahead of us instead of actually prioritising our own self care? How often do we think that in order to be a good friend, spouse, parent, or worker we must put the needs of everyone and everything before our own? And how often does that actually work out for us?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent most of your life putting others first. When I look back on my life I can see how I have done this at every step along the way. And when I actually stop to think about that I realise that there is no wonder that I have been so sick lately. Because by ignoring my own needs I have presented a situation in which my body has had no choice but to say “no more”.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And I’ve realised that if I’m ever going to truly heal and learn to live in a way that is sustainable to my own health, I need to start prioritising self care. And I need to do it right now.

Of course that’s really hard for me, because it goes against everything I have ever believed about myself and what it means to “be a good person”. It makes me feel selfish and I worry so much about what others might think of me. But that’s where the courage comes in, that’s where my word for this year is so very apt for what I need right now. With courage I can feel that fear and do it anyway. Because it is worth it.

And I wanted to share with you how I am doing that, partly because I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling with this, and partly because another aspect of self-care means using this blog for what I need on this healing journey. But as much as I love to write things down, I also find it really helpful to simply share my heart verbally too. So I took to Facebook Live this afternoon and shared the following… it wasn’t very well planned, it certainly wasn’t highly polished, but it was pure, unadulterated passion that poured out.

I mention several books and resources I’m using in this video, which I have listed links to below if you’d like to check them out. And I’d love to hear about your own ways of prioritising self care, so please do share those in the comments below too.

Louise L Hay – Affirmations
Louise L Hay – Wisdom Cards
Abby Wynne (and her book How to Be Well)
One Woman Revolution (and their YouTube channel too)
A Woman’s Book of Yoga (and New Mum Online who introduced me to this book)
Neale Donald Walsch (and his books Conversations with God)

The Power of Affirmations

Do you remember that I recently discovered how little I love myself and that I thought it was time to change that? Well, as so often happens, once I made that decision to change I found that the Universe was more than happy to provide me with the resources with which to do so.

I can’t even remember in which order each new idea and resource came to me, I just know that within a few days I found that I had gone from feeling totally deflated by it all to fully enthused about the power within my own mind to make positive changes in my life. And all of this was thanks to affirmations.

Have you ever heard of affirmations? I sure had. I think I first came across them in my early 20s, so maybe 10 years ago now, but at the time I just didn’t seem to understand them. I misunderstood the idea, thinking that if you did them right then affirmations would make everything okay by removing the obstacles in your life. Which means that because I continued to have ill health and other difficulties in life then I must either be doing them incorrectly or they must not work. How wrong I was!

True power of affirmations

You see, I’ve come to understand that the true power in affirmations lies not in their ability to make everything in your life rosy and comfortable, but rather in their ability to change the way you perceive what is happening in your life. It’s not what you are experiencing that matters so much as how you are experiencing it. Let me explain…

For a very, very long time I have suffered from a variety of health issues. In fact, when I was asked recently to write a review of my life I found I got stuck almost immediately in defining myself and my life experience through these health issues. Now my previous way of understanding how affirmations work would have led me to believe that I simply wasn’t very good at them because if I were I wouldn’t have had to struggle with so many illnesses. But my current understanding is this – affirmations don’t magically remove the physical manifestation of an experience we have (e.g. an illness) but they do help us to perceive them in a whole other way (e.g. this illness does not define who I am).

And it is this change in perception that really makes the difference. Since starting daily affirmations (in front of a mirror, for extra self-reflection) I have found that my thought process is changing in such an incredible way. Things that I have struggled with for years (such as self-doubt and self-criticism) are suddenly being replaced by far more positive thought patterns (e.g. self-love and self-worth) without me evening consciously thinking about it. And the beauty of this is that it is all really very simple too.

Whereas I would previously have worried about saying the right things, doing things in the right order, or trying to logically work out the reason for my suffering, I have recently being choosing to follow my intuition. I choose an affirmation that feels right for me in that moment, and then I repeat it (out loud whenever possible) and focus purely on the repetition, like a mantra. I say it as many times as feels right and I change up the wording to suit. By choosing not to overthink or over-analyse what I am doing, I find a true freedom that allows the healing to really begin.

By repeating affirmations such as “I love myself just as I am,” and “I am safe, I trust life” I find that my whole worldview changes. I look in the mirror now and think, “I’m beautiful” rather than “gosh, aren’t I so plain!” and I feel myself letting go of the need to “fix” everything, realising that sometimes things just happen for a reason that I may not yet fully understand. For instance, I understand now that “trusting life to bring only good things to me” doesn’t mean my life will be without pain, but rather any pain that occurs will bring something of value to me in some way.

I understand now that -trusting life to bring only good things to me- doesn't mean my life will be without pain, but rather any pain that occurs will bring something of value to me in some way.

This may seem glib, I know – I’ve often felt that way about affirmations too! But I promise you that if you give affirmations a go, really try them for a few days (at least), you may well find that they bring major changes into your outlook and therefore your experience of life. Let me tell you some of the things that have changed for me in the past couple of weeks, all thanks to starting a daily practise of affirmations:

  • I recognised a pattern within myself and TJ whereby guilt from the suffering we both went through during my pregnancy led to me playing the martyr and him the victim. Realising this helped me to open up to TJ about it, which in turn helped us to talk more openly than we have in a very long time.
  • I have been able to let go of anger and a sense of “injustice” over events that have occurred during the past few years, allowing me to see that within all the pain there were real opportunities to grow – namely the fact that it was only by becoming so low and out of touch with myself that I have finally chosen to change the pattern of a lifetime! What a blessing that is turning out to be…
  • I am becoming more and more aware of just how much of my suffering in life has come from a very deeply rooted lack of self-love and trust in my own body. But instead of obsessing over which came first – the suffering or the lack of self-love – I find I am able to simply focus on loving myself more, regardless of everything else.
  • As a result of more self-awareness and self-love, I have been stepping out of my “must do, must achieve” survival mode and into a more gentle and nurturing style of living. I find myself slowing down the pace, investing in my own well-being, and discovering who I am rather than focusing purely on what I do (or don’t do, as the case may be).
  • I have gone from finding it almost impossible to wake up in the morning, experiencing a sensation like trying to swim through treacle back to consciousness and struggling through the day with next to no energy, to rising from my bed with ease and excitement for my moments in front of the mirror and the day ahead. This can only be attributed to the change in my perception, from dread of what may happen to joy for what could happen. I wake with ease because I want to wake up to another day… you can’t get more symbolic than that!

Waking with ease and joy

To think that these (and so many other changes) have happened in such a short amount of time is, quite honestly, mind-blowing to me. Because, you see, making 5 minutes every morning for affirmations in front of the mirror is so easy. I can’t quite believe that something as simple as this could have such an amazing effect, but it has. And that’s the power of affirmations!

Tell me, do you use affirmations? How do you find them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Or maybe you’re a little uncertain about affirmations, just like I was? In that case, why not check out my free printables that could help get you started?

And don’t forget you can follow my daily updates on my healing journey over on instagram – I’d love to connect with you there!


Linking up with #sharethejoy – your weekly dose of inspiration!

Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com

what others think of me really doesn't matter, as long as I am happy with what I know to be true of myself.

Finding Time to Find Peace

We all want peace, don’t we? By that I mean we want to feel at peace with ourselves and our lives rather than World Peace (although, I’m sure many of us would like that too!) We want to feel that quiet confidence in our lives, that the things we do are “just right” for us, that life is unfolding as it should, and that we are “on the right track”. At least, that is what I think of when I think of peace, a quiet knowing that life is okay, we’re okay, no matter what.

But as much as I strive for this sense of peace, I find it so difficult to catch hold of. It feels like something I am chasing, constantly, as I battle one difficulty after the next. And no matter how hard I try, that peace continues to elude me. Or at least it did, until recently…

Finding Time to Find PeaceThis past year has been a major learning curve for me, and despite making huge leaps forward in many ways, I have felt myself dragged down by circumstance and a fear of the way the world looks at me. I’ve put far more stock in what has happened to me, rather than focusing on what is happening inside of me. And that has led me to chasing after things that do not make me happy, but instead make me jealous and bitter.

I could look at the blessings in my life – my little family, my home, the food on our table – and instead of seeing them for what they truly are, I focused on what they weren’t. I didn’t have the larger family I had dreamed of. Our home was not a place of refuge, but rather a jumble of boxes and piles of “stuff” we had to sort through. And the food on our table was hard won, a constant battle to balance healthy-eating with budget living.

And no matter how hard I tried to see the blessings, I just couldn’t feel them. Gratitude isn’t something you can force yourself to feel. No matter how many ways I went about thinking about it, I just couldn’t get my heart to embrace it.

Until I realised what the problem was – I wasn’t giving myself time. I needed time to stop everything and just focus on being. I needed to step away from all the pressures that wore me down and take some time out to simply be. And I definitely needed to cut down on the amount of time I spent looking at other people’s lives and yearning for things that were never meant to be for me.

The internet and social media can be a wonderful thing. It has brought me a lot of peace lately, but it can also be a dangerous trap to fall into, if you’re not careful (or should I say “mindful”) in how you use it. Not only does it bombard you with “edited” images of other people’s lives (by that I mean most people tend to show more of the “good” in their lives than the bad, giving us a skewed impression of what a “good life” looks like), but it also feeds us with ideas of all the things we need to do to be happy.

We need to have a perfectly pristine home. The food we cook should be ever more adventurous. We should be doing everything to make our kids’ childhoods perfect for them. And we definitely need to be “seen” in a certain light by not only our close friends and family, but also friends of friends and even perfect strangers we have only just met.

The latter is a lesson I am learning gradually. I put far too much stock into how others see me, I have done so for many years, but it has been brought into a whole new light of late. It is only recently, through quiet meditation and taking time out, that I have realised just why I have been so bothered by events over the past year – I am worried about what others must think of me, rather than realising that what others think of me really doesn’t matter, as long as I am happy with what I know to be true of myself.

what others think of me really doesn't matter, as long as I am happy with what I know to be true of myself.

Which brings me back to the good in the internet and social media. You see, the internet has given me access to things I may never have found without it, especially when it comes to the more “unusual” areas of my life. Most recently this has included online kundalini yoga classes (via youtube) that have brought a real peace into my life. I’ve tried yoga before, attending my first classes with my dad in my late teens, but I’ve never felt so empowered by it.

TJ and I started practising with this video just last week, and already I can feel the difference. I felt it from the very first moment we tried it. It wasn’t even that I was doing anything different, simply that I have found something I really enjoy which makes me take half an hour out of my day that is just for me. The benefit of that alone is immense, but combining it with the energising power of kundalini yoga leaves me feeling far more at peace and in control than I ever have. And the reality is that I’m not in control at all, I am simply riding the waves rather than trying (hopelessly) to tame them. And the relief of that is wonderful.

Suddenly I am aware of self-damaging behaviours – comparing myself (and my life) to others, constantly craving for more (or to achieve the next big thing), and feeling the need to justify my life (and my decisions). Those behaviours haven’t just disappeared, they are still there, but I am no longer oblivious to their effect on my well-being and through recognising this I am able to create change. Because I make time for it.

If there’s one thing I have learnt recently, it’s that no matter what you do, no matter how much you learn and how far you go in life, there is one thing that will never fail to assist you and that’s time. In a society where we are obsessed with squeezing every last drop of life out of every single second, it can feel counter-intuitive to stop and simply be. I know, I’ve been driven by both fear and ambition for far too long. But I also know, now, that taking that time is the most beautiful gift we can ever give to ourselves.

In a society where we are obsessed with squeezing every last drop of life out of every single second, it can feel counter-intuitive to stop and simply be. I know, I've been driven by both fear and ambition for far too long. But I also know, now, that taking that time is the most beautiful gift we can ever give to ourselves.

When Everyone Shines But You by British Author Kelly Martin

When Everyone Shines But You by Kelly Martin

One year ago, an old friend of mine (Kelly Martin) self-published her first book. I met Kelly online whilst I was at uni, and I had seen how she began to find her voice when she set up a blog all those years ago. We lost touch for several years, so it was a truly lovely surprise to find her again just as she was preparing to publish her first book.

When Everyone Shines But You by British Author Kelly Martin

 

Photo Credit: Kelly Martin

When Everyone Shines But You is a wonderful book, which I actually bought a year ago when it was first released. But, as life has been so crazily busy for me these past 12 months, I am only just now finding the time to write about it. There is a major part of me that feels terribly guilty about the length of time it has taken… until I remember that Kelly’s book is all about losing these judgements we make of ourselves, forgetting about trying to “be like the rest”, and actually loving ourselves and our own journeys, no matter what form that takes.

As Kelly so beautifully says, “You are enough – exactly as you are! Right now”.

So, casting aside these feelings of guilt, let me share with you what I think to the book…

When Everyone Shines But You is a book that delves deep into our feelings of inadequacies, the thoughts we have that we aren’t good enough, and the comparisons we make with those who we think “have it all” whilst we still struggle onwards, never seeming to get anywhere. It doesn’t shy away from facing the darker, more explosive emotions we experience, such as rage and anger, rather it acknowledges them as a natural part of our journey in life:

You can and will embrace this rage, because it will not stop until you surrender into the rapids of this emotion.
(Chapter 3)

This is one of the most refreshing things about this book – it allows you to have real emotions and reminds you that life isn’t good 100% of the time, we all have times when we get dragged down by the challenges we face, and that actually we don’t need to be good 100% of the time either:

 

You need not be a saint.
You are not a saint.

It’s okay not to be saintly.
It’s okay not to be ‘good’.
It’s okay not to be ‘bad’.
It’s okay not to be perfect.

What you are, right now, in this moment is okay, more than okay, it’s who you are.
(Chapter 19)

However, whilst it is a book that encourages you to accept who you are and how you are as perfectly okay, it still inspires you to aim for more. Kelly knows that the reason you have picked up this book is because you want to change, in some way, and she wants that change to happen for you too. But unlike so many “self-help” guides which suggest you practise techniques such as positive thinking, affirmations, and meditation to ‘change’ or ‘fix’ what we feel is wrong in our lives, Kelly invites us to embrace what is and allow change to happen naturally:

Don’t try to be present with your emotions and feelings in order to change them. 

Being present allows them to simply be and sends a signal, that as you are, you are worthy of acceptance and care. The emotions over time dissolve on their own, without force or will…
(Chapter 28)

When Everyone Shines But You is like a love letter to yourself, asking you to see who you are as a beautiful human being (warts and all) and that instead of needing to be something else, you are already perfect right now. This doesn’t mean that life is always rosy, and that you’re not going to want for more, or feel bad about yourself – that isn’t the point of the book. The message here is to realise that every single emotion you feel is showing you something, and when you can begin to embrace those emotions and hear what they are trying to tell you, change will come naturally. Because once you listen to your heart, you’ll find your own purpose in life rather than trying to live your life in accordance with others.

When I read the book, I could see the exact journey Kelly had taken whilst writing it. She writes from the heart, sharing the path she has taken and inviting us to walk with her. It won’t be for everyone – it’s not a book that tries to appeal to all, but rather a book that hopes to be honest and open. But for those who relate to the thoughts and emotions Kelly writes about, it will be a welcome breath of fresh air. There are no rigid steps to follow, no exercises that must be completed to ensure success, instead there are 39 short, easy to read chapters that feel like a letter from a good friend.

If you’d like to find out more about Kelly and her writing, do check out her blog at Kelly Martin Speaks. And if I’ve caught your attention and you’d like to buy a copy of the book for yourself, now is the time! As part of the book’s 1st birthday celebrations, Kelly is offering the Kindle version for 99p (it usually retails at £5.99). If you’d rather a hard copy of the book, or need an alternative eBook version, you can find the book at any of the retailers listed here.

Finally, I thought I’d leave you with some of my favourite quotes from the book. If you’ve read it, do share your favourite quotes with me too!

My Favourite Quotes from When Everyone Shines But You by Kelly Martin

********************

Disclaimer: Kelly is a friend of mine, and I purchased the book and wrote this review because I wanted to share it with you. All views are my own. 

Shadow Play

Intentional Living

Living Intentionally Quote

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like life is whizzing by and I am missing so much of it because I am so caught up in all the things I think I need to do. To be fair, some of those things are necessities – I do need to work in order to pay the bills, I need to cook in order to feed my family, and I need to do the laundry so that we have clothes to wear!! But sometimes I mix these necessities in with things that could wait, and that’s when I miss out on so much.

These past few weeks have really highlighted how very true this is. Life is incredibly crazy right now – we just moved house, I’ve just started two new jobs, Little Man is adapting to a new nursery, TJ is getting used to a longer commute each day, and we’re all adjusting to the fact I no longer work from home. Needless to say, life is just a little bit messy because of all the changes to our routine. We haven’t yet found our new rhythm and it has thrown us all off kilter.

But instead of giving myself some grace and putting the “to do” list on hold, I have found myself desperate to get through it. I see the boxes we still need to unpack, the cupboards that still need sorting, the pictures I want to get up on the wall, the plants that need planting, and it all just feels utterly overwhelming. Again, I come back to weeding out the things that could (and probably should) wait from those that actually need doing. I mean, we have everything we need to cook dinner, dress for work, and go about our daily business, surely the rest can wait!

And it can, of course it can. But when I’m stressed I find that I cling to things I think I can “achieve” (such as a more “perfect” house) rather than simply living intentionally. I focus more on the way things look than the way they feel. What does it matter if my house is a mess, if I am able to spend time with my family? Who cares if the bookcases are filled with clothes instead of books, when it means I have time to go out and enjoy the sunshine with my boys rather than emptying boxes and rearranging everything? By focusing on how unfinished my house is, how far from the ideal I want for it, I am missing out on the fact that we are here, we are together, and life is good.

So that’s what I am trying to do. It is hard, I feel bad about the state of my house, that it should be sorted by now. But though it is hard, it is so worth it. Sitting and watching tv whilst cuddling Little Man, rather than asking him to sit quietly whilst I unpack is a much better way of living, don’t you think?

Last year I wrote a post about looking for simple things in life, what I called Joy in the Everyday Moment, and I feel the need to do this again. I want to consciously and intentionally look for those little things which mean the most, to ensure I do not get pulled down by all the coulds and shoulds that I allow to overtake my life when I do not life with intention.

How about you? How do you live intentionally?

Finding Peace in the Chaos with Mantras

Chanting For Peace

It’s no secret that life is pretty crazy here at The Patch. This year has seen us face redundancy and relocation, and whilst things are slowly beginning to settle down it is still far from peaceful. I’m currently balancing two new jobs, whilst building up my blog again (which is fun, but takes a lot of time). TJ is dealing with lots of changes at work, which is stressful enough without the added concerns of his own health. And Little Man is trying to adapt to life in a new city, which isn’t all that easy for a 3 year old to fully understand.

So with all this going on in our lives, I find that there is constant chatter in the back of my mind. I think at a mile a minute normally anyway, but with so much to think about on a daily basis right now it has become much more complicated. At the beginning of the year I set out some goals for the year. These included being more mindful, worrying less, and living more purposefully. Whilst on the surface it may seem like I am getting there, my internal dialogue is still constantly worrying about what the future holds and missing what is happening right now. I am, in essence, losing myself to the chaos around me, rather than finding a centre of peace within it.

Finding Peace in the Chaos with Mantras

And I want to change that. I want to embrace something which becomes a natural part of my day, setting me up for whatever happens by giving me some sense of internal peace. I have tried it before, making a promise to myself to pray, meditate or try yoga everyday, but it just hasn’t ever worked out. I get distracted, or I feel sick, or I just don’t feel I have the time, and it all falls by the wayside. Until now…

Whilst I was packing for our move, I tried listening to various radio stations, albums, podcasts etc but found I simply couldn’t focus on what I was listening to and focus on packing at the same time. It became more stressful than helpful. Until I discovered this version of Gayatri Mantra on youtube.

I don’t know how to describe how perfect it was… over 2 hours of music and chanting that was so easy to learn and sing along to. Focusing on the repetition of the words alone, even though I had no idea what they meant, was so therapeutic. I could think about what I was packing whilst chanting, because the pattern meant that it became easier to sing each time. I want to say that it meant I didn’t have to focus too much on the words, and that is true, but there was some thought involved because what essentially happened was that the mindless chatter and panicked thoughts that usually ran through the back of my mind began to disappear.

I’m not sure this is exactly how most people use mantras, but it is certainly working for me. Over the past few days I have listened to the Gayatri Mantra again whilst sorting out the bedroom, getting reader for work, pottering around the house… and the more I do it the more I find myself singing without the music too. I’ll be walking to work and it suddenly pops into my head, or I’ll be preparing lunch and the words just slip out. The combination of music and words seems to work so well for me, and I am beginning to really love the way that it quietens the fearful or chaotic thoughts that run through my head, helping me to find a calm centre from which to approach my day.

The weirdest thing is, I’d have never thought that chanting would be my thing! TJ first shared a few with me this time last year when he was learning some as part of his Shamanic Practitioner course. One of them was another of Deva Premal‘s tracks, and when he first played it to me I could feel the power within it, and I did enjoy joining in with him once in a while. But I never really made the time for it. Last year was, in very different ways, equally as chaotic as this year has been and I just don’t think I was in the best place to appreciate what it could offer me. I felt chanting was something I had no time for, especially as I read Eat. Pray. Love last summer and saw the dedication that was involved by the author during her time in India. Little did I know that even the smallest amount of time spent in this way would make a massive difference.

But now I know, and I want to embrace this wholeheartedly. I’ve decided that I want to make time for chanting every single day, even if it is only for 10 minutes in the morning as I jump in the shower. I’m hoping that, in time, I will find a way of making some dedicated space in my days for really focusing on the mantra, feeling the music flow through me and understanding what the words actually mean. But I know that if I set myself too great an expectation I will only give up. So for now I’m going to just try and make sure it is a daily activity, no matter how small.

I feel a particular affinity to the Gayatri Mantra, so I am going to try and stick with that for now, to really try and understand its meaning before moving on to another one. I’ll let you know how it goes. And if you chant, please do let me know what your favourite it, how you integrate it into your day, and what it means to you – I’d love to hear about it!

Baby Clothes

Embracing Duality – How Grief and Gratitude Can Go Hand in Hand

This past weekend has been such a wild mixture of emotions, I still feel like I am reeling a little bit. It’s probably unfair to say it is just this weekend that has been this way, because in reality the entire year has been full of magnificent highs and intense lows. But it all seems to have come to a head over the past few days.

Let’s start with Friday. I had been waiting all week to hear whether I had been successful in my latest interview. I had felt like the interview had gone well, and was more excited about this role than any of the others I had gone for. But even so, having been turned down three times before because of being “overqualified”, I wasn’t ready to celebrate yet. In fact, I had given up on hope that I would hear that week, and was focusing on the job at hand – i.e. packing!

Packing
Our house is full of boxes, bags and cleaning products right now!

Then, almost as soon as I stopped thinking about it, I received a call offering me the job. I start on Friday 1st May, less than a week after we relocate to our new house. The news of this job coming just 2 weeks after the news that we could finally set a moving date was pretty exciting. After months of uncertainty, of thinking we were getting somewhere and then being held back for one reason or another, we were finally on the move. Quite literally.

So that’s the magnificent high for this weekend. We’re just 2 weeks off our move, and I have a new job. And it is a job I just know I am going to love. I couldn’t be happier…

Only the process of packing up ready to move makes me face the reality that life is moving forwards for us. And in some ways that is hard, because it means letting go of the very last threads of a dream we once thought was our future.

When we first moved here, way back in 2010, we were yet to be married and we were childless. We weren’t even 100% sure I could have children, but we were hopeful. Hyperemesis was a complete unknown for us, and as for Small Fibre Neuropathy, well we couldn’t ever have foreseen that. I remember thinking that the second bedroom in this house was the perfect size for two children. I wanted two, at least, if not three or four kids if I was really honest with myself. And this seemed like the perfect home to begin that journey.

Kids' Bedroom
Plenty of space for two kids, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed that we have Little Man. We are incredibly blessed by him and I know that things could have turned out so differently. I completely see all the benefits of having an only child, especially now that TJ is sick. But it isn’t the dream that I held for so long.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t broody. I think it kicked in pretty early on, and by the time my mum became a childminder I knew I wanted children in my life. And despite being adamant throughout my entire pregnancy that I could never do that again, there was always the doubt that said, “you won’t be happy with just one child”. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am not happy, because I feel so incredibly lucky to have this beautiful bond with Little Man, but I do know that there will always be this part of me that grieves for the fact that we never got to expand our family.

And that grief was thrown in my face this weekend as I went up in the loft and brought down all of Little Man’s baby clothes. His 0-3 month clothes (which he outgrew in about a month – he was a big baby!) were stored in the carrycot to his pram (which he also outgrew incredibly quickly). I have yet to go through all the bags, but I believe we have clothes right up until the age of 1 year in there, and it reminds me so much of those beautiful early days. They were marred by breastfeeding issues, sleep deprivation, and depression, but they were also the most beautiful moments that finally made me the mother I had always dreamed of being.

Baby Clothes
Some of my favourites – I’m not sure how I’m going to part with these…

This dichotomy of emotions – joy and sadness, gratitude and grief – is what I am also feeling right now. I am overwhelmed by the thought of finally getting rid of items from those early days, items I stored away “just in case” we ever had another baby in our lives. And yet I am also relieved that those early days are long gone. No more will we face the crazy upheaval of newborn life, no more will we forget what a good night’s sleep feels like, and no more will we need to work our entire lives around the needs of one tiny (and amazing) person. And there’s a lot of relief in that…

When I think of moving to the new house, I feel a renewed sense of excitement. We’ll be able to do all the things we wanted to do when we moved to this house but were not able to do through time or financial constraints. I’ll finally be able to paint the welsh dresser, make a patchwork quilt, and generally make our house into a warm and inviting home. We’ll be able to have people over to stay because, although we will need to look after the needs of ourselves (and especially Little Man) first, we will not be stretched across too many needs and commitments.

crochet fingerless gloves
There will be time for a lot more of this as Little Man gets older…

My life will never again be the half-crazed rush of trying to juggle far too many balls, instead there will be family nearby, communities to explore, and a far better work/life balance. There will be time for quiet meditation, reflections on the beauty in our life, and rebuilding the core strength which gets us through the hard times. And for that I am truly grateful.

It doesn’t take away the sadness and grief for dreams that once were but will never be. I think that will always be a part of who I am. But instead of trying to be just one thing, I am trying to embrace the duality of these experiences and emotions and forge a new way forward which allows them both space in my heart. That maternal instinct, that so desperately wanted a larger family, can find a new way of providing love and support to others, and all because of the opportunities provided by fully accepting the gift of time and energy this new way of life is enabling.

Here’s to life, whatever it may bring!

********

I’m linking up again with Share The Joy over at Bod For Tea, as this post has brought me both joy in the memories and in the realisation of all we have together as a family!

Share the Joy linky at bodfortea.co.uk

Go With The Flow

Redundancy and Relocation – Going With The Flow in the Midst of Chaos

So, remember how I wrote that my word for 2015 would be “Surrender”?  How little I knew at that time how much that word would come to mean…

We’re not even out of January yet and already I have been made redundant, attended a job interview, and made the decision to relocate (and found a house that will hopefully be ours!) Talk about a crazy month!!

I’ve not been able to talk about all of this while it was happening, because there was a period of time between finding out about the proposed redundancy and the confirmation of this (which arrived yesterday). And it’s been pretty tough not being able to talk about it, not because of the changes themselves, but because of the changes within me that this has all evoked.

2014 was a year that almost broke me. Between TJ’s rapidly deteriorating health, the multiple GP and hospital appointments that ensued, an incredibly challenging job, final edits on the book and its subsequent launch, a massive drop in Little Man’s childcare (meaning less time than ever to fit everything into my already hectic days!) and my own very physical reactions to stress, it is no wonder I ended the year close to a breakdown and feeling like Christmas was just an inconvenience I could have done without.

But it was upon hitting absolute rock bottom that I made the decision to “let go” and trust that everything would unfold in its own way. Instead of fighting to try and control life, I decided to go with the flow, and I couldn’t have made that decision at a better moment. Were I still in the mindset that I was in 2014, this first month of the New Year would have been the final push that shattered me. Instead, it has been a defining moment in teaching me to ride the waves and hopefully float, rather than thrashing around and choking myself in the process.

Go With The Flow

Don’t get me wrong – life is stressful. Nobody wants to face an uncertain future. Every day I find myself thinking, “I’ll feel better when… [insert “I get a new job”, “we’ve signed a new lease”, “we’re all settled into our new home” etc]”. But this is the wrong kind of thinking. I can’t wait for those things to happen to feel better, I need to feel okay now.

It’s a pretty monumental shift in perception, and it is being helped along by an awful lot of prayer, reading, and support from friends and family. But it is slowly becoming more of a natural reaction and less of something I need to force myself to think.

I’m still sad, of course, this kind of thinking doesn’t take away that feeling. It just makes it easier to live with. Things have happened which I never imagined would happen, some of which I do not understand at all. But instead of letting the concern about things I cannot know consume me, I am choosing to let them go. One day I may know the answers, but if I don’t it doesn’t matter – I can accept that now.

So that’s where I’m at… a total and complete change. But as they say, when one door closes, another will open. I’m choosing to look at this as a positive, trusting that this is just one more step along the path I am to take in life, even if I cannot yet see what the next step is.

What I do know, though, is that it has deeply impacted the direction in which I wish to take my blog now, after several years of floundering around with no real direction at all. And I’m excited about that, even though it includes facing something I have feared doing for quite a long time. But what did I say 2015 was about, surrendering? Well maybe that also means surrendering to what happens and simply following my heart…

Will you join me?

*****

This post has been submitted to the All About You Linky hosted by Mama and More

Mama and More

 

Little Man Cosminoculars

Cosmic Kids – Fun and Free Yoga Videos

Today I really want to share a fantastic, free resource we have found for both entertaining and relaxing our highly energetic and inquisitive 3 year old! Welcome to Cosmic Kids

Cosmic Kids Logo

 

Cosmic Kids is “your place for yoga, stories and fun”. There are so many ways in which the team at Cosmic Kids are making yoga accessible and fun for kids (both at home and at school), but I want to tell you specifically about the yoga adventures on youtube.

Jaime Cosmic Kids Cosminoculars

All of the videos on youtube are completely free to view, and are an excellent way to get your kids interacting and learning whilst having fun and doing some yoga. Jaime (pictured above) takes you on a magical journey through a story, whilst integrating yoga postures throughout. So, for example, in their latest adventures (Star Wars Episode 4), downward facing dog becomes the posture for R2D2… this is one of Little Man’s favourites!

Little Man doing downward facing dog

Admittedly, Little Man doesn’t follow the entire adventure… he wanders off and does his own thing lots of times, but that’s okay! He’s having fun, exploring new ways of doing things, and comes back to join in with the adventure as and when a part of the story interests him. I love the freedom that the videos give us to let him take part without any kind of pressure to keep up with the story all the way through.

DSC_0309

This was certainly not part of the story today, but he had fun and it enabled him to test his strength and agility in his own time (rather than simply running around in a circle and making himself dizzy which is what he often does when he has excess energy to burn!)

No matter how often he gets distracted and goes to do his own thing, he always comes back to the story over and over again and loves trying to do what Jaime is doing. Sometimes that is just repeating a noise she has made or telling me what she is doing. Sometimes it is having a go at the posture, with a little help from mama. And sometimes he just gets it all by himself and gets a thrill from being able to follow along all on his own…

Little Man Cosmic Yoga Collage

As you can see, Little Man loves having a go and is more than happy to follow along with minimal input from mummy and daddy. That’s not to say that mummy and daddy aren’t invited to join in from time to time, and when we do join in it is just as much fun for us! But it is definitely something that even a 3 year old can manage to follow on their own.

And this, I think, is testament to how wonderfully inclusive the videos are. Jaime and the team at Cosmic Kids seem to totally understand how to get kids involved and using their imaginations and it’s so wonderful to find such a resource available so freely. Little Man adores using his “cosminoculars” at the beginning of adventures…

Little Man Cosminoculars

He also absolutely adores counting down from 3 to 1 and then saying “Namaste” at the beginning and end of an adventure. I wish I had a video of it, but alas my attempts at videoing him this morning didn’t go so well. However if you’d like to see some other kids in action, why not check out the Cosmic Kids’ Yoga Heroes video of other children enjoying the adventures just as much as Little Man does.

As you can see from that video, Cosmic Kids is enjoyed by children of all ages, and their families!! And it’s no wonder, really, when you consider the amazing quality these videos are. They are a fantastic introduction to yoga for children, and also a really good resource for learning mindfulness, something which I know that we as a family want to integrate into our lives more but are often at a loss of how to do so ourselves, let alone for a 3 year old!

Cosmic Kids don’t only produce adventures, you see. Oh no, they also have beautiful videos called “Zen Den” which are perfect for quietening things down and taking some time to reflect and rest. Little Man is more than happy to sit cross legged on the floor, especially as these are much shorter in length and involve enough visual and audio input to keep him concentrating on what is happening on the screen.

Little Man Cross Legged for Cosmic Kids Zen Den

I love his little version of sitting cross-legged, it makes my heart melt so much!

Ahem.

Back to the matter at hand!

Cosmic Kids have a wealth of resources available on their website, it’s not just about the youtube videos. There are posters and posture guides to download as well as class plans (did you know that children take part in Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventures in schools? How awesome is that?) There are even a couple of DVDs you can buy, which help the team to cover the costs of producing the videos.

Honestly, I cannot tell you how much we love Cosmic Kids here at The Patch. We have been enjoying the Adventures since summer 2014 and yet I have only just discovered their Facebook and Twitter feeds as well as the instagram hashtag (#cosmickidsyoga), so I shall be exploring those later today.

Will you join me?

Disclaimer:

We are sharing how much we love Cosmic Kids purely because we love Cosmic Kids. We were not approached by anyone on the team, nor was any incentive given. I contacted Jaime this morning to request the use of their images, but that is the only contact we have had. We hope this honest review makes you even more interested in checking them out!

Fifteen for '15

Fifteen for 2015 – Setting Goals, Hopes and Dreams

After a lot of reflection over the past few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of things need to change in my life. Some of them internal, some of them external. Some are changes I can personally make, and some are changes that rely on things outside of my control.

With that in mind I wanted to focus on setting achievable goals for the months ahead, goals which are not only quantifiable but also have a real impact on my life in a positive way. And for that, I needed to consider what my hopes and dreams were for this year.

It was at this point that I realised that good planning includes not just your hopes and dreams, but also the general aims you have as well as those very specific goals. It’s like three very different but completely complementary layers which, when considered together, create a positive and affirming outlook in life.

And this led me to this…

Fifteen for '15

I feel like these are all really achievable and give me some real focus for creating a far better balance in my life. My word for 2015 is Surrender, and a large part of this includes surrendering the extremely high expectations I hold for myself. Instead of thinking I need to “do it all” I am setting myself some very specific goals which will make a massive difference in my life.

My five goals will assist me in making the five general aims a reality. For instance, working on the crochet blanket enables me to “create more”. Eating at the table helps us have “more family time”. And keeping a personal journal (as opposed to simply writing on the blog) will enable me to “be more mindful” and also “pray more” as I reflect on things.

And hopefully, these five goals and five aims will in turn impact on my five hopes and dreams. Being more mindful will help me live on purpose. Spending more time with family and embracing community will bring more stability to our lives. And that will all hopefully bring about some better health through having better support and worrying less.

Do you see how I have tried to connect everything together in some way? It’s the first time I have really tried to do this on a personal level and I do so hope it will help… but only time will tell and I am “surrendering” my expectations of this and simply choosing to see how it all pans out!

Have you set any goals for the year? Please do leave your comments below, I would love to read about your hopes and dreams for the year ahead!

 

Word of the Year 2015 Surrender

Surrender

I don’t know about you, but it feels to me as if 2014 has been a year of battles and anguish. Throughout the world there have been so many heart-wrenching stories of pain and loss, coming one after the other in quick succession, providing very little chance to try and get your head around one thing before another comes to rock your world view.

There have been lost planes, mass conflicts in both the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and then the Ebola Crisis in Africa. And it doesn’t seem to be letting up… a few days before Christmas lives were lost in Glasgow as a dustbin lorry veered out of control, and then today yet another airplane has been lost. It just keeps coming.

And away from the large scale news, there are the individual lives that are affected every single day. The deeply personal stories of those affected by the above mentioned events, as well as those fighting their own personal battles. And I count TJ and myself in this.

2014 has been one of the hardest years we have ever had to face. And that is saying something. Since we met in 2007 I have been through 3 pseudo-menopauses, surgery, and a HG pregnancy (further complicated by Obstetric Cholestasis). And TJ has changed careers twice in an effort to continue working despite increasing pain and symptoms that have affected every part of his life. We’ve both faced depression head on, both been in therapy, and both come out fighting another day. Yet this year has pretty much broken us!

TJ’s health took such a huge turn for the worst this year, and in turn so did mine as the stress of working full-time whilst trying to meet the needs of an active 3 year old and a very poorly husband really began to take its toll. We have fought until we had no fight left in us, and thankfully it seems as if the tides are slowly turning and we’re beginning to surface above the crashing waves once more. And we have hope that 2015 will bring us more good news. But we are beat.

And over the past few days I have been reflecting on this a lot. I find that I am in need of a complete change of attitude to the world around us and the personal battles that we all face. For too long now I have been fighting against the tide, passionately hoping beyond hope that one day things will change, when really it might have been easier to choose to surrender and ride the waves instead. But how do you do that when every inch of your being tells you to fight?

Word of the Year 2015 Surrender

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a blog post called “Warrior“. And I do still relate to that post a lot. But I’m beginning to wonder whether there is a balance between fighting and surrendering. Choosing our battles has to be wiser than fighting in each and every one that comes our way, surely?

This doesn’t mean accepting injustice, or allowing things that we feel are inherently “wrong” to go unchecked. But it does mean realising that some battles are not ours to fight. Some battles simply cannot be won by giving everything you have to them. Sometimes the battle is not so much the outer experience, but your inner one.

Last night I did something that I haven’t done in a very long time. I prayed. I mean I really, truly opened my heart and asked for help. I didn’t scream out my need for help in desperation, like I have been doing recently, only to then continue trying to fight the battle myself. Rather, I sat in silence and focused on what I really needed. And that was love, acceptance and peace.

TJ and I have so much more ahead of us that we need to face together. Our lives are pretty turbulent at the moment, and it can feel utterly overwhelming at times. And that isn’t going to change overnight. But what can change is our perception of this. We can give ourselves some grace to breathe and be and accept that even when every day feels like a battle, it’s okay.

And I know that for me this means learning how to surrender. I need to give up this idea that I have to fix it all myself. I need to relinquish the thought that I am not good enough, because if only I were better our lives would be better too. And I need to surrender my pride enough to open up my heart and let others in.

It isn’t an easy concept for me to grasp. I have become used to surviving on my own merit. But doing so has led me to become very cynical about life and closed to a lot of the wonderful things in our lives right now. And this needs to change. It is a change worth making, a risk worth taking, and it just feels right.

So my word for 2015 is surrender. I’m going to stick it up on my blog sidebar so that it reminds me every time I log on. I’m also going to add it to the manifestation collage I made for myself on the eve of the Winter Solstice. And I am going to be intentional about surrendering myself to what is happening right now in my life and what is to come over the next 12 months.

Tell me, what changes do you want to make for 2015?

Warrior

SAM_1313

I’m pretty sure that everybody has times in their lives when it feels like one battle after another, one long fight that just doesn’t seem to end. And at times like that it can feel like you’re a warrior against impossible odds.

The past year has been one of the most exhausting battles I think I’ve ever had to face, and that’s saying something! We’ve had our fair share of difficulties over the years, but even the really good things in life have been a struggle lately.

Weary and worn, I found that even the success of the book I had worked so hard to move from thought to reality faded away into a sense of numbness, as I struggled to process anything beyond the absolute necessities: work, parenting, and supporting my husband through an incredible difficult period in his life.

That’s not to say I was worn beyond fighting… if anything my senses were all heightened and I didn’t quite know how to stop. Until something stopped me.

As it turns out, it took a few things to stop me. It took a hideous stomach virus landing me in bed for days on end. It took a lot of heartbreak and tears over what is and isn’t achievable right now. And it also took a lot of anger over the blurring of lines between what I was perfectly capable of still doing and what would actually be too much for anybody, regardless of the other things in my life right now.

That anger spilled out over the past couple of days and it’s not an emotion I am comfortable with. I don’t really know how to process it, because usually I feel frustrated or sad or cross, but rarely angry. But it is a very powerful emotion I needed to feel right now – I needed to feel it to make me sit up and realise that I am “good enough” and that if something is difficult, I shouldn’t allow myself to feel it is my fault that something isn’t quite right.

Which leads me back to the title of this blog post. I am a warrior, not just in life but against all the doubts and fears and guilt I lay upon myself. I am, so often, my biggest enemy and expecting too much of myself is a constant battle. Especially when the going gets tough.

Over the past few months I have been learning a lot of lessons. And it hasn’t been easy. I have lost a couple of friends and had to limit contact with others because the battles I am fighting are not compatible with where they are in their lives. And that hurts. A lot. But whilst I will never stop fighting for change, I do need to learn that I do not need acceptance of that battle from others. I also do not need to be “successful” in any definable terms. Simply turning up is enough.

And that has been the message I have been watching this evening. A little late to the party, I decided to watch the Thrive Moms Fall Retreat this evening, once I had finished work, as TJ is out and Little Man is in bed and I actually had some time to just sit in peace.

I know that Thrive Moms is not for everybody. I hold up my hand and honestly say that I do not personally hold the exact same beliefs as a lot of the speakers at the retreat. I am way too liberal to fit into most groups, and definitely do not define myself as a Christian. However what I love about this ministry is that it aims to support mums to not only survive but to actually thrive in their lives. It aims to hold mums high, no matter what their circumstances, in a place of acceptance and love. And it manages that beautifully.

I watched their Spring Retreat live earlier this year but hadn’t bothered to mark the Fall Retreat in my diary at all. I didn’t really take to the theme of “Warrior” at all. Which, if you’ve read what I wrote above, doesn’t make much sense. But the truth is that until recently I really didn’t see myself as a warrior. At all.

But you know what. I am. And so are you. We are all warriors in life, whether we are warriors for ourselves, our families, our friends, the people we work with, a cause we care about, or the world at large, we all fight battles every day.

And I wanted to highlight the things that this retreat left in my heart. The things that really spoke to me and gave my strength to continue fighting whatever may come tomorrow.

1) We are not called to succeed… simply turning up is what matters!

I actually watched a talk by Marianne Williamson just last week which said the same thing – sometimes we do not live to see the success of the cause we have championed, and yet our efforts made that success possible.

I find this hugely humbling and it gives me hope that no matter what, the work I do today will have an effect one day.

2) We fight a daily battle against the “small things”, which distract us from the “big things”.

I know this is so true for me. I have always known that I am much, much better at dealing with the big, highly stressful things, because I just do not have time to think too much about them. But the little things? Oh, I totally fall apart when the little things crop up… I over-analyse and fret and just have way too much time to think too much about them.

3) One of the biggest distractions for us can be social media and trying to “keep up” or comparing ourselves with others, when their lives are totally different to ours to begin with.

I know this is also so true for me. I purposefully stopped checking social media regularly a week or so ago and it has made such a massive difference. I do not waste time looking at other people’s lives and wishing I had my life a bit more “together”. And even more than this, I have found I spend more time actually reading blogs and commenting on the blog posts themselves (*gasp*) because I have more time full stop. This is so much more exciting for me than communicating on social media.

4) We cannot do this alone.

Whether you believe in a God of some sort or not, this is still true, I think, for pretty much anybody. You can’t do it all, without any help. You might seek that help from your God, or you might seek it from your friends. You may even seek it from other sources too, but the fact is that if you try to do it all yourself you end up burning out.

5) Being able to write down and actually delve into what your fears are, why you fear them, and seeing them on paper can be very therapeutic!

When asked to write down what I feared and why, I ended up with four very long sentences, which totally summed up why I had been struggling so much lately. Honestly, if you’ve not tried this before, give it a go!

I’ve actually got the last segment of the retreat to watch, as I started writing this during the intermission and then paused the recording to finish writing it. So I’m going to end this post now and watch the rest. But I am so glad I took the time to write this post – I haven’t blogged like this – so freely – in such a long time. This warrior has been trying to “go it alone” and stopping to reflect on this has made such a difference.

If you’re interested in watching the Thrive Moms Fall Retreat you can do so here. And if you’re interested in the Spring Retreat (the theme of which was Hiding Place) you can do so here.

Neglecting Ourselves

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A few weeks ago, we all trotted off on an impromptu walk off the beaten track for a while. We surrounded ourselves with beautiful autumn colours, rolling fields in every direction, and watched the multitude of deer wandering in the woods close by. And it was glorious.

For the first time in a very long time I felt like I could breathe. We used to go for nature walks like this regularly and I hadn’t realised just how much I was craving them until we got right out on our own and allowed ourselves to simply be. Life lately has been one major stress after another and in an attempt to keep going for ourselves and each other, we had both been neglecting ourselves.

It is something that TJ has been discussing in his counselling sessions and something that we have started talking about at home too. Between working full-time, dealing with chronic health issues, and raising a very inquisitive preschooler, we haven’t really given time to nurturing our own needs. And it has taken a huge toll on us both.

I think this pattern of putting your work and family first is very common for parents in any situation and it’s something we need to be aware of. It is all too easy to think that we don’t have enough time to do anything for ourselves when life is simply one necessary task after another. And it can be easy to feel “guilty” or “selfish” for wanting to have more time for ourselves, when we’re made to believe that we should be able to “have it all” without compromising somewhere.

But compromise does have to happen sometimes, and it is really crucial to surviving the busy times in our lives. Right now we barely have a moment to ourselves and life feels like one battle after another, so we are burning out fast and it is showing in so many areas of our lives.

Which is why communication is so important for us right now. It isn’t easy. There are times we we get cross at each other, and times when we really need more than the other can give. But we are getting there.

And in the meantime, I am doing all I can to limit additional stresses that I can change. I have purposefully decided to avoid social media for a while (other than what is necessary for work) as I am aware that however easy it is to simply pick up my phone and “check in”, it is not all that healthy to do so when feeling so run down. Instead I am choosing to pick up old projects I used to have before social media took over my life!

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I can’t always get out and about, in the quiet solitude of nature, even though this is my ultimate choice of relaxation. But I can immerse myself in other solitary activities, which give me the chance to clear my mind and focus on my more creative side, which for me is the biggest tension reliever ever.

I was recently given a new sewing machine, something I have always dreamed of having (I have only ever had old, second hand machines which skipped stitches or jammed up constantly) and I plan on getting all my fabrics out and finally working on a patchwork quilt for the winter months. It will take me forever to complete, I am sure, but I am really looking forward to it.

And I have picked up my novel again. I started writing this in 2010, but it needs a huge amount of reworking and completing and I have finally found the desire to do that. Whilst that means working on the computer, it is still a world away from chatting on social media. It is quality “me time” and that is what I need right now.

It is so easy to neglect ourselves, and so hard to dig ourselves out of the pits we create in doing so. But there comes a time when you hit rock bottom and know that this is what you need to do for your own well-being and sanity. That’s where I am now and that’s why I am doing to all I can to change this, so I can cope with the challenges of life with more resilience and ease.

Finding Joy in the Everyday Moments

These past few weeks have been a total whirlwind for me. It seems like pretty terrible timing that in the month when I had 4 hospital appointments (3 of them for investigations) I also completed my Nine Months Of challenge, had an auction to organise, and finished the final edit of the book I have been writing. My feet have quite literally not left the ground and I feel like I haven't stopped…

And in amongst all of that, all the major achievements that were going on (such as getting the book to the publisher and seeing lots of fundraising and awareness plans all come together) the little bits and pieces started to get lost. I began to lose sight of the everyday moments and in doing so I seemed to allow old emotions to flood back to the surface – once my focus was on everything big, the big emotions came out to play!

I found myself grieving once more over our decision to never have another baby. This has been bubbling away slowly beneath the surface for a long, long time but my ongoing health issues and the exhaustion from trying to do too much just brought home how very real that decision is. And I began to grieve all over again. None of those big achievements seemed to matter anymore because the biggest dream I ever had was never going to completely come true.

And yet, it has. I am a mother. That is all I ever wanted to be. I have a beautiful child who means the world to me and whilst my heart may still yearn for another, the boy I have is more than enough to fill anyone's heart with so much joy. 

And I have a loving husband who supports me in all I do. Together we are building a life that reflects who we are as individuals, as a couple, as parents and as a family of three. Those beautiful moments, perfect in and of themselves, are being lost when my mind is so focussed on "the big things".

That's not to say the big things don't matter. I am so proud of the work I do and the people I support. But I don't want them to be the only things that defines me. Because at the end of the day there is only so much one person can do and if you find yourself constantly striving to do more (as I so often do) then you lose sight of the smaller, more intimate things which make life so beautiful. When the stress of those big things gets you down it's the little things that will hold you afloat.

That's what I have been missing lately and as such I've decided I need to make an effort to consciously and purposefully seek out the joy in the everyday moments. The things that will remain once the book the published, and once my little boy no longer needs his mama quite so much. My life can't only be about these "big things"… as they are so fleeting. It needs to be about the little things too.

I get that now. I don't know why, but it suddenly hit me today. I was in a really deep moment of grief and truly allowing myself to feel it fully for the first time. Perhaps that is why I made this connection. Perhaps, because I didn't try to squash it down as I usually do, I was able to see it for what it was. Who knows… what I do know, however, is that this is something I really want to do.

I've been wondering where my blog is going for a very long time and now I feel like I know that too… it's for documenting all those little things that add up to make my life (and the life of my family) so special. It's for the memories and for realising that the moment we have right now is the most important. Of course there is space for dreams and lots of space for the big things too… I will never stop blogging about those. But instead of only ever documenting the big stuff, I will now share the little stuff too.

I've decided to call it "finding joy in the everyday moments". Won't you join me?

 

 

Lent: Giving Up Social Network

This morning I read a new blog by someone I know on twitter. It's called Mummy Loves Cake. And today's post gave me some food for thought…

Sacrificing Social Network is a pre-Lent post about the choice to spend the next 40 days without (or with less) time spent on places like Twitter and Facebook. It's a great read and one I think many of us who frequent these sites can relate to. I knew I was spending more time checking updates on my phone than I really should, but it wasn't until my phone was stolen at the beginning of the month that I realised just how much more time I had without it!

I've talked about cutting off social media before and my thoughts on this are still very much the same: although Facebook and Twitter are great connectors, they are also great time-wasters. I have less time than ever with working part time, writing the book and fitting both in around my family life, so I don't want to waste time really. But giving up social media is a scary prospect. After all, I am trying my hardest to campaign for Pregnancy Sickness Support in various ways and am also trying to promote awareness of the book I am writing so that when I finally get my book proposal completed I can include the advantages of taking me on as a writer (i.e. I have a sound online presence). So cutting off an avenue like Twitter is a major thing!

But more and more I have been feeling lately that the time I spend reading updates on Twitter and following links takes up the time I could be spending on here (the blog), documenting our life as a family and making a memory book of sorts for us to look back on. And it certainly takes up time I could spend out and about with my little family. Twitter may only give you 140 characters, but with so many people writing regular updates, it can be hard to keep up.

I have missed important blog posts from bloggers I truly love because of the overflow of other information popping onto my screen. And I want to change that, to return to the more intimate nature of blogging and actually spending time emailing, hand-writing notes, and actually calling people.

So I'm making a concerted effort, for Lent, following the inspiration I found this morning. I know that cutting off Facebook and Twitter entirely could be totally counter-productive. They do have their uses. So I shall check in to Facebook once a day (at most) to check no one has messaged me. But nothing more. No reading timelines or scouring group feeds. This is something I have been working towards for a while anyway, so won't be a big deal. As for Twitter, I shall check my emails for any mentions or direct messages, but other than that I shall try my hardest to stay away. It will give me a good break!

Yesterday I updated my blog reader. I took out blog feeds that I just never check and made sure it was only the people I truly want to follow. I know it sounds harsh, but it was a good feeling to get back to basics. I'm making time to keep up with those few people I care about and getting rid of the ones I just always find myself skimming. 

This, on top of changes to my working hours, changes to TJ's working hours and the fact that we are giving up our cable subscription at the end of this month and not installing the aerial straight away will hopefully mean a better balance for us as a family. It'll be an interesting experiment, if nothing else!

So tell me… do you find yourself sucked into social media far too easily? And are you giving anything up for Lent?

Finding Joy…

This week has been awful.

Well… the beginning of it anyway.

And in saying that, I realise just how long we hold on to the pain and sadness sometimes.

When life beats you down, time and again, it is easy to lose yourself in fear.

I know, I have done it many times.

Finding joy doesn’t mean ignoring the pain, or losing it altogether. But it also doesn’t mean having to wait until everything is hunky dory before looking for that joy. Because life sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?

And this week it felt like it sucked big time. And the pain and sadness seemed immense. But I wanted joy.

And so I went on a search for happiness… for joy… for the simple things in life… for the light in the darkness.

It led me to create a pinterest board called “Happiness is…” You can find it here.

My favourite things about creating this board are the simplest ones…

“Happiness is… staring at the moon”

“Happiness is… being silly once in a while”

“Happiness is… a hug”

I still feel sad about various things, but it has reminded me to appreciate the simple things that light up my life.

Today “Happiness is…” listening to my little boy singing with Grandma and Grandad on the phone. It’s watching him find the greatest pleasure out of being given a pen and allowed to “help” mama fill in her puzzle book. It’s seeing how much everything is a wonder to him.

He feels the greatest joy at the simplest things. He also throws the biggest tantrums when simple things are beyond his experience. Great joy does not negate great sadness, but it does make that sadness ease away.

So tell me, how would you complete the sentence “Happiness is…”

Finding Balance

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it increasingly difficult to find the right balance between all the demands on my time. I feel like I never stop somedays and sometimes I think “I just want to drop everything and have a day off”. Well, not everything… but there are more demands on my time than needs be, and it’s finding the balance between keeping things going because there is a need or real desire to do it and doing something because it has just become habit.

So a lot of the time I find myself prioritising. Some things always end up at the bottom of the pile. And often that bugs me. Sometimes they are things that I really care about, but they just cannot be a priority. Other things that always get done, are a must (like laundry) but seem neverending and always take priority over things I wish I had time to do.

But that is as it should be. I know it is. I have a young family and I knew what I was signing up for (well, mostly). Yet that balance still seems to elude me.

My priorities at present are 1) TJ and Little Man (and all that comes with them, such as feeding and clothing them!) and 2) work, because after all that provides a much needed boost to our income. Everything else kind of falls into the “whenever there’s time” category, which isn’t very often.

And I’m okay with that, truly I am. It’s just there seems to be so many things in that category and my frustration comes from the lack of priority within it, or any sense of balance. Those moments of “oooh I have a little bit of time” are filled with the question of “what do I want to do the most?” I have a whole list of things that need doing (such as the book on Hyperemesis), things that I want to get done (such as campaigning for Pregnancy Sickness Support), things I have agreed to do (such as the craft blog on iVillageUK) and then finally things that I want to do, such as relaxing in a long hot bath, reading a book, or finishing that crochet blanket I started months ago!

It seems that, no matter how many things I cut out of my life (and I have cut out a lot of things this past year), I just never gain enough time back. To be fair, priorities 1 and 2 (family and work) take up most of my time and the rest just nags away in the back of my mind most of the time, but nag it does.

We’re making some more changes in our life this month. TJ starts a new job with regular hours. I am switching from 4 afternoons working out of the house to 1 full day and 2 afternoons, to try and make things easier with childcare. This has the added bonus of giving me more time at home with Little Man (because the days I work are taken up with making sure he has slept at the right time in the morning, is fed at the right time, is taken to the childminder on time, and I catch my bus on time! We are quite literally ruled by the clock the days I work). We’re also getting rid of our cable subscription (although it appears we have a working aerial so we won’t be totally unable to watch tv if it gets too much!)

All these changes are made in hope of finding more balance, for each one of us and as a family. But I have no idea if it will work. It is all trial and error, and I do believe that for some years yet this is going to be a losing battle for me!

Tell me, how do you find balance?

Just for a moment…

I am taking time out today to just be…

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to remind myself of the beauty that surrounds me and the beauty of my life…

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and to reflect on how busy life has become and how important it is to stop, just for a moment

I’m going to share with you a poem I wrote years ago, that encapsulates what I am trying to achieve today. Please feel free to share it with as many people as you like – after all, what is the point of poetry if not to share? But do, please, link back to this page and remember that the work is protected by copyright.

 

Just for a moment…

 

I stop and listen.

 

I hear the waves pounding
on the beach.

I hear the sun rising in
the sky.

I hear the moon dancing
with the stars.

I hear the birds start to
sing.

I hear the flowers learn to
grow.

I hear the birth of a
child.

I hear the Earth breathe.

 

But above all those sounds,
one soars on high

 

Just for a moment

I stop and listen…

 

And I hear your voice.