There’s never an easy way to start something new. There’s often an anxious part of you which battles the negative thoughts that ask questions like “What if its rubbish?”, “What if no one is interested in what you have to say?” or ” What if they laugh at you?”. Often that internal narrative is enough to stop you in your tracks and for that idea to be parked for now or maybe even forever.
Not today though, not this time. Today I have tentatively taken the first steps too putting my thoughts on paper. To unravelling my own bullshit on this journey. A journey after a divorce of almost 25 years of marriage and for the first time ever really understanding why I am the way I am, what parts of my life shaped me and working through healing them to be authentic and true to myself.
At 47 years old I am finally really experiencing self care for myself and what that means for me is setting boundaries, being selfish, saying “no” when its right for my own mental health and only allowing people in my life who have positive energy and are motivating and inspiring.
This blog is a journal of what that journey looks and feels like. The messiness, frustration, disappointment as well as growth, self love and hopefully joy in creating a life I love and remembering the person I’d lost along the way.
I think I got my confidence from you. I’m guessing, ‘cos it doesn’t run through mum’s side of the family. Women on mum’s side are shy, anxious, still strong but worry about the world and what will happen when they’re gone. I have that less, so I guess that may come from you, at least I hope. It comforts me to think I can recognise some of your traits in me.
I’m told you were confident, you could strongly voice your point of view. You weren’t scared to speak up in a crowd and enjoyed a debate or two. Ok, so I can’t quite say that’s me, but what I will say is true, I have a strength and desire to break through this shyness and speak my truth. Maybe I wouldn’t have had that with out you as my dad. Maybe I would just have accepted that this was who I am and sat back.
I like to think It’s from you that inner determination runs through me and I hope now I’m wiser and more confident, you can see that too. I know you loved books, loved to read, poems too. I can definitely say I love the written word too.
I try and remember you from when I was young but the memories are foggy, untrustworthy. Is it a memory or a story I’ve been told about you? I’m unsure. I want them all to be memories but there are only a few of which I’m really sure.
The scent of your roll up tobacco from a Golden Virginia tin box, that you would sit and roll out with, your legs crossed. Dressed in old work jeans but with a shirt that never really seemed to match. Then I remember your smile, when a glimpse of me you’d catch.
I wish my kids got to meet you, damn I wish I had more time with you myself, but my kids would have just flourished with your guiding hand or advice instead. Maybe I would have had more strength to make changes with you by my side but I’ve learnt to harness my own courage and sometimes I just know you are there as my guide.
Almost like you are standing right behind me with a hand on my shoulder, nudging me to be brave, do the hard thing, that’s when I feel you. When I have a choice that is difficult, just willing and whispering in my ear to chose the tough road because that leads to growth and change too.
Telling me to stand strong.
Don’t give up.
Shoulders back, head up and you won’t go wrong.
I’m thankful for the parts of me that are from you. It helps me to feel you are close. Through these rough times I would have loved to have you here with me, to know you were beside me taking care of me but you are within me.
I am your daughter and that is enough ‘cos that means I’m tough!
The older I’ve become, the more I wonder if we all feel this way in some respect during those difficult teenage years. Does anyone actually feel totally accepted and comfortable in their own skin and social group throughout their teenage years?
For me, my home life seemed “different” to others. My dad had died when I was 8 years old and my mum was deaf. Both of those things made me self conscious at parents evenings. Mum couldn’t communicate like the other parents, dad wasn’t there. Two things that were enough to make me feel I stood out like a sore thumb. In reality, I didn’t. No one really took any notice or cared enough about my situation at home. Everyone has something that makes them feel like they “stand out” or don’t quite “fit in”
On top of what felt to me like huge flashing beacons of difference, I was also incredibly shy and quiet. This again, created for me a huge insecurity that no one wanted to be around me. I was too quiet, awkward, no fun to be around. Of course none of which was true but that narrative took residence in my mind for a very long time. My shyness often led to situations where if I felt uncomfortable or was put in a situation where I was forced to speak up in front of many others I would go bright red in the face. This would exacerbate the more anxious and self conscious I became. I would feel like I wanted the ground to swallow me up so I could just disappear from the embarrassment of my obvious anxiety and discomfort that everyone could now physically see.
Over the years, I learnt to control this red ripening face reaction to my discomfort. I began to realise that it wasn’t as noticeable as I felt it was to others and those who did notice really didn’t care that much. This took away a lot of my anxiety and fear around this happening and allowed me to take control over how I reacted.
What I took away from High School wasn’t really a great education, I underperformed and under achieved. It wasn’t a supportive friendship group as I had a better group of friends outside of school, than inside its gates. It wasn’t a sense of belonging or safety.
For me school was just a somewhere I felt unable to find my place in, I wasn’t really a neat piece of the schools tapestry. I didn’t belong with the cool kids, because I just wasn’t cool enough. I didn’t belong with the nerdy kids, because I just wasn’t nerdy enough. I didn’t belong with the sporty kids, because I was rubbish at sport. I didn’t fit in any box reliably enough, so I existed between them all. Never really making good friends in any but being around for lots of them.
So school really only taught me to feel I didn’t “fit in”.
The biggest sacrifice I made, that I was unaware of doing until later in life, was of myself. Losing myself in the responsibility of being a mother and wife. Getting lost along my journey. Allowing myself to become a version of a woman that forgot about her passions, her true nature and the things she loved.
This wasn’t something I really even knew I was doing because I had such a strong need to be seen as a “great mum” and to “support and care for everyone” that I made that come first and foremost but the biggest lesson I have finally learnt in my 47 years is to always love and cherish myself first. A fear of others criticising me as a parent, especially as such a young mum was definitely a part of what drove me to always be so focused on everyone else rather than myself.
The catch phrase “love yourself first” which often has very little substance to it, is something that is spread around on social media very liberally, but the last few years have made these three words much more important to me.
No one tells you how to be a mum or a wife. There is no guide book or mentor. If you are lucky you have a great role model in your own parents and their relationships with you and each other. That was not the case in my family as my father passed away when I was young and my mum never knew either of her parents so was “winging” it herself.
Being a mum is amazing but I never had the strength, confidence or wisdom to know how important it was to keep my own identity as a person. That unique person that you are, with all the passions, interests, and ideas. The style you love, your core beliefs, the dreams you carry, they are what make you different to everyone else and that is important because you are not just someone’s mum, wife or partner. That kind of authenticity may not seem that important in your 20’s but as more of it is chipped away by the time you hit your 40’s it can feel like you have completely forgotten who the hell you really are!
The kids are growing up and don’t need you as much, your partner may be so used to this person you have become, who looks after everyone else, but has forgotten what is important to that girl they used to date so many years ago. They may actually decide you’re being “selfish” when you want to reignite those joys that you have forgotten about. Or maybe your partner likes the version of you that you have moulded yourself into more. Perhaps you have both grown apart in the process of focusing on everyone else and coming back to yourselves again means your relationship needs to adjust and pivot, which is not easy.
For me that loss of myself feels like the biggest sacrifice I have made and whilst I would never change my life with my kids and my marriage, I will now encourage my daughter to keep her passions, values and dreams alive always. I would hope she will find a partner who supports that and knows that she is not just there to make sure everyone else is living their best life but that they are both individual people who need the space to nurture their own passions and evolve into who they are meant to be whilst still being committed to each other.
I’ve learnt that whoever you are, your happiness counts and it’s ok to put your own needs at the fore front of your life. You don’t need to feel guilty for that. You are the only person in this life that will do that. No one else can or should be relied upon to make you happy. Don’t give anyone that kind of power over your life. When you have kids of course their happiness and safety is paramount but in order for those children to be happy, they need their parents to be happy first.
The giggle of my children, the belly laughs. The involuntary laughter of my daughter, when she just cannot stop. She can’t sneak a look at her brothers because she will cry, laugh and snort all at once and is crossing her legs tightly without realising, just in case because of us all, she holds the award for the most uncontrollable giggler! I dare you to be around that and not begin to smile and giggle yourself, impossible. It’s infectious!
An empty beach, the sound of the waves, crashing against the shore, seagulls cawing overhead. A place of peace, quiet and happiness all at once. Takes my thoughts to me sitting on a blanket by the sea, with a book, just enjoying the surroundings with a flask of hot coffee beside me and maybe someone special sharing the moment too.
Wrapped up in the arms of the one you love so tightly and safe. So close you are listening to the sound of their heartbeat as your head rests on their chest. Totally content, present and secure in the knowledge that you have each other.
When that uplifting tune comes on just at the right time! You are driving along in your car, minding your own business, maybe feeling a little melancholy and #Boom the song that you need to hear comes on to raise your vibe. The hairs stand up on your arms and you turn up that volume knob so the next few cars can hear what your playing too! You no longer care what the other cars in the queue are thinking, its time to karaoke sing along and probably dance and move your body with it too…. pure joy! #dancelikenooneswatching
On an early morning dog walk at 5am. You are the only person out and the only sound is that of the birds chirping in the trees starting their day, saying good morning. Forgetting the worries of yesterday, a feeling of a new beginning and you feel secure in the knowledge that the birds are chirping just for you, whilst everyone else is sleeping.
Your fur baby is enjoying strokes on your lap, snoring away or purring loudly and dribbling. So content. Your are both loving the snuggles. They are chilled and happy alongside you because that is always their favourite place to be. You always find unconditional love and snuggles with them when you need it. Mutual love and contentment. Perfect.
When they are young, you are busy and life never stops. Life is fast paced, little time to read that book, drink the hot coffee, soak in the bath. Their chubby little hands are always pulling at your clothes, asking you, “Why?” “What if?” “How come?” “When will we get there?” “Can we do this?” “But whyyyyyyyy?”
In those moments it feels, exhausting, restricting, overwhelming to be this little persons protector and teacher, the adult that they turn to for everything, that keeps them safe and supports their growth. You adore everything about these little beings and still you wish you had some time to just chill, read the book, chat with friends without wiping snotty noses or lay in for just a little longer than 5am at the weekend.
Now I look back and realise how fleeting that time was in our lives. How precious those moments are. Now I have the time to sit and read a book at the weekend but I know I’ll never be pulling my daughter up on my lap again when she’s fallen over and needs a hug or have the privilege of being the person to answer my sons first questions again and guide them into adulthood safely.
The early years are precious and hard, its easy to forget to savour them but we also need to be kind to ourselves and know it’s ok, to ask for some help to take a break because our kids need
caregivers who are present and patient and not stressed and reactive. Every parent feels guilty or like they have failed at some point but its the lessons we take from those moments that are important.
Now though I look at my kids of which two are adults and although I’m sad to never have the precious early years again, this season is different but just as special. They are amazing humans!! They take me places, we go out together as grown ups to the theatre, cinema, walks, gigs and I get to discuss our favourite things, learn about what they value and their points of view which are changing and forming. I get to admire the way they conduct themselves, the relationships they are forming and the lives they are creating, knowing that I played a part in moulding these kind, respectful, intelligent, motivated, positive men into who they are.
That is the most amazing part of being a parent. When they grow and you are proud of who they are and can look back and remember those sleepless nights and tantrums and realise it was SO worth it! The changing relationship from carer to friend, built on a respect for each other and who you are as people is priceless. I’ve a way to go with my daughter yet as she is only 13 years old and a mother and daughter relationship is different but equally as special. We are navigating our path and our relationship and I know she is still looking to me for guidance in these tricky teenage years.
It makes me reflect on the changing relationship with my own mum who is now 80 years old. She has been my confidante throughout adulthood. She supported me in an emotional and practical sense and as very often happens with many of us, those roles are now changing. I am now supporting her more in many ways and we are working our way through this change in the landscape along with my sister. I know how hard these transitions can be, our changing roles as a parent, we have to make dramatic shifts to let go of being the care giver to a friend to maybe the cared for one day. Life is always changing and teaching us and for me, I will just keep adapting and trying to be mindful of how hard these changes can be on our loved ones.
Who knows, I maybe looking at the next stage of my life holding the chubby small hands of grandchildren in the future, if that happens, I will be blessed x
for the progress others see, but more importantly what they don’t.
I see the way you are standing tall today, the confidence in your walk, the sparkle in your eye. You are rocking it girl and so you should be.
Keep shining, be proud. Look at how far you have come!
People think they know your struggles, they pass comment on how strong you are to get through. The biggest obstacle though has been inside you. The biggest change has been the transformation within you, the growth that allowed life to finally change. No one knows what that took, except you.
Your inner dialogue, your courage to challenge your own insecurities and the chains others tried to bind you with. The cage you were being forced into was making you miserable. The guilt you were wading through from yourself and those around you, expecting you to behave a certain way and tread the line for the sake of everyone else’s happiness.
Because your own happiness doesn’t count?
You know that the best way to empower your daughter is to show her what brave and strong looks like. Show her that her mum is not gonna put her happiness last and neither should she. Lead by example because she is watching and sees how much her mum values herself and allows others to treat her. She doesn’t know it yet but just watching you is helping her embody that and you are improving her self worth and respect.
Be so proud of that….
It’s like a light switch flicked and you suddenly saw your worth, isn’t it? You recognised that the past does not define you, your mistakes were lessons to learn and forgave yourself and others for it all. You saw that the way others behave is their choice and their journey and all you have to control is what you do moving forward, who you become and what lessons will be learnt, by you.
And my goodness, you have learnt, flourished and are transforming. A work in progress with no limits to where you can go. Life changing challenges, make room for dramatic growth. Very often it can be painful and traumatic but an undeniable fast track way to grow and rebuild your internal and external life.
So the woman you are becoming is confident and aware of her flaws but also knows her growth game is strong. She knows her own value and finally is ready to walk away from what isn’t recognising her worth. It has taken a lifetime to get here, but now that lesson has been learnt and is no longer on repeat, watch how you fly!
You have taken that pain and ran with it, examined that hurt and sat with it, analysed it and worked through it to figure out yourself and that alone is something to be proud of. So many people would have numbed it, distracted themselves, found a way to avoid it.
Shoulders back, head held high, look life straight in the eye.
Sad, overwhelming and difficult to get through but you still show up and know it’s just a day amongst a sea of better ones coming…
You get up to face another day, force a smile and go about the routine, the daily grind. Inside you feel empty, the minute your eyes open, it overwhelms you. There’s no slow introduction to the melancholy, it doesn’t creep in as the day develops. Nope. BOOM. It’s there as soon as you are conscious of a new day beginning.
You know if you sit for too long with your thoughts you will start to let them consume you, so you begin, it helps to stay occupied. Dog walk, breakfast, journal, coffee, face on, laptop on, same routine, different day. The kids slowly trundle in, big and not so big, they are pretty self sufficient but they need you to be strong, mostly you manage it, well at least this morning you do. They pass through getting ready for their day, chit chat, arguing, dogs barking, the morning chaos mounting. Until slowly, one by one, peace is restored and their day has begun out in the world, on their way for the day, school, work, university, socialising, doing their thing.
It feels vast, makes you uneasy.
Left with your thoughts. The worst place to be. A place that gives too much freedom to ruminate on circumstances, events and feelings. Space to think is dangerous, so its time for coffee and work mode overload. All day, work consumes. Phone calls back to back, listening to peoples problems, looking for solutions, advice, empathy and lots of coffee. Multiple cups. Large cups. On repeat.
You know you love this job, on a good day, this job rocks. It suits you, who you are but when you’re feeling this way, when your heart, chest and mind feel heavy and sad, it’s laborious. So hard to be there for others when its hard enough to be there for yourself, giving reassurance, support, a lifeline. You do though because it’s what you do best, at least when you are at your best.
When the work is done, the kids are home, you have listened to your friends problems, the dinners done, kitchen tidied, washing folded and all that’s left is for the peace and quiet of sleep.
Silence, on your quilt, finally, no one to support, no mask to wear, no one to be strong for. That’s when you know, the tears will fall, the sadness will consume you and you will let it all go. To avoid the inevitable, you switch on the tv, scroll through your phone. Distraction helps you postpone the tidal wave of emotions. Not for long though. It always catches you up, a few steps behind, chasing you quietly.
When you finally relent and switch everything off , it swallows you up, you let it all go because you can, there’s no one to see, no judgement or shame for being weak, letting the kids down, being selfish or too much. Abandon yourself to the ache that has sat in your chest all day, the tears you have held in tightly.
Cry if you must, its ok, tomorrow is a new day when you will walk the walk again. Maybe tomorrow will feel a little easier, maybe the pain will be less. Maybe tomorrow you’ll wake up and have forgotten the sadness and your smile will be genuine and full.
Tomorrow is an opportunity for something different and full of hope.
Stop waiting. Stop putting it off until the time is right. Stop expecting to know when the stars align, when the timing is perfect to make a change. That is never gonna happen. There is always gonna be a reason to wait.
Your mind is going to talk you out of taking that leap of faith because it’s trying to protect you. It will reason, question and analyse. It will come up with every excuse in the book to stick within your comfort zone where it knows you are safe. It’s hardwired that way.
The thing is taking that leap of faith needs to be practised to make it less scary. The more you do it, the less you worry about what might happen because even if it doesn’t turn out as you hoped, you know you will be ok. Others might say you have failed but have you really? You’ve tried, it hasn’t worked out, you’ve learnt how to do it better next time and can now say you gave it your best shot and live without regret.
Isn’t that better than what ifs? Always wondering if you could have done it? Would it have worked? Yes, you could be setting yourself up for some pain and hurt when you jump into something but what if that could be the best thing that ever happened to you and you walked away from it? Are you willing to risk that? What if they could have changed your life for the better? No one wants to feel hurt and pain but you know you would get through it and the potential for happiness is worth the risk, no? Jump into it, if it feels right, with gusto and enthusiasm, if you are going to do it, do it with all your being. No half ass attempts, give it your all!
Say what you want to say, don’t hold it in, don’t leave room for doubt, be honest. Spend time with the people you admire, who are positive, who are living their dreams. Do the things you want to do, seek them out, the more you look, the more opportunities you will find.
Don’t allow life to carry you along with it and never take a chance. You will go through your whole existence never really achieving or experiencing the things that light your soul up. When opportunities arise grab them, when people arrive in your life that you feel connected to embrace them, the universe brings the right opportunities, experiences and people to you at the right time for you to experience, learn and grow. Trust the process….
There is no “right” or “wrong” path to take, only what makes you happy and gives you the experiences you desire. So take them and make this life worth living. The ups, downs and plot twists along the way are the stories you can tell your grandchildren about, that you lived to the full and loved with all your heart. Show them that life is short and age, creeps up on us quickly.
Mostly, make memories because when you are gone, there’s nothing else left but what others remember. Their time with you, your essence, how you made them feel and how you lived your life.
Do you have a quote that you always end up going back to for a little pep talk? Is it up on your wall or stuck in the recesses of your mind, ready to be retrieved when challenges strike and some motivation is needed?
I love a good quote and when I finally reside in a home of my own, I’m sure it will be full to the brim of quotes that I can relate to, but the quote which I seem to go back to often in the last few years and that I wish I had taken more heed of over my lifetime is:
Why this quote? I remember the first time I heard it and how it resonated with me because I have always been very good at seeing the good in people, at giving people second, third and fourth chances, after all, we all make mistakes, no? I still believe this to be true. Everyone deserves another chance because we all learn, grow and change over our lifetimes.
But I know now that life has taught me some major lessons, to believe actions over words. If someone cares, they will show it. If someone is sorry, they will prove it. Changed behaviour is the ultimate way to apologise, words are way too easy.
So even though it is still very hard and goes against the grain for me, I will look at behaviour first because I am worth more than staying in a situation where I’m hoping that things will get better based on many conversations that seem to be honest and authentic but turn out to be continually repeated behaviours in a groundhog day style.
When you hope for too long and believe words and not actions, you are taken for granted. When a simple sorry is always accepted and behaviour isn’t changed, then a belief that you will always forgive and continue with the way things are is accepted. That is when you are living on dangerous ground because when one person believes a simple “sorry” is always going to be enough, then they will never need to make an effort to make changes. Why would they? You will never force the point, so they don’t need too, right? When you are in that situation its time to challenge behaviour, set boundaries and stick to them.
Make it clear that the only apology is changed behaviour. Set a timeline and clearly state what you will and won’t accept and what you will do, if those boundaries are not respected. Be the cycle breaker.
The other quote that is SO simple but really has helped me deal with anxiety and overwhelm since hitting perimenopause is:
Quite simply that.
For me hitting the stage in life where perimenopause started to affect my hormones meant I experienced anxiety and depression that I had never experienced in my life before. It ended in a mini breakdown alongside difficult life events that were piled on top of the hormonal changes, I just shut down and went from doing everything, to being unable to take responsibility for anything. Counselling and HRT have changed that but I still occasionally need reminders to take a step back and deal with one thing at a time.
This quote is a reminder for me when I am feeling overwhelmed with the to do list, the events in my life and my feelings to focus on the next thing in front of me. Simple and effective at reducing the pressure and amount of “stuff” I am feeling, thinking and worrying about needing to complete. It helps me to take action because focusing on one thing feels manageable. When there is too much to do, I go into the mode of “its all too much and I can’t do anything” and when I hit rock bottom about 5 years ago, I lived in that mode for way too long. So its a simple but effective reminder to do ONE thing before moving onto the next…..
Sometimes simple is the most effective way forward.
What quotes do you live by in your life right now? Why do they resonate?
When all you want to do is get into bed and allow the pain you’re feeling to consume you, who do you know will help you dust yourself off and get back up on your feet? Who can you rely on to dry your tears, listen to how shit you feel and then give you that pep talk, the one that tells you how awesome you are whilst making sure that you have to come over for dinner because they “need” you for “something” but also know you will wallow and mope for far too long in bed otherwise. They know how you roll.
No, they may not be saying what you wanna hear. They may tell you the words that sting when no one else will. You may not want to reach out because you know you will hear the hard truth but if you need them, if they get a whiff of something not being right with you, the phone is ringing, texts beeping, or they will be on your doorstep and not going away until they know what’s going on and they’ve made sure you are taking care of yourself physically and emotionally.
When you struggle to reach out for a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, when you think hiding how you feel makes you strong, those people in your life are lifesavers because they are the ones who will read between the lines. When they call and they can hear by the tone in your voice, when you don’t reply to a message, when they see you and notice more from what you’re not saying, that there is something wrong then they make it their mission to find out what that “something” is.
You don’t need many of these lifesavers. No. One in your life is a total blessing. If you are lucky enough to have more, be thankful because they are rare. They usually come from years of friendship, years of seeing you make mistakes, getting drunk together, experiencing setbacks, love and broken hearts and riding through life’s challenges and celebrations together until they know you inside out, what your weaknesses are, your soft spots, your triggers and how much you give to others. They know how you can be taken advantage of, how past relationships have affected you, why you are so guarded now and when you need to be told that what you have done or are doing is wrong, they will kick your butt back into line.
Today people come in and out of our lives so often, we move, change jobs, our families take priority, our time is limited and ultimately we outgrow people. A friend who carries on calling, doesn’t let distance get in the way of friendship, makes time and who most importantly grows with you is gold.
These kind of friendships are cultivated, like any relationship they need work, they need you to be there for each other and put the effort into having fun times together and sharing the difficult ones, they require vulnerability and are not demanding. Life is busy, we all have commitments and these friends don’t expect daily calls, they know that you will both be there when its needed and that life ebbs and flows and changes but that fact doesn’t change what you both know. That you have got each others backs when it’s needed.
So when you have established a lifesaver friendship, they stick around for the long haul and there is very little that can break that bond once it is created. Sometimes I think friendships like these are likely some of the most important relationships in our lives. Through thick and thin and through lifetimes where partners and other relationships fade away, they are there celebrating, laughing, crying and helping us piece ourselves back together.
I’m blessed to have a few and eternally grateful for these ladies In my life.