Too old to try something new?

My son does MMA (mixed martial arts) and I see him each week really working hard, getting stronger, feeling fitter and generally improving his fitness. His diet has improved, his attitude to school and life and people has improved and he has become my role model.

So… can I do MMA and reap the same benefits he does? Stop laughing (she’s says to herself)… I may be 53, unfit and overweight, but why the hell not! Surely this is perfect for me?

I went and tried….. and loved it! Well that was two days ago and I still ache but it’s a good ache to have – makes me realise I am alive and improving who I am physically and mentally. How many of us do this consciously?

How many times a day, a week, a month or a year do you sit and wish your life to be different? How many times do you look at yourself in the mirror and wish you could see someone different? How many days, weeks, months or years will you continue to do this and hope that it happens! Wake up people…. YOU have to make it happen. YOU have to grab life by the short and curlies and say “damn you, this is my life and it will be how I want it”. YOU have the right to be happy. YOU deserve to live every day as you want to live it and you have the right to love who you are whilst you live the life you have.

I get so tired of people blaming circumstance, blaming partners, or employers or any other external influence for what they have or what they don’t. If you really, really want life to change, you CAN change it. No it’s not easy. Yes it means sacrifice and change and living with uncomfortable, battling demons and maybe even walking away from all that no longer serves you, but that doesn’t make it impossible.

I am unfit, overweight and getting older. Some of that I have to accept, some I can influence and some I can change completely but the important thing to remember is that it is my responsibility to make it different. I made the decisions and choices and created the life I have and only I can make it different. I have people supporting me, loving me, cheering me on but ultimately it is down to me.

I have spent 7 years working on my mental health, my outlook on life, the words I speak and the thoughts I have. I have spent 7, sometimes hard and frustrating years, letting people in and letting people go. I have spent 7 wonderful, glorious and exciting years becoming the person I see and there are many years of work left. Now its time for the physical me to take centre stage so that I can become the person physically I like to look at, know that I am as healthy as I can be and to give myself a sense of pride that I am achieving physical goals and targets set. I WILL get that black belt and stand side by side with my son wearing his.

When you look at life, no matter how small or large the change you feel you want or need to make, you can do this IF you give yourself permission to try, take responsibility for your own life and have fun seeing the person inside come to life.

 

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Is housework really therapy?

Hmmmm housework…. not my idea of pleasure and the ironing pile has to get to taking over a room status before I can bear to tackle it. But, yesterday I realised I could make this ‘me time’. Possibly not the spa or a massage but me time just the same.

How on earth can you make housework a pleasure and a therapy? By being in the moment and using it to your advantage I discovered today.

So I’d done breakfast and cleaned the kitchen, got the school run out of the way and there really is no avoiding this huge pile of clean clothes staring at me from the corner of the room. The wardrobe is empty, it has to be done…

Out came the ironing board and the iron and on went the music… I have known for a long long time that dancing whilst you iron makes it more manageable. I began and honestly after two shirts and a t-shirt I was already thinking of giving it up but then took a deep breath and focused on the dress – who in their right mind buys linen – it is a nightmare to make look half decent. Sorry I digress.

I began to look at the dress, the weave of the fabric, the memories of India and Greece woven in the fibres. I looked at the patterns the natural creases made, the texture and the colour and lost myself for a few minutes. It was fabulous. Onto the ironing board came a favourite top and again I made a conscious effort to really see the top, it’s colour, it’s texture and the memories entwined in it. The noise the steam made as it was released between the fibres. The heat absorbed by my fingers close to the irons metal plate. The movement of the iron and its hiss, slightly out of time with the beat of ELOs Mr Blue Sky playing in the background.

All of a sudden the pile of ironed clothes was higher than the un-ironed and I was genuinely enjoying this time and felt focussed, relaxed and quite chilled by the whole experience. Living in the moment I think is the marketing speak. It was quite beautiful.

When you take what you are doing and give it your total undivided attention, paying homage to the shape, size, texture, sound and movement of all you do, suddenly you find yourself absolutely in the moment. Suddenly the mundane brings a certain pleasure and peace with it. No frustration, no feelings of wasting time, just the simple pleasure of doing whatever it is you have to do thoroughly, with full attention and gaining a sense of being that is indulgently pleasurable.

So, next time you are faced with a task you see as daunting, terrible, boring and mundane or you just need some space in your head for nothing to sit in, give the task your focus, look really carefully; see it, feel it, hear it, and touch it in a way you haven’t done before and find the rest of the world is standing still, quietly waiting for you, until you are ready to join it once more.

Housework as therapy? Why not…

The answer is always yes

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it – say yes, then learn how to do it later. Richard Branson

I am not a huge fan of Richard Branson but some words he spouts resonate and these ones really do.

I have always had the mentality of say yes and work out how to do it later. It’s how I got my first job in London 30 years ago! Can you use a computer and this software? Yes of course! I got the job there and then and then spent the weekend learning the how. The joy of the 1980s.

Not suggesting anyone lies. That’s crossing one too many values for me. I do however, encourage a can do attitude. Why miss an opportunity to do something new, explore somewhere you’ve never been or live a life you’ve always dreamt of, just because you don’t know how to achieve it?

When someone said to me yesterday “shall we do a workshop together”, neither of us knowing what this will be, of course the answer was yes. We both know we have something to give, something to create and our guts and that little bit of excitement that ran round our bellies as we said this, were enough to decide to create something beautiful.

Yes. That is enough to begin.

What is your dream? What do you want to create? Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be? When are you finally going to just say yes?

You are already enough, so say yes and work out how later. The universe she listens. The universe hears that yes. The universe has your back and will co-create what is meant to be.

The Unconscious Worrier and The Conscious Warrior

How many times do you find yourself unfocused, not really present or just generally distracted but you can’t quite put your finger on it?

How many of you put your warrior head on and battle through your day, your week and your life?

I get you….

This last ten days I realise I have been unfocused; physically present but just skimming the surface of reality and knowing I was watching life but not quite able to join in.

When it came to the crunch though, the day arrived where I had to face the world, it couldn’t be avoided and I put on my invisible armour and got on with it.

So there’s a lump. Not where I thought and way bigger than I expected. How do I feel? Actually okay. Not good. Not bad. Not scared. Not worried. Actually grateful that I haven’t wasted the time of the people caring for me this morning.

Wasting the time of the nursing staff. That worried me more than anything. Our NHS system is stretched enough. Is that why we don’t go to see our GP? In case we are just adding to the current overload? Or is that just an excuse because we we bloody scared about what they will find.

Now I have a lump. So now they have to squeeze, scan, take pictures, stick me with needles and tell me results.

But, I discovered, all is well. It’s just a cyst and that was easily dealt with. Did I sigh with relief? Yes of course I did and thankfully I will not have to have the conversations with those I love that I’d had in my head, so the day suddenly feels a bit different.

If you have a lump or a pain or an ache or something just doesn’t look or feel right, don’t tell yourself the doctor or the nurses are overwhelmed and you don’t want to make it worse; don’t avoid getting checked because you don’t know how you’d cope; don’t think it will go away – it really won’t; take a breath, make that call, just say what’s wrong and allow the professional to do the diagnosing.

Last week I had a lump and a phone call to make and I was uncomfortable and scared. All week my unconscious worrier sat below the surface and niggled my thoughts, never allowing me to worry enough that it was obvious, but making it difficult for me to do anything constructively. But today I had to consciously become the warrior and get through the day. The warrior found it was just a cyst and with a sense of relief took a breath but one, whilst looking around the consultation room, hoping all the others were breathing again too.

The Fleshy Kintsugi

“How many times do I have to tell you that even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too.”

We struggle to love ourselves sometimes, especially when we feel flawed. Whether that be a visual flaw or just something inside that makes us feel like we aren’t working as we should. When it is pointed out by others it is even more pronounced in our own heads. We believe what people say, and what people say we see as negative.

I was recently described as “fleshy”. Oh thanks…. I’m fat am I? I was very insulted but deep down I knew what they said was true – I am fleshy. I have curves, I have excess fleshy bits and I am never going to be a size 8 stick-like woman. As I thought about it (as you do when someone points out a “flaw”), I realised that actually all that was true so I went back to that person and asked what they saw when they said fleshy…. I needed to know even though I wasn’t going to like what I heard.

They were sad when they thought I had taken it as an insult. They had not meant it that way. To them, fleshy was beautiful, it was curvy, it was not a size 8 as they don’t think women should be skinny, it was who they saw when they looked at me. It made me stop in my tracks and think about the whole body image discussion we have internally and through the media. It made me realise, whilst I thought I was comfortable in my own skin, I am still battling with how I should look, versus how I actually look, versus how others see me, versus loving all of me as I am.

Yes there is weight to lose, I guess we all carry some that we can get rid of if we made the effort, but seeing myself as beautiful instead of seeing the faults is really important. I have learnt to love the inside me, the person with the faulty mind and yet I have omitted to fully love the outer covering. It is time to fix that and make the effort to change the bit that is a health issue, but love the outer covering of this mind and soul I have been gifted with.

Take a look at you and ask yourself what would feel like an insult to you if someone said it. Would it be about your weight? Would it be how tall or short you are? Would it be that parts of you are too big or too small? Would it be that you are too angry, too nice, too loud, too quiet…. the list is endless, but you will know. The second I asked the question, your “fleshy” word would have popped into your mind and you will have immediately focused on what you think is a weak spot for you.

So look again… think about it through the day…. is it really an insult or is it who you are and what makes you who you are? Find its positive or at least look on it with acceptance that it is part of a very special human being. For you it is a fault; for someone else it is a beautiful feature. Love it. Like the Chinese artwork (Kintsugi – where they take a broken bowl and mend it using gold to create a beautiful new object out of what was fundamentally flawed and for the bin), and take your thoughts and use them as the seam of gold and create something beautiful with the flaws you see.

 

Stagnant Pond, Dry Riverbed

Parched, dry, empty, lacking in life, soulless – these are all words to be used for the normally flowing, vibrant, life-giving river that runs through my village. Now, as you can see, there is nothing. This riverbed is a bit like we feel sometimes – dry, lifeless and looking very sad. We are water.

Water is life. The flow, the force, the strength and power cuts its way through rough terrain. When obstacles are placed in its path, its finds the path of least resistance and flows around rather than try to push through or push away an immovable object. When something falls into it, if it is heavy it lets it fall through and rest where it lands and if it is light enough it will carry it along until it gets caught up and then it lets it go. When light shines onto it, it creates rainbows on its surface. When it rains, it swells until it can no longer contain it and then it spills over. We are water.

If we do not block the path of a river it continues to flow and find its way. It is beautiful to watch and it doesn’t matter at what speed it travels, it arrives at its destination eventually and gives life to all it touches on the way. If that flow is blocked, it becomes a stagnant stretch of water and all within it fails and dies. It loses its brightness and it begins to smell unpleasant. Not many want to spend the day round a stagnant pond or stretch of water. We are water.

The external environment dictates the health of our water and as we have seen in the UK recently, when you continually have heat and no relief from the rain to quench its thirst, or replenish what it has lost, it dries up, life is lost, the landscape changes and it impacts so many other things. We are water.

We are water – that is fact and we need to replenish ourselves with whatever feeds us – be it physical nourishment, spiritual food, the touch of nature, the sound of song, the company of others who support us, help us grow, love us or a balance of warmth and rain. We should be surrounding ourselves with all things that add to our flow so we don’t become stagnant or dry up completely inside.

We are water and like water we need to encourage, allow, go with the flow. We need to stop trying to fight the movement and never try and reverse it. People around us have their own flow and terrain to work with and sometimes we will join together but at some point we may take different paths – it’s okay to let them go or go your own way. If it is meant, you will come back and join in the journey but if not, be thankful for the time you spend together, have fun with the time whilst you have it and be grateful for all you learnt and how much you grew on the way.

Since I learnt that people flow in and flow out of my life, and I have a level of acceptance, it has allowed me to be much more present and enjoy the time we spend just doing. I know we have come together for a reason, I don’t need to know what that reason is, I just need to make the time we spend together as precious as possible.

I thank the universe for bringing me people and situations that challenge me, feed me, scare me, and test me because without these I would not be the woman I am today. I have listened to my body, my thoughts and my energy and I know when I flow and I know when I become stagnant. I listen to myself and my needs and I accept when change is needed, I am willing to let go, I am able to let people in. I know me. If I judge things wrong I forgive myself and let it go. If there is an obstacle ahead I will simply find the path of least resistance around it. I will carry all those who need support and I will allow all those people and things too heavy for me to carry to sink and I will leave them behind.

Are you a dry and stagnant pond? Are you a river that has dried out or are you the eternal spring following the terrain you live within and seeing where it takes you? We are water and whichever you are, it can always change. Look within, accept where you are, let go and surrender to the flow that is life.

 

The Change – one for the ladies?

For the ladies, yes! For the men to understand their ladies, yes!

I have written so many blogs that have been really personal but I can write them as I am now slightly detached from the experience, and I know someone, somewhere can get something from them – but this somehow feels more personal than usual. Why? Because it is happening now, I haven’t processed it yet, it means I am getting older and having to embrace a new me and yet I am still going public on the menopause!

I have never felt my age so recognising this is the end of one chapter and starting another makes me a little sad right now. But, OMG ladies – what the hell happens to our bodies at this age? I know it is hot outside and we are all a little warm but good grief why now? Why not wait until winter when this damn furnace inside me would actually serve a purpose!

Menopause or Perimenopause that is the question? Who the hell knows for sure and having a “practice” for the menopause I am sorry does not make it any easier!!!! Having googled (as you do) rather than going to the doctors for a diagnosis, you can see that there is a whole host of information, the main article I found states “this is an inevitable part of a woman’s life” – fabulous, so it’s a bit like death then!!! No getting away from this one ladies, so husbands, partners, lovers and all things male in fact – beware !

perimenopause-commom-symptoms

Doesn’t this just set our heart on fire with joy and elation! Good grief, when you look at this, in fact looking at the pictures alone, you can see pain, suffering, misery, loss, lack, and a sense of ending. Is that what we really want from this stage of our life? Being told we are going to be hot, fat and miserable for the unforeseeable future – oh and then you get old and die…. really!!!!

I am not hiding my head in the sand when I say this, as I know about the heat, the tiredness, the irritability but I am not prepared to spend the rest of my days being ruled by them. I am a woman and as such have been fighting, sometimes losing against and sometimes beating my hormones, for 43 years, SO THIS IS NOT GOING TO DEFINE ME!

Come on ladies we do not lose here, we gain. We gain from no more of those pesky period pains; we gain from not having to always ‘go prepared’ when your period is heavy or you aren’t sure what date you are due; we gain from having wonderful sex without fear of being pregnant (well hopefully); we gain by embracing the wonderful, wise, strong, beautiful women that we have become and should applaud our grey hair, shape, size, passion, sexuality, gorgeous soft skin, knowledge and experience. We, at this time of our lives, come into our own and should revel in it. The other stuff that comes with it is simply our badge of honour and we need to learn to wear it with pride.

Men – be aware of these changes in your woman. Don’t antagonize a woman you can see is struggling with who she is becoming; love her, encourage her, show her that she is still beautiful (don’t tell her as she will never believe you). Don’t dismiss her mood swings as “oh god she’s going off on one again and it’s all my fault as usual”, she is struggling and can do absolutely nothing about it right now. Do remind her she is beautiful. Do show her you still care. Do give her space when she asks fr it without taking offence (she knows she needs to keep out the way believe me). Do know she still fancies you, it is just her libido is a bit knackered at the minute. Do stand by her, as much as she will allow. This is huge and she may be struggling.

So ladies, who is with me and standing up to the Menopause (or Perimenopause whichever I happen to be experiencing at the minute)? Who is prepared to acknowledge, breathe and let go of all they are told (in the negative) and embrace the woman they are and will become. We are bloody amazing and we deserve more than these articles tell us we have ahead of us! I am just stepping into my own skin; I have only just found out who I really am and can stand with confidence and say ‘this is me’, so I am damned if I am giving into a tribe of hormones standing shoulder to shoulder ready for a battle. I assure you they have absolutely no chance of defeating this woman!

Unloading Boxes

Oh wow how much of your “things that hurt” have been boxed up and never addressed, looked at or dealt with? How many boxes do you have of “stuff” that you either can’t or won’t take a look at? Which of these boxes do you think need unpacking at some point and dealing with? Are you ready now? Tomorrow? Are you procrastinating because it is gonna hurt? Yeah, I did too but open them we must.

The truth hurts, the lies hurt, the past hurts, the future hurts. Sound familiar? No one can make you even take a look at these boxes never mind go near them and lift the lid. No one, no amount of external pressure, nothing and no one but you can make this decision. The choice belongs to you – only you! But, when you decide to peep under that lid you so firmly closed, whilst painful and scary, it will also be exhilarating, making progress,  a relief, a breath of fresh air and will move you forward.

I had a wonderful coping mechanism with my hurt and pain and sad – I put it in a box and then I dug a hole and buried it as deep as I could. I thought that was enough to make it go away and I could just get on with life. How marvelously naive. No one told me that at some point and as if by magic, the universe gives these boxes some kind of magical power and they wriggle and jiggle and move and somehow they would create a nagging voice in the back of my head, or a jab in my heart or a suffocating weight in my chest until it was so overwhelming I had to make a choice of giving in or dealing with it. I chose the latter but so many do not.

I talked! I talked and talked. Once that initial thought of ‘release’ was created it gave life to words and they flowed. They flowed onto paper first, then they flowed onto your screen and then they flowed from my lips and the box lid was lifted and out it all came. The funny thing was, I thought once the lid was lifted I would lose control of what came out and the speed and the amount would be beyond me. But no. I had support, I had people who cared and I had a determination in my gut to be strong and do this in my time and at my pace. I didn’t know how, I didn’t necessarily understand why but I knew when and I knew I had to move from where I was. Staying where I was, was actually more painful than opening the boxes I discovered.

I talked. I spoke my truth. I dealt with what I could and I released the pain of what I couldn’t out into the universe and asked her to send it where it should go. Then I had to begin the journey of forgiveness. Forgiveness first and foremost to myself and then to those who had hurt me and then back to me for also hurting them. Forgiveness, I discovered, is a huge step towards emptying the boxes. In fact it is a bit like emptying the box and then jumping on it and squashing it flat, ready for recycling. It is like the satisfaction of popping bubble wrap.

This was not easy and I have to remember that when I walk alongside those beginning their journey. This was painful. This contained tears. I had to recreate and live some of the pain and I hated every second of it sometimes BUT (and there is a great and glorious BUT) I did it, I survived and I found that magical place we all want to go to – happiness. Boxes are great for storage but at some point, if you want to travel to happiness, you have to unpack them and deal with the contents. Gather around you those you trust, you care for, who love you and ask them to stand with you. Peep first or tear back the lid like a huge sticking plaster but be gentle with yourself, keep well and strong and forgive… and when it comes relish in the joy of the smile you find you are wearing one day.

 

 

 

Authenticity – the essence of power

Authentically or Synthetically – how do you live?

Authenticity is one of the values I live by and it sits within my affirmations every single day.

This week I had a clear out of my wardrobe (stay with me this is relevant). It was full of the synthetic self I had created to try and earn money in a world I didn’t fit. It was holding clothing that I put on to look and feel the same as the others around me. It was a poor fit and I never fitted into their world, nor they into mine. No one was right or wrong, it just wasn’t me being true to myself. It was all about the money – or potential of having it anyway.

I would put these clothes on to meet people. I would put these on to go to training and seminars. I put these on to go to conferences. I put these on to fit in. I didn’t. It was like painting on an exterior so people would see the image of what was possible and not actually see what was real. I was selling myself, but not the self I actually was. All for what? To earn more, to live the dream, to give my kids a better life, to have the house, the car, the income, the lifestyle I had been sold. Was it worth the pain I caused myself?

I hated it and I hated me for who I became. I was unhappy and was never going to see success like I had promised myself I would. Why? Because I never did it as me. Perhaps I would have been more successful and actually loved it if I had just gone in as me, talked as I talk, dressed as I dress, be who I am. Who knows.

This was not what someone told me to do. This is what I thought you had to do…. fake it until you make it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved dressing up and looking beautiful but it was simply exhausting being someone I was never going to manage to sustain.  I would paint her on, dress her up and smile until externally I was the playing the part. Inside? I was dying.

I have learnt that to be happy, to be successful in my own right and to live the life I love, I simply have to be true to who I am. No more painting on the external image,  just expressing myself honestly; no more pretending to live a certain way, just living the way I want to; no more projecting out to the world, just looking inside. I have learnt that to live a life where I am happy and content and stable mentally and financially I just had to recognise / learn the very essence of who I am and accept. If I don’t look like, act like, sound like, earn like, live like others… so what… I am finally free, just to be me.

I wonder what the essence of you is and if you recognise it or cover it over. I wonder how exhausted you are at the end of the day when you strip off the costume you have worn all day or maybe the costume is what you wear when you get home and your freedom is in the outside world. I wonder if you honestly believe who you are every single day is who you are when you see your authentic self in the mirror. I wonder if synthetic is actually okay as long as you accept it. I wonder lots of things but most of all I wonder if you are happy and living. I hope so with all my heart.

 

Suicide. The Ultimate Painkiller

” Through early morning fog I see. Visions of the things to be. The pains that are withheld for me. I realize and I can see. That suicide is painless. It brings on many changes. And I can take or leave it if I please. The game of life is hard to play. I’m gonna lose it anyway. The losing card I’ll someday lay. So this is all I have to say. The sword of time will pierce our skins. It doesn’t hurt when it begins. But as it works its way on in. The pain grows stronger. Watch it grin. Suicide is painless….”

A wife and a mother driving down a country lane. Happy, a good job, everyone’s sunshine. She looks at the road ahead, sees the stone walls to the side of her and debates with herself… “if I just put my put down and steer that way it will all be over.”

She may be a wife and a mother, have a good job and appear to everyone to be happy and always smiling, but underneath she is in great pain, has lost her identity, feels mental torture from dawn to dusk and sees no other way to stop the noise and the hurt. And no she doesn’t want to die, and no she isn’t thinking of the consequences or people who will be left behind wondering, and no she doesn’t see this as suicide; this is just the ultimate painkiller to take away her pain.

This happened some years ago now but only this week did an incident bring the memory coming back to the fore of her mind. How, once upon a time, did she find herself in this situation and why did she never see this as a suicidal thought? Why until now did it just seem ‘normal’?

Why? Because when you are in that frame of mind this is not necessarily a thought out process – it is for some, and they meticulously plan, prepare, write farewell letters and out their affairs in order – but, for many this is just a painkiller – the ultimate painkiller. They will take whatever opportunity is open to them and not think of anything but the silence they will experience when it’s done. Bliss at last but too late to turn back.

We are living in a world (thank goodness) where mental health is finally open for discussion. Mental health, suicide, depression, bi polar, PTSD, schizophrenia and so on are words we all know – we may not understand them all yet or have the power to recognise in others or know how to deal with them if diagnosed in ourselves or our loved ones, but we are finally talking about every single one of them. Those who are suffering are now more aware, can openly stand up and be the person on the outside they know they are on the inside. They can do this, in most cases, without shame, without being shunned or locked away and with avenues open to them to heal. For others they hide it well as they may be shunned, labelled, ostracized or locked away and for them we must talk more, educate all of our society and let them know they are safe.

Was suicide ever a thought process? Was she aware she was suffering with depression? Did she think this was just normal and how everyone felt? How could she possibly tell someone she wanted to just drive into a wall at speed for the noise in her head to stop? How could she ask for help when she didn’t know the cause or where to begin? Why didn’t she see it through? Who knows. That is a thought and a memory that didn’t come back. I am just thankful she took her foot off the gas and lived to see another day.

She was hurting. She was in fear or her own thoughts. She was desperate for silence inside her mind. She could no longer cry, there was nothing left inside. She was brave. She was determined. She knew there was something more to come. She had faith. She believed there was something better if she just looked.

She grew. She blossomed. She smiled. She experienced good. She made choices. She never gave in. She survived….. I survived. I never took that painkiller and I live life every single day and I am happy.

Suicide is painless….? Be observant. Recognise. Act…