I want to be seen

meoldharry

I want to be known. I want to be seen.

I heard author and activist Glennon Doyle use these words in an interview with fellow author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame and more recently, Big Magic) a few days ago. I’d tuned in to Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast, which, I’m just discovering is a treasure trove of interviews with creative people, some hugely famous, some working in call centres, and a call to action to all of us to walk through our fears and create stuff.

Obviously, this is right up my street. And it’s hugely relevant to where I am today – hoping to finish and publish a second book this year, with at least two more books I want to write after that; often procrastinating and finding better things to do than sit down and write; still not entirely trusting in my creative abilities or in my identity as a writer, despite the fact that writing – even writing these words on the screen right now – brings me such joy and solace and makes me feel entirely at home.

I’m a little late to the Magic Lessons podcast party. The podcast series was recorded in 2016. I read Big Magic when it came out but I’ve only just discovered the podcast.

This is perfect timing.

Things are stirring in my inner world. I’ve been working through some painful stuff, facing my fears and letting go. There have been some dark times and lots of tears, but I welcome it all because I know I’ll come out the other side, feeling lighter, clearer, more at peace, and more able to go for my dreams.

I’m also getting married this year, in June, which feels incredibly significant – which is incredibly significant. If you’ve followed my blog over the years, you’ll know where I was when I began to write.

I was a single woman, living in London, just turning 40, unsure about what I was going to do with the rest of my life, wondering how on earth I’d got to that age and stage without meeting a partner, settling down and having a family, bemused as to why none of my relationships worked out.

Nearly eight years on, it’s a very different story. I have my own family now – a family of two, which, most of the time, I accept as absolutely enough. There are still days when I feel sad that I haven’t had kids, and angry at my past for the scars it left and for leading me down this unconventional path, but I do my best to embrace and enjoy what I have, rather than focusing on the things I don’t have.

I am incredibly grateful. Miracles have happened in my life and I know they’ll continue to happen.

So, back to where I started this post.

I want to be known. I want to be seen.

When I heard Glennon speak those words, I heard someone else speaking my truth.

I want to be known. I want to seen.

I guess I have always wanted this, ever since I was a little girl. See me. Notice me. Know me. 

From birth, we have a natural need to be seen and to be known. When we are seen, we feel soothed. When we are soothed, we feel safe. And when we feel safe, we feel secure.

But our parents sometimes are unable to see us, through no fault of their own, perhaps because their parents couldn’t see them. So we feel unseen. We are not soothed. We feel unsafe. And we feel insecure.

If we start out in life like this, we can spend the rest of our lives trying to get those unmet childhood needs met, often in unhealthy ways. We want to be seen and to be noticed so we hitch up our skirts at school and get involved with the bad guys because we feel important, popular or cool. Or we work like crazy to get good grades so our parents will see us, notice us and love us.

We often find ways to soothe ourselves to make up for the fact we didn’t feel soothed as children – we binge eat or binge drink or take drugs or numb out with sex or rubbish TV.

We try to engineer a feeling of safety by controlling everything around us, by being perfect, doing a perfect job or keeping a perfect home. We build a fortress around us – an emotional or a financial one – so that nothing bad can ever happen. And then something bad does happen, and our world view shatters before our eyes.

We hang on to dead-end or harmful relationships because being in a relationship, being next to someone, makes us feel safe, even if we know it’s bad for us. Or we stay in jobs that stifle our spirit and put our soul to sleep because we feel so shaky on the inside so we have to keep our outsides as secure as we can.

I have done many of these things and many more to get my unmet childhood needs met.

Throughout much of my career, I was striving to be seen, climbing up a career ladder until I got to a place where I was hanging out in parliament and Downing Street, mingling with prime ministers and VIPs, hoping that some of the spotlight would fall on me. I was desperate to get on TV but when I made it onto TV to talk about politics, I felt like a fraud, terrified that I’d get it wrong or be found out.

Now, a number of years in to my new career as an author, coach and speaker, I still want to be seen and to be known. That desire, that need is still there. But now I want to be seen for my authentic self. I want you to know the real me. I want to show you inside my soul. I want to share my truth and tell you my story. I want to explain to you how I feel.

Because as I do so, I get to know myself even more. I heal my feelings and make sense of my story. I also feel less alone – I feel like I belong somewhere – because you tell me that you can relate to my words, that sometimes you feel the same.

And as I share my story with you in my books and on this blog, I see myself. I acknowledge the creative child within who’s always loved to write. I let her out to play. I set her free.

I see you, Katherine. I see you.

Do you want to be seen? Do you want others to know the real you? Are you hiding your true self behind a mask or a career? Are you soothing yourself in unhealthy ways because you feel unseen or because you weren’t soothed? Are you staying stuck in a relationship or in a role because you crave safety? Are you trying to control everything around you so that you can feel more secure?

How can you see yourself? How can you acknowledge your child within?

How can you soothe yourself in healthy ways?

How can you give yourself that sense of safety and security that you crave?

Please comment below if you feel moved to.

And thank you, as always, for seeing me and for allowing me to be known and to be seen.

 

***Resources & Upcoming Events***

If you’d like to watch the webinar I recorded earlier this month, you can access the recording here: Create the Life & Love You Want in 2019. Please note there was some background noise during the second guided meditation so I re-recorded the guided meditation separately here: Guided meditation. If you’d like to use this separate recording, watch the webinar until minute 17:40 and then switch to the separate recording, resuming the webinar at minute 24:40.

Relight Your Fire: Find Your Passion & Purpose. Evening workshop, London. Jan 15.

Stop Emotional Overeating, Lose Weight for Life. Evening workshop. London. Jan 16.

Love Yourself. Love Your Body, Love Your Mind. One-day mind, body, spirit workshop in Bournemouth with yoga. Saturday, Feb 2. Five spaces left!

For How to Fall in Love and mind, body, spirit retreats in Dorset, Spain and Turkey in 2019, click here. Two spaces left on the Dorset retreat!

For a free chapter of my book How to Fall in Love, sign up at www.howtofallinlove.co.uk

Free Facebook group for women: Being Real, Becoming Whole.

 

 

 

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Posted in Childless, Creativity, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easing gently into 2019

movegently

Happy New Year!

Firstly, I want to say how grateful I am to you for reading my blog. I know some of you have been following me for a very long time – since this blog began nearly 8 years ago – and I really appreciate your ongoing support and your presence here, as well as the comments some of you post. It’s wonderful to hear that my writing encourages you, inspires you and helps you to feel less alone. When you tell me that you can relate to my struggles, I feel less alone too. So thank you.

For anyone who is new to this blog, please take a look at some of my previous posts. This blog charts my journey from being a single, 40-something Londoner and burnt out news reporter who wasn’t sure of her next career steps, to being the woman I am today – an almost 48-year-old fiancée to a wonderful man who lives by the beach and swims in the sea, as well as an author, workshop and retreat leader, coach and midlife mentor.

And if those two sentences haven’t convinced you that transformation is possible, take a look at some of my posts about my history of emotional overeating, binge drinking and dysfunctional dating patterns, or about my reckless antics that landed me in dangerous scrapes in various corners of the globe.

So much has changed for me since I began writing this blog, just before my 40th birthday, and I know I’ll continue to change over the coming years. I am always growing and learning. Sometimes I revert to some of my old behaviours – over-working, rushing and being unkind to myself. And then I remember where those behaviours took me – to a dark place, burnt out and depressed – and I pull back before it’s too late.

Transformation is what this blog is all about and it’s what my work is about today and going forwards. I love to help people to transform themselves and their lives so that they can become happier, healthier, more fulfilled, and so that they can find love, if that’s what they’re looking for, and stay in love.

Transformation is a big word and transformation isn’t easy. But I always say that if I can transform, there’s hope for everyone. I didn’t transform alone, however. I’ve had a lot of help. And I couldn’t have done it without support.

So if there’s something you’d like to change in your life in 2019, can I encourage you to get some support too? Self-help books are wonderful and there are so many to choose from these days (including my own!), but it’s difficult to change in isolation. We need other people around us, people who are walking the same path.

So this New Year, consider asking a friend or relative to be your change buddy or transformation partner; think about going along to a support group if there’s a particular issue you’re struggling with; or seek out a coach, counsellor or therapist. And if I can help in any way, get in touch or join one of my workshops or retreats (listed below).

I’ll be talking more about the importance of getting support in a free online live video workshop I’m hosting today – Create the Life & Love You Want in 2019 – between 1 and 2 pm GMT. Click on this link to join live or to register to receive the recording. And if you missed it, email me and I’ll send you the recording (katherine@katherinebaldwin.com).

I’m going to be getting some support in 2019 to change those self-defeating patterns I mentioned above: over-working, doing too much and feeling anxious all the time. I still find it hard to proceed with balance and to prioritise self-care, but I’m working on it.

I work on it by getting to the root of the problem. What is it that makes me strive and drive myself so hard? What am I trying to achieve?

Given I’ve been over-doing it since I can remember, since childhood, my issues clearly stem from my younger years. Ultimately, I think, I’m looking for love and a sense of safety. If I can control everything – including what others think of me or how much I am liked or loved – I’ll feel safe (or so I believe). I’m also trying to escape my feelings. If I’m always doing stuff, I can avoid those painful feelings that linger beneath the surface (or so I think).

But I know this isn’t the case. I know these behaviours are futile and counter-productive. I know I can’t fix how I feel on the inside simply by doing more on the outside. I know I can’t control what others think of me and even if I could, it would never be enough to heal my deep wounds. And I know I can’t avoid my feelings because they’ll come out sideways and sabotage my life and relationships.

So I need to connect to the feelings, grieve those deep childhood losses, heal those early wounds, love myself from the inside out, and give myself that sense of safety and security I so crave.

Only then will I set myself free.

Poise

Finding Balance

I’m a work in progress and I probably always will be. This New Year is a case in point. This blog is called Easing Gently into 2019 but I haven’t quite managed that! In fact, I’m writing this as a reminder to myself. I wrote about the same topic for Psychologies magazine Life Labs: Let’s Begin 2019 With Balance. And I recorded this video down at the beach, a reminder to you and me to ease gently into the year (as you can see, I’ve been busy already!).

seaswim

Happy New Year!

So my journey continues, as yours does too, but I have made huge progress and I’m sure you have also. This image of me reflects that progress: the first thing I did on New Year’s Day was to take myself down to the beach and have a dip in the sea. It was incredible. The best thing I’ve done all year.

Well done, Katherine. You made this happen.

And well done you, for all you have made happen and all that you will make happen in 2019. Let’s continue to transform, together.

 

***Upcoming Events***

Free online workshop/webinar, Create the Life and Love Your Want in 2019, Thursday January 3, 1-2 pm. Register to watch live or receive the recording. Email me if you missed it and I’ll send the recording: katherine@katherinebaldwin.com

Relight Your Fire: Find Your Passion & Purpose. Evening workshop, London. Jan 15.

Stop Emotional Overeating, Lose Weight for Life. Evening workshop. London. Jan 16.

Love Yourself. Love Your Body, Love Your Mind. One-day mind, body, spirit workshop in Bournemouth with yoga. Saturday, Feb 2.

For How to Fall in Love and mind, body, spirit retreats in Dorset, Spain and Turkey in 2019, click here.

For a free chapter of my book How to Fall in Love, sign up at www.howtofallinlove.co.uk

Free Facebook group for women: Being Real, Becoming Whole.

 

Posted in Addiction, codependency, Happiness, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women | Leave a comment

Coping with Christmas

mechristmas2Does Christmas push your buttons, stir your emotions, reopen old wounds, or prompt tears? Does it remind you of the things or the people you don’t have in your life, or the things or people you have lost?

You are not alone. Christmas does that to me too.

So how can we help ourselves at this time of year? How can we be extra kind to ourselves? How can we take extra good care of ourselves?

I’ve come up with some suggestions based on my own experience, which you can read in this blog post I wrote for Psychologies magazine’s Life Labs yesterday: Coping at Christmas when life hasn’t gone to plan.

If you can relate, please drop me a line. That helps me to feel less alone. And if you have any suggestions of your own, please do share them in the comments.

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. See you on the other side.

Katherine x

 

***2019 Events***

Free online workshop, Create the Life and Love Your Want in 2019, Thursday January 3, 1-2 pm.

For How to Fall in Love and mind, body, spirit retreats in Dorset, Spain and Turkey in 2019, click here. Please note the earlybird rate on the Dorset retreat expires December 31, on the Turkey retreat at the end of January and on the Spanish retreat in mid-Feb.

Relight Your Fire: Find Your Passion & Purpose. Evening workshop, London. Jan 15.

Stop Emotional Overeating, Lose Weight for Life. Evening workshop. London. Jan 16.

Love Yourself. Love Your Body, Love Your Mind. One-day mind, body, spirit workshop in Bournemouth with yoga. Saturday, Feb 2.

For a free chapter of my book How to Fall in Love, sign up at www.howtofallinlove.co.uk

Free Facebook group for women: Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Email me on: katherine@katherinebaldwin.com

Posted in Happiness, Self-Acceptance, Spirituality, Women | Leave a comment

Going back to my roots

Beachportrait

At home by the sea

I’m a runner and a writer.

As I run, I write.

I wrote this blog, other blogs and scenes for books in my head this morning as I ran along a cold, windy beach, watching the crimson sun bleed through the grey clouds and the foam dance across the sand.

I grew up running and writing and this morning I had that wonderful feeling that I’ve come home. I’m going back to my roots, I thought, as I hummed along to the tune.

I used to run outdoors on wintry days as a child, training and racing for the City of Liverpool’s Cross Country Team, running around muddy parks, my soggy trainers like dead weights on my feet but my body, soul and spirit truly alive.

And I wrote as a young girl too. I can picture my younger self now, sitting on the floor, filling sheets of lined paper with my neat cursive handwriting. I can sense my excitement as I entered imaginary worlds or came up with stories for a makeshift newspaper my friend and I were putting together for the neighbourhood.

I was a journalist for years. I made a career out of news. But I’m a writer at heart.

This was confirmed to me last night as I attended a local writers’ group for the first time – a small gathering of people of different ages and abilities who meet every week to share their words. Yes, some of them are writing to get published and to win competitions and awards, but primarily, I sensed, everyone present was writing for the love of it, for the love of their craft, for the sheer pleasure and challenge of mixing up ideas and words into a delightful, coherent form like some sort of giant jigsaw puzzle.

I get this now. I get the pleasure and challenge of writing, but I didn’t understand it when I first sat down to write a book some five years ago. Back then, I had my sights set on a publishing deal and on fame. I wanted my book in the window of Waterstones, but I didn’t actually want to do the work. I found myself an agent and I expected my writing career to blossom from there. But I wasn’t actually writing. I was waiting – waiting for someone to hold my hand, to tell me my writing was good enough to be published and to pay me an advance. It didn’t happen. Not that time around.

I’m pleased to say my attitude has changed. My self-esteem has grown so my ego isn’t as fragile. I’m not after instant fame and reward. I have found some humility and some willingness to sit down and do the work. I have found the joy in the challenge of the giant jigsaw puzzle. So I am writing, not as often as I’d like, but I’m writing. And I understand that my soul needs to write or part of it will go to sleep and I’ll always feel a little unfulfilled, a little incomplete.

It’s hard, though, isn’t it, to make space for our heart’s desires? It’s so much easier to find excuses and to neglect our dreams.

I’m a writer who doesn’t make time to write, I said as I departed the writers’ group last night. Aren’t we all, someone joked. But that’s not true for the members of that group who are showing up with their pages every week, and it’s not entirely true for me either.

BookstonebeachI have written and published a book, How to Fall in Love. I am writing another and I’m committed to finishing the book I started some six years ago, in whatever form it takes. And I have the seed of an idea for a novel – a wonderful main character and a beautiful backdrop. It isn’t much, but it’s a start.

And maybe my path is to write fiction after all. Maybe the journalism career and the non-fiction books are the stepping stones – a way to hone my craft and build my confidence. Or perhaps they’re a massive distraction, a procrastination tool to put off what I’m really meant to be doing. I will endeavour to find out. I will continue to write my non-fiction and I’ll make space to play with a novel.

My relationship with writing is like my relationship with myself. It was broken or faulty for a while. But it has been restored and continues to be restored, one day at a time.

My relationship with running went awry too. In my early years, running brought freedom and a sense of power and strength that compensated for my mushy, unstable insides. Fresh air. Heart pumping. Muddy ground. Jumping over roots. Weaving between trees. Alive. Alive. Alive.

And then my eating disorder kicked in and running became a means to an end – a way to burn off the calories I’d just devoured; to punish myself because of what I’d consumed; and to try and stay thin because thin, in my mind, meant I would be loved. So I ran everywhere. I ran at crazy times and in crazy places. I remember changing out of a dress into my running gear in the middle of an all-day wedding in Spain and pounding the pavements of a tiny town while the rest of the guests milled around, connecting with each other and eating and drinking. I remember running in Mexico City, dodging taco vans, stray dogs and erratic drivers. And I remember running around Calderstones Park in Liverpool in my thirties, training for the London marathon, as my dear dad took his final breath in his nearby home. I was banging the mud off my trainers outside his house when a nurse opened the door and said in a solemn voice, “You’d better come inside.”

I assumed my running days were over after falling down some steps in London about seven years ago. An ankle injury lingered, I got obsessed about it, and then my knees began to ache. This running thing isn’t good for me, I told myself. I’ve wrecked my joints by over-exercising for years. I’ll just have to walk from now on.

But I’m back. Back in the race. Running on the beach, on the soft sand. Strengthening my muscles and joints through Pilates so I can run without pain. And feeling alive and at home again.

I was sharing about running and writing and going back to my roots on the phone with a friend this morning, and, unexpectedly, I started to cry. Why was I crying? I felt so happy and so inspired. I’d made this happen. I could run and write every day if I so desired. She replied with a beautiful line from a poem that describes how happiness and sadness are so often intertwined in our souls.

“Joy and sorrow                                                                                                                             aren’t two different feelings for it.                                                                                                       It attends us                                                                                                                                       only when the two are joined”

The lines are from a poem by Wisława Szymborska called A Few Words on the Soul (you can read it in English here).

I wonder if your soul is calling you back to your roots, inviting you to come home to yourself after wandering in the wilderness for years. Is your spirit longing to do something that you loved doing as a child? Do you want to run, sing, dance, paint, draw, write or do something else that makes you smile?

Listen to it. Listen to that call. That voice inside you is very wise.

Through my work now, I have the joy and privilege of witnessing my coaching clients and retreat participants stumble upon the memory of something they loved to do as a child. Often the idea seems to come from nowhere. They might be feeling sad and stuck and then suddenly, they mention this thing, this idea, and their face lights up and their voice comes to life and I can see the fire burning inside. That’s it, I say. That’s it. You’ve found it. Do that. Do that thing that brings joyful tears to your eyes and sets your world on fire. Allow yourself to reawaken. To come home.

I believe that we have to reawaken. We have to uncover our true selves. This is the only way to stay happy, healthy and sane. Too many of us cover up our true selves with a false exterior. We do what we think others want us to do or what we feel we’re supposed to do. We follow a path that isn’t really ours. We climb a ladder and then realise it was the wrong one. I know. I’ve been there. And I know all too well the dangers of continuing down that road – soul sickness, a deadening of our spirit, depression, anger and resentment. And then we take this resentment out on ourselves, by eating too much, or drinking too much or harming ourselves in other ways. Or we lash out at those around us and hurt the people we love.

So do that thing that brings you alive. And if you don’t know what it is, go back to your roots. You’ll probably find it there.

***Upcoming Events***

Relight Your Fire: Find Your Purpose & Passion in 2019. Evening workshop in London. Tuesday, January 15. 7:30 – 9:30 pm. 42 Acres, Shoreditch. £20.

How to Stop Emotional Overeating & Lose Weight for Life. Evening workshop in London. Wednesday, January 16. 7-9 pm. Conway Hall. £20.

How to Fall in Love UK Retreat in Southbourne, Dorset. Feb 15-18. Six places left. Earlybird ends Dec 31.

How to Fall in Love Spain Retreat in Andalucia, May 11-18. Earlybird until 11/2/19.

Turkey Retreat: Love Yourself, Love Your Body, Love Your Life, Find Love – personal development holiday with yoga by the sea in southern Turkey. Oct 7-14.

Contact katherine@katherinebaldwin.com

Thank you x

 

 

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Overcompensating for low self-worth

Womanexhausted

Do you overcompensate because you don’t feel good enough?

Do you do too much, work too hard, clean too thoroughly or spend too long worrying about your appearance because you don’t feel worthy or acceptable as you are?

I definitely do.

Of course, this has changed a lot over the years. I have transformed. My self-esteem has increased hugely from when I was younger, and from when I began writing this blog, more than seven years ago. I’ve also become a lot more aware of the fact that I am overcompensating and of the reasons why. I was in denial before.

But no matter how much I’ve changed, I still have to supervise myself. My low self-esteem and my feelings of not being worthy or good enough go way back. They are deeply lodged in the primal part of my brain. They lie in wait, ready to get triggered, ready to sabotage my life.

Why am I writing this now?

It’s because I’ve done some overcompensating today.

I went to buy lunch for a coaching client who’s coming on one of my beach brainstorming days tomorrow. And I over-shopped. I over-bought. I over-spent. I overcompensated.

The little child inside me who doesn’t feel good enough and who is terrified of being judged, criticised, or told off led me around the supermarket at top speed, putting all manner of stuff in my trolley. It now won’t fit in the fridge!

Fortunately, on this occasion, I’m hosting the beach brainstorming day at the venue where I host my retreatsThe Artists’ Studio BnB – rather than at my home. If the client were coming to my home, I’d be cleaning like crazy right now, trying to remove every last speck of dirt.

I also work too hard and always have. This benefited a number of international news agencies and a few newspapers in my first career. It now benefits my retreat guests, workshop attendees and coaching clients.

I guess my tendency to overcompensate for my low self-esteem through working ridiculously hard and being a perfectionist took me far in my first career and no doubt will take me far in my second career as a coach, writer and speaker.

But at what cost? That has to be the question. At what cost?

See that woman in the picture? That’s how I looked much of the time in my news journalism job, until I burnt out and broke down. I’m still prone to pushing myself, but I’m determined to change.

I will always have incredibly high standards. I will always want to do my absolute best. I will always want my clients to love working with me or for my retreat attendees to have the most incredible experience.

But I want to do a really good job with balance and with self-love. I want to walk the walk, to be a role model to the women and men I am guiding along their own self-love journeys.

In order to do that, I need to let go of my compulsion to overcompensate. And in order to do that, I need to continue to build my self-esteem and strengthen my emotional core – or my inner oak tree, as I call it in my book.

I need to continue to heal my early wounds and to re-parent myself. I need to love myself and take care of myself. I need to believe I am enough and trust I am enough. And I need to trust my work is good enough, my house is clean enough, the lunch is tasty enough and that I look good enough.

How about you? Do you feel enough? Do you overcompensate for low self-worth? In what ways? I’d love to hear from you.

On a separate but related note, I wanted to share a few blogs I’ve written recently for Psychologies magazine’s Life Labs expert blogging platform.

How to let go of your unhealthy crutches talks about how many of us use food, alcohol, achievement, success, sex, drugs and other crutches to numb our feelings and to run away from ourselves. I share my own story of using crutches and how I gradually let some of them go. And I confess to what I’ve shared above: that I still work too hard and do too much.

If food is your crutch, read on for my How to stop emotional overeating London workshops and courses.

If you’re up for some more reading, you might also like this post on How to stay true to yourself in relationships or this one on Understanding the push-pull in relationships. Quite a few readers related to the push-pull post especially, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Wishing you a wonderful day x

 

*** Upcoming Events ***

Stop emotional overeating and lose weight for life. Four week online live video course with 1-1 and group coaching starts Nov 5.Evening London workshops on same topic on Nov 6 & Jan 16. Use code SAVE10 for 10 percent discount.

Fall in love with yourself, with your life and with another. One-day workshop. London. Nov 17. Use code SAVE10 for 10 percent discount.

For How to Fall in Love retreats in Dorset, Spain and Turkey in 2019, click here.

Let Go of Your Blocks in Life & Love. One-day workshop in Bournemouth. Dec. 1. Use code SAVE10 for 10 percent discount.

Relight Your Fire: Find Your Passion & Purpose. Evening workshop, London. Jan 15. Use code SAVE10 for 10 percent discount.

For a free chapter of my book How to Fall in Love, sign up at www.howtofallinlove.co.uk

Free Facebook group for women: Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Posted in Addiction, codependency, Eating disorders, Health, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Am I childless or childfree?

Am I childless or childfree? Or am I neither? Am I somewhere in between?

I drafted this blog earlier this week but couldn’t finish it at the time. I’ve returned today to edit it and to share it with you ahead of World Childless Week next week, 10-16 September.

Gosh, this blog is going to a tough one to write. I wrote some of it in my head while running along the beach this morning and then while swimming in the sea, looking through my goggles at the shells on the seabed, diving down to pick one up that looked like a heart, running my fingers over its smooth surface, noticing the tiny crack at the top – the tiny crack in the heart.

The first thing that occurred to me as I ran is that I can have these wonderful, peaceful, solo mornings because I don’t have children. I can roll out of bed into my car and onto the beach. I can jog along the sand, allowing my thoughts and feelings to move through me with every stride. I can feel the cool water against my body as I swim.

What a gift. This life of mine really suits me.

But then I don’t know how it feels to be woken up by a child’s soft hand or flawless cheek brushing against mine. I don’t know how it feels to snuggle up to the warm body of a young soul I’ve created with somebody I love, or even on my own.

Of course, nor do I know how it feels to be woken up through the night by a screaming baby or a child who’s having nightmares – to feel like I haven’t slept for weeks, like I’m sleepwalking, like my brain has gone to jelly and my life is unravelling; to feel there’s a little person who depends on me but I’m barely holding it together myself.

Because parenthood is a mixed bag, so I imagine and so I’ve read. There are good days and there are days when you feel like you’re losing yourself, losing your mind.

Just as not having children is a mixed bag too – at least for me.

There are mornings when everything is absolutely perfect in my world, when I step onto the cool sand on an empty beach that feels entirely mine and my eyes prick with tears because I can’t believe how good this life feels.

Then there are days when I look at mums and dads with their children, laughing with them, playing with them, stroking their hair, bursting with pride, perhaps pinching themselves because they created this wonderful human being who will grow and mature and perhaps give them grandchildren. There are days when I show up to my Pilates class – which starts at 9:30 am after the mothers have finished the school run and rarely happens during school holidays – and feel so odd, so alien, because I can’t join in conversations about toddlers or teenagers. I can only stand, looking at my feet, adjusting my top, feeling separate.

There are days when I feel that the only things I ever have to shout about or celebrate are to do with my work – I got an article in a magazine, I got on the radio or on TV, I published my book. It feels like I’ve been doing this my entire life, celebrating work while everyone else celebrates a baby’s birth, her first steps or his first words. Fortunately, in recent years, I’ve had personal stuff to shout about too – a relationship, a home with my partner, an engagement. Hurrah. Finally, something to celebrate that isn’t work.

But these wonderful personal shifts sadly don’t stop me from gawping at other people’s lives and thinking they’ve got it right while I’ve got it wrong.

I do that often, you know. I stare at other people. I drink in their lives.

I examine how they look, how they’re dressed, the way they hold their partner’s hand, the way they chuckle with their kids, and I generally assume that they’re having a better experience – a better life – than me.

I feel sad to write this, and it’s so much better than it was, so much better, I promise you. I am so much more accepting of my life and able to believe that I am where I’m meant to be, thanks to years of personal development, mindfulness, therapy and the fruits of all that work: a lovely relationship; someone to cuddle on the beach; a job that I love. But it’s my truth. I’ve been staring at other people’s lives and assuming they’re happier than me for as long as I can remember, ever since I was a little girl. It’s a hard habit to break.

When I was small, I was absolutely convinced that other people – other children – were having a better experience than me. They had to be. It was obvious. I gazed at the lives of friends and strangers as though I was kneeling outside their windows in the dirt, looking in on some cosy, family scene straight out of Hollywood.

I observed unbroken homes, children who had mums and dads living under the same roof, apparently loving each other. I marvelled at kids who slept in the same bedroom throughout their school years and during university holidays – who didn’t move about to different homes or wonder where home was once they’d turned 18. I stared at these children for whom life seemed to stable and fair.

When we used to holiday in Abersoch in North Wales, I’d gaze at the people with their second homes by the sea and their bright white motor boats. My brother and I would crouch by the causeway, hugging our knees against our chests, gaping at the blonde-haired children who played in the back of the boats as their sun-kissed parents pulled them along in a Range Rover. It looked idyllic – and far removed from my experience.

I honestly never thought it could be any different for me. That’s the mindset I grew up around and developed for myself. A ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ mindset, as I wrote about in a previous blog. There were two camps and I would always be in mine. This was my lot and it would never change.

That’s what I thought about having kids too. I never dreamed that my experience of motherhood could be any different from my mum’s. I couldn’t imagine that it could ever be enjoyable, that I’d have a loyal and loving man to help who would stick around, that I’d have enough money to bring up kids without an almighty struggle, that it would be fun and rewarding rather than incredibly hard work, a ball and chain around your neck.

I thought I’d find it as difficult as my mum seemed to find it. I thought I’d feel trapped, imprisoned, caged, grounded, my wings clipped. And I so didn’t want that.

That feeling – that rejection of the life I’d seen my mum endure (she may not have endured it, of course, but that was how I saw it) – is, I think, a big reason why I don’t have kids. It’s taken me until now, until my 40s, until it’s too late, to understand that it didn’t have to be like that. That it could have looked very different for me.

Another reason is that for years now, I’ve been learning to re-parent myself, to nurture, love and care for the little child within, after years of neglecting her, berating her, punishing her with too much work and stuffing her with food to shut her up. I was too busy mothering myself to countenance mothering anyone else.

Unlike many women who are childless, I never tried to have kids. For many years, I ran away from it and avoided it at all costs. Then for a few years, in my late 30s, and early 40s, I panicked. It seemed that’s all I could think about and write about. Of course, I wanted to be a mum. Didn’t every woman? Wasn’t it the most natural thing in the world?

And then I did even more work on myself and understood how deep my ambivalence about motherhood went and how my desire for a child was tied up with how empty and lost I felt on the inside, and how lonely I felt without anyone to share my life with. I came to understand that a child wouldn’t necessarily fill that emptiness or satisfy the internal hunger, at least not for the long-term.

And then I chose to have a relationship with a man who didn’t want children. I actively made that choice. I could have chosen to keep looking for a potential partner who wanted kids. I could have chosen to spend all my savings, borrow money or sell my flat to finance solo IVF. I could have looked into adoption on my own. I’m an intelligent, resourceful woman. I make things happen. I could have made motherhood happen – somehow – or at least I could have given it my best shot. I didn’t. I chose to be with my partner.

Of course, my journey is much more complex than that paragraph, which is why I’ve written a book and am writing another, but that sums up a lot of it.

So I made choices, subconscious and conscious ones based on my upbringing, my childhood experiences and the messages I picked up. And not just based on my upbringing, of course, but on my parents’ lives, and their parents’ experiences and so forth, because my journey is irrevocably tied to the lives of my ancestors.

Yes, I can change the course of my life, I can let go of old wounds, heal and move forwards – as I have done with my relationship – but all that takes time. It takes time to realise where we are and how we’ve got here, to understand what lies behind our faulty thinking. At least it took me a long time. I’m 47 and I’m only really seeing now that I could have had a different family life to my own – I could have been a happy mum.

Living here, in Poole, parenthood looks so different to how it looked in 1970s Liverpool. Not for everyone, of course. There’s plenty of hardship here. But I don’t see that so much. Instead, I focus on the families who are doing life very differently to how we did it back then. The mums and dads with their kids – two, three, four or five of them – who go on amazing holidays and have boats and beach huts; with wealth, with time, some with nannies; with careers and freedoms. And they’re having fun, or at least that’s how it looks. They’re enjoying playing with their kids. Their children seem to enrich their lives. That’s not how it looked in my home.

In fact, these mums and dads seem to enjoy more freedom than I do even without kids, and that’s because my faulty mindset extends beyond parenthood to life in general. Part of me still feels that there’s a ‘Them’ and an ‘Us’ and I’ll never arrive in the ‘Us’ camp. I have all the external trappings of having joined ‘Them’ – the top-notch education, the high-flying career, the home and so forth – but deep inside, I still have the mindset of a little girl from a single-parent family in Liverpool who felt ashamed about receiving free school meals, who felt different, wrong somehow, who didn’t feel like she deserved abundance, joy, ease and freedom.

I am still attached in some ways to my old story, to the idea that life has to be a struggle, that it has to be miserable. So I make things extra hard for myself. I don’t believe in myself enough. I shoot myself in the foot. I self-sabotage. I don’t write my next books or shout about my courses or invest in my business so that it brings abundant rather than just about adequate returns.

Again, I am changing. I am growing. Things are different to how they were, but I still have a way to go.

So back to the original question – childless or childfree?

I am childless, but not because I tried to have kids and it didn’t work out and not because I failed to find a partner in time to have kids, although that would be a simpler explanation. It’s because of who I am, how I was made, where I’ve come from, the baggage I’ve carried, the time it’s taken to unpack that baggage and become aware that things could have been different. And because of the choices I’ve made, subconsciously and consciously. If I’d have had different life experiences, I might have made different choices, but I didn’t. I did the best I could with the information I had at the time – as you did too.

Or maybe I was childless, because now, at 47 and soon to be married, I would like to embrace being childfree. If you gave me the choice of having a child today, I’d probably say no. I’ve only just learned to parent myself. I’ve only just fallen in love. I want to enjoy my relationship without the stresses and strains of parenthood and I want to continue my journey towards a fully free, abundant life that’s beyond my wildest dreams.

But perhaps I’m neither childless nor childfreeI am simply me.

I prefer that idea, which is why I like an initiative that’s been launched by two wonderful women – Cherry Williams and Stephanie Phillips for World Childless Week – encouraging us all to take photos of ourselves alongside three words that describe our uniqueness. This is my picture:

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I am complex. I am unique. I am free.

I could add that I am always growing and learning. I am in love. Sometimes I’m in pain. I am on a journey. I am where I am meant to be.

You can read more about World Childless Week here and get involved if you’d like to, and read Cherry’s blog about the ‘I Am Me’ photos here. I won’t be around for World Childless Week, which is both a shame and a good thing – I’ll be on holiday with my fiancé, enjoying some of the freedoms of not having children.

How about you? Can you relate to this blog? Where are you on your journey? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for reading x

****

Upcoming events

After much procrastination, I’ve put some workshops, courses and retreats in the diary. Take a look at the links and get in touch if of interest – katherine@katherinebaldwin.com. If you’re an existing or returning coaching client or have been to a workshop before, I’m offering a 10 percent discount on the overeating 4-week course and on the all-day love yourself workshop. Email me for discount codes.

How to stop emotional overeating and lose weight for life – 4-week online, interactive course with group coaching via video, begins Nov 5.

Tuesday Nov 6 – Conway Hall, London, 7-9 pm. Evening workshop. How to stop emotional overeating. £20. If you’re taking the course, you can come for half-price. Email me for details.

Saturday Nov 17 – One Park Crescent, London, 10am – 5 pm. Fall in love with yourself, with your life, and with another. All-day, small group workshop. £98

Retreats. My October How to Fall in Love retreat is full but I’ll be running another one at the same venue in Dorset on February 15-18, 2019. Watch this space for further details or email me to reserve a place. I’m also hosting a How to Fall in Love retreat in Spain in May 2019 and in Turkey in October 2019. Click here for more details.

More workshops to follow! Thanks for your support.

Posted in Childless, Infertility, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

I love you but I have to let you go

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Breaking up is so hard to do

Have you ever loved something or somebody but had to let that thing or person go?

I imagine so.

We don’t get through life without loving and losing, without experiencing pain, grief and loss. Unless, of course, we choose not to risk our hearts. Unless we choose to close ourselves off from love.

Yesterday, I let go of something I truly loved, something that had served me incredibly well for 14 years, something that was a huge part of me and my story and that had played a leading role in a significant chapter of my life.

Scoots. Gorgeous Scoots. Pistachio green Scoots, with your rounded edges, indicators for dimples, big friendly headlight and cute top box.

A scooter, yes, but a special scooter. A scooter that gave me so much.

SEEKING SAFETY

I bought Scoots in 2004 after a run-in with a stocky stranger in a dark passageway near my London flat. The man put his hand on my bum and tried to grab my handbag. I snatched my bag back and ran for my life.

Around the same time, I spotted a few yellow police notices on my street, calling for witnesses. A woman had been robbed or attacked late at night, walking back from the station. I also came across a lady who’d had her phone snatched one afternoon.

I was already quite a jumpy person, after being mugged twice in Mexico, once at gunpoint and once with a knife. If I heard footsteps behind me at night, my heart rate would rise and I’d pick up the pace. With Scoots, I wouldn’t have to worry about walking the streets alone in the dark – she’d take me door-to-door.

Scoots would also give me the freedom I craved. In Mexico and Brazil, I’d had cars. They’d taken me around town and to the beach on weekends. But a car in London seemed ludicrous – the antithesis of freedom in my eyes. With Scoots, I could weave in and out of the traffic and avoid standing at bus stops in the rain with heavy bags.

Scoots suited my personality – I had a need for speed and thrived on adrenaline. And I didn’t like waiting around.

A RECOVERY VEHICLE

I bought Scoots just as I was getting into recovery for an eating disorder, which also forced me to look at my drinking. I’d had a few rock bottoms with booze in London, collapsing in my bathroom after a big night out, thankful that I’d said No to the bloke who’d wanted to come home with me but feeling sick and ashamed all the same. Hangovers generally prompted food binges too so I resolved I’d have to give up the drink if I wanted to stay clean around food.

Scoots provided the perfect excuse for not drinking as I got used to my sober way of life. Back then, I struggled to be myself around others or own my truth. Peer pressure was a big deal. Scoots was a welcome accomplice.

I remember when I spotted Scoots in a motorbike showroom at Vauxhall Bridge. It was love at first sight. As you’ll know from this blog, I struggle to make decisions but with Scoots, I had very few doubts. I knew she was the one for me.

Some friends tried to talk me out of buying a Vespa. The small wheels would skid in the wet, they said. Scoots would get nicked in London, they warned. Had I seen the crime stats? These naysayers tested my resolve. I have a history of valuing other people’s opinions over my own, of not trusting myself and of believing that others know what’s right for me. This is a legacy of my childhood. It comes from a poor sense of self and from low self-esteem, both aspects of my codependency.

But on this occasion, I trusted myself. I went with my gut. Thank God.

A TRUSTED FRIEND

Scoots brought so much freedom and joy. I rode her to the Houses of Parliament for six years and parked her in the car park beneath Big Ben, alongside politicians’ shiny black BMWs. I liked arriving on two wheels instead of the Tube, scootering past the policemen on the gates and over the cobbled stones. Scoots had style.

I also scooted to dates. I’m driving so I won’t have a drink, thanks, I’d say. Scoots kept me safe from the scrapes I often found myself in when I mixed alcohol and romance.

I rode Scoots over the bridges that cross the Thames, marvelling at London’s skyline, all majestic and lit up, smiling to myself at this wonderful life and this city I called home. And I’d scoot to the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath, getting there in 20 minutes, with my swimming stuff in my top box or under my seat, avoiding trains, buses and long hikes.

Then there were the dark times.

I remember scooting through Islington with tears streaming down my face, on the way to my job in parliament, knowing that as soon as I switched my computer on, I’d feel soul dead and trapped.

I remember the heartache and gloom I felt on the day I took the test for my full bike license. It was raining, grey and miserable and I was riding a motorbike on a busy dual carriageway on the outskirts of London, feeling vulnerable and terrified as huge trucks sped past, wondering how on earth my life had ended up like this. Why wasn’t I sitting in a warm, dry car with a partner and a few kids in the back? (You can read the full blog post about that day here, which is the opening scene of a book I aim to finish).

I remember other times I felt vulnerable in traffic when it was dark and wet and how cold I used to get, needing a hot bath as soon as I got back to my flat. And I especially didn’t enjoy hanging out in dirty gutters to put a lock around Scoots’ back wheel.

I also remember waking up to find Scoots had narrowly avoided an attempt at theft. And I recall the day after I bought Scoots, rushing to an appointment and squeezing the throttle by accident instead of the brake, watching as Scoots slid out from under me and under a pick-up truck. The damage was minimal but I was in shock. Scoots was so precious and perfect. I’d only had her a day and I had to take her back to the shop to get fixed!

MANAGING CHANGE

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A mini adventure

When I moved from London to the seaside, Scoots came along and she served me well for a while, taking me to Bournemouth University where I lectured, avoiding terrible traffic jams. But then I bought a car – a cute mini with her own natural curves and stripes to boot – and everything changed. Suddenly, I remembered the joy of owning a car from my days in Mexico and Brazil. I could throw everything in the back – my sports gear, my swimming kit, my work and my lunch. I could swim in the sea in the winter and then turn the heat up in the car to get warm. I could listen to the radio as I drove. I felt safe. I got used to leaving the house in the summer in dresses and flip-flops rather than jeans, shoes, a padded jacket and a helmet that played havoc with my hair. I enjoyed staying dry in the wet. Luxury.

My lifestyle changed too as my relationship with my now fiancé blossomed. Much of the time, I travelled as a two and although I was licensed to take passengers on the back of Scoots, I’d never tried it. Plus, my partner is quite a big bloke. So Scoots stayed in the garden while I took the car.

Unused, Scoots didn’t look quite so gorgeous – she got dirty and the split in her seat got worse, so I decided it was time to sell up.

To put this in context, I’ve never been very good at getting rid of stuff. I have made progress in this area but I still have a poverty mentality – an irrational fear that I’ll end up broke and sleeping on the streets. So I hang on to things because I think I’ll never be able to afford anything like them again. What if they’re useful? What if I need them in the future? I also get attached to things and people more deeply than others, which comes from having insecure attachments as a child.

But I’m on a journey around money and part of that journey is a commitment to get rid of things that no longer serve me and that are cluttering up my life. Sadly Scoots had fallen into that category. And I have so much more understanding now of how I attach, which makes it easier to let go.

So we fixed Scoots up, gave her a clean and polish and fitted a lovely new leather seat cover, at which point I fell back in love with her, of course. But I took a deep breath, put her up for sale and someone offered me the asking price.

It was time.

BEATING AMBIVALENCE

I confess I almost changed my mind. When my friend said he could deliver her this Monday morning, my heart sank. So soon? I’m not ready. I’m not sure. My characteristic ambivalence took hold. I felt strongly pulled in two directions, torn down the middle, split.

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One last ride

I remembered all the good times we’d had and I fantasised about more good times to come. I pictured us riding off into the sunset – me in a summer dress and sandals (when the reality is I always felt I had to cover up my legs in case I fell off). I took her for a long drive, took photos of her against beautiful backdrops. And I cried. Yes, dear readers, I cried over Scoots. I cried as I rode her around Poole Harbour, minutes before I had to drop her off for delivery. I can’t do it. I can’t let her go.

My patient partner listened to my ambivalence and heard my incessant self-doubt. He saw my pain, soaked up my tears with his T-shirt and eventually said he didn’t think I was ready to sell Scoots. And something in those words, in his understanding, his compassion and his permission to hang on to her, helped me to follow through on my decision to sell.

I loaded her into the van and we dropped her off on Monday at her new home – a good home, a family of people who, I discovered, are on a similar personal development journey to me, which made letting go of Scoots so much easier.

LETTING GO OF LOST LOVES

As I’ve gone through the process of saying goodbye to Scoots, it’s struck me that it’s similar to letting go of a relationship that’s no longer working. In the past, I held on to relationships well beyond their sell-by date.

I obsessed about the good times, forgetting all the bad times. I stayed with men out of fear that I would never find anyone else. I fantasised about our future together, imagining I was a different person and he was a different person and we could have this life together that bore no resemblance to reality. I decided to leave a relationship and then I doubted my decision. I felt stuck, incapable of making a choice.

The same with Scoots. I imagined scooting off with my swimming kit in my top box and parking at the beach, pulling up outside shops in Bournemouth and heading over on the ferry to the Purbecks. That all sounds perfectly feasible but the reality is that I’m always going to prefer the car, for the reasons discussed above.

So my relationship with Scoots had run its course, as my previous relationships had run theirs, but letting go was painful.

I felt some of that pain at the beach this morning after an early swim. I shed a few tears as I shared my sense of loss with a friend over the phone. Scoots represented a major chapter of my life – a chapter during which I was predominantly single, doing lots of work on myself to get to where I am today. It represented those years I worked as a political journalist in parliament and whizzed around London’s streets to the gym, to the shops, to bars and restaurants. It represented my London recovery journey. And it represented a pivotal moment in my life when I trusted my gut and followed my heart, despite what others said.

But I am writing a new chapter now. I travel by car or by bike. I am part of a couple. I will always be that free spirit, adventurous and courageous, but perhaps I’m a little more cautious than I was with a desire for a few home comforts. Maybe a convertible car is the perfect compromise – plenty of breeze but a little more safety and luxury.

SAYING GOODBYE

A friend suggested that I say thank you to Scoots for all the wonderful things it brought me to help with the letting go process. I wonder if this exercise could help you to let go of someone or something too.

Thank you Scoots for helping me to love and to let go; for reminding me that it’s important to hold on to things loosely in life and to let money and possessions flow through me to others; for reminding me of my free, adventurous, courageous spirit; and for reminding me that I am a sensitive person who attaches deeply to people and to things and who deserves to be gentle with herself and show compassion and acceptance.

Most of all, Scoots, thank you for showing me that I can trust myself; that even when people try to talk me out of things, I can trust my instinct and follow my heart. Thank you for confirming that when I do so, remarkable things happen. Thank you for being such a wonderful testament to my growth and recovery.

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The sun going down on Scoots. Gone, but never forgotten.

Posted in codependency, Eating disorders, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Trust, Uncategorized, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment