V for Valentine’s, V for Victory

“The best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times – although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile … For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

how-to-fall-in-love-ebookFor the last five weeks, I have been stretching my body and mind to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. I have written, rewritten, revised and self-published a book called How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. It went live on Amazon Kindle yesterday – Valentine’s Day – and will be available in paperback by March 1st.

It is a massive achievement. I am incredibly proud of myself. In fact, when I open up my book on my Kindle, I can’t quite believe I’m an author with a book in print – and I haven’t even seen a paperback yet.

As some of my regular readers will know, I’ve been writing another book for more than four years – a book that began as a journalistic exploration of the phenomenon of hitting 40 as a high-achieving woman without a partner and without children and that later morphed into a memoir, tracing my story from 40 to 45 as I came to terms with not being a mum and fell in love.

That book is still there, stored in a computer file, but I haven’t finished it yet. In fact, I stole quite a few ideas, anecdotes and scenes from that book to put in How to Fall in Love, which makes me feel sad in some ways but it felt the right thing to do.

My old book was heading the way of my new book anyway. It had become less about my baby angst and motherhood dilemmas and more about the experience of working through all my relationship difficulties and self-sabotaging behaviours to be able to fall in love and to fulfill my dream of living by the sea.

That’s because my baby angst had subsided as I had got older – as motherhood had seemed less likely, as I’d committed to a partner who didn’t want kids and as I’d realised I’d always been ambivalent about being a mum and was even more so in my early to mid-forties.

So the book I have produced is the book that’s right for now. I self-published it because I couldn’t wait (although I didn’t have an agent or publisher either – I didn’t try).

I couldn’t hear one more story about a woman who had fallen for a married man or for a bloke with a girlfriend without feeling that I needed to share what I had learned over the years as I have worked through and let go of my own attraction to unavailable men.

I couldn’t meet another 40-something female who was grieving because she’d missed out on the chance of biological motherhood because she couldn’t find a guy to love in time without writing about the journey I’d been on – learning to soften, change my patterns, reassess my type, face my fears of commitment and fall in love.

I couldn’t wait.

If you’ve been following my blog, some of the topics I discuss in the book will be familiar to you. I talk about the need to let go of the fantasy of the perfect partner or the myth of Mr Right. I discuss how we need to stop working so hard and do more of the things that make our heart sing so that we’re in a better place for love.

I also write about the idea of the Ideal, the Ordeal and the Real Deal in relationships. That’s the theory of relationship expert and author Harville Hendrix who says we need to mature enough emotionally in order to push through the difficult, messy stage of a relationship – the time when you have to negotiate boundaries, manage difference and accept our partner is never going to be perfect – in order to find our way to the Real Deal. If we can’t do this, we’ll just keep chasing the Ideal – and we’ll be single for a long time. I thank my therapist and my friends for helping me to get through the Ordeal so I could have the Real Deal.

In the book, I share plenty of my own dating dilemmas and mishaps – all the times I decided a man wasn’t good enough for me because I was too scared of emotional intimacy and all the times I looked for love in the wrong places, in food, in external validation or in the arms of a guy who was attached to someone else.

So if you’ve enjoyed my blogs over the years, you’ll love my book. And I’d love you to read it. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a Kindle app and read the book on any device, your phone, tablet etc (see my book page for details of how to do that). And if you’d like the paperback (I wouldn’t blame you because the cover is gorgeous – designed by Briony of Goldustdesign, who I share a co-working space with at The Old School House in Bournemouth), keep your eye on this blog, on my Twitter feed or my website and I’ll let you know when it’s out. You could also take a look at this Facebook live video from yesterday evening, in which I excitedly share the publication of my book and some of its contents.

raspberriesAlso, if you’d like to work through the steps in this book with me and a small group of like-minded women, check out my next ‘How to Fall in Love‘ course that starts March 27.

But back to the quote I began this blog with.

I have most definitely stretched myself to finish this book. There were times when I worried I was back in my workaholic mode, abandoning my self-care and harming myself. Perhaps I did, a little bit. I worked too many hours. I forgot to eat (a bizarre sensation for someone who used to binge every time she had a deadline) and I forgot to go to the loo. I abandoned housework, food shopping (I thank my wonderful partner for stepping in and keeping me well nourished) and I neglected my other storytelling and PR work. I almost ran out of petrol and I completely ran out of lipstick (that’s the biggest disaster!).

But it was for a very short period. I only worked really intensely for a couple of weeks. And I made sure I spent the first few minutes of everyday grounding myself, meditating, saying a prayer and reading one of my daily readings (or pretty much every day, I let a few days slip right at the end when I got up at ridiculous o’clock to do the final edits).

My perfectionism reared its ugly head but I accepted that my perfectionism is part of me and it helps me to achieve amazing results. And I accomplished what was a hugely ambitious goal of publishing my book on Valentine’s Day.

V for Valentine’s. V for Victory.

Because in the end, I think I have written a really important book that will help a lot of people. It’s not perfect, of course. But it’s there. It exists. I walked through my fears and I put it out there into the world. Instead of filing away pages and pages of research and draft versions of books in boxes (as I have done with my other book over the years), I uploaded this one to Kindle. I released it.

I put into practice all the suggestions from all those inspirational self-help books I’ve been reading for years. I took the advice of Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic and of Brené Brown in all her wonderful books – to get over myself, to just do it, to get into the arena.

A M A Z I N G

So, dear readers, if you have a dream, go for it. Absolutely go for it. Prioritise it. Clear the decks of other stuff. Focus your mind. Invest your energy in something truly worthwhile. Because once you’ve done it, once you’ve walked through your fears, they don’t feel so scary anymore (I’m already thinking about my next book!).

I’ve spent years working incredibly hard but not necessarily for me – for someone else. I’ve exerted myself for a multinational or for a boss. This time, it was for me and I’m so so proud.

So share the love, buy a copy of my book or share the link with friends and colleagues.

And bear in mimg_4410ind How to Fall in Love is not just for single people and it’s not just about dating and relationships. It’s for anyone who wants to go on a journey of transformation – to learn to love themselves, prioritise their dreams, work through their blocks and create a life they truly love.

It’s about flourishing and thriving. It’s about doing what I am learning to do. Enjoy x

Posted in Addiction, Childless, codependency, Dating, Happiness, Love, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yin and Yang

“What’s it like to be loved by me?” I asked last night, kind of joking.

“Intense,” he said with a laugh.

“Intense?” I replied, in quite a high pitch. “Intense?” But I couldn’t help laughing along with him.

“Intense isn’t how I’d describe your love,” I said after a while, a little put out. “I’d say it was … hmm … I’d call it … ”

“Steadfast?” he offered.

“Yes, actually, steadfast. That’s a good word. That sums it up. Steadfast,” I answered, feeling reassured.

So my love is intense and dramatic, a bit like me. I’m a person of extremes. I have my emotional peaks and troughs – the peaks are high peaks and the troughs are pretty deep.

My partner, on the other hand, is steady, steadfast, solid.

And I absolutely love that about him, although I wasn’t sure at first.

I thought I needed someone like me. I think I was looking for a carbon copy of myself. I thought I wanted someone intense, dramatic and extreme. I thought that was the best way to be.

But it turns out I needed the opposite. I needed steady, steadfast and reassuring. I needed someone who’d help me feel more peaceful, who’d calm me down. I needed someone who’d be there, consistently.

I’m delighted I matured enough to realise that. I’m delighted I did lots of work on myself. I’m delighted I allowed myself to be transformed through recovery, therapy, studying, reading and sharing so I could understand what I really needed.

And I’m now absolutely delighted to be able to share that journey and everything I’ve learned with others, through this blog, through my book (it’s getting written and I’ll have at least one book out this year, hopefully two – promise) and through my courses.

When I do this work, write my blog, plan my love course, it feels like I’m exactly in the right place, doing exactly what I was meant to do – using my experience, including the heartache, the pain and all the light bulb moments, to help others.

I feel honoured and privileged to be offering ‘How to Fall in Love – A Six-Week Journey to the Heart’,my course for single women that starts this Monday. I feel privileged that seven women so far have put their faith in me, have begun to share their stories and their struggles with me, have seen something in me that they believe can help them on their journey to a happy, healthy, loving relationship with themselves and with a partner.

If this sounds like a journey you’d like to go on, and you’d like to do it in company and with support, I have three places left on the course. There’s still time. Just check out the link and drop me a line.

I was thinking about time today. How it’s our most precious commodity. Along with health and love. Time. Sometimes, when I’m having one of those really loved up moments, I feel a pang of sadness that it took my partner and I so long to get together in a committed way, and that it took so many years for me to find him, for us to find each other. But I’m grateful we’re together now. I’m grateful I resolved all my indecision and made a choice to be with him.

We went on a trip to Lyme Regis today, to walk along the Cobb, eat fish and chips sitting on a wall and to wander around the shops.

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Lyme Regis, 2013

And I remembered, vividly, being there a few years before, in 2013, walking on the same promenade with a friend. I remember having a cup of tea with her in the sunshine and talking about my partner, or my ex-partner at that point – we’d got together but then I’d finished it so I wasn’t with him at that time. I remember sharing my indecision, how much I liked him but how I wasn’t sure, how I thought there had to be someone else, someone more suited, someone different, someone who wanted kids, someone more this or more that, someone …

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Lyme Regis, 2017

I’m so pleased I worked through all those dilemmas, all those reasons why I thought he wasn’t the right guy, why I didn’t think he was good enough or this enough or that enough. I’m so pleased I made a positive choice to be with him. I’m so pleased I didn’t keep searching for that elusive someone else. And I’m so pleased I get to enjoy his steadfast love – and laugh when he calls me intense.

I hope you too can find the Yin to your Yang.

Posted in Childless, Dating, Happiness, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Becoming more whole

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I’m so grateful for the sound of the sea this morning and for the band of bright sunlight on the horizon. And I’m grateful for the cold breeze and the wet sand.

My walk on the beach just now lifted my spirits, which were a bit low when I woke up this  morning.

Nothing terrible. No drama. No tears, although there were some just beneath the surface. Just feeling a little low, a little tired, a little overwhelmed. Quite a lot to do. But that’s OK. It’s January 6. The year’s only just started. I can go easy on myself. I can take a breather, put my emotional health first.

As I walked, the phrase ‘becoming whole’ came to mind and that’s what I was going to call this blog post. But then I checked my archives – I used that title in a post in February last year – so I’m calling this one ‘becoming more whole’ instead. I also used the image of the oak tree in last year’s post, which I was also going to use today. That’s the picture that comes to me whenever I think of the process of becoming more whole, more solid, more grounded, more steady, more sure of who I am – the thick, solid trunk of the oak tree and its deep roots reaching far into the ground.

All that’s still relevant but I was thinking of the idea of ‘becoming whole’ today in the context of finding love.

Love is on my mind right now, and on my heart. It’s also in my heart, because I’m in love. But it’s on my mind because starting on January 16, I’ll be running a six-week programme in which I’ll be drawing on everything I’ve learned over more than a decade of personal development, transformation, therapy and recovery to help single, professional women find love and I’m looking for the best ways to explain what the course is all about and to make sure I get the message to anyone who’s meant to hear it.

One of my goals with How to Fall in Love – A Six-Week Journey to the Heart is to help you become more whole. I believe that the more grounded, centred and complete we are on the inside, the more likely we are to attract healthy people into our lives and to be attracted to people who can meet our needs and bring us joy.

oakI believe that the more we can develop our inner oak the more equipped we’ll be to say Yes when we mean Yes and No when we mean No. I believe it’ll be easier to set healthy and loving boundaries with ourselves and others, so we keep our promises to ourselves when we’re dating or entering into new relationships (promises such as I won’t get physical with him/her until I’ve got to know him/her a bit better, or I’ll commit to only checking my phone once a day, or I’ll make sure I don’t fantasise, obsess or compulsively pursue this person, or I’ll make space for self-care and other friendships in the early days of any courtship, or I’ll make sure I go along to dates with my self-esteem and self-worth intact, knowing that I deserve a healthy, loving relationship).

I also believe we’ll be more in tune with what we want and need in a relationship. We’ll be able to let go of the Mr or Mrs Right thing and more willing to accept and embrace our own and others’ imperfections. We’ll be able to develop and maintain a relationship of equals, in which we both bring something wonderful to the table and we both respect each other’s idiosyncrasies. And we’ll make better choices because we’ll be more in tune with our intuition and our instinct and more able to take note of that tap on the shoulder or that feeling in our gut that tells us to stay or to go. We’ll also be able to discern more effectively whether that shoulder tap or that gut feeling is our instinct or our fear.

So these are just a few of the benefits of becoming more whole. It’s important to note the verb is ‘becoming’ – it’s a gradual, imperfect process. We won’t grow into an oak tree overnight. It’ll take time and steady work. But we’ll be moving in the right direction and the more we nurture and nourish our core, the more resilient we’ll be to the hiccups we’ll inevitably encounter along our dating and relationship journey.

lovewebsitescreenshotSo helping you along the ‘becoming whole’ journey is one aspect of my ‘How to Fall in Love’ course. I also want to encourage and inspire you to do things differently, take risks, have fun, hold things lightly, play, be open and willing, and to commit some quality time to this important aspect of your life that busy women so often ignore. There’ll be a private Facebook group where we can share our hopes, fears, fun times and mishaps and where I’ll be sharing some of my experiences and the things I’ve learned on the journey to love in live videos. I’ll also be inviting you to work on an element of your dating or relationship journey every week – an exercise, something to think about, work through or put into practice.

If this is for you, do take a look at the link to the course and do get in touch with any questions. And please forward the link to any friends. This course is for women only and I imagine professional women in their 30s, 40s and above would benefit most. There are just 10 spaces and I have a few wonderful women signed up already. You can join from anywhere in the world.

The investment I’m inviting you to make is £99. I’m not sure how that sits with your current financial situation but I know from experience of doing groups and courses myself that I am much more engaged when I’ve made a financial commitment.

I also know I want to make this a wonderful journey for you and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was seriously undervaluing what I have to offer. As it is, I imagine I’ll need to charge more in the future because knowing myself, I’ll put my heart and soul into the course and, by the end, will understand its true value. You may already be invested in online dating sites and I know they’re not cheap, but I do believe that going on a journey such as this will help you save time and money going forward.

If you don’t know me and would like to get a feel for who I am, check out this Facebook live video from the beach. Please excuse the abrupt end – my battery died!

And this is what I look like when I’m happy, in love and in my element, hiking in the sunshine with my partner and friends on Jan 2nd:

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This picture represents how I want to live, love and work this year – passionately, wholeheartedly, joyfully and colourfully.

I believe we all have wonderful gifts to offer each other but sometimes we hold ourselves back. I’ve done that for years. But I’m finally allowing myself to work with my passion so I’m really excited about making a success of my love course.

I’m also excited about working with new coaching clients this year, helping people make leaps of faith and courageous life transitions towards more wholehearted, happy lives. I really want to support you, hold your hand as you do things differently and step into the unknown.

So I’m delighted that I’m finally trusting myself, my gifts, my knowledge and my experience and that I’m following my heart. As my therapist would say, I am developing confidence in my competence. My intention for 2017 is to develop that even more.

I wonder what your intentions are?

Posted in Childless, Dating, Happiness, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More festive feelings

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As often happens when I post a heartfelt blog, I’ve spent the last 24 hours pondering what I wrote about in Festive feelings and the feelings, festive and otherwise, that came up afterwards. Following a long walk on the beach this morning (glorious), I felt the need to wrap things up (Christmas pun intended) with a second post.

I was sharing yesterday that it’s OK to feel our feelings. That’s the message I got again this morning as I came back from my beach walk and read my daily reading in Melody Beattie’s The Language of Letting Go (a wonderful book if you haven’t got it).

Today’s reading is entitled Feelings (she read my mind) and it starts:

“It’s okay to have and feel our feelings – all of them.”

She goes on:

“Many of us needed to shut down the emotional part of ourselves to survive certain situations. We shut down the part of us that feels anger, sadness, fear, joy, and love … But times have changed. It is okay now for us to acknowledge and accept our emotions.”

Thank you, Melody.

But perhaps what I didn’t acknowledge in yesterday’s post is that those close to me will have their feelings about Christmas too – their issues, their hurts, their disappointments, their stresses and their memories, good and bad.

So that goes for my late father and late step-mum, who I stayed with at Christmas when I was 18 and wrote about yesterday. They would have had their feelings around Christmas too. I just didn’t realise it at the time. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to understand what was happening to me and what might have been happening to them, on the inside.

The same goes for mothers, siblings, partners, children and all those close to us. They’ll have their own memories, their own feelings about Christmas.

As you’ll have realised by now, I’m one of those people who wears their heart on their sleeve. My tears generally sit quite close to the surface and they don’t need much encouragement to roll down my cheeks. And after years of avoiding feeling my feelings – stuffing them down with food, numbing them with alcohol, hiding from them with excessive work and exercise – I’m now very much in touch with them. And I share them all over the internet.

That’s not the case for everyone. Some people aren’t aware of the pain and hurt they carry. It may be buried very deeply. They may not know it’s there or they may be too afraid to look at it. This was me for many years. Others know they have feelings but they don’t express them, they don’t know how to, they don’t have the language or the experience of doing so.

So this Christmas, I’d like to remember that just because others don’t show their feelings like I do, it doesn’t mean they don’t have them. I’d like to be sensitive to other people’s festive feelings. I’d like to make sure I’m aware that those around me may be struggling with their own Christmas memories, even if their feelings are hidden beneath the surface. I’d like to show patience, love and compassion for those around me and close to me. They may be hurting. Or they may be feeling stressed or disappointed. They may just have different ways of showing it to me.

On a more cheery note, the great thing about being in touch with your feelings, with all of your feelings, is that you’re in touch with all the good ones too. So I’m delighted that as well as feeling sadness, I can feel deep love, compassion and joy. I can be extra silly. I can dance around the kitchen in my pyjamas (I do often). I can get in touch with my playful inner child. I can delight in my friends and loved ones. I can feel wholly, completely and wonderfully alive.

That’s the benefit of feeling, of not being numb.

So, once again, I wish you a wonderful, wholehearted, magical Christmas, full of festive feelings of all kinds.

xx

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Festive feelings

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It’s not all snowflakes and tinsel, jingle bells and ho, ho, ho. It’s not all jolly times and happy memories.

Christmas has the ability to remind us of Christmases past and perhaps, for some of us, Christmas hasn’t always been a merry occasion. It can also remind us of loss – of those who were here in previous years but who aren’t here anymore, of the things we hoped we’d have by now but don’t, or of the opportunities we feel we’ve missed.

It can be an emotional time.

It’s OK to feel. It’s OK to grieve. It’s OK to get in touch with the pain and loss.

As I see it, I have a choice – I can stuff the feelings down with chocolates, mince pies and mulled wine, or I can accept them, unlock them and give them free passage out of my heart and my soul.

Sometimes we don’t know the feelings are there, lying just beneath the surface. We don’t know the tears are sitting in the rims of our eyes, ready to fall. We don’t know because we’re busy, rushed, stressed, trying to get everything done, trying to please others, forgetting to sit with ourselves and allow ourselves to feel.

Until someone says something or we hear something or we remember something that triggers us, that takes us to a deep place of pain.

That’s what happened to me last night. A simple phrase, uttered by another, triggered something incredibly deep inside. First, I felt angry as my expectations that this Christmas would be absolutely perfect and magical came crashing to the ground. Then I felt sad as I connected with the hurt and disappointment I’ve felt on Christmases past.

This is my first Christmas in my new home with my partner, a milestone on my journey of recovery from addictive behaviours and dysfunctional relationships, a milestone in my maturity and adulthood. I wanted it to be 100 percent wonderful and dramatically different to the Christmases that have gone before – no sadness, loss, regret, dullness, stress or boredom.

Those expectations of perfection are the unrealistic expectations of my inner child – of a child who’s felt sadness, loneliness, disappointment and distress at Christmas in the past and who wants it all to be fabulous this time around.

I remembered some of those previous Christmases last night as I got into bed. I connected with the hurt and I let the tears flow.

One memory was particularly vivid. It was, I think, the first Christmas after I’d left for university. We, the students, were all heading back home. Only I wasn’t sure where my home was. Mum had sold our family house in Liverpool and moved to a caravan in North Wales and my brother was staying away in the town where he was at college. I wanted to be with my childhood friends so I’d planned to stay at my Dad’s house in Liverpool, where he lived with my step-mum. I’d rarely stayed there before. It wasn’t my home. I slept in a spare room filled with other people’s stuff.

I stayed in bed late, having gone to the pub the night before with my friends and drunk far too much, as I did in those days. I opened a few cards and presents I’d taken back with me from uni and then I got up, just as my Dad was leaving the house with my step-mum. They were off to feed her horses. It wasn’t clear when they’d come back. It wasn’t clear when we’d have lunch or when we’d open presents. I was alone in a house that wasn’t mine and I had no idea what was happening on Christmas Day.

As I write this, I realise that people have had far worse Christmases – kids without parents, kids in war zones, kids with terrible illnesses. I’m always saying this to my therapist – there are people far worse off, who’ve gone through much worse things. What am I doing here? Isn’t this self-indulgent? What right have I to feel hurt?

And there are people much better off too, my therapist usually replies, who’ve had much nicer experiences. Plus, we’re all unique. We have our own ways of processing stuff and some of us are more sensitive and vulnerable than others. Shaming myself for having feelings is only going to make it worse. It’s OK. I’m allowed.

That Christmas, I was 18, an adult in legal terms. But given I’m writing this 27 years later as a woman who still has her emotional ups and downs, I can see how much of a child I was back then, how young I was, how completely unprepared I was for such a huge disappointment at Christmas, for my expectations of a lovely day to be shattered, to feel so alone.

On that Christmas day, stood in my Dad’s cold kitchen, I didn’t know what to do next. I called my Mum and cried a bit, then called my best friend who lived around the corner and cried some more. I was on my own – could I go round? I can’t remember the sequence of events after that – did I go back to Dad’s for lunch or did I stay at my friend’s? What I can remember, though, very clearly, is how I felt and looked by the end of the night.

In the evening, we visited another friend whose parents were really sociable and loved to host. I remember sitting at her kitchen table and my friends remarking that my face was all red and blotched. I’d eaten so much sugar, drunk so much alcohol and cried so much that day that I’d come out in some sort of a rash. My body had reacted to everything I’d put inside and all the anguish that was coming out. I thought the food and the drink would take the pain away but in such huge quantities, they only made it worse.

There is no blame. It’s nobody’s fault. All I know is that I wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with the enormous feelings that came up.

I have other memories of Christmases that weren’t as I’d hoped they’d be. One Christmas, at 23, for example, when I was travelling in New Zealand and had fallen for an Irish backpacker who, it turned out was more interested in getting drunk and playing football with his friends on Christmas Day than hanging out with me. I’d expected him to take away the pain and the loneliness but those expectations were unrealistic – and I’d chosen the wrong man. I was homeless that day, too, so to speak, staying in the Irish guy’s dorm with a few of his friends because the Queenstown hostels were full and I was low on cash.

I remember calling home to Liverpool, speaking to my Dad and my brother who were enjoying a pint of beer in my Dad’s back room and wishing so desperately that I could be there with them this time – safe, in company, with my family, rather than feeling completely lost on the other side of the world. But how would it have been in reality?

Then there were the Christmases I spent in Mexico, with a different family – a huge family of Mexican and ex-pat journalists and friends. I felt like I belonged, like I’d found my tribe. I felt loved and surrounded by warmth. But I still drank myself stupid, perhaps drowning all the memories I’ve written about here.

In recent years, I remember the Christmases when I’ve felt like there was something wrong with me – returning to my brother’s home as a single, 40-something, childless woman, feeling like a little girl, not a grown-up, feeling like I’d taken a wrong turn, like I’d missed out some key life stages, like nothing would ever change.

Many of those images of Christmases past came to me last night and I let the tears flow.

This morning, there’s some lingering sadness but I feel more balanced. And I understand what happened to me last night – something triggered deep pain from my past and I got in touch with mountains of grief. I see this as a good thing, even if it didn’t feel that way at the time. Another layer of the onion. Another stepping stone in my growth and development.

It reminds me of the phrase – if it’s hysterical, it’s historical. My reaction last night was disproportionate to events, which means my past had invaded my present, that a simple phrase had triggered deep wounds from my childhood. I wrote a blog about this five years ago, If it’s hysterical, it could be historical,  which interestingly also talks about how we can rewrite our stories, or write new stories for ourselves.

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Our fabulous twinkly tree

This morning, I’m back in my adult again, aware more than ever that my enjoyment of Christmas depends on my inner condition, rather than on the stuff on the outside or other people’s actions. I know now that I can give the child inside me a wonderful Christmas, I can make her feel loved, safe, secure and joyful. I can choose how I feel this Christmas. I can do my best to cultivate inner peace, gratitude and playfulness. I can lower my expectations of others as well as my expectations of myself, while knowing I am responsible for my own happiness and have all the inner tools to make this a cheerful time. And I can celebrate the fact I have a beautiful home with a fantastic, twinkly Christmas tree, a partner who loves me and whom I love and that there’ll be plenty of joy, laughter, love and friendship in this house at Christmas. I’ll miss my family, especially the young ones, but I can hold those feelings, they don’t need to floor me.

I can also accept this Christmas will be a mixed bag like so many others – some magic, some fun, some stress and some dull, run-of-the-mill stuff. It won’t be perfect, since perfect is impossible, but that’s OK.

If I don’t write again before Christmas, I wish you all a wonderful time. It will be what it will be. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to grieve, grieve. If you need to feel loss this Christmas – the loss of a father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, child or friend, or the losses of your own childhood, of the children you haven’t had or of the life you haven’t led – feel the feelings deeply and give thanks that you can feel. Don’t be afraid of the tears. They won’t hurt you. They’ll cleanse you. They’ll renew you. They’ll help you to grow.

And if you feel triggered, if you feel anger, rage, sadness or hurt that’s disproportionate to the present circumstances – in other words, if your reaction is hysterical (I use that word because it fits with historical, without any judgement or shame attached) – step back, take some time out, remove yourself from the situation or conversation and give yourself time to process what you’re feeling. Is your reaction to do with the present or the past? Separate the two out before you decide what to do or say next and process your feelings from the past. This, I believe, will save and smooth relationships at what can be an emotionally charged time.

Finally, if you can find gratitude, and I believe we all can, if we dig deep, if we write a list, that’s amazing. If you can feel joy, that’s fantastic. And know, however dark you may feel inside at times, that you have the capacity to create your own light and you soon will again.

So whatever your festive feelings, I wish you a wonderful time.

With love this Christmas,

Katherine xx

Posted in Addiction, Childless, Happiness, Love, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Dating with Soul

datingsoul

This quote was true for my dating life for quite a long time.

Groundhog day.

Like banging my head against a brick wall.

Wondering why things never worked out. Wondering where I was going wrong. Wondering why I kept being attracted to men who were unavailable – emotionally, physically or geographically. Wondering why I kept sabotaging relationships with available men who were good for me. Wondering why I’d be head over heels about a man one minute and then repulsed by him the next. Wondering why everybody else seemed to have this relationship thing sorted while I was so often single and alone. Wondering … wondering …

Nobody teaches us how to date or how to be in romantic relationships. We work it out as we go along. Some of us are fortunate enough to have had a good grounding – we’ve seen healthy, loving relationships modeled by our parents or by others around us. And some of us are fortunate to have developed a healthy relationship with ourselves – to be able to know what’s good for us and to have the courage to go for it; to be able to hear our intuition and trust it; to be able to feel that tap on the shoulder that’s telling us this isn’t the right path and to be bold enough to heed it.

That wasn’t the case for me.

For a long time, I had no clue what a healthy relationship looked like and my relationship with myself was virtually non-existent – broken by years of self-harm and low self-esteem. I lived in a fantasy land, holding out for a Mr Perfect who didn’t exist because I was afraid of entering into a relationship with anybody real, scared to love in case love brought loss, as it had when I was young. I dismissed men for simple things like the colour of their socks, where they’d gone to uni or the way they ate their cornflakes and when in relationships, I swung dramatically from a pink cloud to an urge to run for the hills.

This was my story. And I accept it sounds quite extreme, perhaps more extreme, looking back now, than it actually was at the time. All I know is I was scared of commitment and intimacy, but I had no idea I was scared or that my fear was getting in my way. I thought I was ready. I thought I was in a good place. I thought I knew what I needed. I simply thought there were no good men left in the world.

It’s taken years to challenge the unhealthy relationship patterns that kept me out of a committed relationship for so long. It’s taken years to unpick the beliefs about relationships that got lodged in my head when I was very young. It’s taken years to accept and address my fears.

But I’m absolutely delighted I had the courage to go on that journey, to look inside, to open up my several suitcases of baggage and to sort through their contents. I’m delighted because I’m absolutely loving being in my relationship. I love how much we laugh. I love that he’s here when I come home and how happy I feel when he walks through the door. I love that when I see him all the worries and troubles and craziness in my head dissolve into nothing as I realise it’s all OK. I love knowing we have a long future together, God willing, and we’ll grow and change and discover together. How exciting.

You may not need to go on such a long journey as me to find love. You may not need to trek to the bottom of your heart or hike deep into your subconscious. I hope that’s the case. But if you’re still single in your 30s or 40s or 50s and you don’t want to be, I wonder if it would help to explore if there’s anything you might change.

I wonder if it would help to take a more mindful, thoughtful approach to dating and relationships. I wonder if it would help to slow down and hear your intuition. I wonder if it would help to spend time thinking about your values, creating a vision for the partner you’d like to be with and making sure your values and vision match up. I wonder if it would help to take a look at your life and see how much time you’re spending on relationships, fun and self-care, compared with work.

I wonder if it would help to ask yourself what would happen if you keep doing what you’ve always done, or what you might get if you make a change.

heart-1407248_640If any of this sounds appealing, take a look at a workshop I’m running this evening with coach and therapist Helen Gormley in Poole, Dorset, and consider sharing it with some single friends who might be able to join us: Dating with Soul.

Late notice? I know! It’s taken me a while to get round to this blog, but we’re planning to run many more of these workshops – both for single people and those in relationships – in Dorset and in London, so do stay in touch if this topic might be of interest. You can follow me on Twitter, sign up to this blog or follow my Facebook page.

And if you’d like to hear a little more about our vision for these workshops, take a look at this Facebook Live video I did early yesterday morning: About Dating with Soul.

Why am I running these workshops? Because I’m really passionate about sharing my experience, strength and hope with others. I’m passionate about developing a coaching, speaking and writing business in the area of relationships because I believe I can make a difference and I believe I have a gift for it. Some of the people I’ve coached or who’ve heard me speak agree. Here’s a lovely testimonial I’ll soon be sharing on my website:

“I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Katherine to help and guide you through the emotional roller coaster of dating and relationships. In the past, I tended to swing between not voicing my needs within a relationship, causing me to harbour resentments, to behaving in a way that the other would feel controlled. However, with Katherine’s support and encouragement, I am able to find a healthy balance of communicating my needs within a relationship and accepting my partners limitations. Talking of which, she has supported me with the massive realisation that men are human too! Through the acceptance of myself and my own flaws, I am now able to love and accept a man for who he is, warts and all! Katherine has helped me to see the blocks I have had to intimacy/relationships and helped me to understand when it is my intuition or my fear that is telling me to run a mile. She has also helped me to understand my relationship triggers and work out if my reactions are rooted in the past or are about the here and now, encouraging me to take the time to process big feelings and act from a place of authenticity. Katherine’s approach is a delightful mix of wisdom, gentleness, honesty, authenticity and humour. If you want to find real authentic love, Katherine is the one to help you on that journey of discovery” – Catherine, 44, artist.
And here’s another:
“I met Katherine at The Inspire’d Stage in London, where she delivered a talk – a talk that was refreshingly real and from the soul. In a world where hiding our feelings and looking for quick fixes on the outside seems to be the advice du jour, Katherine is a breath of fresh air. She is a relationship coach with a difference. Unafraid to show her vulnerability, she encourages women and men to open up, look inside and dig deep. If you are single and in your late 30s, early 40s or beyond seek out Katherine. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience that she shares in a fun, transformative and authentic way” – Lidija Markovic Rosati, International NLP Trainer and Master Coach and creator of Momentum Coaching Method, London, UK.

For now, though, I’ll thank you for reading and I’ll send you some good vibes for a healthy relationship today – with yourself and with others.

x

 

 

 

Posted in Dating, Love, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Spirituality, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ageing disgracefully

I’ve just put my dear Mum on the train in Bournemouth, destination North Wales.

As I sat her down and made sure she was comfortable and that she knew where her coat and case were, and as I asked a fellow passenger – by chance, a lovely Liverpudlian lady – to make sure she got off at Birmingham International and made her connection, I felt a huge swell of emotion and some tears behind my eyes.

It’s been a different, wonderful, sometimes challenging week.

The highlight of Mum’s trip to my new home was last Wednesday when we both swam in the sea. I knew sea swimming would have the same effect on Mum as it does on me. I was confident she’d be filled with joy, giggle like a six-year-old and kick her legs with glee. I was sure I’d see her eyes come alive as she looked around at the vast expanse of water. And I was convinced, after the initial shock of cold, that she’d wonder what all the fuss was about and would revel at the fact she was swimming in her swimsuit while everyone else was walking along in their coats.

It all happened exactly as I’d imagined. Her eyes lit up, she giggled like a little girl and she swam around, in awe of the incredible view and incredulous at where she’d ended up one sunny November morning. She got in touch with the child inside her, that child that really wants to come out to play but all too often stops herself because she’s scared. And she was so pleased and proud of herself afterwards.

Like mother like daughter. Or like daughter like mother. We both come alive in the sea. And we both want to play and do extraordinary things, but our fear sometimes holds us back.

oldharry

Old Harry

Mum also loved our walk to Old Harry rocks, on the same beautiful, warm November day. How fortunate we were with the weather (we said those words a few times, as you do).

And she was blown away by our walk beneath the looming cliffs at West Bay, the backdrop to the TV series Broadchurch, so much so that we bought her a framed photograph of the scene. We got blown about, we got caught in the rain and we almost got our feet wet when the tide came in, but it was worth it.

We looked after Mum. We fed her well, made sure she got some fresh air and exercise and plenty of sleep. I helped her into the shower, combed her hair and took a few inches off the bottom so it was a bit more manageable.

westbay

The cliffs at West Bay

Combing her fine, long, white and grey hair, I couldn’t help but think I’m heading that way. We’re all heading that way. As my partner says, it’s in the post to us all – old age, that is.

My hair, beneath the dye, is already grey and white in parts and my face has its lines. And one day, I’ll struggle to work the TV remote control or I’ll go searching for my glasses I thought I’d left downstairs but that were upstairs all along. I’ll start to forget things. I’ll panic. I’ll ask the same questions a few times over and it’ll seem like I’m hearing the answer for the first time. I’ll be frightened by new things and want to keep to what I know.

I wonder who’ll look after me then, who’ll comb my white hair and give it a trim, who’ll put me on a train and make sure there’s someone to pick me up at the other end. Maybe my partner will, or maybe I’ll do the same for him. I hope we’ll have a wonderful long life together and we’ll have the strength and mental agility to look after each other when we’re old. But having Mum to stay has got me thinking about ageing without kids.

The other thing I’ve been thinking, though, is how lucky I am to have her. I’m grateful I can comb her hair and help her onto the train. I’m grateful I can love her and take care of her. I know some of your mums aren’t around anymore, perhaps they haven’t been around for years, perhaps you lost them far too long ago, before you were even remotely ready. Then there are those of you whose mums are much more able to love and care for themselves and for others, mums who are active and sharp, who are solid and steady, and who are fantastic grandmothers.

We draw different lots in life. Some things are out of our control. But what my Mum’s visit has shown me is that I want to make the most of what I have, cherish every moment, cherish the people around me, cherish those I love and live courageously and wholeheartedly.

Would Mum, at 76, have any regrets? Would she say she wished she’d lived more, risked more, done more, had bigger dreams and faced more fears. Maybe.

That’s what I want for my life: to live more, risk more, have big dreams and face more fears and to have many more precious moments like that Wednesday morning in the sea when I was out in Nature with someone I love, when my eyes filled with wonder and my spirit came alive.

I wonder, what do you want for your life? What do you dream about? And are you finding a way to make those dreams come true?

I hope so.

Posted in Childless, Health, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments