Are you emotionally available?

I’ve been writing this blog for eleven years and every post represents a small step on my journey of emotional maturity.

I started blogging here at 40 as I confronted the reality of being a single, childless woman whose career – the career she’d given her twenties and thirties to in an all-consuming way – had gone awry.

I had a reasonable idea back then about some of the things that were blocking me from true emotional maturity. By the time I started this blog, I’d already been recovering from an eating disorder and codependency for some years. I’d already lost my dad. And I’d already burnt out in my job.

So I’d done a fair bit of emotional processing.

But I didn’t know the true scale of what I was dealing with, nor did I know that it would take me many more years of consistent personal development work and healing to be able to have a healthy relationship with myself and a loving, long-lasting partnership with another.

Nor did I quite realise that growing emotionally and becoming more available to my feelings would be a lifelong journey, something I’d need to keep working on for many more years to come.

So it is that I write to you having just turned 51.

I am in a very different place to when I turned 41, which was, I recall, a difficult day.

My 40th had been a breeze. I held a big party with my friends and bought a new frock (don’t you love that word, frock?). I felt young, healthy and upbeat about the future. I didn’t dwell on my single and childless status. I was enjoying my single London life. I’d also just started this blog and was loving writing it and connecting with my lovely readers.

Turning 41 was a different kettle of fish.

How on earth had I ended up here? I asked as I cried onto my pyjamas (this scene will be familiar if you’ve read my book, How to Fall in Love). The silence in my North London attic flat was deafening. No partner to bring me breakfast in bed. No patter of tiny feet on my wooden floors. A cavernous emptiness inside.

Fast forward ten years to the morning of my 51st. I woke up in a beautiful wooden cabin in Devon with my husband of nearly three years and our gorgeous cocker spaniel, Layla. We walked the dog in the dunes of Saunton Sands, went body boarding and soaked in a hot tub on the decking, before going out for a meal.

With my loved ones

A very different picture. A joyous picture.

Yet I’m the same woman.

Despite the wonderful company I now have, the old coping mechanisms I developed in childhood are never very far away and I have to be constantly vigilant, lest I fall back into a dark place.

I have to practice my morning meditation, keep up my beach walks and sea swims and remind myself to be grateful for what I have, rather than always hankering after the things I don’t have.

I have to be wary of the compulsive wanting, the dissatisfaction, the soul sickness.

Before my morning sea dip

I also have to keep working on my recovery, my healing and my emotional maturity. I have to stay connected to my feelings.

I may have fallen in love, but without emotional maturity and a connection to my feelings, I can easily sabotage the beautiful relationship I have built.

I came close to doing this on the eve of our birthday weekend in Devon. I lashed out in anger and frustration at my wonderfully patient husband and my gorgeous golden puppy.

My blood boiled, steam came out of my ears and I raised my voice.


The surface reason is because both he and she did something that I found annoying.

But the deeper reason is that I was feeling stressed and scared, which I realise now happens to me every time I take time off work and go away (holidays are a trigger from my childhood – I feel much safer glued to my desk). And instead of feeling my feelings and processing them, I chose to act out on them in my closest relationships.

In that heated moment, I chose to blame others rather than look at myself.

This is an example of emotional unavailability. I wasn’t available to my own feelings. I didn’t make space for my emotions. I didn’t take the time to realise I was feeling scared and anxious and to soothe my frightened inner child. I just stayed busy and kept working, piling one task on top of another until the accumulated steam blew the lid off my internal pressure cooker and my emotions came out sideways, at sharp angles, like daggers or arrows, directed at those I love.

Thankfully, I’ve been on my personal development journey long enough to realise quickly that I am acting out on uncomfortable feelings.

Within minutes, I apologised to my husband and to the pup. Within minutes, I understood that I needed to process my own feelings rather than hurl them around the room.

Thank goodness for my self-awareness.

Emotional availability is a journey, not a destination, and it’s progress not perfection.

As many of you know, I spent almost two decades completely detached from my emotions, binge eating, binge drinking, smoking, over-exercising, over-working, courting danger and drama, getting into relationship scrapes.

There was no way I could have sustained a healthy relationship during those years. I was completely disconnected from myself.

So much has changed.

Yet I am still capable of shutting down my emotions.

I am still capable of lashing out at others, of blaming others, rather than taking responsibility for my own feelings and my own healing.

Without this awareness, I wouldn’t know to apologise. I would push my husband away and my marriage would come crashing down.

I’m only one step away from major self-sabotage.

Thank goodness I don’t take my recovery and healing for granted.

It’s one thing to build sufficient emotional availability to fall in love, but staying in love is a whole other ball game. I’ll get round to writing ‘How to Stay in Love’ eventually – I’m still gathering information!

Now, over to you.

How is your emotional availability, dear reader?

Are you present to your feelings? Are you aware of what’s going on inside? Do you process your feelings and allow them to heal, or do they come out sideways, in judgement, criticism or attack (attacking yourself or attacking others), or do they stay stuck inside, stuffed down, smothered with excess food, alcohol, TV, work or something else?

Remember, we are always growing and learning. Every day, we can start afresh.

Emotional availability is on my heart right now, and not just because of these recent experiences. I’m preparing to host a workshop on the topic of How to Find an Emotionally Available Partner. If this topic resonates with you, it would be lovely to see you on the workshop. You can find the details below.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I hope this blog has helped you to grow.

Events & Resources

How to Find an Emotionally Available Partner is a live, interactive workshop for women that happens on Friday March 25th at 12 noon GMT (8 am EST) and is repeated on Tuesday March 29th at 5 pm BST (UK time) and 12 noon EST. Limited places. Save your seat here.

Download Chapter 1 of How to Fall in Love on my website here: or explore the book on Amazon here.

For coaching, courses and retreats, including a wonderful retreat in Turkey in October, go to

To donate to this blog and support my writing, click here.

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Self-love is way more than a massage

When we think of self-love, we naturally think of massages and bubble baths.

And don’t get me wrong, I love a good soak and I adore being massaged.

But self-love, in my book, goes way beyond that.

And it might not look so fluffy and pink.

It might not be so pretty and perfect.

When I think about my biggest acts of self-love, they’ve involved true grit.

They’ve involved facing my fears and wrestling with my demons.

They’ve involved making mistakes and occasionally getting mud on my face (which is where the bubble bath comes in handy).

Without self-love, I wouldn’t have been able to finish and publish my book or to continue to write my novel (I have 60,000 words and counting – woo hoo!).

Instead, I would still be working in a profession that I no longer enjoyed, in a career that had once excited me but that had consumed me, drained me until I was empty.

Without self-love, I wouldn’t have found the courage to work through my love avoidance and attachment issues and to commit to a relationship and later a marriage (and believe me, my journey to love was a bumpy road).

I would still be single, finding fault with every man I met, always looking for someone else, for some fantasy Mr. Right, thinking the problem was entirely with the guys I dated rather than partially inside me.

Without self-love, I wouldn’t be charging a reasonable rate for my skills and experience in my coaching practice. (And I wouldn’t have added a donate button to this blog either!)

I’d be undervaluing myself at every turn and then feeling resentful that I am not earning what I deserve.

Without self-love, I would have stayed silent and not voiced my needs and wants in so many situations, only to take my anger out on myself later, through over-eating or some other self-harming behaviour.

Self-love is the pink, fluffy stuff, yes.

Self-love involves massages, bubble baths and moisturising our skin; walks in the sunshine, days on the beach; delicious, nourishing food, retreat days, spa weekends, phone calls with amazing friends.

Self-love is self-acceptance, self-compassion and gentleness.

And I still struggle to be gentle with myself, to go easy on myself, to show myself compassion.

I am a work in progress, so much better than I used to be and still quite a way to go.

But self-love is also the bold, courageous, dream-making, vision-realising stuff.

At least it is in my book.

It’s when we speak our truth, stand tall as our authentic selves and go all out for our deepest desires.

So let’s start with the baths and the massages.

Let’s wrap ourselves in fluffy dressing gowns.

Let’s buy ourselves flowers.

Let’s take long breaks from work.

Let’s walk in the sunshine.

Let’s build a strong foundation of self-love – the strongest we can possibly build.

Then let’s use this foundation as a wonderful, stable, solid platform from which to launch ourselves towards our dreams, whether they be dreams of a loving relationship, a healthier body, a more authentic career or a more fulfilling life.

*** Self-Love Workshop This Sunday February 13th ***

Join me this Sunday, February 13th, at 5 pm UK time (12 noon EST) for a special self-love session with a special group of women. This is an interactive online session designed to support you to understand why you sometimes struggle to love yourself and how you can deepen your loving relationship with yourself. Email me on with any questions about the workshop. Join here.

If you’d like to support my creative writing, you can do so on this page.

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The joy of being alive

It could have been an awful week.

Mid-January. Dark mornings. Bleak skies. And the first anniversary of Mum’s death.

A week to be endured and quickly forgotten.

Instead, it was a memorable and magical week.


Because I gave myself space.

Space to feel my feelings.

Space to honour my grief.

Space to commemorate Mum.

Space to celebrate her life.

Space to celebrate my life and the joy of being alive.

Space to experience all the love I have around me.

It’s hard to give ourselves space. It’s hard to take time off work, especially when we are self-employed, running a business we feel passionate about, and especially when we have used work for most of our lives to escape our true feelings, to numb the fear and avoid the pain, as I have done.

But I have learned so much over the many years of my healing journey and my courage continues to grow. More and more, I am able to act in my best interests rather than act against them, as I did for so long.

So last week, around the anniversary of Mum’s death, I gave myself the precious gift of space, and as I did so, God, the Universe and Everything responded in kind.

The weather was glorious, stunning blue-sky days and wall-to-wall sunshine, providing the perfect backdrop for beach walks, sea swims and a magnificent excursion to Durdle Door with my husband and pup.

There, I took the plunge in honour of life, in honour of being alive.

I swam naked in shallow waters at the far end of the beach, the seaweed gliding across my skin and wrapping around my limbs, the rocks on the sea bed almost grazing my nipples, high on the thrill of the cold, laughing at the craziness of it all.

Mid-January. A Thursday afternoon. Skinny dipping on a deserted stretch of beach just along from one of Dorset’s prime tourist attractions. A year to the day since my mother died.

The day before had been miraculous too – the last day I’d seen Mum alive this time last year. I took an early sea dip and then went to sing in a choir, silencing those inner voices that told me that it was a Wednesday morning and I should be at work.

On the way back, uplifted by the singing, I heard a segment on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show that spoke to me.

Before I go on, it feels important to tell you that Jeremy Vine was Mum’s favourite show on Radio 2. She listened to it religiously, volume turned down low, her ear close to the radio so as not to make too much noise (Mum didn’t like disturbing anyone). In fact, she was most put out when she arrived in the care home, her final home, and discovered that lunch was at 12 pm – but that’s when Jeremy Vine is on!

The segment in question was discussing life transformation. It featured Craig Oliver, a former Director of Politics and Communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron, talking about his new podcast, Desperately Seeking Wisdom.

Tina Daheley, standing in for Jeremy Vine, invited people who’d chosen a simpler life to contact the show. I emailed in and five minutes later, I was on air.

You can hear my interview (available for the next few weeks) via the following link (I appear 1 hour, 23 mins and 20 seconds in to the show): The Jeremy Vine Show, Jan 12th.

This interview reminds me of a number of things:

To trust myself, my skills, my knowledge and my expertise.

To go for it, no matter what the voices inside my head tell me.

That you have to be in it to win it and it’s always worth a try.

That visions work (high on my visions list for 2022 was to use my voice more in broadcast media – this is my second BBC Radio interview this year).

And that self-care pays dividends.

I could have been sat at my desk, desperately trying to come up with ideas to let the world know about my work and my words. Instead, I took a day off, had fun and, on the way back from my fun, got myself on national radio, with minimal effort.

I deserve to remind myself of these truths whenever I am pushing or striving or trying too hard to control outcomes and whenever I am putting work or others’ needs above my self-care and wellbeing.

I hope this post and the pictures below inspire you to do the same.

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Christmas hurt and Christmas presence

It’s that time of year again, that time of year when I cry bucketloads of tears, that time of year when my emotions are heightened and I get in touch with multiple layers of grief and loss.

It’s that time of year when many of us reflect on the loved ones we’ve lost, the partners we haven’t yet found, the children we haven’t had and the dreams that haven’t come to pass.

It’s that time of year when we fall into the trap of comparing our insides with other people’s outsides, wishing our family or our home looked like the one next door.

It’s that time of year when we remember painful Christmas memories from our past.

Before I go any further and give you too much to read, I’d like to share another blog with you.

I’ve been writing about why Christmas hurts so much in a post for Medium. Once you’ve read it, please pop back here as I have a bit more to say: read why Christmas hurts so much here.

I scribbled the bulk of that blog, the part about losing Mum, in a notebook late one night through tears. The feelings were raw and I just had to write them down.

Sometimes I wonder why I do this, why I bear my soul to the world, but I need to. I need to be witnessed, to be seen, in all my messiness, perhaps because I wasn’t entirely seen when I was younger, perhaps because my messiness, my extremes of emotion, weren’t acceptable.

So I share them all with you, because it’s cathartic for me and, so some of you tell me, it helps you too.

On that note, I want to share how excited I am that one of my delightful readers donated to me via my donations page on this blog today, and an amount that blew me away. I felt so moved, so touched.

I’ve been writing here for so many years, more than ten in fact, thousands upon thousands of words, pouring my feelings onto the page, processing my losses and I hope, helping you to process yours. When you comment or donate, it gives me such a warm, fuzzy feeling inside and confirms I’m on the right path, finding purpose in my pain.

Thank you so much for reading and for supporting me. It means a lot.

Now back to Christmas.

So there’s loss, lots of it. There’s love too, of course, but where there is love, there is loss.

It hurts to get in touch with our losses, which is why so many of us try to avoid them, especially at this time of year. We over-eat or over-indulge with alcohol to numb our feelings. We get extra busy, running around buying gifts or cleaning the house, so we don’t have to feel. We work too hard, which is what I’m doing right now, to distract from the feelings. (I was supposed to wrap work up yesterday but here I am again).

What’s the answer?

For me, the answer is to try and practise Christmas presence (I have my therapist Paul Sunderland to thank for this fitting phrase, which he shared with me in our last session of the year this week.)

What does Christmas presence look like?

It means being present to my feelings, all of them, including the uncomfortable ones.

It means avoiding the behaviours that take me away from myself – the eating, over-working, running around, the control.

It means being entirely present with the people I am spending Christmas with, my husband, a few friends and our gorgeous pup, Layla Joy.

It means taking myself away from the hubbub if required, to a quiet space so that I can process any feelings that come up, so that I can honour them, rather than dismiss them or numb them.

Layla bringing joy

Christmas presence.

What would it look like for you? Have a think and comment below.

Before I go, one more suggestion: to celebrate your successes as we wrap up 2021.

You can’t think of any? I know that one. It happened to me too. At first, I couldn’t think of any successes and then I remembered that my mum died this year and that I am still standing – that’s a success. If all I had done was get to the end of this year without crumbling, then that would be a victory.

But I also wrote 50,000 words of my novel. Yay! And I brought a puppy into my life, Layla Joy – facing my fears around commitment and making the wrong choice.

Importantly, I stayed in love with my husband and maintained our beautiful relationship, despite numerous challenges, many of them related to the pup!

I made time to visit a sick friend twice.

I also hosted my How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity and Confidence courses for groups of women. Success! And I hosted a How to Fall in Love Retreat. Success!

I’ve touched people’s lives, helped women to find more clarity, more contentment, more self-compassion, more courage and for some, a loving relationship. Yay!

And I kept writing this blog. Amazing.

All in the year my mum died. I’d say that was a victory.

So how about you? Can you celebrate your successes? If you can’t think of any, think again! Share below if you’d like to.

I will finish this blog here so that I can wrap up work as soon as I can and start practising Christmas presence myself.

Sending you love, peace, joy and hope

Katherine xxx

Support my writing & my work

Donate – You’ll find a donate button in the right sidebar or on this page. (If you are donating on a mobile, the screen will go black when you hit donate and then you need to scroll up to the top of the screen to find the box to enter your card details. It’s a bit tricky, but doable when you know how!) By donating, you support me to create more space in my life for my writing. That means more blogs and more books. I have a novel on the go and a book on emotional overeating in progress. You can donate as little as £1 or as much as you like. Thank you for your kind contributions.

Read and review my book – My first book, How to Fall in Love, is available on Amazon and most other platforms. If you’ve read it and liked it, please do leave a review. Reviews help other readers to find my work.

Explore my coaching, courses & retreats – Go to for information on 1:1 love and life coaching, midlife mentoring, retreats, workshops and my signature courses: How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity and Confidence.

Hire me as a speaker – I speak to schools, universities and organisations on wellbeing, self-care, self-esteem, managing stress and healing from compulsive and addictive behaviours including eating disorders. Click here for more details.

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I’m stepping up my self-care

They say we teach what we need to learn and I know that to be true.

I’ve been teaching people about self-love and self-care for many years, first informally, by supporting others who were on a similar healing journey to me, recovering from eating disorders and other self-harming behaviours, and then professionally, through my coaching, writing and speaking business.

But it’s come to my attention that I need a paradigm shift in my life.

I need to step up my self-love and self-care, big time.

You’ll know if you’re a regular on this blog or follow me elsewhere that I’ve come a long way in this area. I no longer binge or starve or compulsively exercise or drink myself into a stupor or work 12-hour days or fall into bed with random strangers, all of which I did for many colourful and painful years.

So much has changed. I have worked hard on my healing.

But now I need to go deeper. I need to go further.

I have come to understand, thanks to my ongoing personal development journey and the excellent support I have from a therapist and various other people who are on my side, that despite the huge transformation that’s occurred, I have continued to engage in unhealthy behaviours that harm my body and my mind.

Primarily, I have frequently fallen into a flight routine, which is one of the coping mechanisms we adopt in response to traumatic events in our lives – the others being fight, freeze and fawn (these are the main ones – there’ll be more). I fall into these other three patterns too, but flight is my primary response.

Flight involves constant activity of the body and mind – always doing, always busy, always pushing, constantly trying to prove, trying to get somewhere or be something, alongside over-thinking, obsessing, worrying, planning and doubting.

Gosh, I’m exhausted just reading that back.

Again, all this is so much better than it used to be.

Back in the day, in my early to mid-30s, I would board a jet plane with the prime minister and a pack of fellow journalists and fly around the world, crossing numerous time zones and skipping sleep in favour of work. Always working. Never resting. Always worrying and second-guessing. Bingeing on sugar and carbs and drinking excess alcohol in a desperate bid to stay awake, to stay afloat and to cope with the terror I carried around inside. Did I deliver the right story? Did I beat the competition? Will they find out I’m an imposter, a fake, a fraud? Will I make a mistake and be told off?

My happy place

In contrast, I start many of my mornings now with spiritual readings and meditation. I exercise most days (even if it’s just a dog walk or two), swim in the sea as often as I can and sleep a reasonable number of hours (except when the puppy is playing up). I eat pretty healthily, as a general rule, and try to avoid gluten because it irritates my tummy.

So far so good.

But sometimes, as the day goes on, I find myself wrapped up in too much activity, too much work, racing against the clock and battling against a feeling of overwhelm. How on earth am I going to get everything done in my business, around the home and with the pup? My stress and adrenaline levels start to rise and I grab handfuls of nuts, which I see as healthy snacks, on the move.

On some days, I buy a gluten free cake from Milko, the vegan cafe down the road, because I’m in need of a pick-me-up.

And on bad days, when the stress and adrenaline get the better of me, I throw the gluten-free diet out of the window and eat whatever I like, generally suffering afterwards with bloating, pain and digestive issues, which I now know contribute to other health complaints I’ve become aware of in recent years: a high degree of inflammation in my body, compromised immunity and joint pain.

Post-sauna glow

Yes, dear Reader, I may look healthy on the outside (especially when I’ve just come out of the Saltwater Sauna, which we enjoyed on my Love Retreat a few weeks ago) but on the inside, my 50-year-old body is suffering from the effects of decades of high stress, high adrenaline, high anxiety and constant activity.

And it’s telling me that it’s time for change.

My digestion has been my weak point ever since I was a little girl, as it often is for those of us who experience any level of trauma in our childhoods. [As an aside, trauma takes many forms and if you relate to my writing on the flight, fight, freeze and fawn responses, I suggest you check out an excellent book by Pete Walker called Complex PTSD – From Surviving to Thriving.]

I remember sitting on the loo as a small child and my mum holding my hand as I struggled with constipation and I remember the diarrhoea that hit me on the mornings of my school exams. I couldn’t tell you what was happening to my gut and digestion during all the years I was bingeing, starving, abusing alcohol and vomiting because I was in deep denial. But it can’t have been pretty, can it?

I’ve been working on my diet and my digestion on and off for two decades, ever since a homeopath suggested I give up sugar and caffeine on my return to England after ten years of living abroad. I had a serious candida overgrowth and a bad case of labyrinthitis, an inner ear disorder that caused me to lose my balance.

But my attempts to heal my insides have generally been half measures and I haven’t sufficiently addressed one of the biggest causes of my digestive issues – my high adrenaline and stress levels.

Until now.

I can’t put it off any longer.

If I want to resolve my joint pain and digestive issues, or at least improve them, I need to stop rushing and pushing and I need to prioritise calm and create space and time in my life for joy, for food preparation, for even healthier eating and for the right forms of exercise.

And to do so, I’m going to need to give up something that I’ve always been trying to get.

Giving Up the Impossible Dream

You see for years I’ve been trying to get what I didn’t get as a child – the kind of love and attention and care that I needed and wanted, a feeling of safety and security, a feeling of being seen and heard.

It’s this constant yet futile search to get what I didn’t get that set me up to push and strive and achieve and try to be the perfect journalist, author, blogger, coach, retreat host, friend, lover, wife, housekeeper, you name it.

It’s like a drug – this idea that if we can just be perfect or achieve something amazing we’ll get what we missed out on as a child is addictive. It’s hopium, as my therapist Paul Sunderland calls it. It takes us hostage until we finally become enlightened enough or defeated enough to set ourselves free.

I hope I’m getting there. I hope that I’m ready to let go entirely of the hopium and, in the process, slow down my life even further and give myself all the things I wished for as a child but didn’t get – reparent myself in other words, mother myself.

But I’m also a realist and I know it’s not going to be a straightforward path. I’m still ambitious and there is so much more I want to do – courses to run and retreats to host and books to write and knowledge to share and collaborations to explore. I have gifts and talents and I want to use them. I want to contribute to the world.

And I know many of you will feel the same. You have so much to give and offer and there just isn’t time.

You feel constantly overwhelmed, crowded and crammed, like you’re running a marathon while chasing your tail, like you’re surviving, barely, but not thriving.

And we so want to thrive, don’t we?

So where do we go from here?

Giving from the Overflow

In my case, I first have to fully accept that my desire to work and produce courses and books and have a positive impact on others has to come from the right place. I can’t allow the hopium to drive me anymore because if I do, I will burnout or fail. I have to stop looking for what I didn’t get, relax, kick back, create space, make soup and do my thing in a calm, balanced way, letting go of the outcome, letting go of the results, letting go of any need for you or anyone else to like me or to love me or to see me as I was never seen.

Because while it’s hard for me to let go of controlling outcomes and trying to control how others see me, I do actually believe that I will thrive if I let go – that my business will thrive and my clients will thrive and my writing will thrive and my body will thrive and that beautiful things will come.

And I believe the same for you.

I will leave you with the three priorities I have chosen for the near future – for the rest of this year and beyond.

Joy – I commit to focusing on fun and to saying Yes to all the things that make my heart soar, which include singing with others (I’m booked into a Christmas singing workshop with Sarah Warwick), doing disco yoga (I’m going to Groove Om with Pip next month) and dancing and laughing as often as I can.

Soulwork – I commit to deepening my connection with myself and my breath and to making choices going forwards that are guided from within.

Nurturing – I commit to making space in my life to nurture and nourish my body and my mind with healthy food that I prepare with patience and loving care. I intend to actually follow the advice my friend and health coach Kim Talbot has shared with me, actually watch the nutrition videos on the Change the Change course I won a place on and dust off my school friend Dr Hayley Tait’s plant-based cook book and a few others I have on the shelf. Yes it’s time I learned to cook, an activity that I’m sad to say always seemed such a waste of time when I could be working.

And now it’s over to you, dear Reader. Do you need to step up your self-care? And if so, what are your three priorities going forwards? Comment below. I’d love to hear.

Katherine x

PS In the interests of self-care, I’m posting this blog before it’s ready, without a final edit, trusting that my 80 percent is good enough. Would you like to do the same today – believe your 80 percent is good enough?

Support my writing & my work

Donate – after 10 solid years of blogging, I’ve finally added a donate button to this site. You’ll find it in the right sidebar or on this page. By donating, you support me to create more space in my life for my writing. That means more blogs and more books. I have a novel on the go (if you like my blogs, you’re going to love my novel!) and a book on emotional overeating in progress. You can donate as little as £1 or as much as you like. Thank you for your kind contributions.

Read and review my book – My first book, How to Fall in Love, is available on Amazon and most other platforms. If you’ve read it and liked it, please do leave a review. Reviews help other readers to find my work.

Explore my coaching, courses & retreats – Go to for information on 1:1 love and life coaching, midlife mentoring, retreats, workshops and my signature courses: How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity and Confidence.

Hire me as a speaker – I speak to schools, universities and organisations on wellbeing, self-care, self-esteem, managing stress and healing from compulsive and addictive behaviours including eating disorders. Click here for more details.

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How on earth did I end up here?

How on earth did I end up here?

This is a question that unites so many of us.

It’s a question I asked repeatedly through my late 30s and early 40s.

And it’s a question that comes up all the time in my conversations with coaching clients, retreat attendees, followers and friends.

Where exactly is here?

The answer may differ depending on the individual but amongst my audience and social circles, here tends to include one or more of the following elements: singleness, childlessness and career confusion, none of which we’d expected to experience at this age and stage of our lives.

We’d expected to have it all sorted by now, right? You know, a partner, maybe a few kids and a fulfilling career.

This may not have been everyone’s dream but it was the dream – the now shattered dream – of many women I know.

Before I go any further, an aside: singleness is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not something that needs fixing. Singleness is wonderful – if we want to be single, if we’re happy being single.

Single on my 40th birthday, March 2011

My single years included many experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been in a relationship, adventures I went on around the globe, deep friendships I formed and tonnes of recovery, personal growth and healing work. I transformed thanks to my single years.

But there came a time when I’d had enough.

I’d had enough of travelling alone, of seeing amazing sights but having nobody to share them with, of cooking for myself and of doing all that tedious life admin stuff that’s so dull on your own but can actually be fun with someone by your side. (My husband and I always have a giggle in B&Q).

And this is what unites many of the people in my circles and in my audience – they are done with being single, tired of doing life on their own. They are also bemused as to why their relationships haven’t worked out and their dates continue to end in disaster.

Other areas of their lives may have gone to plan. They may not love their career anymore but they are smart and determined and they’ve done well in the workplace. Maybe their finances are in pretty good shape, and they’re healthy and fit too, although perhaps with some struggles around emotional overeating, just like me, or other mental health challenges.

Yet their love life has not gone to plan at all.

Childlessness is another common denominator amongst the women in my circles, both friends and clients, and it goes hand-in-hand with the unwanted singleness.

Of course, we can or we could have tried to have children on our own, but most of us imagined having kids within a loving partnership, and while there are many paths to motherhood, most of us had set our heart on having a biological child.

Some of us find ourselves single, just as our fertility window is closing, which makes dating trickier than ever. What do we say on our profiles or on dates? Do we put our cards on the table, say we want kids, or would that scare the date off? It’s a minefield – a minefield I first explored on this blog 10 years ago, with a series of posts expressing my own dilemmas, including Dating with Baby Goggles On and The Baby Gap.

Or maybe our fertility window is now tightly shut and we are grieving that shattered dream at the same time as trying to date, while managing the peri-menopause or the menopause.

Or perhaps we are unsure about motherhood, ambivalent to the core. If that’s you, you’ll find good company on this blog (read my posts on Ambivalence about Motherhood and Why I Don’t Have Children).

Then there’s the career. The career we gave our all to, especially all of our fertile years, coming home exhausted, too tired to date, too tired to join a dance class or go to a comedy club, too tired even to put the ready meal in the microwave, resigning ourselves to a bowl of cereal instead.

The career we excelled at, rising to the top, only to get there and question what we’d been striving for because we now feel soul-dead, lost, depressed even, yearning to do something else, something more creative, more authentic to us, but we don’t know what or we don’t have the courage or we don’t have the money because we’re mortgaged up to the hilt.

Yes, I’ve been there. I’ve been in all of those places.

But I’m not there anymore. So this blog is to give you hope.

If you are asking, how on earth did I end up here?, you are in the right place.

You are in the right place because you are awake, no longer sleepwalking your way to unhappiness. Instead, you are looking around at your life, eyes wide open, knowing that you want and deserve more.

You’re in the right place because you’re a little bit angry or very angry and you are ready to harness that anger, ready to use it to light the fire that’s going to power your transformational process.

Yes, dear reader, you’re in the right place.

And you’ll look back on this moment, on that question and you’ll see it for the catalyst that it was and ultimately, with time, you will see that you ended up here for a reason, perhaps even that you were always meant to end up here.

Getting married at 48

That doesn’t mean that we don’t grieve our losses. It doesn’t mean we sweep our shattered dreams under the carpet, never to think of them again.

But it does mean that we eventually find a place of acceptance.

We accept ourselves and we accept our path.

We forgive ourselves and we forgive the choices that we made, consciously or unconsciously. This is important – some of us are very hard on ourselves.

We find our courage and we face our fears.

We do the necessary work to process our past hurts and clear the way for new dreams.

We transform.

And we build a beautiful life.

Perhaps we become part of a wonderful partnership, if that’s our heart’s desire, and we see that the pain, the dysfunction and the healing have brought us here – to this precious gift of a relationship.

Perhaps we change our careers. We allow our creativity to come out of hiding and take up its rightful place or we find ways to turn our pain into a passsion.

As for the parenthood question, well that depends on our age and stage, but whatever our situation, I believe we can, in time, make peace with whatever place we find ourselves in, even if it isn’t exactly what we wanted.

From my experience, having the other elements in place – the loving partnership and my own version of a family (I have a family of three now because we have a gorgeous pup) and a career I’m passionate about – helps me to deal with the losses.

Having my health helps too and feeling grateful for my health, because I’ve had a few challenges in recent years and I have friends my age with massive health challenges now.

Living by the sea and swimming in the sea help too. The sea has been a Godsend – a real tonic for my often addled brain.

So dear reader, if you are asking, how on earth did I end up here?, as I did on many occasions, I encourage you to ask an even more critical question: what am I going to do about it?

And then to do whatever it takes to find your answer, as I have done.

Some of you will be reading this from the other side – you’ve asked the first question, you’ve made your peace with your past and you’ve done something about it – you’ve changed your life in some way. Yay!

Some of you will be part way along that path. Well done for starting out – the first step is the hardest.

Others will be right in it, right in the middle of the confusion and loss, railing at this life that didn’t go to plan, bemused as to how things have turned out.

I hear you. I see you. And there is hope.

But it’s going to take courage. It’s going to require courageous action.

With courage, we’ll be able to accept the past and to change the present and the future.

With courage, we can start making different choices.

We can start today.

Wherever you are on your journey, if I can support you, please get in touch. This blog, my book, How to Fall in Love, my courses, workshops and retreats are for people like you – people who have asked or are asking, how on earth did I end up here? People who are ready and willing to do something about it.

Sending love and strength,

Katherine x

How I Can Support You

The Love Retreat, Dorset, Oct 28-31 – £100 off the full value if booked by the end of Sunday Oct 24th. We have a few places left if you’d like to join us on a magical weekend of self-discovery, healing and laughter. The weekend includes powerful group coaching circles, beach yoga and dance, a fabulous beach sauna, delicious food and lots of love. We will be a small group of like-minded women, allowing us to connect on a deep level and giving me the space to support you all. If you’d like to find out more, email me on or book a free discovery call here: Speak to Katherine.

Online Courses – Reconnect to Your True Self, How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence. My courses can be taken in your own time in the comfort of your own home. They can also be combined with 1:1 coaching. Small group courses for women will resume in due course.

Individual Coaching – Please get in touch by email – – or book a free discovery call via this link: Speak to Katherine.

My book, How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart, is available on Amazon and other online bookstores, in e-book and paperback. To download the first chapter for free, sign up at

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It is safe to shine

It is safe to shine.

Shining (just been to the hairdressers!)

It’s safe to be visible, to be seen.

It’s safe to be me.

It’s safe to do my thing.

Not only that, but the world needs me to shine, to be seen, to be me and to do my thing.

The world needs my gifts, my talents and my ideas.

Just as it it needs yours.

Some of us are scared to shine. We are scared to be seen and heard, to be noticed, to stand out from the crowd.

Maybe we tried to shine when we were younger and we were criticised or judged, humiliated or hurt. Maybe it didn’t feel safe to be seen. So we put our real self – our authentic self – back in a box, along with our gifts and talents, and we closed the lid.

It felt safer in there.

It feels safer in there.

But it’s depressing too. Diminishing. Soul destroying.

It’s not good for us. And it’s not good for the world.

I know how it feels to be in the box, to be in the dark, to hide, to stay small, to stay quiet. I know how it feels to be so afraid of being seen that the darkness seems more appealing.

The child inside me has painful memories of being judged, criticised, embarrassed, humiliated and hurt, simply for being her, for being real, for speaking up, for being seen. Naturally she didn’t want to go back there. She didn’t want to expose herself to more hurt.

Stay in the box, Katherine. Stay small.

But eventually, the darkness got to me. My soul couldn’t handle it anymore. My spirit was bursting to break free into the light.

So I mustered all my courage, got lots of support and found the willingness to face my fears, to be seen, to put my head above the parapet and to share my gifts and talents with the world.

It wasn’t easy. It isn’t easy – this work I do, this path I’ve chosen.

Why on earth would someone who’s recovering from low self-esteem, low self-worth, fear and shame go into business as a writer, coach, course facilitator and retreat host?

Why would someone who’s recovering from codependency and who’s always cared too much about what people think of her expose herself to potential criticism, ridicule, rejection and failure?

Why would someone who was so desperate to stay safe choose to work in a profession that involves so much risk, that involves putting herself out there, online and in person, and asking people to trust her and invest in her, not to mention booking retreat and workshop venues many months in advance, hoping that if she builds it, people will come?

The answer is because she didn’t have a choice and she doesn’t have a choice.

She doesn’t want to live in the box anymore.

And she knows, deep down, that she has something wonderful to offer the world, that she has a duty to share her stuff, to do her thing.

Plus she knows how amazing it feels, how life-affirming it feels, how joyful it feels to do her thing – and she knows that her work is needed, that it makes a difference.

I know some of you, like me, struggle with being seen, struggle with bringing your true gifts and talents into the world.

And I’d like to reassure you that if I can do it, so can you.

I am writing this because I’m two weeks away from my next Dorset Love Retreat – an endeavour that requires me to take risks, emotionally and financially, to be responsible for lots of different, complex elements, and to trust that women will decide to invest in themselves and invest in me – to trust me with their money, their time and their hearts. (If you are one of these women, I still have space for you).

It’s in these moments, just before a big event on my calendar, that I really need to dig deep, remind myself of my worth, let go of control and cultivate a deep sense of trust – trust that it will be OK whatever the number of people in the room, whatever the outcome.

I am writing this too because I’ve just received some wonderful, heartfelt feedback from seven women who came on my last retreat, in early 2020 – a testimonial that brought tears to my eyes and that confirmed that I’m on the right path, that no matter the challenges and the difficulties and the fears and the struggles, it’s worth it because I’m doing what I was always intended to do and I am touching people and changing lives.

I’d like to share their feedback with you …

“Katherine’s Love Retreat in March 2020 has been an invaluable part of our lives. Katherine’s guided weekend provided us with a safe and supportive environment to explore ourselves, our pasts and the building blocks for fulfilling our dreams. Katherine’s insights shone light on areas for our self-care, growth and self-awareness. She shared her rich experience and has given us the tools to take on our own journey.

Our retreat was enriched by the comfort of our warm and welcoming guesthouse, healthy and delicious home-cooked meals, and walks and guided exercises by the sea.

We were lucky enough to attend the retreat in person shortly before the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020. After leaving the retreat, as like-minded women on a path to self-growth, we formed a WhatsApp support group. This group continues to provide us with support on our respective journeys through life, celebrating each other’s growth and achievements, no matter how big or small. There is always someone in the group with time to listen to you, so we never feel alone.

As well as our regular group calls and more recently meeting up in person, we share our thoughts, books, articles, and other information for our continued development. This group has enriched our lives, especially through Covid-19. We thank Katherine for the gift of bringing us together and the resulting long-lasting friendships we have forged.

Claire, Nat, Rachel, Fi, Bev, Charlotte and Joss.”

These wonderful words and the beautiful women who wrote them give me the courage to continue on this sometimes difficult but hugely rewarding path.

As does this testimonial from one of my individual coaching clients, Anne, who wrote to me recently with news of her engagement:

Anne gets engaged!

“At the weekend, on holiday in Santorini, my guy got down on one knee with a sparkly diamond as the sun was setting! The funny thing was that I had woken up that morning with my usual nasty voices filling me with doubts about a future with him, and yet when he asked the question I shouted ‘YES’ immediately! And then I just felt great.

I’ve worked with a few coaches, and I’ll be paying tribute to all my lovely mentors, but you were a very special part of my journey in helping me not to run away in fear from this relationship. I’m sure the nasty voices will pop up again, so I will have my notes from our sessions at the ready!

[The marriage proposal] was a magical moment that at one stage of my life I never thought I would get to experience. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for it all!”

And I have another lovely client who’s also planning her engagement and who shared the following with me: “Thank you for helping me to make this happen. The retreat with Katherine and the other ladies was crucial for me. It helped me to clear my mind and heart of my past negative love relationships and to lay the foundations for a healthy and long-lasting relationship.”

So let’s say goodbye to those ‘nasty voices’ – the voices that prevent us from doing our best work, from following our calling.

The voices that scare us into staying in the box.

The voices that keep us out of relationships or that keep us stuck in unhealthy, toxic partnerships or friendships.

The voices that keep us trapped in careers that put our souls to sleep.

The voices that stop us from embracing our true value and sharing our gifts with the world.

Let’s all step up and step out, be seen and be heard.

Are you with me?

With love,

Katherine x

How I Can Support You

The Love Retreat, Dorset, Oct 28-31 – We have a few places left if you’d like to join us on a magical weekend of self-discovery, healing, growth and laughter. The weekend includes powerful group coaching circles, beach yoga and dance, a fabulous beach sauna, delicious food and lots of love. We will be a small, intimate group of like-minded women, allowing us to connect on a deep level and giving me the space to support you all. If you’d like to find out more, email me on or book a free discovery call here: Speak to Katherine.

Online Courses – Reconnect to Your True Self, How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence. My courses can be taken in your own time in the comfort of your own home. They can also be combined with 1:1 coaching. Small group courses for women will resume in due course.

Individual Coaching – Please get in touch by email – – or book a free discovery call via this link: Speak to Katherine.

My book, How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart, is available on Amazon and other online bookstores, in e-book and paperback. To download the first chapter for free, sign up at

For recorded masterclasses and other videos, go to my YouTube channel.

For anything else, go to

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Why I don’t have children

It would be helpful to fit neatly into a box, to be able to find a label that aptly describes my journey to not having children.

That might help me to feel like I belong somewhere.

But as with other areas of my life, it’s complicated.

Here are some of the more traditional labels that could potentially fit with my story:

Childless not by choice.

Childless by circumstance.

Childless because I didn’t meet a partner in time to have children, otherwise known as ‘social infertility’.

But these descriptions only capture half the story.

[It’s World Childless Week this week – take a look here].

The following phrases may help to describe the other, more nuanced aspects of my journey:

Childless through ambivalence or indecision.

Childless because of the messages I picked up in my childhood from witnessing my mother’s experience of bringing up two children on limited funds (such as, motherhood is a struggle; motherhood ruins your life, your body, your relationship and your career; motherhood is a financial drain; motherhood is something you wish you’d never done, even though you can’t help but love your kids; motherhood ties you to the kitchen sink and is the last thing you’d want to do, especially when there are so many other, more exciting options such as career and global travel).

Childless because of a faulty mother-daughter bond that left me with a faulty connection to myself and serious questions about my ability to relate to others on an intimate level and especially to any children of my own.

Childless because of a fear that I wouldn’t be able to love a child and that I might harm a child.

Childless because of a fear of being overwhelm and feeling trapped, sad and depressed.

Childless because of a subconscious choice I made not to have children because of all of the above, although consciously it was much easier to blame my situation on my career or on not meeting a partner in time to have a child.

Childless because I spent most of my twenties and thirties harming myself with food and alcohol, before starting a journey of transformation that has required huge amounts of time, energy and money (see my previous blog post – Transformation is Possible).

Childless because by the time I understood that children actually enrich your life and bring joy (rather than all the negative messages I’d picked up), I was close to my mid-40s and in a relationship with a lovely man who, for his own reasons, didn’t want children.

Hovering somewhere between childless and childfree and confused about where I sit.

Childfree but wondering if I’m allowed to call myself that and wondering if it’s acceptable to believe that it’s OK not to have kids and that perhaps it’s a pretty good option after all. In fact, perhaps I chose my partner and stayed with him because he didn’t want kids. I wonder what I’d have done if I’d fallen for a man who desperately wanted children.

As I said, it’s a complex story and there could be other reasons.

A different kind of parenting

The truth is there is no neat description.

And I evolve all the time. What felt true for me last year might not feel true for me today or in a year’s time. And that’s OK too.

In fact, take a look around this blog and you’ll find a number of posts on motherhood and ambivalence (search for those key words), including an article I wrote for the Guardian and an interview I gave to Woman’s Hour. I haven’t reviewed them recently but I know I will have evolved since then, that there will be even more nuances to my story and a deeper understanding of my journey.

And this is my point … this is why I am writing this.

Because I believe the most important thing we can do is evolve, heal and grow – understand how we got to this place (irrespective of where we are at), forgive ourselves for any mistakes we believe we have made, show ourselves love and compassion, find as much acceptance as we can and make our future life choices from a place of deep self-awareness, so that we no longer sabotage ourselves.

As I write this, I’m reminded of a moment on a retreat I hosted a few years back (my next Love Retreat is in October).

I’m walking along the sea front with a retreat participant who’s trying to figure out whether she wants kids or not. (Unlike many of my clients, she was young enough to still have the choice, assuming her body obliged).

My advice? To discover her own truth. To make a choice from a place of deep knowing and self-awareness. To make her choice, rather than a choice dictated to her by her subconscious, by her childhood wounds, by her faulty beliefs, by the messages she received from her parents, or a choice dictated by societal pressures and the need to conform in order to feel a sense of safety and belonging.

And this is my suggestion for wherever we are in our lives, whether we are single and looking for love or lost in our career or our lives and looking for a way through.

We need, or rather we deserve to go deep.

We need or we deserve to step inside (which is the title of Chapter 1 of my book, How to Fall in Love, and the first module of my online courses).

We need and deserve to do whatever it takes to understand ourselves and our motivations.

We need and deserve to do whatever it takes to understand our wounds and our blocks so that we can heal them and overcome them and find a way forward (and this may involve investing in ourselves and taking risks).

We need and deserve to take our past experiences and our past choices and learn from them so that we can build a better life in the here and now and in the future.

I can’t change the fact that I don’t have kids.

I can’t change the way I was parented or mothered.

I can’t change the decisions I made about motherhood or about my ability to mother.

I can’t change what has gone or the choices I made, be they conscious or subconscious choices.

But I can forgive myself.

I can continue to feel my grief, embrace all of my feelings and heal my wounds.

I can accept where I am in my life and love myself completely.

I can use my past experience to create a better present and future.

And I can use my journey to help others.

Thank you for reading and if I can support you in any way, please get in touch.

Katherine x

How I Can Support You

If you’d like my support to heal, grow and transform, please explore the following:

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Transformation is possible

Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with the amount of growth and healing I still have to do, as I am today, I think about how far I’ve come and how much I’ve transformed over the past two decades.

That gives me hope and courage for the journey ahead.

You see, dear Reader, I know that transformation is possible, because I have lived it, in so many ways and in so many areas of my life.

So of course I can continue to transform.

And the same goes for you.

There is always hope.

Change is at our fingertips.

Transformation is within reach.

To illustrate these truths, I’d like to share some photos with you, photos I’m nervous about sharing, photos I’ve sat on for many months, photos I’ve almost shared previously but held back, photos that cause me pain and sadness.

Photos of me in my early twenties, when I was several stone heavier than I am now, when I was binge eating and binge drinking and harming myself in other ways, when I hated my body and the way I looked, when I wore my pain on the outside. (We don’t have to be slim to be happy but my weight was an external manifestation of my inner turmoil).

I’m so sad that I spent those wonderful years of my life (my twenties), hiding my body behind denim baggy shirts. I’m sad that from my late teens and up to my late twenties, I wasn’t able to walk across a beach in a bikini feeling relaxed and confident in my body, as I can now at 50.

Wearing my pain on the outside

I’m sad that I numbed my pain and my hurt with excess booze, food and cigarettes.

When I look at this picture, I barely recognise myself. But this is me. They are my eyes. I was 20. Living and working in Spain. Having, in many ways, the time of my life but harming myself every day and feeling ashamed.

Food was my comforter and my friend. My crutch. Alcohol gave me confidence and, momentarily, boosted my self-esteem. Both substances helped me to disconnect from my feelings.

It’s been a long journey, a long road. I have recovered from a painful cycle of binge eating, starving and compulsive exercising (although food will always be my comforter of choice when I’m feeling down).

I have recovered from food and body obsession – for years, I couldn’t think about anything else – and from body shame.

I have learned to eat healthy meals and I barely touch alcohol these days because it doesn’t make me feel good.

I have transformed in so many other ways, of which you’ll be aware if you’re a regular on this blog.

I have formed a healthy and loving relationship with myself, although of course I remain a work in progress and I have so much more work to do, something I’m painfully aware of today, whilst also trying to practice self-acceptance, self-love and gratitude.

I have changed unhealthy relationship patterns – I have stopped a self-sabotaging cycle of being attracted to unavailable men or running away from available men.

I have opened my heart to love and married a wonderful man.

I have left a high-adrenaline career that had me stuck in a cycle of workaholism and perfectionism that led to burnout.

I have found the courage to write my first book, How to Fall in Love, to write half of the first draft of a novel and to build a coaching practice that supports other people to love themselves, love their lives and find love.

I have hosted seven or eight (or nine – I’ve lost count!) transformational women’s retreats in the UK and abroad and I’m planning another retreat for next month.

I have moved my life from a tiny London flat to a house with a garden by the sea so that I can walk on the sand and swim as often as I like.

And there is so much more to do.

So much more growth and healing.

So many obstacles to overcome.

So many unhealthy patterns to continue to undo.

But these pictures remind me that transformation is absolutely possible.

They show me how far I’ve come and what I am capable of.

Transformation has happened for me.

Transformation can happen for you.

Keep the faith.

Aged 50, at the beach with Layla, the pup

How I Can Support You

If you’d like my support to heal, grow and transform, please explore the following:

With love, Katherine x

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The many faces of grief

This morning, I swam towards the sun along a shimmering pathway of light. With every stroke, I reached for the distant yellow ball, before pausing to lie on my back and take in the blueness of the sky.

The sea was virtually empty of swimmers, a vast expanse of water almost entirely to myself, putting everything into beautiful perspective, as it always does.

It felt so good to move my body and to be aware of my breath. I felt alive, free and immensely grateful for the life I’ve built by such a beautiful beach.

Back home, still shivering but with glowing cheeks, I fed the pup (more about her shortly) and spoke to a friend on the phone.

And in that moment, and only in that moment, I got in touch with my grief.

It’s been four months since Mum died, and in that time I have turned 50 and welcomed new life into our home in the form of Layla Joy, a beautiful cocker spaniel who is now 12 weeks old.

Puppy dog eyes

Layla distracted me from my grief for a while. The process of acquiring her was fraught with indecision, self-doubt, fear, control and obsessive thinking.

Yes, dear reader, nothing is simple in my world.

As you’ll know if you’ve read my book, How to Fall in Love, this blog or anything else I’ve written, a dog has been part of my vision for a very long time – a true desire of my heart.

But believing I wanted a dog and actually committing to a dog were two very different things, just as believing I wanted a healthy relationship and actually committing to a partnership were two very different things.

Similar to the process of finding love, my journey to puppy parenthood included a compendium of questions:

Is this the right dog?

What about the other dog?

What if there’s a better dog for me?

Do I want a dog now? What if there’s a better time?

How will a dog impact my life, my independence and my freedom?

Will I feel trapped and tied down?

Will I be able to cope with a dog?

Will I be capable of nurturing and mothering a dog?

Will the love and joy compensate for the responsibility and the hard work?

As is so often the case with me, my fear and anxiety led me into control. I gathered enough information about acquiring puppies to complete a PhD. I feared bad things would happen. I expected the worst case scenario to come to pass.

Take this conversation between my husband and I:

Me: “I can feel a bump. Bill, what’s this lump on Layla’s belly?

My mind: “It’s a growth. She’s sick. It’s all going to go horribly wrong. Disaster. Crisis. Catastrophe.”

Bill: “It’s a teet.”

Me: “Ah OK.”

My mind: “You can relax this time but you’d better remain hyper-vigilant because other things are bound to go wrong. The world isn’t a safe place, you can’t trust anyone or anything and life doesn’t go well for you.”

Yes, dear reader, I’m sad to report that’s how my mind often works. It’s so much better than it was, of course. I’ve been healing my childhood wounds and challenging the thought patterns and coping strategies I developed in my early life in order to survive for almost two decades now.

But old habits die hard.

I remain a work in progress.

It is one day at a time.

So, back to grief …

Puppy parenthood so far has been what we were told it would be: a combination of joy, delight, hard work and frustration.

For me, there have been additional layers.

Of course there have. How could there not be?

Welcoming Layla has prompted me to ask, as I did with my romantic relationship, “what took me so long to get here, to make this commitment?”

We are family

And that question is always going to be tinged with sadness and grief, for the losses, for all the years it took me to face my fears and fall in love, with a man and with a dog.

Welcoming Layla has also connected me to my grief around not having children.

My journey to childlessness has been such a long and complex one and you’ll have to scroll back through my blogs to read the full story (I have 10 years worth of musings on this site, from aged 40 to 50 – search childless or motherhood or ambivalence).

But in brief, I now think I fully understand the truth of my resistance to having children and my ambivalence around motherhood:

I had been parenting for most of my life and I didn’t want to parent anymore.

It’s hard to elaborate on that sentence because it touches on the private life of someone so dear to me – my late mum – but suffice it to say that I decided, from a very young age, from the moment I realised that I wasn’t entirely safe in this world, that it was my role to take care of Mum, to heal her pain, make her happy and ultimately, keep her alive.

We do this instinctively. Babies and young children instinctively know that without proper care they will die. So it’s natural we would want to keep our caregivers alive, to make them happy and keep them well, because without them, our lives would be over.

It’s a survival strategy.

The other thing we do is blame ourselves for everything that’s going wrong, because if we were to blame the parent, if it were the parent’s fault, we’d be left without hope. At least if we blame ourselves, we have hope that we can change the siutation, which means we will live, we will survive.

So I took on the role of caring for Mum, believing it was my job to make her happy and keep her alive. I also believed that everything was my fault and if I just tried harder, worked harder, did more, achieved more and controlled everything, Mum would survive and, therefore, so would I.

Things have changed now.

Mum has gone. And I won’t even start to explore the feelings I have around her rapid demise while locked down in a care home during the Covid pandemic.

Yet the old patterns of control, worry and obsessive compulsive thinking remain, although I am chipping away at them every day, asking for them to be removed, surrendering them to something greater than me.

And what of the other patterns of thinking? What of the idea that I have done enough parenting to last me a lifetime, or that I am incapable of parenting?

Well, I have challenged those beliefs by bringing Layla Joy into my life, which is showing me that while parenting comes with its frustrations (piles of poo on the kitchen floor and tooth marks on my hands), I can parent, I want to parent and I am a good parent and that the moments of magic make up for the hard times, which is what I’ve been hearing mothers say for decades.

Of course puppy parenthood is very different to human parenthood. I know that, as much as I can know it having never experienced the latter. Yet mothers tell me there are many things in common: the disturbed sleep, the feeling that you’ve scarred the little creature for life whenever you do something imperfectly, the worry and anxiety that she might be sick or unwell or about to choke on some wood, plastic or other random item she has in her mouth.

And these similarities add to my grief, because I see that motherhood would have been hard, really hard, and that at times I would have felt lonely and isolated and ready to throw the child out of the window, but that I could have done it, I could have pulled through, and it would have taught me so much and healed me so much.

Importantly, too, I would have had someone to dance around the kitchen with (Layla looks at me oddly when I invite her to dance).

So back to this morning and my conversation with my dear friend – a friend who is willing to dive deep beneath the surface, to share her own feelings and to hear mine. In that conversation, I connected with my grief around losing Mum, which has resurfaced powerfully now that Layla has settled in and the volume on my anxiety and worry and indecision has been turned down.

I also connected with my grief around how I treat myself, how I decide in my mind that four months is long enough time to get over one’s mother and last remaining parent, and that I should (I know, I know, that word has no place on this blog) be over it by now; that I should be working harder and growing my business and communicating more with my lovely followers and clients and following a perfect schedule for Layla’s day and mine.

Because the truth about grief, about all grief, I believe, is that it has its own path. The first weeks may be hard, then it may get easier and then, a few months down the line, just when you’re thinking you’re emerging from a dark place, it hits you again, this time like a steam train, flattening and flooring you.

And the truth about my grief, and I imagine, many other people’s grief too, perhaps yours, dear reader, is that it’s complex, multi-layered and multi-faceted.

There’s the grief of the child inside me, the sadness over what she went through and what she missed out on.

There’s the grief of the woman for all the years she spent in the wilderness, without love, without relationship, without a pet.

There’s the grief of the woman who’s worked so hard, often spending too much time and energy on the wrong things, because this distracts her from her pain.

There’s the grief of the daughter who’s lost a mother.

There’s the grief of the daughter who’s lost a mother for whom she felt responsible, whom she wanted to fix and make happy, and who therefore has lost part of her identity and a key role in her life, exposing a void.

There’s the grief of the woman who lost her dad, at 35, which seems so young now.

There’s the grief of the 50-year-old woman who hasn’t had kids and who’s just discovered, by nurturing a pup, that she would have managed it and even been a wonderful mum.

There’s the grief of the woman who’s just read that the model Naomi Campbell, at 50, has had a child via surrogate, and who will forever wonder about the motherhood alternatives many women choose to go down, which she decided against.

There’s the grief of the human being who now has no parents and no children, an odd feeling, like being suspended in air.

There’s the grief of the puppy parent who, by setting boundaries with others to protect Layla and by helping her to have good boundaries, sees that her parents sadly weren’t able to do this for her.

There’s the grief, there’s the grief and there’s the grief …

So, you see, it’s complicated.

In the light of which, please don’t tell me, Katherine (yes, I’m writing this to myself), that after four months, it’s time to wrap up your grief, to stop indulging in it.

Please don’t tell me, Katherine, that it’s time to move on.

Please don’t crack the whip at me, Katherine, and tell me to work harder and do more.

Please don’t make me feel guilty for not being on top form, or for needing more rest or downtime than before.

And please don’t turn everything, including puppy parenthood, into a massive chore and take away my joy.

Finally, along with the grief, there’s gratitude.

For this blog, which allows me to share my pain as honestly and openly as I feel able to on the internet.

For you, my dear readers, who write me the most beautiful comments or emails, telling me you can relate to my words and that my truth has helped you in some way.

For my husband, who tells me often that he loves me because of everything rather than in spite of everything (everything in this case being the rollercoaster emotional journey I take pretty much on a daily basis right now, often bringing him along for the ride, even though he’d rather relax on the sofa and watch a good documentary).

And gratitude for Layla Joy (my Mum’s name was Joyce – I chose to keep the joyful part), for teaching me about boundaries, about the relationship between my inner parent and inner child, for letting me tickle and kiss her tummy and for sitting on my lap as I cry.


Thank you so much for reading. If you’d like to read more of my writing, you can find my book, How to Fall in Love, here.

You can also download the first chapter of my book for free on my website,, where you’ll also find links to my How to Fall in Love online courses and coaching.

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