It’s OK to make mistakes

Yesterday, I sent an email to my mailing list, consisting mostly of single women on a personal development path, entitled “Open this if you’re looking for love.”

The email invited them to take a look at my How to Fall in Love coursesLaying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence and reminded them that if we have dreams, we deserve to create time and space to make them happen.

It was about time I got in touch with my followers. Some of them might have actually wanted to know about the dating course I’ve just begun, yet I’d kept quiet about it, partly because I’ve been struggling with the aftermath of coronavirus (more on that in my next post) and partly because my deep-rooted shame routinely sabotages my marketing efforts (more on shame later).

Anyway, I was pleased I’d finally reached out to my audience after weeks of silence.

Later that evening, on the way to the beach with my husband, I called my 70-something aunty.

“Thank you for your email,” she said.

“What email? Did I send you an email? When? Today?” I replied.

“Yes. It arrived earlier.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes. And I was very impressed. Your courses sound very good. I didn’t click on the links as I didn’t think they were for me, but what you wrote really motivated me. It helped me to realise that if I want to make something happen, I need to get on with it!” she said.

By now, the penny was dropping. And my stomach was churning and my heart was sinking.

There was only one explanation as to how my email about a dating course had ended up in my aunty’s inbox. And that explanation had embarrassing consequences. It meant that everyone else on our ‘Wedding Invites’ mailing list had got the email too – including my husband’s mum, his blokey mates, at least one of my ex-boyfriends, two of my husband’s ex-partners, some of my single friends who might find it useful or feel offended, and – I fear but I’m too scared to check – the happily married vicar.

WeddingMeBillJustMetI instantly knew how it had happened. I’ve been working with a virtual assistant on cleaning up my mailing lists, which required the removal of the wedding guests’ emails from my platform. Or that was the plan. It turns out their emails got amalgamated with those of my clients.

So a mistake happened.

They do that, don’t they? Mistakes happen. Or we make them. We all do.

Yet I had an instant shame attack. I felt mortified. I wanted to skip the beach, turn the car around and spend my evening on screens, sending out apologetic messages or frantically phoning friends.

Since I was with my husband, who’s a wonderful antidote to my workaholism, we continued to the beach. But my shame attack carried on. And do you know what I did? I took it out on him – the patient man stood right in front of me; a man who’d had absolutely nothing to do with the mix-up.

I snapped at him over something trivial.

Seconds later, I realised what I’d done.

I’d managed my shame and my anxiety by putting him at disease.

This is one of the symptoms of codependency.

If we’re codependent, we manage our shame and anxiety by putting others at disease, by making others feel uncomfortable, by lashing out at others, by shaming them, judging them and criticising them.

Another, perhaps better known symptom of codependency is that we manage our shame and anxiety by putting others at ease. We are a doormat. We bow down to others. We subjugate ourselves. We go out of our way to be what others want us to be. We are chameleons, always changing the colour of our skin to suit our environment in order to feel safe.

We modify our behaviour – what we say and what we do – because we anticipate other people’s anger, disapproval, rejection or abandonment and want to avoid it at all costs, often at huge detriment to our sense of self and our wellbeing. For example, we stay in toxic, harmful relationships or in soul-deadening careers.

Our functioning, the way we live and conduct ourselves, is dependant on a reaction we imagine, expect and fear.

I’ve been exploring codependency for more than a dozen years, healing from it and recovering from it. As I’ve healed, my understanding of it has deepened.

Codependency is a loss of self. It stems from a deep, often early wound that produces fear, low self-esteem and insecurity, alongside chronic shame – a sense that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. These by-products of the initial wound or wounds then alter our behaviour in the world – the way we communicate with and respond to others.

We are controlling or we are compliant. We are victims or we are aggressors. Sometimes we’re both, swinging from one extreme to the other.

Sometimes I manage my anxiety and shame by putting others at ease. I overwork, over-deliver, over-promise, overcompensate for a deep sense that I’m not enough. I say Yes when I mean No and vice versa. I lay down at the feet of authority figures or people I admire or fear and allow them to trample on me, undervalue me, or take advantage of me. Much less than I used to, of course. I’ve changed a lot. Yet I remain a work in progress.

On the other hand, as I said earlier, I manage my anxiety and shame by putting others at disease. I snap, criticise, judge, lash out, find fault.

And only now am I seeing what a harmful affect this has had on my romantic relationships over the years. Thankfully, I’ve done so much work on myself that I’m not at risk of sabotaging my marriage. I notice my behaviour quickly and apologise instantly, as I did yesterday on the beach. But without this inner work, I wouldn’t be married, or I’d be at risk of breaking my marriage whenever I felt shame or anxiety.

It pains me to look back on past relationships and remember the occasions when I belittled people or undermined them or judged them or criticised them, in order to manage my anxiety or sense of shame. It also pains me to remember the occasions when I adapted myself and lost myself to avoid rejection, when I became who I thought you wanted me to be.

Can you relate to any of this?

Do you manage your anxiety, shame or fear by putting others at disease?

Do you manage your anxiety, shame or fear by putting others at ease?

Do you swing between the two?

Do you modify your behaviour – what you say and what you do – based on a perceived threat, on the possibility that the person before you might be angry, might disapprove or might abandon you?

When I ask my coaching clients and course participants what their biggest challenge is in relation to dating and entering into relationships, many of them say it’s being their authentic selves in relationship, staying true to themselves, not abandoning or losing themselves.

I get it.

But it’s codependent, and so damaging, to modify our behaviour so that someone will love us or to make them stay.

Clearly, we’re all on the codependent spectrum. There are degrees. We may omit to tell the whole truth to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid discomfort. Or we may do something we don’t want to do for an easy life.

The problem is when this codependency wrecks our relationships or our chances of finding love.

Or when this codependency keeps us in a relationship that’s harmful, potentially dangerous or a complete waste of our precious life.

Or when this codependency keeps us in a job that’s stifling our spirit and sending our soul to sleep.

Or when this codependency drives us to give too much of ourselves in order to please others, leaving us exhausted, drained, burnt out and with nothing left for ourselves.

I have been there – to all of these places – and, in so many ways, I have recovered. In others, I am making progress, always growing and learning. Perfectly imperfectly.

You can recover too.

 

***Resources*** 

Read my book, How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. You’ll find a wealth of resources at the end of the book, from further reading to support groups.

Check out my How to Fall in Love courses (there’s still time to join the dating course if you’re quick!)

Subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch some of my self-love and dating masterclasses.

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie is a great introductory book to codependency.

You’ll also find some good definitions and resources on this website.

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

Lonely in lockdown? You’re not alone

lonelywoman

Loneliness.

Aloneness.

Isolation.

Lockdown.

These words are roaming around my mind right now, prompting my fingers to search out letters on the keyboard.

I don’t know in what order to put the words. I don’t know where this blog will lead. All I know is that I need to write something down, so here goes …..

Some of you will be feeling exceptionally lonely at this time. You’ll be missing hugs, touch and closeness. Some of you may be feeling starved of physical contact and hungry for human connection.

I get it. I’ve been there.

I’m not there now because, thankfully, I’m sharing lockdown with my husband, but I remember long periods of time, during my single years, when I ached to be touched in a caring or loving way, when I longed for closeness and intimacy, despite being scared of it.

Massages helped – I’d often cry on the rare occasion when I followed through on my promise to myself to have a massage, moved to tears by a stranger’s gentle touch. Hugs from friends helped too. But they didn’t go all the way to satisfy that longing, that yearning.

And right now, if you’re single and living alone, you can’t have massages and you can’t have hugs, and that’s beyond tough. And if you’re childless too, not by choice, you’re going to feel the longing even more – especially at this time when we’re reminded daily to stay at home with our families or to mix only with people from our households.

What if you have no family? And what if your household consists of one? The messaging from governments around the world is consistently tactless, exclusive and alienating, exacerbating the sense of isolation felt by many single people who live alone, as Australian journalist Jill Stark writes in this article.

So if you’re hurting, if you’re aching and if you feel ignored or invisible, I’d like to say that I see you. I acknowledge you. We see you. We acknowledge you. And you are not alone.

But where do we go from here?

Sadly, I don’t have any fixes. There are no magic bullets. I only have some suggestions, which I accept might not cut it at this time, but I’ll offer a few of them anyway as they’re all I’ve got.

Feel your feelings

Allow yourself to go there. Feel the pain. Get in touch with the hunger, the yearning and the loss. For me, the act of honouring, accepting and feeling all of my feelings has proved transformative. Something shifts deep inside. Something changes. I am changed by the process.

By feeling your true feelings about the current situation, you may get in touch with much deeper feelings about your past – memories of feeling lonely, alone, isolated, invisible, unseen, forgotten, afraid or unsupported. Allow yourself to go there too if you can – if it’s not too painful.

This, as I say to my coaching clients, is the gold dust. This is where the transformation happens. In the dark places. In the tears. In the pain.

Share your feelings

It’s especially powerful if you can share your feelings with someone else, with someone who’ll understand – someone who’ll see you, hear you, acknowledge you, empathise with you and support you, ideally with someone who can identify with how you’re feeling. Clearly, it’s best to avoid people who might shame you for being ‘over-emotional’, selfish or who might be intolerant of your sensitivity (something that might have happened in your past and left scars).

Soothe yourself

As you feel your feelings and share them, make sure that you love yourself – that you love yourself through the pain. Take care of yourself. Hug yourself. Soothe yourself. Identify the longing or the craving and then try to figure out if there’s anything that you can do to meet that longing or to satisfy that craving in a healthy way, even if you only manage to touch the tip of the iceberg. This is a start. A tiny start. (If you need support with this, watch How to Self-Soothe in Healthy Ways  an hour-long webinar I recorded recently in which I share some tools that have helped me to heal from decades of overeating and other forms of self-harm).

Creativity is one thing that helped me recently to soothe my sky-high anxiety around my mum, who’s in lockdown in a care home 300 miles away and who turned 80 yesterday. I got creative and I made a card (you can watch a 6-min video about the process here).

To be clear, it doesn’t come naturally to me to manage my anxiety by creating something, or by gardening, baking, writing, meditating or going on mindful walks – all those things that we know are good for us. My default is to think and worry obsessively, and then to work, work and work. The more anxious I am, the harder I work. Over-working might be marginally better for me than binge eating, which I did in the past and thankfully no longer do, but it still isn’t healthy.

The key is to be really kind and loving towards ourselves as well as to practise gentle discipline when we see that we’re overworking or overeating or over-doing something else. 

mewaterfallLet nature nurture you

In addition, if you can, get outdoors. Get away from screens and tech and into nature. Notice the leaves and the breeze. Feel the soil and the stones. Turn your face to the sun. Imagine you’re standing beneath a waterfall.

Connect, if you want to

And, of course, connect to others, which I appreciate may mean returning to tech and to screens, but if this is your only means of connection, it’s likely the upsides outweigh the downsides.

That said, notice if you’re using on screen time. I sometimes feel like I need to connect with others, that I need to be at the party that’s happening on my laptop or phone, when really I need to sit quietly and connect with myself.

This is about self-awareness – about identifying our real needs, not what we think we should be doing because everyone else is doing it.

But I didn’t intend this to be a ‘how to’ post or a ’10 steps to …’ article.

I started writing this blog today because I wanted to tell my truth.

My learnings

It strikes me as odd that I haven’t written here for over a month – odd because I’ve had so many feelings going on and this is one of the first places I go to work through them. But perhaps I didn’t know where to start. Perhaps I had too much to say. Or perhaps I was scared of my truth. This blog, right from its origins, has demanded absolute, rigorous honesty, a form of nakedness. Maybe I was feeling too delicate – until now. Or maybe I procrastinated.

Of course, my truth is that I do have too much to say, at least for one post. I have learned so much about myself since the coronavirus pandemic began.

I’ve learned how much I fear illness and death and how illness triggers painful memories from my past. When my husband had a bad bout of what was probably coronavirus a few weeks ago and his breathing became laboured, I recalled the night I slept on the floor in the back room of my dad’s house on the eve of his death, listening to his breath rattle through his lungs – an experience I wish I hadn’t had and I especially wish I hadn’t had alone. I can see myself. Lying there. In the dark. Scared. Grieving.

I’ve learned more too about my anxiety around people (which I hide well beneath a confident, sociable exterior) and about how I manage my fear and anxiety about being in groups by leading them, by creating a space or a barrier between me and everyone else. I’ve learned that going forwards, I’d like to be part of groups on more occasions, not just lead them. I’d like to belong. I’d like more friends and more shared experiences.

My loneliness

Finally, this Easter weekend, I learned more about my loneliness, which is why I wanted to write this blog.

I felt painfully lonely this weekend – especially on Saturday, despite having the wonderful company of my husband. Now, this isn’t about feeling lonely in my relationship (I know that can happen and it’s really sad when it does, but that’s not what I’m talking about). I love my relationship and my husband, and I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather be locked down with.

Rather it’s about a deep loneliness, something I carry and have always carried and perhaps will always carry. I sense it’s connected to my early wounds, to those early scars.

It’s heavy. It’s big. It’s a void. An abyss. And it aches.

I could call it existential loneliness and explain it away as part of the human condition, but that sounds too high-brow, too intellectual. For me, it’s a rupture.

I feel it more on national holidays – Christmas and especially Easter. When it arrives, my first thought is that it’s connected to not having children. Under normal circumstances, Christmas and Easter are times when extended families gather – times when women who are childless not by choice feel their loss and their difference more acutely than ever. And although we’re in lockdown, there are families staying at home all around our neighbourhood, so this would be a fair explanation – my Easter blues were related to not having kids and to seeing families play in the sunshine.

And maybe that’s part of it. But I just know it goes deeper than that. I know, or I think I know, that it would still be there whether I had one child or six – and maybe I hope that would be true as it’d mean I hadn’t made the worst choice ever by not having children (even though it wasn’t exactly a choice; it was more of a non-choice, born out of ambivalence).

Perhaps it was there at the start. Perhaps it began inside the womb or just after I emerged from it – a breaking, a separation, a need unmet, a longing unfulfilled, a something that I don’t have the words to describe. A hole in the soul, as the saying goes.

And then I spent decades trying to fill that hole and escape that emptiness, but none of it worked and I ended up in a much darker place than before, until I began my climb out.

Healing has happened since that moment. So much healing, especially in terms of my relationship with myself and with men. Without that healing, I wouldn’t be married. Hurt happens in relationship and healing happens there too and I have healed so many wounds.

But that doesn’t mean the darkness has gone away. The void is still there, and it shows up sometimes, as it did this Easter Saturday.

And what if I accept that it’ll always be there? Perhaps that would make my life easier? Because I know I’m still trying to escape it in one way or another – by working too hard, achieving too much, by trying to please too many people, by being scared to be entirely myself.

Like me. Love me. Don’t hurt me. Don’t judge me. Don’t leave me. Please. 

What if I could just give up all the striving and trying and accept that it’ll always be there – that it’s part of me, an important part of me, part of my uniqueness, my Katherineness?

As I write this, I’m still trying to figure out whether that’s comforting or not; whether I’m OK with it being there all the time or whether that’s frightening or depressing.

I think I’m OK with it. We’ll see.

But what I’d love to know is do you feel it too? Have you always felt it? Did you feel it in the past or did a relationship or a child or both make it go away? Do you now have that relationship and/or that child and does it still linger?

Or do you think that a relationship and/or a child will make it go away, and how is it to feel that way? Does that belief lead to a state of desperately seeking – desperately seeking that relationship or that child, to your own detriment? (I did this in the past). And does desperately seeking lead to constant disappointment? How would it be if you desperately sought and found that relationship and/or that child and the void still hadn’t gone away? Would that be bearable? Intolerable? Disappointing?

Finally, how would it be to desperately seek yourself?

I’d love to know.

This blog has always been about connection – connection through shared experiences and the incredible power of identification with others to help us to feel less alone. So if you feel minded to, please comment below or drop me a message.

Your comments and messages have always helped me to feel less alone and I thank you for that.

 

Further Reading, Viewing & Resources

Read my lockdown blogs for Psychologies magazine Life Labs: How to stay sane during lockdown and How to date at a distance: Finding Love During Lockdown

Watch my lockdown webinar recordings: How to date at a distance and How to manage anxiety, fear and pain in healthy ways.

Lockdown Course Offer: Use the code soothe20 at checkout for 20 percent off either of these two online courses:

Step Inside – Reconnect with your true self – 7-Day Course

How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations– 5-Week Self-Paced Course

Lockdown book discount: How to Fall in Love is on offer right now over on Amazon.

Posted in Addiction, Childless, codependency, Creativity, Dating, Eating disorders, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The life that hasn’t gone to plan

shoesI’ve just spent a long weekend in the company of nine wonderful women whose lives, like mine, haven’t gone to plan.

These women, attendees on my How to Fall in Love retreat, had expected things to work out differently.

Some of them had imagined they’d have a partner and a family by this age and stage. Some are coming to terms with being childless-not-by-choice, because they didn’t meet someone in time to have children, or because the menopause has been forced on them by a medical condition, or both.

Some of them are in relationships they’re not sure about and they don’t know whether to stay or to go.

Many of them want to share their lives with someone, but they’re afraid, scarred by childhood wounds, or they’re worried they’re not attractive or are too old for love.

Some of them have spent years striving, pushing and climbing the ladder in a particular career, only to realise that their souls are yearning to do something else, something softer, more creative, more authentic.

I could relate to all of their journeys, and they could relate to mine. And this is the magic of it.

Shared stories. Shared grief. Shared tears.

Shared healing. Shared growth. And shared hope. 

There’s something so incredibly powerful and transformative about telling our stories to people who understand and about hearing others tell our story back to us, perhaps with a different context and different words, but the same pain.

There’s something so healing about finding our tribe and about feeling like we belong when we have so often felt like the odd one out in a world where other people seem to have it sorted.

There’s something so affirming about being seen, validated and understood.

I’ll never forget the first time a reader commented on one of my posts, telling me that they could relate to my story and that they felt less alone because of what I’d shared. It was such an incredible feeling. It helped me to feel less alone. And it inspired me to write more.

That is the power of vulnerability.

When we speak our truth, come out of hiding, share our loneliness, grief and fears not only do we give ourselves the chance to heal but we give others permission to share their truth and their pain too, and thereby heal.

We form connections. We create tribes. We establish communities.

There’s a woman I know who’s gone further than most in creating connections between women who’ve felt lost, lonely, isolated, like they didn’t belong and like their lives had gone disastrously, painfully wrong. That woman is Jody Day.

I first came across Jody nine years ago, just before I launched this blog. Jody and I were on a 30-day business start-up course, hosted by author and entrepreneur John Williams.

I was poised to launch From Forty With Love and Jody was about to launch an organisation called Gateway Women. I’ll never forget being on a group call with Jody and hearing the web developer say to her that she was cooking with gas. That phrase stayed with me, partly because it was unfamiliar to me (perhaps imported from across the Atlantic) and partly because it was clear that Jody was very much cooking with gas.

She was on fire, with a mission and a purpose to create a supportive community for women who were childless by circumstance, not by choice – to bring them out of the shadows, welcome them into their tribe, help them to grieve their losses and support them to build fulfilling lives.

When Jody and I first met, we were in different places. She had accepted that she would never achieve her long-standing dream of being a mum and was exploring how to find purpose in her pain and build a fulfilling life without kids.

I was just turning 40 and was in the ‘still hopeful’ category when it came to motherhood – or at least that’s what I thought at the time.

Through therapy and lots of soul-searching, I later realised that I was in the ‘ambivalent’ category, which I’ve written about at length on this blog – Ambivalence about Motherhood – and in the Guardian: I feel grief and relief that I’ve never had children.

Ambivalence is a tough place to be. With ambivalence, it’s hard to find one’s place in the world. I’m not able to relate to the women who tried desperately to have children and failed – and I guess they’re not able to relate to me. The same goes for the resolutely, happily childfree.

bookcloudBut childlessness through ambivalence is a thing – a painful thing – and I’m so pleased that Jody explores it in her ground-breaking book, Living the Life Unexpected, which will be re-released on March 19th. More than that, I’m honoured that Jody has chosen to quote some of my words on the topic of ambivalence in the fully revised and updated second edition of the book, under a section aptly titled ‘The Non-Decision That Becomes a Decision’. And I’m thrilled that she invited me to be part of a blog tour to celebrate the launch of the book’s second edition.

Jody has always been incredibly generous and supportive, which is, I imagine, why she has succeeded in building Gateway Women into a global, supportive tribe where women can voice feelings they feel unable to share ‘out there’. She has been a pioneer, a trailblazer in her field, bringing healing and hope to so many women.

Talking of hope, the new version of Living the Life Expected has an emphasis on hope. It’s in the subtitle – “How to find hope, meaning and a fulfilling future without children” – and it’s explored in the new introduction, where Jody writes:

A message from your future hope: Life after childlessness – a fulfilling, happy, meaningful, connected and enjoyable life – is possible. I know, because I’ve created one for myself and I’ve helped thousands of women like you to do so too. It’s not easy, it doesn’t just arrive, it’s rarely what we expect and it certainly isn’t what we ordered! Embracing it takes huge courage, but it is possible. Whilst in no way do I wish to diminish the heartbreak you might be feeling right now (I’ve been there; it’s the darkest place I’ve ever been) hope has an important message from your future for you:

Your childless life isn’t a runner up prize to motherhood. It’s a different, messy, imperfect human experience to the one you signed up for, but no less valuable. And it can be as meaningful and fulfilling, just in different ways.

There was a time in my life when I had lost hope. It wasn’t just about not having children, but that was part of it. I was in my early 40s, single, lonely, lost in my career, grief-stricken because my father had died and completely bemused as to why my life had turned out like this, because I had very different plans.

Just as Jody has found hope, meaning and purpose, I have found those things too. It hasn’t happened overnight. It has been gradual. And it has required huge courage. But it’s happened.

The other thing we’ve both found, after thinking it would never happen, is love. And while a loving relationship doesn’t erase the pain of a life that hasn’t gone to plan or the grief around childlessness, in my experience it is incredibly healing in so many ways.

Now you might be reading this feeling hopeless, not only about motherhood but also about love. I hear you. I see you. I validate your pain. You will need to do your grieving. It will take time. But I believe there is hope, for all of us. My story attests to that, and Jody’s does too.

Relationship, and now marriage, has given me a sense of belonging that I never had.

As humans, we are programmed to seek out that sense of belonging. Yes, we need to find it within ourselves. Many of us need to go on a journey so that we can feel that we belong to ourselves. But we also need like-minded souls around us. We need to be heard, validated and understood. We need to know we’re not alone.

If you feel alone with your childlessness, check out Jody’s wonderful book (you can download the introduction and first chapter here) and worldwide community. As she writes:

Those of us who’ve already made this trip are waiting for you on the other side, and many others are in the water alongside you, each feeling that they’re swimming alone. But you’re not alone. Welcome to your Tribe.

And if you feel alone with your singleness, please do check out my book and my courses and retreats.

Of course, in the UK we have a day coming up that has the potential to push our buttons on a number of levels. Mother’s Day is on Sunday, March 22nd – an especially challenging time for childless women and for those struggling with the double whammy of being single and childless, or the triple whammy of childlessness, unwanted singleness and grief about one’s own mother.

If you envisage that day being tough for you, sign up for Jody’s free webinar on ‘Coping with Mother’s Day on 14th March. By signing up, you also get a chance to win a signed copy of the second edition of her book.

I’m also giving a way a signed copy of Jody’s book, which she will personally dedicate for you. I will pick the winner at random from those who comment on this blog, so please do share your thoughts. There are other ways to win signed copies, so please check out Jody’s blog, social media pages and the blog tour.

If you can’t wait, you can pre-order a copy of the book (paperback or ebook) here if you’re based in the UK. If you’re outside the UK you can buy it online via Amazon or The Book Depository (which offers free international delivery). I hope it supports you on your journey.

I’ll wrap up here with a brief mention of my forthcoming birthday, as it’s relevant to this blog.

I’ll be 49 on Friday March 13th. When I began this blog, just before my 40th birthday, I didn’t imagine I’d still be writing it nine years later, and I couldn’t have imagined where my life would end up.

But despite the ups and downs and the periods of sadness and grief, I am so so grateful for this colourful journey I’ve been on and I will continue to do my utmost to embrace what I have.

LTLU CHANCES TO WIN

Posted in Childless, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Why the new decade counts

IMG_4637

Hello and Happy New Year!

I know it’s a bit late in January to wish you a HNY but this is my first post since 2020 began so I have to say it, especially because it’s a biggie.

Not only is 2020 the most beautifully symmetrical number that just has to herald wonderful things for all of us, but it’s also the start of a new decade.

And why does that count?

It counts because a decade is a marker. It marks the passage of a significant chunk of time. It gives us something by which to measure our progress – not in order to beat ourselves up when we realise we haven’t quite accomplished what we set out to, but in order to gauge whether we’re being true to ourselves and whether we’re honouring and cherishing our dreams, and in order to change tack if we notice we’ve been abandoning ourselves.

It’s so easy to put our dreams on the back burner, isn’t it? Work takes over. Family commitments take over. Self-sabotage takes over. Procrastination takes over.

But I’m here to remind you that you’re worth it and that this new year and this new decade count.

As I wrote in my previous post just before Christmas, Deconstructing Our Decade, the last decade was pretty significant for me, although I’m not sure I realised it at the time. It’s only by taking stock that we can see how far we’ve come, and how far we’d like to go.

This new decade is going to be significant too. How can it not be? I’ll move out of my forties and into my fifties. I may even need to change the name of this blog! Can I still write under the title of From Forty With Love after turning 50?

At the end of this decade, I’ll be 58. And where would I like to be by then?

I’d like to have published more books, because one simply isn’t enough, especially for someone who’s a writer, who’s always been a writer, who longs to write and who can write incredibly fast (I’m typing this at top speed and aim to publish it within minutes!). I’d like to finish the book I started in my early forties but never managed to complete and I’d like to write novels and books of poetry.

Hurrah! It feels so good to declare that on this blog, especially since most of the intentions I’ve blogged about over the years have come true.

I also know that if I don’t write more books, I’ll be incredibly sad, devastated in fact, because I will have abandoned one of my deepest desires and neglected a talent I believe I have.

I’d also like to grow my business into a truly sustainable, fulfilling, profitable and impactful venture that benefits lots of people and enables my husband and I to enjoy wonderful adventures together and to appreciate some of the freedom that comes with not having children.

I’d also like to muster the courage to get a dog – a simple step for some but a giant leap for me that stirs up all manner of fears around feeling trapped, over-committed and around not being able to love a furry friend (which, deep down, I know I can).

They are a few of my intentions. I have more but I’ll save those for another day, because what I really want to do is to stress why it’s important to identify our hopes and dreams and to take steps to make them happen.

It’s important because life is precious, you know that.

Life is short.

Life and good health aren’t guaranteed.

As some of you know, I’m grieving right now because my mother’s health and mental capacity are deteriorating. We are losing her, slowly, and it’s incredibly sad. It’s also worrying. My mum is losing her memory as her mother did before her, so how long have I got before my mind deteriorates? How long has any one of us got?

There’s no need to panic or stress about not having enough time, but how we spend our time is how we spend our life so are you spending your time in a way that honours your dreams and makes the most of all your talents?

I’m going to close this blog here – sooner than I would normally, I usually write a few thousand words! – because I’m hosting a webinar tonight that I need to prepare for and that I also want to tell you about: Create Your 2020 Vision & Design Your Dream Decade (if you missed it, don’t worry. Sign up at that link or put a comment below and I’ll send you a recording.)

You’ll also find the links below to a series of How to Fall in Love webinars I’ve been running. The final one is this Thursday – Change Your Dating Dynamic. And you’ll find details of the wonderful courses and retreats I’m hosting this year, designed to support you to prioritise your hopes and dreams and to create a fulfilling life and relationship.

To close, I’d love to share a video with you that I recorded down at the beach in the first few days of 2020. It’s not one of my professional videos. I have no make-up on, the lighting isn’t great and I’m holding the camera myself.

But it’s real. It’s vulnerable. And it’s prompted some lovely feedback. In it, I explain why the new decade matters to me.

Video: Why the new decade matters.

Sending love and light for this new year and decade x

 

Free Resources & Dates for Your Diary

How to Fall in Love Webinar Series:

Recording of Create Your Healthy Foundations

Recording of Face Your Fears & Change Your Patterns

Change Your Dating Dynamic, Jan 16, 1 pm. Click here for more information.

My transformational How to Fall in Love small group online course starts on January 20th, 2020. Prioritise your romantic life, change your relationship patterns and find love.

My first How to Fall in Love Dorset retreat of 2020 is from Feb 28-March 2. Earlybird offer is available until Jan 17th. Four places left!

And we’re back to Turkey in October for another fabulous Love Retreat.

Join my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Download Chapter 1 of How to Fall in Love for free here.

 

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Deconstructing our decade

I confess I realised quite late on in December that we were coming to the end of a decade and were about to start a new one. I was well aware of the end of the year but the end of the decade almost escaped me.

But once I clocked it, I saw just how significant this decade was for me.

I wonder if it was for you? And in what ways?

I began this past decade at 38 and I’m ending it at 48. Ten momentous years of shifts and changes and growth and grief and pain and courage and breakthroughs and joy and gratitude.

I began the decade as a single woman, living in a one-bedroom flat in North London.

I didn’t have a blog back then. I didn’t have a book out. I didn’t have a business. I didn’t have a coaching practice. I most definitely didn’t have a husband or any notion as to how to acquire one any time soon.

And while I was in a good job, working as a journalist for the charity arm of Thomson Reuters, with an emphasis on reporting on disasters and emergencies, I was a bit lost. I’d burnt out and broken down in my previous role as a political reporter. I’d gone back to reporting – this time on humanitarian issues – because I was interested in the plight of disadvantaged people, because I thought I might want to become an aid worker, and because I didn’t know what else to do.

But I was confused. I felt alive during the foreign trips to disaster zones and the flights on helicopters – they fed my inner adrenaline junkie – but I didn’t enjoy my commute into work and I didn’t like staring at a screen in an office all day.

And deep down, I probably knew there was something else I was meant to do. I just wasn’t sure what.

I allowed myself to explore the things I was truly passionate about – women, wellbeing and personal development, or more specifically the prisons we lock ourselves in and the traps that we create for ourselves: eating disorders, repeated unhealthy patterns, dysfunctional relationships and so on.

And that’s how this blog began, or rather its predecessor, born out of a moment of frustration and anger about the way we harm ourselves, berate ourselves and give ourselves a hard time. Just As I Am – An Experiment in Self-Acceptance, my first blog, launched in March 2019, a few weeks before I turned 40.

Forty-something days later, this blog, From Forty With Love, began.

Big questions

This blog has accompanied me throughout this decade as I’ve wrestled with some of the biggest questions and challenges in my life to date.

Will I have kids? Do I want kids? Why haven’t I got kids yet? How am I going to have kids? Will I find a willing mate with whom to have kids before my time runs out? Should I have kids on my own?

Why am I single? Why do all my relationships fail? Why do I end up heartbroken or hurting someone else every time I attempt to date? Why do I keep repeating the same patterns over and over again? Why am I always drawn to unavailable men or to men who are scared of commitment? Why can’t I fancy the guys who are into me? Will it always be like this? Do I actually want to be in a relationship anyway?

Will I be able to support myself if I leave a career that I’ve been doing since my mid-20s, a career that’s taken me all over the world, given me a sense of belonging, helped me to buy a home and therefore gain some sense of stability and security, and given me a sense of self-worth and self-esteem, whilst also exhausting me, driving me to binge eat and binge drink and, towards the end, killing my spirit and sending my soul to sleep?

What am I going to do with my life? Who will I be if I’m no longer an international journalist? Will I survive? Will I feel enough? Come to think of it, who am I?

Will I be OK if I follow my heart and move to the coast to be by the sea? Will I miss the bright lights and the big city too much? Will I feel lost and alone? Will I miss my friends too much? Will I make new friends? Will I thrive? What will happen if it’s the wrong choice? Will I be able to come back?

What will happen if I throw all my eggs into one relationship basket? Will I make a mistake? Will I break my own heart and his? Will I be able to commit? Will I be able to stay? What about all the other blokes? What if I get it wrong? What if I end up hurt or hurt him?

Then full circle, back to the same questions that featured in some of my earliest blogs. Will I have kids? Will we have kids? How will I feel if we don’t have kids?

Many questions answered

And here we are, at the end of 2019 and almost at the start of 2020, with lots of answers.

No, I have no desire to have kids on my own.

Yes, I do want to be in a relationship, a life-long partnership, more than anything else, much more than being a mum.

All my relationships failed in the past because I was scared to love, scared to commit, scared to get close, scared to choose, scared to risk. I was too worried about getting hurt and hurting others, anxious that I’d get it wrong, fearful I wouldn’t be able to stay, scared I wouldn’t be able to be faithful.

Yes, I will absolutely be able to support myself if I leave the career I’ve always known. It won’t be easy. There’ll be times I’ll want to throw in the towel. But it will be an exhilarating adventure. I’ll feel alive. I’ll feel in charge of my time and my future. And I’ll find my path, my passion and my purpose.

GHphotoI’ll find freedom through blogging and form wonderful connections with other women who are going through similar stuff. I’ll write a book about love and see that book and my love story featured in magazines and on the radio. I’ll launch a coaching practice that will attract clients from the UK and abroad who are struggling with the same issues, fears and challenges that I have been through and I will help people to find their way back to themselves, to find love, to take the chance on a new career and to redesign their life. I’ll host retreats and workshops in Dorset and in Spain and Turkey. I’ll discover the freedom that self-employment brings.

Yes, I’ll be absolutely fine if I move to the coast. I’ll miss my friends and the bright lights of London, but I’ll make new pals and the beach and countryside will more than compensate for the missing buzz. I’ll swim in the sea, all year round (I swam today), run on the beach and cycle through mud.

TelegraphWedding1And I’ll fall in love as I throw all my eggs into this one relationship basket, challenge my fears and trust my heart and intuition. I’ll feel loved and supported. And I’ll laugh every day with my partner. Then, he’ll propose up a snowy mountain, I’ll say yes, and a few years later, we’ll get married in an outdoors ceremony on a stunning sunny day.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Oh yes, back to that question. I won’t have kids. We won’t have kids. But most of the time that will be OK, because we love each other to the moon and back, because we make such a fantastic team and because I am learning to accept that my life is good enough, rather than look for holes in it or focus on what’s missing.

And we’ll tentatively talk about getting a dog, all the time, and eventually, in the next decade, we might actually get one!

Love and loss

So yes, it’s been quite a momentous 10 years – a decade in which I have taken huge strides, faced massive fears, experienced life-changing breakthroughs and grown as a person.

There has been loss too, of course, because every choice we make means that we lose the opportunity to take a different path. There has been frustration at times with the slow growth of my business and with my procrastination and self-sabotage. There’s been sadness about the way in which I repeatedly ignore and abandon one of my heart’s deepest desires: to write more books. And there’s been grief, huge amounts of grief, as I’ve continued to grieve the wounds of my past and as my dear mum’s health and memory have deteriorated.

But above all else, there is gratitude.

Gratitude for my journey, for all the support I’ve found and received, for the new tools I’ve developed and for the courageous steps I’ve taken. Gratitude for those women and men who’ve trusted me with their stories, their hearts, their lives and their hard-earned money. Gratitude for the beach and the sea. And gratitude for my wonderful husband, who (and I can’t help but well up as I write this) is the most kind, generous, supportive man and who is absolutely perfect for me.

So that’s it for this decade. It’s almost a wrap. If you’d like to wrap it up with me, click here to download a free workbook to help you to review the year and deconstruct your decade. And if you’re willing, pop a comment below to let me know how this decade has been for you. Or drop me an email at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com. I get so much pleasure from hearing from my readers.

The next 10 years is bound to be just as significant so I’ll write about that in the early days of January 2020. But suffice it to say that 48 to 58 are huge years for me too: my 50th birthday; a deepening of my beautiful relationship; more love in my life (maybe a dog!); growth in my business; a TED talk or two (I’m determined!); and several books published, at least one of them a novel. Please, please, please, Katherine, please honour your dream of writing.

Sending love to you all, dear readers and followers.

Where would I be without you?

Where would we be without each other?

Katherine x

 

Free Resources & Dates for Your Diary

Free How to Fall in Love Webinars in  January 2020:
Create Your Healthy Foundations, Jan 8, 6 pm
Face Your Fears & Change Your Patterns, Jan 12, 4 pm
Change Your Dating Dynamic, Jan 16, 1 pm
Click here for more information.

My flagship How to Fall in Love small group online course starts on January 20th, 2020. Eight places remaining.

My first How to Fall in Love Dorset retreat of 2020 will be from Feb 28-March 2. Earlybird offer is now available. I’m hosting a second Dorset retreat from May 1-4.

And we’re back to Turkey in October for another fabulous Love Retreat.

Join my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Download Chapter 1 of How to Fall in Love for free here.

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How do I know if I want kids or not?

OK, so you might be wondering why I’m asking this question.

You might be thinking: haven’t we been through this already? Haven’t we covered this topic from all angles and in all forms of media since this blog launched back in 2011? And actually, isn’t it far too late for me to be asking this question, now I’m 48, rapidly approaching 49?

The answer to all the above is Yes.

I’ve written reams on this topic over the years, in the media (links at the end of this blog) and in my book, but it all kicked off here with a blog post called The Baby Gap, which I wrote two weeks after my 40th birthday.

Yes, back when I was 40, single, and could still have kids, at least as far as I knew.

So why are we back here?

Firstly, because I imagine we might always come back here. This topic may always be there. Perhaps there’ll never be a definitive end to the wondering, an absolute acceptance, a moment of arrival.

For me, it isn’t black and white.

There are only shades of grey.

But we’re back here today in particular because my journey to non-motherhood has been featured in a podcast, called To Baby or Not to Baby, and listening to my own words, to my own story played back to me, has stirred up the feelings again.

Regrets?

Should I have done things differently in relation to motherhood? Should we, my husband of five months and I, have done things differently? Do I have regrets? Does he have regrets? Should we have regrets? Will I always ask these questions?

I’m pleased my story appears on the podcast – under the title the Ambivalent Non-Mum – because I believe ambivalence about motherhood deserves more exploration and airtime, although my journey couldn’t be more different to the podcast’s delightful host Naomi Kent Hodson.

Naomi has just turned 36, is happily married and is in a position to choose, together with her husband who does want kids, whether to try for babies or not.

That was never my experience. And it hasn’t been the experience of many of my friends or coaching clients. I was 43 by the time I had done sufficient “work on myself” and healing to be able to change long-standing dysfunctional relationship patterns and commit to my partner, now husband.

Once I’d committed, I fell in love. But I was approaching my mid-40s by then and our relationship was still in its fledgling stages. It needed cherishing and nurturing. Our love deserved time and space to grow. Plus I was ambivalent about motherhood – a fact I discovered after lots of soul-searching and therapy and which has a lot to do with my own upbringing – while my partner, by then turning 50, was sure he didn’t want children.

Then, just after my 46th birthday, he surprised me with a marriage proposal in the French Alps. I cried (with happiness) and said Yes. I was 48 when we married this June.

Love came late

Finally, a solid relationship with myself after years of self-neglect and disconnection.

Finally, the ability to love another person on a deep level.

Finally, a stable, committed and healthy relationship with a kind, warm-hearted, supportive and gorgeous man.

And finally, a growing awareness (from witnessing other parents) of the gifts of having children, after decades of seeing only the negatives.

But it all came late.

If my husband and I had married when I was 35 and he was 40, where would we be now? Would we have children? Would I have got over my ambivalence and persuaded him to let go of his resistance? Would those children have brought us closer together? Would they have prised us apart? Would we have decided to remain as a family of two?

We will never know.

Naomi and her husband have a choice, assuming fertility is on their side, which must be an incredible place to be as a couple, even with indecision and ambivalence.

If, like me, you no longer have the choice and are grieving its loss, I hear you and I empathise. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to feel your feelings so that the grief can move through you rather than get stuck.

If you do have the choice but are unsure about motherhood, can I suggest that you look deep inside yourself and try to uncover your own truth? Don’t allow your upbringing, your parents’ struggles, opinions, or messages, your baggage or your wounds to block you from going after the desires of your heart.

By the same token, don’t allow societal pressures or a feeling that your life is wrong unless you make a certain choice guide you down a path that may not be for you.

And most importantly, don’t get too stressed. Don’t allow the pressures and the not-knowing of the baby gap years to drive you insane, to overshadow your life or to sabotage what could be beautiful, fulfilling relationships.

Fertility MOT

Hearing my words on the podcast takes me right back to the anxiety of my baby gap years.

I can picture clearly the seminar I went to for single women at a Harley Street fertility clinic – the Powerpoint presentation that explained, with scary statistics, how a woman’s fertility dropped off a cliff; the ins and outs of shopping for a sperm donor online; the frontier science of egg freezing; and the miracles of IVF (if you could afford to pay for it).

I remember feeling distinctly lukewarm about the prospect of any medical intervention, but I signed up to the fertility MOT anyway, because it was on special offer if you paid that day.

I could justify it on two counts: I was a journalist who was researching a book about the baby gap years and I was a single, 40-something woman who could hear her biological clock ticking and wanted to know where she stood, perhaps to make the dating process a bit easier (I’d been dating with baby goggles on for a while).

With the benefit of hindsight, I also see that I felt deeply empty, lonely and lost in my life and was looking for something, a baby perhaps, a purpose, to fill the hole.

I remember chatting with the other women who were waiting to pay for their fertility MOTs, and how quickly we bonded, because of our circumstances, different in many ways, but with some key similarities: single, no children, running out of time and starting to panic.

I remember racing down Harley Street one wintry morning, my woolly scarf slapping me in the face, trying to find the heavy door of the fertility clinic, late for my appointment, which I’d already postponed once due to work deadlines. I remember the nurse’s look of disapproval when I said I’d forgotten to fill in my forms in advance (I hadn’t even opened them).

I remember feeling terribly alone as a lay on a bed in the clinic while a consultant wiped jelly on my belly and then prodded and poked my insides in order to count the follicles on my ovaries. There was nobody standing by my side; nobody holding my hand.

Shock and grief

I remember the moment the consultant showed me my test results (anti-mullerian hormone, or AMH, and follicle count), saying they were ‘average for a woman my age’ and therefore pretty poor. I remember the tears that took me by surprise and the way the consultant slid the box of tissues towards me across her large oak desk.

Amid the shock and grief (what do you mean I’m mediocre? I’ve always been a straight A student), I remember thinking, you’ve been here before, haven’t you, Ms Consultant, sat across from a weeping 40-something, single woman who’s just been given a painful reality check that has shaken her out of her reverie and smashed the myth that her fit, healthy and toned outsides would naturally translate to stellar fertility on the inside?

I remember the consultant’s strong encouragement to move quickly along the solo IVF route, which immediately put me off because I respond badly to any form of hard-sell. And I remember my subsequent meeting with the clinic’s resident counsellor, included in the MOT, in which I knew, instinctively, at some deep cellular level, that this path wasn’t for me.

I remember chatting to another rather attractive male consultant across the road in another clinic, who gave me hope because he didn’t think my results were quite so bad. I remember thinking I bet you’re happily married with a few kids and how come I didn’t meet a solid, reliable family man like you in my 30s? (Hang on a minute, I did, but I walked away).

I remember the other fertility seminars I attended and the interviews I did with single women who’d taken creative routes to motherhood (donor sperm, donor eggs) because they were absolutely certain that they wanted a child above all else – a feeling I had never shared.

I remember visiting an egg freezing clinic in Barcelona as part of my research for the book, getting lost and arriving late, sweaty and flustered. I remember being told definitively that freezing my 40-something eggs would be a waste of my hard-earned cash, although I’d always find a clinic that would freeze them for me.

Summer lovin’

And I remember meeting my now husband and shelving the crazy-making baby dilemma, swapping it for a few months of delicious summer loving, only to ask him again at the end of that period whether he was up for parenthood. I remember feeling crushed as he answered sincerely and lovingly, but in the negative as before, and I remember ending the relationship but spending the night dripping tears onto his bare chest in bed, not wanting to leave.

Fast forward a few years and I remember coming back to him, after trying and failing to find another man I wanted to be with, knowing for certain that I wanted a life partner above all else, and feeling, when I lay next to him on the sofa, that I could stay in his arms forever.

WeddingstationI remember our amazing wedding this June and how all those doubts that had plagued me for years – is he the right guy? Am I making the right choice? What if there’s someone else? – had miraculously disappeared, replaced by a wonderful certainty that has, I have to say, changed my life.

But inevitably, returning to this topic stirs up all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could have beens’ in relation to having children and feeds into a terrible tendency I have, which goes right back to my earliest years and my deepest wounds: the tendency to assume that my life is wrong while yours and everyone else’s is right.

So as ever, my challenge today and every day, and this was the conclusion of my book, is to want what I have, to love what I have, to be grateful for what I have, and to reduce the time, energy and effort I spend wondering about what could have been or longing for something that I haven’t got.

Honouring my creativity

One more thing, and if you’re still reading by this point, hats off to you!

Listening to the podcast brought a painful reminder of how I can abandon my dreams and my creative projects. The Baby Gap was the working title of a book I began writing in my early 40s, based on my own experience and all those interviews I did with fertility experts, childless and childfree women, and determined would-be mums – a book that received offers from 5 agents, got me an interview on Newsnight, but was turned down by 14 publishers, albeit in the nicest of terms.

In truth, it wasn’t actually a book. It was a very well-written synopsis and two chapters, which I thought, naively and rather arrogantly, was enough. Back then, I wanted success to fall out of the sky, in the form of a book deal, a hefty advance, and my book in the window of notable booksellers, without me actually having to put in the hours and write the thousands of words. I had a certain sense of entitlement. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t handle the publishers’ rejections well. My agent disappeared and I lost my way.

A few years later, now in love and more interested in the reasons why I’d taken so long to form a healthy relationship than in the baby dilemma, I wrote and published How to Fall in Love, of which I’m incredibly proud. But I still have 40,000 words or so of that first baby gap book and the podcast reminded me of all the work I did do – the research, the interviews, the endless rewriting of the synopsis – and makes me feel sad that I abandoned the project before completion and went off in search of something shiny and new. But I still have my 40,000 words and I’m in the process of reviving that book in a different form, a novel perhaps, and who knows, maybe a podcast.

And I commit to you that I will honour my creative dreams and see this project, and all my other creative projects, to fruition.

Thank you, as ever, for reading my words. x

Further reading

If you’d like to read more on this topic, here are other blogs and articles I’ve written:

The Baby Gap

The Baby Conundrum

Dating with Baby Goggles – a post that became a Daily Mail article

Ambivalence about Motherhood – a post that followed my Woman’s Hour interview on the same topic

Am I childless or childfree?

My Guardian piece: I feel grief and relief that I’ve never had children

And you can listen to my episode of the podcast, To Baby or Not to Baby, here.

***Upcoming Events***

If you’re looking for someone to love and to form a family with (with or without children) my How to Fall in Love course is a wonderful way to lay the foundations for a healthy and loving relationship.

My next How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations small group course starts on January 13th, and Part II of the course, Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence begins the same day, for women who are ready to date. Get in touch for a free discovery call to find out if either course is right for you (katherine@katherinebaldwin.com)

I have retreats in Dorset, Spain and Turkey in 2020. Click here for details.

And my one-to-one coaching schedule is filling up for 2020. If you’d like to explore coaching with me, get in touch for a free call.

If you’d like to read the first chapter of my book, How to Fall in Love, you can download the first chapter for free at www.katherinebaldwin.com

Thanks again x

Posted in Childless, codependency, Dating, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The bittersweet road of recovery

womanroadbook

Whenever I get well again after being ill, I realise just how unwell I’ve been.

You’d think I’d be used to this by now, but it surprises me every time.

When I’m ill, I don’t actually believe I’m ill, not properly anyway. I dismiss my sickness as a bad case of lethargy. And then suddenly, I recover and I’m filled with energy.

Ah, I get it, I say to myself as I bound around the room and get on with all those tasks I’ve been putting off. I really was ill!

The same goes for other forms of sickness, like being emotionally unwell.

As I become more emotionally healthy, I realise just how unhealthy I’ve been in the past.

This is a tough process.

Unlike the new lease of life we get when we bounce back from a cold, it’s hard to look back over our lives and see just how unwell we’ve been – in terms of our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with others, our romantic life, work, food, alcohol, or whatever it is.

There’s grief, a sense of loss. There’s regret.

Those feelings – or the prospect of feeling that way – can be so unpleasant that we might even be tempted to remain unwell, because we don’t want to feel the pain and regret of all those wasted years.

Something similar can happen with love and intimacy.

If we’ve been single for many years or haven’t enjoyed healthy physical and emotional intimacy for a long time, it can be bittersweet to experience love, affection and intimacy because we realise what we’ve been missing. And that hurts.

We enjoy our newfound connection, yes. We’re grateful for it. But we can also feel grief, loss and regret for the past, for what could have been, for what we’ve missed.

Why have I gone so long without experiencing touch? Why have I spent so many years closed off from love?

I often wonder wistfully how it would have been to have met and fallen in love with my now husband 20 years ago. Of course, it never would have happened. Not only was I living in Mexico and he in England, but I was engaged in all manner of crazy and addictive behaviours that most likely would have put him off, while I would have found him dull because he was too kind and not dangerous enough.

But that reality doesn’t stop me from feeling regretful that we haven’t had those extra years together.

I know I’m going to feel the same way when I finally finish the book I’m writing, which is morphing from a memoir into a semi-autobiographical novel, and then get it published by a lovely publisher who does a wonderful job with the cover and edits it beautifully (she says confidently/hopefully!). And then when I write my next novel and when I publish a book of poems (yes, I’ve been writing poems recently).

I’m going to feel such joy, because I’ll have finally given myself to a craft that I’ve been dancing around since I was a little girl. I’ll have finally trusted in my imagination, creativity and ability, rather than loitering on the fringes of creative writing, being a news journalist, a features writer or the author of self-help books (as an aside, I am so proud of and grateful for my first book!).

But I’m also going to feel such regret, because I’ll be 50 (if I take my writing seriously from today) by the time I publish my novel, or perhaps even 51 or, if I procrastinate some more, 52.

Gosh, 50.

My apologies to all my over-50 readers but that suddenly feels such a massive milestone, and quite a scary prospect. So it will have taken me nearly three decades, since I left university, to make my way back to the creative writing I’ve probably been longing to do since I was a child.

And that’s sad.

Perhaps my anxiety and fear about feeling such a huge sense of grief and loss about the wasted years actually stops me from writing, puts obstacles in my way in the form of endless distractions. Perhaps I’m too scared to go there. To arrive. To have a book published by a wonderful publisher and to tour the literary festivals of the world.

What a dream, and I’m smiling now as I write. What a treat. To be able to tour with my book, share my words, sit on stages with other wonderful writers.

Perhaps the thought that it is but a dream – an unattainable dream – stops me from writing too.

Because it would be so painful to try so hard and then to fail.

And, of course, it would be so scary to succeed – to taste success, which, for me, couldn’t exist without regret, grief and loss and which will no doubt be accompanied by fear of subsequent failure.

But are any of the above reasons not to try? Should we all give up on writing, on finding love or on healing our hearts because we’re going to encounter pain and regret on the way to our dreams?

Absolutely not.

Yes, it’s scary, and I can feel my heart flutter as I write this. Yes, it’s going to hurt.

Yes, it’ll be bitter.

But it will also be so sweet.

And so worth it.

So let’s not waste any more of our precious time, dancing around the deepest passions of our heart, or sitting on the sidelines of romance. Let’s get into the arena, as Theodore Roosevelt said and Brené Brown quoted so eloquently in her TED Talk:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

And with that, I will wrap up this blog, give it a quick read and then press publish, because in the last months, since my previous post in August, I have drafted so many blogs that I haven’t finished or shared.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

And if you’d like to send some encouragement to help me to write my novel, why not post a comment, saying that you’d like to read it.

As you’ve just heard, I need all the help I can get!

 

**** Upcoming Events & Free Resources ****

FREE webinar. Let your intuition lead you to love. Wednesday, Nov 6, 2019, 7-8 pm UK time. Click to join live or register to receive the recording.

Next How to Fall in Love small group 5-week course starts Monday Nov 11, 2019. Use the code Gratitudegift at checkout for £40 off. Click here to preview the course for free.

FREE Chapter 1 of my book, How to Fall in Love. Sign up on my website and download the first chapter: www.katherinebaldwin.com

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Listen to my interview on BBC Radio Solent on How to fall in love.

Posted in Creativity, Dating, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments