I haven’t blogged for a while and have had a rather slow, quiet and pensive week following my exhausting trip to Maputo, Mozambique. I’ve been nursing my swollen, dry eyelids, catching up on sleep, watching a little too much TV and pondering what I learned while I was away, in the knowledge that every experience, good or bad, is an opportunity to grow.
In my last post, I was asking myself whether I felt emotionally and physically able to do many more of these tiring foreign work trips that usually leave me feeling run down and often trigger my overeating. After some consideration, I know the answer is yes but I have to make sure the conditions are right.
I’ve realised that flying ten hours overnight in economy class as part of a 16-hour journey isn’t how I want to travel if I’m on a work assignment. I’m aware that journalism and flying business class don’t exactly go hand-in-hand but there has to be a middle ground – upper economy, perhaps. For someone who rarely sleeps on planes, my return flight was torture. I’ve also realised that if I’m working away, I need to be staying in a place where I feel safe, comfortable and where the conditions are more or less equivalent to what I have at home. Holidays are one thing – I’d be happy sleeping in a beach hut if all I have to do is lie on the beach the next day – but business travel is a different kettle of fish.
And I’ve realised that if I continue to accept working conditions and a salary I know do not value my skills and experience then I am one who’ll suffer – the anger and resentment I feel (mainly towards myself for accepting the job in the first place) will find its way out somehow, often through overeating or other unhealthy behaviours. So in order to take good care of myself, I need to give myself what I deserve and make sure I don’t accept less than I deserve from others.
I’ve never been great at asking for what I need or standing my ground, particularly in the face of people I see as authority figures (a throw-back to my childhood) but the more I do it, the easier it becomes. The bottom line is I have a choice. It’s pretty simple. It might be scary for a while. I might find myself having to turn down work and therefore money but as someone mentioned to me a few weeks back, sometimes we have to let go of the mediocre to make way for the truly amazing.
I also spent some time this week wondering why my life doesn’t flow as smoothly as I’d like it to. I did actually start writing a blog post that began “If this page could talk, it’d scream ‘Arrrrgggghhhh!'” but I didn’t get very far with that one. Maybe because I allowed myself to process the thoughts and feelings and to come out the other side. No, my life doesn’t always flow as I’d like it to. I’d love to be able to return from Mozambique or all my other trips and tell my friends “Yes, it was fabulous!” rather than report a rather mixed experience of ups and downs. But I can see now that I often set myself up to fail, as it where. Often, I’ll have had a gut feeling about something – that it wasn’t the right time for the trip or that I needed to speak up about the conditions or whatever it is – but I’ll have kept quiet and not trusted my instinct. I then end up in a situation that is difficult to cope with and I fall back on old habits – overeating, obsessive thinking, insomnia. So I reap what I sow.
I guess the answer is to continue this journey of getting to know myself better, to continue to unburden myself of all the extra padding – of fear or hurt or past experience – that smothers and muffles my instinct and to build up my courage and trust in myself. As I was pondering all this, I came across a Bible verse that really spoke to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12 verse 9). I love the idea that God can take my weaknesses and transform them into something powerful, perhaps something that can help others. I also love the fact that we’re united in weakness. I feel particularly close to my friends or family when we are sharing our struggles and our weaknesses with each other.
On the topic of sharing our struggles and inspiring others, I wanted to point out a really moving blog post by Jody Day of Gateway Women, an organisation that aims to support, empower and inspire women without children. I found Jody’s post about the purported selfishness of childfree women really touching, particularly where she talks about grieving for the children she hasn’t had while also finding meaning and purpose in a childfree existence. This is all very relevant to me, given where I am in my life – 40, single and, to date, childfree. A number of my friends are also in a similar position to me, hoping they’ll have their own babies before it’s too late.
And finally, a big thank you to social entrepreneur and business consultant Sinead Mac Manus of 8fold, who I’ve mentioned before on this site, for reminding me yesterday that we need to turn things into habits in order to be able to stick with them. I’ve been struggling with incorporating regular exercise into my freelance journalism life. I start the day with grand plans to get to yoga at lunchtime or for a swim before 4 pm – the last entry under my off-peak gym membership – but so many times I just carry on working until it’s too late or I resolve to exercise the following day – but then I end up sitting too long at my desk and doing the same thing. The answer, as Sinead said, is to turn exercise into a habit. It’s about making a regular appointment with myself and ring fencing that time in my schedule. So, it’s now 3:27 pm and I was planning to get to the gym today before 4 pm – let’s see if I make it!