Nothing changes if nothing changes.
If we don’t choose to change, we’ll stay the same. Our lives will stay the same. Our dreams will pass us by.
Can you hear the call to change? Can you feel it? Can you sense it? Are you ready to respond to it?
Last Friday morning, I noticed how much my life had changed compared with six years ago. Or rather how much I had changed it.
Back in 2011, I wrote my first ever feature for The Daily Mail’s Femail pages about dating with baby goggles on. At the time, I was 40 and bemused. How had I ended up at that age and stage without a partner or children? I used to date wearing beer goggles, I wrote, but I now went out on dates wearing baby goggles. My biological clock was ticking frantically and I sized up every man I met as a potential father for my future kids. I didn’t do it deliberately. I just couldn’t help myself.
On Friday, I published another story in The Daily Mail about how I gave up my high-flying news reporting job, went to therapy, understood my self-sabotaging relationship patterns, transformed my life, fell in love, moved to the sea and got engaged. The story is here.
Writing for the Daily Mail isn’t for the faint-hearted, which is why I hadn’t done it for years. I’m a sensitive soul with a thin skin. Publishing a story in the Mail is about as visible as you can get – it’s the most read online newspaper in the world. You also have no control over the headlines or picture captions, so no matter what you write in the copy, you have to brace yourself for big, bold attention-grabbing headlines that can make you want to hide under the duvet for a few hours. The editing process is also fraught with risk – there’s little time to look over edits and there comes a point when you just have to let some of the changes go. Then there are the comments, which can be cutting. Plus there’s the disapproval of those who believe I shouldn’t be writing for a tabloid like that.
So why did I do it? Well, I feel passionately that I’ve got something important to say on the topic of love, dating and relationships and that my experience can benefit other women and men who might be struggling to understand why they can’t find love or form a healthy, committed relationship. So I went for the biggest platform with the biggest reach. I wanted to make a big splash, to be seen and heard. I wanted people to read my book, check out my new coaching website and ask me for help – because I really do want to help. I want to make a difference. A woman has also got to eat – and in order to eat, I need to sell my stories for a decent amount of money (quite rare in today’s climate where journalists are often asked to write for free).
So I knew it’d be worth it for the publicity, but more importantly, I knew I’d be able to cope with the fallout much better than before.
I knew I’d matured since the last time I wrote for the Mail, in 2012 (I also shared my eating disorder story with the world via Mail Online). I knew I’d gained some emotional maturity. I’d grown a slightly thicker skin. I also knew what to expect. I could brace myself for the headlines, take them with a pinch of salt and ignore the comments section.
But the biggest difference was that I was no longer dealing with the fallout entirely alone.
When I wrote the baby goggles piece, I was living on my own in my flat in North London. I had good friends – one of them was in touch just after midnight, offering her support as soon as the story had gone online – but I had no partner by my side. Work was the biggest thing in my life. Despite the fact I’d quit my parliamentary reporting job, work still took centre stage. So I read the story on my iPhone in the middle of the night, took the mostly unflattering comments to heart (ouch, ouch and ouch), stayed awake until the early hours unable to sleep with the stress, dashed to the shops as soon as I woke up and spent the morning raking over the words and headlines in the print version.
This time, I wrote the story from the home I share with my partner on the Dorset coast. I’ve also learned a lot about boundaries and balance over the years (the learning began following a burnout and breakdown in my full-time reporting job but it’s been gradual), so I stopped checking my phone before 10 pm, went to bed anxious but laughing about something silly with my fiancé, slept soundly, woke up around the normal time, resisted the urge to check my phone before I’d got out of bed (or rather my partner kept confiscating it, suggesting I have a cup of tea before I went online – so sensible), had breakfast and a cuppa with my friend and goddaughter who were visiting, wandered to the shops to get the paper copy, did some work and then headed to the beach in the afternoon for a swim. Yes, I was adrenalised, but I wasn’t overly stressed. And after a dip in the sea and some sunshine, I was quite relaxed, as you can see from the beach video I recorded that afternoon, here.
Another difference is that I have my full story, told in all my own words, in my book, How to Fall in Love. So no matter how my newspaper feature turned out, I knew I had my story. I could point people to the book if they wanted the full version. Having my story out there in my own words is such a dream come true, I can’t tell you. I love that book as much as I love this blog – I get to write whatever I want, unedited, uncensored, unchanged – straight from the heart. What freedom!
I never imagined I’d be using the Daily Mail as a benchmark to measure how much my life has changed but my different experiences around those two features really show me how much it has. Work is less of a focus now. I have more balance. I have love in my life. I have more fun. I’m more peaceful and relaxed. I’m more emotionally resilient. My inner oak tree is strong. I have a book out. I still take myself and my work pretty seriously, but less seriously than before. I still care too much about what people think of me, but less than before and I’m more able to defend myself or laugh at situations. I’m still ambitious but I know when to take time off.
Those two Daily Mail features, six years apart, are also relevant to my relationship. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that my now fiancé is quoted in the 2011 baby goggles piece. Back then, I had walked away from a liaison with him because I didn’t think he was right for me, for a whole host of reasons, some of which I explained in last Friday’s Mail story. I made up that he wasn’t good enough, this enough or that enough. I needed someone more A type, more alpha – a high-flying Oxbridge graduate or someone of that ilk – or so I thought. He also didn’t want kids and I was 40 and thought I did, a fair enough reason to walk away, on the surface.
Six years on, I’ve realised that his qualities are exactly what I need in my life. He’s stable, steady, loyal, kind, generous, loving, gentle and manly at the same time. He’s a solid oak. Most importantly, he’s there. There when I need him. There when I need to cry on his shoulder or when I want to go out and play on the paddle boards. There at the station when I come back from London. Unlike my dad who moved out, my partner is there. I sense he’ll always be there. It’s so reassuring.
As for motherhood, I realised I wanted to be with him more than I wanted to be a mum at the age of 43, which is when we got together properly. I still feel that way. Things might have been different with another man, but I see now I’ve always been ambivalent about children while I’ve always been sure I wanted to be in partnership and in love, and I fell for him.
My choices aren’t for everyone. I haven’t got the perfect life (who has?). My last blog, Walking Through Treacle, can attest to that. But I’ve chosen this life and most of the time, I’m very happy with it.
I made a decision, at some critical moments in my life, to change things I was unhappy with – to change myself, to change my relationships, to change my work and to change where I lived. Change is never easy but nothing changes if nothing changes.
So if you’re stuck, in love or in life, can I encourage you to change? Not all at once. Not all in one go. Not in a hurry. But do something today that your future self would thank you for. Take steps towards the life or career of your dreams. Write some words of that book, explore that country town you’d like to move to, book that yoga retreat, sign up to a dating site or leave a dating site and sign up to a dance class, a walking group or a painting course. Download a meditation app or start journaling. Because if we keep doing the same thing over and over again we’ll get the same results, but if we do things differently, we give ourselves a chance.
If I can help, give me a shout. I run a free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole. I also have some awesome autumn coaching offers (including some great-value packages of 3 or 6 one-to-one sessions – space for 3 clients only so do get in touch if of interest – and some 3-month or 6-month packages including VIP beach brainstorming days). I have a new How to Fall in Love course starting Oct 9 with weekly group coaching calls to keep you on track (6 spaces only) and a membership group of Love Ladies starting in October also. It’s all on my new website, www.howtofallinlove.co.uk. You can book a free exploratory call to see if you’d like to work with me.
Otherwise, find some support elsewhere for the changes you want to make. Another coach, a therapist, an accountability group or a supportive bunch of friends. I couldn’t have gone from being single and living alone in London to being engaged and living by the sea without the support of a therapist, mentors and friends.
Before I go, can I ask you to stop for a minute, close your eyes and listen.
Do you hear it? Do you hear a call to change? Can you sense it? If so, take note. It’s there for a reason.
And remember, nothing changes if nothing changes. So try something new and give yourself a chance.