Category: Real life
“Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.” – Pema Chodron
I hate leaving this space bare but I’m currently honouring my need to be more present in my offline world. It feels a bit like hibernation, or maybe it’s more like the pupa stage the caterpiller goes through before spreading her butterfly wings. Things are shifting, that’s for sure. Neural pathways are being rerouted. Old assumptions are being challenged. I’m still going to the gym two or three times a week and the changes in my body — which is frankly a trip to witness — are mirroring the internal metamorphosis. Which sounds heavy, I know, but it’s the best way I can describe it. Sometimes you have to take a sledgehammer to the walls to clear the ground for the rebuild.
One piece of good news from this last week: Chronicle Books have accepted my book proposal! Once it’s signed and sealed I’ll share more, but I can tell you it’s not the follow-up to This I Know. I know some of you have been waiting for that, but I’m still living it, so for now I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into a book that’s going to be quite a creative challenge for me…. really can’t wait.
Next week Megg, Sas and I are hunkering down with 20 beautiful brave souls for our Unravel Your Story retreat, so this space will remain silent for a while longer. When I get back I’ll be preparing for the last ever live Unravelling class — so much change ahead — so do join us if you can. And if you have a moment, you might want to watch this and then this.
I miss you already…
‘If you do nothing unexpected, nothing unexpected happens.’ — Fay Weldon
As often happens at this time of year, I find myself existing in a transitional space. Last year I was preparing for the big move and now here I am, almost a year back in London and feeling pretty settled, all things considered. The August Break proved to be just what I needed as I explore what it means to build a life that doesn’t revolve solely around work. For the last four years work has been everything. The book, the tour, the courses, the retreats, the travel. Giving all my energy to the business was absolutely necessary and I don’t regret a minute of it, but now I crave that elusive balance of work AND a personal life. I have moments when I wonder if that is even possible — and the answer is no, it’s not, if I continue to work and structure my days in the same way I’ve always done. So things are slowly changing around here as i try to create more space for a life away from my laptop. It’s a work in progress…
‘Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.’ — Rumi
I guess it’s no surprise this desire to be out in the world coincided with me dipping a toe back in the dating pool. I’m discovering that it’s easy to be vulnerable with my work hat on — the core of everything I do comes from my personal experience and sharing what I know (and don’t know!). Likewise it’s easy to be vulnerable with friends and family — they’ve seen me at my best and worst and, amazingly, they still want to know me. But opening up and being vulnerable with somebody new? As my sister pointed out to me the other day, I’m very good at being Confident Sus, “but you need to let them see the softer side of you, too.” I think it’s fair to say I’m still learning the steps to this dance…
‘Sometimes in tragedy we find our life’s purpose. The eye sheds a tear to find its focus.’ — Robert Brault
September has brought that back-to-school feeling with her. Next week I’ll be opening registration for the very last live session of Unravelling. It’s time for a change and if I’ve learnt anything useful over the last few years it’s to trust my intuition when it comes to this wee biz of mine. Unravelling was the beginning and now I’m ready to go much deeper with those original concepts, so once I get back from our retreat in October I’ll be developing two new courses for 2014. Even as I type that I realise I could so easily slip back into my workaholic ways, so I know my challenge for the rest of the year is to work smarter not harder. To make space for play as well as focus. And to trust in serendipity — in work, in love, in life.
If you’ve ever wanted to Unravel with me now is the time to do it! I’m already planning the weekly videos and want this last live session to be a really magical one. I’m happy to offer a special alumni rate to all former Unravellers who want to work back through the course with a whole new group of lovelies — email me for more details x
For the majority of my 40 years I’ve loathed any form of physical exercise — its just not in my DNA to move my body in a way that will create sweat (okay, there is one way, but my mum is reading this…) I was the least sporty girl at school, the one who always sat on the sidelines with her “period”. I was useless at netball and tennis, not the best swimmer and forget about any kind of gymnastic ability — a head-over-heels was about my limit.
In my teens, 20s and early 30s I was fortunate to have a slim-ish figure that didn’t carry too much weight, and thanks to never owning a car I’ve always done a lot of walking. But in the last few years things have changed. I remember writing the chapter in This I Know where I share my thoughts on my body — back in 2011 I was at my heaviest and the sedentary nature of being self-employed and writing a book meant I reached for carbs to give me “energy” (this didn’t work) and got through far too many jars of Nutella. Having never had any issues around food and weight, it was quite a shock to realise my body had changed. What I thought was a slowed-down metabolism and the effects of getting older was being exacerbated by my comfort eating and lack of movement. It seemed the 20-something who could eat whatever she wanted had gone forever.
In the book I squared up to the idea that this was how my body would look as a woman slouching into my 40s. But what I’ve discovered over the last year or so is this isn’t actually the case. That’s what I look like after 30 odd years of not consciously looking after my body. Being slim didn’t mean I was particularly healthy.
It’s all the rage these days to drink green smoothies and bang on about yoga/gluten intolerance/maca powder/etc, and there’s a part of me that wants to ignore the healthy-preachers and snack on a plate of fries. Yet the more I pay attention to my body and listen to what she needs, the better able I am to look after myself. All those years of digestive problems? Turns out I was gluten intolerant myself, I just didn’t know that was a thing. Now I’ve tried cutting it out the effects have been amazing. Nothing that you’d notice from the outside, but how I FEEL inside, how much better my body works, is changing my world (and I know that’s a big claim but it’s true).
So with all that said, I shall now become the annoying person who tells you how great the gym is.
Okay, that’s a lie: the gym is still as horrendous as I always feared it was, but I’m finding ways to learn to like it. Because now I’m feeling better internally, i want to feel better externally too. This has got nothing to do with losing weight (though fitting into my clothes comfortably would be aces) and everything to do with wanting to feel STRONG. Energised. Powerful. I want this body to last another 40 years and I’m accepting that in order for that to happen I have to put a bit of effort in to its maintenance.
Having tried, and disliked, all sorts of sweat-inducing activities over the years, no one is more surprised than me to discover that THE GYM is the place I hate the least.
Here’s how I make it bearable:
1. Wear the right clothes
This, my friends, was the real game-changer. Before I’d wear my saggy-arsed jogging pants (that had never been used for actual jogging) and a baggy T-shirt. I basically wanted to cover up and be invisible. Then one day, on a whim, i took myself to Sweaty Betty and bought a pair of proper exercise leggings and some running tops, all made of techy-sounding fabric that wicks the sweat away, holds you in, yadda yadda. This outfit, plus an extremely robust exercise bra, has made exercise so much more…. enjoyable might be pushing it, but I feel and look the part. And psychologically this has helped enormously.
2. Book a few sessions with a trainer
The first trainer I worked with showed me how to use all the machines and set me up with a fairly basic routine. We only had a couple of sessions and while it was enough to get me started, I soon slipped back into my old ways (read: not going to the gym). This time I’ve been having a single weekly session with Carrie, my new trainer. Each time she teaches me something new (she prefers to use weights and the mat over the machines, which means I’m learning stuff I can do at home, too) which I then incorporate into my other solo gym sessions. I can’t afford to train with her three times a week, but once a week for the next few months is keeping me motivated. She’s also hilarious, so while she makes me do stuff I don’t like, I’m laughing all the way through it. Winner!
3. Wear lipstick & waterproof mascara
I accept that an hour of working out is going to leave me a sweaty red-faced mess, but my lipstick and mascara give me the illusion that it’s not so bad when I look in the mirror doing my arm-curl-things… and when you’re surrounded by glowing 20-somethings, it really helps your 40-year-old self esteem.
4. Make killer mixtapes
I usually find the treadmill excruciatingly boring, but it’s fast becoming my new favourite thing thanks to my killer mixtape. I miss my old clubbing days so this way I get to dance/walk on the treadmill to some epic euphoric house — I also listen to it on the *way* to the gym, thus motivating me to walk fast and get there sooner so I can get home sooner. Finding new tracks to add to the playlist makes me — wait for it — excited to hit the gym and listen to them. I know!
5. Find the things you like and ignore the rest
The very last thing I want to do is take a spin class, so I don’t. On the other hand, I like using the free weights so I use them a lot. It sounds so obvious, but figuring out what I like to do is helping me do it. When I have a session with Carrie she also takes this into account.
6. Go at the right time
My gym is not very big so I tend to avoid the busy times and go when I know there’ll be less people there. Weekday lunch times and Sunday mornings are the best times for me, so that’s when I go. I can use the machines/mat space I want without having to wait, there are plenty of weights available and I get to share the air with a more diverse group of people. I always give a nod to the woman in her 70s who has a gentle walk on the treadmill, and am fascinated by the teenage boy whose trainer is 4 times his size, bless him.
Getting to the gym is by far the hardest part of the workout. Every single time I have to battle with my head and have yet to wake up raring to go. It’s always a struggle. But there’s yet to be a time when I get home regretting that i went. Usually it just feels like a little victory, and who doesn’t need a few of those?
I’m not trying to evangelise the benefits of a gym membership, and believe me, every time somebody told me I “just had to find the exercise I like” I wanted to punch them in the face. But I will grudgingly admit there’s some truth to that — forcing myself to go to a yoga class when I don’t gel with yoga was never going to work. Trying to jog round the park didn’t work either. The structured nature of the gym — go to a specific place, work out for specific amount of time, use specific things — seem to work best with my brain, the brain that’s usually filled with so many ideas (and so much clutter) it gets a break while I sweat my lumpy Lycra-clad arse off.
Historically, every time I’ve blogged about my new fitness resolve something has happened to bugger it up. But I felt compelled to share this because it really does feel like something has shifted. And it’s partly down to me turning 40 and becoming more sensitive to how my body is changing. But it’s mostly because I’m reaching a place where the best way I can show self-love and self-compassion to myself is to look after the body that so uncomplainingly ferrys me through this life. Moving my body doesn’t feel like the torture it used to: it feels like an act of love.
I hear it’s Father’s Day today. Might even be in the UK as well as north America, but I can’t be sure as it’s not on my radar. For the last 29 years I have not had a relationship with my father, ever since he emigrated to Australia from England when I was eleven-years-old. I wrote about him in my book; I’ve blogged about it here; I’ve talked about it at length with two therapists and I’ve even written an article about it for a national newspaper and Cosmopolitan (of all places). I’ve looked at it from all angles. I’ve put myself in his younger shoes. I’ve acknowledged how it’s affected me as an adult woman. I sat with my younger self, feeling what she felt. I’ve witnessed friends’ relationships with their fathers and marvelled at them. I’ve flirted with the idea of forgiveness. I’ve had actual conversations with him in the handful of times we’ve met — last time was over 10 years ago. I’ve listened to him apologise to us and admit it was a shitty decision. I’ve also heard him talk lovingly about his children — his Australian family. Moments before he’d stumbled over my name, unaccustomed to using it.
I have no idea what it’s like to have a man in my life who loves me unconditionally, like a father would. I’ve never had anyone to send a Father’s Day card to. It’s all very normal to me now, just another part of the story, but for some reason, this afternoon, after seeing yet another ‘I love you, dad’ status update on Facebook, I felt a sadness I haven’t experienced in a long time. The sadness of a little girl who didn’t have a daddy anymore. She had no idea how to process it, so she turned into a needy teen who wanted so desperately to be loved she’d settle on the first guy who paid her some attention. And my thoughts then turned to my nephew, as they so often do these days. I trust that HIS daddy will be there for him. I love my brother-in-law and I know he’d always do right by my sister and Noah (and he knows I’d kneecap him if he didn’t ;-)
To be honest, I don’t know how to end this post. I guess I just wanted to put some words down, and give a shout out to all of you out there who don’t have someone to send a Father’s Day card to either.