I had an amazing dream while I was in Devon last week. Actually, there was nothing particulary amazing about the actual dream, but what it represented was amazing (to me). For the last few years I’ve been having a recurring dream that I have another home somewhere, out there, but I can’t remember where it is. It’s an apartment I used to live in, and it holds a lot of my stuff, but I haven’t been there in such a long time I can’t remember the address. In the reoccuring dream I know I have to find this other home at some point so i can sort through the things and let it go, but I can never find my way there. I always wake up confused and it takes a moment to remember that in the real world i have just one home and it’s here, in London. The relief is always enormous.
For the first time ever, I dreamt I found the other home. I can’t remember how I found my way there, but suddenly there I was, opening the door and walking in. In the dream I was so surprised to finally be there my heart was racing as I looked around this converted loft filled with tables strewn with my belongings. There were clothes displayed on the walls like a museum, and piles and piles of books and records. Slowly I began to go through the objects, pulling out things i remembered from my teenage — things I haven’t thought about in forever in my waking world. It was like discovering a corner of my brain I hadn’t opened in 25 years.
When I woke up I immediately reached for my journal and wrote down everything i could remember about the other home — there were a LOT of underlinings and exclamation marks. It really was a remarkable dream, an actual conclusion to a long-running series in my head. There are so many layers of significance, and as usual i’ve been journalling my way into it all, marvelling at my own unconscious. Most mornings I wake up wishing I didn’t have such vivid dreams, but then something like this happens and I’m grateful to have this other noctural life that has its own plotlines and climate; it’s like squeezing two lives into one.
Our brains are extraordinary, aren’t they.
Keeping a dream journal has definitely enhanced my ability to recall — and, more importantly, interpret — my dreams. We spend a week on dreams in Journal Your Life, exploring ways to read our dreams, find the gifts in our nightmares and practice a bit of lucid daydreaming, too. I’m certainly no dream expert, but I’m expert at my OWN dreams, and that’s where the benefit lies. By paying attention to our unconscious mind we uncover all these juicy clues to what’s really going on inside us. My dreams are often ridiculous and impossible, but they never seem to lie to me.
Do any of you have crazy big dreams? Have they ever been useful? I’d love to know :)
Registration for the summer session on Journal Your Life is now open — I’ve updated the page with a video sneak peek!
‘This has been so much more than just a course, it’s become a Process. What I have learned, what has taken me most by surprise, is Gratitude. I find that every time I journal now I end up thanking God for my life and all that it holds. On the outside, my life seems very ordinary, perhaps even a little boring. What I have discovered is that I have an internal life that is extraordinary, rich and fulfilling. I wake up each morning excited by the sheer possibility that each day holds. This gift you’ve given me is priceless, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!’ ~ Beth
The older I get the more I like being on my own. This is not a bad thing as I spend the vast majority of my time actually alone. I work from home and I live alone. I am single. I’m an introvert and find large groups of people exhausting (one-on-one I love). I’m not particularly shy, and can be downright gregarious in the right situation, but on the whole, I prefer my own company.
For many years, this was a problem. The three big relationships of my life were with extroverted men who had lots of friends and like to hit the town at every opportunity. New Year’s Eve was always a battle as they (and yes, all three of them felt the same) wanted to go out and have THE BIGGEST NIGHT EVAH!!! and I wanted to stay at home, light candles and ease into the new year thoughtfully and calmly. I’m sure you can guess who won those battles. One of the greatest joys of these last eight years on my own has been getting to welcome each new year in exactly the way I want.
It’s only in the last few years I’ve truly accepted that this really is how I am. For the longest time I thought my lack of sociability meant there must be something fundamentally wrong with me. My twenties were a blur of college, first jobs, relationships and trying my best to be the extrovert I thought I was supposed to be. I tried, I really did, but it was exhausting. And then another party invite would arrive and we’d go but I’d spend the whole time wishing I was at home. Now I understand how introverts and extroverts work my twenties and early 30s make so much more sense to me. Honestly, this stuff ought to be taught in school — how much easier would life be if we understood how we processed the world right out the gate? Rather than being made to feel we’re boring or strange for liking — sometimes preferring — our alone time.
I’m pondering all of this because this introvert is preparing to put herself back out into the land of dating. I’m remembering my previous attempts at on-line dating and wondering if there are any guys out there who don’t need to have the Biggest Night Evah on New Year’s Eve. Eighty percent of me would rather stay at home than go on what is basically a blind date. I like it here! It’s calm and soothing and all my favourite things are around me. After the rocky start to the new year I’m in a good place, emotionally, so why would I want to risk that? But then there’s this pesky twenty percent….. the part of me that misses the kind of companionship where you can be alone together, quite happily, on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The kisses, the love, the building-a-future-together. The delicious stuff that requires another person be in the same room as you…
It’s time to leave the hermitage.
It’s my 40th birthday today. Entering a new decade of my life feels like a big deal, and while I feel exactly the same as I did yesterday, there’s something bubbling in me — the no more rules I mentioned last week. Forty sounds really thoroughly grown-up and I like it.
Rather than compiling a list of things to do before I turn 41, I spent a leisurely few hours this afternoon putting together 40 lessons I’ve sussed out in the last 40 years. Sidenote: I only wanted to do things I love today, and blogging was definitely on the list. Still so grateful to have this space to play in. Happy Nutella Day!
40 LESSONS FROM 40 YEARS
1. Your relationship with your self is the most important relationship you’ll ever have. It forms the basis for every other relationship in your life, making you the mother, sister, partner and friend that you are.
2. On that note, there is nothing wrong with being ‘self-centered’. I’m a firm believer in putting your oxygen mask on first. If you can’t breathe you’re no use to anyone else. That doesn’t mean ignore everybody else — just don’t ignore you.
3. Only shop in shops with flattering lights in their fitting rooms. Life is too short to look like shit when shopping for a new bra.
4. Find the type of words you like to read. Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction, self-help, instruction manuals or comics — just find the pages you can’t wait to turn.
5. Anything anyone says about you or does to you is about them not you 99% of the time.
6. Invest some cash in a really fabulous handbag (men: find a really cool wallet) so no matter what you wear, you always looked pulled together. Ditto a good pair of boots.
7. Speaking of wallets, I bought a Fendi wallet 10 years ago. I’ve used it every day since and it still looks new = best £150 I’ve ever spent.
8. Take photographs every single day. Snap the things that catch your eye, the faces you love and the moments you want to remember. Records the bits of your day that you might forget — in years to come you’ll love this glimpse into your routine.
9. Play with digital and film. iPhones and Hasselblads. Canon and Nikon. Try everything to decide which translates your eye best. Learn a few rules so you know how to break them.
10. Always ALWAYS buy free-range eggs. Preferably organic if you can.
11. Figure yourself out. Investigate the Enneagram. Do the Myers-Briggs test. Get your tarot cards done. Get curious about yourself. Unravel!
12. On the other side of that, don’t bother drinking anyone else’s kool aid. Make your own concoction instead — it’ll always taste better.
13. Make the effort to protect your leather bags and boots with leather gel. Trust me on this.
14. Start a collection. It doesn’t matter what it is — buttons, cameras, art, first editions, model cars, retro lamp shades. When you collect something you’re more likely to keep your eyes open when you’re out & about in the world. You never know when you’ll find a treasure — life becomes a treasure hunt.
15. Learn how to enjoy your own company. Go on dates with yourself often. Watch this again for ideas.
16. Investigate poetry. Poems are like awesome word snacks that nourish your brain. Find the poets who transcribe your experience of the world. Then look for the ones who show you another side of life entirely.
17. Find the music that makes you get up and dance. Play it often, especially when you’re on your own.
18. If you’re self-employed, put aside more money for tax than you think you’ll need. I always save 40% of everything I earn. If your tax bill comes to less at the end of the year you’ll have a nice little nest egg to play with or enough to cover any earnings you “forgot” to save tax for. Either way you can’t lose and you’ll sleep better at night.
19. Everybody should get at least six months of therapy. It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make in yourself.
20. “I believe that by being the best and most healed version of ourselves we can truly make a difference in the world. I’m not an activist or politician, and I’m not able to have any direct impact on the areas of the world where help is needed. But what I can do is make a difference in the small pocket of the world I call home. I can live with integrity and be honest about my feelings, even when they hurt. I can put my whole heart into my work and pay forward the generosity that was shown to me when my world fell apart. I can look after myself, knowing that by healing my own hurts I won’t be passing them on to anyone else. In a society like ours, filled with so many emotionally wounded people acting out their pain, this is possibly the most important work we could ever do—heal our hurts so we don’t pass them on.” From This I Know, page 271.
21. Slow down. Take a breath. Look again.
22. Your senses are the way back into the present moment. What can you smell right now? What do you see? What’s touching your skin? What tastes do you want to experience today? What can you hear? Pay attention. Give yourself over to this moment, right now.
23. Writing a book is exactly as hard as you think it will be. But it’s not impossible. Not at all.
24. Sharing your heart with people will make you feel vulnerable at times — most of the time, in fact — but it will help you feel less alone when you see that others feel the same. By hiding the truth about how we feel we isolate ourselves.
25. The camera is only a tool — it’s your eye that really matters.
26. You can’t THINK your way out of depression. If you’re an over-thinker like me you will try very hard to do this but it won’t work. Explore all paths to find your way through the storm. Be gentle with yourself.
25. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs, and it will tell you what it doesn’t need, too.
26. Try to remember that everybody is doing their best with the tools they have and life experiences they’ve had. You never know what happened that morning, that day, that month or that year. You never know when somebody is putting a brave face on something that’s making them crumble inside. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
27. “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” – Iris Murdoch
28. Kill your expectations and assumptions. They are such a phenomenal waste of time. Most of the disappointments in my life were the result of expectations and assumptions. Keeping these in check is a life-long practice.
29. You can’t change anyone, no matter how much you want to. But you can lead by example. You can inspire them to want to change.
30. Celebrate your sensuality. Take hot scented baths and sunbathe nude in your garden. Buy lingerie that delights you and wear more silk. Take pleasure in your body.
31. If, like me, you can’t wear wool (itchy nightmare!) invest in a cashmere sweater every couple of years. If you look after them properly these babies will just get softer and softer and keep you warm for years to come. I like Brora.
32. Breathe in the sea air every chance you get.
33. It’s okay to protect yourself from the people who trigger you. Unsubscribe. Unfollow. Avoid. Make your excuses. Sometimes we just have to protect our hearts, and if there’s someone who makes you feel crap you don’t have to let them into your world.
34. Having said that, be sure to look at WHY they trigger you once you’ve filtered them out of your day-to-day. We can learn a lot from feeling uncomfortable — what’s the bigger message here?
35. When you look in the mirror, try smiling at yourself. Especially first thing in the morning.
36. Show yourself a little kindness every day. Find ten minutes to read a chapter. Listen to your favourite song in the car. Savour a cup of coffee in the garden. Lock yourself in the bathroom and do yoga on the floor. Whatever it takes.
37. Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts. Make lists. Draw mind maps. Stick in pictures that make you dream. Write when you feel inspired. Write when you feel sad. Write when you want to remember. Write when you don’t know. Just write it out.
38. Believe in something. Whether it’s science, nature, god, spirit, kindness, gratitude, politics, the universe, atoms or love, believe in something.
39. Believe in yourself. There’s nobody else in the entire world like you.
40. Go gently.
I’m obsessed wth my skin at the moment. This is one part impending 40th birthday to two-parts finally making a tattoo appointment. I’ve always had a fairly balanced complexion. I still get the occasional (usually hormonal) spot and have a few fine lines, but the wrinkles have yet to take over. Definitely getting a bit jowly, but smiling sorts that out
for now. I regularly get told I look younger than I am, and believe me when I say I don’t take that for granted AT ALL. Hating hearing it in my 20s but loving hearing it now, obviously.
But my skin has been changing. This is the first winter I’ve really noticed the effects of the central-heating-cold-weather dynamic on my skin — can you say dehydration? I’ve been slathering on richer creams and oils and using thicker, creamier cleansers. Suddenly the potions* I choose cost three times what I used to spend — I want organic, clean, super-duper products to help me make the most of what i have, while I still have it. After a lifetime of combination skin, this new dryness is something I’ve had to figure out how to tackle. I spent my entire teenage leafing through beauty books and making face scrubs from oatmeal + yoghurt (thanks for that tip Victoria Principal) so I thought I had my skincare routine down, but it turns out your skin really does change over time (I know, right? Victoria wasn’t lying!)
I’m a little bit ashamed to admit I’ve purchased four eye creams over the last month or so, desperately trying to find the answer to the eye bags that have taken up residence on my face. This time last year they weren’t there and it’s been a shock to see such a fast change happen in real time. If I’m standing in the right light I can still take an Instagram vanity selfie that magically smoothes out the bags (see above) but in real life those suckers refuse to shift. I want to get to a place where I accept and love these changes in my appearance… but I’m not there yet, not quite.
I don’t believe in overpriced anti-wrinkle creams — rather, I believe in a sensible skincare routine, lots of water and daily SPF application. I’ve inherited my paternal grandmother’s complexion and she used soap, water and Oil of Ulay (as it was called then) every day; if I close my eyes I can still smell that scented pink lotion that will forever remind me of her. I know that genetics and bone structure play a big part in how we age over time, and I do my best to put good food into my body in the hope that i’ll see the results on my skin as well as my general health. Like most women I take pleasure in painting my toenails, wearing clothes that flatter my figure and adorning myself with jewellery — appearance is a key part of my identity as a woman. It’s creative and occasionally *whispers* fun. But what’s most interesting about this time in my life is how I really do feel myself moving into a different category. I’m sensing that my 40s will bring more changes than just the ones I see on my face.
One thing my grandmother didn’t have — and I’m sure never even considered — were tattoos on her porcelain English skin.
This morning I was fascinated to read a post I’d written about my tattoos back in 2006, sharing how I regretted the blue lily I have on my arm:
“The thing is, I have always been, and will continue to be, the girl with the tattoos. When I worked at a national newspaper, this was how most of my colleagues identified me. Admittedly most of the time I cover my arms and no one is any the wiser (the tattoo is covered by the sleeve of a T-shirt, thank god) but I still get those looks, the looks that see the tattoos first and make an assumption. Even I look at women with tattoos and make an assumption. I’m not a particularly conservative person, so the tattoos are not at odds with how I live my life, but they certainly make me look more extroverted than I really am.”
The assumption that I am more extroverted is still true, but I’m a little amazed at how my thoughts about my tattoos have changed in the last seven years. Me-then still had a lot of unravelling to do. Me-then was still measuring herself by the rules she’d followed in her 20s. Me-then seems scared and uptight to me.
Me-now? She wants ALL the tattoos. Don’t like the blue lily? Rather than try to remove it I plan to find a tattoo artist whose artistic brilliance makes my heart thump and transfom the lily into something new. Something bigger. Something that reflects the woman I am today. Bigger, bolder, eye-bags be damned! This is what I can control. This is where I can be creative and daring and adorn myself in a way that means something to me.
When I told my mum I was planning a new tattoo for my 40th, she said: “But what’s it going to look like when you’re older?” And without missing a beat I said, “I AM older!” [I know you're reading this -- I love you, mum :)] On the one hand I wish I’d had more done when I was younger and skinnier, but this really is the youngest I’m ever going to be. There was a moment a few years back when I started wearing clothes that covered me more than was necessary — I was hiding myself, not wanting to be seen. And I don’t know if it’s the London energy seeping back into my bones, but I really don’t want to hide anymore. And persuing my fascination for permanent skin adornment is making me feel more excited than I have in some time. It feels delicious and sacred (something my friend Jo understands too – read this post) and more me-now than ever. Plus I have fantasies of being this woman in my dotage ;-)
So I’ve been planning the new ink for some months now. First will be the tattoo marking my fortieth year — that’s happening at the end of February and has an inspiring story around it, if you’d like me share after it’s done — and then the transformation of the blue lily will take place later in the year. It’s time to write a new story on my skin.**
As you may have guessed, I’m entering my 40s with a fuck it attitude, the one I’ve always had in me multiplied by a thousand. I suddenly sense there are no more rules — I can eat what I want, do what I want and really — finally — bite into my life and really savour it. I’m all grown up and don’t have to answer to anyone. It feels heady and liberating. I understand why some
men people fall into a mid-life crisis when they hit their forties — you certainly become more aware of your mortality with every new grey hair — but I feel fully conscious around all of this. I feel like I now have permission to just be ME.
So often I get caught up in the ghostly reflection of how I used to look, measuring it against what’s in the mirror today. But then I think of my new mantra — today is the youngest I will ever be — and I try to trust that I will learn to accept my eye bags and my lines, and later my wrinkles and my sags. And I promise myself I will not waste a moment of this life
There are no more rules.
* Because I know some of you might want to know, I’m currently using and loving Antipodes, REN and Eve Lom products. Not cheap but bloody good, in my very humble opinion
** My mum and sister have offered to pay for the first tattoo as my 40th birthday present from them, which I LOVE so much. One of my most treasured possesions is the ring they bought me for my 30th birthday. Now I’ll have another reminder of my beloveds on me at all times. LOVE.