Panning for gold

I’ve joined a couple of dating sites. It’s been a year since my last (rather botched) attempt at online dating, and while it isn’t my first choice of how I’d like to meet the right guy, it’s my signal to the universe that i’m open to moving into the next stage of my life. You’ve got to be in it to win it, right?

Of course, lately I’ve been feeling increasingly content with how things are. I’m in love with my little flat and so happy I made the move to this part of London. Work is bubbling along, and I’ve got some big plans for 2014 that I feel ready to tackle. I see my friends and family enough to feel connected and loved but not so much as to feel overwhelmed — i’m happiest in my own company, and more importantly, I’m okay with that! I’ve been having actual conversations in my journal about whether I really want to “give up” all this calm contentment for the potential rollercoaster of a relationship. But the wiser more evolved part of me knows that there’s so much more I could learn about myself in relationship to/with another. That being on my own for the last eight years has been the most empowering period of my life, and now it’s time to see what other magic can be made walking the path alongside another person.

The naughtier less evolved side of me knows that when i’m lying in bed alongside my beloved after not a single wink of sleep all night, I’ll be smiling and thinking “giving up” the calm contentment was totally worth it. This girl cannot survive on bread and water for another eight years, let’s put it that way.

So I’ve pinned the available sign on my door and so far it’s been what I was expecting. Several messages from twentysomething guys asking if i’m up for “a bit of fun”. A handful of messages from gentlemen who were clearly absent the day they taught punctuation at school (no judgement there, just the acknowledgement that these things matter to me). A note from a man who seemed polite in his message but upon reading his profile i discovered he was The Angriest Man in the World. I’ve read profiles written by married men openly admitting they are looking for affairs. There was a guy fishing for a BDSM partner. A cross dresser. And several rugby team’s worth of blokes who are “easy-going and laid back”, like to eat out at restaurants and whose favourite film is The Shawshank Redemption.

I’ve also had a peek at some of the ladies in my age group — interestingly, i thought all of them looked lovely.  I could see the beauty in every single photo I saw. We girls certainly know how to a) pick a nice photo and b) make the best of ourselves (the majority of the boys, however, look like serial killers. What is it with blokes and photos?) I’m happy to report that I didn’t feel any competition with the women on the site — it was just reassuring to see i’m not the only single 40-year-old out there. Part of me actually wanted to write to them and suggest they check out some of the nicer guys I’ve spotted. I think I may have missed my calling as a matchmaker.

It’s far too early to know if this is going to be a successful mission and I know I’m going to have to pan through a lot of silt to find the gold, so I’ve signed up for six months with the intention of staying open and not taking it too seriously. The right guy for me might not be on the site(s) yet. In fact, he may never be and we’ll bump into each other outside my local supermarket. Who knows? What I do know is so many of my friends have found love this way it would be silly not to at least give it another try.

There’ll definitely be a few more dating posts in the future as frankly, some of the messages i’m getting are just too hilarious not to share :)

Coming up for air

I’ve been deep in the creation cave for the last six weeks and as my journalling course draws to an end this week I’m finally peeking outside and reflecting on all that’s gone down. It’s been intense, people. INTENSE. I’ve chalked up about 25,000 words for this course which is half the length of my book, so it’s no wonder my RSI has flared up and I’m feeling rather drained. But oh, it’s been glorious too! Periods of such intense creative work may take me away from this blog (and I’ve missed you so much, I’ve been counting down the days till I could write here again) but it also opens up my brain to new ideas and connections. While I’ve been birthing Journal Your Life I’ve had so many ideas for new courses, new possibilities, new directions I want to take. I’ve had a new book idea. I’ve dreamt up a line of products I want to create — actual physical things to send out into the world. I’ve had new ideas for my magazine column (hello Simple Things, I’m looking at you). And I’ve been plotting some deliciousness to celebrate my book’s one year anniversary in June (you’re going to love it :) So while being in the creation cave is full-on, it’s also incredibly fertile.

It’s important to me to create a new course in real time. I have the structure and content plotted out beforehand and get the first two weeks written before the class starts. But I like to create the rest of the course as we go along so I can listen to feedback and do the exercises right alongside everyone else. This is what makes the course come alive. Once or twice I’ll hit a day when I’m not sure I have anything to say, so that’s when I go out for a walk with my notebook to get some new perspective. And sure enough the lesson gets downloaded into my brain and I know what I’m going to write. Every time I run a course it gets tweaked and perfected as there are always new insights to add and better ways to share information. That’s why i love to run these classes — they change and evolve just like we do.

I am so proud of Journal Your Life, and as I said to my peeps in a video last week, I could so easily keep writing this baby. It’s made me realise that at some point in the not-too-distant future I’d like to create a much longer course or program. Six or eight weeks is great for an intense journey into a topic, but I can see how beneficial a three or six-month program would be, taking you so much deeper into the material with breathing space woven throughout. I’m working on it…

When I entered the cave it was winter outside my doorstep, but now I see that spring has finally — miraculously — arrived in Londontown. I have ideas blossoming and stories I want to share here. It feels so good to be back xo

Self-care in the Real World

Self-care in the Real World |


“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” – Iris Murdoch’s protagonist in The Sea, The Sea

The quote above was number 27 on my list of 40 lessons learned in 40 years — I like it so much it’s even mentioned in my book. I’m a passionate believer in the wisdom of giving oneself regular small treats. It ties into my philosophy of showing myself kindness whenever I can. Because I’ve spent a lot of my life being decidedly UNkind to myself. Honestly, no one could ever say anything meaner to me than some of the rubbish I’ve told myself — still tell myself, on the bad days. But these days I try to do better by myself. I consciously try to be kinder. And it starts with the many layers of self-care.

The first layer: the quick fix

I have a tendency to spoil myself as if I were my own overly indulgent relative. If I want an almond latte I go get an almond latte. I spend an absolute fortune on books. I buy myself flowers and scented candles occasionally. I own a ridiculous amount of perfume. On really icky days I get out the big guns: new Spotify playlists (hours of fun!).

I know I buy myself presents to make up for the fact that I’m single (“I haven’t had sex in *cough* a long time — I deserve this Diptyque candle!”) When I’m no longer single I’m sure there’ll be other reasons to justify the presents. Self-care that involves spending money in this way is more of a quick fix, though one that’s certainly pleasurable in the moment. And I’m okay with the occasional quick fix — it always brightens my day.

The second layer: the reactive

The next layer of self-care is responding to how I’m feeling at any given time with a kind action. Sometimes I worry this type of self-care is simply laziness. When I stay in bed an hour longer… when I go to bed an hour earlier. When I take a long bath instead of dealing with my inbox. When I give in to the mid-afternoon chocolate craving… it crosses my mind that I’m far too lenient with myself, because somewhere inside me is this twisted notion that Hard Work is the only way (and this applies to everything, not just paid work). But experience has taught me that it’s better to attend to my needs rather than push through and ignore them. This means that if I wake up with a headache I’ll do the bare minimum needed in the morning then let myself have the afternoon on the sofa. If I’m feeling upset about something I’ll be extra gentle with myself, doing whatever I need to work through the issue (phone my sister, go for a walk, journal); often I just need to get out of the house and reset my brain.

The third layer: the self-investment

This last layer takes a bit more effort but the benefits will be felt for years to come. At the moment my biggest self-investments are my weekly sessions with a therapist, my gym membership (I’ve been 3 times, people! I’m going to make this happen!), and going back on antidepressants. I view all of these as the absolute best way I can take care of myself right now. Working with my therapist gives me space to unravel my head; going to the gym will eventually bring health and stamina (I hate going but the smug feeling afterwards is worth it); and the tablets are helping to bring me back up to the surface so I can function in this world like a normal person.

At this time in my life I am my own biggest responsibility which means I have the time and income to invest in self-care, but even when my circumstances change I hope I’ll be able to maintain this practice of attending to my needs — I know it makes me a more considerate sister, daughter and friend. To me, self-care is really self-kindness, and I find the more self-aware I become the more I recognise what I need. In my twenties and early 30s I was less clued in to how I felt, and as a result my self-care rarely went deeper than the first layer. These days my deepest desire is to feel calm, balanced and safe: my three layers of self-care help me get closer to this.


Cards in the photo: Intuitive Wisdom Oracle Cards and The Greenwood Tarot (now out of print)

On reflection

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.