19 for 2019

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my 19 for 19 goals.  Inspired by the ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’ podcast, I decided instead of New Years resolutions I would instead set myself some goals for the year.  These are by no means all my aims in life as I can’t afford to do everything I want to do this year.  But I have put some in there that will cost me money, some that will cost me nothing but time, some that will be hard work, and some to bond with family and friends.  So I hope there’s a good challenge that’s doable, but enough to keep me going and feel like I’ve achieved something by the end of the year.

 

So here are my 19 for 19:-

 

Night away child-free with A

We went abroad last year and I found it a massive guilt-trip to be away from the children for so long and so far away, yet I don’t want to not have a child-free break this year.  So I’ve opted for one night, maybe in the Lake District, to just relax, have a nice meal and see some sights.

 

Get the girls in their own bedrooms

The girls are desperate for their own space, but it’s going to be a massive expense and amount of work to move the boiler out of their playroom and plaster where it once was, re-lay new carpets, decorate, furnish and do all the other work involved in converting the playroom.  But it’s definitely something that HAS to happen this year, so it’s on the list to motivate me to get started.

 

Clear the loft

We’ve never used a loft until this house and having kids, and it’s quickly accumulated stuff.  I don’t want it to get to the state of my parents’ loft with a lifetime of hoarding, so I’m clearing it this year as much as I possibly can.

 

Complete my happiness project

I was so inspired by the book ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin (I know; a bit of a theme going here) that I wanted to take the 19 for 19 further and really focus on areas of my life throughout the year.  I wrote about it further in my blog post ‘Bring on 2019’, but I’m excited to get started on new ideas to improve my life as it is.

 

Have a gong bath

I can’t wait for this and it’s already booked for this Wednesday.  Now I’m not presently sure how it all works, but I know I won’t be sitting in any sort of bath, as my friends envisaged.  It’s a very relaxing experience where we lay on the floor, all comfy with pillows and blankets, whilst emersed in the sound of gongs chiming.  I’ll be able to write more after the event, but I’m totally intrigued by it.  And as the lying down under a blanket bit is my favourite bit of yoga, I thought why not do a whole session of it as a treat!

 

Get my spends out of the red

I’ve done it before but I need a little focus again, and putting it on the list may just stop me from wasting money on junk food and all the other unnecessary spends that keep me in the red.

 

Get M swimming with 1:1 lessons

Poor M has a perforated ear drum, and at 4 years old isn’t allowed to swim in case it causes further ear infections.  But at present it won’t be operated on and fixed until she’s about 11, so I want to push for an ear guard to be made to enable her to start swimming.  Once I feel her ear is a bit more protected I want to invest in 1:1 lessons so she can catch up to what stage she would have been at had this not happened to her.

 

Get the girls photographed in my wedding dress

People think I’m mad to want to get rid of my wedding dress, but it’s pointless keeping it in my eyes.  That said I want to do something special with it, so my plan is to have the girls photographed in it before I donate it to a charity that will very skillfully and careful re-sew it into burial gowns for stillborn babies.  I can’t think of a more special thing to do with my wedding dress, so my aim for this year is to get the photographs done.  Then it will be on my 20 for 20 list to get it professionally cleaned and donated. 

 

Knock down the shed

Another job I’ve been putting off, but now it’s on the list I’m more motivated to get it done!

 

Trip to London

I like to go several times a year, but for some reason we didn’t make it to London last year at all.  It’s one of my favourite places, and whether I go on my own or with friends I’m wanting to go in May and just soak up the atmosphere and revisit my favourite haunts.

 

Climb Kinder Scout

Now I really wanted to do a longer hike, something like 70 miles over 3 days, or another challenge I’ve wanted to do for ages that is 40 miles to be completed between midnight and midnight.  But for this year I will have to settle for just climbing this local mountain.  The only reason I’m not going for a bigger challenge is money and knowing I have no-one in my life right now that is up for that challenge.  But Kinder Scout is doable in a day at about 18 miles on the route I want to do.  I walk every week, but I want the kind of challenge that’s going to turn my legs to jelly for a couple of days after, and this is definitely it.

 

Go camping with K and the boys

I desperately want to take all the kids camping.  I’ve done a few trips on my own with the girls, but this year I want to take my sister and my 2 nephews too.  They’ve never really camped further than their back yard, and I have a fabulous plan to take the kids crabbing off a pier in Anglesey and then set up camp on a site with a private beach just inland Wales overlooking the Irish sea.  The hope is we can toast marshmallows on an open fire on the beach and watch an amazing sunset.  If I only do one camping trip this year that’s the one I want to do, and I know the boys will just love it!

 

Start going for coffee on my own

This is quite daunting for me, but I like the idea of sitting in a café with my laptop and getting to the stage where I don’t feel self-conscious. 

 

Sort photos and make albums for the girls and fill frames in the house

This is a mammoth task, and just downloading the latest photos from my phone took me most of Sunday morning.  I have somewhere in the region of 35,000 photos to go through and organise.  And from those photos I want to make some photo albums of happy memories for the girls as they love flicking through photo albums, and I need a broader range of frames filled in my house as I haven’t updated most since the girls were tiny.  I’m chipping away at this task every day and am determined to keep my photos under control this year!

 

Paint the kitchen ceiling

Yawn!  Another task that needs doing that I’m hoping I’ll be motivated to do now it’s on my list

 

Read a proper book with M

I really want to get M reading more as in the past when she’s found a book she loves she can’t put it down.  But unfortunately the material school send her home with has just knocked any enthusiasm out of her.  M is a rebel child (more to follow on this in a future post) so I have to handle this carefully as buying her a book and saying I want to read it with her will make her do the opposite.  But she has dreams currently to be an author and I would love for her to find the same enjoyment and inspiration in books that I have.  Life is perfect when I have an inspirational book to read, and I’m hoping we can spark that same enjoyment in her too.

 

Clear my credit cards

A massive source of anxiety for me as we went massively over-budget on an extension 4 years ago, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, and had no choice but to put the remaining £16,000 on credit cards and loans.  We’ve been chipping away and balance transferring for all this time, but the end is in sight and this is the year I’m determined to have those credit card debts gone.  We’ve never overly lived off credit, and it’s been a really difficult way to live for us.  But it’s something that was unavoidable and has been a great lesson in gratitude for living the debt-free life we used to, and that I’m determined we can get back to.

 

Do a life coaching course

I’ve already started on this one too and have bought and started a life coaching course.  What I’ll do with it I’m not sure, but I know it will be a great skill just as a friend, parent and partner to have life coaching skills.

 

And lastly…

Book a yoga retreat

Now I may not have the money to attend this in 2019, especially if I want my spends out of the red, but all I have to do is book it for it to get ticked off the list.  I’m thinking of the Lake District again, but I know I want to meet interesting people and do lots of hiking, lots of yoga and meditation, have a complete break and eat some beautifully healthy food.  It will be a massive achievement to go on holiday on my own and put myself in that social situation, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. 

 

So that’s all my tasks for this year.  And while it seems like a lot, I think it’s all doable, but enough to keep my mind occupied and life exciting.  And that’s what’s going to distract me from all the stuff that used to weigh down on my mind.  So I’m excited and motivated to get started.

 

Have you set any resolutions for the new year?  Do we even need to start at the new year?  Surely we can just pick up a pen and paper and plan a bucket list any time we want.  And does it even work for you to have a tick list, or do you have another way to motivate yourself to do things? 

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Thank You 2018!

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As we approach the end of 2018 I can genuinely look back on the last year as a real turning point in my life.  It was the year that I finally realised a lot of things that have been repeating lessons throughout my life.  They say if you don’t learn the lessons you’re supposed to they will keep appearing throughout your lifetime in different forms.  My life lessons, I am convinced, are to do with relationships with people, feeling lonely, and not being dependent on other people to help me find happiness. 

 

2 years ago one of my closest friends became very controlling, and when I wouldn’t do as she told me to she took it upon herself to spread lies about me.  If I wasn’t with her I was against her, in her eyes.  I laughed it off at first, but when those lies subsequently impacted my life and my family it felt like my world had fallen apart.  I felt like I lost everything as my whole friendship group at the time either believed her, didn’t even defend me or question the lies, or worse still admitted they knew she was lying but said they didn’t want to cross her themselves.  I sunk into a deep depression fueled by loneliness, humiliation and absolutely destroyed self-esteem.  Everything I’d known, the people I spoke to daily and confided everything about my life in, my social life, the people my children thought of as family; all just gone.  And I had to not only get through the depression it brought on, but I had to then pick myself up and go through a massive period of anxiety and loneliness and literally survive that day by day while working, running a family and dealing with the side-effects of the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs I had eagerly sought out as a quick fix.  But from that whole episode I eventually grew.  And now I look back I realise these type of situations have presented themselves throughout my life, albeit in much less damaging forms; but all the same I never took note.  Then finally the universe could take no more of me bypassing and dodging the lessons laid out for me, and it slapped me round the face and screamed, “Wake up once and for all and sort yourself out!”  So these are the lessons I have learnt in 2018 that have made me a better person, and in some cases proud of the person I’ve grown into and how I’ve dealt with my knocks:-

 

Don’t over invest yourself in people – find a balance.

I was that person that never said no to an invite, that took it upon myself to be the person to fix someone when they fell apart, that had other people and their problems on my mind all the time.  I invested everything in my friends, thinking that’s what would lead to happiness, to have a group of people, a family I’d sought out myself, that would in turn pick me up when I needed them.  During my worst days none of those people were there, nor did they care.  And as a result of having to deal with that reality I have much more of a balance now in my relationships.  I don’t invest everything in one group of friends.  I don’t even invest all my friendships in this little village that I live in.  I purposely spread myself around and say no to some things that don’t serve me, knowing I don’t need to fear losing that relationship if they’re real friends.  I also have a better mix of friends from all walks of life now.  I don’t ignore the friends that are hard to pin down in exchange for the friendships that are easy and always available 24-7.  But most importantly I’ve not let my previous bad experiences of friendship scar me.  I will still be there for people if they need me.  I just accept that I can offer help and then leave them to it.  I don’t worry as much about people, but I’m still going to be there if they ask me themselves for help.

 

Keep your dignity at all times.  Even if it doesn’t get you anywhere, you can at least live with your conscience.

When everything fell apart I was well aware of who had been told what and by whom, but I refused to follow that person around correcting my side of the story.  I’ve never told mutual friends what to believe or even what actually happened.  And some people that know the truth think I’m absolutely mad and that I should have forwarded text messages proving my innocence to people that didn’t believe in me.  But I stood by what felt right to me, and not only did I feel it was better to lose anybody that listened to someone else’s lies, but I also recognised if I could influence them too they really weren’t worth having in my life.  And that was hard because when you’re at your loneliest it’s challenging not to accept the dregs of life and have some crappy two-faced friends over absolutely nobody at all.  But I stood firm and lost everything to start from scratch with the hope of a better tribe one day.  And even when other people came to me eventually saying they’d experienced the same issues with this girl, I secretly jumped for joy inside, but refrained from spilling out my whole story and instead just said, “Yes, that’s what I experienced with her too.”  And it felt so much better for this girl to have had her comeuppance from genuinely continuing her behaviour than for me to spread rumours back about her and influencing events myself. 

 

Sometimes people disappoint you, but maybe they were only here to set you on a path, not to be with you on your whole journey.

I believe in forgiveness if only to free myself, but I’ve learnt to forgive from afar.  I believe that whilst I was better keeping away from these people, that they were an integral part in my growth and have genuinely put me into a situation that has ultimately made me a better person.  I now know my values, I am very aware of my own intentions, and I know what kind of person I want to be and what I want to surround myself with.  So many people go through life in a dream, just following their emotions and never questioning their own or other people’s behaviour accurately, if at all.  I feel fully awake to life now, and for that I am very grateful for everything that happened.  In fact when I look back I would hate to have continued in that bubble of thinking I was surrounded by good people that were genuine friends.  I’m grateful for that period of depression and loneliness because it taught me to value genuine people and to value the time I now have in my own company.  In fact when I realised being alone wasn’t the thing I feared it was, and that was a real game changer.

 

There’s no right or wrong way to deal with a situation, as long as you learn lessons from it you’ve done the right thing.

There were so many different ways I could have dealt with the situation I ended up in.  But there’s no point in thinking, “What if I’d just done what she’d told me? What if I’d have defended myself more?  What if I’d have turned a blind eye to the friends that let me down and pretended I’d not seen or heard their behaviour?”  I actually truly believe I would have ended up in the exact same position, just maybe years later, because that was what I was always destined to deal with.  So there’s no point in going over ‘what ifs’.  I need to just deal with where I am today, because today is all there really is.

 

Most things people do is out of a need to be loved, even if their actions hurt people.  If needs be, give them the love back from afar, but forgive and hope they find the love they’re seeking whilst you move on to better things.

This was a real important lesson in forgiveness.  I sat one night and focused on losing the hate and anger, and I meditated on the sad stories I really knew of these girls and their backgrounds.  I thought about the girl who started it that was so desperate to be liked because she’d never been liked throughout school and work.  She’d found people she could influence and mistook their fear and her power for popularity.  It was making her feel big right now, but there was a girl underneath all that that was terrified of going back to being unaccepted by people.  I thought about the friends that turned a blind eye because they too were so terrified of not being part of a gang that they were scared to experience life without it.  Their fear of not having any friends, no matter what they were like, outweighed any values they may have.  And that fear must be terrible to be able to see someone purposely hurt another person and not have the courage to do something about it.  I thought of the people that believed every word they heard because they can’t think for themselves and have subsequently lost a good friend in me for being so easily led.  All these people have their own issues to different degrees and are having their lives dictated by those issues.  They’re desperately battling their own fears and behaving in a way that they think will protect their own happiness.  But their issues will come and bite them one day, and they will have that slap round the face that I had for ignoring an opportunity themselves to grow and be a better person.  Most of us would take the easy option if we could, especially to avoid any sort of hurt or unhappiness.  But I’m very grateful I’ve been through my slap round the face and come out the other side. 

 

If you’ve tried and tried with a person and it doesn’t feel good, move on.

The ultimate lesson; that not everyone is meant to be in our lives.  And part of working out if people are worth fighting for is in knowing when to let go.  Everyone makes mistakes and everyone should have an opportunity to correct their behaviour if it’s hurting others.  But if they can’t even see, or don’t even care if they’re causing hurt to another person, then it’s absolutely okay to walk away knowing that you at least tried to make it work. 

 

So I’m actually looking forward to going into 2019 to continue putting a lot of my lessons into practice.  What has this year taught you?  Have you had a life lesson that you’ve beaten and grown from?  Or are you even aware what your life lessons may be?  Whatever your situation, and wherever you are in life, I hope 2019 is a year of positivity and happiness for you all.

How I’ll be Beating the Loneliness This Christmas

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This week I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas, and not in a particularly good way.  You see I am surrounded by Christmas activity, hyperactive children asking me every 5 minutes how many sleeps until Santa comes, everything done, boxed off, wrapped and organised, with nothing left to do but enjoy the time with my little family.  But for some reason Christmas always brings me a lot of sadness.

 

I’ve always been an empathetic person, and I’m super aware of so many people out there that are suffering at Christmas.  I think of the people that have lost someone and how Christmas highlights their empty seat at the dinner table.  I think of people that are homeless, children without their families, people that have to work while their families celebrate without them.  And my heart breaks for split families packing their children off maybe on alternate years to spend Christmas with their ex and possibly a new family.  I really, REALLY feel for anyone feeling any sort of loneliness or sadness at Christmas.

 

But I have to ask myself why I feel this way at Christmas myself when on paper I have everything I should have.  I feel it goes beyond just being an empath, and I think the sadness originates from a sense of loneliness.  And it’s not loneliness as in I am sat in my house completely on my own.  It is a feeling that I’m cut off.  It’s dark and cold outside.  Everyone is in their own homes; doors locked, curtains closed.  And everyone I would normally reach out to for a chat or a giggle is busy with their own families.  I feel I shouldn’t bother anyone until after Boxing Day really.  So there is just a sense of total isolation from anything outside of my own home.

 

I think we also build ourselves up to think that Christmas should be perfect.  I know I do.  I expect the children to be happy, to be so grateful for their gifts, to not fight with each other, to be entertained with their new toys ALL Christmas Day, to want to eat their Christmas dinner, to sit quietly and watch a Christmas movie all afternoon cuddled up together on the sofa; to basically live in a house of euphoria if only for that one day of the year.  It never ends up like that.  And I don’t know about anyone else, but there’s a feeling that in every other house but ours it really is like that and it’s just our Christmas that’s not lived up to my wild expectations!

 

But last Christmas was worse than ever and I found myself alone in my room reflecting on an awful year that I was glad to see the back of, feeling very alone on Christmas Eve as the children slept and my husband worked.  And knowing it was Christmas and I should be happy, just amplified that feeling of sadness.  I was no longer a child where nothing could touch me if I only had one more sleep until Santa came.  I was a grown woman alone in bed sobbing, grieving for times gone by that I would never have again, people that are still well and truly alive, but I would never see again.  And everything sad just seemed to feel ten times sadder at Christmas for me, as I’m sure it does for others.

 

So I had to ask myself how I was going to make sure I did not have another Christmas like last year.  And this year if those feelings do creep back in I’ve resolved to remember it is only one day I have to get through.  When I feel lonely I need to remember that we all touch so many people’s lives, more than we’ll ever know, and that I can never really be alone when there are so many more people out there to meet and ,or have impact my life.  But I do need to remember that I’m not going to meet those people or impact them on Christmas Day when we’re all tucked up in our own individual homes.  So I may as well enjoy the time away from the world and build myself up for the New Year, for new purposeful challenges.

 

There is of course then post-Christmas blues to deal with; the anticipation and build up over maybe many months for that one perfect day; and now it’s gone.  I’m going to use that time between Christmas and New Year to really journal and focus on what positive changes I want to make next year and what challenges I want to set myself.  I will be looking at my 19 for 19 list a lot of the ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’ podcast listeners are involved in, where I have basically created a bucket list of 19 things I want to achieve in 2019.  I have posted my list on Instagram and it is now pinned up on my wall for inspiration.  I am going to really start looking into booking things and planning where I can fit each task in.

 

So hibernation, appreciation of the solitude, and looking into personal growth are my tools for dealing with the loneliness of Christmas.  I will turn that down time into something productive; something to distract me and excite me for what’s to come.

 

I wish everyone reading a joyful Christmas, and for anyone out there that is affected by anything at this time of year I wish for you to find support and strength to make it through.  That can be such a massive achievement for some people, that I hope that strength kick starts your own journey of personal growth into 2019.  If we can survive sadness and loneliness at Christmas we can survive and grow from anything.  Give yourself credit for that achievement and turn those feelings into something positive in any way you can.   Sending much love.

Bring on 2019!

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Christmas has become overwhelming once again for me.  Not because I do my daily gold envelopes revealing Christmas activities for the kids, and not because I’ve stupidly succumbed to the Elf on the Shelf craze, but because of outside influences!  Christmas for me is about me and my family creating memories, so I don’t want the extra pressure from school in particular with their daily requests of donations and different activities that I need to prepare for or at least remember, work with its crazy hours so we can finish in time and all have Christmas off, except for the likes of me that have volunteered to still work over Christmas to keep the place ticking over, and the endless, “We must meet up before Christmas,” invites I’ve allowed myself to commit to.  All of these things I could have said no to, or slipped past a teacher pleading I’d not received the text, e-mail AND letter they’d sent.  But eager to please, as I always am, I’ve pushed myself too far once again! 

 

But next year is going to be different, because I’m going to get into healthier habits and reduce my stress.  I’m adamant it’s going to happen because I have a plan, as laid out to me in my new read ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin.

 

I first heard about this book from listening to the podcast ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’, a podcast that I’m sure was recommended in a book on happiness.  This is why I am such a strong believer in reading for personal development.  Every book I read leads me on a new path of discovery, and after listening to references to this book for months on the podcast I in turn went out and bought the book.

 

I am only a couple of chapters in, but already I understand the plan and have constructed my own version for me.  Gretchen’s own happiness project consisted of her splitting her year into twelve subjects to develop healthier habits in to promote happiness, and each subject to be split further into sub-projects.  So I have planned my 12 subjects for improved happiness as follows, and will update throughout next year:-

 

  • Thoughts
  • Eating and Exercise
  • Friendships
  • Marriage
  • Family Sleep and Routine
  • Life Purpose
  • Community
  • Creativity
  • Organisation
  • Adventure
  • Home
  • Meditation and Spirituality.

I don’t know what order I am going to put each subject in as yet.  I’m not ready to stop letting my adorable 4 year old climb into my bed in the middle of the night.  I do not have the energy to do the return to bed method at this stage of my life.  But I know realistically I can’t have her still doing it when she’s 18, and she shows no signs of sleeping through the night of her own accord!  I want to work on my home later in the year after some extensive work planned which will involve moving a boiler out of the playroom to become a second bedroom for my youngest so the girls no longer have to share a room.  They’ll lose their playroom in the process, but they’re desperate for their own space.  So until that work is done I don’t feel I can plan too much in my home.  But after the work I will have a lot of fun re-designing that space and planning the next stages of renovating our home.  I think community will come towards the end of the year as I am aware being part of a community is very important to mental well-being, but with the constant dramas at school between mums, and a close-knit village community that don’t always look after their own, I need to be in a different place mentally to tackle that one.  At the moment I feel the need to keep my head down and keep myself to myself, but as I build on my happiness throughout the year I hope I’ll feel ready to get back out into the community and find some projects to be involved in. 

 

But I’m going to start January with focusing on friendship, and I’ve split the subject into the following sub-projects to work on:-

 

  • EXPECTATIONS.  I know I fail massively with the expectations I put on my friends.  I think because I would do anything for them that they would do the same for me, and when they don’t it knocks my self-esteem and I question what I’m doing with these people.  As I quoted in a post recently on my Instagram ‘We all need a variety of friends with different qualities:- the friend we can ring at 2am with the drama keeping us awake, the friend that has our back no matter what, the friend that tells us the truth, the friend that makes us laugh.  No one person holds every quality, so know your tribe and value their individual qualities rather than pondering their flaws’.  So I want to start the New Year not putting those expectations on people and just taking them for who they are, and accepting whatever they want to contribute to the relationship.
  • CONTACT/ARRANGEMENTS.  I have lots of friends that I never get to see because we live far apart or we have different interests such as my football pass-holder friends that have commitments every weekend throughout the season.  And those are the people that I always intend to meet up with and then before you know it a year has gone by.  I want to really focus on having something in the diary with these friends, and if that’s not possible, to at least have regular contact.  Sometimes I avoid contact because I know I can’t see them for a good few months and I don’t want to get into that conversation of saying we can’t find a mutually convenient date.  But that shouldn’t stop me dropping them a text just to check how they are and keeping the lines of communication open.
  • PUTTING MYSELF OUT THERE.  I’ve been hurt, let down and screwed over badly by friends, and I know I’ve changed as a person and stopped being the organiser, or answering invites straight away, or just generally being the person that everyone knew of as being the one that would be up for an adventure.  It turned out that was the thing that annoyed a couple of people.  And while I know in my own mind that was down to their own jealousy and need to compare and feel inadequate because they didn’t have the time and/or money to keep up with me, I know I was doing nothing malicious, and there were people ten-fold that loved that part of me.  We all love the friend that’s not going to say no to a night out!  They build our self-esteem for a start!  So I need to go back to being that person and not questioning if someone is genuine or not, but if I like them invite them round for a coffee or a drink after the kids are in bed and build on relationships from there. 
  • SEEING THE GOOD IN PEOPLE.  This goes back to the point before.  I need to not tarnish everyone with my previous experience of one or two people.  I need to realise that not everyone has an agenda, an ulterior motive, or issues they’re going to push onto me, and just put myself back out there believing that everyone is a good, fun-loving, kind human-being until they prove me otherwise.
  • NOT BEING RELIANT ON PEOPLE.  When I had my children I fell into a very intense friendship group because we were going through the same thing at the same time, and I think we all felt our previous friends were at different stages of their lives and perhaps would be bored by our new priorities.  It was the worst thing I could have done.  I should have kept a variety of different people in my life.  Instead I was so involved with these 8 or so girls that we did everything together from daily activities with our kids, to even going on holiday.  And the conversation on our WhatsApp group was constant, to the point that everything in our lives went through that group.  The conversation did not stop all day and all night!  And when it all fell apart I was lost and realised I was now too scared to do anything on my own again.  I recently went into a bar and had a drink on my own just because I challenged myself to do it.  I was terrified, but I missed going for a quick drink while my daughter was in cheerleading class because I didn’t have those people to go with anymore.  I felt so self-conscious doing it, right up to the minute I left the bar, but I felt that once I’d done it I could do anything on my own.  And I think once I take the focus off people having to be with me to enable me to do an activity it will be a game-changer.

 

So they’re my challenges for January, the idea being that once I get used to these as the norm I start new challenges on new subjects each month.

 

So wish me luck because

hopefully 2019 is going to be the positive change I’ve been building up to all my life!

 

 

Give me a Break From my Thoughts!

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Have you ever felt like everywhere you turned you were being given a message?  And that message was so relevant to your life right now that it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence?

 

Many years ago I read a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.  At the time I wasn’t in any way open to the type of wisdom and understanding of the universe that I am now.  It was just recommended to me by someone that knew I was feeling a bit down and said it had changed her life.  I remember starting to read it, climbing into bed straight from work, and reading for about 3 hours straight.  I was totally absorbed in it and really understood the concept.  I thought it was going to change my life.  But I soon forgot all about living that way.  And many years later when I tried to read it again in an attempt to feel the same way, that this was the answer to all my problems, I just couldn’t get into it.  Yet it’s an international bestseller, often on people’s ‘must read’ lists.  I think at that point I was just at a place in my life where I needed minimum effort to feel better; not too much thinking!

 

But since my second try with this book I’ve spent literally the last 2 years all consumed in my thoughts.  They drive me absolutely crazy.  I explained to someone I trusted only 2 weeks ago that 98 per cent of my waking day is spent thinking about a string of incidents that just felt like it had destroyed me.  They call it ruminating: going over and over AND OVER something in your mind.  And it’s totally overwhelming to live like that.  I spoke to another friend who has had an awful life in comparison to mine about it a while ago, and she admitted she barely thought about the events of her life.  She just switches her TV on at night and basically forgets all about what has happened to her.  She admits she is depressed, but she just wasn’t constantly thinking about the reasons why like I was.  She told me my biggest problem was that I think too much.  And as true as that was it made me feel like I was the only person feeling absolutely tormented by my thoughts.  Yes, her way of living wasn’t alleviating her depression, but at least she wasn’t re-living events over and over again, years after they had happened.  And I fell into more feelings of despair as I felt my ruminating was absolutely incurable and that nobody else was dealing with it like I was.  I tried meditating, but I just couldn’t concentrate.  I tried keeping busy, but I just ended up busy whilst in a daze, distracted by my thoughts.  I just wanted a break from it all.  To sum up the extent of what I was living with, I would drive to work and not even remember how I got there, totally lost in my thoughts.  I do a mundane job, and I found my day consumed with re-living events.  And worse still I’d be so lost in my thoughts that some time later I’d realise I had taken those thoughts, imagined future scenarios, and I was now having imaginary arguments in my head with these people over things that had never even happened.  And I would only stop myself when I got so angry and thought, “Hang on a second, this hasn’t even happened and may never happen.  So why am I preparing for it, and in doing so feeling all the emotions that go with that?”  Can anybody else relate to this? 

 

It’s like my narcissistic friend that spread false rumours about me.  I started ruminating on what I knew as a fact that she’d said; the text messages mutual friends showed me.  That did in fact happen; there was no denying the evidence.  But then I took my anger from that and fell into daydreams day in, day out, where I would start to imagine how those mutual friend may have responded; “Oh, I know what you mean about Dawn!”  “Has she really done that?  Just goes to show you never know a person!”  “That’s awful!  I can’t believe we’ve been friends with Dawn all these years and not seen it in her!”  Conversations that may never ever have happened!  I imagined what they did after they showed me those messages, “Of course I’ll never show Dawn what you text me!”  The anger would build in me!  I imagined the thoughts going on in their head, “If I side with Dawn that’s only one friend I save.  If I pretend I agree with these things about Dawn I won’t lose a whole bunch of friends!”  I painted a picture in my own mind that may never ever have been true.  Yes, nobody was showing me anything to the contrary.  But my imagination made me re-live that situation ten times worse.  I guess my brain felt it was protecting me, imagining all the worst case scenarios that hadn’t happened yet and what I could do when they did inevitably happen!

 

And then in our women’s networking group 2 weeks ago it was discussed about our thoughts and not just letting them dictate our emotions to us.  We were told about being the observer of them and realising that they are in actual fact just thoughts.  They talked about how we can just watch our thoughts roll on by, like they were flowing past in a river, and not to get attached to them.  This prompted me to think again about ‘The Power of Now’ and I knew that the message in that book was very similar to what I was being told and that I needed to investigate this way of thinking again.  Then almost by chance I ordered some books and chose ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A Singer, which is a book I’ve seen people talk about before but never rushed out to buy.  It’s always been on my wish list, but in all honesty if I’d have picked it up in the shop I would have been put off by the small writing.  I needed it simple!  I ironically didn’t want to have to think too much about my thoughts!  But once I bought this book I started reading a sample on the kindle and I was hooked.  I’m only a few chapters in and the parts I’ve read are, to me, all about watching your thoughts and being the consciousness behind those thoughts; the observer of those thoughts.

 

I’ve in no way grasped it yet, nor am I any sort of expert.  But I do know that this is the next stage in my journey.  I’ve spent many years trying to distract myself from these thoughts, thinking that other people don’t have them, that I need to master ignoring them, that I need to think of other things.   But it’s like pushing a balloon under water.  They just spring back up with a vengeance.  And I know now that I need to accept I am always going to have these thoughts.  I will always catastrophise a situation.  That’s just me!  I am always going to question every conversation I have with people and think, “What were they really thinking?  Were they just agreeing with me to my face?  What if they go and do this, this and this now?  Oh my goodness, what if this happens now?  How am I going to deal with that?”  But if I can recognise these thoughts and let them pass without attaching myself to them and forming an emotion from them, I will be so much closer to happiness than I ever have been. 

 

Please let me know if anyone else out there feels this way.   Have you mastered your thoughts or found a way to do so?  Or can anyone recommend any further books to read on the subject?  I’m finding ‘The Untethered Soul’ so easy to read and relate to, but I don’t want to go back to it in the future and find it doesn’t have the same effect like I have with ‘The Power of Now’.  I love learning, and especially all about life, so I’d love to hear any recommendations you all have.

 

 

 

Ever had a problem you were too ashamed to share?

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I keep trying to write this post, but every time I do it just doesn’t feel right to put out there.  It feels petty to talk about.  I can’t condense the story enough to explain it properly, or express how deeply the events actually impacted me.  And I keep questioning why this is such an important part of my life, yet I cannot write on it.  So today I’m biting the bullet and just putting out whatever comes.  And maybe I’ll expand on the whole story in the future if it’s relevant to do so.  In fact it’s too big a subject in my life for me not expand at some point, as it’s impacted me in so many ways.  And that subject is friendships; or rather, broken friendships.

 

And the reason why I’m ashamed to share how this has affected me so much, is because I’m nearly 40 and this shouldn’t happen at my age, surely?  I’ve googled it many a lonely night for advice, and all I seem to find is websites telling me to talk to a teacher or adult.  And that just reconfirms it to me, that this is something a child would get upset about, not a grown adult; a Mum with far bigger responsibilities to be thinking about!  But it did happen to me, and I’m just going to put it out there; it’s one of the most difficult experiences I have ever gone through in my life.  And I feel ashamed even saying those words when there’s people out there that have gone through really awful events in their life.  So maybe I have led a blessed existence for this to be the worst thing to ever happen to me.  Except I haven’t had a perfect life.  I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety all my adult life; probably even before; I just didn’t know how to label it as a child.  And maybe that’s the reason why it has affected me so traumatically, because I do feel deeply and I do analyse everything and think the worst as I catastrophise and get overwhelmed by my thoughts.  But on talking to another friend last week whose best friend of nearly 40 years has just completely changed, disowned her, and is actually quite nasty to her now, I realised we do grieve when friendships break down and it’s not been our choice for them to end or for things to change.  We do take it to heart and ask ourselves where we went wrong.  And it does affect our self-esteem as we fear it will happen again and put our guard up.  As my friend quoted to me, “One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is grieve the loss of a person who is still alive,” a quote she’d actually just re-posted to facebook that day in an attempt to grab her ex-best friend’s attention!

 

I’ve recently joined a women’s networking group, which on paper should have filled me with fear, but something guided me to go.  And in the first week we were asked what our experience of other women was.  I started the discussion, which is very unlike me, and shared my hurt over a group of friends that had believed one narcissistical friend’s lies about me.  Or rather I should be more accurate in saying they didn’t believe her at all, but they told me they knew what she was doing and didn’t want her to do it to them, so all but said they were abandoning me to save themselves.  I told this group of strangers how it had led to my children having their own friends distance themselves as guided by their mothers, and as 4 and 6 year olds they had no comprehension as to why everyone they’d known their whole lives had just gone all of a sudden.  And I couldn’t explain it to them either, because I couldn’t explain it to myself!  I told of my anxiety of doing anything within our close knit village in case I bumped into any of them, or even worse the whole gang of them out together, carrying on like I’d never existed.  And I told of how it had put this fear in me of women and how I must in future tone down my personality so as not to rub someone up the wrong way and inflict all this hurt on myself again.  It had fundamentally changed me to the core.  And what followed was other women in this networking group sharing their own fears of women, and similar experiences of maybe being too happy or being too friendly or kind, and just triggering someone to feel threatened by that, and the dramas that followed.  And I felt immense relief at not feeling alone, and yet fascinated that we’d all still felt drawn to come to a group that was essentially about meeting other women and opening ourselves up and feeling vulnerable in front of each other.

 

This week I shared a new story with the group on how someone I thought was a friend had let me down badly.  I said that I couldn’t carry on feeling like this with people, not knowing how to stop it happening to me.  And the girl who ran the group, who is some kind of spiritual energy guru, just stared at me intently and told me I’d done absolutely nothing wrong to invite the kind of hurt I was feeling.  Then she said that I was unbelievably strong.  And I realised in that moment that yes, I am bloody strong.  I’ve felt the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life these last 2 years.  And yet here I was, sat with a bunch of strangers, crying and telling them all my innermost fears.  And this woman was looking at me and literally reading me as unbelievably strong.  And she really meant it.  She wasn’t saying it just to make me feel better and be supportive.  She could see it in my aura.  She told me I was such a big energy that I will always attract this sort of thing because some people just can’t handle that type of energy and feel threatened by it, and that made sense to me and resonated with what I’d felt myself.  I felt immense relief that someone understood me finally, and someone that barely knew me at all.  And that’s when I realised we can have day to day people, and people we’ve known all our lives that just fill a space and do nothing more, and maybe eventually let us down and abandon us when we need them.  Then you can meet your true tribe in the most unexpected of places.  And you know, even if they’re not the sort of friends you’ll go on holiday with, you’ll grab a coffee with, that you’ll exchange Christmas presents with or ask to babysit your kids; you know that they get you more than anyone you’ve ever met.  And they’re the people you need to meet to know there are good people in this world.  They may only be in your life for a few weeks, months, or even years.  But the impact they make, and the memories they leave your life with makes you realise it’s not women that are your problem at all, it’s just you haven’t found your true tribe yet.  And I can guarantee that it’s totally worth continuing your search.

How to Give Your Family a Christmas to Remember

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I wanted to write this week about our Christmas tradition.  I’ve been doing this for 5 years now, ever since my eldest was 1.  And it’s come to be what Christmas is all about for us.  Instead of asking how many days until Christmas Day, my kids ask all year round, “How many days until we start the gold envelopes?”  It’s our own version of an advent calendar.  Though before you fear for them, they do get their chocolate version too!

 

It involves quite a bit of planning, quite a bit of pinteresting, and the organising of buying all the materials.  But as we’ve been doing it for so long now we often get to re-use bits from the year before.  So I can say it’s getting easier and less work each year. 

 

So as of the 1st of December they open a dated golden envelope every morning with a card in containing their Christmas activity for the day.  Now this is where the planning really comes in, because once I have my list of activities it does have to be tweaked so I’m not doing some mammoth baking or craft task on a school night where we’re in and out going to after school clubs with very little spare time.  Not to mention I want my bigger activities to fall on a weekend when we’re looking for something to fill the day.  So this is my list of activities for this year:-

 

1st December     Put up the Christmas tree

This falls on the 1st every year, even if we have to get up at 5am and start it before school and finish it after.  We always put ‘The Snowman’ on in the background too, and it just sets us up for the month.

2nd December    Make snowflakes for the windows

This looks fantastic.  I give them both a piece of cotton on a needle and they thread about 5 pieces of cotton wool or polystyrene on each.  Then I space them out randomly and stick the pieces across my living room windows to give the effect of falling snow.  Any excuse to play with a sharp object and my kids are on board.  But I have to say the look is fantastic and it cheers me up all of December.  Which is mad really, as the reality of snow falling sends me into a blind panic that I won’t get my car down the hill that we live on and we’ll be cut off from society for goodness knows how long.  Yet I seem to be okay with fake snow!

3rd December    Make paper chain decorations

Another must for the living room, and so simple for a 4 and 6 year old.

4th December     Write a letter to Santa

This is the one that sends me into a frenzy when their entire list suddenly changes from what they’ve been wanting all year.  But it has to be done.  And in reality they do just make it up on the spot and forget anything they asked for a couple of weeks later.  It’s just part of the magic of Christmas to write that letter.

5th December     Make cloved oranges

Now for some reason mine always rot and go mouldy on the Christmas tree, so I’ve not quite mastered it like I did as a child, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without the smell of cloved oranges in the living room.

6th December     Make paper snowflakes

This is just a simple craft activity to further decorate the house.  In reality this falls on my street fit class night so it had to be something easy so I don’t miss my one guaranteed night of the week to socialise!

7th December     Grow candy canes

My absolute favourite activity.  We take a tub of sugar, plant tic tacs, and overnight they grow into candy canes.  Now worryingly I’ve just had to explain to a 50 year old work colleague that no, tic tacs don’t actually grow into candy canes.  So whilst I’m not assuming you are not of the same intelligence as this lady, I will point out, as I had to for her, that I in fact take out the tic tacs whilst they’re asleep and replace them with ‘grown’ candy canes.  Just wanted to be crystal clear in case anyone messages me to say their tic tacs haven’t grown!

8th December     Buy and deliver food to the food bank

Another of my children’s favourite Christmas activities because it involves them let loose in Aldi with a shopping trolley and the amount of cash contained in the envelope.  They know the drill, canned and packet foods only.  Nothing fresh.  And they get as much as they can and get to pay the till assistant like a proper grown up (much to the annoyance of the growing queue behind us!)  Then we take it all to the food bank, where they’re made an absolute fuss of.  They sometimes even get a certificate or sweets from the staff.  But either way we have lots of conversations on the way there and the way back as to who the food is going to and maybe what circumstances they may be spending Christmas in.  We get to discuss what the children think Christmas would be like without any proper food in the house, let alone the full roast and trimmings that we have.  And I just think it’s a really good lesson for them to learn.  In fact my eldest saved up in the summer time to do the same exercise because it touched her so much.  She did sell some of my stuff without me knowing to raise the money, but we’ll let that one go as she’s only 6 and therefore just using her initiative!

9th December     Christmas shopping for the boys

The girls have two cousins that they absolutely adore.  And again, they will find a small amount of cash in their envelope that day to take to the shops and pick them both a present.  It’s a great exercise in teaching them the gift of giving, and they totally get the excitement that we all get in finding that perfect gift.  In fact the secret rarely makes it to Christmas Day before they’ve told the boys what they’ve got them!  But each year we’re working on that.

10th December  Make sparkly icicles

Another Pinterest idea.  Basically we’re crafting foil into icicles, painting them in glue and dipping each icicle in glitter before hanging them around the house.  This is a new one this year so I’m yet to find out how this one goes down.  But anything they can get sticky doing is usually a hit.

11th December  Decorate the garden

A nice simple one.  A couple of pounds spent in the pound shop on Christmas decorations, then off they’re sent into the garden to hang them all around on anything with a branch or hook.  It’s usually mid-summer before we’ve taken them all down, but it does cheer up the garden while it’s looking so colour-less.

12th December  Write Christmas cards for your friends

A little pre-planning in the form of a class list, a few boxes of cards, and off they go. 

13th December  Decorate a gingerbread house

Now this activity has been off the list for a couple of years because my husband is OCD with mess and the whole living room got caked in icing.  But I’m bringing it back this year.  I got my gingerbread house from Ikea, and although I’ve got to assemble it myself with icing, I managed to get the decorations too.  So we’re all set to go.

14th December  Deliver cards to the neighbours

Hopefully this year I’ll be there to supervise this activity, as my husband was on his phone last year and they all got posted to any house they found.  I’m sure a couple of people re-posted them to the correct house, but everyone else probably just thinks I don’t know their names and it’s been too many years to correct me!  Either way, the kids love posting things, so this is always a hit!

15th December  Visit Santa

I don’t know where we’re going yet, but I’m thinking the little steam train at the local garden centre.  It’s the most random Christmas ride as it’s decorated in very non-Christmasy things like model aliens, and Disney gnomes that are missing heads or limbs.  But the kids are oblivious to the scenes and love it.  Us grown-ups call it the Chucky train and we’re convinced that anything that gets broken in the garden centre and is therefore unsellable becomes a decoration on this ride.  But it’s certainly a unique experience for all!

16th December  Buy presents for each other

This is the day I take each child out individually and we buy for the other child.  It’s just like the day we buy for the boys, except they get a little one-on-one Mummy time.  So this year I think I’ll take each for a cup of coffee and a cake while we’re at it!

17th December  Make stained glass lanterns

Another simple craft activity.  Glass jar, glue, tissue paper stuck on and some battery powered string lights from the pound shop.  And everything can be used again next year.

18th December  Make wrapping paper and wrap presents

The kids love this one.  A big roll of paper, lots of Christmas stickers, stamps, glue and glitter and they get to decorate their own paper to wrap their previously bought gifts in.  Then we can proudly display their finished product under the tree.

19th December  Make mulled wine and mince pies

My favourite activity as I get mulled wine.  As they’re 4 and 6 it’s a case of ready rolled pastry, a jar of mincemeat and some cutters.  And as for the mulled wine, I set the slow cooker going so it scents my house all day long.  Then they imagine mixing potions as they mix orange juice, cranberry juice, slices of orange, lemon, cinnamon sticks, cloves and nutmeg.  We leave it to cook for several hours and then they usually taste it, say they don’t like it, before I adopt it for myself and pour the port in.  Not your traditional mulled wine, especially as I put no actual wine in it so it can be non-alcoholic on the off-chance they like it this year, but I like it!

20th December  Drive around to see the lights

There’s many a famous street in the area that goes all out, so I can never fail to deliver on this activity.  But just being in their pyjamas in the car, with a McDonalds drive through if I’m feeling flush, is a great little activity to do.

21st December   Make a bubble wrap snowman

This is new this year on the basis I have a job lot of bubble wrap.  My plan is to roll and tape the bubble wrap into a snowman shape, then either papier mache or paint the bubble wrap before they dress him.  I’m going to wing it on the day, but I think the 3 bin bags of bubble wrap will be enough excitement before we even start the activity.  My husband is going to freak.  In my head I’m imagining something like the giant Santa that hangs on Manchester Town Hall, but we will have to see if my vision is accurate!

22nd December  Family games day

This year my kids have really got into playing things like UNO and scrabble.  And as I don’t do the big Christmas meal because we go to my mum’s, I thought I’d have all the family round with a buffet style feast, and force them to play games with my kids.  I don’t know how this will go as both the girls and their cousins are extremely competitive, but we’ll give it a try!

23rd December  Make eggnog, shortbread and watch a Christmas movie

I’ve never had eggnog, so this is a first too.  But this day falls on a Sunday, so I want some nice food, some nice drink, and to snuggle down under the duvet and watch something like ‘The Grinch’ or ‘Santa Claus the Movie’.

24th December  Crib service and Christmas Eve box

I love the crib service.  The kids drag their feet until they’re given chocolate by the church as a bribe to enjoy, but in all honesty it’s what Christmas is all about.  I feel so emotional listening to carols sung in a church, so this is Christmas to me.  And they’re totally geared up for kids with low attention spans, so I can enjoy this without worrying about whether my kids are sitting on their seats or lying on the ground telling me they’re bored.  Then we all walk home to open their Christmas Eve boxes filled with new pyjamas, a Christmas story book, hot chocolate and marshmallows, a cookie making kit, the key for Santa to let himself in, some reindeer food to scatter in the garden, and the plate to put out for Santa for his mince pie, milk, and a carrot for the reindeer.

 

So that’s my very lengthy Christmas tradition of the gold envelopes.  If you follow me on Pinterest at Recipeforhappinessnow or Instagram at recipeforhappinessnow I will be sharing pictures of my Christmas activities throughout December.

 

But please don’t read this and feel overwhelmed or that this tradition isn’t for you.  Even if you don’t have kids I think it would be a fun thing to do with a partner or even on your own.  You could challenge yourself to do something Christmassy every day, or to make or bake something Christmassy every day.  Or what about a random act of kindness every day?  You could even just keep it to weekends to cut a little of the planning work out.  Maybe a Christmas get together with a different friend every Saturday and Sunday throughout December! And you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want.  Pinterest is a fantastic source for so many good ideas.  We’ve been building this up over so many years that I have all the envelopes, cards, and a lot of resources all ready in my box in the loft.  At this stage I only have to tweak the list each year and replace a few activities they’ve outgrown to add in some new fresh ideas. 

 

So let me know if you have any different traditions at Christmas, or if you do anything similar to celebrate Christmas throughout the whole of December.  I wanted to get away from the kids just thinking of Christmas as a day they get presents.  And I hope over the years we’ve managed to put a bit of Christmas magic, a bit of religion, a few random acts of kindness and thinking of the less fortunate, and lots of glue, mess and chocolate into our Christmases.  And despite the immense planning involved, I have to say for me it’s all worthwhile because I know for my kids when they look back on Christmas in adulthood they will always remember the gold envelopes and hopefully bring back a few of their favourite activities into their own family Christmases.