Grateful for friends, and particularly strong female ones. #100DaysofGratefulnessday3

I have always been a girl’s girl, a woman’s woman.  I enjoy the company of my female friends and I have a lot of them.

I never really understood boys.  When I was very young I was too quiet, I am an extrovert on the Myers Briggs enneagram but this does not always mean what people understand an “extrovert” to be.  Certainly when I was younger I was very timid in the presence of boys or children I didn’t know, and I would get quite anxious in social situations involving peers.  In complete contrast I was always totally at home with adults or by myself.  I enjoyed solitary activities like reading and playing imaginary games, quite often on my own or with one or two friends; I didn’t like loud, boisterous group activities.  I have always been decidedly un-competitive so I never enjoyed team sports (I also wasn’t very good at them).

I got on quite well with some of the boys in my class but would never have had boys over for a playdate or been invited to boys’ houses.  This is in complete contrast to both of my sisters who both had more male friends than female friends when they were growing up and are both quite sporty and competitive.

Aged 11 I went to an all girls’ school.  I know a lot of people have a lot of feelings about single sex education, for me it was the right choice.  I would never have had the confidence to put my hand up and speak up and give answers in a classroom full of boys.  Being surrounded by a lot of women and not having any brothers it meant that I just wasn’t the best prepared for male friendships at University.  I developed a couple of real friendships with boys in my last year at university through my then boyfriend, but as that relationship ended four years later those friendships slowly died a death.

It doesn’t bother me now, I am perfectly happy to be surrounded by women.  I love my girlfriends and I am so lucky to have a lot of them.

I listened to the Sorta Awesome podcast recently when they were discussing the “ten friends every woman needs” (This podcast is good – listen!).  This was their conclusion:

  1. A friend who has made more mistakes than you;
  2. A friend who knows what’s in your freezer;
  3. A friend with whom no words are necessary;
  4. A friend with better style than you;
  5. A “Yes Man” meaning someone who supports you wholeheartedly and who adores you;
  6. A friend who majored in your history;
  7. A friend who speaks your language (they are into the same things);
  8. A friend who challenges you;
  9. A friend who knows all your passwords;
  10. A friend who is the Queen of the call you out.

What I realised from listening to this is that I might be one or two or none of these at the same time for different friends, and that’s okay.  I also realised that I have friends who fall into each and every category.

I have had discussions recently with various friends about how as you reach thirty you know who your real friends are.  You might have (like I do) an “inner” and an “outer” circle this is a fluid arrangement, some friends you can be particularly close to for a season in your life, then you might drift apart slightly for a while as life takes over and later you’ll drift back into each other’s inner circle again.  Some friends are always in one or the other, and that’s okay too, it doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate and love and need those friends in your outer circle.

Here are my friends every woman needs (there might be a bit of overlap with the above list):

  1. A friend whose advice and help you will accept because you trust their good judgment.

I have a particular friend who does this.  I always respect her opinions and I feel better about scary things if I check them through with her.  She is a more grown up version of me, slightly more together financially and slightly ahead of the game in every aspect, always has been.  We lived together when we both had our first proper jobs after university and when I got my handbag stolen she could lend me money from her savings (!) to pay for the lock change, as obviously, I was maxing out my overdraft every month.  Recently, as I was stressing about shopping for my wedding dress (I hate shopping and pretentious places in equal measure) I texted her for info on where she went, because I knew it would be good.  She responded with the info, but more than that, followed up with (because she knows I hate shopping and pretentious places in equal measure) “They served us warm white wine in plastic glasses and the woman who did my alterations had no teeth and a fantastic smoker’s cough”.  I booked my appointment immediately.

  1. A Questioner.

I am interested in people; I ask them a lot of questions, I prefer “interested” to “nosey”. I always thought I would never meet anyone who asked as close to the wire questions as me, and then I met Madge.  I love it.  She is interested in everything and she makes me think about my decisions and my actions.  She makes me examine myself and that is no bad thing.  It’s a great sounding board because she’ll often make you think about something slightly differently.  P.S. Read her blog, she’s incredibly funny and regularly has me snorting into my Tupperware at lunch (work, I only get 15 mins so I eat in front of a screen out of plastic, it’s depressing).

  1. A friend who tells it straight.

I appreciate this quality, the most likely candidates here – my sisters.  They will be (brutally) honest.  It’s refreshing and important.  It’s needed, you know where you stand.  Plus, they can also show you a different way of thinking.

  1. A friend who is able to have what my school girls and I affectionately refer to as “D&Ms” or “Deep and Meaningfuls”.

We used to have a lot of these when we were at school, navigating the perils of the Union Bar, Apple Sours and exactly what black top to wear with our jeans and velvet jackets on a Friday night.  Undoubtedly, some of these conversations were fuelled by alcohol, as they often have been in later life with other friends, but these are conversations which enrich you and make you grow emotionally.  You are vulnerable, you share, you talk, you laugh, you are close.  I have had these with all of my friends at some points and still do.  I have talked about a couple of my friends who helped me through a particularly hard time before.

  1. A friend who is at the same stage as you.

As I mentioned in another blog post it’s important to have friends who empathise with a situation, not just sympathise.  So for example, I love it when my new mummy friends have other new mummy friends that they can talk about baby and kid stuff with.  It’s not that I am not interested in this, or that they can’t talk to me about it – I want them to share (I am learning for the future!) but I recognise that I have no point of reference, so I might not be particularly helpful on every occasion.  Equally, when those friends are busy with things like that you need other friends who can meet you on a whim after work and discuss your broken heart at length.   If you are the only single person in your group, you need other single friends.  Everything in its season.

  1. This is totally overlapping above but – a person whom shares your passions.

I have a few friends I talk to about faith.  One of them I used to work with, we are very similar in a lot of ways.  She’s catholic and I am C of E but we do enjoy a God discussion.  Also, I have friends who are fellow avid blog readers, friends who I can talk books with, friends who you can discuss TV shows with, or sports you like, or anything really.  Friends who like the same stuff as you are important – you need someone to geek out with.  I am very proud of the fact that I have introduced a lot of my friends to Grey’s Anatomy (and anything by Shonda). This means that we can catch up and be suitably outraged/overjoyed at the latest plot twists.

  1. A friend who makes you feel young and mischievous.

This will always fall to one of my oldest friends Chick.  She can make me laugh like no other, and definitely brings out my usually hidden goofball.  I am more relaxed and make a lot more jokes when I am around her.  She makes me less serious and I love her for it.

 

Of course I go to all of my friends for fun, for advice, for emotional support.  They are a group of strong, worldly, educated women.  They work hard, raise families and do interesting things.

These women inspire me, they push me, and they love me.  For that I am extremely grateful, and I love them fiercely.  I hope they know it!

 

 

Grateful for Dad #100daysofgratefulnessday27

 

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“#grateful for a brilliant Dad who is also a feminist and raised his three daughters to also be feminists.  We were always told we could do anything we wanted and were raised to hear every sort of sexist put down so when we heard it from someone who meant it we would know how to “treat it with the disdain it deserves”.  My Dad holds my Mum in the highest esteem and they raised us to be independent, thinking and fierce women and for that I am truly grateful”.

My Dad is a bit of a legend.  Everyone knows Big Tel.  My Dad is from a little known place called Whitechapel in the East End of London.  Whitechapel is famous for Jack the Ripper, The Krays and a wonderfully close knit community of Cockneys who are a “salt of the earth” kind of people.  His upbringing was “old school” and tough.  His family were not wealthy, by any stretch of the imagination, but they made do.  He was the first to go to university and to have a profession.  He is widely travelled and he believes in the good in people.

Tel is a big character, an extrovert, he’s tall and has a voice that carries when he wants it to.  He can seem scary, especially to boyfriends, and he was incredibly strict with us when we were younger.  He is also incredibly generous with his time and he has a heart as big as his personality.

My Dad is a champion of people who are a little bit lost, a little bit down, who lack self-belief.  He is a giver of confidence and I love him for it.  My Dad doesn’t believe in a “God” in the traditional sense of the word and wouldn’t describe himself as a Christian, but he does a better impression of being a Christian than a lot of self-proclaimed Christians I have come across.

My Dad is a talker; you can’t keep secrets from him about how you feel.  A lot of girls can’t talk to their Dad once they get to a certain age.  My Dad may have struggled to relate to us at points but he never let that show.  He has always been present in our lives, he has always taken an interest in us, in our friends and in what we were up to.

My Dad taught us about social justice, that it’s not “how people say it, it’s what they say and do that counts”.  He taught us to be compassionate and caring, to have empathy and kindness for those who are vulnerable and to understand how a disadvantaged background can impact upon a child and then an adult.  He often says that things that seem small insignificant things to you are big kindnesses to others, and you often don’t know the impact that you have.  I always try to bear this in mind and I think it’s better to give people the benefit of the doubt and I try to always be gentle with others, everyone after all is generally doing the best they can.

Despite this, my Dad was keen that we should not to suffer fools and not to be taken for granted.  My Dad taught me to stand on my own two feet and to demand better from those I form relationships with including friends, lovers and employers.

Father’s Day is hard for a lot of people.  A lot of people have complicated relationships with their Dad, or they don’t have one at all; sometimes through choice.  I appreciate that some people find today particularly hard, a painful reminder of what they are missing.

I also appreciate that I am very lucky.  My Dad loves us girls fiercely and is our greatest champion.  He raised three girls so it’s a jolly good job that he is a feminist: he believes that women are equal to men and deserve to be treated as such; he raised us to believe that too.  The older I’ve gotten the rarer I’ve realised that is.  A lot of women are not so lucky to have such a champion in their Dad.

I have also come to realise just how important the role of a father is.  That’s not to say that if someone doesn’t have one they will be messed up or incredibly disadvantaged, I know a few single Mums who manage both roles admirably.  However, if you’ve got a good one, you’ll know about it forever.

If I ever need my Dad he will be there; if I ever need someone to stand my corner for me he’ll be there; if I ever need to discuss that state of the world and put it to rights, he’s my go to.  My Dad is a constant.  A constant support, a constant source of love, a constant source of open honest opinion and encouragement, as is my Mum I might add, but she already had her own post here.

I love him dearly.  He gets me in a way few other people do outside of my own immediate family.  He makes me laugh heartily and I have my Dad to thank for my sense of self-worth, my confidence and my love of Rod Stewart.  None of those are small things.

Happy Father’s Day Big Tel!  Love you.

 

Heartbreak is not a Team player (#100daysofgratefulnessday29)

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“Grateful for this guy.  My Teamie.  I waited long enough and had my heart broken enough times before he came along.  I’m glad I waited and didn’t become a Charlotte Lucas.  He was worth the wait.  And that’s why I am also grateful, strange as it may sound, for all the horrible, horrible heartbreak.  I needed it to learn what and who would be the right guy for me.  Thanks for loving me back, even when I’m a diva”. #100daysofgratefullnessday29

So here’s the background.  Carl and I have known each other since I was eight and he was ten, my Mum was his year six teacher.  We went to different secondary schools from the age of eleven and saw each other occasionally.  There was a period when we got the bus together in sixth form, and I totally fancied him, he doesn’t remember so….yeah…We went to different Universities and almost ten years after leaving school re met at our mutual friends’ wedding.  The rest as they say is history.

I kept Carl at arm’s length for the first six months of our relationship.  I had been single for almost two and half years immediately prior to meeting him having been in a couple of relationships almost back to back from the age of eighteen to almost twenty five. I had been hurt.  Badly.

Unrequited love.  I’ve been a victim of that both whilst in relationships and out.  I saw a future where there wasn’t one and I became consumed by it. I was always the one doing the chasing, the giving, I totally made my life fit around those guys for a time.  I considered the impact that every decision would have on them as part of an “us”.  They didn’t do the same, and really, who can blame them?  I shouldn’t have been doing it.  I should have been more selfish, I was young and romantic and in love and I let it become all consuming.  I think that might be a trait that women have, we are socialised to be considerate, to think of others, to be polite, to be care givers, and sometimes we go too far, and suddenly we wake up one day realising we’re the only one doing all the running, all the caring, all the giving and inevitably we are the one getting treated like crap.

It’s horrid when you realise it, that yet again you got carried away and have been letting yourself be treated badly for quite some time now and that makes you MAD.  You, the independent, educated, woman who knows her own self-worth and her value has been letting herself be walked all over and played for a fool.  Unacceptable.

It’s especially bad if well-meaning friends have helped you get carried away “but he obviously loved/loves you, you just had/have to see you together”.  Yeah, my response eventually became “but not enough”.  I know my own value, I know what I deserve and it’s not to be someone’s back up, or to be the person he’s with until someone else shiny and new catches his eye.

I know all of this, but when it happens, again, it’s devastating.  You feel so betrayed and so crappy.  You have hopes and dreams and plans and structure and then it’s all up in the air and you just DON’T KNOW.

I was often just plain sad and then angry that I was sad.  I constantly repeated to myself my mantra that “you can’t help how you feel, so don’t feel bad about how you feel”.  Whilst true, I often felt overwhelmed.  “I shouldn’t be feeling this”, “it wasn’t meant for you”, “let it go, let it go, let it go…”.

I am lucky to have some great friends and in particular, a couple of very special ladies who would listen to me being sad.  Other friends who have basically been married for years don’t get it, and as much as they may have tried to I felt bad for seeming to bother them again with my broken heart.  My two ladies who listened to me most have been there and they didn’t feel the need to offer solutions, they understood that sometimes when your heart is broken the only thing that helps is constantly repeating yourself.  I’ll always be grateful to them for this particular kindness.

At one of my lowest moments, one where I felt I couldn’t whinge to any more even to those two particular friends because this was getting boring now and I should be over it and #firstworldproblems, I was sobbing on my bedroom floor in my underwear (oh the glamour) and I started to feel panicked, I didn’t know where my life was going: “I don’t have a plan, this wasn’t the plan, what am I going to do? Why do I still feel like this? Will I ever feel any better? I am sick of feeling like this I am so tired, I don’t know anything anymore*”.  I started to hyperventilate.  I couldn’t catch my breath.  I mentally cried out to God “help me, make me feel better!” and: instant calm, instant serenity and a sense of love.

I immediately picked up my bible and opened it, randomly, the passage it fell on was one of many variations repeated throughout the Bible of “do not fear, I am the Lord your God and I will not forsake you”.  I have never felt closer to God in that moment before or since.

Some people will think that is a load of bollocks.  To those people, I will say – whatever.  I may not be able to remember what happened immediately after that (I mean I’m assuming it involved picking myself up off of the floor, eating some chocolate and watching Grey’s Anatomy, but maybe it involved eating granola and going for a run!), I may not be able to remember the exact Bible passage but I know how I felt and I know that God was there, right with me in that moment.

From that moment I found I started to believe my mantras and slowly I became very contented being single.  I prayed a lot, asking for God’s help and guidance, I spent a lot of time with other single friends and basically said yes to every single opportunity which wasn’t great for the bank balance but kept me very busy and made me laugh a lot and make some awesome memories.  I won’t lie and pretend that I was completely happy all of the time (who is?); I often still felt lonely and disappointed and sad but it became less as I learned to trust God that there was a reason and a plan.

When Carl and I re met I was determined that I wouldn’t “be back at square one” if it all went wrong, I fiercely kept my independence, refused to adjust my schedule that much or spend all my time with him.  I initially saw him once a week and then twice.  I liked spending time with him, but I questioned all the time, I wouldn’t let myself fall head over heels and get carried away.  I was cautiously optimistic, but I didn’t reveal his existence to my wider circle of work colleagues and friends for ages.  In fact, I felt quite bad recently when remembering a colleague asking me who I was going on my holiday with and I said “my boyfriend” and she (understandably) expressed some surprise that I hadn’t told her I had a boyfriend (we sat next to each other).  I responded a bit more harshly than I’d intended that “we’ve been together four months, it’s not a massive deal.  I don’t like to talk about my personal life at work”.  Poor girl.

After about six months I realised that I could trust Carl and that I had to.  In order to have everything I wanted – be in love, part of a team and eventually happily married and raise a family together then I had to risk a little.  It’s the way it is, you both have to be a little bit vulnerable, as terrifying as that is: you hold part of each other’s hearts and as corny as that sounds it’s also true.

Carl and I aren’t really “alike” I’m an extrovert, he’s an introvert, I blow up, he stews, we have different music tastes and tastes in films.  We do have the same work ethic, the same ideas about family and we do both enjoy walking, eating and the cinema (even though we often compromise on film choices).  Generally it makes for a pretty good life.  Our main difference is in theology, I have a faith, Carl does not.  I pray every day that Carl will come to know God, he knows this and doesn’t mind, much like he’s known about my secret Pinterest wedding boards for an age now.  He comes to church with me sometimes and supports me in my choices because it’s important to me.

After almost four years together, buying a house together and living together for two and a half years Carl finally (!) asked me to marry him in April in Cinque Terre when we were watching the sunset on a little hike.  It was perfect for us, no other people there, he said some lovely things about us and he cried, and I cried and he proposed with a massive fake ring and then we amused ourselves by laughing and trying to take selfies with said massive ring.

We have already started building our life together, he’s a great partner in that respect.  I can’t wait to marry him next year, to me marriage is important, it won’t change the way we feel about each other or how we see ourselves but it’s an important sign of our commitment to being a team and sticking at it together, through the good, bad and the ugly.

Like so many things God’s version was better than what I had imagined or thought that I had wanted.  Carl and I are team mates or “Teamies” a bit soppy, but to the point.  We are a unit, we’re on the same side, and we love each other even when we hate each other.

Grateful to get the opportunity to do life and marriage with someone who makes me laugh, mainly at myself, and who is more kind, caring, compassionate and principled than I had ever dared hope my future husband to be.

 

 

*obviously this wasn’t true but the broken heart is nothing if not dramatic.

#100daysofgratefulnessday13

142#grateful or my lovely Mum, all that she has done and all she continues to do. My inspiration in so many things. #100daysofgratefulnessday13

Okay, so we are skipping ahead a bit here in the 100daysofgratefulness posts, but I think as it’s Mother’s Day, it’s apt.

I really don’t know why my Mum went off to have two more children after me, she and my Dad must be absolute gluttons for punishment. By all accounts I was a nightmare baby. I had severe colic/reflux which meant I was angry and cried all of the time. My Mum tells me that I was also bored, if she didn’t talk to me I would cry, if anyone else held me other than her or my Dad: I would cry. I never slept. I didn’t sleep through the night until I was five *shudder*. My Dad used to have to take me out in my pram around the streets of Lewisham to try and get me to stop crying and go to sleep, and also, presumably, to keep my Mum from going insane after being with me all day whilst I screamed.

Obviously, this was a phase, which I thankfully grew out of. However, I was never an easy child; I had two imaginary friends Nackley and Nacey, or y’know the more affectionate monikers Nack and Nace. I also had ear infection after ear infection, I was sick (through anxiety) at almost every birthday party I went to, I slept walked and talked frequently, and once, infamously, unwrapped all of the Christmas presents upstairs that my Mum had wrapped because she was due to have a baby any minute. Honestly, I don’t know how she managed to be so patient with me and my incessant questions and also on every frequent night when I was sick all over my bed.

My Mum has worked full time, in a career, for pretty much my entire life, with three kids, she made our packed lunches every day and always listened to us read. My Mum was strict (as was my Dad, but he’ll get his own post later on), this meant that there were always clear expectations of our behaviour and we always felt very secure with those. My parents took an interest in school work and our school friends and ferried us around to a host of extra-curricular activities that were intended to broaden our education. Whilst at school I went to Brownies and then Guides (although the latter was short lived), played recorder, violin and keyboard (very badly), and was a part of a drama club.

We weren’t allowed to watch much TV. This causes a lot of hilarity now when friends are talking about TV shows and I usually have to say “oh we weren’t allowed to watch that”; examples include “Grange Hill”, “Casualty” and any Soap Opera. My Mum actually admitted to me when I was talking to her about it recently “I know it sounds snobby now, but we only let you watch BBC!” Amazing. Of course I revealed this to some friends who now often (good naturedly) ask me if I am going to watch a programme and then follow it up with something along the lines of “it is on that terribly common ITV though, so you might not be allowed”. They are all comedians the lot of them.

I am so grateful to both my parents for working so incredibly hard so that they could provide a nice life for us, but I am especially grateful of the example.  My Mum set the bar high for what my sisters and I could achieve: that we didn’t just have to settle and be frustrated. That we could have a family and work in a meaningful career that was enjoyable. It was expected of us, and therefore none of us have doubted that it is possible.

I am also especially grateful to my Mum for passing on her love of reading and her faith. She took us to Church, although we were never forced to go, and she answered all of my many questions about Jesus and God, she still does in fact, even if sometimes those answers are “I don’t know. Maybe that’s where our faith has to come in”. To me she is a wonderful example of a Christian. She always tries to see the best in people and make the best out of a situation, she works hard and serves others in the best way she can, often by showing kindness and compassion of which she seems to have a never ending supply.

I am incredibly lucky, I had a pretty idyllic childhood, I had two parents who loved me and my sisters and we never doubted that, not for one second. That is a rare and wonderful thing. I know not everyone is as fortunate.

As all of my friends now start to become Mothers for the first time and I see their struggles and their joys it makes me even more grateful for my Mum. If I have children one day I know that I will be able to rely on both of my parents, I know that they won’t interfere and they won’t go against my “rules” even if they think they’re wrong.

Mum and I were talking the other day and she said that her Mum, my Grandma, was the best example of a Grandma: she was brilliant with us but she didn’t smother us, she did everything according to what my parents said, you couldn’t play Grandma off against Mum or Dad and she was firm. We loved her for it. I know my Mum will be exactly the same, and if I can be half the Mum my Mum has been to me to any children I may have in the future I’ll be doing alright.

Happy Mother’s Day Mum. You rock.

#100daysofgratefulnessday2

Sorry for the quiet on here, I have had a busy couple of weeks! I started my new job, and the first week has been brilliant, I have been made to feel very welcome and it is lovely to be part of a proper team again. Everyone has gone out of their way to be accommodating and welcoming and most importantly, generous with their time and patience in explaining  the new systems and how things work. So a very positive start!

I am getting back into the swing of things again now, and will be making more time for writing again in the immediate future. I wanted to do another one of the “100 days of gratefulness posts” and when I saw what day 2 was it fitted in nicely with some recent goals I have set myself health wise.

I am very grateful to have generally good health. However, I am getting older now and I know I need to make looking after my health a bit more of a priority. I have taken a couple of weeks off of the gym, I was getting there tired and wasn’t enjoying it, exercise was feeling like a chore which is never a good thing. So I’ve decided to shake things up again, I do a circuits workout which I enjoy, but I do miss running and my body pump classes, so I’ll be trying to work those back into a gym routine going forward so it’s a bit more varied.

My biggest vice is chocolate, I eat far too much of it. I am addicted to sugar, so as it’s lent I have also given up, what I am terming “dessert”. I can’t say sugar, although that is what I’m trying to do, but I felt like that might be a bit unrealistic for someone who regularly eats two bars of chocolate a day. Natural sugar is fine, so when my cravings were particularly bad I made sugar free flapjacks with bananas and dates – not chocolate, but not bad!

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I have been having some pain in my mid and upper back when squatting and I also have a dodgy knee so I wanted to take time to get them looked at, an osteopath was recommended to me by a PT at the gym.  I’ve never been to an osteopath before and I had no idea what to expect.

A quick discussion with a colleague on the day of the appointment revealed that I would need to go home and change my knickers as I was likely have to strip to my underwear. So I duly went home and found my Bridget Jones pants and then went to my appointment.

It turns out that wasn’t needed because we just focused on my back, so I didn’t have to remove my trousers; but good advice for next time!

It was a wonderfully odd experience. I will go back and I have no doubt that this will help me and be good for my health long term; but, I was very close to a complete stranger whilst being acutely aware that I also should’ve changed my bra.

It got very awkward when I was asked to lie on my side and realised that an everyday bra is not the best support for this position. Of course, the osteo was a professional but I also lived in constant fear that I would laugh when he was hugging* me and even more mortifying: I might f-a-r-t.

I have never prayed to God about that aspect of my life before, but I did during those long 3 minutes. I am sure God appreciated those worthwhile prayers and use of time.

I would have two pieces of advice for anyone considering going to an osteopath:

  1. Get a recommendation, my guy was excellent.
  2. Wear a sports bra and big pants.

I’ll keep you updated. For now I am off to a spa day with my bestie, I might get a facial, My skin needs a bit of TLC.

Happy Saturday!

*disclaimer – he was not hugging me but I don’t know what the proper term is.

Faith, Gratefulness and Hashtags

So, I am a Christian.  In case you hadn’t gathered this already, dear reader.

Until quite recently, I always kept this aspect of my identity quiet.  Growing up in British society which is largely secular, along with the huge amount of negative press and publicity that Christians and the Church get, I felt it was (I was) safer this way.

My Mum is a Christian, she took us to Sunday School and enrolled us at a Church of England Primary school where assemblies were always about God.  No one questioned whether you were a Christian because up until age eight everyone in my small circle was one.  Well, almost.  My Dad would not describe himself as a “Christian” and didn’t come to church with us.  My maternal Grandmother was a very vocal atheist.  I remember calling her for a Religious Studies homework project to interview her about her views on “life after death”.  She, matter of fact, responded that “you die and get put in the ground and that’s the end of it.” “Okay, thanks Gran!”.  Cheery.

At secondary school your Christian role model in popular culture was either Dot Cotton or Britney Spears.  Wowzers.  The two could not be more far apart.

Dot from EastEnders was annoyingly self righteous, a “bible basher”, a bore, constantly quoting lengthy scripture at other characters who were “sinful”.  Also, she was old and made terrible fashion choices.  At age thirteen this is not someone you wish to be associated with.

Britney Spears and other Americans burst on to the scene with their purity rings and promises.  They were Evangelical, and seen largely as hypocrites, at least in the circles of my teenage youth, where, rightly or wrongly, you were believed mad to want to wait for marriage to have sex.  That probably says a lot about the British youth.

When questioned about faith, I would always answer honestly, but I didn’t have many friends who went to church and if they did they went to Catholic or Church of England churches like me, high brow stuff, none of this emotive Evangelical nonsense for us Brits, thank you very much.

I still go to a Church of England Church, I am comfortable in the liturgy, in the quiet.  I have been to other styles of worship services, including Evangelical, and whilst I have enjoyed and gained something from those services I always come back to what I know.

I took Religious Studies as an A-Level and it was by far my favourite subject.  I loved the discussions and learning about the different thinkers and their ideologies.  It was around this same time that I became more comfortable with identifying as a Christian – but QUIETLY, only to those who already knew me and wouldn’t be “put off” by such a declaration.  I hoped that they would like me in spite of my Christianity if they found out about it later, having already decided I was cool*.

I have been a quiet Christian my whole life.  I don’t have an amazing testimony of how I came to know God, I just always have.  I have often known God’s presence, and I have never, to date, lost my faith, although I often question HUGE aspects of it.  I mean, I have SO MANY questions and hardly any answers.  I have shied away from announcing it to people, and have always felt the need to quickly follow it with “I’m not anti gay though!”.  For the record, this is as true now as it always has been.

What a shame.  A shame that that is how Christians are seen, as the Dot Cotton characters, judge-y, unwelcoming and holier than thou.

The only way I know how to be a Christian is through Jesus.  To me that means showing love, compassion and kindness over fear, anger and judgment to EVERYONE AT ALL TIMES.  This is of course, a hard task, and I fall short every day.

In 2014 I decided to explore and live my faith, I had questions and doubts and I wanted to know more about this God and his son to whom I have always prayed. I felt that I wanted to be a true Christian, so that when I described myself as one I wasn’t (a little bit) ashamed.

At the time, on social media, there was a trend for people to post #100daysofhappiness posts.  I decided, in my usual enthusiastic way, that I would do this, with a twist.  Mine were accompanied with #100daysofgratefulness even though I still don’t really get the hashtags.

Surprisingly, I did it! For all 100 days I found something different to be grateful for, even if it was something very small.  I will publish some, if not all, of my 100 posts here on this blog.  I thoroughly enjoyed the project, it gave me a new perspective and helped me to lead a more positive and joy filled life.  It also led me to discovering lots of new Christian writers and thinkers and developing my understanding of what “being a Christian” means in real everyday life.

I didn’t get off to a great start though, it took me a while to warm up.  My first one was a moan about the trains being late, but I was grateful for the fact that I had undertaken my first volunteering session on an advice line for women. #100daysofgratefulnessday1

#theydogetbetteripromise #slowlearner #volunteeringisgreat #britishtrainsarerubbishthough

*Hahahaha. I was NEVER cool.  I always tried to be nice though which tended to work.  I still strive to be cool and fail, miserably.