Pausing, Two

Something changed in me last year.  I had started doing the She Reads Truth Bible Reading Plan – reading the entire Bible in a year – and the more I read God’s word the more I wanted to know God.  The more I wanted God to know me.  That sound ridiculous because of course, God already knows me, all of me, but I wanted a real relationship with God, one where I was really hearing God.  Not just saying thank you and asking for things -:“Hi God, how are you?  I’m doing okay, Thank you so much for my wonderful boyfriend, friends and family I am so lucky.  I know that.  Please keep them safe.  Sorry about that thing I messed up, I’ll do better next time, I’m trying, sorry,  Oh and by the way, can you send your peace to X because they are really struggling, I’m fine.  I’m lucky, my life is really easy in comparison, I know that”.

I’ve given that up now.  Now I come to find Jesus.  I come when I am joyful, when I am weary, when I am thankful, sad or anxious.  I don’t try and qualify my feelings now.  Everything is relative.  It’s not a competition where only the worst cases are deserving of God’s attention.

Since summer 2015 I’ve been working on saying no, making time for me, making time for God, exercising, writing and reading.  Doing all the things that make me “me” and make me feel present.  Saying “no” is really hard for me, I am by nature a bit of a people pleaser and I find it hard if I feel like I am letting others down.

In September, I went on a mindfulness retreat at Burrswood which is a fantastic place, it has a hospital part offering hydrotherapy and respite care, there is onsite counselling and retreats and has weekly healing services.  I’ve wanted to go on a retreat for ages, and this came up at the right time earlier this year.  I now know how important it is for me to stop, to relax and to accept help.  I spent four days at Burrswood and I have never felt so relaxed in my adult life, honestly, I can’t remember a time that I have felt so relaxed and content like that, I think it might be before I started university, the summer after A Levels and before starting my degree.

I find practicing mindfulness hard.  I have kept it up (and I’m quite proud of myself for doing so) since the Retreat.  I find it hard to focus on my breath though, I get thoughts all the time – you are taught to try and acknowledge the thoughts and let them pass.  I have trouble with the last bit, I tend to wander away with the thoughts, so it’s a good job I am using this book and CD guide so that I can be led back to the present:

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Being in the present is what mindfulness is all about.  Acknowledging your thoughts and feelings, noticing your surroundings.  Paying attention.  Peace.  Not rushing through life at 100mph trying to tick everything off of your endless mental to do list.

This is the theme of “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist.  I’ve read it twice.  I think this book might have been written just for me.  Shauna talks about laying things down, learning how to say no, living simpler.  The tagline for the book is “Leaving Behind frantic, for a simpler, more soulful way of living”.  Yes, I thought, that is definitely what I need.

Shauna says about saying no:

“It was very difficult for me to learn to say no.  I did it badly, awkwardly, sometimes too forcefully, and sometimes with so many disclaimers and weird ancillary statements that people actually had no idea what I was saying.  I hovered endlessly after I said it – was that okay?  Are we okay? Because I love you – you know I love you right?  We’re okay?”

I know this feeling well.  I have always been the girl who said “yes”.  Yes I’ll come and visit you on that weekend and yes I’ll see my family the weekend after and Yes I’ll do that with you the following Saturday and Yes to after work drinks and yes to staying late, yes to volunteering and yes to serving coffee at church and yes to being on that committee.

The thing is saying all those yeses meant that I was also saying no.  No to rest, no to time to myself, no to time to write, no to time to read, no to time with God, no to time with Carl, just us two.  That’s a dangerous pattern to fall in to.

There’s nothing wrong with yes.  Yes is fun and leads to wonderful memories, laughter and time with family and friends, opportunities and adventure.  It has to be balanced with a bit of no though…or perhaps more yesses but yesses to things like rest and quiet time.

I hope I am more balanced now.  I am trying.  I still fall into the yes trap, sometimes I do it because I am worried about disappointing someone.  Now however, I respect my nos and I respect other people’s nos.

There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries.  As hard as that is to do sometimes.

Here’s to embracing the pausing.

Pausing, One

Anxiety is no friend to logic.  You might “know” something but your body betrays you.  You feel like you have something heavy sat on your chest.  You can’t breathe deeply enough.  Your airways are tight.  Your chest doesn’t expand properly.  It feels like there’s a rubber resistance band strapped around your lungs.  You feel sick and your stomach is upset.  You obsessively and compulsively bite all of your nails down to the quick.  Tears are never far from behind your eyes.

It is the absence of peace.

In August 2015 I turned 30.  That summer I experienced a prolonged feeling of anxiety for the first time.  Lots of things happened and turning 30 seemed to bring it all into a sharp focus.  I had changed my job four months before and I suddenly realised that it wasn’t the job, it was me.  I was working long hours and was very stressed at work.  There was an altercation with my neighbour which left me feeling vulnerable at home.  I felt unanchored and a little bit lost.  I didn’t know what I should be doing for a career, could I really change?  I had spent so much time and energy (and money) getting to where I was.  Other people really want my job, it felt a bit like a betrayal to be thinking about changing careers.

I have experience (a long time ago now) of working in mental health.  So I did what I advocate, I acknowledged the way I was feeling, tried not to beat myself up about it and I was honest with my inner circle.  I also went and spoke to my doctor.  My doctor upon listening to me said he wasn’t surprised I was feeling like that, and suddenly, just like that I started to feel better.  Sometimes all we need is someone independent, someone outside, to take a look at our life and offer us some reassurance that we are not weak or crazy.  Sometimes it takes more than that and that is okay too.

It was then that I decided I needed to make some changes.  I felt like I had missed some warning signs – just in case anyone else is unclear – throwing up before you go to work every morning is definitely a warning sign that all is not quite right.

I wanted to step back, to make more time for me, to relax.  I was so tired.  Tired of being busy and doing and pleasing everybody and feeling like I was failing myself.

I decided I had to learn to say “no”.  I wanted to be more selective about where I spent my time.  I didn’t want to be rushing all the time trying to fit everybody in and making no time for me.  I wanted to do more creative things.  Mostly, though I wanted to spend more time listening to God.  Actually, learning to listen to God, discerning his will for me rather than trying to control all aspects of my life and just ask for his help when it got hard.

I wanted to know what I was being called to do.  There is a part in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, where the boy is being taught about the path, about how if you are on the right one then the whole universe conspires to help you and you keep seeing signs to let you know you are following your destiny.

The idea of counselling as a profession had been in my mind for a few years after a throw away comment from a friend and I hadn’t done anything about it until I signed up to an Introductory 12 week course at CityLit in January 2015.  I had really enjoyed the course but then had changed jobs and kept plugging along in “the real world” when the wheels started to come loose and I realised that actually, I couldn’t keep on.  I prayed a lot about it, and decided that I would need to get a job back in London to have any hope of being able to study part-time.

In November I put my CVs out to a few places, by December I had an interview and I was honest an open with the interviewer and she gave me some names of other places where I could apply as they were interviewing someone else.  By the first week of January I had a new job a commutable distance for part-time study.

Then the doubts came.  I wondered if this really what God was calling me to do or if I just wanted to do it because I didn’t like what I was currently doing.  I decided I would give the new place “a fair go” before making my decision.

I have been chugging along, keeping on, ticking over, I tried, I did.  But I think that that constant little nudge toward counselling in the back of my head that won’t go away is there for a reason.  I have found a part-time counselling course that I can apply for this January, it will be a big commitment – every Saturday from January to July, and it will be a scary process, going back to studying part time (at my age) and giving up some security in the job I have now, but if I have learned anything over the past year and a bit it’s that it will be worth it.  The application process for the course opens next month and closes pretty soon afterwards, they make quick decisions about who they let in it seems.

Last week I was pretty stressed with work, I guess the fact that the application process will be opening soon has also been in the back of my mind, I was working long hours again, often on my own and I experienced anxiety again, seemingly out of nowhere.  That horrible sick feeling, the feeling that I am crap at my job and making all of the wrong choices.  The feeling that everything is out of control.

I went, every day last week for 10 minutes to the church across the road.  I just wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus, and pour out my troubles to him and ask him for his peace, he doesn’t disappoint.  I had found this on Pinterest a few days before, and thought it may help those of you who also experience anxiety, as it helped me:

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The feeling passed more quickly this time, I have learned how to manage it better, how to acknowledge the feelings and I have learned that they will pass.  I have also learned that I need to have a positive attitude toward it, anxiety can suck you in and down if you let it.  This week I gave myself a stern talking to, I reminded myself that I am on the path and that it isn’t always straightforward, I have to push through and do hard things.  I can do that.  Paulo Coelho reminds us that:

“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure.  It’s all a question of how I view my life.”

I am definitely choosing to be a positive thinking adventurer, one who isn’t scared to try new things and grab opportunities with both hands.  I am not going to give in to the fear or the anxiety.  I am on the path and I am trusting in God and my heart to lead me to my destiny, back to the soul of the world.

The Ladder

On Saturday I went on a “Healing and Wholeness” course run by the Church of England for those of us interested in prayer ministry and healing prayer. It’s a two-day course and I’ll write about it next weekend after I’ve completed it ‘cos I know, I KNOW…it brings up all sorts of ideas about those awful American preachers who pray on the vulnerable and perform fake miracles and take people’s money. I know. But it isn’t like that (not when it’s done right) I promise. Anyway I’ll have more to say about that when I have actually completed the course.

i just brought it up because it’s a preamble to what happened as I was in Chatham (again, I know). For those of you unfamiliar with Kent based snobbery perhaps the below will help you:

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As they say in Croydon “it’s rough ends”, and I mean, that’s saying something ‘cos parts of Croydon aren’t exactly lovely.

I Digress. I was in Chatham, the church was obviously active within the community (always nice to see) and the people from Rochester Diocese all seemed very nice, the day ended I had to walk back to the station. It was about a 20 min walk along a busy road – the speed limit was 40mph and there were cars, buses and lorries. I was mostly thinking about the course and about the steak I was going to eat for dinner later. Food is never far from my thoughts.

Anyway, I suddenly became aware that on the opposite side of this busy road at the bottom of an approach road (which was residential) was a little boy, aged about 3, smartly dressed in shirt and chinos. He didn’t seem to be accompanied and he suddenly made like he was going to run into the road which was full of traffic. I shouted at him to “stay there, stay there!” a car that had luckily managed to stop slowed and thanked me as she drove past. The bus driver who was coming on my side of the road also had quick reactions and stopped to let me cross to him.

I realised straight away that the little boy had a disability, I kneeled down to his level to ask him “where’s Mummy and Daddy?” and he responded but with sounds rather than words, I tried several questions to try to illicit where he had come from, to no avail, two men walked past and said “he’s first house on the left love” in a tone that implied this wasn’t his first jaunt out alone.  I said “shall we go and find them (Mummy and Daddy)?” In an excited voice to which he seemed to assent before darting off up the middle of the side road – I followed managing to steer him onto the pavement before we rounded a corner and saw mummy/auntie/carer running in the other direction looking panicked.

As I had just finished reading Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” I tried to show this woman as much grace and compassion as I could, I informed her where he had been but in a non accusatory tone, I joked with him that he mustn’t run off as people would be worried and she thanked me before having to chase after him as he had darted off again.

It would be easy to have judged her, and if I’m honest, I did a little bit at first, but that is my failing and not hers.  I don’t know how hard it is to look after a disabled child, I don’t know that he has run off before, I don’t know her past, her struggles, how well she is managing or not.

Brene Brown writes that we all experience shame, an example of shame would be thus:

“let’s say you forgot that you made plans to meet a friend at noon for lunch.  At 12:15 p.m, your friend calls from the restaurant to make sure you’re okay.  If your self talk is “I’m such an idiot.  I’m a terrible friend and a total loser” – that’s shame.  If, on the other hand, your self-talk is “I can’t believe I did that.  What a crappy thing to do” – that’s guilt”.

Shame makes us act crazy, when we experience it we lash out, we say hurtful things, we try to deflect the shame.  I know I do.  Therefore, If I had shamed that woman, she may have responded in that way, and, as I said above, I don’t know her circumstances, so why do I have the right to judge and shame her?

I will re read this book, it is a “game changer”, I will try to build up my “shame resilience” as Brene calls it and move toward wholehearted living.  Brene says:

“Empathy is a connection; it’s a ladder out of the shame hole”.

We all need that ladder, because we all fall into that shame hole – I know I do.  On Sunday I was offended, it was unjust and unfair.  I have needed to talk about the incident with friends and family, so that when I deal with it I do it from a place of empathy, rather than shame.  I choose to believe that people are mostly trying their best but sometimes they react to things from a place of shame and if you do so as well it will only make the situation worse.

Everyone is trying their best, so am I.

 

A quick Q&A

My friend Madge said she’d like me to answer some basic questions about myself like “why do you go to church?”  Trouble is the answers to those sorts of questions are a bit complex!  I’ve done my best below, without writing an essay in response to each one.

Why is the blog called Nack and Nace.com?  What does it mean?

Nackley and Nacey were my imaginary friends as a child, more affectionately referred to by two year old me as “Nack and Nace”.  I was thinkng along the lines of imagination, thoughts and writing and thought it had a nice ring to it.

Why am I writing a Blog?

It’s a way to be creative, my job is not creative at all and I needed an outlet.  I enjoy writing, also I wanted to expand on my 100 days of gratefulness posts that I’d done on Facebook a while back and expand on the short little posts that I did there.  I found keeping an online “Gratefulness Diary” helpful, it’s very hygge which is something I intend on writing an entire post about!

What stops me from writing?

Time, or lack thereof!  Also, sometimes, wondering whether what I write will be interesting to others, so a bit of self doubt I guess.

Why am I a Christian?

Well, because I believe in God.  I try to avoid debates about whether there is God or not because I know there is in the same way that I feel and know love exists and I appreciate that others will say exactly yhe same thing for why they feel there isn’t a God.  Does this mean that I never doubt? No. does it mean that I have all the answers or find some things about Christianity easy to accept?  Hell no.  Does it mean that I can’t see things from the point of view of an atheist or that I don’t have atheist friends – nope.  All are welcome in my circle, so long as you are trying to be good, wholehearted person.

Why do I go to Church?

A lot of people, including Christians struggle with Church.  I get this, I do too – it can sometimes seem hard to find God there.  It can be rigid, judgmental, unaccepting and self righteous.  The thing is that Church is not God or Jesus, it is the meeting of imperfect people in a place (any place) where they come together to meet with God and Jesus.  Sometimes those imperfect people forget why they are there and they forget what the face of Jesus looks like (that’s love, by the way).  It can also be a bit magical though when you have a community of imperfect people trying to do wonderful and loving work and supporting eachother in their faith, they might not get it all 100% right but they can do a lot of good.

Why do I read the Bible?  Do I believe everything in it?

I read it because it is how I learn to know God and Jesus better, how I grow in understanding my faith.

I believe every word in it is inspired by God and God breathed but that doesn’t mean that I believe that it can be read at face value.  So much of the Bible needs to be read in context, with an understanding of the time in which it was written and the culture.  I am not a Theologian and I know there are many ways of interpreting texts.  I do my best and I try to remember what Jesus said and did and I take that as the basis for how I should behave and also how I should try and interpet stories, looking through a “Jesus Lens”, if you will.

Why do I call myself a Jesus Feminist?

I am a Feminist, I believe that women have the right to be treated as equal to men and that they aren’t a lot of the time.  I believe that Jesus thought so too.  In the Gospels there are countless examples of Jesus treating women with respect, allowing them to learn from him (unheard of before that time) and treating them as equal to men.  It is what I believe that God intended and what should be the natural order of things.

Why am I interested in Hygge, Mindfulness and Hapiness?

I think it is human nature to search for happiness and purpose in life. I struggle with time management, saying “no”, people pleasing and generally being “busy”.  I can find that I am suddenly existing rather than living, that I am stressed, tired and anxious.  It is so much better to live and to enjoy this wonderful, crazy life journey, noticing it and not having it just pass you by.  Using Hygge, Mindfulness and exploring my Faith help me to be more centered, more present and happier.

Christian Mindfulness is bascially just another term for being still and listening to God, Hygge is all about comfort and security, things that you also get from being mindful and from having a faith.

Essentially all of these things are about living in the present, being still and connected.  I am a big believer in human connection and making time for you; it is instrumental to our mental health and well being.

Do I have any vices?

Chocolate.  Specifically pralines.

Any other questions?  Shout.

 

What I’ve been in to this Summer…

Summer already feels like it’s waning, we’re about to move into one of my favourite months, September.  Before we get there though, a little bit of love an appreciation for what I’ve been up to:

Bridesmaiding

It was my middle sister’s wedding in June and what an absolutely gorgeous day it was!  It was a traditional English County Wedding at my parents’ house in Kent,  it was a lot of work to get the marquee set up to look as polished and as beautiful as it did, and a fair bit of running around on the day to ensure everything went smoothly, but it was so.much.fun!  Exactly what a wedding should be.  Also my sister is an absolute beauty and looked stunning in her Watters Wtoo gown, plus she dressed us bridesmaids in jumpsuits, which is, you know, totally the coolest thing ever.

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Vocation Coursing

As I mentioned before I went on a Vocations Course through my church throughout most of June and July.  It was my favourite night of the week and I feel so much more at peace about a career change now – I still don’t exactly have all the answers, more complicated by seeing an old friend last weekend who threw a new suggestion/path into the mix which I am investigating thoroughly, but I am happy about it and feel at peace with moving forward.

Days out Visiting

So I have been to Brighton a couple of times to visit friends who live there, it’s always nice to be by the seaside and be still for a bit, even better if you can eat an icecream from Scoop & Crumb whilst your there.  Brighton is fab for general British seasideyness but also for having cooler stuff – lots of live music and a good night out if that’s what you’re looking for.

N.B. The below photo was taken a couple of summers back.

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Madge, Chick and I also went to the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery at Lavestoke Mill  for a fun packed day, with lots to see and learn about gin.  Obviously this ended in a gin based cocktail picked for you from the smells you had identified as liking earlier in an interactive part of the tour.  All very enjoyable!

Below is some old style gin bottles and various gin glasses that were on display:

Smelling all the different flavours and choosing ones before our cocktails were made for us:

Finally, me enjoying my cocktail (very much):

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I would really recomend this as a good day out for a group of friends, we had a lot of fun.

Carl and I have also ventured up to Birmingham to visit friends back a the beginning of the month and I went home for my birthday weekend, which involved a gorgeous barbeque in the garden and toasting marshmellows as the sun went down.

Carl took me to visit Higate Cemetery which is somewhere I have always wanted to go since reading Audrey Niffeneger’s “Her Fearful Symmetry” and Danny Wallace’s “Charlotte Street” (very different books, both very good, both feature Highgate Cemetery). It was in equal parts fascinating and creepy.

Odd Mothering

I have become an Odd Mother (instead of God Mother) to a wonderful little girl which is both humbling and very honouring.  I hope I do a good job.  I plan on introducing her to Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, Jo March, Aslan and Harry Potter as soon as possible, so I think that’s a good start and I’m pretty sure her actual parents would agree.

Seeing friends and relaxing

Always an important combination!

Watching

Stranger Things.  So so hooked!  Peaky Blinders, which I loved and we have just started Making a Murderer.  We realise we are late to the party.

Reading

So much.  This month mainly “Lean for Life” by Louise Parker, which I am currently doing, and actually enjoying!

I also particularly enjoyed:

Being Mortal by Atwul Gawande and The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins which definitely lived up to the hype.

Theatre

Funny Girl. Go and see it.  Sheridan Smith gave one of the most powerful and emotional perfomances I have ever seen.

Even though I haven’t had a huge amount of time off I have enjoyed this summer immensely.

Next…

I am not sure why September is my favourite month but I think it might be down to the fact that September always feels like a New Start, a bit like January, I think it’s the back to school, harvest time.  I also love the weather, you get some grogeous long harvest days but the temperature drops a little signalling the start of autumn, my favourite season.

I am already planning away some wonderful Hygge activities for autumn, I am thinking: baking, wedding planning, cosy writing time with a pot of tea, preparing the garden for winter and focusing on all those projects I am yet to complete before the end of the year.  I’m all excited just thinking about it!

I plan on reading The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking and have already ordered it ready for September.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept of “hygge” it is basically happiness or comfort, anything can by “hygge” cosy nights in with a loved one drinking hot chocolate, for example.  Hygge is a theory born in Denmark, apparently the happiest country in the world.  

Also The Great British Bake Off is back – what could be more Hygge?!  As soon as the six weeks of my Lean for Life shred is over I am planning on baking again!  Can’t wait!

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!

 

 

Committed to being kind and other things…

So, a lot has been happening.  There was the whole #Brexit debacle.  I was devastated, I sobbed when I heard the result.  I love being a Londoner, British and European. I am not going to write a whole post on my feelings around the result, because, frankly, others do it better here and here.  I wasn’t surprised.  I am friends on social media with a few people who were voting “Leave” for a variety of reasons, not all of them (praise the Lord) immigration related.  I realised that there was a big division in our country and that some people had researched this and come to the conclusion that to leave the EU would, they thought, be better for farmers, the countryside and themselves.  I also realised that some people had done precisely no research and were blaming the EU for a whole host of problems, including “immigrants taking our jobs”.  Excellent.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am not going to go into the rights and wrongs (according to me) of these views.  What I will say, and what I have already said on my own Facebook page is that we are all entitled to our political opinions and we all need to be kind to others, including on the internet.  Calling someone “dumb/thick/lefty idiot” or telling them that they “need to get over it, it’s happened” is oversimplifying the issue and is unfair when we clearly have a very divided country and need to focus on healing some rifts.

I have been horrified that my fears about racism being a large motivator for some people are being confirmed.  The BBC reported this week that there has been a 42% rise in hate crime in the UK compared to the same period last year.  A lot of racists seem to feel emboldened by the Referendum result and this was a particular fear of mine.  This is hugely upsetting and distressing to me.  I cannot comprehend people behaving like this to others, it is alien to me.

I have therefore decided to do my bit by being kind.  I start up conversations with people who are different to me where I can, I smile at immigrants a lot, I have started frequenting my local corner shop and Polski Sklep more in an effort to show these valued members of our communities that they are welcome.  I probably look a bit weird. It feels a bit weird sometimes but, really WHO CARES?! I would encourage everyone to do this.  These are small things, but they are done with love and I hope they make a difference.

Further to my last post I am committed to being careful about what I “like”, share and post on social media.  I always consider if I need to say anything, or if others more knowledgeable than me can do the talking.

In an effort not to become completely depressed about the state of the world and to make myself feel more centred, I have also been doing other things (alongside praying, obvs):

Reading

I bought myself some new books after a self imposed “book buying ban” in November when I realised I had two shelves of unread books and approximately 8 unread kindle books!  Whoops!  Having read a lot since then I decided that I could treat myself, reading helps keep me sane.

May reads on the left, June reads on the right.  Don’t judge me for “Billy and Me”, it was needed after the EU referendum result, and was actually alright!  Best read of May?  It’s a tie between “Everyday Sexism” and “The day I met Jesus”, both profoundly feminist books, what’s not to love?

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Healthy eating and exercise?

Fallen off the wagon a bit here, but I have rediscovered a love for yoga.  I need to get back on board with my BBG workouts again, I’ve lost a bit of motivation after my bridesmaid moment passed!

Thoughts about my future and career 

Always a lot of thoughts.  I attended a wonderful vocations course (the first of its kind) through the church and for the last five weeks Wednesdays have been my favourite night of the week.  I am so glad I did it, I feel so much calmer about the future and my calling.  It was great to discuss things with a group of strangers (bar one person) and learn from their wisdom and experience.  I found it enlightening.  That sounds like a big word but I really did.  I discovered more about myself, the way I learn and approach things and about how to listen to God.  I still don’t really have all of the answers but I definitely have more clarity which is refreshing, particularly in a time when everything else seems so uncertain.

Socialising

I have been seeing lovely friends for good conversation, wine, food and fun, and I am always grateful for their time, especially those who have babies and whose time is precious.

Watching

Re Watching Doctor Who from Series One (the new one with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor).  That’s right.

Finishing off “The Wire” we’re on the final series and it’s past its best.

Gardening

I love my vegetable patch and my little herb garden. It is so satisfying watching things grow. My lettuces are my particular pride – insane!

I try to be organic and use the companion planting technique to reduce pests – this means planting crops together which assist so nasturtiums in with the runner beans are supposed to prevent aphids. Unfortunately, slug pellets seem to be the only thing working on those particular pests!

Things I am carrying forward into coming weeks:

  1. I’ve purchased a new Bible Study plan “Open your Bible” from “She Reads Truth” whose App I have used before, and I am looking forward to getting started.
  2. More Yoga.
  3. More reading.
  4. Bullet journaling.  I am still not 100% clear on what this is, but I want in!

I hope those of you that are feeling uncertain and a bit unanchored feel less so soon.

LOVE.