How I deal with Stress and Anxiety

The short answer to this is: not very well, unless you consider good coping mechanisms are eating chocolate and buying things, in which case I am ace at stress and anxiety management.

In all seriousness I am trying to get better at this after a pretty anxious period last year and I thought I would share some of the techniques I employ in case it could help you or others you know because a lot of people find it difficult and it can have a negative impact on your mental health, which is not cool.

So I often do the following:

  1. Remind myself about the bigger picture. If this is a work situation I often remind myself that “no one died”. Excellent. Thankfully, this has always been true.
  2. Acknowledge anything that I have done which has contributed to the situation.
  3. Don’t continually beat myself up about 2; it has been done, now let’s try and rectify it, whilst reminding myself constantly re 1.
  4. Think of solutions that could easily be accomplished to better the situation.
  5. I like to write down what happened and what I can now do to try and resolve it.
  6. If there are no obvious solutions/or it is not a particular incident but just a feeling of stress or anxiety I might write out my feelings or acknowledge them in my head. You can’t help how you feel, so again, don’t berate yourself a la 3.
  7. Talk it through with a friend. You need someone who is both sympathetic but also someone who won’t let you wallow and run away with yourself.
  8. Pray.
  9. If you are not religiously inclined some “quiet time” could also do the trick.
  10. Remember that if it involves other people they are likely not as annoyed/angry/upset about it as you are worried they are.
  11. I hear that Headspace is a good app which I plan on trying.

We all deal with stress and anxiety differently. If you think the way that you are dealing with it (or not) is overwhelming you, or affecting your day to to day life then you should talk to your doctor. You shouldn’t think that it’s a “first world problem” or “insignificant”. If it is bothering you then you need to see if you need some more structured help with how to manage it.

Your doctor is not going to judge you, your friends and family won’t either. It does not mean you are “crazy” or “weak”.

If you think that someone is living with stress and anxiety to a level where it is affecting them, then talk to them about it, let them know they aren’t alone!

I strongly believe that one of the best ways to love each other is to let others know they aren’t alone. If you can’t relate, or empathise, then pass on information, link people in with other writers or services or support groups that will be able to help them. Let them know that just because you haven’t had the exact same experience that it doesn’t mean they are alone!

Feeling alone is pretty terrible. Let someone know you are there and that you care, even if you don’t understand. It’s better to do this than remain silent because you’re worried you’ll say the wrong thing!

 

#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.

On Harper Lee

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I was very sad to hear about the passing of Harper Lee. Disproportionately so; after all this was an 89 year old woman who I didn’t know and had never met and she had had a “good innings” as the saying goes.

Harper Lee wrote one of my literary loves “To Kill a Mocking Bird” published in 1960, winning the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1961 and then: nothing. She effectively lived as a recluse before publishing “Go Set a Watchman” in 2015.

I first read “TKMB” when I was 13, year 9 English Literature. I instantly loved it; I have re-read it countless times since, I watched the Oscar winning 1962 film adaptation laughing at the vision of Scout dressed as the ham for the pageant.  The story: the unfairness of it all, narrated through children’s eyes, children who do not see these things, these differences that adult’s create. Tom Robinson an innocent man, accused of a crime he was incapable of committing, defended by Atticus and still convicted, because he was black and his accuser a white woman. Then murdered in prison.

“Go Set a Watchman” was only published in July, I had pre ordered it, and devoured it. Now Scout is a woman she can see the flaws in her father’s character, someone she had placed on a pedestal as an example of good; he has prejudices, and shockingly to Scout, he believes in segregation. The title for the book comes from the book of Isiah (21:6):

“For thus the Lord said to me “Go, post a lookout, let him announce what he sees. When he sees riders, horseman in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.

Isiah is saying that we must have a watcher for dangers, for when we stray from the path of goodness – our conscience, and we should listen to it.

Harper Lee wrote “GSAW” first; but the publishers wanted to hear more about her childhood so she wrote TKMB. Surprisingly to me a lot of people seemed to overlook the fact the Tom Robinson was convicted and later murdered. Atticus was a hero. I don’t think “GSAW” necessarily takes away from that. We just realise that Atticus is not, as many made him out to be, including his daughter: a perfect man. Atticus has prejudices and character flaws.

I have white privilege. I don’t have the same experiences as someone who is black or brown, or Asian, living in a predominantly white society, and they don’t have the same experiences as me. We are all a product of our environments and our experiences.

I am the daughter of two teachers, they are open people, they are well travelled and are interested in other cultures, they have friends of different backgrounds and races to themselves and always taught my sisters and me that you judge a person by what they do and what they say, not how they say it or the colour of their skin or the religion they follow. They also taught me that in every group of people there will be some “good eggs” and some “bad eggs” and that you do not judge a whole on the actions or words of a few.

As a consequence, I knew that racism was a reality, for a while I went to school in Lewisham, and Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racially motivated attack down the road in Eltham: that tragedy led to the biggest investigation into institutional racism within the Police in the UK and lots of changes were made, that case made me want to study law. However, equally, because of my privilege in the way that I grew up I have never experienced racism. Sexism, sure. But not racism.

For example, I didn’t know that anti-Semitism was still a “thing” until I went to University and dated a Jewish boy – I thought we had sorted that out in the World War II – surely no one would still be stupid enough to hate Jews? Wrong.

I think Harper Lee waited to publish “GSAW” to teach us that we still need to post our watchmen, that we have a long way to go. Look at our world: Police in the UK may not be shooting unarmed black kids on the regular, but instances of racially motivated attacks on Muslims are on the rise, anti-immigrant and Muslim sentiment is expressed in mainstream media and there has been a rise in the support for far right parties like UKIP, despite the fact that we are facing the biggest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to fear, or ignorance (in the least judgmental sense of the word), and oftentimes: both. If people don’t know any people of colour, or any Muslims, or any Jews, or anyone who is in anyway different to themselves, then it seems to be quite easy to categorise them as “different”; it’s easy to forget about them, they are “not the same”, and so it doesn’t matter. It’s a “Them vs. Us” mentality and it’s completely contrary to how we were made to live.

Essentially, we all have prejudices, nobody is perfect, and it is sometimes hard to recognise those in ourselves. We all judge people, whether we like to admit it or not, by the shoes they wear, the way they speak or behave. I have a particularly hard time with those that vote UKIP or express views that come out of fear even though I know that I am sometimes guilty of that (the fear. Definitely not the UKIP voting). Those judgments and prejudices must be kept in check and we should not surrender to fear of difference and the unknown. As Yoda so wisely says: “fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”

I have friends of different colours, religions and sexualities to me and to each other. I talk to my neighbours and colleagues, who are Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Atheist, white, black, brown, men and women. I have contact all day every day with people who are different to me – I live in London. What I know from this is that we are fundamentally the same where it matters, in our hearts and souls: we all love our kids and our families and our friends, we all get annoyed by the trains being delayed.

I am very judge-y about judge-y people, and oftentimes that is justified and sometimes anger and strong words are needed but, quite often, they won’t get you very far. We need people, people like Harper Lee and Glennon Doyle Melton who can tell stories and who can teach change and taking a long hard look at ourselves. Glennon’s recent work with The Compassion Collective has made a few people I know feel differently about the refugee crisis. We also need the voices of more people of colour, novelists and bloggers like Austin Channing Brown and Deidra Riggs and Maya Angelou.

I hope that post Harper Lee’s death there is a treasure trove of unpublished works found, I hope that she has more gifts to give the world and more lessons to teach us. I hope, because I hate to think of the alternative: that she got scared by her success and didn’t write again. That would be a terrible waste.

I will continue to expand my reading, looking out for other writers who can talk authoritatively on these issues, who can educate me and challenge me and make me feel a little bit sad and a little bit ashamed and make me want to do better, be better and encourage others in the same way.

If anyone has any recommendations for how I can expand my world view and discover new writers (maybe some British ones!!) and as Glennon would say “put on my perspectacles”, please let me know.

#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.

10 Things About Me

  1. My favourite colours are grey and yellow; but, when asked I always answer blue or green.  I have no idea what this means or says about my personality.
  2. I love reading; I am an unashamed book worm.  I read every day – novels (of a wide variety), blog posts, non fiction books (mainly about Christianity or Feminism, or both), articles.  Always something.
  3. In a similar vein I become very attached to fictional characters both in print and on screen.  Shonda Rhimes slays me. #derekshepherdgonebutnotforgotten
  4. I daydream.  A lot.  I am always off imagining something, building my own stories and narratives.  I have done this since I was a little girl when before I was two I had imaginary friends, it is both a wonderful thing and has the power to be damaging, in the sense that I struggle to live in the “now” and appreciate all that I have.
  5. I don’t worry about ageing, I look forward to it.  I value wisdom and kindness above all things and I look forward to the day when I have wisdom to pass on to others and can also rock a purple fur coat and a red beret, just because I’m 90 and don’t care.
  6. I believe in magic, miracles and the power of love.
  7. If I hear a song on the radio or on my ipod I can happily sing along, knowing all of the words.  If you ask me to sing that song or ask me who sang it or the name of the song at a random time, I can’t help you.  Unless it’s a Rod Stewart song or something I listened to on repeat for a period of more than two weeks at a time (examples of this include Boys II Men “End of the Road”).  I don’t know why my brain works like this.
  8. Similar to Glennon Doyle Melton – I feel like I might be called to do big things for God, like working for and helping  others, possibly by being a counsellor.  However, I have trouble doing small things for God, like not being judgmental about judgmental people.  See 9.
  9. I get very angry about people who are racist, misogynistic or plain ignorant and are mean to others; basically those who do not act with love.  My response to these people is decidedly un-Christian – i.e. I imagine saying nasty things to them and calling them out because they make me MAD.  I know that these feelings might be justified on some level, but my extreme anger is something I need to work on.  I need to be more understanding of people and perhaps focus on asking God to help me communicate with them.
  10. I am a crier.  I cry a lot.  Probably about 3 times a week.  I cry at the news, YouTube videos of kids with disabilities, at random acts of kindness or any examples of anyone showing humanity and love.  As a favourite writer of mine says I am “elevated to tears” on a regular basis.

On being very bad at Endings

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I got a new job! One that will hopefully allow me to pursue studying and even possibly a career change further down the line. I am thrilled as I have been unhappy at my current place for a while, I never really settled there.

All terribly exciting! BUT. Wait. immediately after the initial thrill and pleasure I began worrying about the “ending” at my current role. My imagination got totally out of control with how bad my boss was going to take it because I was letting him down and how terrible it would be working out my notice period. I even imagined him throwing me out of the office without time to clear my desk.

I had a couple of contract queries that needed ironing out yesterday and once they were, I signed on the dotted line!

So, today I finally had to summon the courage to tell my boss that I was leaving and full of trepidation, sweating profusely with a beetroot coloured face – I went into his office. Pretty sure he guessed what was about to happen as soon as he saw me.

Anyway, he couldn’t have been more lovely or understanding about it all, saying he had noticed over the last few months that the commute was taking its toll and I didn’t seem my usual self. He had lots of complimentary things to say and all in all it will probably be a really pleasant last month as I know I’ll be leaving. I’ll probably even cry when I do. It’s just what I do: I am an unashamed cryer (ENFJ for the Myers Briggs fans out there).

I really need to work on not being afraid to end things for fear of upsetting or disappointing other people; it makes you do things you don’t really want to do just because it’s easier than saying no. I touched on this in one of my earlier posts as it’s something I know I need to be conscious of this coming year.

Jen Hatmaker talked about this in a recent blog post when she said that a friend advised her:”if it isn’t a “HELL Yes!”, then it’s a “no””. So very true.

So from now on I am being brave enough to end things that I no longer want to make time for. I need to because the universe has other ideas about what I ought to be doing with my time and is clearly trying to make that happen, so I should embrace that and move forward without fear, following the signs, as Paulo Coehlo would advise.

 

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.

 

 

Best Reads of 2015, according to me.

In no particular order the books that I read and made most impact on me in 2015:

  1. Carry On, Warrior – Glennon Doyle Melton.  If you haven’t read this, read it now, then find Glennon’s blog on Momastery, read all of the archives and follow her on every single social media outlet.  Become a Monkee and take part in all the wonderful things she does like love flash mobs and the Compassion Collective.
  2. Faith Without Pretending – Dr. Anne Townsend.  I am lucky enough to know this wonderful lady personally, she is clergy at my church and her preaching days are my favourite services.  What a life.
  3. The Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning.  There is a lot in this book but you come away with a sense that you are loved and you want to *do* better.
  4. Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee.  I had big, big expectations after TKMB.  I was not disappointed.  Wow.
  5. Elizabeth is Missing -Emma Healey. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this, it was a gripping storyline and very British.  It dealt with a sensitive subject in a sensitive way.
  6. The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton. This was a wonderful mystery.  I don’t normally pick up mystery books but this was recommended by a friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Beautifully written with unexpected plot twists, I really had no idea what would happen next.
  7. Out of Sorts – Sarah Bessey.  I loved Sarah’s first book “Jesus Feminist” and I was lucky enough to hear her speak in October at the Woman 2 Woman Conference in London about her faith.  I adore Sarah’s writing, she makes theology relatable and pertinent to every day life.  Sarah is one of my favourite bloggers and writers.
  8. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr.  I picked this up in Waterstones after a recommendation that read “if you liked the Book Thief (which I did, I LOVED it, in fact) then you’ll love this”.  True.
  9. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This was bought for me for my thirtieth by a friend with excellent literary taste.  Completely different and, dare I say it, ground breaking.
  10. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho.  This completely blew me away.  I cannot believe that I had not heard of this author before a month ago.  I got three more of his books for Christmas and will be using my library car to read every single word he has written.  Ever.

Committed

No, I don’t mean in the relationship sense, I’ve got that one down – signing up to 25 years of London mortgage together will do that to you!

My word for 2015 was “learning”.  I wanted to read more; I am and always will be, a complete book worm, usually averaging a book every two weeks, but, for reasons unknown, I had only read a handful in 2014 so I wanted to re cultivate the habit of reading.  I managed to read 24 books in 2015 and the ones that made most impact can be found here*.

I specifically wanted to learn more about myself.  It was the year I turned thirty, changed jobs and considered an entire career change…it was a big year, although I only had an inkling of all of this at this time last year.

I thought a lot about the career change; I currently work with people, which I enjoy, but there are other aspects of my job which I am not so enamoured with.  I had been seriously feeling as if I was being called to become a counsellor; this had led to a lot of soul searching in late 2014 so I decided to bite the bullet and in January 2015 I enrolled on an introductory course at the City Lit which taught me more about myself than I had ever imagined.

I learned that I like to please, I have trouble saying “no”, I don’t like confrontation, I am an authority and people pleaser which leads to some stress and anxiety and I learned about how I cope with that.  I plan to write more about all of this at a later date, I mean, who doesn’t not like parts of their job and who knows what they’re being “called” to do (what does that even mean?)??  To be honest, even as I wrote that, it all sounded a little self indulgent, a little first world, but for now, let’s just say that I found it fascinating and I have decided that it is definitely something I would like to pursue, the wheels are now in motion to hopefully make this a big part of 2016.

In 2014 I kept a gratefulness diary; again, this deserves a post of it’s own as it was part of a new commitment to “live my faith”.  However, in 2015 I expanded on this – I read the entire Bible with the help of a reading plan and app at She Reads Truth.  This was a great learning experience for me, totally overwhelming at times, but wonderful to be able to share with a community of women who were reading the same verses and generously providing their insights into the meaning and interpretations of the text.  During Lent I also completed two separate studies, one through my church, and another through the same app, both were insightful and helpful to my faith journey.

I am excited to enter 2016 with a new word – committed.

I want to be committed to writing/blogging, committed to continuing bible study, committed to reading more (26 books being this years aim), committed to pursuing the possible change of career and all the many shifts and changes in focus and priorities that will inevitably lead to, and finally, on a more personal level, as I am now thirty, committed to more exercise and healthier eating**.

I will also be attempting to say “no” to social activities more, not only will this help my financial state of affairs, which, for a thirty year old, working, professional woman are somewhat dire – blame that mortgage, it will also help me with tiredness and a feeling of being overstretched.  As much as I love being out and about in London with all that the city has to offer I also need to recognise that I need time to wind down and relax at weekends after a busy week of working and commuting.  So wish me luck with this one, it’s probably going to be the most challenging, particularly as all my weekends in January are already booked up.  Great start.

I am excited for 2016, there are lots of goals I want to accomplish!

*I hope, technology is hard.

**I’m sure I have this one every year, but hopefully with the added pressure of having to look good in a bridesmaid dress in June I will be more, shall we say, committed?! I know, I know.  Perhaps I should be committed to working on my jokes.

 

N.B. Image is my own; that’s me, considering the view from Cubar Edge, Peak District in October 2015, chanelling my inner Lizzie Bennett.

 

 

Fear

So today is the last day of the year; the year in which I have been promising myself that I would start this blog.

I decided, last week, that it was going to be my New Years resolution, because, you see, I am so terribly busy that I just haven’t had time to sit down and actually write anything, but, I thought, I will do it in the New Year because that’s a good time to start and I also I paid for this domain name.

Then, yesterday, I started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and I actually admitted that all the excuses that I make all the time about why I haven’t been able to write, are just that: excuses.

I will always be busy, I work full time and commute for a large proportion of each day.  There will always be hundreds of other things on my endless “To Do” lists.  So, what was stopping me?  The answer, as it often is, was/is (delete as appropriate): fear.

That’s all excuses are.  Fear that when I do make time, as I do for other things that are important, like exercise, that actually, I won’t be any good.  That although I think I need to write, for my soul, I don’t know if I should.  I don’t know if what I write will be any good.  I stopped you see.  From a tiny little girl, I thought and then wrote stories, exercise books of them and they were, I think, quite good.  But I haven’t written stories since I was about fourteen and I haven’t really written anything, beyond essays for school and then university since my early twenties.

Recently, I saw my Naturopath, who is a wonderful person, and I was talking to her about how I feel stressed and quite anxious a lot of the time.  She suggested that I go back to doing something that I enjoyed when I was about nine.  She told me that she used to enjoy, and was actually pretty good at gymnastics and she decided that she missed it. She’s now in her fifties so she didn’t want to take up gymnastics again but she now goes to Pilates and enjoys being bendy and showing off a little bit in that class. For the longest time I couldn’t think of what it was that I did, and then, like a light bulb moment, I realised it was writing.

I discussed it with a good friend of mine and we promised each other we would start blogs and then I put it off.  I was busy, I had so much to do and so little time.  It was all fear and fear that this blog will be awful is still very much there, fear that I don’t really have a “theme” in mind, that people will be confused by my complicated thoughts and that, simply, I won’t be able to express myself.

But then I remembered that the only people who are likely to read this blog are my sisters, and they’ll tell me pretty sharpish if I really shouldn’t bother.

So, deep breath, here we are, fear and me.

Happy New Year.