Category Archives: Fab-ruary

Self-care box

Day14

I like the idea of a self-care box: a box you can open when needed, full of things that make you feel good or make you feel beautiful, or things that relax you or make you smile.

In my (hypothetical) box, I’d definitely have “a walk by the sea, dipping my toes in the waves”…a few hours alone with a good book…a pot of tea…time for seeing dear friends…wandering around a flea market, listening to jazz live, red lipstick, a rainbow of nail polish colours, a solo trip to the cinema, good food…..cake…window shopping in expensive stores, sitting somewhere busy and watching people pass by, walking in Nature, hiking, running, a day-long cycling trip….

It’s so important to take time to ‘reboot’, to take time for yourself, to do something that makes you happy and refills you with energy….

Can’t wait to see what’s in everyone else’s box….if you’re not joining in with Fab-ruary, let me know in the comments….!

[Short, fairly uninspired post, sorry….my son’s ill and I haven’t slept for what seems like a year….back to ‘normal service’ soon, hopefully!]

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Dream big, whistle-y Weeze

DreamBig

I’ve always had big dreams. Always been a dreamer.

I used to get told off in class for whistling. I’d whistle when I was happy, whistle when I was thinking, whistle all the time, generally. And, apparently, people don’t like whistlers. Or so I was told. Repeatedly.

I come from a fairly relaxed, care-free, home, where we were allowed to be children, which meant being allowed to roam free, to explore, to play, to create, to think for ourselves. 

My whistling became my first experience of being told not. And I didn’t like it. Not one bit. As my whistling was me and I didn’t like being told I couldn’t be me. 

It didn’t seem constructive, this not. It seemed authoritarian for the sake of being authoritarian and so I’d find ways of getting around the not. 

This attitude, I think, is what propelled me to follow the not. Wherever I found a not, I’d go in to it, rather than avoiding it. [Not that I was a problem child, far from it; my desire to follow the not and be a ‘good girl’ would entail all sorts of creative problem solving on my part!].

Fast forward a few decades…

You can’t go to London to study. You can’t start a business.

…..You can’t, you can’t, you can’t. You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t…..

It goes in one ear and out the other.

It’s made me a life-long dreamer.

Dreams as big as houses, cities, countries.

Dreams lost, dreams conquered, adventures had, lessons learned, life lived.

A lot more life to live.

I read somewhere the other day (on the four-hour work week guy’s blog somewhere, I think) that you should dream ten times bigger.

The logic being that if you dream ten times bigger, you’re bound to reach some of your dreams and it’ll propel you well on the way to the achievement of your Big Mother Dream.

I like the idea.

I’ve been dreaming Big this week.

10x bigger.

Whistling to my heart’s content all the time.

[This is my response for Day 13 of Fab-ruary; list of prompts here]

Most alive…

Day 11 of Fab-ruary….

Day11

I feel most alive when I’m expressing myself. Writing. Creating. Taking photos. When I find my flow and get lost in that ‘no time’ time where everything feels more alive because I’m being me. I feel alive when I run – there’s always a point in the run when my body tries to convince me that I’m tired but then my mind kicks in, coaxing my body in to shape, willing it on, encouraging it to go that little bit extra. So we do, we run that few km further, mind and body in tune, feeling that much better for having made that extra effort. A bit like life: great things come to those who put in that ‘little extra’…..so, so worth it to feel that much more alive…

Overcoming fears

Day 10 of Fab-ruary (prompts here)….

Day10

Fear overcome (and how)? Corr…I didn’t make these prompts easy, did I???!!

I’m an INFJ (essentially a weird, rare personality type – basically introverted, complicated, shy yet not, fearful of company yet not, full of contradictions, which can be paralysing – you get the idea….not the easiest way to be, nor the easiest way to move through life…). I only found this out a few months ago and when I did, I was like, “Aha! That explains a lot!”…and it has, and does, explain a lot about my behaviour.

Being an INFJ makes life difficult. You want to socialise but you need to be in exactly the right mood to do so (which makes committing to future social events kind of a nightmare). You want to talk to people but you really need to have deep conversations with people, even people you don’t really know that well, which makes people uneasy (even people you do know well!). Deep down, you want to be the life and soul of the party, but you’re kind of shy and, most times, just want to curl up with a book or a film. You read people’s thoughts and ‘unspoken’ words with ease and oftentimes don’t say what you mean so as not to hurt someone’s feelings, leading to frustration for yourself….it’s not easy being an INFJ, by any means. It makes life hard when all you want is for life to be easier. For everyone.

So, there I was, 18 (oblivious to this whole ‘INFJ’ business…)….Small town girl off to the Big Smoke. I knew I had to do it. I knew that’s where my future lay. I knew in my mind that it made sense and that I wanted to do it. But, during my first few days there, after Mum and Dad had left me there, with all my belongings, I felt myself gripped with an irrational fear….I didn’t know anyone, I wanted to go home, I wanted to see my friends…..irrational, totally irrational, because I’d committed to spending three years there, to get my degree…

After about a week of wallowing in self-pity, I decided pretty quickly that a) I needed to enjoy my course as much as possible, because it was the path I’d chosen and worked so hard for and because I loved the subject and could be very good at it if only my silly way of being didn’t get in the way; b) I needed to enjoy everything London had to offer, whilst I could, and that I wouldn’t be able to do that trapped in my room; and c) I wouldn’t enjoy anything as much as I possibly could if I was alone, so I’d have to make an effort to make friends.

I equipped myself with these three decisions (using them as armour, if you like, to move through my ‘personality-induced social paralysis’ that had struck me dumb) and set out to conquer London Town. I was still scared stiff, every single day, still terrified of meeting new people, of going to places I’d never been, of going to places alone, but those three decisions framed my approach to those first few weeks and months. They put the fact that I could be paralysed by my personality in to perspective, meaning that I couldn’t self-sabotage because there was too much at stake.

Once I’d got better at dealing with things that non-INFJs do so easily (going for a coffee with a group of people, accepting an invite to a party a week away, for example), I realised I could manage these things and that gave me enormous satisfaction and confidence. I then began to challenge myself to do stuff: the cinema on my own, join a club I’d been meaning to join, walk down to the National Gallery for the afternoon, go and talk to the Professor I wanted to talk to….

The challenges made me more confident because every time I did something I thought I couldn’t do (thanks to the wisdom I found from reading Eleanor Roosevelt!), I got stronger, much less fearful. Then I’d do things I’d never even imagined I’d be able to do: Flying to New York on my own for a month-long trip! Cycling around Egypt, alone for most of it! Cycling home from Uni (300+ miles)! Climbing!

By which stage, I was so amazed at my own capacity to astonish myself that I’d forgotten all about my old fears. I just didn’t think about being shy or anything else like that because I’d found a mechanism that allowed me to overcome these personality traits that had the capacity to be a massive hindrance in my life.

Now I say ‘I’m an INFJ, it explains a lot‘ with a sort of knowing smile because I’m at a stage in my life where I’m having to rebuild my life (at 40! Alone with two small children! Scary stuff!) and I’m having – daily – to retrace the steps I traced when I was 18 and had just left home, for University. I find myself with the same fears, the same debilitating weights pulling me down (shyness, paralysing irrational fears that keep me from doing silly things that most people find normal – making a phone call! Meeting someone new!). I find I’m giving myself the same pep talks I did when I was 18, to try to find that hungry, fearless young Helen somewhere deep inside.

Life’s not a box of chocolates, Forrest, it’s kind of more like a roller coaster: it has it’s ups, downs, rounds and rounds, brings tears, sickness, great joys, laughter, fear…it’s all there, all there for the taking.

As the saying goes, fortune favours the brave. The brave experience disproportionately more ups than downs and, when they experience a ‘down’, they chalk it up to experience and immediately start looking for the next ‘up’.

It’s hard work trying to be brave when you’re scared to death inside, but it’s so worth the coaxing, so worth the effort.

Baby steps, completing little challenges, fulfilling goals and dreams: breadcrumbs, all of them, through the forest and to the other side – Where You Want To Be.

Don’t let your fears stifle your potential.

Find your way through. 

[Thanks for all the good wishes, in comments and emails, everyone! I’m feeling slightly better: resting – resting lots! Thanks so much everyone – so touched to receive all your good wishes xxx]

What’s your why?

Day9

Day 9 of Fab-ruary finds me feeling very under the weather [a flu-type virus that’s knocked me for six; it must be really virulent as I hardly ever get ill :(] So…no post from me today (I’m just not feeling up to it….). I’ll be back when I feel slightly more human (hopefully tomorrow!)…

Have a lovely ‘start to the week’ everyone!

Feel good films

Fab-ruary, Day 8 (prompts here, for anyone who might want to join in!):

Day8

There’s nothing quite like a good film to make you feel as if everything’s right with the world!

Here’s my list for when I’m in need of the kind of good ‘sorting out’ that only a good film can provide!

Love Actually

The Holiday

The Letter Writer

The Blind Side (gets me every time and I don’t even particularly enjoy watching Sandra Bullock!)

Cinema Paradiso (I cry every. single. time). [My son’s favourite film!]

Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I roll around, in stitches, every time (and Javier Bardem is just yummy!)

Amelie

14e Arrondissement (from Alexander Payne)

…and anything black and white starring Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant or James Stewart…Bringing Up Baby, The Big Sleep, Harvey…give me a black and white film and I’m a happy woman!

Hoping to find some new-to-me feel-goods from the other wonderful “Fab-ruary-ers”!

 

Books, books, books….!

Day 7 of Fab-ruary! Prompts here for anyone who’d like to join in!

Day7

Books loved:

Goodness, this changes all the time and my list is probably about a thousand long (yes, I do read that many books)!

For the moment, today:

– The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker (Regeneration – The Eye in the Door – Ghost Road). I haven’t read it for years but I remember reading it nearly twenty years ago and I still, from time to time, think of the characters and the books. It made a huge impression on me and I still remember how distraught I was when one of the characters died. I remember walking around for days in quiet mourning for him.

– One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read it every few years or so and always, always, find something new in it. I’m reading it now, in Spanish (slowly!) and fear that the English translation I’ve always read  has absolutely not done justice to it’s actual beauty.

– Hemingway’s short stories.

– The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald. For me it is, and always will be, the greatest love story I’ve ever read. And, goodness….his writing?!

– Stoner by John Williams. A recent read. Another character that haunts me, popping up in my life occasionally, reminding me of the wonderful time I spent with this book. It’s, for me, quite literally a work of genius. I urge you to read this one!

– Ham on Rye, Charles Bukowski.

– Me Before You, Jo Jo Moyes….there’s just something so honest about the writing. Love it, love it, love it. [Lou’s another character who’s been firmly installed in my repertoire of ‘fictional characters who became so real to me, I remember them as if they were friends’…]

There’s so many more: anything by Iris Murdoch or Andrew Miller, for example….

Books loved as a child:

Am leaving this for another post, as this post seems to have got too long already!

Books I want to read:

Too many books, not enough time….check out my ‘To read’ Pinterest board here…! A friend has just sent me Martin Seligman’s Flourish, so I can’t wait to make a start on that! His TED talk is here (do head over – it’s really interesting stuff!).

I really, honestly, can’t wait to see your lists (and am really annoyed at myself that this prompt fell on a Saturday, when a lot of people don’t blog…)…

Also – a heads up to point you towards a favourite blogger/long-time blog friend and fellow scrapper….Julie Kirk at Notes on Paper and her (what I’m sure will be really interesting) feature on her blog: Portable Magic – first fascinating instalment here! [I’ve skim read it (couldn’t resist!) and am saving it to savour on Sunday, our lazy day, to enjoy it all with a cup of tea and a big piece of cake. Heaven! Thanks, J!].

Magical moments….

Day6

Time for Day 6 of Fab-ruary

I have two children, who I like to call ‘my littles’ (perhaps as a way of trying to stop time moving quite so fast?!). One, my boy, is 8. The other, my girl, just turned 5. I love them both equally – as any Mama knows – but today I want to talk about the birth of my son.

I knew I was pregnant pretty much immediately and felt joyous from that day. Exactly like I was constantly walking on air. A friend, who’d already had her first, told me that she’d decided not to tell anyone about her pregnancy until she was eight weeks along (in case anything happened in those most fragile first few months).

I didn’t tell anyone and I remember feeling like I was keeping the most delicious, most exciting, secret all to myself. I felt so special during those first few weeks – I’ve never been so aware of my body as I was then. Every strange little movement or feeling or sensation, it was like he was talking to me, telling me he was OK. And I felt a deep connection with this life growing inside me.

I was living in my home town then and my business, at the time, was operating from premises about a half hour walk away, past the centre of town. I’d set off in the mornings and I’d pop in to the library in the town to read the books on pregnancy. They’re in a secluded part of the library and I’d grab my book and sit on one of the comfy seats and lose myself for half an hour or so, learning everything the books could tell me about what was happening to this little being. It was such a truly delightful experience, reading about what was happening inside me (“He’ll be the size of a grain of rice! Then a bean!”). I’d literally float out of the library, imagining my son growing in my belly (I also somehow knew he was a boy; just as my brother senses that his growing baby, his firstborn, will also be a boy).

We told family and friends. Everything was OK with the pregnancy. I’d feel him fluttering around inside me like a butterfly, feel him waking up with the birds, learnt to mould myself to his rhythms, enjoying feeling him moving, stretching, limbering his limbs.

Then, seven weeks before he was due, he decided he wanted to greet the world. It’s not supposed to happen like this was my immediate reaction. Then fear. To say I was terrified is quite the understatement. Off we went to the clinic, our Dr rushing there as quickly as us, on his mobile half his way there, trying to reassure me, to keep me calm. In the clinic. A whole squadron of nurses, it seemed, all speaking a language I didn’t, at that point, understand well.

Me, a bed; my boy, simply trying to greet the world. For him it was simple. He just wanted to come out! For me, everything happening. too. fast and in a different language (mostly). [The Dr would later joke – and still jokes – that he’s glad he had all those extra tutorials with his English teacher, that they paid dividends that morning!]. Me trying to stay calm, because I somehow knew that if I got stressed, everything would be worse. Instructions to push, then not to, then rushed activity and shouting (I honestly had no idea what was happening and have never been as terrified as I was during those minutes (which seemed like an eternity). Then another instruction to push. A voice from somewhere telling me “This too shall pass”.

Then he was born.

The room calmed. I calmed. I looked for him, desperately, wanting to know he was OK. Then the nurse passed him to me. And I had him in my arms. My beautiful, eager, ever-curious boy, his blue eyes looking right in me (yes, he had his eyes open; he was desperate to see the world he popped out seven and a bit weeks early to see!).

He was so light I could hardly feel him physically but in that moment he filled my being with that part of me that I’d always knew was missing.

That moment.

That moment I saw his blue eyes and held him for the first time?

Best moment of my life.

This makes me smile a.k.a. homage to my littles

Day 5 of Fab-ruary! Prompts here for anyone who might want to join in (anyone and everyone are welcome to do so, however many times is convenient for you!)….

DayFive

This makes me smile

1. My son

My son, when I see him coming out of the lift after school, socks all wrinkled, shirt and hair unruly, grass and mud stains all over his uniform, his eyes always, always, telling me exactly how he’s feeling. I can tell his mood within a second of seeing him, my Mama instinct trying to anticipate how to greet him to make him feel a little better (if he needs that) or to be fresh and breezy (if he doesn’t need Mama cuddles today).

He’ll burst in to the house, a riot of energy, straight to the kitchen to see what’s cooking (8 year old boys are ferocious eaters – please don’t tell me it gets any worse as they get older?!). Then he’ll pull out his paper and pens and start drawing, something from his imagination or from the tablet or from a book – depending on his mood – and he’ll be lost to us until he finishes. Him and his pencil, a strong, healing, confidence-creating bond that’s magical to see.

Then he’ll eat – with gusto – always asking for seconds, most probably thirds, actually, and head off to ‘do his thing’ (currently LEGO). I’ll hear him pottering around, singing or talking to himself or his hamster. He’ll come to find me a little later to read together or to bake or to eat again. It makes me smile, big deep soul smiles, to see how he’s growing. Some days he seems comfortable ‘getting bigger’ (gel-ing his hair, choosing his clothes with care), other days he’s a little unsure and retreats back in to his little boy self, just wanting to play.

8. A kind of magical age. So not a little little boy but so not a big boy either.

He, in general, just makes me smile. He’s filled with such passion and knowing and so much love. It hurts my heart to look at him sometimes. He’s a scramble of such deep emotions, such deep understanding which hasn’t yet found words. I see such depths of beauty in his soul, such understanding in his eyes, direct from his heart. He’s so quiet, so very peaceful and tranquil, in his heart, such a gentle, gentle soul. He’s one incredibly sensitive, incredibly thoughtful and authentic human being. And he’s my son! I feel like the luckiest Mama around, my chest swelling so much, as I write these words, I feel the tears being squeezed out, quite literally, from pure joy.

2. My daughter

My daughter. Recently 5. Seems like she’s 25, honestly, with all the things she says and does. I find myself aghast, lost for words, several times a day, at least, at some of the things she says and does. ‘Mature beyond her years’ does not do her justice. And she’s so funny! Modelling, walking up and down the house, hand on hip, hips swaying this way and that, make-up plastered all over her face, nails painted riotous rainbow shades. ‘Mama, take a photo! Pretend you’re from a book!’ she’ll direct (for her suggestions are always, really, orders in disguise, their recipients powerless against the force of her).

She’s a big, furious, ball of energy and love and unpredictability. She jumps – yes jumps – from the door of the nursery bus to my arms, always asking me to ‘stand a bit further away, Mama, I can do it’. Her confidence in herself and her own abilities is always matched by her abilities. She’s never daunted by anything. She’ll bluster in to any conversation, adult or otherwise, always with something clever or funny to say. Yet she’s not, in any way, arrogant or cocky. She just is, physically so striking it takes your breath away (and I’m her Mama), so so caring, it breaks your heart to see it. Surrounded by the babies at nursery, she’ll become their second Mum, bringing them their bottles or telling the teacher one of them needs their nappy changing.

Running to feed the ducks. Asking me ‘Why, Mama, why is that duck so greedy? She doesn’t even feed her babies. You’re so not like that, Mama, you always feed us first’…her ability to scan situations and to understand what’s happening is uncanny. She’s a walking connection-maker, her observations of everything feeding her internal database, from which she draws constantly, enriching everyone’s lives.

She’s my daughter. I have no words to describe how much I love her. There are no words. Just a million and one little moments, the tiniest moments, really. [How can it be that I can look at her two great columns of legs hanging off the bed as she sleeps (before righting them) and they shout to me ‘All is well with the world’?].

She’s going to make one formidable woman. “Heaven help the world” is all I can think to say, for I know she’ll do just what she wants to do always and ain’t no-one going to be stopping her. All I can do is give her a firm base from which to fly.

My sensitive, strong, beautiful son. My beautiful formidable daughter. I could look upon both of their faces all day long forever and always but always find something new, something else to love.

This is, they are, what make me smile. Always.

Fab-ruary: Day 4 – Rules for happy living

Day 4 of Fab-ruary:  a month-long series of prompts aimed at ‘finding the fab’ (prompts here). [Feel free to join in as many (or as few!) as you’re able. If you do link up, make sure you hop around the other ladies who’ve linked up too, to leave encouraging comments, so that we can make sure we get a good ‘community feeling’ going].

DayFour

Rules for happy living

Corr…some of these prompts are hard!

I actually only have one rule, that I can think of…

Be content where and ‘when’ you are, which means mindfully savouring your moments…

Once we learn to slow down and mindfully enjoy our lives, riches appear before us: the riches of our ordinary, daily, lives. Once we learn to see these riches, all things ‘other’, that have the potential to tempt and distract us, pale in to insignificance. I’ve found that, living in this way, I’ve learnt to be happy with what we have and where I am, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I still desire a better future for us, obviously, but that desire is rooted in an acknowledgement that only by being in, and working from, a stable, centred, place will I be able to achieve this ‘better future’. And my stable, centred place comes from living with gratitude for, and in wonder at, my ordinary, daily riches.

Can’t wait to hear everyone else’s responses!

On a related topic:

In case you missed these delights, I was so, so happy when, last year, a wonderful group of ladies agreed to guest post on the topic of ‘How to fall in love with your world’. Hop over and see their responses (I was honoured they all agreed to guest post and each one of them was a really beautiful and thought-provoking post!):

– From Lizelle at Sandals & Sunnies

– From Britney at All Things Britney Lee

– From Chelsea at Hollands Reverie

– From Hope at Hope Carr Art

– From Kim at Kimberley’s Quests

– From Rachel at The Random Writings 

– From Heather at Icing on the Cake

– From Liane at Rosy Cheeks & Muddy Feet

[A bit of admin: You can link up your Fab-ruary posts using the tool below; for some reason, whatever I do, it’s not letting me set up a new link for each day. Please just add your link anyway! Sorry! I am trying to figure out what’s wrong (and also why it won’t show the thumbnails on this page?!) I’ve never met a more user-unfriendly piece of software than this one!]