Out of Office. Into Life.

So, I’m back! (No, I haven’t been on holiday for this long, I’ve actually been battling a little motivation mountain – more on that another time..). I won’t write a travelogue, but I am going to tell you a little about my trip, because it was one of the best times of my life. No cliché here, it genuinely was.

Vietnam was a holiday of firsts for me. My big milestone. My ‘I’ll feel much better when I get back’ trip. My break-up blues crazy idea. I went it alone, for 2 weeks, in a country I’d never been to before. I felt fierce. And rightly so, it was the best decision I ever made.

Firstly, it’s an incredible place. I saw some sights, met some wonderful people, ate like a goodun, and did things I would definitely have said no to in a past life. But also, of course, I learned a lot about myself, and life.

1. There’s always time for the things you want to do.

I am pretty much a ‘bed by 9.30pm’ and ‘not on a school night’ kinda gal. That did not fly in Vietnam. And somehow I found the energy to keep going and have all the fun. There was no way I was missing an evening out with my (new!) friends. And I was still up and out early enough to make the most of the day ahead. I found when I was filling my time with things I wanted to do, I felt fulfilled, not drained.

2. Fortune favours the brave

I met so many people who were just doing it. Living their best lives (genuinely). Who’d quit it all and started travelling the world. They were so happy. They’d taken the plunge and done what they wanted to do, ignoring all the fear. Not one of them regretted it. It set them free.

3. I’m a little bit cool (bear with me here..)

Full disclosure, I battle with thinking I’m quite a boring, nondescript person. That I’ve not done much with my life, barely been anywhere. What I actually discovered was that THIS ISN’T TRUE. People were so interested in what I have to say, where I’ve been, what I do back home. People liked me. Others laughed with me, at my jokes. Being boring is another lie I tell myself. And maybe it’s time to start telling myself a new story…

4. Life is there for the taking

The most important thing I learned was that it’s all there for you, whenever you want to take it. You’re never too old. And it’s never too late.

The trick is channelling the Vietnam vibe every day. When work is a bit too much. Or I’m losing motivation to get up and out of the door. It’s remembering that time you felt at peace and saw things with clarity, then doing something that helps you bring that feeling to the day.

Here goes!

x

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Thumbs up for the 7 billion

Today is International Women’s Day, and it has been really tough to decide what I want to say. I could say so much, and thankfully women all over the world are doing just that.

Gender equality is such a complex topic. But I’m going to keep it simple.

Conversations can be a minefield of skirting round the issue, or just getting so worked up about it you can’t sit still for the rest of the day. It just shouldn’t be. In my mind it’s perfectly clear. Every single human on this planet (gender notwithstanding) deserves equality. An equal shot at living their best life, an equal voice, an equal salary, equal human rights…

“I’m neither ‘pro-women’ nor ‘anti-men’. I’m just ‘Thumbs up for the six billion”
― Caitlin Moran

We are all one of the same. Let’s start acting like it, shall we.

WITH LOVE

=

x

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New Dawn: The women’s suffrage artwork in the Houses of Parliament, London

Sorry, can’t stop, I’m heartbroken!

I’m making a conscious effort not to go on about this too much (on and offline) because this isn’t a break-up blog. But. At the beginning of 2018, my 7 year uni boyfriend called time on us. I felt at rock bottom at that point, and wasn’t sure how I’d get from one day to the next.

I ran straight back to Mum, cried for three days straight, and barely ate anything besides spiced fruit Soreen (I declare this forevermore the taste of heartbreak). During those days, I really questioned if I’d feel okay again.

Then something weird happened. I went back to work the following week (we were on holiday when he did it, BTW) and lo and behold, I could function. I smiled. I spoke to people. I got s**t done and was the most productive I’ve been for a long time. I immediately booked a solo trip to SE Asia (did I mention that already…?), I started career planning, started this blog, spent 3 consecutive weekends with friends I haven’t seen for ages…

My friends were confused, my Mum was speechless, even I didn’t get what was going on.

I’ve only recently been able to articulate exactly what happened/ is happening and that’s mostly thanks to the wonderful Glennon Doyle.

I started preparing for life without him. I started making plans, collecting everything I know to be true, and working out how to survive in this new world I found myself in. I used my pain as fuel.

The Warrior knows her heartbreak is her map. It will lead her right to her purpose and her tribe.

Here are the 3 gifts my heartbreak gave to me:

  1. Less worry over the small stuff: I’m currently at a ‘how bad can it be?’ stage…every day things that, before, I’d put off now seem less hurtful and scary and I find I can just do them with a very ‘what could possibly go wrong?!’ attitude.
  2. FUEL: I’m trying to capitalise on the pain and use it as fuel to change my life. It keeps me busy,  but also gives me a license to do all the things I’ve put off previously and have some difficult conversations that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Because, you know, I’m heartbroken so I get to say this to you and I have a legitimate reason. Hello, more fun and Hola, big changes…
  3. A wake up call: for so long, I got settled into a routine and would often turn down plans to do my usual thing (either alone or with him). I have started saying YES to so much more, and have plans I would never have made if I hadn’t gone through this.

8 weeks on, I am still using it as the fire beneath me, and don’t view it as anything but a lesson and a real gift. Yes, it really hurts, and I’m sad it happened. But it did happen, and I think it’s my duty not to let the pain go to waste.

Has anything painful ever given you the boost you needed to grasp life and squeeze everything you can from it?

x

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And how was your February?

At the start of the month, I set myself some intentions, as there were some small changes I wanted to make, and I wanted the month to hold some focus for me. It totally worked. I was a lot more mindful about how I was spending my time and I will definitely be doing this exercise every month.

Here’s how I did against my intentions, and what I want to focus on in March…

Sleep: I did it..mostly. I fell off the wagon this week and averaged 5 hours ish a night. But before that I made a real effort to get my head down early and I felt amazing as a result. My gym routine suddenly switched up a notch, I ate less mindlessly in the day, and I felt calmer all round.

A more structured blog: again, half done. I’ve been really good at planning content ahead of time, and putting myself out there more, and really thinking through where I want it to go..but I think there is more work to be done.

Reading: I had a great month for books, I read some incredible tales. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi probably topped the list for me. I can’t recommend it enough. Just a beautifully written story and I couldn’t put it down. A few evenings I ignored my to-do list and just let myself sit and devour a book in bed. They were the best evenings. Sometimes, you just need it.

Being kind: a tough one to judge, but I don’t think I did as well as I could have. I’ve spread a little love and kindness, but for me the point was to think about it more. Perhaps this was too generic and one to work on in future.

What March will bring

March to me means Spring, and I have a feeling it’s going to be the month I come back to life. My intentions next month will fully support that theory (disclaimer: I’m actually on holiday for half of March so my job might be made a little easier.)

  • Have more fun
  • Prioritise friendships 
  • Do some Headspace
  • Try something new

Some easy simple ones, then…wish me luck!

How was your February? What are your plans for next month?

On: finding the ordinary, extraordinary

I spoke to one of my good friends this week, for the first time in ages. She’s seen me through some really tough times, and I just know I will come away from every conversation with her with a new nugget of wisdom. She is one of my life mentors.

This week, we got onto the news. I have a confession to make: I have barely looked at the news in 2018. Mostly, because I feel like I have very little capacity to take on more grief. This mindset isn’t ideal. (More on this another time as I try to get over that view). At the moment, it feels like the TV/ Radio/ Apps/ Social Media reporting the stories, are just pumping out one horror after another. Scandal here, inequality there, terrible crime, again, and again, and again.

Now. I know this is the world we live in and I am not trying to close my eyes to the pain. But as a self- diagnosed highly sensitive person, I feel everyone’s pain, profoundly. I notice detail. I take on worries that aren’t always mine to take on. I want to shoulder the burden of all of my fellow humans. I always have, I always will. Some days this can be debilitating, where I lose focus and hope that things will be okay if there is so much bad all around us. My friend is scarily similar to me.

BUT. Remember that detail point I just mentioned? (All you other detail people, will). Well, this is what my wonderful, brilliant, life mentor reminded me:

“People like us matter. At times like these, people who notice the small details, who see the extraordinary in the ordinary. People who can find a tiny spot of goodness in all the bad, need to lift it up and show it to everyone else, to let them know that there is still hope and love left in the world”

Yes, it got deep. But she is so right. I forget this sometimes. This year has woken me up to it a lot more, but I definitely needed the reminder.

This is my call to my fellow positivity warriors, find the little chink in the armour of pain, hate and injustice. And show it to everyone you can.

xx

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It’s not what you see, it’s the way that you see it

I went back home this weekend to see my family, and it couldn’t have been better timing. I’ve had lots of thoughts and decisions swirling round my brain the last few weeks, and I’ve been waiting them out. Waiting for them to do their thing and solidify into a vision of what I need to do next. And turns out the magical catalyst is some family time.

I came away a lot clearer than I have for a while. I feel lighter. Excited about what’s coming next. A common theme in all of the conversations I have had these last few weeks has been that I have dealt with things (ie. the break-up – little b, little u) really well. Surprisingly well. And that I seem like a new person.

Mulling over that (yes, I’m a ruminator. Are you shocked?) I’ve been wondering why – because I’ve even surprised myself with how I’ve managed to stay so positive – mostly. I am prone to catastrophising things, and some days feel anxious just having to face the world. But not right now. And I think the key is how I’ve perceived it.

This whole time, the only way I have been able to deal with it, is to gather up all of that self-help wisdom that I’ve so eagerly absorbed throughout my adult life and USE IT. Practise what I (and they) preach. Viewing it differently has made it easier to bear, accept it, and not let it stop my world from turning.

Here’s what I know for sure:

  • This has happened for a reason.
  • The Universe has better things lined up for me. And this storm is clearing the way for them.
  • This is exactly what I needed to happen to me, when I needed it.
  • I will survive.

Viewing this thing as the right thing, as an opportunity, means I can get up every day and carry on.

And today? I can’t wait for the next step. I feel free. I can do whatever I want, and this path is the right one.

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Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day, or just Wednesday?

It’s not exactly a secret that V-Day is rubbish for a lot of people. The whole premise seems to be all about making single people feel very single, and not in a good way. And even in a relationship, if you don’t have a perfect evening, you end up having a raging fight about the fact that there aren’t a dozen red roses hanging around the house, like Kate from work has! Lose/ lose, right…?

This year it really got to me – I’ve been feeling low, grumpy, and so anti-love. And I think St Valentine played a part (soz, Val, but you did). I’m now annoyed at myself for letting it have that much of an impact on me..it is, after all, JUST A DAY.

So here’s my shout out to the future me (and you) – it’s cool, you will be fine, and you’ll live to fight another day, warrior – with or without a boyfriend/ girlfriend by your side.

I think what’s on the menu now is a recipe for love. I need to fall back in love with the idea of love. Love for myself, love for my friends, my family, the world, that elusive other person..

Here are a few ingredients that have been picking me back up these last couple of days -let me know how (and if) you survived the 14th Feb annual love in (disclaimer: it’s okay if you didn’t).

1. A dollop of Glennon Doyle talking to Marie Forleo about being a Love Warrior (seriously, this spoke to me in ways I can’t even explain)

2. A pinch of this article on The Everygirl about why being single on V-Day is TOTALLY FINE. And you are too.

3. A portion of Mastin Kipp, Marie Forleo and Gabby Bernstein talking to Oprah about how to become more spiritual on Supersoul TV.

4. As much as you can of SELF LOVE. Whatever that looks like for you. It could be a run in the sunshine, a weekend by yourself, a night of dancing.

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Three steps forward, but two steps back, is still a step forwards

I’ve been having a bit of a wobbly week. I have stayed positive for a good month now, and have been feeling pretty productive at work (I even surprised myself). All those blogs/self help books/ magazines/ podcasts have clearly made their mark and I have actually been taking the advice I’d give to others.

BUT this past week I have been feeling low, and very angry (angry enough to google ‘Boxing classes near me’). I spent today beating myself up that I couldn’t keep it up, and just stay happy. Everything suddenly feels blurry and I am questioning what I want my future to look like.

Then as I walked home from work, feeling pretty dejected, I remembered that even if I’ve had a small setback, as long as the general direction of travel is forwards, it’s still totally fine. Yes I have had a little cry every day for the past week, but I also started a blog this year, and booked a solo trip to South East Asia, and still get up and go to the gym in the morning.

The road is bumpy, and this too, shall pass.

x

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Comparison killed the cat: my top 3 ways to avoid falling into the comparison trap

I doubt there is a person on the planet that has never fallen into the comparison trap. It happens to the best of us. At work, at home, on the street, in the bedroom, on our phones…whenever we find ourselves with access to others (or the outer appearance of others), it’s natural to start looking inwards.

…Why don’t I look as pretty as her? She’s wearing the same dress!

…She/he’s younger than me, why am I not as successful/married/with child/paid more?

…They do so much stuff, why am I so lazy?

Just a bit thinner, faster, stronger, kinder, richer, cooler, smarter….

And it goes on. And on. It’s a dangerous game to play, and it rarely ends well.

Comparison is absolutely not a new phase for me. But it feels more poignant this month, as I’m analysing everything, and reviewing where I want to be in a month/year/ decade now that my priorities have totally changed.

I’ve found myself thinking ‘Sh*t. I’m 27 (in two months), I’m single, renting, not earning tonnes, still at the beginning of my career, nowhere near finding someone, not 100% what I want, not volunteering as much as I should…I’m SO BEHIND and my life is back at day ZERO. ahhhhhhhhhhggghhhlllll’. It’s not cool.

How can we kill the comparison vibe?

I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better at dealing with thoughts like this when they inevitably come along. And that’s thanks to small reminders from my friends & fam, social media (warning: consume responsibly), and some very honest conversations with myself. Here are a few coping strategies that have worked for me:

First, ask yourself if you actually want what you’re coveting?

Chances are, the answer is no. Call BS on your inner voice that’s telling you to abandon all of your innermost hopes and dreams, just because something different is in front of you right now.

For me, that looks like marriage and kids. I look at others and see them in settled relationships, living with their other halves, and getting ready to (or already starting to) procreate. Meltdown – I’m back at the start, and that is never going to happen for me – especially not anytime soon. My incredible Mum myth-busted this one for me: ‘Nat, you didn’t even want kids before you’re 30 anyway! That’s three years away…you didn’t want to be on that path right now regardless…and you CAN afford to buy your own house, you just haven’t decided where you want to live’. Yep. Cool. Mum knows best. Panic over.

If you find yourself comparing (and despairing) just give yourself a little reality check. Do you, deep down, actually want it? Or are you projecting someone else’s path onto your own.

If that doesn’t work, disprove the theory that you aren’t enough.

Take the thing you’re too much/ too little/ too old/ too young for…and google the crap out of it until you find evidence of the opposite. This might be a little hypocritical, because it’s *technically* still comparison, but it’s the positive kind, so it’s okay (right? please tell me it’s okay?).

Age is the big thing for me right now. I’m too old to be single and fresh out of a 7 year relationship! I quickly found this to be wholly untrue. Fearne Cotton (my current crush) met her now husband at 29…Bridget Jones (general goddess) didn’t make it official with Mr Darcy until her mid-thirties…Davina McCall (all round angel) married at 33, had her first child at 34 and at 50 is single again…a lady I work with (who I see so many similarities to myself in) had her first baby at around 33 too…the list goes on.

This exercise isn’t perfect, but it helped to calm my irrational thoughts

‘[Love] is like a virus. It can happen to anyone, at any time’ ~ Maya Angelou

Finally, YOU do YOU.

Ultimately, the thing to remember is that only you can be you. You are unique. You are in your own lane. You have so much to bring to the table, too. Things will happen, but there is no formula for life, and stuff will come exactly when it’s meant to. Write it, chant it, say it in the mirror, set it as your screensaver…however, you want to do it. Find the phrase, or picture, or song, that reminds you of this and keep it close, so you can call on it when you’re having a moment, and feel like you just aren’t enough. Because you are perfect, just as you are. 

*Bonus tips: these are the things that gave me that ‘ohhh, that is so true‘ kinda feeling and stopped me from being crazy:

  • This video by Lucy Sheridan on how to get back on track after you’ve had a comparison meltdown.
  • This post by Marie Forleo to remind you there’s no such thing as too anything.
  • This reminder that things will happen in their own good time.

Good luck – let me know how you manage comparison.

x

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Photo credit @poets instagram

In praise of community

I’m lucky that as part of my job, I work with a lot of community groups, and charities, and people just generally doing great stuff to help others. Every time I go out and meet them, I come away inspired, often sobered, grateful for everything I have, and with a hunger to do more.

This Wednesday was one of those days.

I travelled up North where it was (stereotypically) freezing..I’m talking -3C cold and snow..to meet one such group. And was blown away. Even though I work closely with them, hearing them talk about just how much they are doing completely knocked my (really thick) socks off.

The two women I met don’t have a specific job. In their own words, they just ‘fill the gaps’. Because it’s nobody’s job. But it needs to be done.

Over many years the support and service they offer has grown and evolved every time they identify something that’s missing, or that could be better. Right now their list includes: a community pantry, holiday school meals, home delivery of hot meals to neighbours who are immobile, a support teens into work scheme, parkour club, a community allotment, a community washer/dryer to provide affordable laundry, Pie&Pint social club for elderly, socially isolated men…I could go on and on.

On top of that they work tirelessly to get all the right people from local ‘formal’ support services round the table and tackling (with ACTION not WORDS) issues their locals have quickly and in the most practical way, to save time/ effort/ and just make it simple.

I can’t describe the sense of community and work ethic they emanated. Every word they said took me along with them, and showed me how much you can do with a dogged determination to deliver help. They see a problem, and they don’t stop until they’ve fixed it.

To me, what they are doing is astounding. Magic. And how do they describe to me what they do? ‘Old fashioned, help your neighbour’ stuff.

There is a lesson here, and it’s really very simple: lend a hand to someone who needs it, and whatever you do, don’t stop. You never know where it might lead.