The calm after the storm

February was a crazy month!

A couple of years ago we decided to upsize our home, but with no ready cash and a very stagnant property market we realised it would not be possible. So, we waited patiently, started saving and watched the market until late last year when it started to improve. We figured that the process of looking, buying and moving would take at least 6 months and we wanted to be in a new home by September 2014. So, we put our house up for sale in early February.

In the first week it had a dozen viewings and 3 people offered to buy it. So, we accepted an offer and started to look for ourselves.

Long story short… I sold a house, bought a house, turned 40, had a very glamorous surprise birthday party and even squeezed in city break to Paris all in the space of 12 days.

And now nothing.

I was not prepared for the flurry of activity and the speed with which the first step of the process came and went. And I was even less prepared for the waiting, days on end with nothing happening, in this step.

And so here we are, doing what I do worst… waiting patiently.

Maybe getting back into my daily meditation practice will help.

My Birthday Gift

Gosh, I can’t believe it’s been 4 months since I last posted to my blog. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

I guess (I hope) I’ve been busy being present in my life rather than just typing about it. Not that it’s been a bed of roses – life never is. But the best and most beautiful roses need manure to grow, right? And by that, I don’t mean I’ve been standing knee high in poop, haha! It’s just been a rounded experience. It’s just been life.

In 3 days I will be 40 years old.

Those years have gone fast! But, I’m not sad or fearful about my birthday. I’m looking forward to it. I feel that 2014 is our year. And I already feel a sense of freedom. A freedom that I have earned from those 40 years of life; its ups, its downs, its lessons and its joys. A freedom that I unknowingly gifted to myself through acceptance. Acceptance of life, acceptance of humanity, acceptance of myself.

People asked me what presents I wanted for my birthday. After thinking about it, I realised, I want for nothing. I am where I wanted to be when I was 30. I have an amazing partner, I have 2 beautiful kids, a lovely home, a job that affords my life balance, great friends and strong family bonds. In short, I have true love.

What I didn’t realise at 30 was that I wasn’t ready for all of that. Even if I had all of those things 10 years ago, I would not have been happy. Because the glue that holds my world in place is the love I have for myself. And it has taken me more than the last 10 years to achieve that.

It is the greatest gift of all.

Out of the blue

Hello! It’s been a while again, hasn’t it? My bad. Lots going on, and I’ve been trying to prioritise correctly.

Thanks to the 3 Day Nanny and a reward chart, my toddlers behaviour has transformed itself in the last few weeks. And, I’m kind of ashamed to say, so has my own. Ashamed because that means admitting, that previously, my behaviour had been poor.

I can see, now, that I spent several months wallowing in despair. Having 2 toddlers is hard work and can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Instead of taking a deep breath and some positive steps to make things better, I was creating a cycle of sadness and stress. I was making myself and everyone around me, including my babies, downright miserable. No wonder there were daily tantrums. Life was no fun. No fun at all.

My Beloved and I spent a couple of months talking with a relationship specialist. The first few sessions were easy. And afterwards we tried to ensure we made some time for ‘us’. But, I wasn’t feeling any improvement at home. A few weeks ago, though, we had a tough session. We argued. There was genuine anger. But, I think it was a turning point. I think we were starting to get honest.

We continue to meet with our friend, though not so regularly. It turns out we’re not naturally good communicators (which is funny, given the jobs that we do!) and we needed someone to help us just talk to each other.

We’re better now, although still have a way to go. There is still anger some days, there is still frustration. There are still many misunderstandings. But, how we each react to a negative feeling in the other, is beginning to change and we are able to deal with most of these instances quite quickly and move on. (In the past, it would have dragged on for hours, maybe even days).

And I think that is how the ball began to roll…

Feeling more confident in our ability to feel, to express and to deal with emotion without the threat of Armageddon, we were able (I was able) to knock down the walls that were keeping happiness at bay.

And so we started having some fun.

We had my baby girls birthday party with all her little friends. We went on an Outdoors Adventure holiday. We searched for Goldilocks and the 3 bears in the woods. We’ve been swimming. We’ve been on bike rides. We’ve been to the park and fed the ducks. We’ve been to the safari park. We washed the car. The kids have loved it. And we have re-discovered our inner child.

We’re having fun!

And I noticed something.

When the kids are happy, their behaviour is better. Which makes family time less stressful. Which makes us happier. The cycle, is now on an upwards spiral. So, we decided to make the most of it.

We introduced a reward chart 2 weeks ago, some house rules (like Be Kind, Share, Use your manners and Safety 1st). And we’ve tried really hard to stop saying NO! and start following through on the consequences of bad behaviour. But, to be honest, with less ‘nay-saying’ and positive focus on the sticker chart, there’s actually less need for ‘going to your room’. Both kids even managed to give up their dummy’s with only 1 night of major complaints. (Particularly difficult for my 3 year old as we had enabled her to form a very strong dependency on her “dodi”)

So, here we are. Not in the proverbial rose garden. And not with children who behave perfectly 100% of the time. But, a happy family, who love and support each other and are all learning how to deal with the hard stuff, and move on from it, so that we can get back to doing the fun stuff, sooner than later.

We’re out of the blue, and into the sunshine.

Who do you think you are?

I think that I have mentioned before that I have been working on a family tree project. It’s a work in progress, I guess family trees by their nature must always remain so, and it’s fascinating.

I actually started my genealogy introduction by looking at my Beloved’s family tree. I know quite a lot about my family, but he knows hardly anything about his. And so, I set off on a journey to help him discover more about where he came from and how he came to be. After a few months (and several hundreds of £’s) I reached a barrier. I felt I had gone as far as I could online. Delving further back into the archives would require travelling to libraries, churches and the like, hundreds of miles away to look at original documents. Genealogy is not a cheap hobby!

When our little Strawbug was born (after a few months and I started to get some time) I began to record my own, well known, family tree. Or so I thought.

I have gathered stories from Aunts and Uncles, from my parents and from online resources and started to uncover my own family story. I’ve discovered family secrets, illegitimacy, false claims marriage, cohabitation, countless infant deaths (as was the norm in the 1800s and early 1900s) and I’m part way through solving an age old family mystery (… a husband who absconded with the family savings, leaving his wife and 4 kids destitute). All I need now is someone in jail and I think I’ve got the basis for a novel!

There are two things that I love about the genealogy process. Firstly, it makes me feel like Philip Marlowe – I have a slightly addictive nature and solving puzzles and mysteries can keep me hooked (and my purse empty) for hours, days and weeks at a time. But, secondly, and I think more importantly, it is a great equaliser. I am learning about life. I am learning about human nature. I am learning, not just about who I am but who we all are.

Whether we were born in 1874 or 1974, we all laugh, we all cry, we all hurt, we all heal. We all want to be happy. To love and be loved. We are all human beings. We are all the same.

The purpose of our lives is to be happy – Dalai Lama

In the zone

I can finally report that I have managed to make progress on my path towards the life I want to live.

I’ve been “taking ten” regularly. (I suffered another blip after my previous post, but I am now on day 6 and
meditating every day) I also managed to get my Beloved to sign up to a 21 day challenge with Deepak Chopra. A meditative journey to enhance relationships. Which he (my beloved) agrees helps us to take time for each other after a hectic day of work and kids. Erego, can only be a good thing.

I’ve created a Pinterest board for a future yoga studio and have 100 ideas of what that business would look like, what it would offer to it’s customers. I’ve even created a questionnaire on Survey Monkey, to try and assess the appetite for such a business in my area. Granted I’ve only had 10 survey responses but have about 50 posts on my Pinterest board. So, some might say that this pursuit is more of a daydream than an end game.

But, to the doubters, I say, yes I am a dreamer. But that’s OK. For many years I have wanted balance in my life but had no idea what that looked like. Now, though, that vision is beginning to crystallise and every day I take another step closer towards it. I’m in no rush (I have been in the past). Because I am enjoying the journey.

For the first time in my life, I am living in the present and look forward to the future. But I am not desperate for something new, for life to move on, to reach my destination.

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Taking Ten

Once again, the mayhem of day to day life has led me from the path I wish to follow. Or should I say, I have used the mayhem as an excuse.

I haven’t blogged, I haven’t taken advantage of the wonderful sunshine we have been experiencing in the UK these last few weeks, I haven’t attended any yoga classes or generally taken any time for ‘path’ activities.

That’s not entirely true. I watched the Horizon programme (The Truth about Personality) and discovered Andy Puddicombe and Headspace. I was inspired. This guy (a former Buddhist monk) is helping people like me (too busy, too stressed, too unmotivated) a way to improve our lives, ourselves, for free! (well initially), with just 10 minutes per day.

I can manage that, I thought. I promptly downloaded the app and off we went on our short journey; 10 minutes for 10 days… that was 8 days ago. I am ashamed to say that I have not even allowed myself to keep that commitment. Is there any hope for me?

I have excuses abound – We took the kids to Scotland for 3 days for a family wedding (too busy, no time to ourselves and poor internet connection), we slept most of Monday as we were exhausted from said weekend (too tired), then our baby girl got sick, and then we got sick (too poorly). But really, none of these are acceptable. If I had really wanted to I could have made myself available for 10 minutes and to be honest, would have greatly benefited from it.

But, yes. There is still hope.

As Andy says, learning to meditate isn’t necessarily easy. And we all encounter obstacles along the way. The first step is recognising that we have done so and gently bringing ourselves back to where we left off.

And so, on my journey towards self improvement, towards improving my quality of life; this morning, I step back up onto the learning curve and start Day 2. With good intention and positive thoughts in my heart, I shall now embark on Take Tw0 of Take10.

And Your Point Is, Caller?

I used to be quite funny, when I first started blogging. Well, my posts made me laugh anyway! Now, it seems I’m all doom and gloom. Well, it can feel like that some days. So, I thought I’d re-post an old entry that made me giggle. Hopefully, it will make you giggle too. Enjoy 🙂

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Not so long ago, in the dead of winter, I spotted something that made me stop and pinch myself (mentally, at least).

It was freezing… I mean really, really, cold. So cold that I couldn’t feel my toes through 3 pairs of thick socks. And there was a man sitting on a bench, waiting for a train (as many of us were, being that this happened at a train station), wearing fingerless gloves… FINGERLESS GLOVES!!! What’s the point in that? I thought to myself. I couldn’t feel my face and there he was risking his digits without a care in the world.

I laughed a little, about 15 minutes later once I had sat down on the train and my face had had a chance to thaw out. And it made me think of Big Mac meals, you’ll see shortly why. So, I decided I would try to think of as many pointless things…

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We’re not keeping up with the Kardashians, but that’s OK

My baby boy is nearly 1 year old. He was born on Father’s Day (UK) in 2012. We will be holding a small, intimate, family celebration this weekend. My sister and my Beloved’s sister are travelling up from London for the ‘event’. My BFF (yogaswerve) will be there. My brothers and my parents will also be joining us (along with significant others and dependant children, obviously).

I love family get togethers. I love family. I’ve written countless times about the importance of family to me.

I’ve also written of my rose-tinted view of my family.

I see my family as a Kardashian style unit. (Albeit, without the Momager and the millions of dollars in the bank). They hang out together. They have fun together. They help each other. They fight all the time, but then they talk about it and make up “like” minutes later. Say what you want about how they make their living, but as a family, I actually think they are quite good role models.

The truth is, that we’re just like any other family. We lead different lives. Some are separated by distance, but whether we live around the corner or 200 miles away, we’re still really bad at picking up a phone on a regular basis to ask how each other is doing. We are really bad at saying ‘I love you’. And we are really bad at talking through and resolving gripes, problems and serious issues. Not very Kardashian at all.

I maintain, though, that in a crisis, we are always there for each other and we stick together like glue.

We’ve had a couple of crisis points as a family, recently, and the observations noted above have all proven themselves to be true. To the point where sticking together has been difficult, given that some of the crisis that we have faced/are facing are ‘internal’ rather than ‘external’. I’m not saying that we’re not sticking together. I’m just saying it’s difficult.

So, I’m a little nervous about the weekend’s upcoming festivities. I doubt there is actually anything to worry about, because we are actually quite good at avoiding conflict and pretending everything is fine (well, I am). I do wish though, that there wasn’t so much of a stigma in my family about sharing your problems with the outside world. But I guess I have to respect the wishes of those whom I love most in the world and go along with it. (You’ll notice that I’m writing this without actually telling you anything).

Maybe the first step is to be able to talk about our problems with each other without fear of consequence. And we are all working on that, I think, in various break-out groups as well as the congregation as a whole.

My Beloved and I are one of those break-out groups. For our own benefit and for the benefit of our children. We want them to live life being open and honest with their emotions and themselves. To be able to communicate how they feel, good or bad. To be able to resolve issues, gripes and problems without fear. Most of all, I want them to know that they are loved, no matter how they feel and they can talk to us or each other about anything.

As for my family and our impending get together this weekend, we are working on getting better. Each of us in our own way. And we are doing that because we love each other. And if we have love, what else matters?