The Port

6 months since my last post… and I’ll be honest with you, my most recent posts have been few and far between.

It’s been a tough year for me. Love has been difficult. Love for my partner, love for life and love for myself. For 7 months I navigated tormenting waters; with a lot of support, both personal and professional. About a month ago I reached a calm and sheltered port in my heart, from where I could (thankfully) plan the next part of my journey with openness, positivity and love.

But I haven’t done any planning. I haven’t moved forward one step from that place. At best, I’m still on the boat. I may have even started to float back out to sea.

Maybe I’m apathetic. Maybe I just feel like I need a break from the ‘thinking’, the ‘working’, the ‘navigating’. But that’s how I got into those waters in the first place. Being apathetic and/or refusing to ‘work’.

I made a commitment to my partner in that quiet, sunny, beautiful port. To ‘show up’ every day, to be on our Team and to always ‘do the hard work’. I haven’t kept my promises. I’ve let him down. I’ve let us down. I’ve let myself down.

I tell him often that he needs to look after himself, love himself, find his happiness so that we can look after each other, love each other and find happiness together as a couple and as a family. But I have not been ‘walking the walk’. I have focused on our relationship, on our family, and now on nothing. Forgetting about myself in the process.

I need to get out my oars (fresh air, meditation, avocados, creative endeavours and of course, yoga!), row my boat back to port and show-the-hell-up to my life.

 

Limbo

Another few busy months have passed. We sold our home, and two weeks before the move date the people who we were buying from pulled out of the sale. So we had to find a rental. Quickly!

But the move itself went fairly smoothly and we’re temporarily set up in  a really lovely house with a huge garden (that our kids LOVE). But, I still feel like I’m in limbo.

As I was writing the sentence above, I suddenly wondered what Limbo meant. I had always thought it was just that you were waiting in a nothingness, where nothing was happening. Kind of floating in a sea of nothing.

Here’s what wikipedia says:

In the theology of the Catholic Church, Limbo (Latin limbus, edge or boundary, referring to the “edge” of Hell) is a speculative idea about the afterlife condition of those who die in Original Sin without being assigned to the Hell of the Damned.

Well… there you have it. Waiting, yes. Nothingness, not exactly. Not sure that I’m at the edge of actual ‘Hell’, but I do feel on edge and waiting for anything is my own personal hell. So, I guess “limbo” still fits.

(Just as an aside – does anyone recognise this language: “Kalıcı Bağlantı:” I just hit save and my screen is now in this language – sorry, I digress… as usual…)

So, back here in limbo land, I’m trying to figure out whether to take control and force a change or to let life take it’s course, enjoy the moments and accept whatever presents itself to me. I haven’t had this dilemma for a while. Before I had my kids I was a control freak. I would never have considered the second option. But, the biggest thing that my kids have taught me is how to go with flow. That is how I became interested in meditation and how I re-engaged my love of yoga (and no, before you ask, I’m STILL not practicing regularly… either of them).  (Argh! I wish I knew what save was in this new language, keep your fingers crossed I don’t lose everything I’m writing here!…digressing again, sorry)

I know I should be rolling out my mat, eating more cleanly, taking 20 minutes out per day to just… be. All of these things will bring me the calmness and clarity that will help me understand the crux of issue. I know there’s an issue because I want to go on holiday, I want to move to Australia or California, I want to buy a 50’s house and develop it into a modern mansion, I want to open a yoga studio, I want to be a stay at home mummy, I want to buy a grand old Victorian villa, I want to work in an actual office with other people and wear designer suits and killer heels… (and by the way, I don’t have the funds to do any of these things)… get the picture?

Grrrr! I’m my own worst enemy.

One day at a time… today I will make time to meditate (and maybe buy a lottery ticket!)

 

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

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.

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?

Refreshed and invigorated

This may, or may not, be apparent from my ramblings; but I rarely begin writing a blog post with a clear plan, with a beginning, a middle or an end. In fact, often times, the end is as much as a surprise to me as it is to you. As is (usually) how we’ve gotten to that point.

And this post is no different.

You see, and I’ve written this before, I find the process of writing very cathartic. And so, to decide on the outcome in advance feels more than a tad fraudulent. Secondly, there are many times when I sit down to my keypad/board with more than one thought or idea that I want to share (too many it seems) and then somehow two or three of those thoughts end up linked together on (virtual) paper.

This is one of those times.

Let’s start with the holiday. I have returned from Lanzarote refreshed, invigorated and with a renewed motivation for life. It wasn’t the most relaxing or stress free holiday I’ve ever had, but a change is as good as a rest and my plan to take the part-time Au Pairs was totally worthwhile.

Side note: You know when you’re on a plane and some wretched godawful family is sat behind/beside/in front of you with two kids who won’t stop screaming? Well, for the first time ever (and I hope the last, though i doubt it will be) we were THAT family. Mortifying!

Invigorated. Motivated. I’m making plans. Plans to see more sunshine, which in the short term includes more holidays and in the long term includes buying a property somewhere in the med. Plans to live a balanced life, which involves more leisure activities, particularly those that can be enjoyed in the sun for instance, holidays and living beachside in the med. (Have you caught the thread yet?)

All of these wonderful plans though, require a great deal of money and so I’m heading straight back to work to earn more pennies.

I imagine that the smart approach to this situation, though, is not to wait 20 or so years for those pennies to pile up but to channel my positivity into the little things. Those moments that present themselves each day as an opportunity to be happy or be sad, dependant on how you look at it. For instance, after a hailstorm this morning (in May!) the sun is now shining. I think I’ll take 5 minutes to step outside and breathe.

After that I might take 1 minute more to put my arms around my Beloved and enjoy the comfort and safety of being home.

Later, I will laugh with my babies and cherish the smiles on their faces.

And tomorrow, I will look for more opportunities to feel happiness, whilst I work my butt off for those holiday funds!

Every cloud has a silver lining, but it’s still a cloud

I have been remiss yet again with my blog posts.

One of the reasons for this particular lapse, is that I’ve been working away a bit, recently. Working away has had it’s pros and cons. But to put those in context, I should probably give you a bit of background. I’ll give you the short version (if it is actually possible for me to give the “short version” – I’ll try…)

In real life, I grew up to be a Project Manager. I kind of stumbled into it, but I enjoyed it. I felt as though I was quite good at it and my relative success in my career made me quite proud of myself. I progressed from Project Management in big Companies to Programme Management in a small Company. All of these roles involved long, stressful hours but came with the pertinent rewards. I bought my own car, I bought my own house, I had lots of good holidays and a pretty busy social life, with cash to burn. I have always been very independent, not just financially, but being able to take care of myself has always been important to me. After all, if you want something doing properly… And besides, there was never (well hardly ever) a man around, to speak of. So, I had to make sure I could support myself on my own.

And then my Beloved came along… And for quite some time I was still adamant that I would only depend on myself and not on him. Not much in the way of balance and reciprocation, there, I admit.

When I fell pregnant with Strawbug, my boss moved me into a “strategic” role. At the time, I was devastated. I figured he thought that things would change and I would be of little use once the baby came along. In reality, once Strawbug was born, I stopped caring about my career. I began to define myself based on how good a job I thought I was doing, being a Mother. When I went back to work it took me a while to be happy there again. But going part time gave me the best of both worlds and my new role wasn’t stressful in any way.

And then I fell pregnant for the second time. I really, really didn’t care about my career. My job was a means to an end.

Until I lost it.

Nearly 4 months pregnant with a growing bump and not a hope in hell of getting another permanent role before Peanut was born.

It was at that time that I was literally forced to depend on my Beloved. Financially speaking. In the early months and years of our relationship I held the financial responsibility and we’d agreed at that time that it was OK, because relationships were about “swings and roundabouts”; sometimes one of us bears the load (financial or otherwise), sometimes it’s the other and where we can do, we share it.

But by golly, it is much easier to subscribe to that idea when you’re not the one asking for handouts!

As the year went on, I learned to be OK with being on the low trajectory of the swing. I learned to depend on my Beloved. But, I also started to feel quite down. If my confidence had taken a knock with my “strategic” move, being moved out all together and have no-one invite me in to another job, pretty much sledge hammered it sub-terrain.

But, when Peanut was 4 months old, I managed to secure a contract role at an Analyst level, which gave me a good work/life balance. Low stress, working from home, a job I should be able to do with my eyes shut. And then 5 weeks ago, they asked me to help with a project that was in crisis….

So, that’s the short version (believe me, it really is). Which brings me back to the pros and cons of the last few weeks.

CONS
1. I miss my babies.
2. I miss my beloved
3. When I’m home, I’m too tired to fully participate in family life (I don’t help much with the chores and I don’t do many of the night shifts with Peanut)
4. I’m shattered (did I say that already?) from lots of driving and long hours that I’m not used too.
5. And there’s pressure and stress, another thing I’ve not been used to for some time.

PROS
1. Turns out, I can still do it. (The pre-strategic job, I mean). Which has been a wee but of a confidence booster
2. I miss my Beloved. I appreciate him more. Working from home together most days, I realise I had started to take him (and all that he does – which is a lot) for granted
3. I’m no longer eating a whole packet of Garibaldi’s nearly every day (too embarrassed to do that in an actual office, with actual colleagues watching)
4. We’ve been able to book a nice holiday and start to save for a bigger house with more money coming in
5. I generally get to read half of a chapter of my book each time I travel (something I started nearly 2 months ago and I’m only about 3 chapters in!)

Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess. But it’s still a cloud. 5 pros, 5 cons. Although it’s fairly obvious (to me, anyway) that the first two cons on my list, pretty much negate all and any pros I/you/we could think of.

So, as the agreement to help on this project, in this way, was supposed to be temporary, I’m hoping that the end is near and I can return to my former, “easy”, life of balancing remote conference calls and deadlines with the daily day care runs.

Book Club

I’ve been inspired to pick up a book and read (an actual book with actual paper pages). Strangely, I’ve been inspired almost exactly at the same time from two different sources. Firstly, there was my Twitter buddy (@billy_mccallum), who’s been reading War and Peace and tweeting a synopsis of the plot lines as he goes. I never thought I could read a book as long as War and Peace, but his ingenuity with 140 characters makes the story seem very accessible. And then a suggestion from my Beloved, to turn off the TV for one night per week, turn on some relaxing music, read and talk. He’d picked up on something I’d mentioned in the passing about wanting to read more. How thoughtful!

So, I’ve started reading. As has my Beloved. Not War and Peace, but a fairly lengthy tale, and one that I have read before. A story that I love. In fact, I would probably say it’s my favourite book of all time (so far – I don’t read that much). The Count of Monte Cristo. The original (though, I’m sure even it is based on another original) tale of love, loss and rebirth. And I’m tweeting my synopsis (though not nearly as amusingly as Billy.)

Bear with me, whilst I digress a little… Another little hobby that I’ve been working on recently, is developing my family tree (more of that in another blog). The information that I am coming across is fascinating. But what really strikes me a general realisation about the world and human nature.

The story in the book, the stories I have discovered in my Family Tree and the stories I have lived in my own life, can all be threaded together by similar themes. Young love, loss, greed, lust, injustice, unrequited love, “illegitimate” children, “living in sin”, birth, death, relationship breakdown, mental illness… the list goes on and on…

But despite ideas held firm by my parents and grandparents, of things being different or better in the “Good Old Days”. They were just the same. Because fundamentally, human nature has not changed much over the last few centuries. And every generation lives through the same trials and tribulations, the same highs and lows. That’s life.

And that’s one of the wonderful facets of books. Some books offer escape, some knowledge. And many offer re-assurance that we are not alone, that someone else has walked this path before us and survived.