Project HeatherED

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Tag: thankfulness (page 1 of 2)

The Twenty-Third TWIG Post (or how I’m learning that new love grows – even through loss)

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

Sigmund Freud

An hour and a half. This week K broke her lifetime record for the “Longest Time Ever Sitting on a Human’s Knee”.  I was so delighted by this change in behaviour, I had to immediately share the photographic evidence on my Facebook page.

You see, both my feline friends have never been what you’d call “lap cats”.  Likely taken from their mother too soon, they never seemed to grasp how to be cats in that way. Surprisingly, this bothers my partner, C, more than I. Used to his role as perma-cushion for our previous pet, I’ve heard him refer to D and K as somewhat of “a disappointment”!

Still.

 

Dave enjoying the garden

D, in particular, became the heart of our home. This, despite him stomping around the place, shouting his kitty head off like a tiny military dictator. A plus-sized personality in a pint-sized cat. D’s very existence on this planet could brighten my darkest days. C and I both couldn’t love him more.

Which is why, when we unexpectedly lost D a few weeks back, it hurt so much.

My beloved baby, D never took to sitting on knees; a crying shame given how he was the most ridiculously cuddle-worthy cat! I know I’m biased, but he was breathtakingly beautiful. His fur felt almost unreal, it was so soft. That cat came covered in a perfectly plush, fluffy layer of inky-black down. Perhaps if he could have learnt to relax long enough to sit still, maybe – eventually – he’d have made an awesome lap cat one day. I guess we’ll never know.

Aside from the occasional perch-in-passing, K has never been a knee cat either. Since losing D, however, K has definitely changed.

Siblings adopted together, they’d never really been apart so we weren’t sure how K might react to losing D. Though when he disappeared for a few days when they were younger, she became suspiciously happy. Whilst C and I sobbed in the streets as we stuck our “lost cat” posters to lampposts, K came along with us, prancing and dancing around our ankles!

In a strange twist of fate, without D, K is starting to come out of her shell. She’s much noisier, for example, her vocal prowess expanding to nearly fill the space D left behind. No longer having to share space, she seems more relaxed, sprawling across the carpet rather than scrunched in a ball. Most irritating – but super cute – K now meows to be let in via the patio doors rather than use her specially installed, unfeasibly expensive cat flap.

Keiko Bean

She’s essentially becoming Queen of the House. “Queen B”, I call her (for Bean – Keiko-Bean. Yes, I’ve become one of those nutters who have a million nicknames for my pets).

Coming home with a cold the other day, I was just about to make a brew and settle down for an afternoon of “Made in Chelsea” (we’re now onto Season 11, FYI) when I was joined on the sofa by K. I felt nervous about making her nervous and scaring her off so I tried not to move.

However as we both began to relax, K did a cat-version of man-spreading, rolling around as she made herself comfy. She even woke up mid-way through her marathon nap to have a bath – on me – before falling back asleep!

Reluctantly breaking the magic of the moment, an hour-and-a-half later – desperate for the loo and a brew by now – I gently moved my cat from my knee.

In a strange twist of fate, it feels as if K senses my sadness and is seeking to befriend me. Maybe K misses her friend, too, which is why she’s gravitating towards me. Even if she does prefer life as an only cat to sharing her home with an annoying little brother! C has noticed the change in her, too, as she’s become more comfortable in my company.

We’re getting to know each other, which is kind of beautiful, in its own weird way. My heart is broken, yet it’s also expanding; making more room so I can love K more.

Though I’m over-the-moon to become closer with K, I have to admit – it’s rather bittersweet. It’s like with D gone, he’s created space for our connection to flourish. As our love blossoms and grows, I’m even more achingly aware of what we’ve lost.

I miss D; my shadow, my friend.

Keiko and Dave

“What greater gift than the love of a cat?”

Charles Dickens

I have to remind myself that the pain of loss isn’t lessened by love. Loving K doesn’t mean I love D any less. It’s not possible. Instead, love soothes; it salves. It helps our hearts heal more quickly.

We’re a smaller family now – C, K, and I – but we’re stronger, too. A tighter crew.

And maybe – just maybe – one day, in the not too distant future, C will cave – and let us have a dog! 😉

Though I’m still drowning in a sea of snotty, teary tissues, I’m becoming better. I’m back to work and I’m here, writing again. Glad to get back to being grateful and sharing my week’s thanks.

This Week I’m Grateful for:

*Having a great conversation kick-start my working week. I’m not one for small talk, but this past Monday I stopped on my way into work to greet my colleague, J. Twenty minutes later I was surprised to find myself still talking.

Technically, it was “big” talk. We covered topics from side-hustling, building our online skills, and mental wellbeing and learnt we’ve much in common. I’m glad I stopped to make time to talk; I went into my office feeling happier and less alone.

*Making new friends – who also love Vietnamese bahn mi! This week I found myself genuinely looking forward to lunch at my favourite cafe with a (relatively) new friend. Having social anxiety, I typically dread in-person meet-ups. Therefore actually wanting to go out for lunch is a hugely positive sign that my mental health is on the mend.

*Building my braves by increasing my working hours. Much of my anxiety ties into feeling trapped. After a few hours at my desk, I definitely notice myself having a classic “flight or fight” response; an impulse to escape.

There’s nothing to be afraid of at work; I know this to be true. Yet rational thinking doesn’t eliminate anxious feelings. So rather than fight with myself, I’m practising acting in spite of contradictory emotions. It’s certainly not easy, but it is possible and I am progressing. By Friday I’d worked up to two-thirds of my regular hours which, given my recent anxiety levels, feels like a noteworthy achievement.

*Coming up with ideas for C’s birthday presents, currently hidden at home and ready for wrapping. It’s a massive relief to be prepared early. There’s something incredibly anxiety-provoking about gifting. Honestly, I hate buying gifts. The whole process – thinking of an ingenious idea and executing it – is frankly exhausting and doesn’t come naturally to me. Some people have a natural gift for, well, gifts, whereas others find themselves agonizing over whether it’s okay to just give gift cards. Now I’ve done my shopping, I can now relax and actually enjoy the occasion.

*Losing myself in a good film. Visiting the Curzon to watch “Venom” this weekend reminded me how much I love the feeling of sinking into a story so completely that I disappear. Movies can give me temporary relief from living in the chaos of my own mental mind.

Ironically, I turned to a film about an impulse-driven alien – “Venom” – that makes its home inside Tom Hardy’s head. In a weird way, I could relate to him living with a voice within that simultaneously saves and destroys; a dark side that serves some greater purpose.

*Positive comments from readers. Admittedly, I’m someone who needs reassurance and encouragement to keep going with my creative endeavours.  Hence why it meant so much to receive a Facebook comment recently from someone who’d been binge-reading my previous posts.

Similar to myself, this reader had also taken time off work for mental health reasons. They said it felt like finding a friend; reading my words helped them feel less alone. This is exactly what I hoped my blog might do: my words create a spark of something that resonates with someone else. It worked!

I’m therefore extremely grateful for this particular reader whose kind words inspired me to publish this post. I’m not yet entirely back to my best self, but I’m catching a glimpse of her and I’m beginning to get back by blogging mojo.

Thanks to all those reading this. I look forward to writing more soon.

H x

The Twenty-Second TWIG Post (or why we benefit by letting go of perfectionism and embracing a B-minus)

It dawned on me this week that I’ve a bit of a problem with publishing posts. 

As I write this there are precisely sixteen other articles languishing in my drafts, each in various stages of completion.

I’m the Queen of Drafts.

Behind the scenes of this blog, I’m writing more than ever. You’ll have to trust me when I say I’m writing my heart out.

Yet this clearly isn’t reflected in my rates of publications. Why?

One word: Perfectionismfullsizeoutput_609

It’s defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”. (For anyone who lives under a rock, though even then you’re likely to worry about living under the “right” rock – ergo you already know what I’m talking about.)

In this particular situation my perfectionistic streak shows in my inability to craft my words to the level I’d like my writing to reach before I’m ready to share it with the world.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this quest for perfection. Reading Corbett Barr‘s post about how to “write epic sh*t” this week, I learnt that it takes “professional” bloggers far longer than I thought to write, edit, and publish posts.

What a relief! Knowing it can take Pat Flynn over eight hours to write a single blog post lifts at least some of the pressure off little ol’ me. If it takes time for the big-time bloggers to make stuff that matters, then it’s reasonable to expect it’ll take time for me, too. Therefore it’s probably pushing it to want to publish something long-form two or three (or more) times a week, plus put in the requisite hours for my full-time gig, and have enough time left over to take care of my body, brain, and boyfriend (in that order – sorry C).

Perhaps I’ve some rather unrealistic expectations for myself. Being a skeptical soul, I suspect it’s not only me who thinks this way.

Clearly, Steph Crowder of “Courage and Clarity” and “Fizzle” fame (in the world of  entrepreneurial podcasts) agrees. She recently wrote a Monday Motivation post in her Facebook group for female entrepreneurs about how what she terms “B-minus work” can change lives:

“If PERFECT is in your language, we gotta take it down SEVERAL notches.

Just. Show. Up. Give me your B- Work.”

Steph Crowder via Facebook

When it comes to us women (some blokes and non-binary persons, too, of course), what we as individuals deem our B-minus work – the stuff we’d label “acceptable” or at a push “good enough” rather than being ourtip-top best –  is often exactly what someone else needs to hear.

In case that doesn’t read too well, given my myriad mid-sentence interruptions, I’ll say it again:

When it comes to us women what we as individuals deem “acceptable work” is often exactly what someone else needs to hear.

In trying to achieve something “perfect” there’s at least a chance however small – we could be preventing someone from finding precisely the help, advice, or inspiration they need in exactly the right moment. Okay, so this isn’t scientifically proven per say, but I’d hedge my bets that most experts would agree with me on this one.  “Experts” being used here to refer anyone half-way intelligent who might ever have said something even slightly supporting the point I’m making here.

I’m a prime example of the problem at play here. I hold myself back because I believe that my writing’s not “good enough” yet for public consumption. Note here the words highlighted – in bolditalics, and underlined, in case you missed it.

In truth, my work is most likely already good enough. Even if it isn’t when I publish a post, then chances are I’d soon know about it and can make amends. You know, I can edit, rewrite, even delete if it’s that bad – or – wait for it – I can choose to let it be imperfect. Revelatory stuff indeed.

But no.

Instead, I continue to tell myself the same self-destructive story – that I’m not good enough, and anything I do inevitably won’t be good enough either. It’s a bit embarrassing to think that, in spite of this navel-gazing, I still make this mistake. It’s frustrating and disheartening to repeat the same errors.

And so I’m trying to become more comfortable with being a B-minus student sometimes, at least when it comes to writing. Easier said than done, I’m learning to let go and release my creative endeavours at least a little sooner. Hopefully, my efforts at getting comfy with being uncomfy will be rewarded when my words reach those who most need to read them.

Speaking of which, I better get on with my weekly dose of thankfulness while my writing’s still relevant!

 This Week I’m Grateful for:

IMG_3535

Guess where I was?!

TWIG #1: A Saturday afternoon out with C. Last weekend we went to Salts Mill, a former 19th Century industrial mill which now houses art, shops, and cafes at the heart of a model village in Saltaire, Bradford. It’s . After a quick stroll and a poke in a few antiques shops, C let me loose in what’s one of my most favourite bookshops.

Whenever we visit I come home with a new book or journal. This time, I ended up with both: “The Program” – young adult dystopian fiction by Suzanne Young – and two sketch books. I plan to use the latter for creative brainstorming, free of the constraints of their linear cousin, the notebook. Of course no day out would be complete without cake so we made time for tea.

TWIG #2: My growing confidence in my business competence.

(Try saying that when you’ve had a few!)

You likely know about my most recent mental meltdown, which makes everything more difficult, as depression is want to do. However this past week helped me see I’m more capable than I believed myself to be.

I’m from a business background, academically and professionally. Yet I’m reticent to declare myself expert in anything for fear of being “found out” lacking somehow. Like many other women I speak to, I’ve a chronic case of imposter syndrome, scared to step up and risk being seen for fear of public failure.

I’ve had enough of this self-doubt. So I’m intentionally collecting evidence to prove to myself that I’m already an intelligent professional. As you’ll see, I’ve gathered some examples already this week:

  • I’ve been consulting for a copy-editor – far further along in her entrepreneurial “journey” than I, sharing my ideas around content, copy, and design for her email opt-in.
  • I asked off-the-cuff questions during a Fizzle Friday coaching session, during which I was thanked by someone I admire for my contributions to the forum.
  • Other entrepreneurs have sought me out to specifically ask for my opinion on their business issues.

All of which shows that I have something of value to offer. The more I help othersthe more I recognise that I’m actually good at this stuff. Not only have I got a ton of relevant experience to share (I sometimes forget that I’m 34, not 14), but I’m also bringing my own creativity to the table. Somewhere down the line there’s potentially a business idea there, which feels super-exciting!

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K (left & back) and D (right at the front!)

TWIG #3: This utterly gorgeous photo of our cats!  They’d jumped onto the garage windowsill to steer clear of C reversing the car. They stayed put long enough for C to park up and then take this fantastic photo.

I think it captures their personalities perfectly. Typically cheeky, D’s pushed his way to the front. (He gets away with it for being so cute.) K is that bit more cautious, carefully contemplating things from a bit further back. She lets D think he’s getting his way, but it’s her slinky self that’s  actually in charge.

Unsurprisingly, this picture received the highest number of “likes” I’ve ever received for a picture on Facebook. If I wasn’t so enamoured of this pair, I’d probably take offence!

TWIG #4: The prospect of renovating our house is becoming real! Now we’ve nearly completed the sale of our old house we’ll soon have sufficient funds to start work.

I arranged for a builder to come give us a quote. Extremely chatty (I had been warned), he was enthusiastic about our ideas and advised us on the next steps. As such, we’ve since arranged for quotes from two window companies, a structural engineer, and a kitchen company in the coming weeks.

Best by far was our visit to a kitchen designer, who took C’s technical drawings (on squared paper, using laser measurements) and created a 3D-interpretation of my dream kitchen. Excitedly, it looks almost exactly how I imagined, which feels inspiring and motivating to move forward with making our dream home a reality.

TWIG #5: Going back to the gym. After a month’s hiatus (the first in four years or more), I checked my kit fit (it did!) and went to class last Tuesday. Turns out this wasn’t anywhere near as scary as I’d build it up to be in my head. I should have known; this is pretty much always the case with anxiety.

Still, it was a relief to keep pace with classmates, finishing on a bit of a high and feeling a hundred times better after class than before. Calorie-burning aside, I remembered why kept going to the gym in the first place. I’ve booked again for this Tuesday.

Okay, so I can’t take all the credit for getting back to the gym. There’s a chance I’d have headed home, except that my colleague F had coaxed me to class. She stood by my desk, waiting whilst I slowly shutdown my PC. Though having a bit of extra encouragement certainly helped me overcome my objections to exercise, I’m still proud of myself for making small steps in the right direction.

fullsizeoutput_608TWIG #6: Being able to feel loved by my family. That’s not a poorly-structured sentence (perhaps it is, but it’s not intentional) but is a genuine expression of gratitude on my part.

This is because depression disconnects. It puts up an invisible wall. When my mind is in a mess, this barrier between myself and others is especially impermeable. It’s hard for me to show love and it’s equally difficult for me to receive it. It’s painful on both accounts.

However since finding the right medication for me, I’m experiencing positive feelings much more often. This sounds dramatic, but anything that breaks through the kind of emotional numbness depression brings is nothing short of miraculous.

TWIG #7: I rescued a frog! 

Finally, on a far lighter note, I can proudly say I single-handedly rescued a frog this evening.

I heard the tell-tale chew toy squeak that I’ve learnt terrorised frogs make, so I rushed – okay, I was guilted off the sofa by C, who sent me out in my pyjamas – to the rescue! Our two ferocious felines had cornered the poor fella. Bravely, I shielded the frog with my bare hands until C came with an old ice-cream tub to transport our new friend safety to the neighbour’s pond.

I’ll conclude my gratitudes with this – my contribution to the safe-keeping of our local wildlife population!

x

The Eighteenth TWIG Post (or how I’m happy despite having felt unwell this week)

I’m trying something a little different with my TWIG post this week.

I think I’ve been trying to do too much.

So rather than overloading you, I’m simply getting grateful. Instead I’ll share another story around becoming better in a separate post. I hope you’ll join me then, but in the meanwhile here goes…

IMG_3340This Week I’m Grateful for:

*Working with people who care about me.

Kindness is under-rated in our society, and yet it makes a massive difference to our quality of life. My anxiety now rarely shows its face at work (which is a gratitude in-and-of itself). However on the odd occasion it makes an appearance – like this past week – I’m thankful to have colleagues who make the effort to understand and accommodate my “quirks”.

Mental health issues are something even those of us with them struggle to comprehend. For people who haven’t personally experienced mental illness – and there are more of us than one might think – it must be hard to imagine. Not able to totally trust your mind to tell you the truth is, well, a mind-bending concept. It’s also pretty scary – to the point where many people choose to deny its existence rather than have to face the fact that, as Clare Eastham states so well in her book, “We’re all mad here”.

Fortunately for me, I have colleagues who try to understand. They care enough about me to make this effort. They accept that sometimes, I simply need to be alone. The world is too overwhelming. Like a turtle, I hide inside my shell until I feel safe enough to come back out and rejoin the world. What comes off as anti-social behaviour is usually my needing to take a little time away from the noise of open-plan in order to quieten the raging inside my mind.

I’m most grateful that they can “see” me, the person. It’s a real testimony to sensitivity and character of the people I work with that they can appreciate that “Heather” is the person I am underneath; the one who experiences these mental moments, as opposed to my being mental, per say.

*Being able to do what’s best for my health.

It’s not always easy to admit to feeling under the weather, but it’s even harder if it involves mental illness. For me, there’s usually a slow build-up to break-down that I can miss the early-warning signs of impending doom. Oftentimes, it eventually comes out as physical illness; my body literally acting to stop me in my tracks.

At times like this, I’m thankful that I work for a public-sector organisation that generally supports its people in taking the time to get well. Whenever I’m ill it’s a reminder to appreciate this anew. I know it’s not the case for many people, including C who works in a private company where taking sick days is penalised when it comes to bonus time. Particularly in light of my mental health, I count my job – and colleagues – as a blessing. Not everyone can choose to prioritise their health without worrying about the consequences at work.

*My partner, C, going out of his way to take care of me.

Being the sensitive soul he is, C picked up on my being out-of-sorts way sooner than I did. As such, he’s been extra lovely to me this week.

Examples of some small acts of daily kindness which make life much easier for those of us who have “wobbly” mental health include:

  • Cooking the dinner when it’s clearly not their turn.
  • Taking on more of the housework, which includes the intellectual (thinking) and emotional (feelings) work. Many women – myself included – unthinkingly shoulder the brunt of this without realising how tiring it can become (there’s definitely a future post in there!).
  • Keeping schtum when we zonk out on the couch in our PJs when we get in from work to watch a marathon of mindless TV (and I know this is not just me!)IMG_3341

My most favourite thing C does for me is making my supper cup of tea without my asking, simply because he knows I think it tastes better when he makes it.

Small kindnesses like this are often taken for granted in long-term relationships. We get used to them as they become habitual and routine; they’re just “what we do” for each other. Yet they’re often the things that mean the most when one of us is feeling off-colour, and so I’m focusing on feeling thankful for the small stuff – because they’re actually pretty big.

*My cats being so glad to have me home.

B.C. (Before Cats) sick days had been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, being ill generally necessitates some degree of discomfort. It’s either something painful or gross, and it’s usually some combination of the two. On the other hand, there’s daytime telly, extra tea and toast, and the rare opportunity to skip the shower and spend a whole day in my PJs. Still, there’s always that post-Doctors lull whereby the day’s officially more than half over. All the best terrestrial telly is over and you’re stuck watching re-runs of “Housewives” on catch-up.

Cats, however, have the unique ability to make a sick-day into a good-but-gross day. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re in-demand. Sitting next to D on the carpet to play with the feather toy made me feel so much better.  Making my cat happy makes me happy. Later I fell asleep on the sofa under the watchful eye of my buddy-boy.

Even just thinking about the fact that there are two creatures – mini-panthers – living in my home, wanting to hang out with me, tickles me. Such simple things can make me smile and totally change the tone of my day.

 *Love Islandtherapy

IMG_3360With my anxiety making a reappearance this week, it’s been a blessed relief to tune into the goings-on of this group of tanned twenty-somethings. It’s pure hedonism for this thirty-something with my mega-mortgage, a full-time office job, and the general gripes of  grown-up life. I’m only slightly serious when I say I wish I were holed-up in a Spanish villa for the Summer, my only responsibilities being to glam up, play Club 18-30s-style games by the pool, and partner up with whomever takes my fickle twenty-something fancy. #abitjealous? #100%!

Allowing myself this form of escapism is a literal holiday for my mind.  For some unbeknownst reason, this nightly dose of junk telly takes me out of my head for a while. It’s mental freedom –  exactly what the Doctor (Alex) ordered.  It’s proving the perfect remedy for an over-active brain which is why I refuse to feel guilty or ashamed of my love for the Island. #loyal

*C taking one for the team.

Let’s be clear about what I mean here: He removed the sun-dried frog found on our back doorstep and didn’t make me do it. There’s technically no proof it’s the result of either cats’ midnight madness but I have my suspicions that a certain kitty with a K might be to blame…

For some reason, the dead frog creeped me out way more than the three beautiful blue tits left for dead on the hall carpet. I can pick them up no problem (and I actually have a slightly macabre fascination with doing so). Something about the slightly shrivelled, sticky-looking amphibian corpse just grossed me out, so I was glad that C did the manly thing and “removed” it with the brush and shovel.

*Rehoming a pair of 1930s tulip vases.

At an antiques fair this weekend we lucked out by finding a pair of blue vases that fit perfectly with the style of our home. We’re still uncertain as to exactly how we want the house to look – I’ve painstakingly planned it on my Pinterest, but C’s yet to agree to the exact shade of Farrow & Ball blue I can use in the lounge.

Rather than sticking to any particular “look” or style we’re going instead with what we love. Definitely wanting to reinstall some of the house’s original 1930s features, we’ve also been on the look-out for items of the same era which appeal to our taste today.

For me, my taste is rather eclectic. I’m enamoured of angular Art Deco, an element of Victorian taxidermy, and masses of mid-century modern furniture. As the sale of our former home is almost final, the prospect of redesigning our forever home feels ever more real. I’m excited to have our own house and the opportunity to make it entirely us.

*Lemonade ice lollies.

Like all the other kids, C sent me off to the ice-cream van this weekend with the money to buy myself an ice lolly. Within moments of it being in my sticky mitts, I proceeded to down said popsicle, remembering how satisfying it is to bite through the ice. Frosty splinters stuck to my tongue, melting into delicious lemony numbness. On what was a ridiculously hot day, this was a small piece of sugary heaven.

*A chance chat with a charming child.

IMG_3369A young lad sat himself down – uninvited – at the same picnic table where C and I were eating lunch, resting his shaved head on folded arms with a sweaty sigh. Catching sight of a sparkly earring immediately got me thinking of the kids from“Shameless”. I planned on ignoring the interrupting, focusing instead on my food.

Moments later, his grandmother appeared with drinks and ice cream. I relaxed slightly: She looked like a nice lady and indeed she was, making friendly conversation across the table. I showed an interest in what they’d been buying at the antiques fair and the young lad sprang to live.

Showing me what he’d bought that morning, he spoke so thoughtfully, and with such intelligence, for what was clearly his passion.  He’d spent his hard-earned pocket money on militaria: a late twentieth-century army helmet, a WW2 artillery box, and an incredibly creepy baby’s gas mask-slash-cot.

C and I both rather fell enamoured of this lad. Noting his intense seriousness about his subject, he’s probably on the autistic spectrum but is also the most interesting and engaged young man I’ve met in a long time. Whilst I was drawn to his passion and enthusiasm, C could relate to being a similarly thoughtful kind of kid. It was a pleasure to meet him.

I absolutely adore kids and – for the most part – they seem to like me, too. I get so much joy from hanging out with my loved one’s offspring, it sometimes makes me question whether we ought to seriously consider having our own.

Yet when I come home to the peace and quiet – when I can sit here on my laptop typing away with no one to think about other than myself – no one I’m responsible for in that way – then I’m also grateful for that, too.

x

The Eleventh TWIG Post (or why money matters)

At long last I’m finally sitting down to write my eleventh gratitude post after a busy couple of weeks. I’ve therefore more to give thanks for today; a twofold increase in my happiness quota, which is a welcome bonus of publishing this post later than originally planned. 

As I head out of this Bank Holiday weekend straight into the run-up to pay day, I’ve been thinking about the links between money and happiness. I’ve been asking myself whether there’s a monetary price on happiness, and if it is something we can buy, can it ever be morally acceptable to do so? This sounds like I’ve spent my weekend engaging in esoteric philosophical debate. Yet in all honesty, what I’m specifically musing on is whether or not to buy a MacBook laptop. #firstworldproblems #shameonme

It’s often said that money can’t buy happiness. Many leading thinkers have been quoted as saying that the things which truly matter in life cannot be bought. This generally refers to our relationships with others, that we have with ourselves, and the degree to which we feel personal fulfillment in our lives. It’s ultimately how we feel about each of those things which determines our experiences of them, and whether or not they are happy ones. Being uniquely subjective, happiness in itself isn’t easily valued, at least not in monetary terms. Both relative and intangible, happiness as a concept is difficult to define. As an amateur psychologist, my clumsy attempt at a definition is that happiness can be most closely understood as an overall positive emotional state of being, and is thus unavailable for direct purchase.

Following this line of thinking, it makes sense to me that pursuing financial wealth will not necessarily result in a happier self. Instead there’s truth in the old adage  that it’s often the small things which bring the most happiness, or that which claims that some of best things in life come for free! Having spent most of my Bank Holiday Monday catching up on Gary V’s podcasts whilst scraping moss from our patio (my poor excuse for gardening), I feel tired but genuinely happy. Doing no-cost activities like these not only help to alleviate anxiety and stress, but also give me emotional satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

“Money is not the only answer, but it makes a difference.”

Barack Obama

Yet it’s undeniable that the value of money goes way beyond its literal financial worth. Obama refers here to the power and influence that money can afford;  the “fiscal lubrication” which accelerates the pace of change. The idea of money “greasing the wheels” of action is probably most notable in the political sphere, but also applies to our personal lives, increasing the speed with which we can take positive action towards our goals.

“Wealth is not about having a lot of money; it’s about having a lot of options.”

Chris Rock

Having access to finance opens up opportunities. Comedian and actor Chris Rock makes this clear here, in that money gives us access to creative solutions to problems that otherwise may not be possible, but it also gives us a means to buy into  experiences which add value to our lives, as is most obvious in education. Personally, I’m re-thinking my relationship to money to be a tool by which I can potentially create more happiness. Probably the best example to illustrate how I’ve recently spent money to make myself happy is in purchasing this incredible antique collection of exotic insects (note: there’s no filter on this image; I wanted to show you their natural vibrancy):

BugBox

My not-so ugly bug ball!

 

Instantly captivated by this Victorian-era artifact, I was enchanted by its ability to evoke contradictory feelings of amazement and disquiet simultaneously. I fell in love with this unique piece of history, speculating on the tales of the brave Victorian adventurers who brought home these specimens; forever frozen in all their glory to travel across time and space to reside above my mantle piece. I’m hit by waves of humility and awe whenever I look at it. Proving I can wield my personal power by using money to buy something worth more to me than its monetary value, it’s got me thinking about the potential “happiness factor” of any future purchases..

Say, for example, if I were to consider my current dilemma of whether to buy a shiny new MacBook. Despite this deeper understanding of what money can do in terms of helping me create greater emotional wealth, I’m still uneasy with the idea of “buying happiness.” I maintain the belief that using money to buy something that makes me happy suggests I’m lacking in the emotional capacity to be happy with less. It seems shallow and selfish to chase after material possessions when so many people in the world have nothing to speak of, and yet experience an enormous amount of happiness.

“Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.”

Benjamin Franklin

It’s an up-hill battle, but I’m working on eliminating shame around spending. Instead, I’m consciously enjoying and appreciating those purchases that make me happy. I’m not “buying happiness”; I’m simply using the tools at my disposal to increase my overall happiness. Unless I’m prepared to give away all worldly goods (I’m not that altruistic, I’m afraid), then not spending money and keeping it in the bank doesn’t impact positively on anyone else. Ergo investing my money in something with the potential to bring significant happiness gains isn’t an inherently “bad” thing.I’m working on getting that straight in my head.

As of yet, I’m still undecided as to when exactly I’ll invest in a MacBook, but I’m pretty certain it’s the best writing tool for me. I’m working out whether to buy now or later, depending on our current levels of disposable income, which is something C and I can figure out together. Seeking advice from those in the know (namely, other writers, colleagues, C and his techie work buddies), I’m confident that the MacBook would prove it’s worth, improving my experience of writing, making the most efficient use of my time, and generally making the writing process more fun!

I’m actually proud of myself for even contemplating such an expensive purchase. It’s a sign that I’m opening my mind, heart – and wallet! – to making investments in my emotional well-being, which is far more valuable than cash. In this spirit of being more openly grateful for all I have, today’s lists are an amalgamation of thanks from the past fortnight.

 

Last week I’m Grateful For:

DaveBig

As always, I’m grateful for this handsome fella!

  •  I’ve talked about this a lot already, but for the geekiest among you, you may be interested to know that my “bug box” is part of a collection from French entomologist Charles Oberthur, who died in the twenties in possession of the second biggest collection of insects in the world. In time, my tiny piece of his mammoth collection found its way to the Natural History Museum in London, and from there has relocated to live with me. It’s just amazing!
  • Creating renovation plans for our home. I’d already planned on painting the living room a dramatic shade of Farrow & Ball blue, but my bonkers bug buy fits perfectly with the eclectic explorers theme I envision. Filling the space with bonkers artefacts, vivid colours, and unique touches, we’ll eventually relocate the TV to this room and create a kind of “luxe cinema” vibe. I’m excited to curate a room that inspires fun, energy, and smiles (or gasps!) that will ultimately become our cosy Winter den.  In contrast, we plan to redecorate what was originally the dining room (but has become a second living room) as a calm, neutral, nature-themed space in which to read and relax. Overlooking the garden, it’s perfect for sitting and appreciating how fantastically lucky I am to have my dream home.
  • Buying new Summer clothes. As is always the case, it gets to this time of the year – too warm for Winter workwear – before I realise I’ve nothing appropriate to wear.  Somehow every single year I end up feeling frustrated at my lack of inter-seasonal planning – but not this year! Thankfully this past weekend I not only bought a box of bugs, but I also made another happy buy courtesy of FatFace: a capsule wardrobe that’ll see me through the coming months comprised of a couple of summer dresses, trousers and shirt. Job done.
  • Locally-made, delicious Thai food C  and I rediscovered recently. We’ve eaten at this restaurant a couple of times already, but had forgotten just how lovely it is to eat home-cooked food at a family-run restaurant. As a couple we spend a disproportionately large amount of our income on food, and I feel a little less guilty if it goes into local businesses.
  • Having the opportunity to practise reframing. A commonly-cited CBT technique whereby I consciously seek out the positive in any situation, I’ve been exercising this mental muscle in the past few weeks as booking my favourite gym class has become increasingly frustrating. Focusing my attention on enjoying the freedom that comes from being able to organise my fitness regime around my life, rather than the other way around, has helped me to feel cool, calm and in control.
  • Reclaiming the weekends! No longer doing DIY in every spare moment means that C and I can finally go on fun days out! This feels like a real treat, and I enjoyed spending my free time walking round sunny Bakewell this past weekend. I’m looking forward to a Summer of day trips, exploring the countryside that’s on our doorstep, and pottering in our beautiful garden with the cats.
  • Finding bargain books. Perhaps one of my greatest joys in life, sourcing second-hand books in charity shops brings an inordinate amount of pleasure. In donating money to a worthy cause, I’m also adding to my self-help collection. It’s win-win.
  • The swell of pride and love that comes from seeing my gorgeous nephew G learning to walk on video.  He’s only just coming up to a year old, and seeing just how much he’s grown and changed in this short window of his life is incredible to witness. I’m a seriously proud Aunt.
  • A positive prescription review with my doctor. This is something I’ve debated about discussing on my blog, but I feel strongly that it’s important I’m open and honest if I want to influence positive change in the public discourse around mental health. Whilst I’ve had periods of mental ill-health since my teenage years, it’s only been around a year since I started taking medication for my depression and anxiety. A complex of reasons held me from seeking this particular form of help, not least of which was the stigma associated with taking “mental meds”.  Attending my annual medication review, my doctor was so pleased with my progress that he said I could consider stopping taking my pills if I felt ready. He thinks they’ve probably done their job by now; chemically “resetting my brain”, so to speak, and he assured me I’d be fine without them. Still, with my doctor’s full support I’ve chosen to stay on medication for now at least. Memories of how I used to feel remain that bit too raw to feel entirely confident in living without additional chemical support. I did, however, feel safe in the knowledge that I’ve got the right human support system in place for me to ensure I’m taking exquisite care of my mind.
  • Embracing a new hobby: gardening! After my introduction to planting last weekend (and with just the one casualty in our herb garden), I’ve seemingly caught the gardening bug. A couple of times this past few weeks have seen me take up my trowel and gloves, and turn to the turf as my newest means of stress-relief. In my (sort of futile) quest for weed-free crazy paving, I’m making a whole new job for C (who gets the pleasure of re-pointing). Yet being in touch with the soil, taking in the scent of the earth, I feel happy and reconnected with the world.
Chives

Garlic chives grown in my own garden

This Week I’m Grateful For

  • Positive health news from family members who are now thankfully cancer-free. This is a gratitude way bigger than I can express here, but it’s safe to say that this has brought a massive sense of relief and happiness from their loved ones.
  • Completing my Role Model challenge! Four weeks earlier I set myself a month-long challenge to seek life advice and inspiration from the world’s most successful people. Reaching the final chapter (literally!) of this experiment was a real achievement and I’m excited to share the results in the coming weeks. For now, you can catch up via my introduction, week one, two, and three posts. I’m currently writing up what happened in week four, so watch this space!
  • Making plans for family to move nearby. C’s sister and her brood sold their house this week, meaning my nieces are definitely coming to live round the corner from us over the Summer. Never really having family live nearby as an adult, it’s really exciting to see this come to fruition. Having the space in our new place to be able to host a last-minute visit from C’s sister, S, this past weekend was fantastic. I’m thankful that we’re able to support her in making their move a reality.
  • A long Bank Holiday weekend, including an extra afternoon off work.
  • The opportunity to wear a new dress to work. The weather stayed sufficiently sunny to be able to rock my new denim dress. Feeling like Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”, it was amazing the difference I felt in wearing something totally different than my usual skinny-jeans-and-jumper uniform. Demonstrating my new dress by means of giving people a twirl, it was fun to feel girlish and cute – and unbelievably comfortable!
  • Yet another opportunity to wear my other new dress of a sunny Sunday. Being able to slip on a cotton sundress and enjoy feeling the heat on my skin was almost as delicious as the Bakewell tart-flavoured ice cream I ate this weekend.  I felt super glamourous and pretty, channelling fifties summer vibes in my straw hat.
  • Indulging in my biggest weakness – home-made cake! A slice of spicy carrot cake covered in lashings of sugary buttercream made my day.
  • Making a mini-speech at a work social took a few braves this week. Although I knew I’d be fine when I did it, I was a bit nervous beforehand. Bringing myself to this event, I even went as far as to use the word “love” in a work environment which for me, is a personal achievement of sorts.
  • Reflecting on my life experiences to help others came up this week as something I feel glad to be able to do. With the gift of time, it’s possible to use what I learnt from my own past failures to help someone else make progress in their own lives. Supporting one of our students to prepare for his job interview, I felt really positive about passing my life lessons onto someone for whom it may make a difference.
  • Genuinely feeling happy at work. If you’d asked me some years back when I was experiencing crippling anxiety, I’d have struggled to name a single positive thing about my job. These days, however, I can have a string of awesome days! Being able to relax and bring my whole self to my work has made a huge difference in terms of what I get out of it. Choosing to take a “can-do” attitude and determining to act from a place of love (rather than fear) has made such a positive impact on my working life, which rubs off on those around me.

Phew! A mega-post, as promised, so I’m truly grateful if you made it to the end with me!

x

The Tenth TWIG post (or how I’m speaking my story of thanksgiving in 2018)

I’ve reached a milestone this week: I’ve published my first ten TWIG posts – that’s ten weeks where I’ve put my gratitudes out into the Universe!

YellowFlower230518

Whilst having a gratitude practise isn’t new to me – I’ve been making lists I’m my journal for a few years now – being publicly thankful is new to me. As you’ll know if you followed my first challenge (it starts here, if you’re interested),  this year I began to practise speaking my gratitudes aloud as part of my morning walking to work ritual.

At first, voicing my reasons to be grateful felt false, and more than a little awkward.  I cringed inwardly whenever I audibly uttered my thanks, checking over my shoulder for whether anyone was within earshot. I was anxious about being overheard for fear of attracting judgement. When I realised I’d been self-censoring, I had a choice: hold myself back, or go all in, risking a bit of embarrassment. Committing myself to writing about my experiences for this blog, I chose to care more about my opinion of me than that of a stranger.

With practise, thankfulness has become my new norm in a relatively short period of time. I’ve found that, much like depression, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle: the more thanks I give, the more thankful I feel. The greater my gratitude, the more I find for which to be grateful. As I hear myself articulate my thanks, and the more I see my positive perspective published here, the more connected I feel to this side of myself.

Gratitude has quite literally changed my mind. It’s moved from residing in a predominantly negative place, to resting most often in a state of positivity. I’m seeing life through a different lens. When I look to the world, I’m generally searching for reasons to be glad. Despite how this sounds, I’m still no Pollyanna, but this “Happy Heather” version of myself is no longer a stranger. I hear her voice when I talk to myself on my morning commute, and also through her words here. I’m even starting to genuinely like her. I mean, me…

Giving myself permission to be happy is a process, much like anything worth pursuing in life. Still, by slowly allowing myself to become more openly optimistic I’m learning that it’s okay to be okay, and that’s… well, it’s more than okay.

In celebration of reaching this tenth TWIG post, I’ve written a top ten gratitude list for this year to share today. Admittedly, we’re not yet half-way through the year, but I feel like this is a timely opportunity to look back and see how far I’ve come. As Fatboy Slim said in his 1998* hit “you’ve come a long way, baby!”

*I have to just point out – this song is now twenty years old! I’m starting to feel really old, guys…

My Top 10 Gratitude List of 2018 (so far)

As it’s the tenth TWIG post, I thought I’d add a little “bonus” TWIG list and share with you my top ten things I’m grateful for this year (so far!). Here goes (in no particular order).

  1. YouTube. 

PurpleFlowers230518Okay, so I know it’s been around forever and I’m coming late to the game, but I have to speak out about YouTube, which has proved itself to be an awesome resource. For a self-help junkie like me, it’s like having free access to an online university featuring the most inspirational speakers, leaders and teachers in the field of self-improvement.

What’s more, YouTube integrates extra learning opportunities into my daily life. Playing videos in the background (often listening to them, rather than watching the screen), I’ve learnt loads whilst getting sh*t done. It’s turned daily chores like washing up, weeding, and even washing my face into opportunities for growth. I’ve even discovered new role models, thanks to the site’s ability to suggest videos I might like based on my viewing history.  I’d highly recommend YouTube as a tool for curating your own “University of Life” education. Just make sure you’re on WiFi (or have unlimited data) before you go all in!

2. Tony Robbins’ and my Hour of Power (HoP)

No, not a new Harry Potter spin-off series; it’s only the most useful tool I’ve build into my life this year!

My HoP is essentially the priming process which Tony speaks about a lot in his work, and which I’ve already talked about it detail in this post.  It’s down to personal preference as to what’s included in a priming ritual, but for me, I follow Tony’s advice to:

  • Move my body;
  • Change my breathing patterns;
  • Express gratitude for all I have;
  • Dream big about what I most want;
  • Plan for a positive day;
  • and finally, speak out my daily incantation.

I’ve got my HoP ritual down to perfectly fit my forty-five minute walk to work, and there’s never a day that goes by where I’m not glad to have taken the time to give myself this motivational mental massage!  It works so well for me that I feel confident in saying that Tony Robbins is an absolute hero. He insists in his Netflix documentary that “I am not your guru“, but he’s definitely one of the biggest influences upon me.

3. Spending our first year in our new house.

It feels like a million years since I bought my first-ever house with my partner C, but it was actually only late last Summer when we spent just fifteen minutes viewing the biggest purchase we’re ever likely to make. An empty bank account and seven months later, I can honestly say it feels like home.

And I’m so grateful for it! Every day when I look out of the window, I see more gorgeous flowers and plants coming into bloom. I hear birdsong and can open our French doors to let the outside in, and wander in the grass barefoot and in my pajamas! We no longer have to squeeze around one another because the new house has terrifically tall ceilings. We’ve tons of room for our things in a four-bed house with just us two (and the cats), so I’m no longer stressed about space. It’s perfect for us to host friends and family, and we’ve already had several people to stay. Whilst it’ll be a huge undertaking to renovate and make it into our dream house, I believe it’s already proving to have been worth every penny.

4. Getting to know my family.

Partly as a result of moving house, and partly down to intentional effort (on all of our parts), this year I feel like I’m getting to know my family better. Spending more time with my baby nephew, my two nieces, and with both C’s and my respective siblings has proved to be a real blessing.

I’ve learnt that whilst friends are the family we choose, I can choose to creative positive friendships with family. Getting to know my own two sisters has been a pleasant surprise, in that we’ve all got so much more in common as adults than we ever did when we lived together. We’re all way more alike than I’d have ever realised, had I not taken the time now to spend time with them. I appreciate how we can all accept each other as we are today, unlike when we’re with our parents and they generally refer back to us as we were as kids.

I’m also thrilled to be a part in the lives of the next generation. I absolutely adore being an Aunt! I never expected I would be that fussed, but it turns out that I am a natural children’s’ entertainer – though I suspect that’s partly down to my willingness to make an absolute fool of myself to get laughs. Not having children ourselves, and not knowing whether they feature in our future, I think both C and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play a more hands-on role in the lives of the littlies than perhaps our own Aunts and Uncles played in our own.

5. My physical health.

This year I have a new appreciation for my body, knowing that people we love and care for are having to handle some serious health problems.

My body has been my personal battleground for many years. During times when I’ve fought with myself, I’ve essentially been seeking relief from emotional and mental pain. Using food and fitness as my weapons of choice, I’ve conducted this battle with my body through either self-harm or self-control.

However hearing of those whose bodies are suffering from ill-health has given me pause for thought about my own body. I’m grateful that my worries are merely superficial. I realised that it’s actually really hard to hate my body when it’s doing everything I ask of it. In objective terms, my body has worked hard to remain healthy, despite periods of self-inflicted abuse and neglect. Like most people, I take my healthy body for granted sometimes, because it’s easy to do whilst you have good health. Not so easy when you’re faced with illness and the very real, very difficult challenges this poses. Knowing of others in this position, I’m reminded of my good fortune to have my health, and also to appreciate what I don’t have, as well as all that I do.

6. Learning to let go of perfection.

YellowWhiteFlowers230518Okay, so I can’t take all the credit on this one, because in truth, I’m not entirely sure I made it a conscious decision to ease up on myself. Yet somehow I’ve let loose a little, specifically in the area of  food, fitness, and my body. As I’ve already said, this is a challenge for me, and one in which I continue to work on becoming better.

After reflecting on this, I believe this to be the result of a practical change in life circumstances (i.e. moving house),  and a slowly dawning realisation that my constant striving for perfection – and not my body –  is limiting my happiness.

Rather than allowing myself to be driven by fear, I’m trying to choose to act according to what will make me happy. That’s to say, not shaping my life around what will “guarantee” that I maintain a particular number on the scales, but instead seriously considering what my heart wants. It’s not comfortable – I’m not sure when , or if, it will become so – but I do feel happier. I’m braver, I feel more beautiful and I’m emotionally stronger today than when I was last at my “fighting weight”. I feel in my heart, as well as (intellectually) in my head, that I’m genuinely less attached to the idea that my worth is tied up in being thin. That is a perfectly imperfect accomplishment, in my book.

7. Spending more quality time with C

Making a major life decision – like buying our first home together – necessitates change.  Practically-speaking, living in a new place means tweaking my daily routine, which has been challenging for us both. C has to drive a new route to work,  learning to traverse the winding country lanes, finding new short-cuts (and traffic jams) en-route.

For me, it’s been more of a mental shift, and one that’s taken a little time to adjust. Realising the impracticality of attending my regular Sunday fitness class, I made the decision to stop going and incorporate more exercise into my working week. Having religiously shown up to class for a good few years now, it felt hard to give up. At first, I missed it a lot and found it hard to adjust to a weekend with no formal fitness.

Instead, I spend my Sundays with C and I think this time has been one of the most valuable investments I’ve made this year. If I’m honest, at first it wasn’t so much fun. From February, our weekends were filled with a seemingly endless stream of cleaning and DIY as we worked on “Project 171”; the renovation of our old house in preparation for its sale. However I now believe that having this joint project brought us closer together. In spite of the moments of frustration, annoyance and general tiredness, I learnt a lot from C and (I hope!) vice versa.

Now our old house on the market, we’ve reclaimed our weekends – and it’s amazing! Whiling away our newfound time together we’ve been pottering in our beautiful blooming garden; having family and friends to stay, and simply spending our days together visiting places we love. When I really think about it, such a simple change of routine makes such a huge impact on how connected I feel to my partner.

This year has confirmed to me the value of investing quality time and energy into my relationship. I already knew this to be the case intellectually. However seeing in practice how much happier we both are as a result of changing my routine has me reconsidering my priorities. I’m therefore in the process of learning yet another major life lesson this year: making my relationship – our love –  a priority.  Already I’m thinking about designing another month-long challenge, and I suspect it will focus on this area of my life.

8. Learning new skills

PurpleDaisy230518Since completing “Project 171” I feel a new level of respect for my partner C. I mean, I knew he was a smart cookie – I wouldn’t have held out ten years had he not been more than a pretty face – but what I don’t often get to see is how he is in a “work-like” environment. It reminded me why I instinctively felt safe and trusted him from the get-go; he’s a quiet but brilliant teacher and leader.

Working on this project, I took the role of project planner, but as I don’t know anything about DIY, I had to rely on C’s instruction to actually get the work done. In a couple of months, he taught me all sorts of new skills, from how to prepare walls for painting to how to regrout tiles. His hard-working attitude carried us through times when my attention had long-since waned (normally when the cake had run out). My positivity, enthusiasm and energy was balanced by his rationality, consideration and patience, not only with the project but with me, too, as a newbie on the DIY scene!

Another new skill I’m learning this year is to garden. Having poured our life savings into a house with a massive mature garden, it’s kind of a must that I get involved in its maintenance. However I’m genuinely surprised to be finding this much pleasure in it! Being outside amongst the rainbow-coloured flowers, surrounded by green grass and blue skies (my favourite colours of late) makes me feel happy and relaxed. When I came home from work this week feeling a little stressed, I decided I’d spend an hour or so scraping moss (don’t ask) in the sun, and it totally recharged my body and mind.

9. Feeling happier at work.

Retuning my mind towards the positive has enabled me to become better at my job. I’ve embraced my strengths and in so doing, I’m more inclined to seek out opportunities in which to use my best skills. Speaking out at meetings front of senior colleagues, leading training seminars, and using social media to motivating those I manage in their work, I feel like I’m really making a difference in work these days.

Being more fulfilled in my day-job has given me a greater level of confidence in pursuing my personal passions outside of work. I’ve got more faith in my own talents and abilities, which has helped me gain momentum in writing this blog. I’m even using my down-time more productively – not simply surfing the web, or scrolling Facebook!

And last, but most certainly not least…

10. Writing this blog. 

Perhaps the thing that’s given me the most joy to date is writing this blog! It sounds rather dramatic, but I feel like I’m becoming the person I was meant to be. Whilst publishing my writing makes me vulnerable to public criticism, it made me more determined to keep my commitment, not only to the blog but also to myself. Finding the thing I truly love to do, I’m no longer willing to let myself down. I’m keeping my promise to myself, writing often, which gives me pleasure and has a positive cyclical effect, meaning I’m spending more time writing and creating.

Through writing I’ve found my personal passion: sharing what I’m learning to help myself and others become our best selves. Motivating me to pursue my personal ambition of becoming better (by which I mean becoming happier, healthier and emotionally wealthier), this is an invaluable discovery that’s improved my quality of my life.

Since publishing my writing, my mind’s opened up to being more creative generally. Working on the blog inspired me to start writing my book, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Inspired by the creative momentum of writing regularly, I’ve even had several new ideas for potential business ventures!

As we approach the middle of this year, I’m feeling optimistic about the coming months. I’ve a lot to be grateful for so far. Whether I do that when marching to work out loud to myself, or in sharing my thoughts in posts like this, I’m excited for what the future holds. I’m learning that positivity is a genuinely good feeling and I think I’ll stick to this positivity malarkey a little while longer.

x

 

 

 

 

The Ninth TWIG Post (or how I’m defeating my fears by choosing love)

After taking an extra-long May Bank Holiday break, having to go back to being in the office – even for just two days – felt like the longest (short) work week ever. This was amplified by my shockingly sharp slide into a state of depression. Heavy and dark, it felt like someone had thrown a thick Winter blanket over my head on a hot Summer’s day. With lethargy, hopelessness and despair tugging at my sleeve, it took all of my energy to get through the day. Slowing down to where my body felt like lead, walking to the bus stop took an extraordinary effort. Even  being outside in the sunshine felt painful.

Even to me, this description sounds overly dramatic, but I intentionally use these words because that’s exactly how it feels. In my experience, depression is incredibly dramatic and makes me behave in a seemingly self-centred way, which only adds to the feelings of shame that come with being afflicted by this negative mental state.

Waking up the next day with only a mild anxiety hangover as proof of the previous day’s drama, I started thinking about how different my emotional life is today. Most days, I wake up happy, without worry, and believing that I have future that’s worth living for. If I were a religious person (which I’m not), I’d cite this as miraculous; the polar opposite of my experience living in depression for most of my life.

I’ve learnt that our mindset is a choice.  It’s a choice available to all, and we can choose to change at any time. By choosing to have a positive and optimistic mindset, by practicing choosing love and happiness over fear, then this is the state in which I find myself most of the time.  I’m a different person because I’m making different choices. 

Reminding me how awful life feels with depression, this week I’m thankful to have had the opportunity this week to prove to myself how emotionally resilient I am.  Still, knowing for certain that these particular feelings would pass – that I can have a few “wobbly” days and return quickly to a state of  happiness and joy – is still a miracle to me.

So, in this spirit of renewed appreciation, here’s my thank you list to the Universe for this week!

This Week I’m Grateful for

Zebra

Getting up close with a herd of zebra, like you do.

  • Being a zoo keeper for the day again! After an incredible experience taking care of the giraffes last year, my Dad kindly gifted me another day as a keeper at Chester Zoo. Working alongside the rhino team, I had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with some of the world’s most endangered species. I had the privilege of hand-feeding two rare Bongos, of which there are just 150 of these beautiful deer-like animals in captivity, and only around the same number in the wild. I also got to hang out among zebra, and make friends with a rhinoceros named Benny, who happens to be the same age as me. Scratching a rhino behind the ears, I had to wonder – how many people in the world are lucky enough to be able to say that?!

    Heather&Bongo

    Feeding a rare Bongo (I hadn’t heard of these before either) with cabbage.

  • Having a super short working week.
  • Being committed to fitness as a lifestyle. Determined to re-establish my exercise regime – regardless of how many times it’s been disrupted of late – I went to the gym after work on Friday. I appreciation of how crucial working out is to my mental and physical fitness, so whilst I don’t want to go to the gym in the moment, I do it anyway. I felt good about acting in my own best interests, and doing the next right thing.
  • Publishing my Week One Role Model Challenge (RMC) post. Unusually for a blog, it’s a long-form article and I was inspired by Tim Ferriss to have confidence in my own style and the readers would come. I’m really proud of it as it’s so authentically me, I didn’t care whether or not people liked it because I like it.  I was therefore delighted to get positive feedback from readers. It made my day!
  • Having the confidence to take up the feminist cause. This week I came across a man whose attitude towards women at work was positively prehistoric. Grateful not to have to work alongside him myself, I was acutely aware of the young women who do. This drove me to speak out today so that other women don’t have to put up with this kind of sh*t in future. Now in my mid-thirties, I feel capable of standing up to misogyny. I’m proud to have the emotional strength to handle any fall-out from complaining about the immature behaviour of a grown man.
  • Being with a man like C, whose kindness, compassion and consideration for me, and others, seems to be above and beyond that of most ordinary humans. Despite terrible toothache (resulting in a painful extraction – ouch!), he put me and my he my (mentally) fragile state ahead of his needs by cooking us chilli for dinner, boiling my breakfast eggs for work, and downloading a superhero film for Thursday night movie night. I suspect he even made me my supper cup of tea (because tea always tastes better when someone else makes it). These seemingly small individual acts of love helped massively to get me out of a depressive state and confirm for me that he’s my hero – just don’t tell him I said so!
  • Receiving an invite to my nephew’s first birthday party! It’s not for a couple of months yet, and I’m already excited to be part of his first birthday celebrations.
  • Making plans to spend more time with my sisters over the next year. Already having spent more time with them this past year than I have for most of my twenties, as I’ve said in previous posts, I really appreciate the chance to get to know each other as friends.  We’re creating experiences and memories together, which is priceless.
  • Writing all Saturday afternoon. Having this time to myself to write was a real treat. Borrowing C’s mega computer, with its clinky-clunky noisy keys, I really enjoyed getting into my “flow” and accomplishing my goal of publishing my latest blog post.
  • Fitting into my leather jacket. Okay, so this is a slightly superficial gratitude, but bear with me here. Not having put this on since last Summer, I was afraid it might be too tight for me after letting go of the super-strict food and fitness regime I’ve lived by for the past four or five years.  I’m proud of myself for seeking greater balance, and as a result I’m happier and more relaxed. As a consequence, I’ve gained a few pounds and in all honestly, I’m not entirely comfortable with that. It’s brought back painful old stories of my being not thin (read:good) enough. Slipping on my jacket to find it fits fine helped prove to me that being a little heavier doesn’t equate to my being fat.
  • Receiving my Psychologies magazine in the post. Arriving this weekend and as if manifested by magic – this month’s issue features the very topic of working on rewriting our stories in an empowering way.
  • Rediscovering Brené Brown via her TED talks this weekend, it feels like the Universe is working to bring me that I need as I came across her work at precisely the right time.  I needed to hear her message about vulnerability being a sign not of weakness, but of courage and strength. I bought one of her Kindle books after the Universe called me to action. Feeling inspired by her videos, and debating whether to buy her book, my Kindle appeared on the bed out of nowhere – I’ve not read on it in weeks! I take this to be a sign from the Universe and went with my intuition to invest in her work. After all, buying a book is never a bad purchase.

    StreetMarket13May18

    Sunny Sunday at the street market

  • A sunny Sunday morning at a local street market. In perfect pottering weather, C and I visited a new local street market for the first time. Collecting a ton of business cards and ideas for our creating a terrarium for my garden living room, I came away with a tiny knitted turtle (to live on my desk), home-made cake and C bought some local art. We also ate delicious Caribbean street food, and I even had peanut butter and jelly gelato for dessert!
  • The pleasure of a good charity shop find. We bought a green glass vase and a small ceramic pot for under £2.50, which perfectly fit with my vision for our garden room. I filled the vase with bluebells from our garden, and it looks beautiful.
  • A glass jellyfish paperweight ornament. It sounds bonkers, but it’s a truly beautiful find.
  • Tea and cake on our patio of a sunny afternoon.

    HerbGarden13May18

    Our herb garden and my very first attempt at grown-up gardening!

  • Filling my home and garden with plants. Neither being an indoor or outdoor gardener by any means, I adore being surrounded with greenery and thus am taking steps to become more of a horticulturalist. This weekend I began to realise my vision of a plethora of plants overtaking our back living room by buying its first few potted plants. This room we refer to as the “garden room” because its French doors open up onto the garden, and I’m excited about bringing a bit of the outdoors in.

Let’s hope for another week of sunshine!

x

The Eighth TWIG Post (or why I’m excited for a week of firsts)

It’s just been the first weekend of May. Unusually for a British Bank Holiday, the weather was absolutely perfect! As my friend D says, it’s like being on holiday. It’s also the first time since February that C and I haven’t had to spend our free time renovating our former home.

Yet despite having a glorious long weekend to look forward to, I felt frustrated with myself and my inability to simply relax and enjoy it. On one hand, I’m thrilled at the prospect of five days to rest, relax, recuperate and rhino-sit (I’ll explain this in a future post!). On the other hand, I’m anxious about making the most of my time. I’m feeling disappointed that, even after many years working on self-improvement, my mind still sometimes wanders into dark places.

As luck would have it, I came across the exact guidance I needed for this weekend whilst reading “The Universe Has Your Back” by Gabrielle Bernstein:

“Projection is perception. This means that whatever stories you’re projecting in your mind are what you’re perceiving in life.” Gabrielle Bernstein

Gabby’s words reminded me that I have the power to alter my mindset. I have a choice in my perception (how I want to see things), which dictates how I feel. I can therefore control my emotional state and choose to feel differently at any moment. As such, I made a decision to make a new, empowering choice about how to feel this weekend:

I choose to feel happy in the present and give thanks for all I have. I choose to let go of anxiety, and instead allow myself to feel excited about the future.

In this positive spirit, I’m happy to share my eighth TWIG list.

This week I’m grateful for:

  • Five days off work. ‘Nuff said.
  • Amazing weather! Hotter than Spain in some places, apparently.
  • Free books! I’ve been cleverly ordering items on Amazon Prime to maximise the free credits I receive for opting out of next-day delivery. I’ve then enjoyed buying cheap Kindle books from my Wish List and indulging my passion for reading at no additional cost.
  • Having freshly cut and coloured hair. It makes me feel “done”, even when I’m slobbing about in my pajamas (which happens far more frequently than it probably ought to for an adult woman with a job).
  • Walking to work without my coat on for the first time this year. It’s a mini-miracle for the weather in the UK to get good enough to be able to take off my jacket outdoors before 8am.
  • Spending a day working outside of my office. Lat Thursday I had back-to-back meetings, so took advantage of the opportunity to work from different locations in-between times. Feeling very much the Millenial iPad nomad, I relished the freedom to do a spot of people watching while I worked. What’s more, I was able to make the most of my time after work to pursue my passion for writing before C picked me up to go and vote. Bonus!
  • My manager’s faith in my skills as a speaker and leader. She told me that she was glad I’d offered to help with the first event of our agent conference. I was asked to lead the first session, as she wants a confident and clear speaker to get things off to a good start. I felt super proud, and I’m happy to do so because I genuinely enjoy public speaking, weirdly enough. It’s also a chance for me to hone my speaking skills, which might come in handy if ever I decide to make my own podcasts or vlogs.
  • Going hard in the gym. After staying up late last Friday to get a spot in my favourite class, I gave it my all on Tuesday. I lifted the heaviest weights I’ve done so far, and came away feeling powerful, strong and accomplished.
  • Our former home is finally for sale. C’s home for over twenty years (five for me), it’s important to us that we give it the “send-off” it deserves. We’ve invested our hearts into making this a beautiful home again, which we hope will generate an offer worthy of our time and efforts. We’re keen to be able to invest the proceeds in our future, so it means a lot that we maximise our returns.
  • Seeing C happy and relaxed. I love seeing him come alive when he’s outside, working in the garden. The sun seems to recharge his batteries, and it’s really heart-warming to see how much joy our new garden gives him. It makes me feel good too, as it’s full of beautiful surprises and is changing every day. I feel very glad that we bought this place when I see C so contented.
  • Hanging out in the garden with our cats. The level of enjoyment they derive from their human buddies spending time outdoors with them is infectious! My cat D follows my feet as I walk barefoot in the grass, rolling over my toes and purring with delight at my being with him outside. Though I didn’t see K most of the day, in the afternoon I noticed the heather plants moving. She’d been sleeping in the shade and was happy to see we were still there post-nap time.
  • Take Two: Movie Night with C. We’ve done this two Thursday nights in a row now, and I’m counting this as our taking steps to build a positive, relationship-enhancing habit. The cinema-sweet popcorn is also delicious.
  • Living amongst trees, flowers and wildlife. I’m fortunate to have nature quite literally on my doorstep in my new home. In the past week, C bought himself a wildlife camera and captured footage of a fox and a badger visiting our garden in the early hours. It appears we have regular night-time visitors! We’ve also noticed the garden itself blossoming this past week, coming into its own for Spring. There are so many beautiful flowers! We’re also lucky enough to live in an area where there’s a plethora of ginormous trees, not only in our garden but in those around us. We’re privileged to now live on one of the last streets before the start of the Peak District national park, and driving around this weekend, I’m reminded how close we are to nature.
  • A Sunday of firsts in my home. It was the first I’ve sunbathed* (*read: dipped in and out of the shadows with my milk-bottle legs) in my garden; the first time I hung out washing to dry on our line; and the first (and second) time we used the new barbecue. To celebrate, we had burgers for lunch and dinner. Eating dinner outdoors in itself is a real pleasure; but burning meat in the sunshine is true bliss!
  • Having family moving onto our doorstep. This week we received news that our nieces (and their parents) are moving to live in our city! From the Autumn, we’ll have my sisters within an hour’s drive, and C’s sister living round the corner. We’ll go from no one nearby, to lots of people who love us a short drive away. I’m excited to play an important part in our neices’ lives in the years to come. From being able to help pick them up from after-school club, to attending their Christmas plays and have the girls sleep over, we’re going to be able to make a positive impact on their little lives. I can’t wait!
  • Spending time with my nephew G. Since I last saw him, he’s got new teeth, can clap his hands, and he even waited to crawl for the first time ever in front of me! As this technically occurred on a pub table, I’m sure at his eighteenth we’ll be teasing him about going on his first pub crawl before he turned one! Splashing in a washing-up bowl in the back garden, my heart ached with love for him! He’s such a happy boy and I’m so glad we have him in our lives.
  • A Bank Holiday walk with my sisters, ending with a pub lunch and a Magnum. It sounds like such an ordinary thing to do, but I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to now do these kinds of things together. In depression, I distanced myself from my family in general, but they never gave up on me. I feel lucky that we can build a friendship as adult women, as well as our being sisters. It’s really lovely to see how alike we’ve grown over the years, despite our different life experiences. We even enjoy a lot of the same things these days, thanks to the men in our lives. It’s a joy to get to know each other, as well as getting to know the men who love them.

I’m late in posting this week, thanks to the lacklustre WiFi connection in our back garden. Technically, I could add in a few more gratitudes from today (Tuesday) but I’ll save them for next weekend. I’ll have a few more exciting things to share by then, too!

Until then, enjoy the sunshine!

X

The Seventh TWIG Post (or how I’m learning to value working hard after work)

It’s Sunday afternoon and, at long last, I’m finally getting some down time. Having spent the majority of the weekend prepping our old house for the estate agent’s photo shoot, it’s felt like an endlessly long week of hard work.

In recent years, I’ve learnt that I don’t do well mentally if I don’t get enough rest. This was evident yesterday, in my being more than a little short tempered with C. Frustrated and tired, I’d become resentful at finishing work on my day job, only then to have to spend my precious weekends working another kind of job.

I felt justified in my irritation, until I began to really think about why we had sacrificed our free time these past couple of months. It reminds me of this quote I like from Jim Rohn; Tony Robbins’ teacher:

“Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job you’ll make a living, if you work hard on yourself you can make a fortune.” Jim Rohn

Taking a different perspective, I can see that working on our old house is an extension of working on myself. Not only is it a tangible investment, hopefully generating funds we can reinvest in our new home, but it’s also been an emotional investment. It’s been C’s house for over twenty years, so holds a million memories for him, not to mention it becoming our first real home together.

Knowing that how I feel is within my control, this morning I took action to motivate myself to feel positively about spending one last day working on the old house. I primed myself during my shower, Tony Robbins-style, reciting an uplifting incantation. I listened to mood-boosting music. I made a list of tasks to complete, ensuring I felt organised and alleviating anxiety. By making a conscious decision to have a good day, I then acted in a way to make it happen.

I can confidently say that C and I worked hard on this project. Together, we’ve invested our time, effort, love and care, to create somewhere special that will house new memories and stories for someone new. Hours spent painting, cleaning and sanding magically translate into a beautiful home, which C and I can feel proud to have created.

Now, sitting cross-legged on our lovely new sofa, I’m delighting in wearing my comfiest clothes and munching hot, buttery toast. As I sip my tea, I can feel my body begin to relax. I know I’ve earned this, which makes it feel all the better. So whilst I have a moment to myself, I want to share with you my other highlights from this week.

This Week I’m Grateful for:

  • Having beautiful memories of happy times in our old house that I will treasure forever. Amongst many, those that push themselves to the forefront of my mind include my first meeting with C’s old cat, K. Bringing with me a family-sized bucket o KFC as we welcome gift, K sat at the kitchen table with us and made his decision then and there that I was a keeper. Scorching hot summers spent wearing shorts in the garden. C’s amazing fireworks display in the back garden, culminating in applause from the neighbours at the end of the street. Sharing impromptu barbecues with our elderly neighbour K, whose kindness (often in the form of fresh fruit from the garden, or home-made fairy buns) kept us living in this too-small house for way too long!
  • Finally finishing our renovation work on the old house and being ready to sell. It’s a little nerve-wrecking, but incredibly exciting, too.
  • A well-deserved break from DIY, At least for a while, C and I can sit back and relax, knowing we don’t have to spend our weekends working.
  • Feeling like a loved Aunty Heather. A message from C’s Mum, informing me that my niece S had such a lovely stay with us, she wants to move in next door! It made me feel warm inside to think that I’m making such a positive impact.
  • Making Thursday night our Movie Night, and rediscovering the joy of a bowl of popcorn and snuggles on the sofa. Bliss!
  • Creating a clear plan for my book, and feeling proud that I’ve already got words for every chapter. It’s amazing to think that in just over a week, I’ve taken more action on making my dreams real than I have in years. There’s an absolute ton of practical experiments I want to conduct, and a mass of desk-based research to devour, but it’s the most exciting work I think I’ve ever done.
  • Starting my newest challenge for the next month. I’ll be writing about my Role Models Challenge later as the first week draws to a close. For now, I’ll simply say how inspiring it is to surrounded myself with successful people from all walks of life, and learn from their perspectives.
  • Getting confirmation that I’ll be travelling to South Korea in the Autumn for work.
  • Being surprised by the double-headed daffodils from Asda, opening in our hallway. They’re unlike any other daffodil I’ve ever seen!
  • Feeling great for having walked to work, doing my Hour of Power, every weekday. This morning ritual makes a huge difference to the quality of the rest of my day.
  • Embracing that I’m good at my day job. I’m far more confident and competent in all kinds of situations, including working with new people and speaking out about my successes to more senior people.
  • Looking forward to the first May Bank Holiday. I’ll be spending a day working as a rhino keeper at the zoo, and will visit my sisters to catch up. Our first five-day break this year, C and I are feeling more than ready for it!
  • Feeling good about getting to know who I really am. I’m confident that my true passion is writing. My life’s purpose is in learning how to become happier, healthier and emotionally wealthier, and then sharing that knowledge with others. It’s exciting to be able to combine both loves in writing my book.
  • C’s trail camera capturing footage of incredible British wildlife in our new garden. Wild foxes and badgers are quite literally living alongside us!
  • Enjoying a Friday evening getting a tipsy in the pub with C from three G&Ts. Then eating American-style burgers in a red leather booth.
  • Falling asleep on the sofa mid-film. One of the most relaxing experiences in the world, I adore napping on the couch or in the car. It’s where I catch my best zzzs.
  • Filling my house with flowers. Fluorescent pink carnations and beautiful rainbow tulips I’ll be able to bring home tomorrow, post-estate agent photos.

Here’s to another happy week – and a long weekend!

Heather

X

The Sixth TWIG Post (or how I’m working on feeling happier this week)

After what felt like an emotionally challenging week, I was determined to approach this week with a more positive mindset. I figured this would be an easy feat, given that I had Wednesday booked off work to look forward to, as well as the promise of plenty of sunshine!

However, as in this infamous quote from Scottish poet Robert Burns, it didn’t quite go as I’d hoped.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Working from home on Tuesday, I called my Dad to let him know that our new sofas had arrived. He’d kindly gifted us some money towards their purchase, so I wanted to thank him. I was really looking forward him visiting me at the weekend to see my home for the first time, especially now we have a comfortable seat to offer!

However as I put down the phone, angry and upset, I regretted my decision to call. During our conversation, he said some things that hurt me deeply.  Over the next forty-eight hours, I went through a process not unlike that of grief, whereby I experienced a period of numbness and shock, followed by anger, shame and eventually sadness.

Having lived for two days in this negative emotional state, I decided I’d had enough of feeling terrible, and I wanted to get into my Vortex – as Abraham-Hicks would put it.  I understand this as being in total alignment with who we truly are at heart, and therefore feel our happiest, most joyful and positive self.

So I took action to change my state. In seeking support from others – asking and being open to receiving help – I gained a different perspective on my situation. I was able to re-frame my thinking, and in so doing, totally change my own mind. As I’ve learnt many times over since the start of this year, when I change my mindset to one of positivity , the world around me also changes for the better.

“Your mind is a powerful thing, when you feel it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.”

Anonymous

So in the spirit of the school of thinking that is the Law of Attraction, and looking for the good in the world, I hope you enjoy my sixth TWIG post!

This Week I’m Grateful for:

  • Our gorgeous new sofas! They’re the most expensive single purchase I’ve ever made (other than our house), and it feels fabulous to finally invest in something special for our new home. I’d forgotten what a difference having a real sofa makes! Having lived with second-hand sofas which were destroyed by our kittens for the past few years, I didn’t mind moving into the new house and making do with occasional chairs and a sofa bed. However my life has improved 10x since the arrival of upholstery from Heaven!

    DaveSofa

    D’s making himself at home on the new sofas, too

  • Working from home: the Holy Grail for an open-plan office worker like myself. Having an occasional day whereby I can get on with tasks according to my own agenda, without the perpetual interruptions of my (mostly) well-meaning colleagues.  Being able to burn scented candles, listen to my radio aloud and, simultaneously, get to the bottom of the washing basket – it feels great!

 

  • A perfect day of my own.This week I treat myself to a day’s leave, whereby I spent the whole time on my own, doing what I love best. Taking myself for a long, lazy lunch in my favourite cafe, I spent hours reading and writing, over hot drinks and delicious food. Full of tea and cake, I walked home, chatting on the phone with my best friend. Arriving home to glorious sunshine and two happy cats, I got to wear shorts and go barefoot in our parkland of a garden for the first time ever. It was an utterly perfect day, during which I felt truly grateful to be me.

 

  • Writing my own book! Reading someone else’s manuscript this past week, I felt inspired. I’ve been secretly wanting to write for years, but couldn’t figure out exactly how to put my ideas into words. This week, something clicked and I’ve written over 11,000 words so far. There’s much work yet to do, and a ton of reading and research ahead of me –  but that’s what’s so exciting! I feel like a real writer!
  • Not-so secret scruffiness. This is the pure joy of being able to wear my shabbiest clothes and slob out (in the relative privacy of my own home and garden). After a long day at work, there’s nothing more satisfying than slipping on a fresh pair of PJs the moment I get in. And I know I’m not the only one who does this; there are many secret scruffs the world over! Gretchen and Elizabeth recently tried to address this habit on the Happier podcast, but for me, this is a guilty pleasure likely to outlast any attempt to dress like a more glamourous grown-up.

 

  • Filling my house with flowers. I bought myself a bunch of sunshine-yellow tulips, and one of unusual-looking star-shaped daffodils (double daffodils, according to Monty Don), to decorate my house this weekend. Dad brought me a rainbow-coloured bouquet from Aldi to add to my collection which, ironically, look set to outlast the more expensive ones we’d recently received from a florist!

 

FlowerDad

Beautiful, bargain blooms!

 

  • Creating calm by tidying my home environment. I really appreciate the feeling of mental and physical relaxation that comes over me when the space around me feels organised and orderly. Taking an hour to put things where they belong, and to run the hoover round, makes me feel virtuous. Having long-since accepted that we’ll never live the Scandi Dream – the minimalist lifestyle is not one to which C and I adhere, I’ve settled on hiding the clutter collected in cupboards. Living in the largest space we’ve ever had, I can luxuriate in its “empty” spaces.

 

  • Finally being ready to sell our old house. After months of hard work during weekends and evenings, C and I have finished renovations on our former home and are in a position to get it on the market. Having been C’s home for twenty years, it’s important to him that we find the right buyers and get the best possible financial and emotional return on his investment. Being the first home we’ve shared together, I’m also attached to the place. It’s where C and I – and our cat at the time – became a family, and where we “raised” our current kitty monsters. I’m sure I’ll feel a little sad, as well as relieved, when we do sell it, but mostly I’m thankful for the home it was for us and look forward to someone else making it their happy home, too.
  • A successful family visit this weekend. After the telephone conversation earlier this week, I wasn’t exactly brimming with enthusiasm at the prospect of him dropping by. Truth be told, I nearly told my sister not to bring him over. However having received some incredibly thoughtful advice, I was able to change my mental approach to his visit and treat my Dad as I would any other older person; with kindness, compassion and patience. As a result, I was much more relaxed, and the visit went really well. My Dad was really positive about my house, and I think taking a different approach to him being in my space enabled me to  soften my heart and welcome the visit. I know his intentions, and mine, come from a place of love, which is really all that anyone can ask.

And on that note, I wish you a happy week!

x

The Fifth TWIG Post (or how I’m taking back my mental power)

It’s been a bit of a funny week. Not so much funny “ha ha”, but more the weird, unsettling kind. In what seems to have been an endless stream of grey days, the recent un-Spring-like weather has got most people feeling a little down. However for me, it’s set my mind drifting towards depression, leaving me feeling rather odd and ill at ease with myself and the world.

I have to admit that getting myself to post this week has required a disproportionately large mental effort. It’s frustrating, because I truly love to write, and I’m trying extra hard not to keep kicking myself when I’m already feeling down.

Reassuringly, I know by now, from my own experiences and from the expertise of many, that any particular state of mind we’re in at any given moment is  only temporary. Regardless of how I feel, I’m still me and the beautiful qualities that make me the person I truly am is always there, underneath whatever emotional blanket comes over me.

As the brilliant Beyoncé was reported to have said:

“I’m more powerful than my mind can even digest and understand.”

Beyoncé

Source

A little arrogant, some might say, but the sentiment is totally true. Hence I’m choosing to believe in my own underlying capability to overcome this “grey day” mentality. I’m acting in spite of negative, dis-empowering feelings because I know I deserve to feel great again.

And so, in the spirit of living by my positive, happy-making life values, and deciding to take back control of my mindset, I’m here looking back at my week and focusing on its shiny, sparkly, highlights.

This Week I’m Grateful For:

  • My amazing nieces. Two pink, sparkly whirlwinds, took over our house last weekend. They filled it with laughter, love and Lego. Making themselves immediately at home, they turned our lives upside down for two days. C and I were impressed by not only the noise levels two tiny kids can make, but also the amount of Dominoes pizza they can put away! Wow! Yet whilst raising children is undoubtedly incredibly hard, spending time with the girls, I feel it’s probably the most valuable and worthwhile endeavour we humans can undertake.

 

  • Silly songs! A lasting legacy of the girls’ recent visit (quite aside from the chocolate smears and fingerprints on the walls) is having been introduced to LilDeuceDeuce. My youngest niece instructed Alexa to play “Beep Beep I’m a Sheep“; apparently her favourite dance track from a game on the Nintendo Switch. Tickled by the tune, C Googled the guy, and came across the Epic Rap Battles of History.  I think my favourite may be Stephen Hawkins vs Darth Vader, but they’re all awesome! Dancing hysterically in my slippers to these tunes has been by far, the best laugh I’ve had all week!

 

  • My quick thinking response to my niece’s Monday morning questions. When I was getting ready for work, she asked why I put “that sparkly stuff” on my face. Her Mum doesn’t wear make-up regularly, so it must have seemed peculiar to observe. Not wanting her to think that women have to wear make-up to look and feel good, but also not wanting her to think there is something wrong with doing so, I gave my honest reply: It makes me feel happy. I showed her the glitter on my cheeks and said that seeing my face sparkle when I’m at work makes me smile. I felt super proud of coming up with this on the hop, and glowed with “Good Aunty Heather” vibes all day!

 

  • A welcome delivery of new (to me) books. I was genuinely touched that a kind stranger went out of their way to post their old Gabrielle Bernstein books to me. I’ve not read her work, and am keen to do so, so this was very much appreciated; I’ll get hours of pleasure out of this gift! Particularly exciting was a box of affirmation cards (see below), which are both lovely in sentiment and are visually gorgeous.  Not only that, creating new connections with people has reaffirmed for me that most people in the world are good, which inspires hope in me.

  • Becoming a book reviewer! Quite possibly the highlight of my whole week, an (as yet) unpublished book manuscript (the first I’ve ever seen!) arrived in the mail. I’m excited and thrilled to review it for the Hearst Big Book Festival! As I write this post, I’m half-way through the book, which I’m genuinely enjoying. I feel a connection with the author, sharing similar life experiences, interests and passions. I’m looking forward to writing a positive review.
  • Making a major spur-of-the moment decision and found myself offering to go to South Korea with work! I’ve no idea what possessed me – perhaps the result of an especially motivating morning Hour of Power. Regardless, I’m proud of how far I’ve overcome the anxiety that had made my life so small for so long. I’m excited to visit Seoul, to meet new people and experience the Korean culture. I’ve genuinely surprised myself –  not to mention my colleagues!
  • Receiving a plethora of free food. Getting refunded for a broken caterpillar cake made it taste all the better this week. Mini Lindt bunnies from a kind colleague, and free egg sandwiches at a work buffet this week contributed to my conclusion that nothing tastes as good as free food.
  • Living in my house. Having hosted another family weekend reminded me how lucky I am to have this home. Intentionally taking the time to look at the house through the lens I first saw it last Summer, before it was ours, I’m truly blown away by how grand it is! It’s got so much potential, and yet it’s already perfect because we can bring together the people we love. I cannot express how much this means to me.
  • Living among the animals. Thus far, between C and I, we’ve looked out of the window to see a badger, several foxes, giant squirrels and more British garden birds than I’ve ever seen in my life! It’s such a privilege to live so close to the city for work, and yet also alongside nature on the edge of the beautiful Peak District. C plans to install a wildlife camera in our garden, and go all David Attenborough on me.
  • Daring to step up and volunteer my help. After participating in several events run by and for women in my large public sector workplace, I took action and emailed to offered my support. Attending my first meeting with the organizers this week took a whole bunch of braves, so I’m super proud of myself. The other women seem to be genuinely lovely people, and the tasks I’ve been asked to help with feel achievable. I feel optimistic about taking up this new task.
  • The hopeful anticipation I feel upon seeing a pile of shiny, new magazines. With four (or more) current magazine subscriptions, and being just after the start of the month, it’s looking a bit like WH Smith’s in my lounge at the moment. Whilst I’m having to prioritize the book manuscript this week, the excitement I feel about delving into my monthly magazines fills me with pre-emptive joy!
  • Having a house full of  gorgeous flowers! Our lovely nieces (and their parents) sent us a surprise thank you gift  of this gorgeous bouquet and chocolates. As the hyacinths are opening, they fill my house with an amazing scent! Alongside the plethora of daffodils filling all our biggest vases and glasses, my house is positively radiant with Spring blooms! 
  • Being financially fortunate.  Whilst we’re by no means rich, I’ve felt truly wealthy this week, in the sense that C and I are lucky enough to be able to afford to buy the things we like, and which make us feel happy. Listening to the audio book version of Napoleon Hill’s  “Think and Grow Rich” this week, I realised I already feel truly rich because I spend so little time worrying about money.  Being able to comfortably take care of ourselves’ and our cats’ basic needs, and having enough money left over to enjoy the small things in life with a huge happiness payoff (like magazines and gym memberships), I feel very fortunate. This is my definition of financial wealth. Whilst I know there’s much for C and I to do if we want to ensure we continue to prosper into old age, I am grateful to to be able to appreciate the position we’re in right here and now.

Completing my edit this Monday morning, I can honestly say that I feel lighter, brighter and way more hopeful than I did initially writing this post earlier this weekend. Once again, I’m learning that techniques for creating a positive mindset are by and large simple, but aren’t always easy to put into action. However pushing myself to practice what I preach, the mental fog is lifting and the Spring sunshine is starting to creep into the dark corners of my mind.

Happy Monday!

x

 

 

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