Mindfulness, Well-being

Here’s to a Happier 2018

And so it ends.  2017 has drawn to a close and it’s naturally a time to review the past year and plan for 2018.  I’m not a big planner, and I’m not one to make big bold New Year’s resolutions – to my mind, switching to 1st January doesn’t automatically make your mind ready for change.  I appreciate that for many it does work – but for me – not so much.

The last year was one of discovery for me and I ended the year finding Mindfulness.  I have to admit I tried it all throughout the course of the year!  Some things worked, some didn’t.  One that didn’t was looking to the universe to manifest what I want.  I struggled with this because so much seemed to be focussed on manifesting abundance and / or money.  This wasn’t really a priority for me – my journey is more about improving my health and wellbeing – and so this was knocked on the head fairly quickly.

The M Shed and Crane 29
Walking through Bristol Harbourside

One thing that did work well for me was the #365 Grateful project.  I loved taking a photograph every day of something or someone I was grateful for and provided a very visual image of my journey through the year. For some reason I stopped doing it on a daily basis, and I have to admit I miss it.  It was good for me and made me stay in the present much more than I am prone to do.

Another thing that I did try was ‘One Little Word’.  It works on the premise of picking one word to guide you through the year.   This fell by the wayside.  Not because I didn’t like the idea – I have picked another word for this year, well a phrase really; ‘Let Go’.  I found the structure of a programme quite constraining and so will be finding my own ways to keep this word at the forefront of my mind.  I’d still highly recommend visiting ‘One Little Word’ as for many people the structure of it is brilliant. January will be a mood board!

And so to 2018.  I recently read an article by Annika Rose in ‘the Moment’ magazine on just this topic.  She recommends asking yourself 3 questions:

  1. “What do you want to invite more of into your life’?
  2. “What lights you up”?
  3. “What did you learn this year”?

So in answer to number 1. I want to invite more calm into my life.  I want to enjoy the moments as they happen, rather than constantly worry about what has been or what might be.  I also want to invite more people into my life and share more experiences with real people.



What lights me up?  Anything crafting and my husband!  I know that crafting lights me up, yet for some reason I can’t quite fathom I tend to put it to the side.  I also increasingly love yoga – like crafting, when you are in that moment you can only think about now, the present and all other stresses disappear.

Walking also lights me up, increasingly so I as learn to walk in the present and really pay attention to my surroundings.  I cannot begin to imagine the number of things I have missed over the years with my body being in one place and my head somewhere totally different.


And what did I learn this year?  Not to try to change too many things at one time.  That I need to reduce my anxiety levels.  Towards the end of the year, I learned about mindfulness.  If I think about it I can’t really remember how – but I started reading Ruby Wax’ ‘Sane New World’ and I was hooked.  And mindfulness is based in science – I liked that.  There is real life scientific evidence of how and why it works.  The biggest hurdle for me is that it is going to take time.  I like a quick fix, I want to be less anxious now, I want to be more present now, I don’t like slow.  But for this to become a key feature of my life I have to take it slowly, I have to commit to it every day, I have to continue to do it, even if I don’t particularly like it or feel like doing it.  When I reach the end of 2018 I want to be able to see that progress has been made and that my anxiety levels have decreased, that I am no longer living life in ‘catastrophe’ mode.

With this in mind I have set myself the following three targets for the year:

  1. To practice meditation and mindfulness every day – even on the days I really don’t feel like it.
  2. To walk 1000 miles.  This is a challenge run every year by Country Walking magazine.  In the first instance I will just be counting the miles I walk every day.  I have to walk 2.74 miles every day and I’m not sure as yet how that will work out.  At the end of the day, this blog has walking in the title – I want to get back into it.
  3. To do something of a creative nature every day.  Be that knitting, crochet, sewing or even colouring.  Something that will make my heart sing in that moment.

For the first time in a long while I am looking forward to the new year.  Whilst I am still anxious about where it will go I believe that the steps I am taking mean I will enjoy far more of the year than I have previously and that finally I am walking in the right direction.


Reading, Well-being

My Imperfect Life

I’ve been very quiet recently.  Partly due to the fact I just didn’t know what to write next. So many ideas have been spinning around my head, so many books I want to read, so many things I want to try.  As a consequence I have achieved very little except an increasing feeling of being out of control – that my life was hurtling into the future and I had no control over its destination.  This past week a number of things have happened to reassure me that this is not a problem.

Hands Free LifeI’ve recently completed reading ‘My Hands Free Life’ by Rachel Macy Stafford.  In a previous blog I mentioned that I had found her website ‘Hands Free Mama…Letting Go‘ and how it seemed fate like that I was to find it.  I’ve loved reading the book and intend to go back through it again, but one aspect that really stood out for me was the constant need to strive for perfection.  This is me, to a tee.  Everything must be perfect.  My house must be perfect, my marriage must be perfect, my hair must be perfect – the only problem with all of this is I don’t naturally do perfect – I naturally do shambolic.  Despite my best efforts nothing will ever be perfect and I’m starting to realise that’s ok.  My best is more than good enough and will get me to where ever I need to be.

I never used to be like this.  I was the child that did just enough to get by.  I scraped through ‘O’ Levels and found myself at 6th Form.  I fared slightly better at ‘A’ Levels, but there were still a million things to do that were more interesting than studying, yet I found myself at university.  At this point, and much to the disgust of some of my peers, I discovered a natural ability to leave my work to the last minute and still get a really good mark!  I left university with a credible degree – not perfect – but it was good enough for me.

So what changed.  Where did the child for whom ‘that’ll do’ could be applied to every aspect of life become so obsessed with perfection.  I’m afraid to say, I think it was education and the impact it had on my life.  I was a good teacher, in my own way.  Not for a second did I fit into the ideal image of an outstanding teacher, but in my own way I was very successful.  I found my niche and was promoted very quickly to Head of Faculty.  However, this came at a price.  In order to do well at school, the remainder of my life collapsed into a heap.  Literally.  I had the biggest pile of ironing you have ever seen.  I shut doors on rooms to hide the mess – I couldn’t manage a full time teaching role and keep on top of my domestic affairs.  In the end I traded ironing and cleaning in return for paying for my mum to go to a nice salon to have her hair done.

The Four TendenciesI’ve also recently started reading ‘The Four Tendencies‘ by Gretchen Rubin.  I am an obliger.  I will always strive to meet external expectations at the cost of internal desires.  I am an obliger with aspects of a rebel, which means I don’t necessarily like or want to meet the external expectations, but I will do them to the point of explosion – what Rubin would call an ‘Obliger Rebellion’.  As the years in education went by, the pressure to conform became greater.  Lessons had to be taught in a certain way, lesson plans had to be written in a specific way, children became the colours of traffic lights instead of individuals, and my perception of what made a good teacher became more and more out of touch with my every day reality.  This constant pressure to be the perfect teacher spilled over into every aspect of my life.  Lessons had to be perfect, resources had to be perfect, marking had to be perfect, my house had to be perfect, yet I continually failed in every aspect.  My desire to meet external expectations drove me to achieve that perfection on a daily basis – whilst inside I was screaming, increasingly aware of my natural inclination or natural ability to fit into the very square boxes I was expected to inhabit.  I can say without any shadow of a doubt that I can’t remember any of the moments in my career where I achieved perfect, but I can tell you a whole range of amusing stories about my experiences in the classroom, about friendships I built with amazing colleagues. Eventually, something had to give if I was to achieve the role of ‘perfect teacher’, and sadly, it was my health and my relationship with my husband.

Random things!

Since leaving education, I have continued to try and find my place in the world – but the pressure for perfection has continued.  My home has to be perfect, perfectly clean, perfectly tidy, perfectly decorated – but as ever – to my mind I have failed.  My home is at best ‘shambolic chic’.  Nothing particularly matches and we have a lot of ‘clutter’ – this is particularly apparent as we have recently downsized from a home with far too much storage space to one with barely any.  I, in particular, have a range of completely random ‘things’ that I have chosen to keep – but each one has a story attached to it.  I can tell you who bought it, where it came from and why it is special to me.  This small shelf of ‘stuff’ epitomises me – a little bit odd, a little bit quirky and certainly not perfect.  Slowly I am growing to realise that it is this which matters.  Home isn’t meant to be perfect, home is meant to be the place where you share smiles, and build memories.

So rather than striving for perfection I am going to reconnect with my younger self for whom doing ‘just enough to get by’ suited me just fine.  I plan to enjoy myself, my time with husband and embrace my imperfect life.