Needing to be told...

posted on: Monday, 28 January 2013

I am having a surreal experience with my Alexander Technique lessons! I can barely describe it; it is so elemental. Learning to properly use your body - identifying your muscles in a way that is basic and clear, without the incumbencies of everyday life to confuse things. It transpires I have been doing it all wrong, which is no big surprise as I enter year three of pain. It's liberating to learn a method that may go some way to fix things. But part of me is staggered at how simple it is. It feels a bit like loosing weight - eat less, exercise more. Or saving money - earn more, spend less. So obvious and yet its simplicity deludes people every day of the week. The point is: I needed to be told.

I have read countless books on recovering from chronic pain and almost all of them identify the need to adopt mindfulness, to take up yoga, to meditate. To relax and release stressed muscles. I have read and read and still found myself wondering: but how? It's so obvious yet it has become like the holy grail for me. This technique may just have the answer (I don't want to jinx it). I don't know, but I see that sometimes we need fellow humans to point the direction, to teach. It makes me realise how much there is to learn from others. We, in isolation, do not know it all - no matter how many ways we think around a topic. Solitude is not always an enabler.

Meanwhile, I dreamt last night about a conversation that took place last summer, around the time that my children were changing schools. One of those conversations where I was so taken aback by what was uttered, I had no retort. It was a drop of vitriol so toxic, at the time, I was incapable of anything but a sharp intake of breath. It was from a fellow school mother, I regretfully note that some women have developed the most precise method of the veiled put-down. So how strange - some six months later - that I should relive it in a dream!

I do wonder, why is it that some people must bring others down? Surely life is too short..?

This is my last week of my sabbatical. I will write more about how life-changing it has been for me in another post. But for now - suffice to say - it has rocked my world. Happy days.

Hello truth...

posted on: Wednesday, 23 January 2013

If anyone ever asks me about writing a blog and what to share, I always says that honesty provokes the biggest response from readers. I have observed this in my own blog for some time; the more I share, the more empathy is given in return. For a while I considered this as some kind of on-line voyeurism, that somehow people enjoyed the glimpse into the lives of others they don't know. There is a degree of this. However over time I have come to the conclusion that it's much more than that. Readers or followers (I've never liked that word; it has a stalker-esque quality to it) really do feel that they know the person who is blogging. This is a bizarre concept, but it is true. Of course some bloggers do manage to meet up in real life and I do count amongst my very good friends, those whom I have met through this modern medium.

via crush cul de sac
What is common is a self-consciousness of all bloggers that they should share too much. That their daily or weekly confessions will amount to a too-hefty dollop of reality that we all don't need to know about. But I find the opposite is true. I have read blogs where the searing truth of what is written has taken me aback. Where a raft of issues that face many of us are laid bare and where, in community spirit, comments are left of support and guidance. This network of support takes time to cultivate but when it's established, it has a priceless quality.

For me, here, I launched my business because of this blog. There is no way I would have done it otherwise. I may have made a few bottles of oils and sold them to good friends at the school drop off  but I would never have had a platform on which to launch anything wider. Now, as orders arrive from all over the world I have to catch myself and remember that the blog did this. It really is...quite awesome.

via crush cul de sac
I am lucky too that I have never had to deal with the affliction of trolls, who seems to frequent other mediums more than this one. I have read blogs where troll comments have left a sting long after they were written. Where that sting has coloured the blogger's whole approach to what they write until their skin hardens again and they think, sod it. I am me and I shall write what I like!

The truth with me at the moment: life is good. I am settled. Much less anxious. I spend way too much time cleaning up after my family and it baffles me that they don't help me more. I wonder where I went wrong in raising my children that they don't offer to help. Then I chide myself and remember that when you're eleven or seven, the cleanliness of the house really is not an issue for you.

I see now that I have spent years living with pain and very slowly I glimpse that there may be a way to manage it. I am not sure it will ever be gone completely. But it might, some days, be absent. This makes me REALLY happy.

I spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about clothes. And whether I am too old now to chose clothes that ten years ago I would have adored but ironically could not have afforded. I have just this week bought three pots of nail varnish and a lipstick (Diva by Mac = vixen?) to cheer myself up; and I am not even sad! I worry a-l-h-o-t that the happiness I have captured in my life will last. I never want the bubble to pop.

I wonder about my parents - divorced - who are so different I find it hard to imagine they were ever married. I constantly fantasise about de-cluttering my house. My children - sometimes just looking at them makes my heart ache, as in a physical weightiness in my chest - such is the depth of love for them. And my husband, he can still floor me with a blue-eyed smile.

via crush cul de sac

Little details...

posted on: Sunday, 20 January 2013

Snow weekend! We've been housebound since Friday when making the trek to school seemed pointless! Cue: home cooking and sledging and bundling up with a gazillion layers. It never fails to amaze me how unprepared we Brits are for proper snow and what big news it is, when it comes. My facebook feed suddenly flooded with images of snowmen and snow angels.

So staying at home for an indeterminate time has for me, translated into internet browsing...and that in turn, has translated into retail lust for various items. I really must get a grip of myself; I thought January was about paring back? Not forging forward with more shopping after the Christmas excesses...

It's just those little details I love...the most simple of dresses. Golden nails, deep red lips. People you see from across a room who have some little detail; scarf or glasses - that make them stand out. Leopard shoes and quirky words. These are the things I covet.

It's started snowing again ;-)

via elsa may

via a cup of jo


posted on: Wednesday, 16 January 2013

To the people who are you mentally review the state of your marriage often? Does marriage become something that you forget about? Forget that you fact married? I recall those heady young days pre-marriage, where what my friends considered as important was to become married; in short the wedding. The dress, the venue, the guest-list. Now of course that whole wedding day - whilst immortalised in memory and uniquely special - is just one tiny step into the world of being married.

via better than fine
I married well. We are happily married. Marriage is good. But equally I am aware that there are so many who must think the same, who revel in the comfort of being married but for whom it all goes wrong. I don't ever take it for granted. I saw this passage from a blog I read and it makes my heart ache in the knowledge that it could so easily happen.

Somehow I'd seen us in Maine, on the coast, wrapped in blankets in our Adirondack chairs, with books, perhaps the New York Times, spectacles perched on the ends of our noses, our cold hands clasping each other's in our old age. That's the way I thought it would be.

But things don't always work out the way you imagine.  You just don't imagine that nearly thirty years of your life will be boiled down to a list of belongings. You don't imagine yourself saying, "who's going to get the wedding silver?" Every little thing in this house has a story. Every little thing is waiting to find out its fate. There are too many memories to sift through.

My friend Dawn and I call it 'the fear'. If you are angry with your spouse, if you feel that you are not being listened to, if you want something else, do you get 'the fear' when you consider walking away? Does the idea of your spouse with a new person give you 'the fear'? You see how it goes. 'The fear' is the acid test.

Because if nothing else I appreciate the most how my husband and I have a shared history. How our family in all its foibles and silliness; all the little jokes and sayings, all the years of memories and happenings, they all add up to me. And how would I be without it?

When I started University, I got together with my husband, although I had known him for many years beforehand. My housemates used to laugh at me; I had discovered this happiness virtually on my front door and yet I spent the entire time thinking I would lose it. Thinking I would lose him. Even years later, it took me ages to work out that he wasn't going anywhere. He used to say 'I am not one who changes; I stay'. I am the product of divorced parents and grew up with very limited exposure to conventional families. My family was different; a tight nucleus of my Mum, my brother and I; my Dad a satellite that I visited on strict rotation. I didn't know what marriage was meant to look like, exactly.

And now? I have made this marriage mine. It's not been always easy - but it's been the single most important thing I ever did. Along with what we created along the way.

Like it is...

posted on: Monday, 14 January 2013

Everything seems to be converging at the moment. Paula and I have been squirrelled away working on L'Apothecary; I know I have been talking about re branding for what seems like forever but it takes time. We are working with a designer who 'gets' me and comes up with these beautiful sheets of pretty designs. We tweak here and there; she comes back with more. I hope I am not a difficult client ;-) Sometimes having to articulate what you are all about is hard, even if you think you know yourself well. At times she looks at me as if I am slightly mad. I realise that I draw on so many references to express myself. Something I have read/seen/witnessed/heard about. The word 'eclectic' springs to mind! But it is really exciting.

For those of you who have bought my products, when we do relaunch you will see how far it has all come. From a kitchen table to a business, with a strong and decisive design ethos behind it. There are new products to come and so today was spent (in amongst the snow chaos outside) appreciating the aromas of grapefruit, lime and coconut. It more resembled a tropical isle than a snowy day and that's fine; that's what it is all about. Creating something that transports you forward.

Meanwhile I have started taking lessons in the Alexander Technique. Readers will know that I have struggled with jaw pain for a couple of years now and this method is one that a friend recommended to me. It's a leap of faith again, and it has in two lessons made me realise all the strange postural habits I have picked up along the way. It's no wonder my muscles hurts. Learning something like this is like turning a light into a dark corner; it reveals itself and suddenly you see.

It is a matter of weeks until I return to work after six months off. There is a degree of pragmatism in my reaction to this fact; I know it is time. I know I will therefore have three jobs - corporate one, L'Apothecary one and motherhood one. Is that too many?! I am willing to give it go...

Getting it wrong...getting it right...

posted on: Wednesday, 9 January 2013

I have two children; a boy and a girl. I always felt blessed that we were bestowed this family of both genders, the chance to bring up one of each. Having a daughter is a gift; a slightly surreal experience in seeing your younger self but in a whole new generation, with a whole new persona. Daily, I have to remind myself that she is not me. I have always considered her an extension of myself - when she was a baby, if I felt cold, I was convinced that she would feel cold too.

There is something about your firstborn; you produce this little human and sometimes it's hard to see where you end and they begin. I also read that as a mother, you have the most complex relationship with your firstborn child, irrespective of gender, because they take you to a place you never imagined you could go. Certainly in some of those sleep-deprived, early days (nights) I did wonder how this little bundle could have caused my life to free-fall so dramatically. I know categorically now that the baby stage was not my finest hour! Nowadays I am a much more well-adjusted mother; but it did take years to get here.

As for my son; the sheer simplicity of having a boy is also a gift. Sons love their mothers - and seven year old sons are full of sticky hugs and questions about outer space and what seems like endless love. Of course as the time ticks by he grows and I see that he is becoming his own person, developing charming quirks that his sister never would have. She is like the trailblazer, being the eldest she forges ahead and on the whole, life has been easy for her. She has her moments, but under that 11 year old exterior (blonde ponytail, super-fit, skinny-jean'd, converse-shoe'd) she is deceptively strong and competent. He is too but his need to keep up with her has shaped him and he strives much harder than she did and equally, feels disappointment much more keenly than her.

I make decisions for them every day and as a mother there are times where I think I am so adept at these choices that I no longer question if they are right or wrong. Unlike the baby stage: has he had enough milk? 7 ounces, 9 ounces? Is there a draft near the cot? Should she wear a vest under her baby-grow? Shouldn't he be crawling/talking/eating finger-food by now? The decisions now are so much wider (reminding me again that babyhood is frankly, a drop in the ocean of parenthood). Now it's all about experiences, making sure they get exposed to enough of life for them to grow up happy and robust, with a worldliness that will equip them for later on.

What I feel so keenly is the desire not to mess it up. It can feel overwhelming, trying to navigate through things. We try to give them the best we can, as everyone does, but I admit I get a creep of doubt when I wonder why I want what we consider to be 'best' for them. Why do I want them to be selected for school teams? Why do I want them to excel academically? Why does it matter to me that they get on well with their friends? Why am I so proud when they show gratitude or empathy or charity? I have to catch myself and wonder the extent to which I project forward my own values and my own missed chances onto their childhood?

How do I know if it's right or wrong?!

'Live your life, live your life, live your life ...'

posted on: Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Those who don't spend time (days) online won't know the reality of stumbling across something that triggers a thought or spurs a viewpoint. Never before (despite years of devouring books and magazines) have I been so conscious of the thought-provoking quality of the web. I consume so much information with my daily checks: the blog, twitter, pinterest, instagram, facebook, not to mention old fashioned email and text.

via here
Today I read a blog; one I don't ever recall choosing to follow but which I do...where the depth of feeling was so visceral it literally grabbed hold of me. The first paragraph alone, a feat of words. I am always so impressed when any writer can capture the human condition in what appears to be effortless prose. Where the words simply spill. I know another writer who does this and again, her blog posts so often have the ability to render me slightly breathless. I am respectful of people who can write - it is such a skill. I will always be a girl who studied books.

Anyway, back the visceral blog - it linked to the New York Times and an interview with the man who wrote and illustrated 'Where the Wild Things Are' published in 1963. I recall this children's book in the same way as I recall 1970's decor and the 'brownness' of everything that seemed to permeate my early years. What was it with the 1970's and decorating with brown?!

So I found myself, alone on a Monday afternoon, shedding tears at what was said in this interview with Maurice Sendak - he speaks of the topic I spend a disproportionate amount of time considering: making the best of life. The advice is this: live your life, live your life, live your life. Listen to it; it's heart-wrenching important advice.

Women my age...

posted on: Monday, 7 January 2013

I have various feelings about getting older; firstly I like the surety it brings. I know my mind better. I don't however like that I see myself in pictures with lines on my face that never used to be there. I like that I know what suits me and I dress to please myself, not others. I don't like that I have to train so hard to keep the body shape that I used to have naturally and dare I say...effortlessly. I like the shared history of my husband and I ageing together; having been side by side since I was 18, he's seen twenty years of subtle changes in me; but I am still me. I don't like that my hair is greying - I will dye it forever. I do like that I see my Mum and how she has aged and she is still beautiful and stylish.

I regard with interest how women of my age look. Especially famous ones. Here are some contemporaries of mine, all born in 1974:

Amber Valetta

Victoria Beckham

Eva Mendes

Kate Moss

Amy Adams
Imagine any one of these women on the school run...they would earn surreptitious stares, for sure. Is it just me who finds the school run the ultimate head-to-toe check out between women? It's a fine art; in one glance we can clock every detail. This morning, for example, I noticed that many women were sporting Caribbean suntans - now they didn't have that as a feature at the old school...

Meanwhile comparing oneself to celebrities. This is what I call the 'Pinterest' effect. I have been spending a lot of time on Pinterest (here is my page) lately - it's a veritable obsession - but all that perusing of beauty makes normal life seem drab by comparison. The messy house. The unkempt hair. The not-quite-right outfit. I realise that everyone on Pinterest is just that little bit more beautiful, preened, slim, something better than reality.

Still of this selection of '74 babies, I do take heart that they look naturally 38 (even Victoria Beckham, who has softened hasn't she?!). There are fine lines and a glimpses of the future, older face and that is what women my age should look like.

And so it goes...

posted on: Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Hello 2013! Let's do this! I've seen this image a lot on Pinterest and in Blog-land, however it does encapsulate how I feel about this new year. Last year at this time we were in a dark place and I recall being entirely out of sync with the impetus to make resolutions. I was hanging on by a thread instead - in survival mode rather than a growth mode.

This year - a whole different thing. And so it goes; life has a habit of handing out good times and bad and the point of it is: you have to go through both. By contrast right now, I have moments where I feel my heart literally swell with contentedness. It's hard to write that without sounding smug and I really don't mean to. It surprises me how I can find happiness in places that I thought had been fully plundered - like a miner who finds something shimmering in a mine shaft that has already delivered. Who would have thought that in the same place, with the same life I could find more shimmer?!

via patterson maker
But I have. And it's great.

A word on this blog while we are here. I started writing it three years ago this month. I can vividly recall a quiet January day, post-Christmas, pottering round the web. I found this blog and specifically this post. Something about the picture completely resonated with me and I was, right there and then, on the spot - inspired. How strange then that, Simone, the writer of those words has become my friend and confidante. How strange that had I not happened across her post, I may never have started to write this blog. And true to form, the post she has written today captures everything that I appreciate about Simone  - positivity, sentimentality, truth, realism, verve and elegance.

via the bottom of the ironing basket
Blogging has brought me so much; things I could never have imagined, from friendship to a burgeoning business and to celebrate three years of it - of chronicling my life and thoughts, is quite honestly, and as my husband would say: pretty cool.

Happy New Year.

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