'You've got to be strong to be different...'

posted on: Thursday, 21 February 2013

I've written before about our family sayings; like 'you can't fight in your pyjamas', another of which is 'you've got to be strong to be different'. This comes from a favourite children's book about a lion which we read endlessly to both of our children, when they were little. My husband can recite the entire book by heart. The moral of it is a consistent theme in our house. I want my children to embrace different. Don't be like everyone else. Don't do what everyone else does. Be different. But it does take strength and no matter how many times we say the mantra - it's become a comedy explanation whenever anyone in the family does anything quirky - it is hard to do for real.

via pretty stuff
Especially at the moment, when conformity and blending-in seems important as we charter the territory of new schools and new friendships. You've got to be strong to be different.

I was brought up with a similar guide; my Mum went to great lengths to instill in me the idea that I didn't have to conform and in that, gave me such an important gift. I learnt to have my own opinion early on and those of my friends who have got to know me very well (as it takes a long time to get to know me for proper) will often comment I have little quirks and individualities that are different.

In an evening email exchange with my friend Emma last night, we were discussing the the impression that we made on others and how disconcerting it can be when meeting new people. Even now, as a grown up woman with my own family, profession, small business, a full repertoire of nutritious recipes, a charity-giving, tax-paying adult; I can still be floored with self-doubt.

This self doubt is often spurred by the recognition that I am not the same as everyone else. I think differently, I feel differently, I even dress differently.

In the corporate world there are a gazillion methods to categorise and characterise your personality type in an effort to glean efficiencies (such a corporate word!) in how you deal with others; clients, colleagues, bosses and so on. I know from that this I have a professional personality that is actually at odds with my real personality. But I have learnt to adapt and I have taken on traits that are not natural to me, but which I can use when they are needed. Over the years I did wonder whether I became so adept at taking on these traits that I lost sight...of me.

Part of the journey has been to get back to what I am all about, and do it now unapologetically. But I do hang on to the fact that it's OK to be different...isn't it? :-)

Truth, choices and avoidance tactics...

posted on: Tuesday, 19 February 2013

In response to my last post, an outpouring to advice, truth, empathy and honesty. I know: you hear me. Seems that mother's angst associated with those choices made for our children, in the interests of 'what is best for them', is all too common. I have had a few days to think about things and to absorb the whole back-to-work thing that has been looming for quite a while. I looked at my Face book feed and can literally trace it building from a month or so ago.

via a well traveled woman
I feel better now and so does my son. Funny how children bounce back. A treat arrived in the post from his Godmother - beautifully timed and full of the love and wit that makes me miss her daily presence in our lives more than anything. I know she had to marry a Dutchman and move to The Netherlands by my God I miss her so much...

I note in myself that when life gets too full of things I can't resolve, I turn to an outrageously shallow pursuit: looking for clothes on line. There, I have admitted it. I think of an item - the perfect ballet flat, the perfect blazer, the perfect white shirt - and then I scour the web in search of it. It helps me forget about the daily grind. Something about the search is calming, in those quieter moments of family life; even if I find it, I rarely purchase. I just like the chase, the possibility. Well...most of the time ;-)

So - my conclusion is, as ever, that I think too much. I need to not over analyse whatever work I do, whether it's corporate, small business or otherwise. Everybody works, that is how the world spins and I need to remind myself that most mothers are juggling and fretting, wondering if choices made are right or not. The hardest part is: there is just no way of knowing. I notice that months, even years pass (it's my 39th birthday in a month - now, that crept up) and life persists with it's 'blink and you miss it' quality.

I am sure it will slow down one day...

I must learn that there is something about my happy place that requires things to be 'just so' - or at least nodding in the direction of 'just so'. I must instead get back to concentrating on the aspects of each day that ease the way. Like the perfect colour of summer. Or my daughter's sharpening and worldly wit (she is her father's child). Or that one of these days there will be a perfect hair day. Or mastering the lizard pose in my daily yoga practise. Or that some time...some day...this country will break into warm, dry weather again and there will be scenes like this.

via pure beach boho

What a difference a week makes...

posted on: Thursday, 14 February 2013

Seems like overnight things went from lovely to downright hard. As if I could have prophesied it, the moment I took my eye off the ball - the ball dropped. In a matter of days!

via crush cul de sac
My youngest is having a hard time at school. We made a choice to move schools last year in the hope that stepping up a gear would give him better opportunities and in summary, if I were to critique that decision; it's been hard. I have times when I want to run back to the cosy, undemanding school he left with my tail between my legs. So much for social climbing.

It's not that it's bad for him, it's just that his little life has become more complex, more competitive, more challenging than it used to be. And he's seven. Surely when you're seven, life shouldn't be those things? I fear that my ability to help him is dwindling with each day of work that I do. I know now - as I have seen both sides of the working mother/stay-at-home mother viewpoint - that there is only so much of me to go around. The working mother simply can not be there to cover every base and soothe every hardship.

I am tired and emotional. And feeling...already...guilty. Is this a reaction? Will this pass? I don't want to welcome back the turmoil that I left behind before. Words of wisdom...are you there?

Things of beauty, with which to collect oneself...

posted on: Monday, 11 February 2013

So, I returned to work! It was...the same as ever! Partly that meant it was good; nice, known. Lovely to see colleagues and to know the rhythm. Lovely to speak to the friends I hadn't seen in six months - as some friendships, whilst strong, do not always infiltrate the everyday from work to home. Turns out my brain does still work and that I have remembered everything I knew. I do have an encyclopedic memory - maybe why this job suits me well. I have recall of pretty much every technical conversation I have ever had at work!

But the other side were those familiar feelings of having too much to do in one day. I have been so spoilt lately with time on my side. I remembered with alarming accuracy how little time there is when that large portion of your brain is taken up with a job. The children's homework seemed slightly tougher that night; I cooked their pasta dinner in my heels and coat as they were starving and we had  run late. I was staggered at how quickly the simple action of working again has disarmed me! I thought I was prepared. And most of all I sensed this shift of past tense - my sabbatical is now in my past and not my present. Not sure how to feel about that - so forgive me for not saying it all went swimmingly. It did; work was just...as hard as I had remembered.

So - we had a weekend of down time in an attempt to get the balance back and today, a domestic time trying to get better prepared for this week's adventures. I so want this to work; I so want to keep hold of all the good I have achieved in recent months.

I can, I can, I can...

My sabbatical...

posted on: Monday, 4 February 2013

When I meet new people and they ask me what I do...I now pause and consider which of my professions I should divulge. Most commonly I say I 'do stuff' with employment law - as that is my profession; I work for a household -name, enormous, quite progressive, multi-national company where I provide advice and counsel.

But also I own a beauty company. I have my own business and we make fine beauty oils. It's new and it's growing.

I am also a mother and wife. I am also a friend, dog-owner, housewife, cook, sister, driver, shopper, daughter, blogger...

Then I explain that I have been on a sabbatical for the last six months and they usually ask...'why?' And I umm and err and say 'just because'! I took the time off for a variety of reasons, not least to see what it would be like to concentrate on the other areas of my life that weren't my profession. I'd worked and worked until it wasn't fun anymore and everything else was suffering. So I stopped, then I went back, then (and this is the important bit) I stopped again: but on my terms.

The only way I can describe time off is an adjustment of the head-space that one walks around with every day. For the first month I felt odd, slightly displaced. The second month I felt worried. The third and fourth I felt content and the fifth and sixth I felt downright happy. My mind had emptied out and realigned. What I don't know is whether it was all-the-sweeter because I knew it was temporary. Knowing me, if I had been looking at a long-lasting life choice I might have developed the usual Lou-esque existential panic that often appears on this blog. But as it was: I loved it.

Things I now know:

Yoga is the answer.
Owning a dog is good for your health.
No matter what the day holds, my first and waking thought is a cuppa tea.
Even without a steady income, my urge to shop has not abated (much).
Sometimes you have to do things that scare you.
Don't be frightened of feeling the judgement of others - if it's OK with you, that's what matters.
The urge to whitewash my entire home and only have white furnishings has not lessened yet.
Having coffee is the mainstay of most mornings.
Circuit training is good for me; doing it with my friends even better.
I live in a very beautiful part of the world.
Even when I am not working, I still snap at my kids.
Even when I have all the time in the world, I still don't always get stuff done.
I can actually cook.
I suspect even Mary Poppins has a messy house sometimes ;-)
Running your own business can actually be harder than working for someone else's
In the last six months, I have seen more rain than I can recall in my entire life.
I have never been so in touch, so aware, so grounded, so present before.
I really, really want, in fact I am determined to keep hold of this feeling...watch me try! :-)

Who knew how bittersweet this would taste?

posted on: Friday, 1 February 2013

I have to spend this time looking forward as I have a fresh start next week. However I instinctively want to look back at the last half-year. A disquiet is growing in me about how it will feel to work again, but I know deep down that I am just being my normal self; processing the new and throwing in a good dose of worry, as I an inclined to do! It does feel bittersweet though - I have had the best time planning and growing my new business and being a full time mother and now I need to get back to reality.

This week Boo was doing a cross country run that was for the selection for the county team. She started at an ├╝ber-sporty school last September and only now, after four months is she starting to get noticed. She's no Jessica Ennis but she can run and swim and play netball well. I am utterly attached the idea that she plays sport. I feel like it's Become Important - in the way that things do. If she plays in a team it eases her way socially, it gets her out at weekends, it fosters a feeling of achievement if she does well. It grows her confidence. These things can only be good. I must admit, watching her run this week I was so proud; not so much because I wanted her to win, although that would have been fab, but because she was out there doing it. Blonde pony tailed, mud-spattered, on a chilly, god-forsaken puddle-covered cross country course. C'mon Boo...

Meanwhile for me this week, the dreaded curse of post-Christmas extra poundage has made itself known. I could not fit any of my jeans. Trip to town to remedy situation was equally as depressing as I struggled to squeeze myself in. I find this odd: I have never been fitter and I train a lot, practice yoga daily. I don't look any different, but the truth is; in some shops, even the largest sizes were snug. Hmmm. I have to say also - whilst I love outfits on Pinterest and those fantastic fashion blogs, the girls are sooo slim, I am thinking they don't experience the sqqueeeeeeze that I had in the fitting room!

Suddenly I have a million and one things to do before I go back to work and home life has become slightly fraught. My son has had a challenging week at school, where he has found friends to be lacking, and my heart has been aching each day. Nothing like that split second at school pick up when you can tell if your child has had a good day just from one glimpse of their demeanour.

I'm hoping a weekend break will soothe him and me before next week's challenges :-)

Have a wonderful weekend!
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