Dear friend, who held my hand and didn’t let go…

Dear friend, who held my hand and didn’t let go…

Dear friend who held my hand and didn’t let go,

As we sat in the pub and I asked ‘what if it never gets any better, what if this is what it’s always going to be like, what if I’ve destroyed my life’, you reassured me that it would improve. You told me that it would, because nothing stays the same, everything is transitory and things will change. And they did.

When I arrived for a fun night of comedy (which it was!) there was never a flicker of frustration or sadness or annoyance when the first half an hour was talking about my terror. And then we moved on, and it was okay.

When I reached out and phoned someone, you, as I was having an enormous, and thankfully rare, panic attack; when I was at the point that I couldn’t feel my hands and feet and couldn’t see a way out of it, and you were walking home from work, you talked me through it, you helped me bring my feet back down to the earth and my mind from a swirling hell and you helped me to feel solid again. And, without belittling it, you made the whole process seem normal.

When we hung out in the evening at your house, and I stayed on the sofa overnight, you may have known that this was because I wanted to stay somewhere else other than my own bed, where I woke up every morning at 4am in panic, and maybe thought in some way that being somewhere else would help; but whether you did or not, you simply got the spare duvet out for me, as you knew I would have done for you in my house.

When I’ve looked after your daughter, it has been a joy to do so, and I’m pretty sure that sometimes you needed me to, and sometimes you knew that I needed to, and made it happen. When you send me videos on whatsapp of your young daughter, who I would jump in front of a bus for by the way, saying hello and chatting to me. And on the occasions when I sat on your sofa and struggled to respond to her proffering of a book or toy in the way that I normally would, or may have done even the day before or after, you explained so calmly to her that ‘she feels a bit sad at the moment’ and talked about kindness and love. And that meant so much, partly that it was okay to be sad in your home, and I was filled with love for the fact that you gave the words to your young daughter to start to understand and articulate emotions, and that all of them are okay.

For months, I felt like I touched the bottom (though I’m certain there’s a trapdoor to further down) and somehow kicked and found my way back up to the surface. You manage to allow it all to have depth and have gravity and you take me seriously, but without catastophising it or making me more worried through your concern.

Thank you for making this loving friendship feel so unconditional: it isn’t conditional on us having fun, though often we do; it isn’t conditional on my being ‘okay’, though often I am; it isn’t conditional on my being able to fully explain myself and where my head is, though sometimes I can, because you understand, or if you don’t, that’s okay. Thank you for it being unconditional.

Thank you for simply hearing me, and making me feel heard. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences with me as we talk.

Thank you for making me feel accepted, whatever element of myself you saw and experienced, however dark or light it felt. I felt less afraid of the different parts of myself when I showed them to you and you didn’t walk away. It helped me be more okay with walking towards those parts of myself instead of running away.

During this episode, as I have struggled, I have been overwhelmed by the way that so many people, family, friends and colleagues, have responded with love and acceptance. Some people in my life have found it hard, and that’s been challenging at times for me, but I understand why it is. So many people have heard me and accepted, and been positive. When I have reached out to people and shown my vulnerability, it has been truly incredible the responses I have received from so many people.

And maybe the pressure to get ‘better’ has come partly from myself, and perhaps I have heard it from some people. It’s natural that people want you to feel ‘better’. That’s natural, and I understand. But this isn’t a linear progression to ‘better’, I don’t think. There are good days, and good months, and, I think, great years, but not ‘better’. And one thing I’ve learned is being okay with there being times, days, whatever, when it’s not okay, and being okay with that, instead of pushing and pushing for it to be so, which is both exhausting and counterproductive. And within that, you’ve been someone who has taken each day or each conversation as it is, without question, or comment, or comparison, just as it is. Thank you. And thank you for being one of the people who came to me repeatedly: it’s one thing when people pick up your call and it’s another to dial the number, especially when you don’t know what emotions you might be met with at the other end.

It may seem like no epiphany that sharing each part of ourselves in this way with friends is so powerful, that we find part of ourselves hidden in the words and hugs of others. For some, this is easy and natural. For others, it takes time.

You’ve told me repeatedly that I don’t need to say ‘thank you’, because friendship isn’t about having to be grateful: it’s what we do, and it’s reciprocal. I’m going to own the fact that I am proud of myself for kicking against the bottom and finding my way closer to the surface again. But I am grateful. I am grateful for you being alongside me the whole time, and for making it the most natural thing in the world.

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There is room for everyone

There is room for everyone

I said this – that there is room for everyone – during a talk that I made to entrepreneurs under 30 in Brighton last week and saw several people relax and expand.

As we step forwards to bring our own ideas and change to fruition, it’s a vital message to keep in our minds.

We live in a world of competition, in a world of comparison. We live in a world that wants us to conform and be smaller than we are. Women have been told for millennia to be smaller, quieter, less trouble.

Have you ever thought, ‘I can’t do that as well as them’, or ‘why would someone want to hear my story when others have spoken theirs so eloquently’, or ‘well, now they’ve done that, what’s the point in me trying’, or ‘shit, that’s my plan!’? I know I have, and still sometimes do.

 Worldwide, political rhetoric is ramping up a story of limited resources, of limited space. We’re told that we don’t have room for people trying to find safety; we’re told there isn’t enough. We’re told to work harder, to build higher walls, to fear others.

 

But there IS space for us to be whomever we are, to do want we aim to do. There is room for everyone.

You being yourself doesn’t stop someone else from being themselves*

Another person creating something incredible doesn’t stop you from bringing your own wondrous contribution to the world.

You stepping forward and sharing your story is valid and needed, however many people have told theirs beforehand. It’s new; it’s yours.

 Working with integrity to achieve your goal will actually create more space for others to achieve theirs. When you step forwards, you help to make that path clearer for others; they in turn will help clear other paths that you may well tread on.

If we come from a place of scarcity and limitations, that’s what we’ll continue to create, for ourselves and for our world.

If we use resources wisely and fairly, if we create and co-create, if we work in alignment with each other and our natural world, the possibilities are endless.

 

There is enough. THERE IS ROOM FOR EVERYONE.

There is room for YOU, there is room for YOUR IDEAS and your ACTIONS.

Your voice and your contribution are valid and valuable.

Our world needs diversity and daring, not homogeneity and conformity 

                                                  ————————————

* Unless you actively seek to limit others through your discriminatory or abusive actions

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The cure for anything is salt water

The cure for anything is salt water

I’ve started throwing myself into the sea… in the UK… in spring… and it’s wonderful!

Bear with me…!

There is something about it, when the water is around 10 degrees, that brings you uncompromisingly into the here and now – both physically and mentally.

For the first few minutes, there is little you can do but be in the moment, focus on your breathing, finding it again from where it’s been whisked away from you; experience your flesh and nerves being first bombarded with cold and then numbed by it; feel the adrenalin flowing.

For some (me included) the first minute seems to be accompanied by surprisingly guttural sounds from deep within them. It’s a different way to use your voice, a different way to express yourself, one that has no filter to it.

You know you’re completely safe, that you’re going to become comfortable, but you feel on the edge of it, outside of your comfort zone physically and maybe mentally. It’s a good place to put yourself on a regular basis.

And as you acclimatise, a smile spreads across your face. Your system settles, but the exhilaration of it remains. You’re proud of yourself for jumping in. Your body is making decisions that you feel more acutely aware of than when you’re sedentary. Your capillaries have opened up and the blood is flowing. Your limbs are abandoned in favour of preserving your core, your essentials. The non-essentials are stripped away.

You feel whole. You feel solid. You are surrounded by water, as in your most formative state.

 You clamber out: connected, grounded, a little bit brave.

Wild swimming is having something of a renaissance in the UK, and around the world. The positive impacts on our mental and physical health are moving from anecdotal to researched and evidenced.

As well as being bloody fun, and perhaps a little terrifying, it’s about moving out of your comfort zone; trying new things; stripping away the non-essentials; being brought into the present moment; the euphoria and achievement afterwards; (and getting to feel a little bit smug that you did it).

Joining a group is a great way to get yourself out there! I’ve joined one here in Brighton called The Salty Seabirds . As well as being lovely, welcoming people, their conversations about ‘arctic flaps’ (I’ll leave you to figure that one out for yourself) drew me to them! 🙂 

We’re not all fortunate enough to live by the sea (I count myself very lucky), but lakes and rivers are just as exciting. There is any number of websites to inform and inspire, including www.wildswimming.co.uk

If you’re not able to swim in, or get to, an outdoors space, swimming or floating in any capacity is great for your body and your mind. Local authority swimming pools are one of the many things we can be grateful we have in this country.

I invite you to bare with me! 

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Spirals

Spirals

The spiral is ubiquitous. It exists in nature, in architecture, in the weather, in our galaxies! It has been used in mythology and across many different cultures, including several in South America and in Celtic art. It’s in our DNA.

It’s used to symbolise growth and continuity.

It’s a powerful symbol to use when we’re thinking about our own development – and one that I’ve employed time and again.

We can often find ourselves in a place that seems familiar and question why we’re there. There can be a tendency to feel frustration at the fact that we’ve been there before, especially if it’s not a place we feel we want to be, and to be hard on ourselves. ‘Why am I here again?’; ‘Am I never going to change this?’; ‘I can’t believe this has happened to me again!’, for example.

While it’s super important to be aware of patterns of behavior and work on the changes we want to make, it can also be counter-productive to chastise ourselves when we feel like we’ve returned to a place.

Life isn’t linear (and it definitely doesn’t always feel like a beautiful spiral – often more a of messy squiggle!) and returning to things is part of our development.

It’s important to remind ourselves that while it may feel familiar, we’re not in the same place, we’ve changed since we were last there. Returning is part of our learning. We need to be there for a reason, to see the place again with slightly different eyes, with additional knowledge and experiences within us.

 To return is to have the opportunity to reflect, to be aware, to shift how we respond on this occasion.

Look this way instead…

Look this way instead…

I’ve been thinking about where we put our focus a lot recently… and it seems other people have as well. As I talked about this with a friend a couple of weeks ago, I received this in an email from the marketing guru that is Seth Godin:

“We get what we remember, and we remember what we focus on”

Last year, my car was broken into and my expensive rucksack and trekking gear stolen, while my friend and I were taking an extra little walk after a night of wild camping. I made a decision to be calm about it, to be grateful that it wasn’t my home and grateful that no-one was hurt in the process.

And it worked. I sorted the insurance and the next day I saw some amazing shorts in a sale that were even better than the ones stolen. I actually even surprised myself in my response.

And then three weeks later, out of the blue, I had a phone call from someone from the council who had found all of the cards that had been stolen, including my drivers’ licence, at the side of the road, had searched for me on facebook and then posted them all back to me!!!! I still haven’t got my tent etc back, and it was annoying, but choosing which bit to focus on really helped me.

This is definitely something I would have found a lot harder a few years ago, and something I’ve actively worked on.

I thought about it again yesterday as I went for my smear test (do it, ladies, it’s important!). I could choose to focus on the fact that it’s a bit uncomfortable and maybe a bit embarrassing (though I personally don’t really care) or I could focus on the fact that I’m so lucky to live in a country with a National Health Service, so I just got my cervix checked for cancer for free!

Don’t get me wrong, I put my focus in all sorts of challenging places on a regular basis. However, it’s been a game-changer to notice where I place it and how those decisions impact on my state of mind and general world-view.

Is there an area of your life in which you could make this shift? How would that serve you?

Embracing all of our elements

Embracing all of our elements

Alone on the South West Coast Path in Cornwall, UK, loaded pack on my back, I walked on through wind and rain coming horizontally at me from the sea. At one point, I turned, all alone as the path twisted and turned around the coastline, I held my arms wide and I shouted into the wind “Hello, world!! Let’s do this!!!”. For the first time in months, I heard my voice loud and clear and as unapologetic as the wind that howled in my face. It felt wonderful. It came from right inside me, it came from all of me.

In every situation, we show parts of ourselves and hide others; that’s a normal part of human interaction. It depends on who we’re talking to, what the activity is, how we’re feeling, and a multitude of other factors.

What so many of us also do, however, is hide or deny parts of our self on an ongoing basis. Especially as women, we know that we often modify our language, verbal and body language, we might make ourselves smaller, we can quieten a voice inside us because it doesn’t fit in the narrative of what we’re ‘supposed’ to be. Perhaps we’re afraid of being regarded as ‘bolshy’, ‘feisty’, ‘bossy’ or any one of the plethora of words used to describe women who step into their power.

Very often, we also deny parts of us even to ourselves.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the interplay between nature and stepping into our full selves, especially as women. And I’ve been thinking about the narratives that I hold around it.

I’ve noticed that as I’ve been starting to communicate my ideas through the lens of Rowan Tree Coaching, I’ve been focusing primarily on the ‘grounding’, calming elements of nature. Indeed, how truly wonderful it is to be still amongst the trees, to feel the peace that comes when we stare up at the stars. I feel so fortunate to engage with this so regularly, and it has most definitely been an integral part of me ‘settling’ inside myself.

Sometimes, however, the wind needs to howl and the waves need to crash. The trees need to lose their branches, and the thunder needs to roar.

Winter needs to bring introspection, just as spring brings us new growth and looking outwards. One couldn’t exist without the other.

Take anger: it can be a driving force – it can energise us to do great things, to bring about great change. It can push us to be part of the solution to an injustice we encounter.  We are certainly living in a world right now that is calling more and more for anger to be channeled into positive action – and there are so many that are answering that call.

And there is so much in between – so much in between the light and the dark. In fact, there is whatever you want there to be.

One reason I return to nature time and again, is that it reminds me, sometimes gently and sometimes forcefully, of the full spectrum of what exists and the full spectrum of who we are and who we can be. Nature can give us permission, if we need it, to be any or all of these elements.

The more I embrace and recognize that I ‘contain multitudes’, the more I feel myself and the more I trust myself.

And this is the basis of my coaching – to support you in being unapologetically you.

I will work to celebrate and empower all of the parts of me; all elements of you; all elements of us.

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