It was all just a big mistake…

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It was the tow bar.

My heart rate soars, my palms are sticky, cheeks burning and I feel sick to the stomach. I have just dented the car behind’s number plate with my tow-bar…the owner is pretty nonplussed but I know that this error is going to stay with me for some time.

My body reacts with the same ferocity, whether the mistake is big or small. The email you wish you could retrieve, not passing a test, saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment, forgetting a birthday…they all elicit the same physiological response.

That mistake can stay with me for days, haunt my sleep, seep into all my thoughts and tarnish even the happiest moments. If you recognise these feelings than you will also know the self-critical, mocking, internal dialogue that results, encourages us to brush the mistake under the carpet and never see or speak of it again.

In truth, my response to making a mistake is tightly entwined with my fear of failing but is failing such a bad thing? In fact, can making mistakes be the key to us evolving, emotionally and physically?

If we work or socialize in environments that penalise or degrade us for making mistakes then we are never given the opportunity to learn and move forward, as a society, industry, culturally or at a personal level.

Matthew Sayed has written a brilliant book called ‘Black Box thinking’ where he extolls the merit of industries such as aviation, that actively encourage reflection, retrospective analysis of the black box and cultivate a safe and secure environment where individuals can talk about their mistakes.

According to Sayed, “Nobody wants to fail. But in highly complex organizations, success can happen only when we confront our mistakes, learn from our own version of a black box, and create a climate where it’s safe to fail.”

I would argue that ‘highly complex organizations’ could also easily refer to our family and social relationships. Boy oh boy can they be complex.

As part of my study, I have had to undergo a lot of reflective practice. This is the brutal task of looking at one’s own actions and interactions in the very stark light of day. When I first started this process, I found it painful. Having to study your own values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours close up can leave you feeling hugely exposed. However, it has also helped me develop a deeper level of self-awareness and I hope, emotional intelligence.

Sophie of @wifemotherlife and I were chatting about making mistakes over Instagram. Sophie had a beautiful turn of phrase when recounting a conversation with her daughter’s teacher, “I remember saying to my daughter’s teacher, when she was little, that because of her anxiety over getting things perfect, we needed to focus more on helping her learn how to fail gracefully. That it be a learning experience and not something to be feared.”

What a wonderful way to think about our own mistakes. That we might perhaps allow ourselves to fail without retribution, instead, recognizing it as an opportunity to learn.

How does this all relate to the number plate saga? Well, the first step is to take control of my anxiety by recognising it for what it is, a learnt response and then acknowledge that it is out of proportion.

The second step, remembering the tow bar.

May we all go into 2018 failing with grace.

The Comparison Trap

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It started with the barrel curlers.

A few months ago, I discovered a well-known and beautiful Instagram mum with a huge following.

‘Watch my morning routine,’ her latest post stated.

I swiped up.

I found myself immersed in a calm and well-oiled morning routine. No-one was yelling ‘Put your shoes on!’ No-one left the house blatantly having fibbed about brushing their teeth or forgetting P.E. bags. Playing out before me was the holy grail of school runs.

During the morning routine, the said beautiful mum, woke before the children to apply her make-up and barrel curl her hair, which then fell around her shoulders in beautiful waves.

I subconsciously put my hand to my unmanageable mane and decided in that moment that the answer to all my morning routine woes, lay with those barrel curlers.

I was set on buying a pair. If I had those curlers my hair too would fall in soft tousled perfection around my shoulders and I too would leave the house with well-coffered children in tow. A calm and serene mother.

Feverish with the promise of the perfect morning routine, I raced out that day and bought a set. The next morning I woke early, excited to tease my hair into perfect motherhood.

Oh, how the Insta-Gods laughed. Soft tousled curls, no, no. I was delivered an even spikier, sticking out, wild mane. I looked more cave girl than glamour mum.

Cursing the 20 mins of my life I would never get back, I admitted defeat, unplugged the curlers and went to remind my children for the 74th billionth time to brush their teeth.

I had blindly led myself into the comparison trap.

Easily done, the glittery perfect bait is thrown in front of us on a daily basis.

The perfectly portrayed and highly curated lives of others that tempt us to question our own. Throwing a spotlight upon our own insecurities and leaving us making useless and ill-judged comparisons.

Sometimes the comparisons are beyond ridiculous but we still find ourselves making them.

I have a friend, who like me (until recently) is a Marketing Consultant. We have remarkably similar tastes in everything, from clothes and interiors, to food. However, this friend is a good 8 inches taller than me. Thus, standing next to her at a tiny 5ft 2, the following negative self-talk frequently runs through my consciousness.

“She is so sophisticated. Look how elegant and graceful she is. You look like a 12-year-old next to her Rosie. You probably sound like a 12-year-old too. I bet she is better at her role than you are because she is so sophisticated, I bet she is better respected…..blah blah blah…..”

Just typing that I want to give myself a good shake. Although that is exactly what happens. How ridiculous in retrospect. Why on earth would I take what is genetically impossible to do anything about and project my own insecurities onto it?

Because I fall foul of the comparison trap.

After barrel gate, I began to give the nature of comparisons more thought. What if we turn each negative comparative thought on its head?

What if my beautifully tall marketing friend actually thinks the exact opposite when we are stood together? “I always feel so lanky and awkward next to Rosie. Rosie never worries about looking creative….I bet she is more creative in her role than me, I’m not creative enough….blah blah blah….”

Flip the mirror and we see a totally different picture.

You see that’s the thing about comparisons. They are all based on smoke and mirrors, on what we perceive to be the truth. Even that information we pass through a series of internal ‘filters’ until we have twisted it into a form that feeds our negative self-talk.

We need to be aware of our own filters. Are we seeing and hearing those around us clearly and without bias or are we taking their words and moulding them into the shape of a large stick with which to beat ourselves with? Allowing ourselves, to all too easily slip down the synaptic slope into self-loathing.

Next time I catch myself comparing. I aim to stop and remind myself that almost all we see is an edited illusion. In order to uncover the magic… we need to hold up a mirror to it.

It’s the most ‘socially anxious’ time of year…Ding Dong…

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‘Ping’ goes What’s App. Your Facebook notification page is filling up with event invites left, right and center. There is the talk of sequin dresses and party eyelashes in the playground. It can only mean one thing…

Christmas party season is upon us.

For the socially anxious of us, this time of year is a minefield. Over-thinking, over-analysis and social paralysis will be going off all over the place.

Oh, I talk a good talk but throw me into a party room and I am a fish out of water.

Firstly, because I am a crap drinker. Too much of an emotional lubricant for me to be any good at it.  Two is my limit at any event. Any more and you will find me weeping in the corner over a ladder in my tights or chasing my poor suffering husband to pick a fight over why he can never remember bin night….blah blah blah….which is pretty much all my husband hears.

However, being the sober one in the room at a Christmas party doesn’t do much to make you feel less awkward.

In fact, it means you are still stifling polite when ruddy-cheeked Martin from accounts makes his way over to you, brandishing a forlorn looking sprig of mistletoe. ‘Um no thank you, Martin…’.  However were you more emotionally lubricated, you could probably find two far more effective words to use on Martin.

Having your inhibitions still firmly in place, thanks to sobriety, you also often find yourself stuck in the corner counseling poor Marie, who has recently had her heartbroken, whilst everyone else is doing the Conga. Worse still, talking to Fred, who doesn’t have anyone to talk to and that makes your heart hurt. So you stay talking to Fred, although it is readily apparent that Fred is yet to discover the joys of a shower and this might be why he was on his own in the corner.

At these events, I find myself generally getting quieter and quieter…willing the babysitter to call with a non-emergency that would allow me to legitimately sneak off and back to the comfort of my dressing gown and bed.

In my teenage years, I always felt awkward and gawky at parties. I tried. I downed shots and whoop whooped with the rest of them but there was always this older than her year’s voice in my head mocking me…’Looking a bit of a tit here Rose.’

Let’s not forget the middle of the night post party anxiety either. The what did I say to whom? Did they think I was tedious? Did I really say that? Should never have said that! Negative self-talk that has you waking up in a cold sweat and spending the next day with your head in a biscuit barrel. I am very good at that too.

So what can the socially anxious of us do to deal with these worries and woes. How can we better cope? Well I know what I will be doing.

I will be politely declining.

I have spent decades putting myself through social situations that I just don’t enjoy. Why? Because I wanted to fit in, to be liked, to not be ‘anti-social’.

I have learnt though, that saying ‘no thank you’ to the invites that make you feel uncomfortable, ISN’T being anti social. It is being kind, to yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be hiding behind four walls all Christmas. There are plenty of seasonal events I will love attending.

My idea of a Christmas party is meeting friends on a wintery afternoon. Enjoying a glass of wine and making a Christmas wreath….that people, is my idea of fun.

It may not be yours but that’s OK too. Let’s not get all judgy here. Everyone likes a different flavoured slice of the party pie.

Luckily I have people in my life who also like the quieter slice of pie and I am off Christmas wreath-making next weekend.

Better get my party jumper on.

It’s fine, it’s fine, No problem at all…

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I was a pleaser as a child. Always wanting to do my best, never put a foot wrong. Which is all well and good when it comes to school awards day and aspiring to be Head Girl but in adult life, being a pleaser roughly translates as ‘crap at saying no’.

Perpetuated by perfectionist traits and still that overwhelming desire to be ‘liked’. I can on occasion, find myself silently weeping behind the steering wheel of my car, as I drive from one activity to the next. Knowing I still have the Christmas Fair sweetie cones to make, an essay to finish, the beds haven’t been changed, the dog needs a walk and oh what’s that? My old boss wondering if I wouldn’t mind, just for a moment, looking over this document. Even though I left two months ago and I am NO LONGER PAID!!

‘Sure, no problem, that’s fine’. The words have tripped out of my mouth before you can say nervous breakdown.

So why is it I can’t break the ‘can’t say no’ curse?

I was reflecting on this today. When having woken bone-achingly tired from anemia, a huge amount of study awaiting me, along with all the other ‘to dos’, I found myself volunteering to help with the Christmas Fair prep. Don’t worry I can squeeze it in…it’ll be fine.

Oops, I did it again. Although, when I did it in the playground, I didn’t look as hot as Brittany Spears.

Why is this? Ego? Do I want to be Wonder Woman? I don’t think so…I don’t think I have the energy.

I think, in part, it is my perfectionist streak. I fear showing any weakness. Not being able to ‘cope’.

I am simply terrified of failing.

I am scared of not being good enough. Not getting any of it right. The mum stuff, the work stuff, the friendship stuff. All of it goes back to being a little girl who wanted to please. Because when she pleased everyone, all the turbulent bits of my childhood went away for a little while.

But here I am now, a grown woman whose learned behaviour is still to please everyone.

Don’t say no, because if you say no, the sky might fall in. The silly thing is, if I don’t start learning to say no, that might just happen. Hubby said to me this week ‘A sick Rosie isn’t any good to anyone.’

How do I do it though? How do I unravel decades of head nodding?

Well, the first step I am taking is to buy myself time.

The next ‘Would you mind…’ email or text I receive, I am NOT going to automatically reply with ‘No problem….’

I am going to respond with ‘I’ll have to get back to you on this…’. Not, this afternoon or in a minute. Just I’ll get back to you.

Then I am going to ask myself the following questions:

What are the implications for me and my family if I say yes/no to this?

What are the implications for the other party?

Who else can they ask?

Finally, most importantly….DO I WANT TO DO THIS? If the answer to the last one is no, then I will be replying ‘I’m sorry I can’t help this time but hope you find a solution.’ No caveats, no, (although the temptation is so strong), can I help next week instead…

This isn’t going to be easy, in fact, it’s going to really difficult. I’m set to default head nodding.

But I am going to try, because I’m not fine. I am exhausted and you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Mum Guilt. Why We Should Practice What We Preach.

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Sat in a local coffee shop, finally enjoying the long overdue catch up with a dear friend. Considering a quick mooch in the new clothes shop that has opened next door.

You have the morning off. Your husband is at work, the children at school. You relish having time to yourself, even if just for an hour or two.

Then there it is. That little eye-rolling judging voice in your head…”Well, you aren’t using this time very productively, are you? There’s that basket of ironing you STILL haven’t tackled, what about dinner hmmm, oh then there is that email you haven’t sent…”

Off you go, down the slippery synaptic slope into MUM GUILT.

We know the feeling well, so accustomed are we to it. It leaves un-drunk cups of tea, unshaved legs and unread books in its wake. The feeling that we must be all things to all people…but ourselves it seems.

Boy, am I guilty of mum guilt and probably have the unshaved legs to prove it.

Why is it though? I am worst than most. A martyr to feeling that I must earn my stripes as a mother. This has been exacerbated by giving up work and my financial independence to return to full-time study.

The feeling that somehow I can’t justify #selfcare.

What’s that about? No other 24 hours a day, 365 days per year job would minimise breaks to a quick wee and eating your lunch with one hand whilst unloading the dishwasher with the other.

I have been intrigued by the trending #selfcaresunday hashtag on Instagram. I mean, it is wonderful to see so many women carving out ‘me time’ but it also feels like we are having to claim it. Justify it, ask permission for it. ‘See we have a hashtag for it, we are allowed’.

We SHOULDN’T feel guilty and pssst here is a secret…we don’t need permission.

Children are vessels into which we willingly pour ourselves but we can only rely on us to replenish our own.

What words of advice would we give our daughters? Would we tell them to be sure they choose that chore over a friendship? Their housework to do list over expanding their minds? Of course not.

We teach our children the importance of kindness from their very earliest years. ‘Kind hands’, ‘kind words’, we hear ourselves say. ‘Treat others as you would like to be treated’.

Perhaps as mums, we are forgetting that being kind to ourselves should be on that list too. That we are not failing if our to do lists, on occasion, don’t have our undivided attention. The dishwasher isn’t going anywhere. Run that bath, pop on a face-mask and shave your legs…I know at least one other person who will thank you for the last bit.

Replenish. Nourish you in both the mental and physical sense of the word.

I am talking to myself as much as anyone else here. Yes we will be better mums and wives for it, but more importantly, we will be kind to the women we still are within, when we drop all the titles.

I think we should dump the mum guilt and learn to practice the kindness that we preach.

Through a Snow Owl’s Eyes.

img_7476“Your son has High Functioning Autism. Formally known as Aspergers Syndrome.”

The relief that flooded me that day was tangible. I knew. I understood. You weren’t the ‘weird’ kid that the other parents or children at school might have labeled you. You had autism.

I ran at that diagnosis full pelt. I read and devoured every tiny morsel of information I could find on the subject of autism. Not because I wanted to fix it…but because I felt guilty.

I felt guilty… that you had been living in a world you didn’t understand and I hadn’t known a thing about it.

All the playgroups we had attended, where I had furiously pleaded with you to ‘join in’, your small face pleading with me not to ask you to. The apologetic looks I had given other parents in the school playground, as you lay on the floor, paralyzed with rage. They all tore at my heart.

Soon our house was full of visual schedules and timers. I wanted to make your world a better place. I wanted you to be happy.

My mum always says, ‘You are only as happy as your unhappiest child.’…and you always seemed so unhappy.

Sometimes you would wish out loud that you were a chair, a wall. Any inanimate object you could think of that would mean you could stop ‘feeling’ for a moment. The deluge of feelings, senses, and emotions that would assault you on a daily basis.

I will never forget ‘World Book Day’ 2012, the year you turned six. You wanted to be a Snow Owl, one of your obsessions at the time.

I can’t sew.

I spent three days and three nights cutting and sticking felt trying to copy a picture I had found on Pinterest. I watched you fly into the playground that World Book Day. My heart soaring. You were a Snow Owl. You were happy.

That was until one of the ‘judgy mums’, watching you spin like a top across the tarmac, turned to me and said ‘Gosh you must have too much time on your hands. Women like you make me think I should stay at home and drink coffee more.’

She had no idea.

These past four years things have become easier in some ways. You have learned coping strategies and mechanisms, to deal with everything. From your too loud cartwheeling sisters, to making friends…me trying to talk the anxiety out of you. I am slowly learning I can’t. That I need to give you the tools to do it for yourself.

We still have tough times, don’t we. When the world, the day, the room we are in, gets ‘too much’…but we know and you know, and those we love know, and we muddle through.

Last Christmas, we bought you your camera. Through that lens, you have taught us more about your world than we ever knew before.

You see the beauty in the ordinary things the rest of us take for granted. The line on a tennis court, the way the light falls through the trees. You have a gift given to you by your beautiful mind.

You are my Snow Owl. You are rare, unique….so very very precious.

Thank you for showing us the world through your eyes.

 

Victory Rolls & Brighton Buns

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So this week, armed with basket and some wonky victory rolls in my hair, (for the full immersive experience of course), the children and I attempted to do our food shop from the local High Street.

I could claim this was with the aim of supporting local businesses, reducing my carbon footprint or being sustainable…but my true motivator was health. Would shopping away from the tempting aisles of Waitrose mean healthier choices?

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The inspiration for this endeavour? In part my reading the following facts:

73% of ALL deaths are now caused by a lifestyle disease (blimey….and we are all scared of mass murderers and the bogey man!).

We have had 1,000 generations of humans eating as hunter-gatherers, 10 generations eating from agriculture/farming but only two generations who have grown up with access to processed food. Track stopping stuff.

This was topped off by hubby and I coming across some 1940s ration books at an antique market and my romanticising about visiting the butcher, the baker and the greengrocer. I would point out, I wasn’t romanticising about  rationing!

So I wondered, if hypothetically I ‘stepped back in time’ to shop, would we eat healthier? Would I still be tempted by treats? Would I save money?!?!?

We visited the butcher and fishmonger first. This involved a lot of ‘nose holding’ from the small people. Being that up close and personal with meat, my seven year old declared ‘This is mean to the animals!!!’…’Well you eat it little bean’, was my reply.

 

The fishmonger and butcher have been on Ringwood High Street for 115 years, passed from generation to generation. The ruddy cheeked, boater wearing, (yes it fitted every cliche) butcher, informed me that he has been sourcing his meat from the same two local farmers for 36 years, ‘…no horrible growth hormones here.’, he declared proudly. I was pleased.

Next across the road to the baker. No nose holding here….just small faces pressed up to the glass, wide eyed, with anticipatory grins at the sight of iced buns and chocolate eclairs.

The bakers was bursting to the seams…perhaps it was the choice of sourdough breads on offer, or more likely the iced buns, but it was lovely to see it so busy on a Wednesday morning.

We left with sourdough bread, a wholemeal loaf and a total health fail in the form of a Brighton bun. 80/20 right?

The young chap who served us was very supportive of our mission. ‘Oh, yes,’ he said enthusiastically, ‘You will love it, we have the time to get to know you.’ We skipped out of the bakers, smiles on all faces, especially the small ones who knew they may well be getting a slice of that Brighton bun at home.

Basket rather heavy by now, we headed to the greengrocer.

Naively, I had assumed the greengrocers wouldn’t have the coriander, avocados and red chilli on my list. How wrong was I. I left with every fruit, vegetable or herb my heart desired. There was something simply joyous about filling our baskets with the cacophony of colours. The simplicity of apples in a paper bag. It was a beautiful thing.

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Now, very laden, we headed to the coffee shop next door for a cuppa and to rest our biceps. ‘So?’ I asked the children, what did you think? ‘I liked it.’ said my eldest…’It takes longer but it isn’t as boring as the supermarket.’ ‘Can I have some Brighton bun? ‘ The youngest asked.

I won’t lie, I did have to go to the supermarket for a few things. Milk, tinned goods and gluten free bits for my son but not a lot.

At home we totted up our receipts…I had saved £26 on my normal food shop. That would equate to more that £100 a month! The biggest saving being in the greengrocers.

Did it take longer? Probably. Did I enjoy it more? Definitely. Did I save money? Yes.

Did it make us healthier? Yes.

We bought the Brighton bun but without access to other processed food and shiny offers, we didn’t buy anything else. However, the fruit and veg is not organic and that is a little sticking point for me. Is the moneysaving worth knowing my F&V is pesticide free? Not so sure.

I will definitely be visiting Fred the butcher and his son the fishmonger though, (I wanted his name to be Fred, I have since learnt it is Chris) and the nice young man in the baker.

I will also be sporting red lipstick and victory rolls again…like the food shop, it made a nice change.

All photo credits to my 11 year old boy.

Find me at liveawelllife on lovely Instagram.

 

Love, Friendship and Tea

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Love, friendship and tea…the fuel of life.

I was listening to Radio 📻 4 on my way back from the supermarket earlier, two women were discussing their friendship of 26 years.

What made them so compatible, to be there for one another no matter what, or when. They both acknowledged they never felt judged by the other. No one-upping, no sugar coated ill-disguised ‘mum’ competition. Just being there.


I have three friends I put in this category and one of them is my sister. These are the people I could call at 2am. Those who would drive through the night, hold my sick child and would be perfectly happy take my call when I can’t even bring myself to say ‘hello’.

Distance isn’t an issue, or how frequently we see each other. Time does nothing to wear the edges of our bond away, if anything it cements them.


I am hoping for a cuppa with one of these friends this afternoon, before the school run. A quick hurrah for finishing my assessment. We won’t talk of anything deep I doubt, not today, but I know, and she knows, that when storms hit, we will pull the ropes in tighter.