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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Where the bloody hell are you?

Today I’m going to go somewhere.  I think I’ll go to a town, but I don’t know which town and I don’t have a map.  I will know when I get to it because I’ll be there.  When I get there, it’s going to be awesome and I will be a success because I got there.

This is generally how I’ve directed my life for the last 12 years.  Prior to that, when I was a young, single, professional, I always had goals and a plan to achieve them.  Due to this, I lived a varied, active and incredibly fun life.  Since getting married, having children and living with a mental illness however, things haven’t been as effective or productive.

So, where am I now?  Well, I’m here, but is here where I want to be?  I honestly don’t know.

 

Driving Blind

 

Have I put thought into where I want to be?  Yes, plenty of it over the years.  I have thought about it, dreamed and ruminated over it, but I’ve never succeeded in gaining a clear picture of what I want.

There are some things I’m very clear about – my husband and children for example.  I’m clear that my purpose is to help others live a full and purposeful life despite living with mental health issues.  I’m clear that I want to coach, to write, to speak and to connect.

As for the rest of it, who knows?  Part of the problem isn’t that I don’t want to be anything, it’s that I want to be everything.  I want to climb mountains, hike country trails, travel the world, build a house, live in luxury, live in simplicity, build my business, build wells in Africa, stay in first class hotels, camp in the middle of nowhere.  This is not a great way to be, because whilst ever I want to do everything, I actually do nothing (or very little).

 

To do

 

Sometimes I get scared about how old I am – I turn 46 in May.  Now, whilst I know that in the big scheme of things this is far from old, it is also far from young.  In my late twenties and early thirties, I felt in my prime – I was single, had a good job, my own house, some truly great friends, an active and fun social life and I did pretty much what I wanted with no-one to answer to.  Sometimes I grieve for that person, not because I’m unhappy, but because I wish I’d known then what I know now and I will never be that person again.   I wish I’d known to savour every moment, every event, every relationship, every experience and to live them fully with wild abandon, with self-confidence and self-acceptance and truly living in each moment.  Instead I spent all my time worrying about what I looked like, what people thought of me, if I’d ever find a life partner and a heap of other stuff that I couldn’t control – I rarely spent the moment in the here and now.  Truth be told, whilst I now don’t really worry about what others think of me and I have a truly incredible life partner and children, I still am not always present, I am not here and not now – I’m somewhere in the future where I’ll be happy when……

 

Present, Future and Past Concept

 

When what?  The trouble is, I don’t know and how the hell do I find out?

I think that for me, the first step is to list what I do know:

  • I want to spend time with my friends and family
  • I want to help others
  • I want to speak, write and coach in the field of mental health
  • I want to travel
  • I want to live an active, productive and connected life

That’s it (okay, I’m sure there are other things, but these are the primary ones).  I have to ask myself if I really care if the method of helping others is to coach and mentor or to build wells in Africa?  Isn’t the main point that I’m helping others?  Do I really want to climb the tallest mountains?  In reality, the answer is no – I have neither the time, money or energy to be scaling the highest summits (plus heights terrify me).  So all these pipe dreams about my life in alternate realities is pretty pointless and a waste of the time and ability I do have available left to me, unless of course I manage to clone myself (if anyone knows how to do this, please let me know).

 

Group of business women clones

 

I am aware that my bipolar brain tends to flit from one idea to another, never really succeeding in anything I choose to do.  Or perhaps I’m just blaming it on that and not the fact that I’m afraid – afraid to fail and afraid to succeed.  Wait……. what…….?  How can I be afraid to both fail and succeed at the same time?  Isn’t that one of life’s little conundrums?

Whilst ever I am only thinking about doing something, the possibility that it will be a huge success is always there, in the future, where it remains like a carrot on an unending stick.  But what happens if I put my all into the thing?  What happens if I focus my time, my energy, my creativity on the thing and it’s a big, fat, flop?  Where do I go from there?  What does that mean?  What does that say about me?  Am I indeed who I thought I was or could be?

On the flip side, what if the thing is actually a huge success?  What if I’m inundated with work?  What if I’m suddenly in huge demand and busy?  How will I cope with that whilst maintaining a personal life, a home, a family?  Will success change me?

 

Business strategy on crumpled paper

 

So, 2016 is about truly knowing what I want and what is possible.

Here’s how I’m going to work that out:

  • List everything I am already sure of – family, friends, location, purpose.
  • List everything else I’d like to do, be and have.
  • Put them in order of importance and preference.
  • Cross off everything that can only be achieved in an alternative universe
  • Categorise them into 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years and bucket list.
  • Look at what I want to achieve in 1 year. Each goal will need to be clear, not wishy washy.  For example, “lose weight” is not a goal, but “lose 5kgs by 31st March” is.
  • Once I have clarified each of the goals, I need to write a step by step list of tasks needed to reach that goal, eg. “Swim three times a week for half an hour” or “Consume no more than 1200 calories per day”.  These are things that I can evaluate at the end of each week and adjust accordingly should I need to.
  • Diarise when each of these steps will occur. If I do not plan these into my schedule, they are unlikely to happen.  I need to work out which days I am going to swim, or write a blog post, or engage in a hobby and write these days and times in my diary.

Of course, the things I have listed above are easy.  What is really hard (and sometimes feels bloody impossible) is actually working the plan.  Getting started is only the first step in the long journey of life, and I for one, want to get as much out of this short life as possible.  No longer can I delay my life and not fulfil my potential because I want to watch season 3 of Game of Thrones, or because I want to ignore those things on my list, scared that I will either accomplish them…. or not.  I spend a lot of time in avoidance mode, but unless I am careful I will end up avoiding my whole life.

So this year, I commit to finding some clarity on what I want and who I want to be.  I commit to ensuring that I (in the wise words of Henry David Thoreau) “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” and I commit to living more presently, relishing each up and down (okay, so maybe not the downs so much) and laughing as often as possible.

What have you committed to this year?  Are you clear about what you want?  Have you made a plan?  I’d love to know what you are planning or if I can help.

Love Sharon. xx

What I learned from 2015!

Do you take time to review at the end of each year?  If so, what do you review?  Challenges, wins, losses, learnings, all of those or something else entirely?

I’ve never really done a full review before, more a brief think about the year as a whole as New Year approached.  I turned 45 last year and as it doesn’t feel like 15 years have passed since my 30th birthday, it would be easy to feel as though I have wasted so much time and not achieved much.  As my focus this year is on taking action and learning, I thought I’d do a quick review of what I did learn last year and how it has changed me.

Lessons Learned Concept

 

  • I learned that I have bipolar disorder. This came as a huge shock for me having been treated for depression for 12 years.  I could easily have stayed in fear mode, worried about all the “what if’s” of the future, but I was able to choose to embrace my new diagnosis and move forward with this new knowledge.  Why?  Because it had held me back for 12 years and I didn’t want to feel stuck any more.  I know that my future will continue to have many ups and downs, although hopefully not as severe thanks to my new medication.  At least now I am able to mostly recognise these mood changes and hopefully better manage them when they occur.

 

Trapped man

 

  • I learned that I will never have a strong sense of self worth whilst ever I am letting others treat me badly. If I am telling myself that it’s okay to be spoken to rudely or treated with disrespect by people, then it’s because I believe I don’t deserve any better.  When this has been happening for many years, changing it is far from easy, particularly when the people doing it are close to you.  Your actions may cause further challenges and standing up for yourself may affect your whole family dynamic, but others won’t respect you if you don’t respect yourself.   I finally stood up for myself with someone and whilst it was scary and very upsetting, I discovered a new sense of self respect and acceptance.

You Matter Concept

 

  • I learned that it’s okay to look after my own needs sometimes. With my new diagnosis came a new level of understanding about my emotions, feelings and behaviours.  It finally made sense why I was irritated by certain noises at certain times of the day, why I needed plenty of time on my own, why sleep was so important to my moods and why one day I would feel full of energy and motivation and the next I didn’t want to get out of bed.   I learned that unless I allowed myself to ask for what I needed (a hug, some time alone, a quiet house) I would continue to struggle.  Now I don’t have to explain why I don’t feel like socialising or why the radio can’t be on at certain times of the day because my family know what’s going on for me.

Senior Man Relaxing In Hammock With Book

 

  • It’s okay to be happy with your body…….. unless you’re not. I’m all for self acceptance and being comfortable in your own body and I agree that the media portray false images of what we all should look like.  I also agree that it’s time to make a change and for models, manufacturers, advertisers and many others to be more realistic about what real bodies look like.  That being said, we are all different and we do not have the right to judge others for their size, lifestyle and eating habits (or anything else for that matter).  I have not been happy with my weight since having children, most of this due to the fact that I ate too much and moved too little – some of this due to my mental health challenges and some of it due to the fact that I’m not a natural athlete in any way, shape or form.  Towards the end of last year I realised that the way I looked and felt was not acceptable to me personally and that I had to do something about it.  I cannot live the life I desire feeling the way I do.  I cannot do the things I used to love whilst I’m out of breath, lethargic, in pain because my joints are having to carry more than is healthy and because it all just feels too hard.
  • Trying to do and be everything, means that you do nothing and are not much of anything. The nature of my brain means that I tend to take on many things at once (very often too many things) and therefore have neither the energy or time to do any of it properly.  I flit from one thing to another and then feel so overwhelmed that I end up watching an entire season of a TV show to avoid doing anything at all.  I spend countless hours on Facebook working (watching funny cat videos) and then knowing I’m not actually achieving anything, leading to me feeling demotivated and useless.

Beautiful young woman covered with post it notes all over the body

 

  • It’s great being me – there is no other me and this me is just fine, thank you very much. Over the years I’ve tried being many things I’m not – a smart, immaculately dressed, professional business person working in an office, a manager of people, a fitness freak, a clean eater, a highly organised person or someone who is excellent with money.  I felt I must be those things to be successful, but the reality is that I would never be successful in any of those roles because they are not who I am.  Who I am is a creative, a clown, a writer, a coach, a listener, a wise advisor, a speaker, a facilitator and an all-round jolly good person.

Little girl in carnival costume

I’m sure there are many other things, large and small, that I learned last year, but these are by far the most important.  What did you learn last year and how has that changed your life or the lives of those around you?

 

Christmas – celebration or commiseration?

Christmas………  It’s a funny old thing isn’t it?!

For those of us who partake in the ritual of Christmas, it can mean a variety of different things.  To some, it is a celebration of the birth of Christ, to others it is a celebration of life and for some, it seems to be purely a celebration of spending.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that one is right and the others are wrong – everyone has a right to celebrate (or not) in the way that suits them.

christmas day

I have always been a huge fan of Christmas, writing my gift list in October, putting up the plethora of decorations in every room of my house, planning an elaborate meal for family and spending over and above what was necessary to make it special.  This year however, it all felt a bit flat.  I was very late putting up the decorations and to be honest, would have been quite happy to not do it, but it was important for my kids who at 12 and 10 still love Christmas and everything it brings (particularly the presents).  I had everything bought and wrapped at least a week beforehand (never known before as I’m usually up wrapping until 2am on Christmas Day, for the kids to wake up at stupid o’clock before the cellotape is even dry) and as we were going to my in-laws for the day, I didn’t even have to plan a meal.   To begin with it just all felt……… not quite right.

Christmas Surprise

To be honest, since moving to Australia from England 13 years ago, Christmas has definitely lost its sparkly glow for me – there’s something odd about having it in 35 degree heat and not having the full roast dinner, complete with bread sauce and three different kinds of cooked potatoes.  In England, Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without wearing your best attire (including Christmas sweater knitted by your Nan), spending 3 hours stuck in traffic on the motorway (highway) driving to stay with family, only to spend the next 3 days stuffing your face with leftovers and Quality Street (but never the turkish delight – they always get left in the bottom of the tin)!

Winter driving

Here in Australia, Christmas seems to be a far more casual affair – everyone brings a plate, people wear shorts and thongs (that’s flip flops for those of you in England, not a form of scant underwear), food is barbequed and almost always involves seafood.  There is not a Christmas jumper in sight and people spend the afternoon at the beach or around the pool.

bbq seafood

I think for many years, for me Christmas meant conforming – conforming to what is “normal”, conforming to what I perceived as “acceptable standards”, conforming to what advertising said was “expected”.  I would put huge amounts of thought, money and effort into gifts for people, because I wanted to feel good enough.  Of course, self worth could only come from within and no amount of trying to buy it was ever going to work.

So after the upheavals of the year and having conquered many of my self-worth issues, I decided to just make Christmas a very low key event this year.  I still bought special gifts for my kids, still decorated (although only one room AND I even let the kids decorate the tree, which is a first), still made it feel festive, but I didn’t wear myself out physically and mentally trying to make it perfect – after all, my version of perfect is not necessarily anyone else’s.  I didn’t feel the need to spend days making the house spotless before family visited, I didn’t feel it necessary to do ALL the catering and I didn’t have the urge to make sure all the chairs, crockery and glassware matched when they were eating.  This was a huge step for me in letting go – accepting that I am perfectly imperfect and those that love me, will continue to do so even when I don’t make Christmas a life-changing event.

Now as I reflect on the past few weeks, it doesn’t feel flat at all.  In fact it feels just as it should have – fun, intimate, calm, full of joy and laughter and spent with the ones that meant the most.   The best thing of all is that I was relaxed enough to enjoy it!

funny santa with a cocktail on the beach

How did you spend your Christmas and what made it special for you?

Love Sharon. xx