Category Archives: anxiety

The Woodland Den

Have you heard of the Woodland Den? No? Let me tell you about it then, for it is my greatest wish that as many people as possible may know of and benefit from this magical place… I first stumbled upon the den as a young girl, and since then have visited almost every day. It is my home, my sanctuary and my friend. I love this place dearly, but it is now time that I shared it with others.

The path that leads to the den is narrow and winding, and trees line the way up the hill and away from the village. This woodland is the most beautiful I have ever seen, with many different varieties of trees and other plant life. No matter the weather, the woods always feel peaceful and safe. In the autumn and winter months, the smell of wood smoke penetrates the landscape, reminding me of warm cosy evenings in front of the fire, perhaps with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a gingerbread man. In truth, I have never lived in a house with an open fire, but this is a place of imagination and dreams, and anything is possible. When you are almost at the den, the path becomes very steep indeed, and suddenly you find that you are at the top of a hill, looking into a clearing in the trees and foliage. The clearing is round, and the entrance is marked by a large boulder which bears the words ‘Woodland Den’. This is it – you have arrived! And what a treat you are in store for…

As you enter the den, you notice that the atmosphere becomes still and serene, no matter how bad the weather rages outside, or down below in the village. Dried leaves line the floor like a crunchy, autumnal carpet, and fairly lights hang from the trees at the edges of the clearing. An outdoor wood burning stove is already lit, so if you arrive at the den feeling a little cold, please go ahead and warm yourself in front of the fire.

After some time, you will most likely begin to notice that there are many animals on the perimeter of the den, looking in on you with curiosity. Rather than feeling that you have intruded on their space, you feel a deep sense of belonging, and you know instinctively that you are very welcome here. This place belongs to you, and you to it. You are one and the same, and the feeling of safety you experience in this magical place is like nothing you’ve experienced before.

I can see you standing there, my friend, smiling, breathing in the crisp, woody air, and noticing the sounds of the woodland all around you. My first visit to this place was such a wonderful surprise: I will never forget the sensation of being completely held, and completely safe. In this place, I need be nothing more than I already am, and there is nothing at all to do other than what feels most joyful and comforting. This place exists inside of me, but it is as real as you and I. I can visit it at any time, and experience a calm serenity that day-to-day life often leads me to forget.

Now that I have introduced you to the Woodland Den, I would like to encourage you to visit as often as you like, and experience its ambience like a loving embrace. Although, I have to say that seeing you standing there in the den has made me wonder… What if it doesn’t quite suit your needs? Perhaps I have omitted something that you would find reassuring or entertaining in some way? I’m afraid there is no television, and now I’m beginning to wonder if this might be something you would enjoy. Do you enjoy to curl up in front of a good film with a hot drink and a close friend? If you’re going to bring guests, I suppose I really ought to furnish the place accordingly, with a sofa and some blankets. Oh dear, I appear not to have thought this through at all. Unless… unless you would like to make some alterations? Believe me when I say that the sky is the limit. All you need do is imagine what you desire, and poof! It will appear in front of you – or behind you, depending on your preferred layout. Feel free to sweep away the leaves and add a plush carpet for added warmth and luxuriousness, but be warned that the creatures that live in the woods may come to join you if you make it very cosy and comfortable. The foxes and badgers in particular have been known to visit me when I’ve snuggled up under a large blanket.

So my friend, I think I have told you all I need to about the Woodland Den. I hope that with time, it reminds you of something you already know: we are all worthy of joy and love, and there is always a place inside of us where we can experience safety and serenity.

 

 

Image courtesy of Richard Walker via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Healing from the past

How many of you out there have something (or several things) from your past which you would like to heal from, so that you can be the person you truly are underneath all the stress and worry, and step into your best life?

I know I do, that’s for sure. And it’s taken me a while to even reach this point. Before you can heal from something you must first realise that you are injured in some way, and then come to terms with the idea of letting it go. Sometimes it can feel so much easier to hold on to the things that keep us from being our true selves, because we feel safe and secure in our pain and suffering. It sounds strange doesn’t it?! Who in their right mind would want to suffer? Someone who feels it is a safer option than showing up in the world and letting others see them for who they really are, that’s who. And oh how natural and normal it is to feel this way. There ain’t nothing wrong with it, and it’s only when we’re good and ready to start working on these things that we can expect to do so. It’s a gradual process of learning to feel safe in the world as who you are, and not who others expect you to be. It’s a gradual process of looking in the mirror and learning to love what you see. It’s a gradual process of trusting your inner guidance, which is always loving, and always there for you if you choose to listen.

So now I’m ready to heal from my past. I’m ready to move on, and I’m scared to death. Why is something I want to do so flipping scary??? This is something I’ve chosen, of my own volition, and it’s something I feel has been calling to me for a while now. I want to do it, the universe wants me to do it, my cat wants me to do it (she didn’t actually tell me this, but I’m pretty sure she left a coded message in her food bowl the other day, so…)

Anyway, I have a few theories I’d like to share about why it’s so hard, if you’d care to keep reading 🙂

  • It’s hard because of course it’s hard! I mean, come on. I’m only human. I’m stretching my comfort zone and facing my fears, and that’s never going to be easy. The fact that it’s hard tells me that I’m doing something right. I’m not playing it safe; I’m beginning to take small risks and change my perception of myself and the world.
  • It’s hard because sometimes, the hard stuff is where the good stuff is hiding. Make sense? Probably not. I just mean that if you can process whatever you’re feeling (sadness, anger etc.), you’re likely to open doors to personal joy that you didn’t even know were closed. Any difficult period in your life is always an opportunity to grow.
  • OK, so it turns out I have fewer theories than I thought I had, so I hope the two above will do for now!

As usual, I’m writing this because I feel the need to remind myself of these key bits of wisdom I’ve gained in recent years, and because I know by now that I am far from alone in my human experience.

I’ve already gown and expanded my comfort zone. What I’m going through tells me that it’s time to continue that journey and begin to dip my toes into the life that is calling to me. Or maybe I need to dive in head first? I don’t know. Baby steps will do for now, and being here, writing this blog post, is one of those baby steps. It doesn’t always feel easy sharing this stuff, but I know I have to. It calls to me, and the fact that it scares me tells me I’m onto a winner.

Just one more thing before I sign off: I sometimes find that when a big life change is coming my way, there is a natural grieving process, where all my emotions rise to the surface and I can feel new pathways being forged in how I see myself. Letting this be what it is and not questioning it or judging it in any way is so important. You may find it useful when going through this process of death and rebirth (sort of like shedding your old skin) to de-clutter your home, rearrange the furniture or buy some new clothes. Clearing out old memories and energy from you life makes room for something new.

I hope you lovely bunch of human beings are having a good week. Always remember not to take life too seriously, and to laugh as often as you possibly can. Apparently our brains can’t distinguish between genuine and fake laughter, which just goes to show that humans aren’t as smart as we sometimes think we are!

Peace and love,

Kath

Not everyone is ready for your (or my) advice

If you are like me, you frequently find yourself offering advice and personal wisdom to those around you. From close friends and family members to perfect strangers, if I can offer even the tiniest nugget of useful information or emotional support, I feel something light up inside me and I feel somehow more complete as a person. I’d love it if someone walked up to me in the street with a pen and paper and said: “So, in your opinion, what is the key to worrying less what others think and getting on with living life on your own terms?” My reply would be something along the lines of: “I’m so glad you asked! I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I have rather a lot of ideas on the subject. Shall we go find a coffee shop and get to work?”

It’s not that I want people to think I’m intellectually superior in some way, or that I like the sound of my own voice. On the contrary, talking about this stuff reveals an intense vulnerability inside of me, because it requires me to delve into the depths of my own personal experience, and to admit that I have spent the majority of my life in a state of terror, hiding behind as much social armour as I could possibly get my hands on (think university degrees, defence mechanisms, attempts to blend in with my outward appearance…) You know the sort of thing, I’m sure. I also find talking to people quite exhausting at times, because my brain is constantly trying to tailor what I say so that the other person in the conversation gets what they need in that moment in time. This may sound virtuous, but it’s exhausting, and I often end the day depleted of my personal store of energy.

But to be asked what I think about this most fascinating and wonderful of topics – one that is so personally relevant to me and which I have spent thousands of hours pondering. Well, that would just be an honour.

The trouble is that no one ever does ask – at least not in an obvious or forthright sort of way. And if they do, they are only able to hear what I have to say according to their own personal reference point, and that might mean ignoring things they aren’t ready to hear, or feeling offended by a simple universal truth about human nature which simply hasn’t found its way into their consciousness yet.

And yet I have this unbelievable desire inside of me to help others to worry less and to feel more freedom in their lives. Writing is one way to achieve that, and I hope that this blog goes some way to brightening a few people’s days or enabling them to see the world through new eyes. If you are here, reading this post, it is because you are ready and open to the ideas I am discussing. I am extremely grateful for that, and honoured that you are taking the time to work your way through my ramblings and find something of personal relevance in them.

Perhaps writing is the answer to my desire to help others – more so than I currently give credit to it for. Maybe I need to start to trust that there are people out there who have asked me to give my thoughts and ideas, just not in the obvious way I’m waiting around for. It certainly feels like I’m being called towards something, and saying no to that calling is not bringing me any inner peace whatsoever. Who’d have thought it?!

I think what a lot of this comes down to is feeling like a small insignificant speck in a giant universe. Our view of the world is so much more expansive now than it ever has been, and the opportunity for us to feel unworthy, invisible or insignificant is so much greater. But in my world, I am everything – as you are in yours. I don’t believe that life is meaningless or that we don’t all have something unique to contribute to the world. And if I was to take my own advice, I’d choose myself, and stop waiting for others to do it for me.

So until someone does walk up to me in the street and ask for my thoughts on how to overcome feelings of worry and inadequacy, I’m just going to keep writing and trusting that there are plenty of people out there who are in exactly the right place in their lives to begin absorbing my ideas and insights.

Finally, let’s all try not to get too offended when someone isn’t willing or able to hear the advice we have to offer. There was a time when we weren’t ready for it either.

Love always,

Kath

I’m just a teenage dirtbag

So, one of my biggest obstacles for moving forward in life and doing what I want to do (as opposed to what I suspect others want me to do) is that I have an angry, scared and confused teenage version of myself who feels stuck and controlled. I woke up this morning feeling just this – controlled and powerless – and began to have a gentle conversation with myself about it, whilst trying not to judge myself for how I’m feeling at this moment in time.

This concept of different selves has slowly emerged for me over the last few years, and I’ve become increasingly aware that my teenage years were a particularly dark phase in my life. These are the years when I decided that the only way to survive and feel safe was to work incredibly hard to get the very best grades, and to decipher what other people deemed acceptable in every interaction I had with another human being. This is a tricky and pointless endeavour, I must warn you, since everyone you meet will have a different idea of what’s ‘right’ or ‘good’.

So yeah, teenage me is terrified. She doesn’t believe me when I tell her that she is loved and that it’s safe to follow her heart and do what feels right for her. She’s definitely more on board with my adult view of the world than she was previously, but when a big change comes along, she tends to get really angry and try her best to control the situation.

I can’t encourage this kind of personal insight enough; getting to know your many ‘selves’ can be an incredibly important and useful tool for addressing any hang-ups you might have and living the most balanced and joyful life you possibly can.

I used to see this teenage version of myself as a problem. I didn’t like her very much because she seemed so angry, and as a person who struggles to express ‘negative’ emotions, I found it difficult to accept this part of myself. Expressing anger is a dangerous business, and absolutely makes me a terrible person – or at least that’s what I’ve believed for most of my life. It’s taken me until now to realise that all emotions are acceptable, and that to not express or acknowledge huge chunks of your personal/inner experience is a recipe for misery.

Slowly but surely, I’m beginning to value and even treasure this angry adolescent version of myself, because she is only ever trying to do what she feels is the best. She’s using the tools she has at her disposal to try to keep me safe, and if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It’s through her experience of the world that I’ve learnt to worry less about what others think, and to place a much higher value on my own inner journey. It’s thanks to her that I’m now pursuing my dreams. And if I really wish to make the leap and live the life I suspect I’m supposed to be living, she needs to come along for the ride – both as a navigational aid, and so that she can continue her journey towards healing and learn to express the parts of herself that she’s long suspected are bad and unworthy.

I realise now that I’m almost at the end of this blog post that I haven’t explained the reason for the title: ‘I’m just a teenage dirtbag’. Well, when I was feeling all angsty and mixed up this morning, I went to turn on the radio and sent an intention out into the universe that whatever song came on would somehow give me an insight into what I was feeling. Hilarious, thanks universe.

I must go now. Me and my teenage dirtbag self have some work to do.

Sending much love and encouragement to all of you.

Bye for now x

Know you are loved

All my life, I have worried that I wasn’t loved, or lovable. I wasn’t really aware of this deep-seated concern of mine. I knew – in theory – that my family loved me. I was so sure of this fact that it never occurred to me to ask myself if I really felt loved. To know something in theory is very different to knowing it in your heart and soul, and when I look back, so many of my problems (if not all of them) stem from a feeling of unworthiness. I suppose another way of describing this is to say that I felt I was only worthy or lovable or acceptable etc… if I met other people’s expectations, which are such a flimsy and changeable thing to try to grasp onto. You might finally decide you’ve cracked it and know how to please a particular relative of yours – let’s say your mum – only to discover that her mood and opinions the next day seem completely different. You realise with horror that all your sister/dad/son really want is to have the final say or to express the loudest opinion. I have certainly experienced the frustration of echoing someone’s ideas in the faint hopes of pleasing them, only to discover that they would rather contradict themselves than agree with you on anything. Other people’s behaviour will always be their own responsibility, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t find a sense of peace by altering ourselves to please them. On the contrary, this will always take us further and further away from a sense of love, since we are moving away from our true selves.

So if you can learn to feel how loved you are – not with your head, but with your heart – and to accept that you can’t ever please everyone all of the time, you can reach a place in your life where you can enter a room without fear of not being good enough. The best version of yourself will always be the truest one, and that can and will involve upsetting a few people on occasion.

But how can we know that we are loved, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel that way? Well, ask yourself this: do you love your family, even though they aren’t perfect and sometimes/often upset you? Do you love your cat even though it’s scratched a new piece of furniture? Do you love your husband/wife even though they constantly forget to take the rubbish bins out? Yes, of course you do! And in fact, as much as certain people may get on your nerves, would you really want them to be any different? Well, to be fair, it would be nice if your mum was less judgemental or your dad didn’t still treat you like a child, but at the end of the day, that’s part of who they are, and that’s OK. If you resist these aspects of your family and loved ones, you are placing conditions on your love in the same way they do when they call into question some aspect of your being. So yes, you are loved. Very much so, in fact. And if you are open to the idea of a benevolent universe that knows each of us in great detail (as Gill Edwards describes in her book ‘Life is a Gift’), then you should know that your worthiness has never been in question. It is only our false beliefs about ourselves and the world that make us feel that we are less than we should be.

All of this isn’t easy. It takes time to warm up to the idea that we are all loved and worthy in our own right, and that we are free to be who we are regardless of whose feathers we might ruffle. And the next time your get hurt, you will probably feel tempted to retreat back into a sense of loneliness and fear. And if you do – that’s fine! You’re only human after all. Take your time and practice feeling loved and loving others in return. Entering a room knowing that you are loved – whether by the people in front of you or the universe at large – is completely different to walking into a room already fearing that you’ve fallen short in some way.

OK, this has been quite a whimsical post, but I’m in kind of a whimsical mood! I think it’s Christmas and spending so much time with family and friends. It isn’t always the easiest time of the year, but knowing we are loved can make all those social gatherings a lot more bearable – or maybe it will give you the courage you need to say no to something when you’d rather be somewhere else.

I hope you’ve all had a warm and cosy Christmas.

Bye for now!

Kath

p.s. Image courtesy of riccardo f.m. via Flickr Creative Commons: https://tinyurl.com/ybp3b2jw

Self-acceptance is a unique and personal journey

There is no rule book or set of processes to go through to gain a sense of self-acceptance. How could there be, when we are all so unique and have experienced such different life circumstances? That’s not to say that there aren’t tools and resources that we can use, and teachers (in the form of friends, authors, movies etc.) that will encourage us on our journey. It’s more that how we interpret them and what they mean to us as individuals will be highly personal.

This, of course, is no bad thing. If anything it’s part of the wonder that is human existence. Life is beautifully messy and chaotic. We are beautifully messy and chaotic. We are all united in our uniqueness and the complex twists and turns that life sometimes takes. Difference is a unifying factor – not a reason to find fault, or fear what we don’t understand.

My problem of late has been realising that who I am is so very different to the person I thought I was (or ought to be), that transitioning – or allowing myself to transform into the person I was always meant to be – is downright terrifying. Let me give you some background…

I’ve always been someone who feels things intensely and is highly emotional. I soak up other people’s emotions like a sponge, making many social encounters emotionally and physically draining. This has made working in a shared office environment practically impossible for me in the past, and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m not suited to a busy, fast-paced lifestyle. I used to believe this meant that there’s something wrong with me or that I’m deficient in some way, but I’m coming to understand and respect this aspect of myself and not view it as a weakness or a failing.

My environment has always been extremely important to me, and the smallest detail such as lighting or the position of my desk in relation to the door has always had a huge impact on me. I know I’m not unique in this and that many people are ‘fussy’ about their office or home environments. I’m sure I’m not the only person who drives by houses in the winter time and wonders how on earth people can stand to sit in a brightly lit room with the television on full blast, with not a scented candle or joss stick in sight! I also detest brightly lit supermarkets and shops, which seems to be the norm these days. Something about those harsh overhead strip lights just does something to my brain and I can’t think straight or concentrate. Modern day living just doesn’t seem to suit me, no matter how much I’ve tried to make myself fit in. I often wish I was living in a small town with cobbled roads and a smattering of local shops – all lit by candlelight! I’d probably hate this is reality, but something about it really does appeal to me.

I’ve been a career person most of my adult life; ticking off the list of things to do as you enter and work your way through adulthood:

  • Get a good education
  • Get a job and stay there for approximately three years
  • Move on to a better job with greater prospects and increased pay
  • Get married and start thinking about having kids

In the last few years I’ve come to realise that this life was not serving me. It wasn’t allowing me to give the best of myself, to express who I really am, or to live anything other than a half-life. Now, I’d like to say that I came to this decision myself, by a process of careful analysis and deduction – but the truth is that life forced me to take a huge step back and reevaluate just about everything in my life, from my relationships to my career and my style of dress. My way of perceiving the world also changed, as I could no longer believe that our existence on this planet is just a happy accident and that human existence has no real meaning. I’m not religious. I do not believe in God in the sense that a member of an organised religion does. But I do believe that we are all part of something much greater than ourselves, that we are surrounded by guidance at every step of the way, and that we each had a purpose (or ten) when we entered this lifetime. I’ve experienced enough strange and magical moments over the last few years that I have no choice now but to wholeheartedly believe such whimsical notions as:

  • Life loves us all
  • We have a soul/higher-self that is always trying to guide us towards our highest good
  • We all have something unique and meaningful to offer the world

I’m finding these things very hard to come to terms with, because I still feel like a bit of a nutcase when I express my views on life. People regularly giggle at me, and I often make a joke of myself by making reference to hippies and rainbows, and generally poo-pooing my own belief system. It’s just going to take time, I guess. The day will come when I can stand tall, look someone in the eyes and say: “You are a beautiful beam of light”, without laughing nervously afterwards! In the meantime, I’ll just keep giggling.

So, as you can see, self-acceptance is quite a roller-coaster for me, because to accept who I truly am, I have to accept that:

  • My life now looks completely different to how it did
  • A lot of people in my life either don’t approve or are taking a while to get on board
  • My views are more than a little ‘out there’ for the average conversation over a cup of coffee
  • The more I believe in myself, the happier and more fulfilled I feel, so I have no choice but to keep going, no matter how much I want to run back to the safety of my old life. Anxiety and depression come when I deny something fundamental about myself, and follow social constructs about what I should do and who I should be.

What does self-acceptance mean to you? Are you gay but don’t feel able to come to terms with it? Are you a geek surrounded by people who don’t understand your passion for 18th Century literature? Are you a wild soul who lives in the suburbs and longs to sell up and build a tree house in the forest?

No matter who you are or what you’re going through, self-acceptance is possible. Please don’t tell yourself that your life is so unique that no one else has ever overcome something similar and found peace within themselves.

The one thing that we can all benefit from, no matter who we are or what we’re aiming for, is a tribe: a group of people who are on our wavelength, who help us to become more and more of who we are, and who inspire us to live our best lives. This tribe of people will look different for all of  us, but they will all have the same effect of supporting us and providing space for us to explore our true selves in a safe environment.

I’m at a loss at the moment. My old journey seems to have come to an end, and I haven’t fully embraced the next chapter of my life yet. I’m in a state of limbo; too scared to move forward, but even more scared to go back to my old ways. I’m not 100% sure where I belong or what my ‘tribe’ looks like. I guess for now all I can do is respect the process, be kind to myself and know that no matter how small my progress may be, I’m moving towards something wonderful.

I love you all, because I’m a great big hippy – yay!

Bye for now,

Kath x

 

p.s. Image is by Travis Simon via Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/ya6d6vtg

Showing up for the things that matter

Oh wow, I seem to be having a series of epiphanies over the last couple of days, and it’s blowing my mind into a series of small pieces. Hopefully they will come back together to form a single entity, but for now it feels like I need to ponder the topics that have arisen. So let’s begin!

My life has been about achievement for a very long time; doing things that will earn me a sense of acceptance, worth and security. It was the only way I could feel safe, and to just do whatever I fancied doing at any given moment was a very dangerous act indeed, and one that I could derive no enjoyment from. I have had to gradually re-learn how to live life in a healthy and balanced way, and slowly but surely I am able to dedicate more and more of my time to the things I love to do. But I still have this feeling – this critical inner voice – that tells me that doing things simply for enjoyment and fulfilment is utterly pointless. And I’m not just talking about going to the beach or riding a roller coaster at a fairground: I’m talking about writing my book. Because there’s no guarantee that it will be successful, gain me recognition, earn me money… etc. It is something I have faith in, and I know I need to write it because it’s sitting inside of me screaming to get out. But I’m still stuck in the illusion that the only things that matter or that are capable of making me feel safe and whole, are the ones that will earn me some sort of badge of recognition. Writing an essay for my degree course? Bring it on. This has been assigned to me and there is a grade waiting for me at the end of the process.

Note: I should point out that I graduated from university in 2006, and I’m firmly in my thirties – just in case you thought I was still a spring chicken.

But writing a book with no guaranteed anything at the end of it is terrifying. The only thing that keeps me coming back to this blog is the fact that I can see my subscribers steadily increasing and I get an occasional (and much appreciated) like from one of you lovely people. Of course, we all need to think of ways to remain motivated, and I’m only human, so I don’t need to be too hard on myself. But there’s still this enormous sense of ‘what’s the point?’ when it comes to anything in life that is purely for my own benefit and sense of wholeness. I mean, I’m only just learning that I have a sense of wholeness, and a voice inside of me that is uniquely mine and that I can trust above all others. I sure as hell don’t know what to do with any of this information yet.

If life was one long, never-ending degree course with an assessment at the end of each stage, I would be in my element. This is what my childhood prepared for, and only this. Academic success was my only way of feeling safe and acceptable to others, and when I finally finished my studies and entered the world outside of education, things started to get really scary for me.

And let’s be honest, my story won’t be unique. Even those of you who weren’t so hung up on grades and success will have felt that feeling of ‘WTF?’ when your schooling came to an end and the script ran out. And I really believe that ‘script’ is the right word to use here, because for the most part our plans in life are handed to us by our parents and society as a whole. Up until a certain point, we have no real reason to pursue our own truths, because we’re so busy doing what is expected of us, or handed down to us by others. Is it any wonder that so many people go through such deep darkness in their adult years; they’ve been on a box-ticking mission, and it turns out that life is about more than just making sure you sign on the dotted line.

There is so much joy to be had from being a member of the human race. And in fact, I’m beginning to realise that the purpose of life is joy. It’s what we’re here for, it’s just that everyone is so stuck in a fearful world view that they don’t trust that life could be that easy. We want to earn our right to be happy through hard work, struggle and perseverance, because this is all we know. These messages are handed down to us from our parents, and we in turn pass them on to our children. How can I expect my parents to support my ‘money will flow into my life when I do what I love’ attitude when they were brought up believing that the world is a dangerous and tough place, full of obstacles and opportunities to fail? If I want to break the cycle, I have to live my own truth regardless of what anyone else thinks, which again is frankly terrifying for me right now.

But I’ve always had this sense that I’m here for a reason. Not a mission handed down to me from on high, but rather a purpose that I chose for myself, that is part of my very being, and that only I can truly understand. I can surround myself with support and messages that encourage me to keep taking steps forward, but at the end of the day, only I can trust in my own journey. As much as I’d like to get someone to sign a piece of paper declaring that my life is meaningful and important and that when things get really tough I can find solace inside of myself, that just ain’t gonna happen! I have to write the declaration and sign it for myself.

If I’m completely honest, this is the moment I’ve been dreading: the moment I realise that my life really does belong to me and is a gift for me to unwrap in any way that feels right. I cannot emphasise the extent to which this does not feel safe. I can feel my fearful ego squirming inside of me and wishing desperately for me to run back for safety. But there’s no going back now. I’ve come so far that the only way forward is forward, and it’s going to take a whole lot of faith and love.

I simply can’t go on doubting myself and questioning my very existence. For one thing, it’s extremely cruel, and if I acted this way towards a friend they probably wouldn’t stick around for too long. It’s only acceptable because we’re taught that self-hatred and deprecation are OK, whereas to hate others is not. How messed up is that?! And for another thing, if I want to do what I sense I came here to do, there isn’t any room for the level of self-doubt I’ve been experiencing.

Life is so strange. We’re taught so little about it as children and adolescents, and spend the rest of our lives acquiring the knowledge we really need to survive and live a happy and meaningful existence. So yes, I will write that book, and I will trust that it wants to be written as much as I want to write it, and that something good will come from it, even if it’s just a sense of personal satisfaction. Because I think we have to trust that if there’s something we really want to do, that there is some joy waiting for us at the other side.

Peace out, and thanks as ever for taking the time to read my words.

Kath

What happens next?

Hello, my name is Kath, and I am an acceptance junkie. Or at least I have been – big time – and I’m only just learning to brush this aspect of my existence off and get to the good stuff that life has to offer (joy, creativity, connectivity…). It’s been a long journey, with many twists and turns along the way, and I’ve walked so far now that I realise my surroundings are completely unfamiliar. In fact, the map I’ve been using doesn’t work anymore, because I’ve walked off grid and have yet to find a new one. Yikes! This is scary stuff. Everything I’ve known about myself and the world is changing, and although that’s a good thing, it absolutely isn’t easy.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew what I was working towards: becoming a version of myself that others would find acceptable.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew how to feel about myself: either terrible or absolutely wonderful, depending on what state my ego was in that day, and how many people I’d managed to please with my various efforts at becoming the perfect human being.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew what made me feel good and what made me feel bad…

You get the picture. I’m completely re-framing my life, and whereas I’ve managed to move away (mostly) from the unhealthy behaviours and ways of thinking about the world, I haven’t yet replaced them with anything else that makes me feel, well, like me I guess! It wasn’t healthy to look to others for a sense of self, but the fact is that I did, and now I feel like an empty vase (to quote a poem written by Monica’s sleazy boyfriend on Friends). I feel like I’ve entered a void and the only way out is to run back to the safety of my old ways, or to fill in the blanks with something new.

Currently, my life isn’t an expression of who I am. Or at least, I don’t feel that I am expressing the things that I want to express. In short, I need to get my ‘Kath’ on and start doing the things that I want to do, and feel that sense of purpose and joy come back to me. Because if I’m honest, at the moment everything feels a little pointless – as though I’m waiting for someone to come up to me and say: “It’s OK, Kath. You’re doing absolutely the right thing. Yes, that’s it – go out into the world and be an individual. That’s next on the list of things you should do”. But what if I’ve done away with all the ‘shoulds’ and I’m trying to live life on my own terms for a change, without waiting to hear what others think I should do?

Man this is freaking me out! I’m talking myself into feeling more terrified than I was before I started writing. Also, can I just take a moment to apologise for basically using this blog as a sounding board for my own problems, instead of imparting incredible wisdom and offering solutions to your problems? I’ll get back to the wise thing once I’ve got my groove back, I promise.

I’m seeing a therapist/life coach at the moment, and she has likened this current phase in life to weeding a garden: I’ve now got to re-plant it with beautiful flowers that I actually want to be there, instead of letting anything grow there and just letting life steamroll over me. So what flowers am I going to plant? What waves am I going to make? What is it that the real me, who is only just emerging after years and years of sleepwalking through life, has to say to the world? And what form will this take?

Well, writing is definitely up there on the list. I’m surprising feisty and opinionated on the inside for someone who’s made a career of worrying what others think. And I definitely feel like I’m holding myself back at the moment – waiting for the green light from the universe, instead of just trusting in myself and my inner guidance.

Yesterday, on my way home from an alpaca farm with my husband, we encountered a cyclist on a twisting and fairly fast country road NOT WEARING A HELMET! No sooner had we both commented on this, than I found myself shouting out of the open window: “Buy a helmet!”. My husband seemed amused and vaguely proud, but essentially discouraged me from shouting at strangers as we drive through the local countryside. To be honest, he has a point. It’s not exactly safe to shout things at unsuspecting cyclists who are trying to keep their eyes on the road, even if I did have his best interests at heart.

The incident with the cyclist was very out of character for me, but it felt good; a relief to be honest. There are lots of things I feel like shouting about at the moment, but I’ve done some research and it turns out people don’t appreciate it very much! Point is, it told me that I’m withholding something and not allowing myself to fully express myself, because self-expression and emotional freedom is all pretty new to me.

So, here I am. Much further along the journey towards self-acceptance than I’ve ever been, and instead of telling you how wonderful it is, I’m telling you all about how terrifying it is. Sorry about that.

But I wouldn’t for a second discourage any of you from following me down this path. I’ve experienced moments of absolute joy and love in my life over the last few years, and I owe that to trusting this journey that I’m on. So I’m going to keep trusting, as best I can, and probably with the occasional rant on this blog. And instead of waiting for someone to hand me a new map, I’m going to draw my own; it will be called the ‘Kingdom of Kath’, and it will be an honest expression of who I am.

So to all of you who are on a similar journey: keep going, know that you’re not alone, and when the time is right, start creating your own unique vision of the world.

Love,

Kath

 

p.s. Image is courtesy of Virtual EyeSee via Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/y9gof3s8

When the going gets rough…

It’s hard, when we’re on a journey towards feeling better about ourselves, to accept the rough times that come our way. I mean, the whole point is that we feel better, not worse, right? Our friends and family would like to see us looking more happy and healthy, not down in the dumps or angry enough to smash a few plates. I mean, don’t know about you, but as someone who worries what others think, I tend to always wonder if what I’m feeling is acceptable to others; like I need their permission and acceptance in order to deviate from the standard human emotion of being ‘fine’ or ‘OK’.

So here’s the thing, and here’s what I really need to remind myself of right now:

  1. Other people’s lives belong to them, and mine belongs to me. Living it for other people means never truly owning my own existence. It’s OK for others to feel sad because I’m going through a hard time. That’s part of their journey, not mine.
  2. The bad times don’t actually have to be perceived as ‘bad’. They are simply part of the ebb and flow of life. We can’t have light without dark, or joy without sadness.
  3. Difficult times don’t just appear for no reason – they are an opportunity for us to learn something more about ourselves and/or the world and to realise how we might be preventing ourselves from living our best possible lives. I mean, when I think about all that I have gained from the hard times, I absolutely wouldn’t want to be without them. Plunging into the depths of sadness and loneliness has taught me what it means for me to be at peace with myself, and that no matter what, I am absolutely never alone.
  4. Often, when the going gets tough, it’s because we’re doing amazing things that are testing our limits and stretching us to the point that it feels temporarily uncomfortable: a bit like doing yoga for the first time! All of which is a hell of a lot better than standing still and not growing in any way. The worse things feel, the bigger the opportunity to feel good. I read this somewhere a while ago, and it really is true; our greatest heartaches hold the key to our greatest joy, if only we’re brave enough to explore what really makes us tick – possibly with the support of a friend, therapist or a good self-help book or three!

So you know what I’m going to try and do? I’m going to try to embrace the contrast, and appreciate it for what it is. I won’t judge it as good or bad, or tell myself that I must be getting something horribly wrong. It’s simply part of my journey.

Thanks go to me for writing this and reminding myself of some important truths. Yes, that’s right – I just thanked myself for writing this blog post, because it’s helped me to feel less sorry for myself and a little more empowered. I hope it’s done the same for you, whoever you are.

And remember: you are 100% not alone. We’re all here reading this aren’t we?!

Love and peace x

Do the things that make your heart sing, and your soul soar

I went swimming a lot as a child and young adult. From life-saving lessons, to speed swimming and diving – my sister and I did it all. We also spent hour upon hour mucking about, doing handstands in the pool and guessing what each other was singing whilst under water. Swimming was my exercise of choice, and pretty much the only one I enjoyed, since I’m quite a lazy person by nature. But the magic of being in the water was enough to counteract the call of sitting down with a book or watching the telly.

We’re not all alike, which is one of the wonderful things about being a human being! We all share so much more in common than the mass media lead us to believe, but in the end not one of us is 100% the same. I have a friend who hates being in the water, to the extent that she has the quickest bath she possibly can just to get it over and done with. Swimming in an open air swimming pool in a beautiful little village in the Derbyshire countryside (as I did today) would not have been her idea of a good time, but to me it was revitalising, refreshing, invigorating, and kind of a relief (since I haven’t been swimming for a few years now). It fulfilled a part of me that I had allowed to go unattended for such a long time.

Worrying what other people think of us depletes our energy and our sense of who we are. We question ourselves and try to bend and twist to please others. It’s the opposite of having someone with you to support and encourage you in all your endeavours – it’s like having a devil sat on our shoulders, whispering to us that we’re not good enough and that people will only love us if…

Doing the things that make our hearts sing and our souls soar replenishes our energies and our sense of who we are. It makes us feel stronger and more balanced, and we care less what others think of us without even having to try. Every activity we choose to do has the potential to either feed our sense of who we are, or to deplete it. Every thought and every choice is based on either love (I am enough) or fear (I am not enough). In a world where far too many of us are stuck in fear-mode, why not start to choose love instead?

What are the things that you love to do? What desires have you let go unattended for far too long? What advice would you give to your best friend? Start giving that advice to yourself, and watch the magic unfold!

Bye for now x