Black Friday

I have been totally distracted over the last week. I guess you could call it my pre-Christmas overload. I had believed I had learned from my previous Christmas mistakes of leaving things to the last minute and getting stressed and burned out by Christmas Day. I had vowed to start getting myself organised around Halloween in order to take it all in my stride. But instead I got completely sidetracked by the new phenomenon of ‘Black Friday’.

At first Black Friday was all about the great gifts I would buy for others. It was the last week of November and I felt a sudden panic that it was nearly a month after Halloween, and I still hadn’t started my Christmas preparations. I also feared I was going to miss my window of opportunity to ‘bag’ a great deal.

By Tuesday of last week it seemed that there were so many bargains that I couldn’t keep up. I started to write down all that we might need so that we wouldn’t miss out on the ‘bargain of a lifetime.’ From 15% off here, to 20% off there, and up to 50% off high price items, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. My head was awash with products that I wanted, needed, or might want or might need, and of cause not forgetting the Christmas gifts that I could buy for all those friends and relatives. It was in hindsight totally addictive.

I spent hours on the internet searching various high street department stores, designer brands, and my favourite online only stores. From homeware, makeup, to kids clothing, I had to cover all my bases. Finally on the Saturday night the high of my Black Friday madness started to fade and I started to come down. I began to get annoyed with my husband, frustrated he was not getting on board with the Black Friday fever. I’d started bombarding him with questions “Peter, what clothes do you need at the moment? Peter what you need is some… or Peter have you ordered anything yet?” My frustration was with his lack of motivation and urgency.

By Sunday I was totally washed out and with little to show for all my efforts. Mostly the hype was ‘to good to be true’ and there was nothing that was the ‘deal of the year’.

Finally I said to myself ‘never again will I be suckered into this sickening mass-consumerism’ and today I woke up thinking; ‘Yes it is over!’. But no: I awoke to the news that it was now ‘Cyber Monday’ and I spent the day holding myself back from searching out for the last final offers of this exhausting and endless retail sales marathon.

By 8pm the emails were still rolling in, with retailers trying to entice me with headers such as ‘Tick tock. Have you seen our cyber savings?’

I felt that it had to be the end of the last offers. The onslaught of advertising had to end today. But we shall see what tomorrow brings.

I never used to be this way, I used to hate sales. I think it could be since having the large expense of kids that has changed my ways. Or maybe I have inherited this habit from my Mum, she loves sales and rummaging about for deals. I go in her house and she has mountains of products that were 3 for 2 and wardrobes filled with bargains that she has never worn. I never wanted to be that person. I want quality over quantity, and to buy only things I truly love. But I also know that I do not want to be paying over the odds for something. I now just can’t purchase anything without googling for voucher codes. I suppose it is just getting the right balance.

Prior to the onslaught of emails and TV radio and banner adds I had been looking forward to organising a new tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in my household and teaching the children about gratitude.  In fact, I had begun to prepare a blog post telling you about my ideas and enthusiasm to adopt Thanksgiving for the values it could instil before Christmas. Unfortunately my plans got overridden by various household duties, unwell children and the biggest distraction of all “BLACK FRIDAY.”

Please return here next year and I promise you I will have my priorities straight.

 

Learning to love myself enough – the journey from Chronic Fatigue

I was feeling sorry for myself over the last week. I came down with a cough virus which I’d caught from one of the children. It’s winter and kids do love to share their germs.

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Feeling very rough I managed to cope for a few days with our usual daily routine. But in the end my body felt as if I was being held hostage by the virus and it rendered me incapable of doing anything. I had to take to my bed for a few days.

I felt pure frustration at my incapacity, having to be bedridden, leaving my husband (who by the way is very kind and supportive) in charge of the kids and the home.  But with a fever and blinding headache all I could do was impatiently surrender. It was so difficult to lie there waiting to recover. Annoyingly, instead of thinking of getting myself well, all I felt was a huge pile of guilt: the piles of laundry; empty fridge and fruit bowl; the fluff and crumbs on the carpet and washing up stacked by the sink; the children’s TV channel on all afternoon; beans on toast for kids tea. It all symbolised to me my failings of not doing my job as a ‘homemaker’.

Mainly I was annoyed and disappointed that I’d got ill in the first place. This is the judgmental part of me, telling me it’s my fault, to get over it and not to moan. That mostly I deserve it, especially as I hadn’t kept up my health regime that I started as a New Year resolution in January after being very unwell around the same time last year.

Lying in bed, my mind couldn’t rest, my ‘gremlin’ inside saying:

’You didn’t look after yourself’

‘Did you take your vitamins? ‘No’ Well then what do you expect!’

‘Have you been eating those green drinks and veggie smoothies everyone raves about? ‘No’ Well then!’

‘In the evening have you had one glass of red too many? ‘Yes,’ There you go!’

I’ve had a low immune system since falling ill with M.E in 2006. I was in the process of building my coaching and training business which I had set up in 2004. It was a time I felt that there was so much potential. I was happily married and flying high with my new found career and success.

The chronic fatigue illness crept up on me; I didn’t realise how bad it would get. It started with me feeling exhausted after I’d do a corporate training session or see a coaching client. Soon I found it hard to multitask; I became overwhelmed with even the simplest of tasks. I would wake up from ten hours sleep exhausted and it felt like I was walking around with a mind fog that wouldn’t clear, my concentration was reduced, my muscles constantly ached, and my glands were swollen.

I struggled for about a year, reducing my workload and taking up studying to ease my stress, until one month I got a flu virus that I couldn’t recover from. At that point I was seriously unwell, and in the end I was mostly bed/sofa ridden for many months. My life as I knew it was taken away; I had to give up my work, my hobbies, and my social life. Everything got put on hold as I struggled day to day with even the simplest of tasks that we take for granted; from walking up the stairs, washing my hair, to getting up and making myself something to eat.

Finally I got diagnosed with M.E in 2008. With no understanding from my GP I managed through sheer determination to significantly recover from this chronic illness. With the support of private M.E specialists I tackled my body with nutrition, reflexology, yoga and other alternative treatments, and for my Mind I had therapy. In the end after using what energy I had to work on myself, I had a strong belief that I could learn from this life-changing experience and come through the other side with a greater knowledge of my life-purpose. By the middle of 2009, although I am still living with the condition, I was fortunate enough to have recovered to a point that I could start a family.

But knowing this doesn’t help. Living with the knowledge I could relapse should make me more disciplined, more careful with my nutrition, but instead I feel that when I am well I forget and I let all my rules lapse, knowing I am heading for a disaster. But also I say to myself, ‘just have fun, love life, live for now’.

These regrets are like a hangover; ‘Never again!’ I send myself into my personal ‘health rehab’, getting out my list of vitamins and supplements and reviewing my program for maintaining strong health. The idea of putting myself on this regime felt restricting and brought back a feeling of being an unwell person, someone with a disability, part of me still in denial and unwilling to change. In fact writing this has been hard, I realised I have blocked out so much of that painful time in my life.

Starting this blog is giving me insight, and my power back. It is time I stopped attacking myself and treat my body with the care and respect it deserves.

The ‘airplane procedure parent’ puts on their own oxygen mask first so that they can care for their children. I need to take this on-board. I need to look after my health as a priority; not beat myself up, but love myself enough.

I want to live wholeheartedly. To do this I have to:

  • Learn to surrender
  • Be vulnerable
  • Stop holding onto control
  • Let go of scarcity and fear
  • When I am overwhelmed I will breathe, and breathe again.

Lesson #2 Finding a fresh perspective… when I’m in a funk!

Driving in the rainThe day just started out miserable. As I looked out of the window I was greeted with thick cloud, howling wind and pouring rain. To top it off I had also woken up full of my son’s cold/cough.

It was last week Half Term holiday, and we were visiting my husband’s parents in the picturesque Lake District for a few days. The four of us had driven for five hours two days before, and it had rained constantly since we had arrived. Waking up to the knowledge we had a five to six hour car journey back to London suburbia in the rain filled me with dread, causing my mood to be as heavy as the clouds. To top it off I had to go on an hour round trip to a ‘Steam Train Museum’. Could my day get worse?

I admit, my attitude was poor. I huffed and puffed as Peter drove up into the mountains towards the museum – in torrential rain. The children oblivious to my mood, wriggled and giggled in their back seats, excited to be able to see real trains like Thomas the Tank Engine. With tension filling in the front seats I put some music on.

“Why should we bother in this rain? Why can’t we just turn around and go home? What is the point? We’ll only get stuck in rush hour traffic later, on our way back home.” I muttered to myself.

I was never sure Peter heard my whiny comments, but to deepen my self-righteous mood, Peter, not listening to the sat nav directions took a wrong turn, which then added another twenty minutes to the journey.

IMG_4010Finally we pulled in to the old railway station and met up with my in-laws who had come separately in their car. First impressions were bad; an empty puddle filled car park with an old carriage and single large shed, which we presumed were filled with train engines. Rain pelting down, we headed for shelter in the cold damp-smelling shed.

Seeing the children’s excitement as they saw the old steam trains, I thought. ‘How can I turn my mood round? What can I get from being here?’

As the children ran around with glee, I took out my iPhone to take photos of the them with the train carriages. It was then I began to see how interesting the train carriages looked on camera. The colours and patterns of the trains looked great. My mood instantly changed. Suddenly everything seemed more vibrant interesting and positive, and before long I was as inspired by steam trains as the children were.

After seeing the old steam trains we noticed crowds of people starting to fill the platform. There was great excitement as the old steam train pulled in full of tourists.  As the whistle blew the train slowly departed with more people on board. With the noise of the engine, the glowing coal fire, and the smoke and steam, the atmosphere was electric.

I asked myself; ‘How could you ‘not’ fall in love with steam trains?’.

Lesson # 2 Finding a fresh perspective and inspiration when I’m in a funk!

We all know part of being a parent is being selfless and putting the children’s needs above our own. Often we turn off our childlike curiosity and see things in black and white, and as something to just get through, to grin and bear.

iphoneography on this day was my saviour, creating a distraction and a project to see everything in a more positive and creative light. So now, when my old eyes get tired and worn down with day-to-day grind, the iPhone can give them a fresh colourful new perspective.

Life Lesson 1# ‘Warts and all’

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelo 

Recently a person within my extended family showed their ‘true colours’ to me, after they had had a bit too much to drink. The statement about an ethnic group was so despicable, I don’t want to write it here. After the statement was made I defended my views with a controlled passion, the subject was changed by someone else and topic was never discussed again, perhaps in an attempt to forget it ever happened.

Over the weeks following this event I started to ask myself questions such as: How can you deal with hearing something that is so despicable to you? And how can you act the same way around that person knowing that they feel that way? I could come up with no sensible answer, but what came to mind was the words from the wise  Maya Angelo  She taught us “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

I had known this person for over a decade and generally respected them, as an elder, with life experience. After this incident my feelings drastically changed. I started to think back on the times we had other heated dinnertime debates, and I realised that I had always felt a bit uncomfortable with discussing certain topics with them; perhaps half of me feeling that they might be hiding from their true beliefs, prejudices and intolerance for other races and ethnicities, by modifying what they said around me. So, warning signs had been there for a while, niggling away in the background – however there were reasons I chose or needed to disregard my instincts and put them to the back of my mind.

Most of my life I’ve managed to keep my distance from people with strong prejudices, but there are just times in our life where there will be people who are inherently linked to us and there are circumstances where we cannot escape from being near them.

My life lesson is derived from the quote:

“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” Maya Angelo

  1. Allow the person to demonstrate who they are as they do not necessarily show themselves through that they say, but also through what they don’t say and their actions.
  2. When we are true to ourselves and we don’t ignore our instincts, we don’t push down our feelings and we accept that the person is inauthentic. We will not be so shocked, hurt, or disgusted when they truly reveal themselves ‘warts and all’ with no self regulation.

A spider-like resilience

Spider

My fascination with spiders came a few years ago when each morning I would get up and see a spider had built an amazing web that sparked in the hallway window. When it rained it sheltered by the side and we could see it so close up we felt as if it were our own pet. We watched as it caught flies and bees and resisted all weathers. It seemed it would be there forever; I never really thought about how long it would live, it just became part of the family. But, one week I realised it was gone. I wasn’t sure how long it had been missing but the delicate bits of broken and fuzzy web looked like it had been unused for a long time. It was that day I felt saddened by this significant, but tiny loss.

This time of year is spider season, every morning the garden is lit up by the beauty of sparkly spiderwebs covered in dew. As soon as they dry out the webs become invisible and the whole family have experienced being tangled up in the midst the sticky and tickly web strands. A few years ago I would have been irritated by the amount of spider webs I had to battle through to get into my garden, but since I have had children my attitude to spiders and creepy crawlies have completely changed. I am more tolerant of these creatures as I try to instil a level of compassion as a value to my children.

My neighbour mentioned she hadn’t gone out in her garden much as she was petrified of spiders.
“Ooh no, I can’t bear them!” she said, “… awful things.” It turns out that both her husband and herself are scared of spiders, so it meant her two year old was unable to go outside to play on her trampoline. I told her that I got my two children to go out with a duster and taught them to be kind and brave when it came to walking through a spider web or getting tangled up in one. I wondered then what we can learn about resilience from spiders for ourselves and for our children.

Being curious I Googled spiders and resilience and I found one school, Cottingley Village Primary school in West Yorkshire had used the song Incy Wincy spider to represent resilience for their Early Years nursery and reception children. Through the song they focus on c as their Learning Power Capacity. They said, “The children know that:- We can learn by not giving up even when we find things hard. We should keep trying!”

Every day spiders get up and even when someone destroys their home they jump down and within an hour have rebuilt their home, with no fuss, just pure resilience. I have come to truly admire them, firstly for their creativity, the architecture of the webs are so complex. I wonder how they begin and where they end. But the thing I admire most is how they deal with their daily setbacks, their stamina and perseverance. They are just so resilient.