It was my birthday this month! Yay, cake and presents! Hubby and the Lamb kept asking me what gifts I would like, and aside from more crochet supplies (haha like I need MORE!), I really struggled to want something, especially as I’m in the midst of Marie Kondo-ing the house with anything not bringing me joy being thrown out (byeeeee tax return letter. Oh, wait).
As often happens at this time of year, a period of introspection struck, especially as the Ten Year Challenge has been doing the rounds. My Facebook has been filled with photos of my birthdays over the years, from rather boozy ones on beaches, with characters in Disney, to more recent quieter birthdays with my little family. I love looking back at those photos and seeing how I’ve changed, remembering the assorted dramas, battles and many, many happy moments. Yet it did get me thinking – if I could turn back time (you just sang that a la Cher didn’t you? I know I did), what would I say to my younger self?
Dear Younger Me,
You’re about to have an amazing adventure. You’ll visit countries you’ve only seen in movies, meet some people who will challenge your beliefs and experience things which one day you’ll remember as if it were a dream. Here are a few words of ‘wisdom’…
Healthy relationships take work:
I recently read an article that ‘love is a verb’ and many people end their relationships because they stop working at respecting, helping and generally loving each other. With a child, dog, family and life in general, the relationship I once had with hubby has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. We now need to work harder to make time for each other, and support each other.
Don’t let other people’s dramas become your reality:
This kind of ties in with the above. 2018 was a funny year for me with some of my friends. They seemed to jump from one drama to another, dragging me into it all, demanding advice or action. Of course, I’m happy to support true friends going through a tough time, but I did learn that there were other friends who had drama after drama (after drama, after drama. Seriously there was barely time for my tea to get cold before there was something else I had to deal with!). They demanded a LOT from me and it became all-consuming, with texts, messages and emails (yay for being contactable 24/7). Friends wanted me to resolve issues of their own making, proceeded to ignore my advice, only to then complain to me when their situation remained the same or got worse.
Yet, what was more frustrating, was when I needed support, be it with emotional baggage or just when I was ill, those same friends were nowhere to be seen. By the end of the year, I was exhausted, wasn’t enjoying certain friendships and realised that I’d allowed those people to dominate my time and shape my reality. It wasn’t healthy for me, so I’ve stepped back from certain friendships and am focussing on those relationships which are mutually supportive, respectful and loving.
Create. Daily. And be proud of what you’ve made:
Writing and crafting are my sanity line. There’s been a lot of research into how knitting or crochet is good for your mental health, fend off dementia and ease chronic pain. I definitely feel a lot calmer if I’ve been able to crochet something and even just making something a simple as a chain soothes my mind. Ok, some of my pieces are a little ropey (no pun intended!) but it’s all been a learning experience which has got me to where I am today.
I’ve spent so long feeling like a fraud with my writing, as if I’m not good enough, or that no one wants to read my work. Ditto my assorted crafts. However, Hubby is looking to redesign the cover of Weird Wild and we were talking about the assorted short stories and poems that are in it. It suddenly hit me: those are good stories, where I challenged myself to write out of my comfort zone, try poetry, turn tropes on their heads and I still love each story in that book. In fact, I’m proud of it. The same with my other writing work. It’s all unique to me and as I was adding the assorted books and magazines my work has been featured into my Shop, I caught up on some of the reviews and amazingly, other people like my stuff too!
I’m a creator and I really need to own that title more, whilst ignoring the all-pervasive self-doubt.
Learn something new:
This is a broad one but I firmly believe when we stop learning we atrophy. So, learn a language, study history, learn about another culture, try a new craft, attempt a new recipe.
I spent a lot of my 20’s travelling and exploring so that when we ‘settled’ down in the West Country, I started to get tetchy and frustrated. I felt trapped and the urge to throw some clothes in a rucksack and take off was very strong. That is until the Lamb and I decided to take a different way home from town one day. We discovered a part of our home city we’d never knew existed, including a medieval market and monastery! We’ve made it a semi-regular thing where we just follow our feet and explore something new. I won’t say that my dreams of travel to far-flung places have stopped, but my rucksack is back in the cupboard – for now.
Eat less of what you love, more of what loves you:
Ok, this one was written in a post-Christmas blimp-feeling haze, but it really rings true. One of my New Year ‘wishes’ is to eat more fruit, but I recognise that I also eat certain foods which are not good for my stomach and that my gut has changed since having my daughter. There’s increasing research that we need to eat more fibre, or that our guts have more control over our bodies than we thought but as I slopped around in that post-Christmas, must-eat-all-of-the-food haze I realised that some of my favourite food, wasn’t a favourite of my stomach. Certain dairy food and vegetables leave me feeling bloated and lethargic, plus there’s the case of too many biscuits. I made my New Year wish to eat more fruit whilst also cutting down on the junk and whilst we’re only a few weeks in (and there’s been more than a few blips, especially with it being my birthday!) I’m feeling happier, and healthier, more focussed and less bloated. My jeans aren’t any looser, but a few simple swaps have made a big difference to my mood.
It’s ok to say no and walk away:
Like a lot of people, I’m a ‘Yes’ person which has often got me into situations I wasn’t totally comfortable with – saying yes to work or interviews when I was already over-stretched, agreeing to meet people I knew wouldn’t bring out the best in me, accepting projects I had no interest in, going to events when there was something else I would rather do, or just saying I’d help friends when really I needed to be helping myself. More than once, all those ‘yeses’ have left me stressed, frustrated and burned out which makes me no fun to be around.
I’m conscious I’m raising a daughter. Too often women are expected to be compliant, not to rock the boat, to remain in uncomfortable situations in order to ensure everyone else’s comfort, but that’s not healthy or beneficial to anyone so I’m really trying to show her that a polite, firm ‘no’ is acceptable and should be respected. Like body autonomy (no means no!), it’s ok to say no to invites, no to demands on your time, no to work suggestions, no to requests for help and more. It’s a big learning journey for us all and people who respect you should respect your decisions!
What would you say to younger self? Let me know in the comments below.