Category Archives: choice

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.┬áSo 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

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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

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

Letting go is hard, really hard…

It’s strange but true that our old habits – no matter how unhelpful they have been and how miserable they have made us – are nonetheless familiar, and they feel safe. Worrying what others think of us, struggling against life and always trying to prove ourselves worthy… These things are so ingrained in our psyches that when an opportunity comes along to leave it all behind, part of us wants to run back to the safety of what we know. Does this sound familiar to any of you? I’m only just realising now that the prospect of releasing myself from the past is as scary as it is wonderful!

So I guess there are lots of things we can all do to help us move past our fear and make the leap of faith we know deep inside we need to make. But for me the first thing I need to do is to just acknowledge that it is scary, and that’s OK. I don’t fully understand what I’m going through, and that’s OK. I don’t know exactly what my life will look like in the future, and that’s OK. Just typing those words makes me feel so much better, because it enables me to accept my life just as it is right now, including everything I’ve been through in the past. It’s a way of letting go of control, and trusting that things will unfold in their own way and in their own time. No amount of worrying is going to change anything, except how stressed out I feel!

Another thing I read recently is about re-labelling fear as excitement. And it really works! It helps to make the situation seem less serious and more light-hearted. It makes me feel less on the ‘back foot’, and more like I am putting my best foot forward.

This is quite a short post, I realise, but I wanted to say these words because I feel there isn’t enough in this world to encourage us to keep going and to make the decisions we know are right for us. There are so many pressures, deadlines, choices etc. that ‘we’ can get lost in the mayhem. So here I am telling you to look after yourselves, to listen to yourself and to not be afraid to do what feels a) scary and b) selfish.

Here’s hoping this resonates with one or two people, and if not, at least I’ve said what I needed to say!

Peace out x

Know yourself

The only person who can ever truly know what is right for you is YOU. You, after all, are the person living your life. You have a full record of important memories and life events, and you know what does and doesn’t make you happy.*

*And if you don’t know what makes you tick, you deserve to take some time to figure it out. It’s something I’ve had to re-learn, and which still catches me out from time to time.

Anyway, as I was saying… Other people can make pretty good guesses at what you should/shouldn’t do, but they can’t ever know your soul, your inner-most desires, your darkest fears, or what you had for breakfast last Wednesday. What they have is part of a giant puzzle. They have some, but not all of the pieces.

So remind yourself of this next time someone is giving you some advice. It doesn’t mean that the advice should be ignored. After all, it might be very good advice! It just means that in order to filter out the advice that is no good (for you personally, not in general) you need to first KNOW YOURSELF and trust yourself to do this.

It can be so hard sometimes, when all the evidence suggests that you should be doing a certain thing…

“But everyone else I know is doing X, so surely this is what I should be doing?”

“But it might upset X, and surely it would be selfish of me to put my happiness before theirs?”

These are some of the things you and I probably find ourselves thinking when faced with a dilemma. But there is no dilemma! There is only one answer: do what you feel is right for you. It doesn’t have to be the perfect solution, and it doesn’t all have to work out as you want it to for you to feel justified in being authentic. It just has to feel right.

And if you’re really struggling with the idea of being selfish (a word which seriously needs re-defining), just remember that everyone benefits from you living life as the happiest possible version of yourself. You will emanate something really positive for others to draw upon, and provide a good role model to others struggling with the idea of what their lives should look like.

Ooooh, that feels better. I just needed a bit of a rant on this topic, so thanks for lending an ear!

Bye for now x x x

Keep on keepin’ on

I have so many ideas for what to write on this blog, and most of the time I neglect to write them down and they are lost until the next time they occur to me – possibly never?!

But the one thing that I keep coming back to is the idea of keeping on going. Reaching a stage in your life where you no longer mind what others think of you – or where you at least care a lot less than you used to – is all about realising that you have the power inside of you to make this happen and dedicating time to personal development: reading books, discovering people who inspire and motivate you via social media, writing down your thoughts and emotions and examining them for clues as to why you fear ‘getting it wrong’ and how you might overcome that fear etc. … The list goes on.

The point is that an increased sense of wellbeing and happiness is something that we can choose for ourselves, but as with dieting and other ‘New Year’s’ type resolutions, it is all too easy to give up. Most dieters will be more successful if they join a group and meet with like-minded people. We’re only human, and we need to feel motivated to be at our most successful. The same goes for any kind of group or human contact – anything that gives us a sense of structure or connectedness is likely to help us keep on keepin’ on.

So how can we go about motivating ourselves to work on our mental wellbeing? There are some obvious answers here, like counselling sessions and groups. But these inevitably run their natural course and we are left to fend for ourselves once again. I realise that this sounds a bit bleak and depressing! There certainly isn’t anything wrong with a course of counselling or a self-help group coming to an end, and it is only natural to feel a sense of loss for a while afterwards. But once we’ve expressed our sadness, we need to formulate a plan to keep all of our good work going. We need to identify our personal needs and goals and find a way to ensure that we keep moving in the ‘right’ direction.

Do you need to get a friend involved to help you stay motivated? Do you need to go and buy that book you’ve heard recommended so many times but never actually got around to buying? Perhaps you need to cover your house in post-its with little reminders, or place decorative hearts in each room of the house as a reminder to love yourself and others. There are all sorts of online courses, forums, websites etc. that are devoted to helping individuals to work through their fears and live a more fulfilling life. Go explore and find the one that works for you (but be careful not to get drawn into other people’s problems and focus instead on resources that provide constructive advice).

Some other ideas:

  • Find music that inspires and motivates you and make a point to listen to it on a regular basis.
  • Exercise regularly to keep your energy levels up and keep you feeling positive and motivated
  • Doodle and draw: it doesn’t matter if you aren’t all that artistic, you will still find that the act of putting pen (or pencil) to paper will release tension and help you to identify your emotions (both helpful and unhelpful). It also helps to focus the brain and keep you grounded, much like all those colouring-in books that are so popular at the moment.
  • Celebrate any victory, no matter how small it may seem, and write about the differences you are seeing in your life.

In in ideal world, we would all have our own pocket-sized cheerleader to cheer us on throughout the day and remind us to keep going. In reality, we must harness the little cheerleader that lies inside all of us! The little guy or girl that is incredibly proud of you and can see nothing but potential and possibilities. We all have one, it just needs waking up from time to time. The more you practice listening to that positive spark of light inside of you, the more natural and effortless it will become. I promise.

Wishing you all a happy New Year, but no pressure. If you’re unhappy right now then that’s OK too. So long as you’re taking time to figure out what it all means and working towards feeling happy and free.

Bye for now you utterly wonderful bunch of human beings x

Everything changes

They say that the best friendships are the ones where you don’t find yourself fretting about the other person – whether you’ve seen them that week or what they think of your recent decision to change career. You know you love them, and they in turn love you, so what’s to worry about?

Well, the thing is that things change. People change. Life moves on and sometimes the friendships we formed when we were younger and which seemed so unbreakable get tested as we grow into adults and begin to go our separate ways. It’s only natural that this should happen, and it certainly isn’t a bad thing. And yet, we so often find ourselves trying to resist this change. To turn back the clocks and make everything OK by continuing to meet for a glass of wine every Friday night, even though it isn’t all that convenient anymore and our priorities have moved on. It isn’t that we don’t care. It isn’t that we don’t love the other person, or that we wouldn’t be there for them if they needed a shoulder to cry on. It’s just that we’ve changed and repeating the same old patterns of behaviour is starting to stifle us. In short, we’re ready to move on.

So, the key question is this: how do you move on from a friendship without feeling like a really bad person? I mean, what if the feeling isn’t reciprocated and the friend is heartbroken? What if they say things about you to your mutual friends out of anger? Even if you choose not to tell them directly, and opt for a more subtle approach of occasionally making other plans and phasing out your Friday night drinks dates, the friend may still react badly.

The truth is that friendships can be as complicated as romantic relationships. We can find ourselves feeling just as hurt, let down and confused.

I have witnessed friendships fall apart because one side has moved on and the other person can’t find a way to accept or forgive. I have also witnessed the effects of clinging on to friendships for the sake of politeness and not rocking the cradle, even though it’s obvious that things need to change.

Are you with me? I hope you’re following and that some of this chimes with your own life experiences. If not, I promise to make more sense next time!

Whatever your reason is for wishing to move on, you have every right to do so. This is your life, and you have every right to live it exactly how you want to. Would your friends advise you to stay in an unhealthy romantic relationship? No, they wouldn’t. So why should it be any different when it comes to friendships? There is just something so inherently unacceptable about ‘splitting up’ with a friend that we end up feeling like pond scum for having even considered it. We may even try to find a way out by waiting for them to do something really bad so that we can say: “Oh well, it was their fault for behaving badly. I had no choice in the matter”.

Splitting up with or phasing out a friend may cause you to feel that someone has indeed got a problem with you. And to be honest they probably have! This is something we have to face up to and live with if we wish to live as adults and free spirits, and if we wish to grow emotionally and spiritually, rather than surrounding ourselves with what feels ‘safe’ and ‘normal’.

You are OK. I am OK. The friend you don’t enjoy the company of anymore is OK. But we can’t always please others with our life choices and decisions. Let’s dare to be true to ourselves, and worry less what others think. Whenever I have been brave enough to do this in my own life, inner joy and happiness always seem to follow.

Bye for now x

Surround yourself with inspiration

Have you ever felt utterly frustrated? Of course you have! You’re a human being after all. But have you ever looked around you and felt the frustration of knowing that not a single person in your life can truly and fully understand what you’re feeling? Maybe your mum understands your desire to do something creative, but can’t understand the risks you’re willing to take to live your life in a truly creative way. Perhaps your closest friends can see how much you’re hurting over something, but they don’t really understand the reasons why. Maybe your cat looks at you in an empathetic way as you sit crying into your branflakes, but you know you can’t actually have a proper conversation because of the whole language barrier thing. (Honestly, I think if my cat could talk I’d feel a lot better about a lot of stuff in my life, but probably also fed up of hearing her demand more food and fusses!).

The point is, that people can only ever understand aspects of ourselves. No one can ever jump into your skin, experience everything just as you have experienced it, and know exactly the right thing to say to make you feel understood and supported every step of the way. And if this was the case, there would be a lot less to learn in life, and a lot less personal growth to be experienced.

What we can do is ensure that we actively surround ourselves with what we know we need. Be it like-minded friends, inspirational books and films, the cat… We have a choice in life as to what we do and who we spend our time with. It doesn’t really feel like there is much choice involved in life a lot of the time, but trust me when I say that it’s in these moments that we most need to stand up and be counted. To make ourselves heard and ensure that we are making decisions which feel authentic and honest. If you’re not emotionally strong enough to ditch that toxic friendship you’ve been holding onto because you feel too guilty not to, do something which feels more within your grasp. Maybe suggest that you’d rather see a different film at the cinema, rather than just accepting what others choose for you. Give your opinion on a subject where you’d usually remain quiet. Paint your nails when you know the dishes need washing, and that painting your nails means you can’t do the dishes until the next day.

We have all had those days which seem to be going from bad to worse, but which suddenly take a positive turn when we bump into an old friend who inspires a rebellious or creative side of us which we have a tendency to forget about. Or perhaps you sit down to watch some television and end up watching an inspirational film which tells the story of someone who pushed past their fears and made something happen for themselves. I find films and books and online articles particularly inspiring because they take us outside of our usual day-to-day lives and remind us that there is so much more ‘out there’ to be explored and discovered. They provide us with that valuable perspective which can transform a day from mundane to joyous.

Inspiration is all around us, at every moment of the day, but if we’re so wound up with trying to please others and satisfy preconceived ideas about what our lives should look like, we won’t see the inspiration. We will only see messages which confirm what a let down we are, or how misunderstood we are by the people around us. Choose to live outside of the box, and seek inspiration and guidance throughout your day. Soon enough, you will be a source of inspiration and liberation to your close friends and family.

Bye for now x