The Naked Truth…

This morning I had a brave moment. I stood naked in front of a mirror and looked at my body.

As a 60-year-old fat woman with poor hair and Type 2 diabetes, currently spending a minimum of 3-4 hours a week in a chlorinated swimming pool, this is not something I do very often. I prefer to avert my eyes, getting dressed quickly out of mirror view, only sitting at my dressing table to take care of my face and appalling hair. To apply the bare minimum of makeup. And even that is something that I get through as quickly as I can. A quick check of my clothed body before venturing out into the world is the most examination that I usually do.

When I embarked on my swimming challenge (for Diabetes UK – swimming the channel in my local pool over 3 months for those of you that do not know) it was for 3 reasons.

  • I needed to something to improve my fitness levels
  • I wanted to raise money for this charity on behalf of my Type 1 daughter
  • I thought it would make me accountable – if I went public, I would have to stick at it, particularly if people were sponsoring me!

I have tried the public thing before with varying degrees of success, but sponsorship is extremely motivating!

Healthwise I really thought that I would see weight loss and an improvement in my blood sugars.

What has actually happened, is that I have gained 5lb and my blood sugar is all over the place! I am also hungry. All the time. And not for salad! I also ache. A lot. Pushing myself to do 30-40 lengths each swim from a standing start of no real exercise is a push.

However, my clothes are a little looser, I don’t get out of breath so much and I do feel proud of myself. So, I decided to brave the mirror.

Its not a pretty sight. Don’t worry, I know I overshare, but there are no photographs to scare the children! I can see that my body has changed shape. Its never going to be that “acceptable” sight that adorns our magazines, newspapers and social media. There are lumps and bumps, drooping and scars. The last two of course are connected with Zoe, my daughter. A caesarian scar and droopy boobs after breastfeeding are a reminder of something wonderful. Creating another human being. Someone who I love and am so proud of. I do not regret them. But the rest are testament to years in sedentary jobs, a total lack of self-esteem which resulted in eating too much, and a lack of interest in exercise for exercise’s sake.

I grew up in the generation that played outside. There were only 3 television channels and none of them broadcast all day. I read books, built dens, rode my bicycle. We did PE at school on our lovely field and it was competitive. My mum cooked everything from scratch and once a week we got pocket money for sweets. Sixpence I believe. And I didn’t spend it on chocolate – my joy was a jamboree bag!

I was always a little chunky, although back then I had good hair! In beach pictures I looked long-legged and healthy. But I was the fat one in the class. And it did affect me, I felt somehow less. Not pretty, unattractive and that stayed with me for a long time.

Now I could continue and talk about all the bad stuff that happened in my life and made things worse. My parents divorce when I was 16. Someone I loved very dearly dying when I was 21. Being a doormat for numerous partners and believing that was normal. My first marriage that ended in drunken violence when my daughter was 6. Piles of crap! We all have them.

I could blame my weight problems on all of that. When my marriage broke up, I topped the scales at over 26 stone. At the same time my job became unbearably stressful and I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. There is no doubt that all the stress played its part in my diagnosis, which was discovered at a routine work medical. But my life choices were all unhealthy ones.

When I met Nigel in 2003 I was still over 22 stone. He is a Labrador and loved/loves food. So I fed us. It’s what I do. We got a grip in 2008 when we decided to get married and we both lost a lot of weight.

By the time we moved to Morecambe, 21 months ago, my weight had settled at just over 18 stone, give or take 5lbs. Last summer I embarked on healthy habits – better eating, more walking. I felt better but then for six months from August I had a spell of really bad health, including my fall downstairs at the end of November. That fall was really a turning point for me. I have never felt so physically frail, so immobile. It scared me.

Since I started swimming various bunches of muscles have taken it in turns to hurt. It started with my biceps. Although I have not lost the bingo wings I have much improved strength in my arms. Next my calf muscles. Useful in a 3-storey house! This week it is my stomach muscles and my quadriceps (yes I googled!).

My stomach is a really weird shape. Where the muscles are contracting. I have an umbilical hernia that is more pronounced (too small to warrant an operation apparently), with great hollows either side below my waist. The tops of my thighs are like rocks!

Sorry for the visuals. What I am trying to say is that nothing stays the same. With a bit of effort and determination you can change your landscape. It might take a while, and it may never look exactly how you want it but what is more important is the hidden landscape.

Yesterday in the pool I was completely overwhelmed and tearful. Note to self: No-one notices if you cry in a swimming pool. This challenge has become about so much more than me getting a bit fitter, or raising some money for a good cause. It is about changing my beliefs, pushing myself. Stretching my limits.

I have realised that for a long time I have avoided things that might stretch me, physically and mentally. My opening thoughts are often about how difficult something might be. I make elaborate plans to avoid challenging physical or mental situations. To the point where I avoid going to places where I cannot park close by. Where I don’t speak out loud when I believe something strongly. My default thought has been “I can’t”.

Every time I go swimming, I feel fear. Fear of not being able to finish the challenge. Fear of looking awful in my swim suit. Fear of being in the way of faster swimmers. Every time I get past 30 lengths, I feel better. I feel triumph. I am exhausted but I do have a sense of achievement. I feel the fear and do it anyway.

In the end it does not matter what I think. It does not matter what other people think. It is just thoughts. And I can choose to pay attention to them or not. I can choose to love this body that I see in the mirror with all its lumps and bumps. I am choosing to work on making it fitter so it can last longer. Its not easy, and it is not always enjoyable. But I will persevere. And when I get to Calais – bugger the blood sugar! There is a chocolate croissant with my name on waiting for me!

P.S. Its Sunday now and we were back in the pool this morning for an hour. 34 lengths more to add to my tracker. I am at 7.7 miles now and got a new badge!

And the other thing? When I read this blog to my lovely husband before publishing – he told me that he thinks I am gorgeous! Whilst I know that he includes this battered overweight body in his definition of gorgeous he also knows my inner landscape really well. I am blessed to have him in my life!

If you would like to know more about my coaching or my swimming please get in touch!

  • Phone – 07771 896670
  • Email – penny@cornerhousecoaching.co.uk
  • Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thecornerhouseUK/

This seems an appropriate song, and a great way to live – looking through the eyes of love!

Don’t stop me now…

Back in February this overweight, diabetic, slightly averse to exercise, other than walking the dogs, woman decided to swim the channel! Well, figuratively speaking. 22 miles in my local pool in 12 weeks.

The SWIM22 challenge from Diabetes UK appeared on my Facebook feed at the beginning of February. I kicked the idea around in my head for a few days. Then I asked my greatest fan, my husband, if he thought I could do it. Now Nigel believes I could conquer the world in my pajamas if I want to. I signed up. For 11 miles.

3 weeks in and I have swum 4.18 miles. I feel a little fitter and I have toned up. The first day I set out to swim 10 lengths of our 33m pool but managed 20. On Friday I swam 36 and today another 30. It’s not all plain sailing. I have aches and I am hungry all the time. I am a Type 2 diabetic and my blood sugar has been all over the place (apparently my liver is working hard to cope with the extra exercise and pumping extra glucose to my muscles). And annoyingly, I have actually gained a few pounds, which I did not expect!

But. The exhilaration and sense of achievement is amazing. I am so proud of myself. That in itself is an achievement for me. I am having fun!

My swim time is also giving me think time. Time to mull over lots of things. And because I am doing something right out of my comfort zone it has helped me look at other areas of my life where I have not been as brave as I should be.

Deciding to become a coach was all about me wanting to help people. Coaching set me back on my feet after a tough couple of years. We all hit those bumps in the road, whether its redundancy, bereavement, ill health or simply a feeling that we are lost or out of our depth. Or if we are just plain scared.

Much like my swimming adventure, my coaching journey started as the germ of an idea. My thought process was along these lines.

“Could I”

 “No”

“Maybe”

“No”

 “Yes I could…”

“I can try…”

“Why don’t I just give it a go?”

That’s the abbreviated script of the head chatter that goes on every time I need to make a choice or a decision. Back in the day I listened to the chatter far more than I do now. Back then the chatter always convinced me that it would be better if I didn’t take a risk or step out of my comfy but often unsatisfactory situation.

When I made the decision to try coaching, I bought books, studied, signed up for a course, learned tried and tested techniques and methods. Got a couple of bits of paper that said that I was qualified to do this “job”.

But alongside that training I discovered something else. A spiritual understanding that changed my world and helps me deal with that head chatter. It still barges its way into my brain, but I can recognize it now and deal with it better. I know how to quiet my mind and settle my anxiety about any new situation. This is what I teach my clients to do too.

The thing is although I do share what I know to be true, there is a bit of me that still holds back. Is still a bit frightened to be “out there”. To be spouting what people might consider to be slightly “woo-woo” – for want of a better description!

Let’s dive back into the pool. Well, in my case, step gingerly down the steps into the tepid water!

My swimming is not fast and its not pretty. I plough up and down the pool like a stately galleon, doing my version of breast stroke, keeping my head above water but totally determined to do my best. A bit like my new attitude to life and my coaching. I have encountered a couple of unpleasant “swim-snobs” while doing my swimming and at first it knocked my confidence. Some people seem to believe that our local leisure centre pool is their own personal domain and refuse to give way to anyone else. I started out feeling intimidated and insecure when I ran across these people. But not any more.

We all have self-limiting beliefs. But you know what? There is always a way around them. And often take taking one step, one small action. you can stop the head chatter in its tracks. Drown it out with a small success. The first 10 lengths that I swam planted a small seed of belief in my heart and look at me now. Wrinkly and smelling slightly of chlorine…but almost half way to my first target and believing that I can do more.

Every one of us does the best we can with the tools we have available at any given moment. I have a tool that might help other people in the same way that it helped me. But to help people I need to get out of my own way, be brave in deep water and speak out.

My last blog talked about me releasing the hidden Penny. After I wrote it I realised that I felt a bit uncomfortable about it. It seemed to come from the wrong place. All about me. When I am really all about other people. But I think that what I was trying to say was that I recognize that everyone hides stuff away for all kinds of reasons. I understand that.

This morning I found this picture on my Facebook feed. I think this says it better than I said it before.

And then I read my horoscope

It’s a sign!

If you would like to know more about my coaching or my swimming please get in touch!

  • Phone – 07771 896670
  • Email – penny@cornerhousecoaching.co.uk
  • Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thecornerhouseUK/

The Wildness…

Those of you who have faithfully followed What Penny Did Next know that over the last couple of years I have experienced a significant spiritual shift, marked by several major insights, usually involving a sharp intake of breath and some tears.

You may also have noticed that of late I have been quieter than usual, with my blogs becoming less frequent and somewhat shorter in length.

I think I am ready to share why. Settle in, this is a longer one!

It has been a challenging few months. A time of ill health, with constant infections and a bad fall which laid me out for a couple of months. But as always, I think that these challenges were presented to me by the Universe for a reason. It was time for some reflection on the meaning of life!

If only it was this simple…

This time out brought on another insight. But rather than the sharp intensity of a moment of recognition, this insight has been like riding a wave across a turbulent sea.

It is 5 years now, since I was gifted the opportunity to rediscover myself and start the process of creating a new, less stressful, and better, life. Its been quite a ride. Our relocation to Morecambe was both incredible and inevitable. Both of us feel that we are exactly where we need to be and have a sense of belonging that we have never felt anywhere else. Last summer we welcomed friends and family to The Corner House and celebrated our first year here, and 10 years of marriage, in the sunshine outside our new home.

And then we sat back, to start getting on with our lives.

It was time for me to sculpt my new life, both personally and professionally. I spent time studying, reading, networking and all the other things that small business owners need to do. New opportunities presented themselves. But I felt a little displaced. As if there was something just over my left shoulder that I needed to pay attention to, but couldn’t quite see, or get a hold on.

My poor physical health left me feeling vulnerable and although not depressed, sad and a little lost. There were financial challenges too, and they are always unsettling.

Christmas came and went. It was gentle and quiet. Then it was January.

To be honest, my natural inclination is to hibernate in January and February! Conserve energy, sleep, wait for the spring flowers to poke through the cold soil. I was intensely irritated by all the New Year New You crap on social media. All the endless energy of people flogging the latest nutrition plan, or exercise routine. Pledging to be a better person, lose weight, making resolutions to do things that they should be doing anyway. Boy, was I ever in a blue funk! The wave I was riding threatened to drown me.

I had an idea. I created a Facebook group called Find your Fabulous in February. I wanted to help people feel better, have some fun, step into Spring early. It wasn’t about me, although I admit it was also a way to promote my businesses.

It was amazing. We created a tribe. My wave picked up momentum and rose gently with the tide. There were a few wobbles and the wave dipped but the collective positivity soon had me back in balance and kept me moving forward.

Suddenly I knew what was hovering over my left shoulder.

Thanks for sticking with me this far. Here is the point of this blog.

I was feeling disconnected from myself.

Exploring that feeling further I realised that there are only two places where I ALWAYS feel like the Penny that I want, need and deserve to be. The Penny that is totally, authentically and undeniably who she is meant to be. Who is totally at home in her own skin. Who does not care what people think about her as long she knows that she is the kindest, most loving person she can be to everyone she meets. Who does not judge anyone. Nor expects to be judged.

The first place is my Greek home, in Poros. I have always felt different from the moment I step off the ferry onto the soil of this place that I love. Even when I was there with someone who judged me for just breathing, I always felt more peaceful, more in touch with my soul and that has never changed.

The second place, and slightly surprising, is at CarFest, the annual festival organized by Chris Evans. From our first visit in 2012 until last year in July. There is something about the anonymity of being in a field with thousands of other people simply enjoying the moment that frees you from conformity and allows you to be anything you want.

In both these places I allow my wildness to surface and run free.

Why does my wildness stay concealed for the rest of the time? It’s fear. Fear that I will be judged. As a person, a business owner, a fat woman, with terrible thin hair and a bald patch, a type 2 diabetic, a 60-year-old…you name it, I am afraid. Terrified of being judged.

In my heart I know that none of those things make me, me. I am a good, kind and loving, empathic person who wants to help people and needs to make a living. I discovered something 2 years ago that changed my life and I want to share that because I know it is true and can help other people. Its why I chose coaching.

I made a decision. I am letting her out. She is going to step out bravely and share what she knows, honestly. Without fear of judgement. Speaking her truth. Starting on Sunday when I am giving a talk at an event.

She is going to stand up and stand out. In bright colours and her trademark red lipstick!

Something else. A couple of people shared with me a little of how they see Penny. It was surprising. Perhaps we all need to see how other people see us. It is very enlightening.

The final realisation came when I heard this song last week. I have heard it before but as so often happens with music, this popped up and resonated so strongly with my thinking it almost broke me. There were tears. It reminded me of being young, with everything ahead of me, and there was so much hope. On Friday night, on Monday morning, every day, every journey brought the promise of something amazing. Just because I am 60 does not mean that I am giving up hope. There is always a road leading somewhere wonderful. Or a wave to ride to the beach.

I just need to let the Wildness have its way.

Finding Inspiration…

I have been having a FABULOUS February! Running a Facebook group to help people feel better throughout a dismal month, using some positive reinforcement and sharing positive stuff. It has been a lovely experience with great interaction and lots of smiles.

One of the things I have been sharing as part of the process is a Fabulous Alphabet. Every day I have chosen a positive word and shared the definition and some thoughts about it.

On Friday we reached the letter “I”. And I chose the word Inspiration.

I found myself pondering who and what inspires me, and I had a bit of an insight.

The social media generation will grow up with the word “inspiration” engraved on their minds. They will choose various “role models”, good or bad, and it will be natural for them to do so. But when I think back to my teens and 20’s I don’t remember thinking about being inspired. I had teachers who encouraged and excited me, I met people I admired. But I have no memory of looking for inspiration. That word didn’t really exist in my day-to-day vocabulary.

To be honest I didn’t really have aspiration either. I did not have much self-esteem, never really believed I could achieve anything notable. When good things came my way, I was faintly surprised and always felt un-deserving. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop

Then I remembered the first time that I really felt inspired.

In April 2008 I was 49 years old with a 13-year-old daughter, in a very stressful job but about to get married for the second time. There was a lot of good stuff going on. And then I joined a direct selling business called Pampered Chef, which required me to go out and about doing cooking demonstrations. I went to my first PC conference in July of that year and found myself totally out of my comfort zone! Around 600 women, full of enthusiasm, passion and so excited about everything. It terrified me. And then on the second day a lady called Sahar Hashemi took the stage, and my life changed.

She and her brother had started a business called Coffee Republic, back in the days before Costa and Starbucks. She told her story and I wept. She was so inspiring and everything she said resonated with me. I don’t remember her words, but I do remember the feeling they created inside me. She made me believe I could.

Over my 8 years with Pampered Chef I heard and met many inspirational people. I went on to build a team, attend many conferences and discovered a world of self-development. I read books, watched You Tube clips and dared to dream. I started wanting more. Although I have worked with several other direct marketing companies since Pampered Chef I have never felt quite the same sense of belonging and passion. But I continued with my self-improvement journey.

My bookshelves are filled with auto-biographies and other inspirational tomes, exhorting me to believe in myself, get the most out of life, be successful and so on and so forth. Revving me up and requiring me to be the best, to excel, to succeed whatever the cost. But you know what. It was exhausting. I knew that these people were successful. They had found what worked for them. I admired that. But in a perverse way it de-motivated me. It just felt like too much effort. And I am not lazy. But I have had way too much stress in my life. And whatever else I felt, I knew that I needed to reduce my stress levels if I wanted to live a happy life.

And then just under 2 years ago I discovered Syd Banks and the Three Principles. I found a quiet mind. And everything changed. I still want to be successful and earn money. I still want to be someone who inspires other people. But I realise that there is no self to improve. Its just my ego. Everything I need is already inside me. My inner diamond is sparking. I just need to give it a bit of a polish to let its light shine out.

Since then I have met many other people who inspire me. But it is different. The inspiration comes from recognising something inside people. An inner calm. The people who inspire me are not all famous or well known. They are often people I bump into on a dog walk or run across at an event. Sure, there are better known people too, who are much better at putting this into words than I am. But the books I read now are gentler. Pointing inwards to our own truth. Our own innate sense of wellbeing. Of calmness.

Every now and then I forget. I jump back on that self-development fast track. But at moments like this I remember. My inspiration is found looking at a beautiful view up here where I live, in spending time with my family, in walking my very smart peace-loving Labradors. In gentle conversation. Simple stuff.

I encourage you to look there too. Its what life is all about. And it’s pretty FABULOUS!

It truly is…

A glimpse of me…

Do you ever have one of those moments where you catch a glimpse of something, just outside of your line of vision. You see a little movement in the corner of your eye but when you turn to look there is nothing there?

Or you hear a song, or a piece of music and it reminds you of something and brings a gust of emotion that is so strong that just for a moment you cannot catch your breath. But you are not sure if it was a memory or something else.

It’s the promise of something unknown.

For the last couple of months, I have felt that there is something waiting for me. It shows itself every now and then. And if I take a moment to still the chatter in my mind it tiptoes a little closer, wafting its scent tantalizingly towards me, but drifting away when I turn to grab it.

Sometimes when the chatter is too loud, I cannot sense it at all.

Recently when I was poorly the chatter was so loud, I found I was really struggling. And then just over a week ago I woke up and sat on the edge of the bed and thought. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to do anything. I wasn’t depressed or desperately unhappy. I just felt tired. Uninspired. Like someone had turned the magic off.

I sat for a moment and thought. So what? What now? In a weird kind of way it was a relief. Like I gave myself permission to just be. But I also felt a bit numb. Not feeling anything is not living. It is not even just being. It’s a nothingness. A vacuum. Empty. And strange.

10 minutes later I was standing in a hot shower and I had a small but fabulous idea. Standing in the hot water sparks started to fly and I saw a path, a slightly different one to the one I have been following, although the destination was the same! But what I really had was some clarity.

Moments later the Universe did its thing and my lovely friend Miranda messaged me and came to visit. There followed a reset conversation, enhanced with tears, that set off a string of transformational insights. About money, about work, about what I want, about what success looks like to me. A completely different focus for me.

And I realise that those glimpses of something that I have from time to time are of a different person. A different Penny. Well maybe not different. The same but more. More of all the good stuff. The person that lurks inside of us, the person that is sometimes buried under the minutiae of everyday life. That works on just getting by. A person worth getting to know and love.

This person can make a difference. She can help people. She loves with no limits. She is unafraid and courageous. She can move mountains.

This last week has been a revelation. Calm, positive, and productive. That person is becoming less of a glimpse, more of a vision. And if I look really closely, I can see her in the mirror.

Isn’t that cool?

Gonna make a difference…

In which I wobble…

Happy New Year to all my readers!

I hope you had a lovely Christmas, spent time with your loved ones and watched lots of old films!

My husband’s gift to me was a stinking head cold that started on Christmas morning as I was cooking dinner and is just departing now. To be fair, he made up for it by looking after me so well. Cooking and providing coffee, tea, mince pies and other goodies while I lounged about on the sofa feeling a little sorry for myself.

Sounds pretty miserable right? But, although I didn’t realise it at the time, it was exactly what I needed.

Some of you will know that I had quite a bad fall down a couple of stairs in The Corner House at the end of November. My whole lower left leg, from the knee to ankle was badly sprained and so painful. Also got a bit of infection in the leg just before Christmas and needed antibiotics, so the whole festive thing was more of a challenge than a pleasure.

Being me, I carried on, pushing myself to walk, drive, sit at my desk. Anything but rest the leg in the way it needed, even heading South for a few days. Thankfully having an automatic car meant I didn’t have to cancel the trip.

But once I got the cold, I really was not capable of carrying on. Did the universe intervene? Enforcing me to rest and recuperate? Feels like it. And for once, I listened. It gave me time for rest, recuperation and a bit of reflection. And a binge watch of the first 3 series of Nashville, but that’s another story!

2018 was a challenging year. The initial euphoria of our relocation had passed, it was time to settle in and put down roots, establish ourselves in our new home and start to live. It wasn’t always easy, although Nigel found a great job and we had the most glorious summer with friends and family coming to visit and celebrate my 60th and 10 years of marriage with us.

For me, personally and professionally it was time for me to decide where my future lies. There were lots of wobbles, particularly as I was not earning very much. But I ended the year with a clear picture of what I want to do and who I want to do it with. I just need to put it all into action. Watch this space.

But my fall has caused a spectacular wobble. My confidence has taken a huge knock. So much so that I have found myself not wanting to leave the house, dreading Nigel going back to work, and putting off a lot of stuff that I need to do to get 2019 up and running. I have found that I don’t trust my own feet when I am out and about. And I am not just talking about walking.

I feel vulnerable. Its scary. I want to pull the drawbridge up and fill the moat. Everything feels too overwhelming, too terrifying. There is a total lack of confidence about me, not something I have felt for quite a while. A fear of failure paralysing me for the first time in quite a while. I have even got my wig out, considering wearing it to boost myself. I am tearful and emotional.

I feel quite physically frail, something I know that I am going to have to deal with, and soon.

But at the same time, I feel that 2019 has an amazing energy, that good things are coming, that we should all jump on board and make the most of it. Its going to be a very positive year spiritually.

I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions. But I like to set positive intentions. Perhaps writing them here will help me to feel stronger and start that forward momentum.

  • I am going to keep a daily gratitude journal
  • I am going to deal with my physical frailty by starting an exercise class and walking more
  • I am going to lose more weight too
  • I am going to get my business properly off the ground
  • I am going to help more people
  • I am going to live, love and laugh and relish every moment

Yesterday Nigel literally forced me out of the house and we went for a walk along the prom on a frosty sunny day. He instinctively knew it was what I needed. The prom was buzzing, people were smiling, the bay was breath-taking. I felt better. I feel better. And I remembered everything I have learned over the last couple of years.

We all need time out now and then. To take a breath. And then we can get on with it.

Do any of you remember Weebles? No matter how much they wobble they bounce right back up. Well that’s me. Wobbles can be really scary, but like life they are a learning process. I am still wobbling a little, but I will settle. I wish you all the best for this bright shiny new year.

What are your intentions? I would love to know.

Reattaching my wings!

Letter to my daughter…

Dear Zoe,

Yesterday, saying goodbye at Lancaster station was hard, and yes, I blubbed. As we both knew I would. Your mother cries, you know that. I cry when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am tired. My eyes leak. Nothing I can do about it. It has always been that way, and at 60 years old that fact is unlikely to change any time soon. So, no apologies for that!

It was lovely having you here for a couple of days despite the awful weather. Of course, today is a sunny bright day in Morecambe with blue skies and views to die for. As I said, we need a summer visit so you can see the beauty I am looking at outside of my window this morning. But it felt good to go to bed in The Corner House and know you were tucked up in the other bedroom above me. This house will always have room for you.

Several times during your short visit you insisted on reminding me that you have grown up. That you are a grown woman, living your life. Even at the station as we said goodbye. It reminded me of how I feel when I spend time with your nan. I think that it is standard for everyone, spending time with your mum at any age sends you right back to your childhood, difficult when we spend our whole lives trying to prove to everyone that we are successful,self-sufficient, strong human beings who can take care of themselves. Which is exactly how we raise our children to be. Even though it is so hard when those very same children become the people we want them to be. Somehow we don’t expect to be left behind. Remember how Barbara used to snuggle up to her 6ft 3” hulk of a son and call him her baby?

For me, particularly at this time of year, you are still that little girl with blonde curls sneaking into my bed on your birthday or Christmas morning, your beautiful brown eyes dancing at the prospect of presents. Snuggling up and both of us overwhelmed with so much love that nothing else mattered.

Like everyone you have had some crap in your life. A father who left when you were little, the resulting financial chaos, a stressed out working mum, and then the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. But to compensate you also had a grandmother who shared your care and adored you (and still does) and then an amazing step-father in Nigel. We travelled, we laughed, we shared so much and I treasure every memory.

I just want you to know that I know you are grown up. And I am so proud of the young woman you have become. Just in the last year you have bravely forged forward with your new career, and I know that the people you look after in the care home are so lucky to have you there with them. Your natural empathy combined with the passion you throw into anything you do will carry you far. You were always meant to be a healer/carer.

You and Kieran are building a home, and a life together. Its cool to watch you learning and growing together.

Our decision to move up here to Morecambe was the realisation of a dream for us. There is always a cost to such a dream. Being so far away from your nan and you is hard. But it was the right thing to do, and in some ways it leaves you free to live your life. I guess it is just odd because usually it is the child who moves away, and the adult who remains. We turned that one on its head, didn’t we?

We do miss you. We miss the stupid things. Being silly. Watching Friends and giggling. Seeing the daft stuff that makes us smile without words. You rolling your eyes when I sing the wrong song lyrics (even when I do it deliberately just to make you laugh) You and I live via text message now. And that’s ok too. 

Do not ever think that I want to hold you back. Telling you that I miss you and love you is not about wanting to hold you in the past. It is just about letting you know how much I love and value you. To remind you that we are always here for you, and that we have your back. I want to share my life here with you, show you the wonderful things that we have discovered in our new life. And I want to show my new friends up here that I have a wonderful daughter too. To show them Penny, the mum.

But none of that means that I think you need to be here. You are where you need to be. I guess in a way I want to reassure you that I am ok. That we made the right decision. I would love you to be closer, but you need to live your life, dream your dreams and be where you need to be. Just be aware that if ever you need a bolt hole for any reason, The Corner House is here for you. Like the song says

“Take every chance you dare
I’ll still be there
When you come back down”

Just remember, having strong roots makes you grow stronger and taller. Be happy they are there and get on with flowering. But come and see us again soon. We miss you.

All my love

Mum xx

Diabetes and me…

Last week I had some good news. I had my annual Type 2 diabetes check and discovered that my blood test showed a significant improvement in my blood sugar control. This annual test is called the HbA1C and it measures your average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last two to three months. Previously the lowest I have ever been, back in the early days after diagnosis, was 8.1. Two years ago it was 12.2, last year it was 10.8. Last week it was down to 7.2. A great result, although they really want it to be 6.5. I suspect I may actually be there, but my recent bout of bronchitis raised my levels for about six weeks of the three months concerned.

The reason for this vast improvement is about six months of total focus on my diabetes. Following a fairly low-carb way of eating, pricking my poor sore fingers 4-6 times a day to record the effect of every meal, every treat, every bit of exercise to see what effect it has on my blood sugar. Swallowing 11 tablets every day, even experimenting with when I take those tablets. I have thought of little else. And it has paid off.

This is really the first time I have done this since I was first diagnosed in April 2001. At the time I was in a pretty grim place. I was newly separated with a 6 year old daughter. I had huge amounts of debt, I weighed over 23 stone (having lost 2 stone pre-diagnosis) and my work life was so stressful and miserable that I could barely get out of bed in the morning.

The diabetes came as another hammer blow, seeming like a death sentence (which of course it can be). It was discovered by a routine urine test at my annual medical for work. Sugar in my sample. They sent me to the doctors, then there was a blood test. Then the news. The only advice I was given was to go home and empty my cupboards of jam. Not really that helpful.

At that time my diet was dictated by my budget. I ate a lot of beans on toast! Over the next couple of years, I lost another 2 stone. I took a dance class to increase my exercise. But as so often happens I got complacent. My diabetes care from the doctors was non-existent. There was certainly no education. Looking back, I don’t even know if I really understood what diabetes was.

Then in the summer of 2004 my daughter, Zoe, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Boy did I get some education then. This blog is not about Zoe’s diabetes journey though. Suffice it to say that her struggle as a 9 year old and then a teenager, punctuated with hospital visits, whilst improving my understanding of this cruel disease gave me a reason not to focus on my own problem.

I lost another couple of stone before I got married. A loss of 6 stone from my heaviest. Although I still needed to lose more (another 2 stone gone since then!). But to be honest I didn’t test very often. I got myself into a stew before each annual blood test, and occasional dark nights when I allowed fear of the future to creep into my consciousness, but outside of that I pretty much pushed it to the back of my mind. To be honest my life was so busy that I had very little time for self care. It was easier just to not worry about it. Just keep going.

Then, as you know, last year we changed our lives. We moved to Morecambe. The level of health care up here is so much better than it was in Hertfordshire. For the first time I felt as though I had someone in my corner. It was time to start taking better care of myself. I realised that I have quite bad damage to my feet. I already had numbness when I was diagnosed, but I definitely have neuropathy in both feet and need to take great care of them.

In May I set out to get a grip. I set up a little accountability group on Facebook, people that I trusted to support me without judgement. Kick my butt when needed. Encourage me if things got tough. I went back to low-carb eating. Started walking more. Started testing more often. Micro-managing my diabetes. And it paid off. Great results. Pats on the back all round. My feet hurt all the time, in fact a lot worse since I got my sugars down – probably because they are not so numb. But all my other results are pretty good.

But since getting those results I have felt a kind of despair. I am always going to have diabetes. I will always have to think about what I eat and drink. I will always have to take tablets. I will always have to test my bloods. I am angry about that. So of course I am writing it out. Acknowledging that diabetes stinks. And overwhelmingly sad that my lovely daughter has to live with this too.

The constant focus in the news on obesity as a cause of Type 2 diabetes haunts me. It shames me. I go into my diabetes appointments feeling ashamed. Like a small child desperate to please. I am letting my diabetes define me. But it is not who I am.

I have learned a lot over the last six months. I know that if I eat well and walk I keep my sugars down, and an occasional slice of cake, or a couple of slices of my home-made bread will not adversely affect me. I can live my life and hopefully prolong my life by continuing this self-care. Over the last 5 days my sugars have been consistently between 5 and 7. I am proud of that.

This blog marks my decision to stop letting my diabetes define me. To stop feeling that my life is limited by this “chronic condition”. To truly rediscover my lust for life. To embrace my 60’s and ignore my limiting beliefs around my physical abilities. To believe in the things that I tell my clients. To stop being angry. To let it go. To relax a little and live my life. With diabetes. Not fighting it.

We are our own harshest judges aren’t we? I love the sentiment of this song. I’m gonna follow my arrow…

 

This is me…

 

The phone rings and a disembodied voice says to me “We need the weather in 5 minutes”

“Sure” I say, “no problem”. I know that I am supposed to be reading the weather on the radio

I hang up and realise that I have no idea where my weather script is! My anxiety kicks in BIG time and my heart rate increases, my breathing becomes laboured, my body temperature soars, I am in full panic mode. My brain is screaming “What am I going to do????” I can hear the clock ticking…and I wake up, in a cold sweat with an overwhelming sense of terror.

That was me at 1am this morning.

But then, as my breathing slowed, and my bedroom materialised around me I had a rather wonderful experience.

You see, I have a secret ambition. It came to me about 2 years ago while I was working with my coach and friend Ian. I want to do a Ted Talk. I want to stand on that red circle and share something profound, something inspirational. Something that might help even one person feel better. There, I said it out loud again.

Well last night in that moment between the panic of my nightmare and the clarity of wakefulness I received the script. Fully formed. I know what it is that I want to say.

Some of it I have said before, it involves me sharing some of the stuff I have left behind so that I can tell people exactly what I see now. I need to revisit some of the pain that I know I do not need anymore. I need to do that because I need to share that I get it. I get how painful it can be. It is necessary to acknowledge the crap so that I can point the way to something so much better, so much bigger. Something innate in all of us. I lay quietly, running through the script in my head. And smiling.

An hour later I find myself outside in my street with two elderly Labradors who decided that 2am is the perfect time for a toilet break. It was cold, the cars in the road were lightly frosted as we walked along, accompanied by both my cats. Standing waiting for the dogs to do what dogs do,  I looked up at the sky. It was so beautiful it took my breath away. So many stars reminding me of the vastness of the universe. Back in bed I lay quietly, blown away by a glimpse of something so mindblowing, so infinite. But also an incredible sense of who I am. Why I am. A sense of wonder about our existence on this tiny rock spinning through the universe.

I know. Maybe you had to be there! But something has definitely shifted in me. Unfortunately, the new me was still awake at 5:20 am, and the alarm went off just over an hour later. Today is proving a bit of a challenge. But that sense of how awesome we are persists.

I believe that every now and then we are given glimpses of something rather wonderful.  Standing on a beach at sunset, or on top of a mountain. Gazing at our new born baby. Poetry, art, drama. If we are lucky we fall in love, share a friendship, experience a passion, realise a dream. Its about being open to all those experiences whilst knowing that we are part of something greater, something very special. It’s a feeling that transcends some of the more unpleasant things that our experience in this world brings us. It exists in that quiet space before sleep or just after waking when we are close to touching our spirit. The quiet roar.

Last Thursday I happened to catch The One Show on BBC1. It was a humdinger. The lovely Ben Fogle talked about standing on top of Everest in a humble and awe-inspiring way. Noel Fitzpatrick, the supervet, talked about animala, their bond with humans and his desire to make this world a better place for them. And then we met this year’s rickshaw challenge team. Six similarly awe-inspiring youngsters who will brave a long and difficult journey in all kinds of weather to help other youngsters. I cried.

My Ted Talk would appear to be about me. And it is, but only because I am an ordinary person going through an extraordinary experience that is inside all of us. The best talks I have watched have not been by experts with letters after their names. They are by real people, ordinary people who have triumphed over adversity, or discovered something inside themselves that they didn’t know was there. By sharing we can inspire, and we can learn. There is so much to learn.

Coming to a You Tube Channel near you soon…

This song is probably overused in this context, but no apologies as it is glorious and so appropriate for that script I am running. And much of what my talk will be about.

 

 

 

 

Still alive and kicking…

Hi there, remember me? I turned 60 years old 8 weeks ago and dropped off the face of the earth! Well I abandoned my blog for a while. My apologies dear readers.

I have actually been going through some changes which I think I am ready to share.

So just a year ago I was at the end of 7 days training to formally set me on my path to my new role as a life coach. It was 7 magical days where I made new friends, discovered things about myself I didn’t know and saw a future ahead of me filled with possibility. My new understanding of the world and how we create our reality filled me with joy and hope.

Since then I have spent many hours reading, watching and learning. Deepening that understanding, exploring new concepts and learning to live in a beautiful feeling every day.

I have shared some of my insights here over the year. But buckle up, this is a biggie!

My friend Theresa reading a passage from Captain Corellis’s Mandolin at our wedding vow renewal

About two weeks after my birthday, after all the excitement of our party when we renewed our wedding vows in the sunshine on the pavement outside The Corner House and another week out and about with my mum and my aunt, when the dust had settled from six weeks of full on fun I found myself alone in my home with the dogs and cats and time to reflect.

And then it hit me. I am 60 years old. With the emphasis on the OLD! I can hear you all saying all the right things – 60 is not old, 60 is the the new 40, you are young at heart….and so on. For a couple of weeks I mulled this over, telling myself all those things. Reminding myself that I chose to completely change my life at the age of 58, listing all the amazing things I have done in the last couple of years. But none of it seemed to help.

You see the thing is, I realised that there is probably less time ahead of me than behind me. And all the things that I have dreamed of doing. All the places I want to visit. All the plans do do things that I have carried with me for so long. Well there doesn’t seem to be enough time left. I felt panic. The fear of not being able to do the things I want to do kicked in big time and for a few days I couldn’t catch my breath.

I started to doubt myself. Doubt whether I could do what I have planned to do with the rest of my working life. I even caught myself looking at job sites! I started to worry about not being around for Zoe as she goes through her life. I felt regret for so many things

Alongside these feelings I also revisited work stress for a few weeks. One of my roles involves doing some accounting for my cousin’s company. For reasons that I will not bore you with I needed to do a whole year’s accounting manually and I had a limited time in which to do that. Now I have always loved a deadline, but this was a massive task! And so stressful! Added to my overthinking about my time running out it was inevitable that I was going to crash and burn.

For the first time in a year I got ill. First a bad cold and horrible cough, and then, just as I thought I was better I got bronchitis. I have, quite frankly, been feeling quite sorry for myself. Having a bit of a wallow.

The the universe steppe in. Two things happened that helped me. Firstly, I had a tearful conversation with my best friend, Theresa. We have been through so much together and have known each other for 28 years now. She is 18 months younger than me, but I have forgiven her for that! After we talked I felt calmer and my mind started to settle.

Then on Sunday I went to an event and I met a lady called Val. And she reminded me of who I am and why I do what I do. Her story and our conversation, her kindness, set me back on track. If you want to know more about her, here is a link to my Facebook live video about her

https://www.facebook.com/thecornerhouseUK/videos/559115554545184/

I am not out of the woods yet. I still have moments of panic about how much time I have left. Usually in the wee small hours. Realistically, having been a diabetic for 17 years my life expectancy is reduced. But I am taking as much care with my health as I can. What is most important is making the most of every moment. Grabbing life by the throat. Helping as many people as I can, while I can.

Normal service is slowly being resumed as I recover from my bout of bronchitis. At the moment I am so fatigued that I am struggling to remain vertical, but each day there is a bit of improvement. I believe that things happen for a reason, so perhaps I was meant to take some rest. Some time out to deal with my latest insight. That time is an illusion. That there is still time for me to make a difference. To someone, somewhere who needs me to show up, listen, encourage and support. In the same way that people have shown up for me. Like Theresa. Like Val. Like Nigel.

We all have wings, and we all long to soar. But sometimes we need a little help. It is there, you just need to look for it.

I wish you all someone to be the wind beneath your wings.