My Super Power…

On my 50th birthday I was planning my wedding. Life was full of possibility with all the dreams that love and commitment present. It had taken me a long time to decide to repeat my wedding vows. Having meant them with all my heart the first time, it was a huge thing to take that step again. No matter how much I cared for Nigel, it seemed too immense to make those promises again when I had failed so miserably the first time.

In the end a couple of my friends helped me see that it was ok, along with the lyrics of a country song

“…That every long, lost dream, lead me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way, into your loving arms

This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you”

Rascal Flatts (2004) Link to song at the end of the blog!

The sun shone, everybody smiled, it was a perfect day.

12 September 2008

Last year, a day after my 60th birthday, we celebrated 10 years of marriage on the pavement outside our house here in Morecambe. Again, the sun shone, we had a perfect day with friends and family and marked our first year living in the North West of the UK – another huge decision that turned out very well!

So far so good.

The last year has been OK. We continue to make new friends; discover new delights and we genuinely love our new lives. My business has grown, Nigel loves his job. We are settled.

But about six months ago I started feeling that something wasn’t quite right. I could not put my finger on exactly what. I did not feel 100% well. I felt restless and vaguely discontented. It was nothing major, just something in the ether. Something slightly off. Not enough to change anything, just something to ponder in the wee small hours.

Then at the end of July, as you know, we had to say goodbye to Ben, one of our gorgeous elderly Labradors.

Grief. It is a destroyer. It creeps in through the cracks and penetrates so deeply that it is hard to overcome. I found myself adrift on a sea of pain, grieving for so many things that I thought I was OK about. About my dad, about being so far from my daughter and my mum. About decisions I have made over the years. About friends that I no longer see. A myriad of major and minor things. I was just sad. Overwhelmed. And for the first time in quite a while stress crept back into my life. I welcomed it in through the open door and embraced its familiarity. I wallowed in it. I couldn’t write, didn’t want to listen to music. Didn’t really want to do anything much.

I also found myself worrying about time. How much time has passed. How much time I have left. At 61, unfit and diabetic, will I make my 80th birthday? Imagine, less than 20 years left. I hit on the idea of a Facebook challenge for October. 31 days to completely change my life by making small adjustments to my diet, exercise and attitude. I discovered a modicum of motivation. The dark mist lifted, and I started to breathe again. Sleep returned and I started to feel more balanced.

Then 3 days ago I crashed. Not spectacularly. I just wanted quiet. Some peace. I didn’t want to think about anything at all. The noise of Social Media overwhelmed me. Those of you who know me will know that this does not happen to me often. I am at home on Facebook. I embrace it all, devouring content, connection and conversation. Backing away from it is not something I ever really feel the need to do. But I turned my laptop off. Turned off notifications on my phone. We went to the pub. We went for coffee. We went shopping. We talked.

My husband is a spectacular listener. Yesterday it hit me. An insight. An awareness that I am once again (or still!) on the brink of something. That I have spent the last year over-complicating things. Staggering up blind alleys and ignoring the lights illuminating my path to wherever it is that I am meant to be! What the hell is that all about? Why, after all these years, do I still do that??? Why do I still spend so much time and energy trying to keep everyone happy?

I blurted it out to Nigel in tears. I am in a panic. After years of trying to be what people want, I am worried that I do not have enough time to be who I want to be. I am not even sure that I know who that is. And if I don’t, how can anyone else? I have a message. I want to share it with people. What is stopping me?

Saying it out loud brings a touch of clarity.

I need to communicate. By writing, by speaking, by sharing. When Ben died, I literally lost my words. I couldn’t write, didn’t want to talk. But not communicating for me is not an option. I don’t need to spend time looking inwards for answers I have already found. I know a simple truth that brings peace and relief to everyone that sees it. The only thing that I really need to do is to find better ways to share it. To create the space so that other people can hear the words. I might go a bit “woo” but that’s ok. Because the alternative is silent void. I’ve been there for a while and I don’t like it! Communication is my super-power.

I am going to be a glowworm! Lighting the way down that broken road!

I am aware that I have written this kind of message before in previous blogs. And I have also done the whole “get fitter, get better” thing online too. But like taking my marriage vows for the second time. Good things usually happen when you persevere! 

Follow me!

For Nigel…

Be more Labrador…

Barney and Ben on their 14th birthday at Coniston, Cumbria

Just over a week ago one of my ancient Labradors, Barney 14 1/2 , suffered a stroke. Out on his late walk about 10:30 on a Saturday night. He quietly collapsed on the grass and was not able to get up again. My husband carried him home with his brother Ben following behind and laid him gently on the floor. It became obvious that he was very poorly, with a severe tilt to his head and his whole body stiff and unresponsive. We called the emergency vet and Nigel carried him out to the car. I said goodbye, because I honestly thought that he would not be coming back. I sat with Ben and waited.

But he did come home, after an anti-nausea injection. The vet said that he should come out of it after about 72 hours. So we propped him up, surrounded him with throws and cushions and waited. Nigel slept on the sofa for the first night. On Sunday we crept around him, managed to feed him some scrambled egg. Kept him clean. Worried if we were doing the right thing. On Monday he was a bit brighter. On Tuesday morning we came down and Barney was standing up!

10 days later and he is doing so well. He is slower and has a little tilt to his head, which is quite cute. He occasionally lurches to the left but is growing stronger and stronger, eating well and back on his walks.

I have been totally amazed by his spirit. He has always been a needy dog, his nickname is Eeyore, and he is going blind, which has added to his disorientation. But he has been quietly determined and never given up. True Labrador spirit.

On Saturday I saw a video from America’s Got Talent. An 11-year-old boy called Tyler-Butler Figueroa ventured onto the stage with light up shoes and clutching a violin. He told his story, of being diagnosed with leukaemia, bullied at school, and then taking up the violin when a teacher offered free lessons. And then he began to play. It was amazing. The energy and passion he poured into his performance spilled over into the audience and Simon Cowell pressed the golden buzzer to fast forward him into the finals. Another example of the triumph of spirit when faced with challenging and difficult circumstances.

I bet we all know of someone, who, when faced with the biggest challenge of their life, finds the strength and courage to do something completely incredible.

A thought struck me.

So often when we are faced with something really challenging and frightening, we find a way to turn the experience into something wonderful and inspirational. We dig deep into our boots and discover the drive to turn something negative and scary into something brave and good. Very often helping other people in the process.

But then when we are faced with smaller irritations, like driving home in heavy traffic, having to wait in a queue, or some of the many small perceived injustices that happen everywhere in our daily lives we react in a totally negative way. Letting stress spill out, retaliating with angry and violent words or behaviour, shouting, moaning, blaming. It has become normal for people to allow their stress to spill over onto social media, to treat people with disrespect and rudeness.

What if, and it is just an idea, what if we treated EVERY challenge with spirit, love and understanding. We could transform our world. Person by person. Street by street, Town by town. Until the whole world was a better place to live. Wouldn’t that be amazing.

I have often thought that we should all be more like Labradors. We chose Labradors for specific reasons. Their attitude is always positive. Sniff it, taste it, piddle on it. Simple philosophy. Their greatest concern is where their next snack is coming from. My two, find joy in everything they see, everything they do. They tackle each and every experience with gusto and passion, and they ALWAYS get enough sleep!

Ben and Barney at about 6 months

We know that our time with our two much beloved dogs is limited now. Whenever we tell anyone that they are 14 ½ they shake their heads and pronounce in subdued tones “That’s a good age for a lab”. There is one design fault in them and other dogs – they don’t live as long as we do! But when they go they will have lived life to the best of their ability. And they have loved. Oh how they have loved and been loved. We met them when they were six weeks old and they came to live with us when they were 12 weeks. They have made our world a better place.

Couldn’t we do the same with everyone we meet?

Be more Labrador. You know it makes sense.

With love xx

Here is the amazing performance from Tyler

It ain’t over till the fat lady swims…

Sometime in the murky depths of February I saw a sponsored post from Diabetes UK on Facebook. Swim the Channel, it proclaimed. In the comfort of your local pool! Raise money! Being a Type 2 diabetic myself, and with my daughter Zoe a Type 1 since she was 9, I was sufficiently curious to click on the link. I scrolled through the page and something inside me was ignited. At the same time the nasty little imp inside my head started laughing. “Swim the channel?” he asked “You? Hahahahaha!” For once I found enough courage to drown him out with positivity and carried on reading.

Before the imp could recover and start harassing me again, I signed up, just for half the distance. I could manage 11 miles I told myself. Swimming is easy, I will lose weight, my blood sugar will stabilize, and I will raise £200 for the charity. It will be wonderful, I need to exercise, I can do this!

Further spurred on by a conversation and a donation from Chris Evans on Virgin Radio I upped my game.

Celebrating 11 miles, half way!

Fast forward about 3 months. On Sunday I swam into Calais and stumbled up the beach to reward myself with a croissant. 22 miles and over £1000 raised for the charity that is so close to my heart.

Am I proud of myself? You bet I am. I can honestly say that this is both the worst and the best thing that I have EVER done.

I knew that physically this would be hard. I am 60 years old, overweight, diabetic, totally unfit with little or no core strength in my body. I had some major expectations of my marathon swim. I believed I would lose a lot of weight. I believed that my diabetic blood sugar readings would drop to a healthier level. I believed it would get easier. In reality, I did drop a dress size, but I didn’t lose weight. My blood sugar readings were all over the place, not helped by the fact that I was really hungry most of the time! I think that perhaps my body was somewhat confused by a regular and consistent exercise routine and it just could not figure out when I needed glucose to keep my muscles going! I also hurt. At every point one of those muscles ached. My back, my knees, even my elbows! My skin shriveled and I broke out in spots. My feet were dry and cracked. A whiff of chlorine followed me wherever I went. As for my hair…where did I put my wig?

But at the end of the challenge I do feel better. I can walk further and faster than before I started, and I don’t get breathless.

What I was not prepared for was the effect of the challenge on my mental and emotional health.

The first day that I got into the pool I aimed for swimming 10 lengths. I managed 20 with several rest stops. At that point I figured out how many lengths I would have to swim to reach 11 miles if I only swam 20 lengths each swim. Just about doable I thought.

By the end of the swim I was routinely swimming a minimum of 34 lengths (1/2 mile) per session with only one or two short pauses. A couple of times I managed a whole mile!

I discovered a determination and a resilience that I really did not know I had in me. Even on the days when I just did not want to get in the water, I dragged my sorry arse to the pool and got in. I persevered despite several incidents of swimming snobbery. On one occasion I was told that I was too slow for the slow lane! She was probably right.

But. I showed up, gritted my teeth and just did it. Kept doing it.

I also reconnected mentally with my body. It likes to be exercised. My physical wellbeing connects with my mental wellbeing. It feels good (apart from the chlorine!)

My husband Nigel came with me every Sunday and I was so grateful, but the rest of the time I was pretty much alone with my thoughts and there were days when I just knew that I did not have a hope in hell of ever reaching France. Those days were the hardest and I remember one day just crying all the way and getting out of the pool with barely enough energy to dry myself. But I dug deep, learned to focus and just kept going.

Time and again I convinced myself that I would not finish the challenge. That I was not strong enough, or good enough to finish. But I was spurred on by my team of cheerleaders on Facebook who responded to every Facebook Live with words of encouragement and who sponsored me and kept me going. There was also an incredibly supportive Facebook group where people cheered each other on and shared their up and downs. I also had the support of a couple of lifeguards at the pool who cheered me on when they were working.

Thank you to EVERYONE who helped me reach my goals. I could not have done it without you all.

To wrap up, here are some of the things I have learned from this grand adventure.

  • Start with one length, one step, one breath
  • If you think you can’t, you won’t
  • If you need support, ask for it, there is always someone willing to help
  • Remember your underwear
  • Moisturise, and stay hydrated!
  • Laugh at yourself…often
  • Never underestimate yourself, you are amazing!
  • Enjoy the croissant!

This challenge has made me stronger, braver, happier. The lessons I have learned have changed me. They will make me a better human being. A better coach.

Will I do it again? Well, once I have taken a brief break from the chlorine, I will continue swimming a couple of times a week, and I am planning some other exercise. But swimming the channel? I’m not sure. Ask me next February!

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to donate, the fundraising page is open until 22 June 2019

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/penny-thresher

Penny is a life coach living in Morecambe in Lancashire. Her business is Corner House Coaching.

She works with clients right across the UK. If you would like to know more, or simply stay in touch here are her details

Email: penny@cornerhousecoaching.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cornerhousecoaching/

She would love to hear how you enjoyed this blog so please leave a comment

Thank you for reading x

Pink raincoat and red wellies…

What to do on a rainy Bank Holiday in May?

We headed to the garden centre. Drifting through the colourful rooms full of gifts, exotic houseplants and garden furniture I was filled with longing for my old garden. It was huge and sheltered but horribly neglected. I now have a small, but easy to care for yard, and last summer it was filled with overflowing pots of colourful geraniums and lobelia. I love it, but often wish that I had a bit more space to cram vegetables and larger shrubs in.

I love geraniums. Red geraniums. I remember a holiday in Greece, on the island of Andros, many years ago. A little ground floor apartment that opened onto a courtyard with a little fountain and packed with bright red geraniums. We woke in the morning to the buzzing of bees as they darted from flower to flower in the heat. A gardener would come every day in the early evening and water them, Ever since, the scent of freshly watered geraniums transports me back to Greece and lazy summer days. But I digress.

This garden centre has a whole aisle of red geraniums in the cathedral-like area covered with a plastic roof that allows sunlight to pour through on good days. Not on Monday. The rain poured and thundered on the roof. Leaks allowed the rain to pour through here and there, while staff ironically continued to water pre-planted tubs and baskets.

Suddenly the intensity of the rain increased dramatically, and the noise reverberated around me, drowning out all other sound. I stood still, eyes closed, taking in the scent of the damp plants and letting the sound of the rain hammering on the roof wash over me.

I opened my eyes and in front of me stood a little imp. A beautiful little girl with blonde curls gathered into a top knot. She was wearing a shiny pink raincoat and red wellies. And she was gazing up at the roof with a look of absolute joy on her face. Her mouth open and her eyes sparkling. Every now and then she gave a little wriggle of delight.

I watched her for a few moments and the noise died down a little. She looked down and caught my eye. “Wasn’t that amazing” I said. She smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “Its raining” she said.

I asked her name. “Gabriella, I’m 5. These are my wellington boots for puddles”

She seemed to be completely on her own, so I asked her where her mum was. She told me she didn’t know but that she was with her baby brother. I offered to help her find her mum and brother and she smiled angelically. “Its ok” she said. Suddenly the rain pounded the roof again. Without warning Gabriella ran over to me and threw her arms around my leg burying her face in my thigh, laughing with happiness. I offered her my hand and she took it and we stood listening.

In that moment I was blown away by such a huge insight that I could hardly breathe. That I, a 60-year-old woman, with so many years behind me, and this little girl, with so many years ahead, were the same. Despite the years between us I felt a oneness wash over me. That she and I and every woman ever were the same. Shared the same presence. The same existence. We smiled at each other and for a second everything was perfect.

I heard her name being called. Her dad had found her and exhorted her to stop bothering “that lady”. I reassured him that she was no bother.

“We were listening to the rain Daddy” she said.

The politics of caring…

This morning I went to the polling station to vote in what could possibly be the most pointless election ever. Electing MEPs to a parliament that we may not even be a part of soon. To be honest I am not even sure if we ever needed MEPs – but that’s a whole different discussion.

Yesterday I spent the day at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe at an event called Love Society where people from across our region were looking at ways to improve our community and create a more loving, kind and compassionate society.

There were all sorts of people there. Doctors, teachers, care workers, people from charities, local councillors, sociologists, holistic practitioners and people like me who care.

We listened to two amazing women. Bev Skeggs, a sociologist and Hilary Cottam, a social entrepreneur whose work focuses on solutions to social challenges such as ageing, loneliness, chronic disease and inequality. It became obvious how important connection and community are in these situations.

There was heartfelt and moving discussion in the room, and it felt good to be spending time with so many people wanting to help and improve things. Caring.

However, during the break-out discussions I became quite uncomfortable with how conversations became a political blame-game. Voices were raised and there was some metaphorical banging on tables. I know that every person in the room was passionate about change and desperate to make a difference but there was so much anger.

I have never been much of a political animal. I always see good and bad on both sides. I do not believe that any one political party is perfect. Recently here in the UK we have seen our parliament implode and for me…well I believe that politics is broken. Much like our benefits system and the NHS. Whether we were for Brexit or against, the one thing we can all agree on is that the last 3 years have been a total shambles. Nobody has come out of it well. And we are not out of the woods yet.

I have written before about how much I hate the spitefulness and disrespect in parliament. The British system of government has been adopted all over the world. Our traditions were respected and even revered. But that was then, and this is now. It is time for change.

Big decisions need to be taken to fix our broken society. And our politicians should be leading us, showing us the way, demonstrating the correct way to behave. They should be working together towards common goals, with a vision of a loving and respectful community. Not constantly slagging one another off and putting people down. Setting an example for everyone, here in Britain and across the world.

I truly believe that some things transcend party politics. Sometimes the ONLY solution is love. Love of each other, of truth and honesty, of respect for every human being. That is how we change things. I believe it is incredibly simple. Sadly, I cannot think of one politician from any party that inspires, encourages and could lead us selflessly and honestly towards a better future. I am fearful.

But sometimes from great adversity comes great courage. Somewhere there must be someone who can make a difference. Who sees that respect, compassion, love and caring is necessary to heal and repair. We need a hero. In the meantime, let’s all try to be local heroes. To work in our communities to bring change and improve our own little corner of the world. Start a ripple and send it in the direction of Westminster. In the name of love, not a political party.

The harvesting of our discussion yesterday

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…