That was the year that was…

 

One year ago, today, at 7:30 am we were on our way. We collected the dogs and cats, packed them in the car and surrounded them with all the bits and bobs that would not fit in the two moving vans that we packed up the day before. We stopped off to say a final goodbye to Zoe and set off up the M11 towards our new life in Morecambe. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. It was almost idyllic, if somewhat traumatic.

Over the last month Facebook has presented me with daily memories of us getting ready for the move. Saying goodbye to people, packing up a house that I had lived in for 20 years. 13 of them with Nigel. Leaving a town that I had lived in since I was 7. It has felt a bit overwhelming because even now there are times when the enormity of what we have done overwhelms me, and I catch my breath at the thought of it.

But here we are, one year later and settled in, happy to live in this northern seaside town, existing beside the permanent watercolour that is Morecambe Bay.

Its not all been plain sailing. There have been hiccups of course. I miss Zoe so so much. But she is doing so well in her new job, living her life where she needs to be.  Nigel and I both agreed this morning, we have no regrets. We feel blessed every single day. Even when it is rainy and windy like today! And without exception, every hiccup has taught us something, lessons that we needed to learn. The difference here is that we are open to learning those lessons. I think in our old lives we were so resistant to change that we fought against it, refusing to learn as we went along. When you embrace change, you open yourself to growth, and your world becomes infinitely richer and more exciting.

Ironically, we have spent the last six days mirroring the activities of last year – only unpacking instead of packing. We have lived most of the year with boxes still sitting in most rooms. But in just over a week my lovely Aunt will be arriving from New Zealand for a few weeks. That has given us the motivation and impetus to get ourselves sorted out at last. It has involved quite a few runs to the tip and the charity shop! If it was still in a box after a year, we didn’t need it – right?

To tie in with Auntie Roseanne’s visit we are finally having a housewarming party to – to mark my 60th birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary. It seemed like a good reason to mark the changes in our lives by re-stating our wedding vows too. So, at the beginning of August, friends from North and South will join us at The Corner House for a celebration. In a strange way I feel that the event will set the seal on our new life. My mum will be here too for the first time.

Nigel has a great job that he loves. My business is starting to grow. The house is slowly taking shape. Who would have thought that at the age of 60 I would be looking forward to a bright future, that I would have realised a very long held dream to live in the Northwest. My message to you all? Never give up on your dreams. It takes a bit of courage. But as I have said before – leap and the net will appear. And the reality may actually be better than you ever imagined!

This picture was taken at Catch The Wind, Morecambe’s kite festival which is happening again this weekend. Last year I was in shock and a bit tearful, but this year I am full of hope and I am home. I wish the same for you all.

I am off to dance round the kitchen with the labradors – I have done a lot of that since I moved here! I cant stop the feeling!

Fat lady singing…

 

This is going to be one of those difficult to write blogs. And be warned, its long! I know I have been missing in action for a few weeks. There has been lots going on, some good, some bad, but as usual there has been forward momentum and I am heading in the right direction again!

But today I want to write about food. About my relationship with food. And my weight. Always a delicate subject of course!

At the end of May I watched a program about crash diets. The one where you substitute meals with milk shakes and soups for a period of time. It showed a group of successful dieters losing weight, improving their health and, in one instance, reversing Type 2 diabetes after 17 years of living with it and taking loads of medication.

As a passionate cook the thought of “dieting” that way fills me with horror. I did lose weight with the Cambridge Diet back in the 80s, but I don’t think I have ever been more miserable. However, the program came along at a very precise moment for me and gave me lots of food for thought – forgive the pun!

Next week we will have been in Morecambe for one whole year. It hardly seems possible. Generally, we are both happier, fitter, calmer, less stressed….and so on and so forth. The last few years we have spent the winters feeling poorly with bad colds and all the usual winter ailments. This year we were much healthier. I put this down to more walking, more cooking from scratch, less stress and the lovely essential oils that I work with.

But. And it is a big but. I am still struggling with my diabetes. Spending weeks with my readings too high, feeling tired and lethargic. But seemingly unable to do anything positive about it. I have little spurts of extra walking, low carb days etc. But not enough. My feet are numb with neuropathy, on occasion I crawl up the stairs in the house (mainly due to the lack of balance caused by the numb feet) and I confess there are times when I avoid things because I do not feel physically able to do them. There – I said it out loud!

I too was diagnosed 17 years ago. I blame the stress of a broken marriage and a very bad time at work. But I was around 7 stone heavier than I am now, I didn’t exercise, and I was miserable. I lost 3 stone very quickly – that happens when you become diabetic and are undiagnosed. I swallow 11 different tablets. 5 different medications, every day. 3 for my diabetes and 2 for my high blood pressure, which has improved since I moved to Morecambe. I hate taking the pills. But I swallow them religiously because I have to. As you know, last year I had to have my eyes lasered too. Since my diagnosis in 2001 I have lost another 4 stone using various methods.

I am actually 1 stone lighter now, than when I arrived in Morecambe. So things have improved a little. But for the last few months I have been stuck. And my blood sugar readings have been all over the place. I even stopped doing them for a while – like not knowing what they were was going to make a difference!

With Zoe being a Type 1 diabetic there is very little that I do not understand about diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2 are of course very different and are treated in different ways. But the principle is the same. What I am saying is that I know what I need to do. But I seem unable to get a grip.

After watching that program, I decided that it was time. I recruited a little team of supporters – people to hold me accountable as I try to change the way I eat, the way I exercise, trying to get this beast under control. There has also been a flurry of other programs on tv in the last couple of weeks. One about all the medicines that are prescribed. Another about carbohydrates. I have soaked up more information and I am quietly determined to change things, I even tried yoga! And loved it too. I will be building that into my regime.

I had decided not to go public because my previous attempts have a) not been that successful and b) I think you must all be bored stupid. Also because everyone is an expert. There is always someone who knows a better way. But not everyone is me. It is very important to me to find a permanent solution to MY problem. Not a quick fix, or a miracle cure. A sustainable way of living with my diabetes, living a long and healthy life, to the full, doing everything I enjoy. And that includes cooking. And eating.

Eating as a diabetic is not straightforward. Many foods that are considered “healthy” cause my blood sugar to soar. Its a minefield.

I am not making excuses here. I know I need to change things. But do I want to live in a world where I can never again eat a slice of cake or a bowl of chips? No. I don’t. And bread. Sometimes I want bread!

But here is the reason for this blog. To share some of the pain of being overweight. Not looking for sympathy or understanding. Simply to tell it like it is. To get it out there.

I have been overweight for as long as I can remember. I remember people telling me that it was puppy fat – no such thing of course. When I look at my school pictures, although I was bigger than my friends I was not grossly overweight. That came in my late teens. I can analyse it. My parents divorce, my lack of self-esteem…the “reasons” are endless but that is all in the past. I have to deal in the now.

To be honest for many years I told myself that I did not have a problem with my body image. I wore what I wanted, I went topless abroad, I displayed my cleavage and my other curves without thought really. I had moments of horror about how I looked. But I am a bluffer. And like many other big girls I covered my insecurities up with laughter, being the funny one. The fat ugly friend that hung out with the pretty girls, feeding on their popularity, accepting unacceptable behaviour in relationships because I did not value myself enough.

In the late 80s I slimmed down. I was not skinny, but I had a waist, great boobs, and an attitude. That was when I met my first husband. By the time our marriage had played out I was back to being a mass of insecurity, and of course I was a full time working mum in a very stressful job.

I can list endless reasons for the WHY. But what about the WHAT. What do I hate about being a fat bird?

I hate not being able to go shopping for clothes anywhere and being able to buy cheaply

I hate never being able to buy or wear tailored clothes, or get a good fitting bra

I hate seeing judgement in other people’s eyes (and the fact that I judge other people too!)

I hate the physical limitations of being overweight

I hate having to ask for an extension for my seat belt when I fly

The list is endless

But I am doing something about it. I have my “dirty dozen” who have my back and are cheering me on from the sidelines.

I am picking my way through a low-carb lifestyle. Loosely following Michael Moseley’s 5:2 diet which works really well for diabetics and is doable. It allows me to indulge my love of cooking. Picking up the exercise, and yes, taking up yoga. Building it into something sustainable, a different way of eating that will allow me to go off the rails from time to time.

In just a week I have seen for myself the trigger points for me going off-plan. I never thought that I ate for comfort, but I do. And if I am tired or out of sorts? All bets are off. But going off plan will not derail me. I am in this for the long term. My blood sugar has dropped significantly, and although I wobbled at the weekend I am feeling better. My feet feel different. They will not heal completely but they will improve.

Part 2

I left this blog to sit overnight and came back to read it this morning. It says what I wanted to say but I don’t feel that I have really explained the emotional pain of being overweight. I don’t sit about all day feeling miserable because I am fat. But I think being fat has defined my life in many ways. To an extent the fat is part of the Penny that I know and am comfortable with. I think I have a genuine fear that if I lose it I will lose something else, some indeterminate part of me, part of my identity.

A pilot friend of mine once told me that he believed he stayed fat because he was protecting his heart, all due to a difficult upbringing. Sounds feasible don’t you think?

At the same time, I feel that now it is time for me to let it all go. I am content, happy to be where I am in my life, happy to be living where I live, probably happier than I have been for many years. Spiritually content too. Its time to bless and release.

So, I am resolving to be more mindful when I eat and to focus on my health rather than losing weight. To live well and in the moment. The rest will take care of itself!

10 years ago I bopped down the aisle to marry Nigel with Zoe by my side to this song!

 

Be more Labrador…

My boys on Morecambe beach last night in the sunshine

Its 3:30 am and I am nursing a cup of tea downstairs with my Labradors and both cats. Nigel had already been up and taken the dogs out about an hour and a half ago but Barney was barking again so I came down. He doesn’t seem to want anything other than my presence, but all of them seem restless and unsettled and there does seem to be a bit of a strange feeling in the house. It feels expectant, as though something or someone is due to arrive at any moment. Weird.

I am googling “older dogs who won’t sleep all night” or similar phrases. Of course older dogs do not have quite the same control over their bladders, just like older humans. But Nigel really does need his sleep! I guess I can grab a nap in the day time as I work from home! It used to be easy letting them out into our big garden. I will admit, I miss having a garden! But then we had a beautiful walk on the beach last night in really warm sunshine, so there are compensations!

Barney has always been a little needy. We nicknamed him Eeyore. He frets, and looks worried, as though he is about to, or has, lost his tail. He is partially blind now, so that may be a factor for him needing extra fussing. Ben has always been happy go lucky, a very easy dog, but he is now deaf and suffers a bit with his back legs. They turned 13 in November. A good age for Labradors, as everyone tells me when we tell them how old they are! It is usually accompanied by a bit of a concerned head shake! Sadly it is true, and I am horribly aware that they may not be with us for very much longer. We also have one cat (Cola) that thinks she is a Labrador!

This expectant feeling in the house may emanate from me.

I have had a busy couple of weeks with visits from my friend Claire, our first friend to come and stay since we moved here, and my cousin Aubrey, who comes regularly as he is setting up a business here in the UK (he hails from New Zealand) and I am helping him with some accounts and admin. He is a bit of a workaholic – and is often up at weird times as he deals with calls from the other side of the world!

I have had a lot of networking meetings too, loads of stuff going on, all good stuff, but not much time for reflection.

This afternoon after Aubrey departed I sat with the dogs in the sunshine and listened to The Corner House settle. It was a bit like tuning in a radio which has been churning out static. Suddenly you find the perfect spot on the dial and the voice or the music comes through loud and clear. I had a few moments of clarity, where my mind wandered to all the things I have been learning over the last few months, and I checked in with myself to see if I was still connected, still in tune with all that good stuff. Looking for that beautiful feeling that washes over me with each new experience.

I have not always been someone that enjoys solitude. My busy mind needed noise, movement, occupation and distraction. I could find the beauty in a peaceful moment out in nature, on a beach or in a forest. Or even in a really good book. As I grow older I have grown to appreciate those quiet moments and actively seek them out. At any time of the day. Early on a summer morning, gazing out at Morecambe Bay or late at night when the world is asleep, but the Labradors are awake!

The truth is that the solitude and stillness are now inside me. They are not external. My mind quiets down and in those silent moments there is room for beautiful thoughts and ideas. I find myself smiling and filling up with love. For my family and friends, for places, for kind strangers, for people that are showing me a better way to be.

Creating space in our busy lives is a challenge, I know. But it is so rewarding. Whether it is for meditation, mindfulness or just some quiet breathing, the rewards are amazing.

Today, I felt as though I had stepped off a treadmill. I love having people in the house, cooking for them, spending time in conversation, but I also relish my alone time, or time spent with Nigel in comfortable silence. In those first few quiet moments I could feel something coming. I am not sure what it is,  or when it will arrive. I can just sense that it is hovering on the periphery of my perception. Waiting for its moment. I hope it will be another one of those life-changing insights that I am experiencing as I follow this new path. It might be a small popcorn moment. When I am ready it will appear! I just need to keep tuned in, keep the static to a minimum.

As for the Labradors. Barney is now snoring gently in the hall, the cats have got bored and gone off somewhere else. Ben is lying at my feet gently huffing at me, wagging his tail every now and then.

I have always said that we can learn a lot from a Labrador. They are the most faithful of dogs. Their capacity for joy and love is overwhelming. I have owned many dogs in my life and they have all been amazing. But there is something about a Labradors attitude to life that is unique. They have large hearts and seem to understand exactly what you need when you need it. Its why they make great guide dogs. There is an emotional intelligence in them that you can see in their eyes. And they know about the stillness. Well Ben does. I’m not sure about Barney!

The song for this blog is from my lovely Joni

“Who needs the static
It hurts the head
And you wind up cracking
And the day goes dismal
From “Breakfast Barney”
To the sign-off prayer….”

See…even she knows about Barney!

Butterflies…

 

Last Sunday my lovely daughter Zoe was rushed to hospital after contracting a nasty bacterial throat infection, which had caused 2-3 days of vomiting. Zoe is diabetic, she was diagnosed when she was 9 years old (she is now 23). This means that her immune system is compromised and when she gets really ill and dehydrated the only real solution is an intravenous drip to get her back on track quickly.

This was the first time for 4 or 5 years that this has happened, and of course, the first time it has happened since I made the move to Morecambe.

I was due to drive down for a few days on Thursday, but dropped everything and drove down last Monday, arriving just in time to collect her from the hospital after discharge.

We spent some time together, and after a few days of no improvement went back to the docs and got the correct anti-biotics (NOT the ones the hospital provided!) and thankfully she is now on the mend and back at work. Quite a week.

Any of you mums out there will know what an excruciating experience this is. Most of us would take the pain or suffering away from our child in a heartbeat, no matter what it cost us. To see your child in a hospital bed, feeling so ill and miserable. It is heart-breaking, and I have no idea how mums with very sick children, or those that lose children ever cope.

Of course, I wanted to gather Zoe up, pack her in the car and bring her back to Morecambe with me.  I still have a huge amount of “guilt” for leaving her behind. I worry all the time about her coping. She and Kieran live in a tiny house that is not my idea of ideal. They have been cold, have had problems with mould, and have no outdoor space. As a mum I constantly want to make things better for them. For them to live how I want them to live. As my mum said – we always want our children to have more than we have, to be more successful, more comfortable – we want them to fulfil our dreams, achieve things that we thought we might, but didn’t. We forget that the world changes, and our children have their own dreams and aspirations. There is absolutely no reason why they should follow the path we have designed in our heads for them. More of this shortly.

The main reason for me heading south last week, apart from spending time with Zoe and Mum, was for an event with my mentor, David Key, and 60+ members of a on-line coaching program that I am a part of. Some of these people I met on my NLP course back in September, but lots of them I had only met online before Saturday.

After all the emotional ups and downs of the week I was mentally and physically exhausted. Despite my mum taking really good care of me, I was missing Morecambe, my house and Nigel – not necessarily in that order! It was a real effort to get myself down to London for the day. But I am so glad I did.

Since meeting David a year ago and discovering the new understanding that he teaches I have changed in many ways, and that has been well documented on this blog. All through our relocation to a different part of the country and starting a new life I have felt calmer and more at peace, more accepting that what will be, will be. And even when stressful things happen I have been better able to cope, instilled with an inner sense of calm that helps me deal with any situation. Even when Zoe was taken ill, I was calm and organised and sure in my mind that everything would be ok. Even 2 years ago I would have been a complete wreck, crying and ranting, in a very bad place.

This feeling is still strange to me, it still creeps up on me, and then suddenly I think – why am I so calm? It is weird.

Anyone who follows me on Facebook would probably imagine that everything that has happened since we moved has been idyllic. Indeed, a couple of people this week commented on how wonderful everything has been for us. Pictures of the bay, our love for our house, new friendships being formed. All good stuff, the stuff that Facebook lives are composed of.

In reality of course, there have been bad times as well as good. The house needs quite a lot of work, and it is going to take us years, financially it has been very tough, particularly at Christmas time. I have had some health challenges, which I am still dealing with. I miss Zoe and mum horribly. And I have been very lonely. Particularly now that Nigel is working full time every day. Going back to Bishops Stortford tends to highlight that loneliness. I have disconnected from my past there, it is not the town that I grew up in, and I am glad I do not live there any more. But people there know me. I bump into people at the supermarket who are glad to see me. There is history.

I am starting to connect in Morecambe, but it is taking time. Everybody is so friendly, every dog walk, every network meeting I talk to people. But they don’t know Penny yet. And in truth, I am not sure I know this new Penny. She is a little lost, a little disconnected and it will take time for that to correct itself.

On Saturday I stepped off the escalator at Paddington station and two complete “strangers” called my name. They recognised me from the coaching group – mainly because I feature in two of the training videos on the course. We walked to the event together and met with our tribe. And there you have it. We all need a tribe. A place to call home – and it can be anywhere. Online. At home, at work, the book club, the network group….somewhere where “everybody knows your name”.

My move to Morecambe has been much more than a relocation. It has been a complete redirection. It is now 4 years since I was made redundant and started looking for a new path. I cannot quite believe that. Time definitely goes quicker the older you get. What will the next 4 years bring? I will be 64 then – Will you still need me, will you still feed me?

I digress – back to Zoe. The time I spent with her this week was precious. Sitting watching telly with her is something I miss immensely. Being out with her and seeing something that makes me laugh, only to turn to look at her and just know that she is thinking the same thing – that’s priceless!

Despite being immensely proud of her, how she copes on a day-to-day basis, her recent change of career, everything that she is and does, I still keep wondering how I can help, how I can “make things better” for her. What tosh.

On Saturday David used the metaphor of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to butterfly. The first thing to remember is that when the caterpillar turns into a chrysalis it dissolves, but everything that it needs to become a butterfly is there, every nutrient, every building block, right there, just waiting for the right conditions. Secondly, when the butterfly starts to emerge from the chrysalis, it struggles to fight its way out. If you were to help that butterfly, say by cutting it open, that butterfly would never fly. The very act of struggling to emerge gives the wings the strength to take flight. The struggle is what makes the difference.

On my way home to Mum’s on Saturday I dropped into see Zoe and grab a goodbye hug.  Their little house was lit, cosy and warm. She looked so much better, they were together in their life, in their home. Sure they will have struggles but they will be ok. They will be better than ok. And so will I.

Driving north yesterday in the sunshine I had time to reflect on all this and the other things I learned on Saturday. I am not ashamed to say that when the bay appeared off to the left of the M6 there was a tear in my eye. I was welcomed home by the dogs, cats and Nigel. Again, not necessarily in that order! This is where I belong, and Zoe is where she belongs. We are part of each other’s tribe, but our tribes are huge and growing. Ain’t that great?

Who is in your tribe?

“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name”

Forgiveness…

Hmmm I hear you say! Another blog? 2 in 2 days? Bear with me!

As I said in my blog yesterday I have been feeling out of sorts for a few weeks now. Not ill exactly but not well. Aches and pains, headaches, generally out of sorts. And miserable, I have been miserable. So yesterday I had this moment of realisation where I realised I was feeling lonely. Like I always do, I wrote it out, published it and sat back expecting to feel better, now that I had got it out there.

But for once, the magic of putting words on paper didn’t work. I still felt miserable, still had a headache. I was perplexed and a bit cross. I felt wrong. In a bit of a tantrum I threw my hands up in the air and abandoned the rest of my day. I gave in. I made tea, a hot water bottle and a blanket and settled on the sofa with the dogs to feel sorry for myself for a bit longer.

I decided to watch a film and on the first page of suggestions for me I saw The Shack.

I read this book last year and really enjoyed it but had not sought out the film as I was expecting it to be too “religious”. But I decided to give it a go.

About a third of the way in I was tearful. By two thirds of the way in I was sobbing and by the end of the film I had had such a powerful insight it felt as though the earth had shifted on its axis. Such a seismic event must have rocked the world I thought. But outside my window children were being collected from school, mothers stood gossiping in the road, my neighbour was walking his dogs. Everything was normal.

Except it wasn’t. I experienced such a shift in consciousness that I don’t think that I will ever be the same.

You see I have spent much of my life angry. Resentful. Much of this anger is centred around my father. I have written about my father before in these pages. He left home when I was 16 and my sister was 12. He left us and my mum feeling broken and bruised, and we have all, individually continued feeling that way all our lives. It has affected our relationships with each other and with other people. For me it left a core of sadness that I don’t feel I have ever addressed. That is not to say that I have not had happiness in my life, I have had lots. But deep inside I am never surprised when bad things happen, or I feel fed up. It’s become the norm. I loved my father deeply, but there were times when I hated him too.

Just a year ago I discovered the 3 principles. I am not going to go into detail here (if you do want to know more, let me know!) but it is the spiritual belief that I have searched for all my life and underpins my new working life as a coach. I touched on it briefly yesterday. It has changed my life already and I have had a series of “popcorn” moments, some noisier than others, where my perception and beliefs have been altered, always for the better. All the way through this momentous past year I have had moments of such peace, such beautiful feelings that I thought I had put past resentment well behind me.

Back to the film. I don’t want to share the whole plot, but it is about a man, a son and a father, who experiences such pain and grief that he is lost. He has no faith. In himself, in love, in anything. He cannot see a way out of his deep misery. But he is given a chance and he learns to forgive.

Forgiveness. That was my insight. The power of forgiveness. It took my breath away.

I had NEVER forgiven my father. Recent events brought him to mind and I considered it, but still I said “I’m not ready to forgive him”.

Yesterday afternoon in a moment I forgave him. Does not mean that I will forget, and yes, I am still a bit mad at him for what he threw away. But I do forgive him. I am not sure that the decisions he made truly made him happy, but that is not relevant. In the same moment I also forgave a lot of other people. My ex-husband who chose a bottle and violence over his wife and child. Other people who have “hurt” me over the years, every perceived insult and injury that I have experienced. I forgive.

Resentment is like armour. We build it around ourselves to shield us from harm. But the problem with armour is that it keeps EVERYTHING out. In the very act of protecting ourselves we harm ourselves. To be truly happy I believe that we need to remove our armour and open ourselves to what is out there. To do that I think the most important thing is to forgive ourselves too.

Alongside the resentment and anger I have carried with me is guilt. Could I have been a better daughter, mother, lover, wife, friend, sister? Possibly. But like everyone I did the best I could with the tools I had available at the time. I did my best. I tried. I forgive myself. There is the real power of forgiveness. And love.

When I woke up this morning I felt different. I feel well. No aches and pains. I slept really well. I have energy. The world has not changed, but I have. There is new confidence, I feel able to look forward and make plans. I have not been able to do that for a while. I am sure that there will be setbacks and doubts, but also more insights to come. I look forward to them.

Horrible things happen in the world. But as Syd Banks said:

Embrace every experience. It is all part of being human. But forgive. And love. Love life, love each other.

And here is a clip from the film.

“You are not stuck because you can’t, you are stuck because you won’t”

 

 

 

 

 

The loneliness of the long distance blogger…

I had a moment of realisation very early this morning, around 5:45 am.

For a couple of weeks now I have been a little down. Not depressed really, just demotivated, lacking focus, feeling a little under the weather. Aches and pains, without being really ill – I seem to have dodged all the nasty bugs that are doing the rounds. But I have just not felt good. With Nigel working full time again, the days have seemed long and strange.

This week it got worse, and on Tuesday was so bad that I could not really drag myself out of bed. Really thought I was getting ill. I gave into it and rested all day, dealing with the physical symptoms and it worked a little.

Yesterday the sun shone, and I took the dogs to the bay. We sat for 10 minutes on the prom, exchanging pleasantries with other dog walkers and passers-by. Having 2 such handsome Labradors together always invites comment, and the dogs love the fuss they receive. I felt better.

But at the moment I feel sad. And it struck me this morning that I am feeling this way because I am feeling lonely.

Now let me just reiterate. I have no regrets. I love living here, Morecambe is amazing. I don’t miss Bishops Stortford. I certainly do not miss my mortgage! I know we have done the right thing. But…

I do miss Zoe- she is going through some major life changes and I miss not being able to hug her and see her smile. We talk all the time, but I miss her physical presence. I miss my mum, being able to just drop in for a coffee. Phone calls are great, but not quite the same.

Of course I miss my friends and colleagues. Thank heaven for Facebook huh? But again – not quite the same.

I have made friends here, and I have my friends and family in Windermere. And funnily enough my last visit to Windermere might just be what has led to me feeling this way. Let me explain.

Last time I visited south in January, Mum and I popped into town. While she was in the bank I stood in the main street and was surprised to discover how disconnected I felt. It was so familiar and yet so not “home”. A weird sensation, given that I lived in the town for 51 years of my life. But I no longer feel rooted in Bishops Stortford.

Just under 2 weeks ago I went to Windermere for some training and networking. I have roots there. From childhood, from the last few years, and something deeper. It’s a sense of “coming home”. I have never been able to explain it, but it is always there. I will never get over the pleasure of being able to get there in 35-40 minutes. But I don’t live there.

I live here, and as much as I love it, I have not yet put my roots down, they are resting on the shifting sands of the bay, leaving me unsettled and a little bit adrift.

This week, as you will know if you follow my Facebook feed, I have been discovering a little more about my beloved Corner House. I now know that it was a very happy home in the 60s and 70s, and was delighted to learn more about the original layout of the house. I know we feel a reflection of the love and laughter from that time.

Yesterday I visited the local library to talk to a local historian, a sandgrownun, born and bred in Morecambe. It was a fascinating conversation with him and a couple of others and meandered all around the town and across the bay. Also some good advice about continuing my research. So a really good meeting, but I was so jealous. I want history with my adopted town.

So expanding on my morning realisation. I want to belong. At the moment, I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.

Since my redundancy, 4 years ago now, I have found other places to belong. Pampered Chef, the fabulous Pop Connect networking groups, my new friends that I did my NLP training with. All of these groups gave me substance, they knew Penny, knew where she slotted in, let me dig my roots into their earth. I am still in touch with people from all those groups. But my roots have been uplifted and my connections are more distant.

Anyway, this morning I lay and thought about why I feel this way and how I can deal with it. There were tears. At first, I thought they were tears of self-pity. But I realised that was not true. This experience was just that. An experience. My feeling that I am lacking something that I can find in the companionship of others is me looking for solutions from the outside-in.

My new spiritual understanding, the 3 principals, shows me that my reality is created from my thoughts. Thoughts are transient, they flash through our minds all day, thousands of them. We have free will, so we can choose which thoughts we pay attention to. I have learned to quiet my mind to make space, to live in the moment. I think this is why I do not see myself as “depressed”.  I have just allowed some sad thoughts to take precedence for a while. The insight about feeling lonely this morning has given me a nudge. Nudged me back towards the grounding that I get from understanding the principles. Reminded me that my sense of belonging is inside myself, its not something that comes from elsewhere, from my location.

The tears came from me reminding myself that I have everything I need inside myself. I just need to look there.

I find it very easy to be compassionate towards others, but not always to myself. I need to show myself the same love and understanding that I would give someone else. I need to find that beautiful feeling inside myself and radiate it out to others.

Then I will find my tribe. My roots will grow down into a solid foundation and I will not be lonely anymore. The foundation for those roots is inside me and not where I happen to live at the moment. Or anywhere else in the world. My roots travel with me wherever I go.

While I have been writing this blog, this song has been playing in my head. Bless Joni, a song for every occasion. I think its about searching outside for what is inside…”Will you take me as I am…?”

Choose your words…

Last night we had a Valentines treat. We went to the local cinema to watch the live transmission of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Twelfth Night. Ade Edmondson played Malvolio and Kara Tointon (ex EastEnders) was a stunningly beautiful Olivia.

It had everything. Comedy, cruelty, pathos, love, drunkenness, yellow stockings…but best of all…it had WORDS!

I love words, I love language. Last night I was reminded just how much I love Shakespeare’s words. OK I know there is some dispute about whether they are actually his words, but let’s set that aside for now!

His words wash over you in a glorious wave of clever wit and pithy asides that delight and entertain an audience, even if they struggle to understand the language of tudor times. His stories, of course, are always relevant. Twelfth Night with all its gender issues could so easily be adapted to a story of our time. Last nights version was set in Victorian times – another era when our English vocabulary was expanded and developed.

If you have a spare moment try a Google search for Victorian slang – my particular favourite is:

Bags o’ Mystery – An 1850 term for sausages, “because no man but the maker knows what is in them. … The ‘bag’ refers to the gut which contained the chopped meat.”

But I digress!

Another of my favourite wordsmiths is the journalist Dominic Sandbrook. I will often read his articles out loud to Nigel just to roll the words he uses around my tongue. Delicious!

My father was a typesetter. He worked in Fleet Street when I was small and when I was older set up his own business called Expert Composition. This was before the days of computers when print was cast in metal. He worked on huge linotype presses and even now I can recall the hot smell of the molten metal and the sound of the characters falling into place in the machine as he typed. It had a magic about it, watching him roll ink over the metal letters to produce long galleys of printed paper that needed to be proof read. I read really, really quickly and I attribute that to reading those long lines of print, checking for spelling mistakes and incorrectly placed punctuation. There is a drawback – even now as I read newspapers and printed books I want to annotate every error I find in the margin. And Facebook? Don’t even go there!

Both my mum and my dad were avid readers. I first read Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings at the tender age of 8 years old and I remember talking to my dad about it. I have read it many times since and still love it. Words are like oxygen to me.

We all know that words can affect us in many ways. They can wound, or they can heal. We throw them away without thought of where they may fall. At other times we agonise over every word we are going to use, picking them with great care. Maybe because we do not want to cause offence, or sometimes because we do.

I have always been aware of the power of words. My musical choices have often been influenced by a songwriter’s choice of lyrics. I have a song for every occasion! Usually by Joni Mitchell, who glues words together with emotion and passion, spinning them out on a thin melodic silver thread for us to cling to when drowning in our own heartfelt moments of sentiment.

Words link me to my past. Memories of my dad, of my angst-ridden-joni-listening moments in my teens. Times when I have not said the words that I was thinking out loud and then never got the chance. Whether they were to tell someone how much I loved them, or to stick up for myself when other people’s words cut me in half.

The power of words. Choose them wisely!

Anyway back to Shakespeare. Do you know how many phrases that we use today can be attributed to him? Every forsooth that you utter….I’m joking!

Here are just a few

Makes you think huh?

In a little humourous nod the the baird, this blog’s choice of song is from another play, or rather from a modern interpretation of one. Kiss me Kate, loosely based on The Taming of The Shrew. Enjoy!

This is dedicated….

Today is my husband’s 53rd birthday, our first in Morecambe.

On September 12th we will have been together for 15 years and married for 10 of them. We are planning to renew our vows and throw a party!

I have spent the day baking cakes for him to take to work at his new job tomorrow (a day late I know, but better late than never!), and preparing a special dinner for him, a throwback to the 80’s when the best place to eat was a Berni Inn – kind of an in joke with us.

Anyway, its been quite a year and I am feeling very sentimental – even more than usual! Haha!

For those of you who don’t know, we met on the internet in 2003 on a website called makefriendsonline.com. Although I had been using internet dating this was site where I went for reasonably intelligent conversation on message boards and at the time I was not really looking for anyone, having got used to being on my own with Zoe and quite liking it.

I got back from a holiday in Greece and there was a message in my in box. I looked and checked out his picture and thought he had a nice face so answered. Within a few days we were talking on the phone and within 2 weeks we met up for a meal in a pub. Six months later he moved in and 5 years to the day after we met we married in Bishops Stortford.

I gained a whole new ENORMOUS family who welcomed Zoe and I in with open arms. We actually met 18 members of his family at the same time! Now that was scary! But they are wonderful and I feel blessed.

Anyway, that’s our history.

I did think that maybe I should wait to write this blog until our anniversary, but it feels appropriate to write it now.

I was quite damaged when I met Nigel. Angry, bitter and frightened of my own shadow. Zoe and I between us really put him through the mill. He inadvertently paid for every actual and perceived hurt that either of us had suffered previously and he was required to prove himself many times over. But he is made of very strong stuff and here we are, together in our new home with a brand new life.

Its not all be rosy, like everyone, we have had our ups and downs, but we have always come through, usually with humour, always with love.

So on his birthday I just want to say a public thank you to Nigel, my husband and best friend.

Thank you for always being so strong, always being there for me to lean on. Thank you for all the love and laughter along the way and thank you for giving me the courage to start our new life in Morecambe. Thank you for your patience and the way you believe that I can do anything that I want! Thank you!

I can’t wait for the next 15 years! Its definitely getting better!

 

 

Conversations…

Last week I met a man that I shall call Billy.

We had a simple conversation over a mug of tea that lasted maybe 15-20 minutes but has had a profound impact on me.

Billy lives in the same town as me but inhabits a totally different world. His world is one of hardship, addiction, poverty, heartache, bullying and pain. But our conversation was full of hope, belief and determination. Quite frankly he put me to shame.

A bit of a confession. I have been feeling a little sorry for myself. After a glorious six months of realising a long-held dream and moving up here, living in our gorgeous house, discovering everything our new life has to offer, December was horrible. I spent a lot of time on my own, money was very tight, I missed my family and friends down south, my skies were grey. Whilst I was not regretting my move, I found myself doubting whether the life I envisaged for myself was possible after all.

After months of believing that I could do just about anything, be anybody that I wanted to be, the old doubting-Penny crept back and settled in beside me. She was whispering in my ear, and I was listening.

I heard her reminding me that I am not really good enough. That I am sitting on the outside looking in.  That I am not entitled to join in the party, that I am not invited. And who the hell am I to think that I can help other people? Coaching skills? Pah! What a fraud!

And my hair! What was I thinking? Going out in public when I am nearly bald? Get your wig back on woman! (Yes I know, she is very judgmental!)

Not only did I welcome that voice in, I fed it and watered it. Gave it the best seat in the house. While I sat frozen on my sofa, or laying in bed too long thinking and thinking and thinking….

I had moments of inspiration, walking to the bay and gazing at the beautiful water colour that is our home now. Spending time with one of my oldest friends and my newest. Listening to guides and teachers of my new understanding, reading books, searching for that calm place in my mind, that I know exists, but is sometimes drowned out by that voice and many others.

On New Year’s Day while Nigel was at work, I had a moment. A beautiful feeling washed over me as I sat in my quiet house with the dogs. And the voice I heard in that moment told me that everything was going to be ok. I instinctively evicted doubting-Penny and rejected the thoughts that she had been feeding me.

Over the last couple of weeks there have been several moments where my belief has strengthened. Practical moments, such as Nigel getting a new, full-time job and emotional moments inspired by love for my family and friends, or simply by the view from my office window. A quiet feeling of contentment has crept over me, restoring my faith in the future

Meeting Billy actually knocked me for six. Some of the things he told me horrified me. I did not feel judgmental, but his life is so outside of anything I have ever experienced that I felt shocked to my core. His story hurt my heart. My empathy for him made me tearful, sad and breathless.

But Billy did not need me to feel those things. He enjoyed our conversation and thanked me profusely for a good chat, shook my hand and said that he really hoped we could meet again soon. He is facing a stack of physical and emotional challenges that would floor you or I, including a possible leg amputation, with incredible positivity and resilience. I am humbled by this man.

On Saturday I worked with one of my first clients, who works for the charity I am volunteering for. He is a kind, inspirational, and devoted man who has forgotten how to relax, and does not see how amazing he is. Already I can see that I am helping. That makes me happy. I believe I can make a difference. And I don’t need coaching skills or certificates for that.

All it takes is a conversation.

And the hair? Well I made a very positive decision. I decided to see wearing my wigs as a positive thing instead of a negative one! So I got them out, washed and brushed them. Tried them on. Liked what I saw. Felt brave and determined. Have I worn them? No, not yet. But I will if I want. Because I can!

I am a seeker. Most of us are. For a long time I didn’t really know what I was looking for. But I think I have an inkling. I am looking for that beautiful feeling, and to share it with people along the way.

Fancy a chat?

Cause you give me something
That makes me scared, alright,
This could be nothing
But I’m willing to give it a try,
Please give me something
‘Cause someday I might know my heart.

New year. new vision…

 

This morning Facebook presented me with a memory, a link to my blog last New Years Eve. It was called “Ctrl-Alt-Del Happy New Year!” It reflected my thoughts about the positive side of the New Year reboot process, and ended with me promising to “level-up”

(You can read it here: http://whatpennydidnext.co.uk/2016/12/ )

This time last year we did already have our sights set on Morecambe as a home, albeit a different house, and here we are, safely ensconced in a better house, the right house, our Corner House.

As I said in my Christmas Eve video message, the year has been overwhelmingly positive, and I have shared that here and on Social Media. But there have also been difficulties and some lessons to be learned. But I guess life is one long lesson. Right?

As a coach I am encouraged to set goals for my clients. Encourage them to make plans, set out what they want to achieve over the next 12 months. Those goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. All well and good. But the problem with a SMART goal is there is another side to it. What happens if you don’t achieve that lofty goal. Failure. We all know how that feels! It smarts! (See what I did there? Haha!)

Many of us spend a lot of time feeling like a failure. In our lives, our jobs, our marriages, parenting….you name it, at one time or another we have felt that we have failed. Its horrible, and we are so so good at beating ourselves up about our failure. About letting other people down. About not being good enough. Or slim enough. Or clever enough. Or pretty enough.

Enough for what?

For someone else’s measure of us. Most people are so busy dealing with their own perceived lack of perfection that they do not have time to worry about our feelings.

We all sit in judgement from time to time. I am guilty of that sometimes, everyone does it. We don’t always like to admit it. I think it is about making us feeling better about ourselves. Usually it is tempered with compassion. For most people our caring genes kick in and we make allowances, try and help people who need helping. That is what really makes us feel better.

I have changed direction in my “career” to help people. After my own voyage of self-discovery that is what I realised I want to do. I want to help people feel better, feel happy, find contentment, find what makes them feel good. Without judgement, and not so that I can feel better, although I will!

This New Year I will create another vision board. Last year’s board had Morecambe plastered all over it. But this year there will have be no hard and fast goals on it. The vision, the feel, is what’s important to me. I want direction, a view with no final destination. No time limit. A good feeling that I can take and run with. The way I feel when I gaze out across the pastel hues of Morecambe Bay to the snow covered hills in Cumbria. The way I felt when I walked into this house in June. The way I felt when I walked down the aisle to marry Nigel just over 9 years ago.

In each of these situations there is/was a surrender to the moment. There is no goal in that moment. I am mindful. My mind is free of unhelpful thoughts, with space for vision and promise.

So, no resolutions or goals. Simply a desire to help others, a vision of the beauty of the current moment, a belief that good things are ahead of me. I will be mindful, kind and forgiving. The other things that I want and need will fall into place. I trust the universe.

Happy New Year to you and yours from me and mine, from The Corner House. I wish you peace, happiness and vision. In 2018 relish every moment, live in the moment, for the moment.

Remember, it’s the simple things…