Friendship

I have been thinking a lot lately about friendship and what it means to me.

I don’t have a large circle of friends. More pockets of friends whom I have met at different times in my life.

There are those I have known and still meet up with from as far back as nursery, infant and junior school, those who I grew up with in the same village, those I met at secondary school, and in sixth form. Then there are those I met at university, and whilst we struggle to meet up, we all still look out for each other and would be there at the drop of a hat if any of us needed anything. There are those I have met through work, friends of friends, evening classes. The opportunity to make and meet new friends is endless.

But what about friends we have never met?

Do you need to have met someone in person in order to claim them as one of your dearest friends? To share with them your greatest fears? For them to be amongst the first people to share  your successes with?

I have been friends with Laura since the late 90s. We met on a message board for one of our favourite bands (we were both slightly crazy for Another Level at the time!). We clicked instantly. Overtime we became closer and closer. Communications changed. We  moved from the message board to writing letters, emailing, texting, and more recently, to Whatsapp.

Laura has been there through every break up, every family drama, every huge life event (the good and the bad).

At the same time I moved to London, Laura moved to Australia. We don’t speak as often as we used to, but I still think of her a lot, and I know that if either of us needed someone to talk to, we would be there for one another.

There are so many times we could’ve met up before she moved to Australia, but for whatever reasons, we didn’t. I almost wonder whether we feared that meeting up in person would ruin our friendship somehow. Perhaps we feared that the bond we had on paper, wouldn’t be there in person. We will probably never know.

I met another girl on the message board too. Julie. Who lives in Taiwan. We have lost contact a number of times over the years, but we always find each other again. We shared a lot about our families and found so much happiness in talking about our different cultures. These days we mostly stay in touch on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s lovely to see what she gets up to, in a world that is very different to my own, yet it’s a world where we share the same values.

Do you have friends you have never met? Friends who know more about you than anyone else, without ever having met face to face? I would love to hear your experiences, feel free to leave comments on your friendships below.

 

Whittlebury Hall

Yesterday I treated mum to a spa day at Whittlebury Hall. Whilst I have been a few times before, mum had never been, and it was nice to finally be able to treat her.

We were both ready for a day of rest and relaxation, and what better way to unwind than in the beautiful grounds of Whittlebury Hall.

Things got off to a slightly disappointing start.

There was an incredibly tetchy lady on reception when we arrived who seemed to find it a complete inconvenience when we kindly enquired as to whether we could move our lunch time from 2pm to 1pm. This idea seemed completely absurd to her, and in the end, it was easier to keep lunch at 2pm rather than to create a scene.

Thankfully, that was the only negative to the spa day.

The facilities at Whittlebury are beautiful. Everything is immaculate but not pretentious, which is refreshing.

Mum, who often feels quite self-conscious parading around the poolside on holiday in her swimming costume, felt completely at ease at Whittlebury and found the whole experience quite liberating.

We opted for the Autumn Rewind Spa Day for Two package (£99 for two), which included full use of The Leisure Club, full use of the Heat and Ice Experience, a Two Course Buffet Lunch, and an inclusive 25 minute treatment.

Towels and dressing gowns are provided on arrival, and fresh, warm towels if needed throughout the day can be sought from reception for no added fee.

We both opted for the ESPA  Soothing Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage for our 25 minute treatment. Mum loved it, and said it was just what she needed after a busy few weeks. Whilst I enjoyed my massage, the Deep Tissue Elemis Back Massage I had on a previous visit, will take some beating (the knots in my back are so big I think the only way to tackle them is to go deep!).

The Heat and Ice Experience also takes some beating. With a hydrotherapy pool, an aromatherapy crystal steam room, experience showers & foot spas, a caldarium, an ice cave, a samarium, a tepidarium, and a traditional sauna, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

At Whittlebury.com they suggest a bathing plan to get the best out of the heat and ice experience, however, it is just as enjoyable without using the plan.

The buffet lunch is lovely, and whilst there are plenty of healthy options, there are a wide variety of dishes for everyone to enjoy. Whilst we tucked into chicken with rice and vegetables, there were vegetarian alternatives, cold meats, jacket potatoes and salad for those wishing to have a lighter bite. The tomato soup for starter is also worth a special mention. I rarely opt for soup as a starter, but it was so delicious, I could’ve eaten a whole load more than I did. There was complimentary water with lunch, however, for those who fancy something a little more exotic, there are cocktails, wine, beers and hot beverages to chose from for an additional cost.

After a late lunch we got changed and headed for home.

I would highly recommend a trip to Whittlebury Hall. Whilst we only experienced the facilities available for the day spa package, there are other things to enjoy within Whittlebury Park. In addition to the spa facilities, there is a hotel, restaurants, conference facilities, and a golf course. On top of that it is a great venue for weddings, and the hall is also popular with partygoers who visit for the vast array of party nights the venue has to offer.

I would also recommend visiting the spa on a weekday. There are far fewer people there during the week compared to weekends, meaning that accessing the facilities is a lot easier. We rarely shared the sauna and steam room with anyone else throughout the day, which also meant we could have a good old natter as well as relax.

By the time we reached home, we felt rested and cleansed…at least we did until we realised we were locked out of the house…at least we were relaxed enough not to mind too much!

 

Kids

Having travelled up to the family home for a week, to recover from a crazy summer of work and city life, it has given me the opportunity to catch up with family and friends, and to play ‘Auntie’ to their kids.

I don’t have kids. Neither do my two brothers.

My brothers not having kids is probably less surprising. My brothers are twins, one of which is gay and doesn’t want children, and the other has cerebral palsy, although given the opportunity, I am pretty sure he would’ve had plenty (he’s possibly the biggest flirt I have ever seen!).

I am probably the more surprising one.

Earlier today I was twirling my friends 11 month old boy around the living room making him grin from ear to ear. Later on, we picked her 3 year old daughter up from pre-school, and then went back to play with Play Doh.

I love kids. But the thought of having my own children scares the daylights out of me.

I have also never had the burning desire that so many women get, to have them.

If I found myself pregnant, at the age of 34, I would probably find myself dealing with it. But if I don’t have kids, I don’t think it would leave me devastated. I fear that this sounds selfish. And I don’t mean it to.

I have friends who’s lives have been turned upside down by going through the pain of struggling to conceive. I also have friends who have suffered miscarriages and had to some how find the strength to carry on. I’ve seen the struggles my parents have been through in bringing up three children, one of which has severe mental and physical disabilities (despite still being the life and soul of the party).

Maybe having witnessed some of this first hand has made me ridiculously realistic. Not every pregnancy is easy. And not every child is born ‘ok’.

Sometimes I struggle to adult, let alone parent. I work long hours, and often find myself in the pattern of work, eat, sleep, repeat. How do you even begin to fit children into that cycle?

I also love time to myself. Again, that might sound selfish, but it’s my coping mechanism for many things. I need ‘me time’ to function. And if this was no longer an option? What then?

I need sleep. I often have disturbed nights sleep now and feel wretched the next day. How would I feel if there was a constant stream of disturbed nights, followed by early mornings watching kids tv?

And don’t even mention kids soft play centres. The thought of going to those fills me with terror.

For many years I put myself under pressure thinking that I had to conform to the ‘norm’. To meet someone, fall in love, get married, move in, and have children.

But as a close friend of mine said a few months ago, that’s such an old fashioned way of thinking. Just because many of my friends have chosen to follow this route (and yes, I am also well aware that my body clock is ticking), it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the path that works best for me.

I think friends and family often think I will change my mind. Maybe I will one day.

But for now, I am more than comfortable with the fact that I may not have children of my own.

I also feel reassured that in this day and age, even if one day I do get that ‘pang’, there are plenty of other opportunities available to women who decide to have children later in life…

Kicking Imposters Butt

Last night I managed to stop the little blighters from attack!

Who are the little blighters I hear you ask?

That would be the Imposters. The the little nagging voices in my mind that try to tell me I am a fraud.

However, for the first time, I fought back. There was no way I was going to let them win this time.

For the last 6 months or so I have been attending Board meetings, either to report back to board on a particular subject or in my brief stint as joint acting CEO (in between the old CEO leaving and the new one starting, in case you wondered why it was so brief…). This was a challenge of epic proportion in the beginning. We had a brand new board and I wasn’t particularly keen on public speaking, but it went ok and the Board seemed to appreciate my being there.

However, last night’s meeting was the first one with our new CEO in attendance. In addition, we were joined by a member of the wider team, who was there to provide a report linked to my section of the meeting.

I felt a little bit of pressure with the new CEO being in there, but for some reason, the thing that nearly released the imposters ready for an invasion, was the confidence that oozed out of my other colleague. He completely smashed his report, the Board loved him, and I walked away thinking he had done a much better job than me. On top of that  I started to convince myself that maybe the Board would now think our senior management team would benefit from him being part of the team rather than me.

I was proud of my colleague, but also a little bit envious. He had presented with so much ease. He was clear, concise and had wrapped the room around his little finger.

On the journey home, I tried to remember some of the skills my coach had taught me in one of our earlier sessions. One of the tactics we had spoken about was to think of positive things that had happened to me during that day in order to quash the imposters. It was far from easy. I genuinely thought I hadn’t done anything well.

But then I got a grip of myself, and within minutes I was compiling a mental list of all the things that had gone well.

Later on in the evening, I received a text from my CEO congratulating me on my update and saying it had been a “really authoritative update…“. Automatically my mind told me this was negative! What did he mean by authoritative?? Did this mean I came across as bossy? Rude even? I have to admit, for someone who has a good understanding of the English language, and is attempting to blog, I had to google the word to fully understand what it meant in this context. I cursed myself afterwards for thinking so negatively. Of course it wasn’t negative. It was a compliment. And a bloody good one at that!

I guess part of the battle is being aware of the imposters. I was annoyed at myself for having almost let those negative thoughts take over. However, I am also incredibly proud of myself for having recognised that they were creeping in, and before they could take over, I was able to find a quick solution to kicking their little squidgy butts.

They are now firmly locked back up in their cage, allowing me to crack on with my weekend, without a dark cloud, or an imposter in sight, or mind…

Happy Friday everyone!

Solitude

As I get older, I find myself enjoying my own company more and more. I wonder if this is an age thing, or even a female thing, but I know its certainly something that crept up on me and took me by surprise.

Pre-London, I would be quite happy to spend time doing my own thing, but this was limited to doing my own thing at home. If I had the house to myself, I would find myself enjoying gardening, baking or reading, but I was never on my own once I left the house.

This may’ve been the result of having a controlling monster of a boyfriend at the time, who insisted on going everywhere with me. I didn’t really know what it felt like to be on my own outside the house, therefore I didn’t miss it or even know that I needed it perhaps.

Moving to London was the first time I really ever found myself on my own. With few friends here, and the nature of my job resulting in making more enemies than friends in the early days, I spent a lot of time alone.

Maybe it was living in London that made me realise I had the freedom to be alone. All of a sudden, I found I was dining out alone, going for long walks on my own, sitting in the park on my own, or even going to the cinema on my own. And I was was enjoying it.

None of this had felt possible back home.

But in London, lots of people were doing the same thing, and therefore perhaps I felt less self conscious about doing things on my own. It was more acceptable. But was it really a London thing? Maybe I had just changed? Grown up a bit? Realised that time alone didn’t have to be isolating? In fact, maybe I had realised that I really, really needed time alone.

Sometimes being on my own did make me feel isolated in the early London days. For a short time, I shared a flat with a random guy who was either never at home, or sprawled across the couch eating out of a takeaway carton. I spent a lot of time sitting in my room with my door shut, working until midnight, because I had nothing else to do, with the exception of going on the odd date (thank god for Tinder back then!) or seeing the occasional friends for dinner.

I now find myself with Ali, my boyfriend of nearly two years. In the early days we were inseparable, and hated time apart. We moved in together after 6 weeks (partly due to the random flat share guy mentioned above who developed a completely irrational moth obsession!!), but mostly because we wanted to spend every waking moment with each other (when we weren’t at work of course!).

So it was pretty hard to admit a few months ago that I needed some space. We were cooped up in a 1 bedroom flat and quite frankly it was getting too much. There was a moment when I thought the relationship had had its day, but then it dawned on me, I just needed some ‘me’ time. Some solitude in between work and my boyfriend coming home, or making the most of the weekends he is working and I am off.

This weekend, I treated myself to a 3 day weekend. Mostly because I needed to switch off from work for a few days, however, it also meant that I could spend some time with Ali, whilst also having a day to myself once he went back to work today. It was lovely spending time together, but I was also really looking forward to spending time by myself today.

I sometimes get nervous about going out on my own, but I don’t let that stop me. There are also places I wouldn’t go to on my own, so I save those for the days me and Ali have off together, or for the weekends my family or friends come to visit.

So today, I took myself off to Chelsea Physic Gardens, somewhere I had been wanting to visit since I realised they existed earlier this year. I couldn’t have chosen a better day to go. Although its September, the weather has been perfect, with clear blue skies and so much warmth still in the sun. Yet the leaves on the trees are just starting to turn, exciting the eyes and the senses in preparation for what is to come in the autumnal weeks ahead. I had never visited gardens on my own before, but I really enjoyed it. Lost in a world of medicinal plants, with the sun on my skin, enjoying my own thoughts. I took time to read the information boards around the gardens, noting the names of the plants and where in the world they were from. I also took time just to feel present. Admiring the plants and the autumn light pouring through the trees. Tasting the delicious goats cheese tart salad, and the amazingly incredible mouth watering almond and fruit frangipane.

A moment of solitude was just what the soul needed.

Onions

Rumour has it…I’m an onion.

Over the last few months at work, members of the senior management team (myself included) have been receiving professional coaching from a lovely lady called Beth. My sessions with Beth are pretty epic. Sometimes I think they are more like therapy sessions then coaching sessions. Either way, I seem to need them. It s great way to offload and in the process I am learning a lot about myself.

During Beth’s last visit, I was described as an onion. Not because I smell like one (thankfully), but because I have lots of layers. Ironic, when people in my past have said they like for my simple nature. I’m far from simple. I know that. But being described as an onion!?! I’m not sure I saw that as much of a compliment, but it does make sense.

Admittedly, I do show some random characteristics and behaviours.

I am unable to accept compliments for one. We have explored many possible reasons why this may be. However, we have drawn a blank on this one and parked it for now.

As much as it is sometimes nice to draw a conclusion about things and to put behaviours in a box, sometimes, we just have to give into the fact that we don’t know the root cause, it is just the way it is (for now at least). Despite not knowing the cause for this behaviour, it is still an area I am working on.

It is my natural instinct to reply to a compliment with a negative.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, my friend complimented me on my driving skills. Instead of thanking her, my reaction was to laugh and tell her that she was only person to think that (most people aren’t that kind about my driving).

Why do I struggle to thank people?

I am however, becoming more aware of this. Now when someone compliments me, I automatically go to respond with a negative, but I am learning to pause, realising the comment is complimentary, and although I don’t respond immediately, after a pause, I am slowly learning to say thank you and leave the negative response parked in the corner. Overtime, I hope the length of the pause will shorten, but for now, I am grateful that I am at least noticing the behaviour, and working to resolve it.

I think the most life changing characteristic we have identified is the fact that I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I have possibly suffered with imposter syndrome for much of my adult life without realising it. I can think back to a number of times when I would receive a negative comment about my performance, and I would let this fester away in my mind for days. The only way I can describe it was like having a dark cloud over my head that I just could not shift.

I don’t tend to get the dark cloud as much anymore, but more worrying in some ways, I can feel my heart racing, which comes with a dull ache in my chest and a kind of sinking feeling.

Part of me is grateful at being ‘diagnosed’ with having imposter syndrome. Giving a name to the sinking feeling took a lot of weight off my shoulders, and made me feel a little less like I was going insane. For those of you who may not have heard of imposter syndrome, neither had I until my first coaching session. In short it is a fear of being found out to be a fake or a fraud, that our achievements are based on some type of fraudulent behaviour, as opposed to actually just being really good at what we do.

Imposter syndrome for me comes in waves. It is not something I suffer with all the time. My trigger seems to be other people’s comments. I have recently come out of a particularly bad wave of imposter syndrome, triggered by one persons comments, which then made me doubt myself. I had the ‘sinking’ feeling for around three weeks in the end. And quite frankly, it was exhausting. It was all I could think about. It affected my performance at work and my mood at home. It was demoralising and made me feel horrendous.

I am working with some new techniques to deal with this. My current trend goes something like this:

Trigger  > Reaction > Perspective

The ultimate goal is to avoid the trigger. However, in the meantime, I am trying to work on:

Trigger > Perspective > Reaction

The aim is for the reaction not to be as long lasting, or in fact, not to be there at all. By putting perspective into the trigger first of all, I should then be able to see that the comment wasn’t necessarily a dig at me, but could’ve purely been the result of someone else’s bad day, or simply realising that there was truth in the comment, but there are solutions in order to fix the problem. Fixating on other people’s comments is not healthy.

Ironically, the individual who made the comment that set off my last trigger, doesn’t even know the impact it had on me.

Eventually of course, I rationalised things, and realised that the reason I reacted so badly was because I already knew I wasn’t performing at my best in a particular area of work, I didn’t need someone else to tell me this. But, as they say, truth hurts. And it did. For three god damn weeks…

Family time

After a hectic week at work, I returned home this weekend to spend some much needed time with the family.

I love living in London, but I am slowly learning that I need to take regular breaks from the chaos that comes with living and working in the city.

As soon as I reach the M1 the air changes, as does the scenery. With that my mind clears, the stress lifts and I feel energised.

Although we are now in September, the weather was beautifully warm this weekend, which also meant getting lots of sunshine.

When I first used to return home after moving to London, I would pack my weekends full, catching up with friends as well as family. However as much as I want to see everyone, it just wasn’t physically sustainable. I would return to London feeling more tired than when I left. By the middle of the week I would be frazzled and felt far from rested. So now, as much as I still feel guilty at times, I try to have a weekend of seeing family or friends, rather than both.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to escape from the city this weekend. Sitting at home in my parents garden, I switched off from work and just enjoyed sitting in the garden, letting the sunshine soak into my skin, eating good food, and catching up with my family.

I felt truly relaxed, a feeling I haven’t enjoyed in weeks.

And now, sitting back in my London flat, enjoying a glass of wine, I feel rested and relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead.

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