Change (Part 2)

In Change (Part 1), I wrote about the importance of living life. How life was too precious and too short to plod along, and how sometimes it takes a life changing event to give us the wake up call we so badly need.

In Change (Part 2), I want to share with you, my readers, how a heartbreaking, life changing moment has lead to to so much positive change. I hope that the next time any one of us suffers heartache, that by reading this, it gives you hope that good things can, and will, happen to you again.

Losing B triggered so many changes in my life. As much as I hate not having her by my side, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone through the heartache of losing her.

The key thing to note here, is that although I firmly know what my trigger to change was, I didn’t know that at the time. It was only when I looked back that I could see this. 

The first major change happened just over two years after B left us. My relationship with my then boyfriend had been deteriorating since B’s funeral. Shortly after we said our goodbyes to B, my now ex, asked me not to speak about her anymore. Needless to say, I was shocked and confused, especially as I was given no explanation at the time, other than ‘she’s gone and you need to move on’. Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t leave there and then, or at least to try to get a better understanding of what he meant by this, but I just remember feeling too drained to argue. It upset me deeply as I knew in my heart that I still had a lot of grieving to do, or at least to try to come to terms with my loss. I wanted to talk about B, the memories I had of her, and how I felt now that the one person I hoped would be with me for every major event in my life, was no longer going to be there.

I had to find another way to ‘get by’.

So instead, I found solace in spending time on my own, It was at this time that I found comfort in my garden. I had always loved gardening, but from that moment, I would spend hours pottering around outside, lost in my own thoughts. It helped a lot. I could go out there and spend hours thinking about nothing or everything. Finding so much therapy in my garden also lead me to consider a career change. Shortly after, I signed up to an evening class in Horticulture.  It was on this course that I met two of my dearest friends, Kim and Kelly, who played an instrumental part in making me realise how unhappy I was at home, and how much shit I was putting up with. Talking to them helped me find the strength and courage to realise that I deserved better.

People often ask me why I didn’t leave him sooner. And the truth? Part of me was wrapped up in that small town mentality of thinking that by my age I should be thinking about weddings and babies (because thats what everyone else was doing), and not starting again from scratch. The other part of me knows that I had to grieve for B before I could put my own relationship back onto the radar. It wasn’t until a year had passed since her death, that I finally started to refocus on my relationship, and I suddenly realised how selfish and controlling he had become.

Further to my new found friendship with Kim and Kelly, it was a chance encounter with someone I vaguely knew, that finally made me start to rebuild some of the self-confidence I had lost over the six years I had been with my ex. Not only did he make me realise I was good at my job, but he also made me realise that I was a lovely, caring person who had a lot going for her. He gave me my sparkle back.

So one morning, four years ago, I woke up and decided that enough was enough. On that very same day, I walked away from my ex, the house we had brought together and had lived in for the last 3 years, and temporarily, my beloved cat Wiggler.

It wasn’t plain sailing of course, but these things never are. And needless to say, things got much worse before they got better. But step by step, I started to rebuild myself, improving my self care, my self worth and rebuilding my confidence.

With new found confidence, I began throwing myself into work, improving my networks, and talking to people who genuinely cared about my wellbeing. With this new found confidence creeping in, I started to get recognised for my work, which then triggered another change…

6 months after I left my relationship, I started getting itchy feet at work. I loved my job, but there was no chance at that time of an internal promotion and as it was only a small organisation, there was nowhere else for me to go with the skillset I had.  So, I started looking around at other jobs with my industry. A chance phone call lead to me being informed that an opportunity had arisen in London, and would I fancy going there to fix some of their problems? I was terrified, but I had nothing to lose. Even if it didn’t work out, it was only an initial 6 month secondment…

A few months later, I found myself waving goodbye to my family and moving down to Surrey to begin with (the thought of commuting from Northampton to South West London on a daily basis did nothing for me, especially as back then I struggled to function until 11 in the morning! Some would argue that even after 11 was a challenge!), and another six months later, London itself.

I had never lived or worked outside of Northamptonshire. I had grown up there, gone to university there, and even brought my first home there. If truth be told, I had never really thought about leaving.

Yet, three years later, here I find myself, living and working in London, and loving every minute. Thankfully a decision I have never once regretted.

There were other life changing moments even further back that I am sure also contributed to my move to London.

I was in my mid 20s when I learnt to drive. However, being in a controlling relationship meant that I was not ‘trusted’ to drive. Because of this, I had never driven on the motorway and had become fearful of it. Once the relationship had ended, I started to panic about the fact I was restricting myself by not driving on the motorway. I gave into that panic, jumped in my car and drove myself and a friend to Birmingham to see a show. My friend commended me on my driving ability and this then gave me the courage to visit more places, forcing myself to drive on the motorway more often. This was only the start of my motorway journey. If I only I had known back then how useful the motorway would become over the next few years (with the exception of National Rail, the M25 and the M1 are my most direct roads back home to see my friends and family)…

Turning 30 had been another trigger for change. I had dreaded turning 30. I felt nowhere near ready to live a grown up life. I was nowhere near marriage, especially as a new singleton, and I couldn’t have found myself any further away from having kids.  I found myself putting so much pressure on myself to conform to the ‘norm’. Little did I know that my 30s would turn out to be a hell of a lot more liberating and exciting than I ever imagined it could be…

I hope this goes a little way to show how life changing moments can lead to positive change. Sometimes life changing moments are deemed as the norm, like learning to drive, or changing jobs. However, I think it is really important to recognise that positive life changes can also happen after loss. It can take a lot of time, self reflection, and a whole load of courage, but I truly believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

I am certain that if we hadn’t lost our B, that I may not have left my relationship when I did, which could’ve then altered the destinations I visited en-route to where I am today. And that my dear readers, is not something I would be too keen to change…

 

 

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!

 

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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