It has been so long since I posted anything on my blog, more than a year. Which is strange because I think about my blog, a lot. I come up with ideas for my blog, a lot. But then I forget them and I sit in front of my screen every so often with the intention of writing and then…nothing. I can’t think of anything. The ideas, the subjects, its all gone.
I’ve been busy. That’s a bit of an understatement. Since last posting I have had a baby and my now-seven-month-old is napping next door in her room while I’m dusting off my blog and seeing where I am with it. Which is not far. At all!
I’m not one for making resolutions but I do tend to ponder my life and situation and review the areas where I want to make changes.
I don’t know about you, but I can get very nervous if I’m on my own with time stretched out before me. Anyone else been there? A bit of scheduled time where you will have time to yourself and then that thought hits you…what am I going to do?!
I call it The Fear.
That feeling that creeps up upon you until you feel like you’re drowning in panic when you have no plans, and there is no-one else around.
When I was younger, I remember saying to people – “I don’t get bored”. When challenged on this, I reassured them – “seriously, you could leave me on a chair for 5 hours on my own and I would not get bored”.
I wonder now what it was that so assured in my younger self that I would be totally happy with no-one but myself. But more than that. Totally happy with nothing but my thoughts.
Now the idea of being alone with nothing to do and no-one to talk to terrifies me.
But how often do we read or see articles about how to make the most of your limited time? How to multitask in life to achieve everything? How often do we feel strung out and need nothing more than a bit of rest time?
But if that time comes unexpectedly, you get The Fear. So here are a couple of relaxing – or at least therapeutic – activities to make the most of the ‘me’ time without getting The Fear:
Paint your nails – a relaxing, absorbing pastime that leaves you feeling and looking better. I dream of having perfectly manicured nails, and I always used to, but now I feel like I don’t have time. Well move aside vegetating on the sofa, these nails need doing! If nails aren’t your thing – just take a bath, or have some sort of pamper. You’re worth it!
[Note: do not do what I do. Paint nails when you have to be somewhere 30 minutes later…that just ends in tears / smudged nails]
Organise – we all have that one drawer (entire room of the house) that needs sorting. One of those, – four hours later, sat in a pile of papers – kinda sort-outs. But the thought of doing it can be daunting, and it’s one of those things that once you scratch the surface, you’re in it for the long-haul. However, set yourself this kind of challenge when you have time on your hands and you’ll not only be doing something productive but, more often than not, you’ll get engrossed in the task plus stumble across all those nik naks you forgot about.
Photographs – when I was younger I couldn’t wait to finish the film in my camera to go to the chemists (seriously, I was only born in the mid 80s but I sound so old!) to get it developed. Now those days have gone but I think its both a good and a bad thing. You upload your pictures off your SD card and onto your computer or external hard drive – all safe and sound but do you ever look at them?
Ever have those afternoons as a child where you stumble across faded pictures of your parents on the beach or old men who turn out to be your dad’s great uncle – those opportunities will pass us by if we don’t have hard copies of our pictures.
How about sort your photos into folders online, by date, and then upload onto a photo printing site like photobox and get them posted to you? You can pick up some cheap photo albums and spend a few free afternoons or evenings reminiscing whilst putting together some great albums of great times.
Indulge – this may differ for people, but I am the type of person who loves getting new toiletries and make-up, but confession time. I’m too scared to use them. Anything that is particularly nice or expensive I squirrel away as I want to keep it good. But why? Its such a waste. I used to do the same with new clothes – didn’t want to take the tag off them. How ridiculous. So I’d be wearing clothes I didn’t really like, cheap or old make-up and standard chemist-bought toiletries, all to ‘keep it good’! So indulge – take the cellophane wrapper off that make-up, pour yourself a bath and use that beautiful bath oil, light those expensive candles. Indulge.
Read a book – now I love reading, but when do you get the chance? Often we’ll feel guilty about sitting doing nothing but reading but do it! Reading exercises our mind and can be a really relaxing pastime.
Clean. Now a lot of you will be groaning at this, but have you ever gutted your house and then sat there feeling amazing? I love that feeling but I hate cleaning. I know this is about ‘me’ time, but some of the ‘me’ time is to actually put your time to good use. Taking care of your home, which is more often than not your biggest expense in your life, is worth the time and trust me – you’ll feel brilliant afterwards.
Reconnect – when you’re so busy and have work, life, family and financial commitments it can be easy to let those carefully nurtured friendships slip away. Use your ‘me’ time productively and reconnect with those people. Go through your phone or social media contacts list and send messages or call those that you haven’t spoken to in a while but want to stay a part of your life. I did this recently and contacted, and eventually met up with, three different people from my life who I don’t have mutual friends with and otherwise would never see. Its great and gives you new perspectives and new topics of conversation. So try it, just contact three people and see what rewards it brings.
Growing up is hard. And did anyone else find that you would come to certain conclusions about life, but way too late for them to have helped at the time when you needed that wisdom? There are lots of things that I wish I’d know before I was 30, but here are just some of them…
1. Its alright for people to dislike you (and for you to dislike them)
Think about your favourite kind of food – not everyone will like it. And that’s ok. Everyone’s tastes are different. Same with people. There are people that just will not like you because you’re not to their taste.
I spent a long time trying to ensure that everyone liked me, particularly at work. I would pass only very neutral opinions to ensure that I would not offend or polarise anyone…and then I realised I wasn’t being myself. I was prioritising other people’s opinions of me over my own opinion of me. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I have consciously been working on this since I realised what a disservice I was doing to myself. Why water yourself down so much that you are basically non-descript? I’d rather be disliked for being myself than liked for being nobody.
2. Nothing matters as much as people
This is something that I have learned the hard way. My brother was my best friend and we spent a lot of time together as children, through our teenage years and well into our twenties. He was diagnosed when we were young with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which he battled valiantly until he was just a few weeks short of his 30th birthday. In the last few weeks we talked a lot but I don’t remember clearly telling him how much I loved and adored him. However, on the flipside – it is easy for people to say those things in the last days of a loved ones’ life, but I know that we spent a lot of time together growing up, I took care of him in any way he needed, and he took care of me too. And in my heart of hearts I hope that that showed him how much I loved and adored him; I showed him in every way I could over the years we had together.
Never waste a moment.
3. You will never have this day again
It sounds very clichéd but it is so true. This is your one chance. Today will never come again. Do you ever read those stories when people say they were made redundant, or their house burned down or some major life event took place that forced them into a new life? And how they wouldn’t trade anything for the life they have now? Well, they had a catalyst that forced that change, and that change meant their lives took on a whole new direction, or meaning. But what about the rest of us? Do we need something awful or difficult to happen to force us to take that risk and open the sandwich shop we’ve always dreamed of owning? Or to move to the beach and become a writer? No. Grab this day with both hands, work out what it is you want from life and make that change without being forced to.
4. People can be transient
I have spent countless wasted years on people who shouldn’t be in my life. A friend from secondary school, people I used to work with, friends of friends that I’ve met. Reflecting recently, I came to the conclusion that I’ve maintained friendships for no reason other than nostalgia, or trying to be ‘agreeable’. I had a friend in secondary school who I used to spend time with, go on holiday with and really who I grew up with, but honestly? She was a terrible person. She talked about people behind their backs, manipulated people using things they’d told her in confidence, and put herself before anyone else in her life. Yet I held on, clinging on and – most scarily – being tarred with the same brush (as my mum would say)! Looking back, I’ve tried hard with people to ensure that I don’t lose touch with them, and then realised that that’s what I am meant to be doing. As the quote conveys, there are people in your life for the long run, people in their for the short run, and people to help you change direction. Holding on too tight to the wrong people will hold you back, can make you unhappy and ultimately, stop you from taking your life in the direction it should be going in.
5. Your job isn’t everything
I had gone through school, then university and then started my career aged 22 in a very competitive field. I pushed hard and moved up – setting myself the target of a certain job title by the time I turned 30. I was so proud when I hit that target nearly one year early. Oh yeah, but I was miserable. The job I had worked hard for was in a company run by an unpleasant woman, who lied and cheated her way forward in the world. The company was filled with unsaid threats and the feeling that someone would be to blame for any mistakes, and whose turn would it be this time? It was awful. Honestly? I think I knew that quite quickly, but I’d resigned from my previous job and helped find the replacement…there was no going back. So I trudged on, home late every night in tears to my boyfriend.
When I got engaged one weekend, on my return to work I was greeted with at most, grunts of congratulations, and at worst? Open panic that I’d be wanting time off for the honeymoon and also that I would (incorrectly) be pregnant immediately and let them all down by going on maternity. Other girls who fell pregnant were asked to hide their bumps under baggy clothing and not stand to greet clients in case they gave the game away. How sad that in important events in your life, you are made to feel ashamed or embarrassed. This is when I realised that this company did not care in the slightest about the welfare of its staff, just itself. And as a result? I resigned less than a year after landing my ‘dream’ job, which turned out to be a nightmare. Hot on my heels followed every other member of staff from my department except two. I went to a much more junior role in my old job – and do you know what? I was so much happier and realised that your job really isn’t everything. You work to live, not live to work.
6. Your mum is usually right
Another cliché, I know, but mostly true. Think of where you are now compared to 10 years ago. How much more do you know now? How much more experience do you have to draw from. Think about it, your mum usually has at least 20-30 years head start on you in the whole ‘life’ business, listen to her advice. That is all.
7. Treasure Yourself
I have never particularly held myself in high regard. I feel like I see the unique brilliance of all those people around me in my life; their strength, their compassion, their resilience, but I never saw much of interest in myself. But stop. Take a step back and take a good, long look at yourself as if you were another person who you loved. I realised then, that I was actually a good person. I take care of those around me, I support people in any way I can, and do you know what? I have talents. I just never saw any of it in myself, particularly when you’re growing up and all you see are the features that other people have which makes you feel their absence in your range of skills and traits.
Anyone ever see Gok Wan’s How to Look Good Naked? He would speak to someone who is uncomfortable with their body, and don’t like what they look like. He would then paste a giant billboard of them in underwear(!) in a public place; a station, an exhibition, a bar. He would then ask passers-by what they thought of the person on the billboard. And do you know what? It was always positive – ‘they have great legs’, ‘they have a great bust’, ‘their hips are fantastic’…But why couldn’t the person in the billboard see those traits in themselves? We are programmed from a very young age to doubt ourselves, and reject the skin that we’re in for the idea of a better body, longer legs, paler skin or straighter hair. Don’t fall for it. Treasure yourself, inside and out.
8. The grass is not always greener
This is a phrase my parents used on me a lot growing up. I was constantly comparing my life to those around me, and making myself feel worthless in the process. My parents had a very strong view on envy/ jealousy – it was wrong. You should be happy with what you have, and not spend your time focusing on other people’s lives instead of the one you’re in. There were so many people that I looked to, that I wished I had a life like theirs, but on closer inspection? They have their own trials and tribulations that no-one else gets a glimpse of. Nothing is as it seems, particularly in a time now when everything has an added filter, an optimum shooting angle and is carefully selected to help portray the kind of life we think we should be living. Water your own grass, and it will be greener on your side.
9. 30 really isn’t that old…
Growing up, 30 sounded ancient to me. I remember when my mum turned 40 – my oldest brother bought her a troll (remember those?!) that had grey hair and a t-shirt on that said “40 isn’t old if you’re a tree”. In fact, 40 isn’t old if you’re a person either. Imagine thinking at 40 that you’re old or passed it…and then live until you’re 95 like my Gran did! You weren’t even halfway through your life and you’d stopped trying and written yourself off…
I’m 30, and do you know what? I feel – and behave – the same as when I was 25, when I was 20, and most probably when I was 15 years years old as well. Remember: ‘you will never be as young again as you are today’.