· Stories,Nature Connection,Present moment,Gratitude,Thoughts

“Every thought we have is causing constriction or expansion.” – Dr Michael Gervais

The stories we tell ourselves and the thoughts that we have can have great power over our life experience. This is difficult to share as it is still raw but I want to share it before I have fully processed it with the hope that it may resonate with others. I’ll admit I have been struggling. Moments of self care have been sparse and scarce. Somebody always seems to want something of me. I feel exhausted. Almost everyone I know seems to be away, with social media full of photos apparently showing me what feels lacking from my life: space for myself; willing grandparents on tap to help; exotic holidays and so on. The story I have been weaving for myself is that I am on my own, life is a struggle and everybody else is having a great time. Not only have I been telling myself this, I have been believing it. Holding on ever tighter in this time of stress, white knuckling it; my life constricting with my unhelpful thoughts. As I write this down, I can see the ridiculousness of it and yet it feels all too true until challenged.

I am now challenging it. I’m sitting up and paying attention to myself. Old habits are hard to banish and change for new ones. I realise that in the busy maelstrom of almost entirely solo parenting and working amidst the school summer holidays I have lost my way – or in fact found myself on a well worn path that I’d hoped I wouldn’t go down again. I didn’t notice until it had gone very dark around me, causing me to finally stop and check the map. The well worn route is that the harder things get the more I hold on, gripping ever tighter, at the same time retreating into myself and away from others, feeling that I am alone. I convince myself, rather unhelpfully, that it is just me that is not coping and that others would be able to do it just fine and have life sorted. This is the narrative that plays on a loop inside my head. Interestingly about 80% of our thoughts are apparently repeated, ruminating on them like cows on grass. Living this way is not sustainable, and I think was a contributing factor to me getting ill before with slipped discs in my neck, I just wasn’t looking after myself. Once more I realise that I haven’t been taking care of myself. No one else is going to if I don’t. Again, I learn the hard way with a kick up the pants. I’m listening now. I have found myself in this dark place but this time I have noticed it much sooner and I’m doing something about it by shining some light there. I need to stop to be able to see it clearly.

First remember to breathe, deeply. No one actually needs me right now in this moment. Second, get myself a cup of tea, stop rushing around and savour it. Consciously, I change the tone of my inner voice, from worst enemy to kind friend – the way I would speak to anyone else. I sit outside and watch the clouds; breathe the scent of lavender on the breeze and listen to the wind rustling the leaves in the trees that sound dry from lack of water. I focus on the sensations in my body that I have been unconsciously ignoring as I held on: the tense ache in my shoulders; the clenched pit in my stomach; the dull pain in my heart, and I acknowledge and allow them to be there. I promise myself that I am listening now and will take care of myself, protect my boundaries and tend to my own needs as well as everyone else’s. This is phase one.

Phase two is recognising just how much I do have. Turn the story of lack on its head and realise all the good that exists in my life. It is so easy to focus on the difficulty, the suffering, the perceived deficiency (no exotic holiday; no grandparents nearby; no husband here and so on) rather than the wealth. Abundance and lack exist together, as Glenda Cedarleaf says, “It is always our choice what secret garden we will tend.” With the stories I have been telling myself I have been tending the wrong garden. I am now looking after the right one, gently noticing the good in each moment and feeling the gratitude expand. I love my children. I watch them as they finally sleep just before I flop into bed myself. Being their mum is hard but it is also a joy and a privilege. In all those years of trying to conceive, I remember now how it felt to think I may never have this. I am grateful, truly grateful, to have my children. I am grateful for all that my body can do. A year ago, I was in chronic constant pain and largely housebound. This week we literally hung out with our friends in the treetops on a high ropes course; a major achievement that I could not have dreamt of whilst ill. I am grateful for my eyes, my ears and all my senses that allow me - when I pay attention - to connect more fully in any moment. I am deeply thankful for my friends, especially right now the one who coaxed me out to the treetops and never doubts what I can do, thank you Deb. These angels who appear in my life when I am stuck, down or lost. I am thankful for where I live, that I have access to wild swimming - well, more accurately wild floating, allowing the cool water to hold me. For all this abundance, I stop and give a truly heartfelt, yet gentle, thank you.

Gratitude is a gift, a powerful way of accessing joy no matter how subtle, in each moment. If comparison is the thief of joy, then gratitude is the bringer of joy. This mental thanksgiving can unlock the present moment, forestalling future worrying. I have chosen to tell a different story, one could have a happy ending. I commit to continue these moments of stopping, breathing, connecting, whenever I can. Alongside this, I will deepen my self care, filling up the cup which has become depleted leaving only dregs left in the bottom. The wild, my happy place, is calling me. I plan to unhook from tech as much as I can over the next two weeks, including a break from this blog, to feel the sunlight (or rain) on my skin and take the time needed to rewrite my story.

See you then for the next chapter, and in the meantime, I wish you well.

Clare x

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