Tag Archives: advice

Bend me, I won’t break

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Bend me, I won’t break

I think we all have moments when we worry about our physical abilities – after an accident or injury, after too many drinks (!), when pregnant, when especially tired. For the most part, these are well founded fears – our brain’s way of keeping us safe and uninjured. But sometimes, they’re the result of unfounded or exaggerated anxiety and recognising these worries as different to the reasonable, justified ones, can be tricky.

As anyone who has read the blog knows, I’m currently pregnant. 31 weeks pregnant. Pregnancy is a time when you absolutely have to be careful and aware of your body and how you’re feeling (please note this careful disclaimer to avoid a horde of angry midwives at my door). However, I think sometimes we can get so caught up in our anxieties (particularly when we’ve suffered prior complications or losses), that we miss out on opportunities to get stronger, healthier and better prepared for what’s coming.

I’m one of the worriers.

After two previous early miscarriages, and despite a normally good amount of common sense, I was terrified of everything. Eating the wrong thing, lifting too much, sneezing too hard (completely serious), passive smoking, exercising.

Now, all of these things can absolutely be a danger to a pregnant woman and her unborn child (except the sneezing thing, that was just daft) but they also all require a bit of reason.

Food guidance is there for a reason, and it should be observed. But it should also be understood. The risk of getting food poisoning from soft cheese or uncooked meat is the same as it’s always been. You’re not necessarily suddenly more likely to get it. The danger is, that should you be unlucky, the damage will affect more than just you – it can affect your baby too. I followed everything my midwife told me – ensuring that I stuck only to her advice (not the forums online filled with fellow unreasonable worriers, not family, not friends). This served me well and quickly quelled my worries. It also meant I could eat medium rare steak.

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When I was about 18 weeks pregnant, I picked my friend’s little girl up without thinking – she had no shoes on and we were popping out to say hello to my husband, who was waiting in the car. Picking her up was the logical thing to do. As we later drove away (having deposited my little friend back to her mum – we’re not child snatchers), I turned to my husband and said, anxiety stricken, with crazy, manic eyes and a wobbly voice, “I shouldn’t have lifted her, should I?!”. To which he held my hand and sensibly replied, “Mums with more than one child all over the world continue to pick up their toddlers throughout pregnancy. Stop panicking, you’re fine.”

I have very little to say about passive smoking, except that walking behind a smoker on the street once or twice during your pregnancy will not have an impact. Something I had to convince myself of, despite being a normally reasonable person.

And now, exercising. For any Sex and the City fans out there, I had a Charlotte moment. I panicked that any exercise would somehow pull the wrong muscle, causing my comfy, cozy womb to become a dark, dank cave that any self-respecting baby would quite rightly up sticks and leave. So despite recently starting Pilates and enjoying it, I stopped the moment I found out I was pregnant…just in case. It was only upon reaching 24 weeks that I decided I’d be brave and try the antenatal Pilates class instead, something I could have done weeks earlier. I checked with my midwife, who told me any strengthening exercise run by an individual who is trained in supporting pregnant women, would be a great thing to prepare me for birth. 7 sessions later and I absolutely love it.

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So I guess what I’m trying to say is, of course there are times in our lives when we feel more fragile, more vulnerable, less sure of our bodies and their capacity to continue to support us. But you know what? As long as you’re sensible and listen to medical advice; 9 times out of 10, the things we’re most scared of sit within two categories: Utterly ridiculous, or exactly what we need.

And to my fellow pregnant women – it’s OK to be frightened. But you’re not a fragile, delicate crystal, you’re a diamond – tougher than most grown men, and doing something absolutely incredible with your body.

Be brave, try that exercise class, get involved in decorating the nursery, eat that steak. You are so much stronger than you know.

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Things my dad has taught me

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Things my dad has taught me

So I’ve talked in the past about what we’ve learned along the way since my dad’s accident. But recently I’ve realised how much my dad himself has taught (and continues to teach) me. I thought I’d share a few of them, because after a bad meeting, or a traffic jam, or a family argument; it can feel like the end of the world but my dad has changed the way I look at life.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

The amount of times I’ve visited my dad after a busy and stressful day, only to walk out an hour later calm and smiling and wondering what my problem was. The things that were driving me to distraction suddenly didn’t seem important when faced with his daily struggles to even remember when to eat, or to turn the lights on when it gets dark.

  1. Keep laughing

From the moment he got his speech back, my dad has continued to be silly. I’ve said before that he’s always been silly – and one of my biggest fears was that he’d lose this sense of fun. Thankfully it’s remained, and has been the source of a series of Facebook posts like the following:

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  1. Be compassionate

My dad has every reason to be a grumpy, selfish, inconsiderate old bugger. But he’s the opposite. He notices when I’m tired. Asks what’s up if I’m quiet. Tells me to send love/congratulations/best wishes (insert greeting here) to various family members when I tell him their news. He asks how my mum is, my sister, my brother, his friends and listens when I give him updates about them. He reminds me to look outside my bubble. No matter how hard things are, it’s not OK to forget about other people.

  1. Be honest

Due to his condition, my dad doesn’t have as many inhibitions anymore. That means that sometimes, what’s in his head comes out of his mouth. Often, he realises as soon as it’s been vocalised that it was inappropriate or rude, but not before. Now, I know that it’s socially polite to frame your criticism constructively, to smile and hold the door for someone even if they do shove past you without a backwards glance; or to sit out a boring conversation in order to avoid offence. I’m not suggesting we all start spewing out exactly what’s on our minds all the time – it would be chaos and we’d cause hurt.

However, wouldn’t it be great if we could just take a leaf out of my dad’s book – just to now and then stand up when someone is only talking about themselves and walk off without a word?! To tell someone they’re being loud and it’s bothering you.

  1. Forgive

OK, so maybe in his case it’s more often than not that he doesn’t remember, rather than that he forgives. But my dad doesn’t hold grudges. And when I do have to tell him off, or I snap because frankly, I’m human and sometimes my patience wears thin; he forgives me instantly. He’s the one who apologises – he gives me a hug – reaches over to touch my arm to get my attention and says he loves me. Nothing matters enough to overshadow our precious time together. I wish I could be more like him and remember what really matters in our brief time on this planet with the people we love.

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Celebrating soulmates

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Celebrating soulmates

It’s a popular notion that a soulmate has to be something romantic. And often it is, but I don’t think that’s always the case. Additionally, I don’t think we have just one soulmate, I think we have a few.

The Ancient Greeks got this, I reckon that’s why they had 6 words for love. It’s ‘philia’ or deep friendship that I’m talking about here.philiaWhat is a soulmate?

For me, a soulmate, for whom you feel ‘philia’, is someone who just gets you. With them there’s no judgement.

Wherever you are with them it’s a safe haven – what’s said to a soulmate stays with a soulmate.

You can rant and rave your heart out about your colleagues/family/in-laws and they know you just need to rant. They don’t judge you or call you names for it, they let you vent. You can act weird and while they might call you out on it, they accept your weirdness (some of them might even out-weird you).

Their advice is honest, frank and fair. It isn’t always what you want to hear but it doesn’t hurt to hear it. They deliver it with compassion, understanding and often a good dollop of humour.

Even on the days when you feel like nothing can make things better,

your time with them is like the tightest bear hug.

You leave feeling like a weight has lifted, life makes more sense and you can face another day.

My soulmates

For me, my husband is absolutely one of my soulmates but that’s not based on our romantic connection, it’s based on our friendship and mutual respect and understanding. He tells me when I’m headed down the wrong path. He backs me up when I’ve been wronged and helps me respond with dignity (instead of like a crazy banshee); and he supports my dreams and aspirations. With him,

I’ve never felt small, or insignificant, or worthless. I’ve just felt loved.

These are the reasons why he’s my soulmate. (Throw in the fact that I fancy the pants off him, that I love him beyond ‘philia’, and that he’s the only person I want to see when I wake up and when I fall asleep; et voila, one husband!)

Read through the things I’ve said about my husband above (before the husband-specific stuff)  –  I bet the people who spring to mind aren’t necessarily romantic partners or interests.

This year has really highlighted to me who my soulmates are. They’re people whom I feel completely comfortable around. People who have never been the root of any anxiety attack or worry. People who tell me it like it is, but with kindness; leaving me safe in the knowledge that they’re not going away to talk about me or hurt me. They’ve watched me cry, listened, understood when my pain has made me unreasonable but gently steered me away from saying anything to hurt my loved ones or myself. They’ve talked me through my options and helped me heal myself.

It’s like going to the GP but without the 10 minute appointment limit and cold stethoscope.

Instead they’ve just helped me uncover the answers I already had.

I guess my point is this – when you’re hurting, or confused, or need a sounding board; remember the incredible resource you have in your soulmates. Don’t take for granted how valuable they are and don’t think that just because you’re in a long term relationship, you can only rely on your partner. If you’re fortunate enough to have an awesome partner AND one or two incredible soulmates, you’ve got all you need.

Escaping the comfort zone: Changing sector

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Escaping the comfort zone: Changing sector

Three months ago I left my job in a communications team at a housing association, something I’d done for about 7 years (on and off) and took up a role as Head of Marketing and Communications at a healthcare organisation. My new employer is a social enterprise within the NHS, meaning that we provide a number of NHS services within our area of operation, but also provide cost-per-case services, and generate income in a number of ways which is reinvested to improve our services.

From that point of view, there’s some synergy with housing associations, who also generate some income to reinvest in provision of new homes or maintenance of existing ones. However, the similarities end there.Healthy-New-Home

As a UK resident and a relatively intelligent woman, I assumed I understood healthcare. Boy was I wrong. I’ve been astounded by the number of services we deliver that I’d never even heard of, not to mention the volume of acronyms used – health speak should be a recognised language on Google Translate…seriously. But rather than see this as a hindrance, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being the new girl – I’ve asked the seemingly daft questions. I’ve queried why we’re doing something a certain way because I’m not so engrained in the NHS that I can’t see other options. And I’ve been able to observe more than those who are firmly NHS-comms people.

Whether you’re switching from housing to healthcare, or from fashion to food, or from travel to tupperware; here are three good reasons to grab your shovel and dig yourself out of that (safe and comfortable) career rut:

You’re no longer the expert. I bet at your current job you’re the go-to woman/man, right? Any question about the organisation came to you, even if it wasn’t strictly your role. You just knew everything – where to get the best sandwiches, who to speak to in the admin team for extra stationery, and why so-and-so in accounts doesn’t speak to whats-his-name in customer service. Not any more. And it’s marvellous! Now you can shake hands, say hello, get to know people, and turn the tables on the question-askers. You can ask everything. Make the most of it, within 6 months you’ll be issuing directions to the stationery cupboard and offering to fetch the teabags when the kitchen runs out.

Learning is fun! Not to go all Sheldon Cooper on you, but I hadn’t realised how much I’d let my brain vegetate. I was so used to knowing how housing worked, and knowing everything about my previous employer that I’d got to the point where I was sleepwalking a bit. Don’t get me wrong, they were and are a fab place to work. But it was only when I moved that I remembered how much I love to learn. I was in bed by 8.30pm for most of my first week in the new job, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Then my husband said “You’ve been learning all day – names, job titles, locations, directions, file paths,  and a whole new sector. Is it any wonder you’re shattered?!” Three months in and I’m still learning, still enjoying it and managing to stay up past 9pm.

I get to make the ‘out there’ points in meetings. For some of my colleagues, the NHS is all they’ve ever done. They’ve ascended from a clinical role, to a management role, to a corporate role. That’s what makes them the experts (and an invaluable resource to us communicators), but when trying to shake things up, it can be incredibly difficult to see the wood for the trees. That’s where I come in. During a couple of my introductory meetings I said (with some trepidation) “I’m totally new to healthcare so I apologise in advance for any silly questions”. Everyone came back with a broad grin and said

“Thank goodness for that, you’re just what we need”.

It’s all too easy in any industry to assume that sector experience is the valuable bit. And in some roles, I’m sure it is. But in communications and marketing (and a huge number of other careers), your skills are transferable – you just have to be ready to absorb a wealth of industry information. Don’t assume that because you’re new to a sector, you have nothing to offer. The opposite is often true. Be the breath of fresh air.

So if you’re considering a leap out of the comfy, warm, cozy long-term sector you’ve embedded yourself in, just do it. I was terrified, convinced that everyone would see through my smile and handshake, to the lack of substance beneath (yes, like many women out there, I suffer from imposter syndrome). Instead, I’m happy. I come home brimming with new facts to share, and the lightbulb moments of inspiration for new projects and ways to work have begun again. I learn something new every day, and while I’m only three months in, I’m absolutely certain I made the right move, at the right time. Go leap, you won’t regret it.

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No cold feet – just a wet face

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I know, I know – it’s hardly an original blog post is it. But as a bride to be with only two weeks to go, I feel that I should impart my wisdom (?) to fellow women embarking on their bridal madness.

1 Misplaced stress

Everyone tells you that you’ll become a bridezilla – that you’ll shout at everyone in your wedding party for no reason and insist they wear exactly the underwear/shoes/nail varnish that you’ve chosen. What no-one tells you is that you might, in fact, be quite organised and remain quite calm. “Great” (you think to yourself) “that’ll be lovely in the run-up to my wedding”! It would be, if the human brain wasn’t so damn pesky.

Not content with this ocean of calm before your nuptials, your brain will instead make you freak out over the most mundane of non-wedding related tasks. Mine happened over my mum’s birthday. I was on the phone to my sister, unable to put together a coherent sentence about what to buy our mother, and close to tears. I just didn’t know what to buy her, and apparently that was cause for crying. Make sure you’ve got a good balance of tough-love-dispensing, hug-sharing bridesmaids around you, that’s all I’m saying.

 

2 Weight shmeight

We’ve all heard the urban myth about diet-crazy brides, and in the beginning, that’s true. I was going for daily runs, avoiding carbs and having regular ‘dry weeks’ throughout our preparation. But about a month ago, I just stopped caring. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not eating two pizzas a night followed by an ice cream chaser. But I’m also not being particularly health conscious.

Maybe it’s because my dress alterations are final and I know it fits. Maybe it’s because I’m burning off ten gazillion calories a day in nervous energy. Maybe it’s the worst decision of my life and my dress won’t do up in 2 weeks’ time.

Either way, I just don’t have the energy or motivation to worry about my weight as well as everything else. A wedding dress (while beautiful) is still just a dress. If all of your other dresses, trousers, tops and jackets fit without busting open à la Hulk; your wedding dress will be fine too.

 

3 Your liver does not develop superhuman powers

Everyone wants a piece of you in the run-up to your wedding and with wine tastings, hen dos, work drinks, family gatherings, general birthdays and nights out – you’ll find yourself consuming a lot of alcohol. Sounds fun, right?

True, until you look at yourself in the mirror one day and realise that the ‘one or two’ you’ve limited yourself to in an effort to minimise your intake is not as goody-two-shoes when multiplied by the 8 events you’ve been to. Your skin will be grey, your eyes dull. You’ll have breakouts and feel constantly lethargic and snappy. No amount of water is enough to quench your thirst.

Enjoy the pre-wedding buzz and accept the bubbly you’ll undoubtedly be bought by loved ones. But say no when you can and take some time at home for hot baths and early nights. You’ll thank me.

 

4 You’ll cry at the news

Seriously, I’m a pretty emotional person anyway but in the last few weeks it’s been magnified – think Bridget Jones at her worst. At the end of my hen do I was tearing up saying goodbye to my best friend at London Victoria. She’s a bridesmaid, she lives half an hour away, and we talk most days. It was pathetic.

My emotional-pansy turning point was after the last wedding before ours. My lovely cousin got married four weeks before us, and the day after his ceremony I expected to wake up hyperactive and full of the joys of bridedom. Sadly, I instead woke up close to tears about everything lovely and beautiful in the world and unable to hold a conversation about the wedding without getting uncomfortably teary. I was just so overwhelmingly happy about life. No cold feet for me, just a wet face.

 

5 Don’t be proud

My final and most important piece of advice is the most important. I know how much you want to keep your wedding a surprise for your guests. I know how much you and your hubby-to-be want to do everything yourself because it’s a wonderful experience as a couple. That’s all well and good. But when things get too much (and it will be when rather than if) and you just can’t look at another favour without using it to slowly paper-cut yourself to death; Ask. For. Help.

You didn’t choose bridesmaids and ushers just to look pretty and plan hen and stag dos (though if they’re anything like ours they’ll be pretty awesome) – you chose them to support you as a couple in the run-up to the biggest day of your life.

Whether it’s help with actual wedding stuff, or help with actual life (which annoyingly doesn’t come to a halt in the weeks preceding your big day), they’re ready and waiting to help you. Back to my mid-Clintons breakdown, I asked one of my bridesmaids (who’s also my sister-in-law) to sort out my mum’s present and tell me what I owe. Job done, weird little meltdown averted. She also told me to go home, eat chocolate peanuts and chill out. Which is what I plan to do.

Girls aren’t pink and boys aren’t blue #IWD2014

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So yesterday was International Women’s Day (#IWD2014). Part of me doesn’t really understand why we need one special day to celebrate our sheer awesomeness. But the rest of me thinks we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s a whole day to sing our own praises, blow our own trumpets and dance to our own tune.

In honour of that, I asked some good friends to offer their advice for daughters, sisters, nieces, friends etc for getting through life, love and everything in between.

A few titbits (no pun intended) were mildly cliched, some were silly and others were downright beautiful. Here are some of the best:

Have confidence in yourself, love a lot and believe you can achieve your goals.

Be yourself, don’t follow the crowd and follow your gut in every situation.

NOTHING is actually ‘that’ important and be afraid of NOTHING.

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As one door closes another will always open! My mum told me that and it is so true!

For Lydia (her daughter)… Concentrate on being beautiful on the inside.

Always keep an open mind. Try new things and explore new places.

No one has it all figured out, just find something to enjoy amongst the chaos of it all and focus on that!

Don’t be ashamed to say I don’t know.

You will be making mistakes at 6, 16, 36 and still at 60 but the only way we learn is from our mistakes and life is a lesson.

Another! Minor but important! Always take your make up off before bed!!!

Learn to love yourself. It won’t always be easy because us girlies have such unrealistic expectations placed before us – do well at exams, get a good job, marry well, manage a career and a home and be mum, care for the ‘rents, keep up a busy social life, and do all this while looking good in a swimsuit! As a gender we are self-critical, but start with self-acceptance… you can extrapolate from there. And learn to tidy up BEFORE its a mess.

1) tits and teeth (ie smile, chest out and head up)
2) never kiss and tell…. shag and shout – couple of classy ones for you.
Classier few:
1) home is where the hugs are
2) a woman is like a teabag, you never how strong she is until she gets into hot water
3) a friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future and accepts you today the way you are

It is better to look back and smile, laugh, cry or shudder about the things you did, then to look back and regret that you never did them.

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1) if they do not bring you joy then they have no place in your life!!!
2) Religious or not god, the Lord, the universe will never give you more than you can handle. I truly believe if we all believed in that we would be happier people!
3) Believe in yourself, you must be your biggest fan!

Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn!

Invest in your family, your friends and good quality bubbles! (She’s talking champagne, not Radox).

1) Love yourself
2) Keep smiling. Everyone loves someone who smiles so you’ll make lots of friends
3) It’s ok to cry, you cant be strong all the time
4) People you care about will come and go and that’s ok. Deep down you will know who will be there for you
5) People will let you down but that’s life. You will grow to have your own family – focus on them and what’s best for you as a family.

Suck it up! Life’s hard, it’s not about what happens but how you deal with it.

Don’t have regrets – at the time, it was what you wanted.

Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen. Don’t worry about those who talk behind your back, they’re behind you for a reason! Enjoy the little things in life.

When you are in a relationship, as long as it still feels fun and fresh you can go on forever.

When life gives you lemons make a G&T.

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Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness. Laugh when you can, apologise when you should and let go of what you can’t change

And my favourites, fittingly on #IWD2014, are from my mum:

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1) Be yourself and ignore what anyone else thinks
2) Live life to the full every single day – you never know which day will be your last so make sure when it comes you can say – that was a bloody good day
3) Love like you have never been hurt, dance like no one is watching
4) The only limit to your dreams is you
5) Your Mum will love and accept you whatever happens, however much you think you have failed – you haven’t. However much pride you have over something she has 10 times more and will tell everyone.

And finally, here’s my advice, for Tamara, Georgia and Delan:

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1) Wear nice knickers for you, not for someone else
2) Always be silly – impressions, stupid voices and David Brent dances might not be cool but they’re fun
3) Money is a necessary evil, but don’t let it rule your life choices
4) Perfect shmerfect. There’s no such thing as universal beauty. You have to believe in your own beauty, and it won’t appear in the form of a size 10 waist and flawless skin.
5) Girls aren’t pink and boys aren’t blue. If you want to play pirates and cars, I’ll be the one behind you waving a sword and shouting

“Ahoy me hearties!”.

Equally, if you want to wear a princess dress and host tea parties, mine’s white no sugar.

Feel free to add your snippets of wisdom below!