20. Turning Corners

It’s fair to say I have a very relaxed state about writing and I clearly take my time! But there is always good reason. With maternity leave long gone, myself and my little dude are a well established team in our working/nursery life, feeling some what settled compared to previous months. It has made me realise we have turned many corners. My little River-Jude is hitting the expected milestones his little body and mind are predicted to meet, but my mind has felt like it has been in a maze, not knowing which turn to take. I’d be lying if I said my mental health didn’t take a dip after entering motherhood. The turbulence that hit me at times was very challenging, mainly because I was functioning on the lack of sleep which my only comparison was when I strolled in at 3am after a night out of dancing years before!

The anxiety of returning to work hit a month or so before I was to re-enter the working world again, to me, as a completely different person. I was half excited to return. I was very accepting that my maternity leave had to naturally come to an end and it was time for my little dude to grow and develop with a little more independence. But it took a lot more adapting than I realised. My once organised self felt an overwhelming grey fog for a few months, with the added stress of life’s unexpected events, digging deep for the resilience I knew I had but just couldn’t find.

Enter 2019 and suddenly a weight had lifted and I started to feel and think differently and believe in me again; the person I had created before becoming a Mum, and for my beautiful lady who lives in the sky was still there. As time has gone on, that positivity I felt I had lost was emerging to the surface again and it felt good. I vowed to myself that I would never give up my exercise, the one tool I rely heavily on not to live the dark life my beautiful lady often felt. Finding that time for me as often as possible with a small toddler who demands your undivided attention is hard but possible. Remaining true to myself and always ensuring I am growing to new heights for my mum, I am proud to say I spent time on maternity qualifying as a mental health first aider and I walked back into work with a qualification in leadership and team skills.

Despite motherhood making you feel at times that you’ve changed as a person and as a mum you often feel a lost identity, the most powerful thing I learned and the biggest turning point was thinking actually, this is an opportunity to create the person you now aspire to be! I told myself that yes I’m a mum now and that comes with its responsibilities, but it doesn’t take away the responsibility I gave myself some 20 years ago; to hold onto that passion and desire to live life to the full. It will never take away the fact I still hold my beautiful lady who lives in the sky at the heart of everything, I still have goals and I still believe in my dreams!


19. Learning

As I sit happily on a Friday afternoon with my little man asleep in my arms, I take this opportunity to be mindful, be present and listen to nothing but the sound of his breath, going in and out of his tiny little body. The little squeaks of satisfaction from a deep sleep and contentment. As someone always keen to keep on learning, it’s a time to reflect on what I have learned so far on maternity leave, and being out of work.

Here are a few things that have been highlighted to me in recent months:

Create a routine

The first few weeks of my little man’s arrival was like someone had bulldozed into my life and turned it upside down and back to front. No joke! Sleeping and getting up at all sorts of hours around the clock and that was just the way it was. Now I am a fully blown established Mummy (I like to think!) and no longer have my usual work routine to follow, I began to realise I was missing something very important. A ‘normal’ routine. As I was used to getting up early (5:30am😳) for the gym in my working routine, I decided I needed a set time every day to get up. Whilst the rest of the days routine is dictated by the small human living in our house, I at least have some control over how the day starts…and if I’m really lucky I might get to squeeze in a mindful cuppa and a quick read of my book which sets me up for the day.

Eating is important

When Mum’s say ‘I haven’t eaten all day’, that actually means I haven’t eaten all day!! The nutrition I consumed in the early stages was some what delicious but sugary, usually in the round, 2 layered, sponge variety! However, thankfully this has improved but I have learned that despite still having lunch about 3pm most days, it’s important to keep my own energy levels up as much as possible. Without it, mentally I find everything a lot harder because I’ve not given my body what it needs for the amount of times I am up down up down up down! This is more about self care and remembering that it’s not selfish, it’s wise.

Time out for Me is vital

This is probably the most important. Whilst I absolutely LOVE my new role, I embarked on a journey a long time ago for my beautiful lady who lives in the sky and for her, this journey must not stop. A journey that made me learn many life lessons, with many more to learn. We all need time to ourselves, time to clear our heads, relax, gain clarity, feel strong in ourselves and be the best version we can be. Without some headspace, it is almost impossible to do, as we continue day in, day out to live on the treadmill of life. When we take time out to reconnect with ourselves, it’s then that the magic of life lessons come to you. Sometimes it might just take a nice walk outside, a good conversation with someone special or whatever time to yourself feels good to you. It is in that moment. I’ve also learned the guilt that comes along with being a Mum too, but to be the best version of me, and the best version of Mummy I can be, the time out remains key.

To me, my beautiful lady was the best Mummy. Although she may have only been able to teach me her life lessons for 12 years, she’s already given me so much passion and drive to keep on learning and stick to this road of constant discovery. The more we learn, the more we can pass on. The more we teach, influence and inspire others, the more we spread awareness for generations to come.

18. Keep Moving…

My Mum, my beautiful lady in the sky always said she would start exercising, but one day that chance to try was gone, so I felt it important to start for her. Travelling through life on my own journey, a life with more curiosity and self discovery than my beautiful lady knew possible, I’ve reached a point where I can safely say we experienced something of the same. Giving birth to my little one, looking into his eyes for the first time and holding him close was the most magical moment of my life, knowing my mum did this with me 34 years ago brings a deep connection of love and contentment.

Then along came the emotional highs and lows, the sleep deprivation and tiredness like never before; feeling like a constant hangover, whilst being surrounded by a bubble of pure bliss, love and gratitude for what had just arrived in our new world. Our little dude had arrived, River-Jude, named after my beautiful lady turned a Sunday afternoon into a game changing moment. We learned happiness on a whole new level ❤️

My personal recovery started, taking one day at a time, just slow and steady. As weeks went by, I was physically improving day by day as I quietly observed my minds activity without my usual exercise and active lifestyle. Whilst I knew time was the greatest healer, my mind wasn’t up for the rest, still longing for a run or a gym session. Crazy I know, given the fact my body had just undergone what they say is the equivalent to running a marathon!

This made me reflect more on my mum’s experience, but with the added pressure of postnatal depression. Due to her experience, as her daughter the words ‘high risk’ were given to me by my midwife which heightened any anxiety I already had during pregnancy. My awareness of this made me look a little deeper into my mind and root through to remove any negative thoughts that may be playing inside. Thankfully I was able to keep very active during pregnancy right up to the week our little dude arrived, but as an active and self confessed fitness addict, with the weather so poor outside, exercise was off limits for awhile. Emotions were high and with the lack of movement for my body and my brain, I noticed how different I had started to feel. Remaining in this weird bubble of joy, yet noticing confidence levels dipped, a sadness washed over me and I craved that ‘feel good’ feeling after endorphins are released. I wanted to feel like me.

I’ve found this period of time away from exercise really quite interesting. It’s highlighted to me so much more that although I’m a strong believer in looking after yourself (and for me this break has obviously been absolutely necessary) without the opportunity to get out of my head and into my body has been more difficult than I thought. I reflect on my mum and how she might have felt, but I don’t even get close, never really understanding what it was like for her. It’s also made me reflect more on how important being active in any way we can is so important for all of us. Our mental health really is as important, if not more than our physical health.

It’s not about looking great, being skinny or having the biggest biceps… it’s massively about cleansing the mind and bringing balance into your life, allowing you to face challenges, address any issues and make positive changes and decisions. Memories spring to mind of my dear Grandad, still active at 90 years old with his mind in tact close to the end due to his ability to walk a couple of miles each day for his newspaper, that would stimulate his mind some more.

It’s important for us all to understand that we all have mental health. People all around us, at home, at work, on the streets and now more significantly for me, the children we bring into this world. Every single one of us. We all have physical health. We all have mental health. But few of us understand it, and how it can be used to our advantage. Or in fact, what negative impact it can have on us if we are not aware of the traffic riding through our minds. I certainly remember my physical education lessons at school, so why aren’t we having mental education?

I’m a huge believer that we should be teaching our children about how the mind works, about thoughts and feelings and the affect these can have on us if they are positive or negative. I’m also passionate about health and wellbeing in the workplace too. Why wouldn’t an employer invest in their staff health and wellbeing, assisting with healthy lifestyles for staff to be able to remain in work? Just a thought…

Without exercise in recent weeks, with the toughest change to my life yet, the absence of keeping active has been so significant and a learning point for me. Whilst some may think me crazy to start up again so soon, I know it’s the biggest and best thing I can do for myself and my recovery in my body and mind. But, more importantly for my beautiful lady who lives in the sky who never took the chance to even start…

17. A Little Self Care

With only a matter of days until two become three, and as the hormonal highs and lows of pregnancy draw to a close; with so much I want to teach this little one, the awareness of self care has struck a cord with me. As my beautiful lady who lives in the sky suffered with postnatal depression with little to no help, for me it is now paramount that at this time in my life, my self care and a little self love is at it’s peak. That may sound selfish, because ultimately this little human being who is about to join our world will be the most important member of our team. But it is still important for us to look after ourselves too… How can we look after another if we don’t know how to look after ourselves?

Thankfully to my mindfulness journey some years ago, the tools I have learnt have been imperative to the way my eyes started to see the world. My perspective changed and the way I started to deal with life in general switched massively, with a little more self care. Knowing that my beautiful lady in the sky had suffered with the torment in her mind, looking back now, the absence of her self care was ever so clear, counting only the good days on one hand. That’s not to say she didn’t have good days but a memory springs to mind when I shared with her a Mother’s nightmare… the words ‘I have two mums’ coming from my lips. The reality was one day I would have an unwell mum who could barely get out of bed, to another who would get up, get dressed, style her hair and wear her make-up. Those days were the best. Sadly, my Nan was the same. Reading through her diaries after my Mum passed was heartbreaking to see that on every 25th of every month of every year, she’d written just how long her pain had continued without her only daughter, until 4 years later she could take no more. With a determination so strong, I refuse to let us continue in this way.
Some self care tools in my toolbox:

R e a d i n g 

Reading a variety of different books, mainly self help or inspiring stories has contributed hugely to the things I have learnt about self development, personal goals and finding my ‘why’. I will always have a notebook and pen handy to write down anything that resonates with me. I know I would forget what I have read if I didn’t do this so by having somewhere to jot down ideas and for a quick reference guide to the things that I took away from that book is so handy. 

E x e r c i s e 

Don’t really need to say too much on this one – we all know it’s good for us. But, it’s about finding exercise that suits you, your lifestyle, goals and what ultimately fulfils your enjoyment. I am a strong believer in finding what works for you. If you are not one for a sweaty gym or high intensity, then don’t do it. You will end up hating every minute and where is the self care in that? Find something that is more suited to you and your personality. But, always give something a try first. You won’t know until you have tried…

J o u r n a l 

This is something I started about 10 years ago and believe it is vital to personal growth and finding your passion in life. This doesn’t have to be a diary like you may have had when you were in school, but a place to keep ideas, thoughts and goals. I like to keep mine handy for things I learn through social media, other blogs that inspire me and generally a good reference to read back on. It’s always an interesting read back to see how far you have come, or if you need a reminder to start something you said you would!

W r i t e  a  l e t t e r  t o  y o u r  f u t u r e  s e l f

This is an interesting one, and may feel a bit strange but it is well worth doing. In writing a letter to your future self you can identify what you want to learn, where you want your perspective to be, what you want to focus more on, or less of etc and it will help to give you purpose. 

G e t  O u t d o o r s

Being out in the fresh air and taking a walk can be very therapeutic. Just feeling the sun or wind on your face and being in natural light will always make you feel better. It’s good head space time too, just a brief moment to gather your thoughts and feel less stressed. I noticed a difference even just being in the garden has helped me on down days.

M e d i t a t e

So this one is on my ‘things to try’ list and one of my goals. I’ve read a lot on it and it doesn’t have to mean you sit crossed legged humming to yourself in true Buddha style, but just a few minutes each day to quiet the mind. I am yet to master the art of actually sitting down regularly to do this (and with a little one on the way I’m already thinking… good luck with that one!😂). However, the few moments where I have managed to just sit quietly for 5-10 minutes, listening to music or a guided meditation has made a positive difference in the way I have felt. It does bring a sense of calm and perspective back into your world and worth a try.

D r i n k  L O T S  o f  W a t e r

When I trained for my mountain trek in Morocco in 2007, I needed to make some changes to my diet. I lived off tea, coffee squash and cola. I decided to cut the squash and cola and switched to water. It is amazing what a difference this made to me! I felt so much more alert, rarely had a headache and learnt that most of the time when I thought I was hungry, was just dehydration. It is like magic to our health and self care!

E a t  w e l l,  b u t  e a t  c a k e  t o o !

My beautiful lady would often say ‘I’ll start my diet tomorrow’ as she’s reached into the biscuit tin, but tomorrow never came… As part of this journey for me and for her, I owed it to her to try and eat better. Eating well is something that over time has definitely made me feel better. As my healthy journey kicked in, I found I liked to learn more about nutrition and mindful eating too. I try my best but it’s all about balance. The truth is, I love cake, or chocolate, or anything sweet! It is one of life’s little luxuries that we should all indulge in every now and again, and that’s every weekend for me!

G o a l s, G o a l s, G o a l s

Saving the best to last… This one is the biggest and most important self care tool. If we don’t have goals, we lack motivation and purpose. We deprive ourselves the opportunity to feel a sense of achievement and discover our own capabilities. With a limited memory of my beautiful lady, I cannot say what her biggest hopes and dreams were. She quite possibly did not stretch her mind enough to even fathom such a thought. I believe it’s important to have two types of goals, mental and physical. My physical goals are usually in the form of running a few extra miles or pushing myself in the gym just a little bit more, but I do believe mental goals are more important to our self care. At the start of each year, I like to write a list of goals I want to achieve, big and small. Some I achieve, some I don’t but it gives me focus and a reason to continue on this journey, for my beautiful lady who lives in the sky. 

So, let’s just say for now my self care goal is to achieve the biggest thing I will ever have to go through, physically and mentally in the next few days… or weeks 🤷🏼‍♀️ With some mindfulness techniques at the ready, and a little focus on my beautiful lady watching from above, the determination is ever present to continue this journey into motherhood and I can’t wait! 

16. Gratitude 

Whilst I await the next chapter of my life to begin in just under 2 weeks, I reflect on a lovely pregnancy that has brought very little disruption to my world… Definitely a case of the calm before the storm!!! The gratitude I feel to have this little human growing inside me is beyond my imagination, but one of life’s true blessings. As always, with my beautiful lady at the forefront of my mind, I wonder what her experience of pregnancy was like, and how she coped. Apparently she had to drive in the early stages of labour having only one car which in my book makes her pretty hardcore, and stronger than she possibly ever realised! Moments like these enter my mind, wishing I could pick up the phone and ask. Weeks have passed as rapidly as normal and with very little time to go, an immense sadness pours over me that I have never felt before. 

Yet another realisation becomes apparent as I sit in my antenatal class with all the other ladies, sat there eager to learn with their mothers by their side. Whilst I would never wish for JR not to be by my side, supporting me in the incredible way that he knows, tears fell down my cheeks when it hits me, I don’t have that choice. My mind navigates its way through to more unanswered questions that arise, realising the one voice you want to hear with reassurance and guidance cannot be heard. With my Mum’s history of depression, particularly post natal depression, this apparently makes me high risk. With a heightened awareness, I reach out to a coping strategy that gets me through each time. 

But as the weeks have progressed and reaching a point where my body can no longer sustain the routines it was once used to, it has tested my ability to live life with a little less intense exercise, testing my mind at the same time. I started to learn that without movement or getting outdoors into fresh air can play havoc with the thoughts that run through our heads. With a tiring body reaching the end, but a mind desperate for endorphins, it has made me reflect even more on how we can strengthen the power of our minds. 
So in an attempt to keep my mind focussed, I reach for a little gratitude and gain some perspective. Practising gratitude on a regular basis is something I learnt was another coping strategy. Learning that acceptance of a situation is far better for us than resistance. I discovered I have always felt so much better when I’ve told myself ‘it is what it is’, rather than wish for something that it’s not. What a waste of energy! But also to ALWAYS be thankful for what you have. If you have your health, happiness and love then that is all that really matters. 

Slowly but surely over the years, positivity has become a way of life, trying so hard to see that even though my beautiful lady was taken so early to where she was meant to be, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make the most of where I am meant to be. With that in mind, I’m so excited to face my next challenge head on and as a team with Mr R, literally a dream; a miracle and the biggest sense of gratitude I will ever feel when I hold this little one in my arms. Coming to terms with reaching the biggest milestone without someone so significant, accepting the word Mum will return into my world and holding on to all that I have learnt; never letting that go and remembering to keep talking no matter what. 
I’m a massive believer in setting goals. If you reach one goal, create another. It’s important. With that in mind, and reaching up to the stars for the motivation my beautiful lady gives me, I’m excited to firmly have another planned for 2018… for me, for my mum and now most importantly for my little one to grow up understanding what being healthy and active can do for them mentally and physically. 

15. Never Forget

So, we have got to May 2017 and I realise I haven’t written for over a year…where did that time go?! 2016 was a whirlwind year with wedding planning, a new job and still dealing with the absent calls from my Grandad. No longer seeing his face pop up on my phone yet again, wondering if he was OK, or had he just pressed his alarm for the hundredth time whilst sleeping! His absence is like a hole in my heart trying to repair itself, never to be the same again. But I take great comfort in the fact he lived a very happy life, all 91 years of it. His absence is my loss, but my beautiful lady’s gain. I felt compelled to continue his happy attitude as much as I can, keeping that burning flame alight as much as possible. 

Wedding planning was not quite the exciting romantic bliss you envisage all the time (who would have thought wedding planning was so bloody stressful!) but it certainly brought its amazing moments with friends and family, days and outings enjoyed which brought such giggles, fun and bubbles! As I woke on my wedding day and ventured out for my run as I promised myself I would, my thoughts turned to my beautiful lady who would watch the day go by from above, longing to be at her only daughters special day. The most perfect day we could have wished for, with the sun shining all day (thanks mum for sorting!), drinks flowing and pure happiness all day long! Certain songs take me right back to a moment in the day and flashbacks occur in my mind; a warmth spreads inside me and I feel such happiness and gratitude for the day, for the people and for that moment in time belonging to me, never to be forgotten. 

A new job brought its own challenges to the mix, and I reached a point where my usual running had taken a nose dive. I’d not picked up a Mindfulness book in months and my mind started to slip. I was still exercising, but I look back now and realise the happy attitude I wanted to so badly continue for my Grandad wasn’t coming naturally anymore, even with exercise. I was surrounded by a bubble that I knew nothing about. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t feel it. I was a happy newly wed, as far as I knew; exercising as normal, with a honeymoon to look forward to! 

Then we arrived in what I can only describe as paradise… Listening to the waves crashing around my feet, appreciating the sun on my skin and looking out to a gorgeous turquoise sea, with the depths unknown as it changes to a deep rich blue. I remind myself this is the perfect time to be mindful. My head empty of any worries and just enjoying some pure relaxation. Just what I needed and I thought shit, this year has been incredible yet massively challenging. My emotions had been on a roller coaster; the ups and downs of the year going through my mind. Realising I got through the best day of my life, but without my beautiful lady which, has been a thought plagued in my mind and stamped in my heart for many years, and without my Grandad too. I was emotionally drained. 

When 2017 arrived, and feeling well rested, that bubble around me burst and I felt free! I remembered my love for running and reading and made a promise to myself that I would return to these things. Looking a little deeper, some soul searching perhaps led me to see that running and reading are two things I really enjoy. They allow me to grow physically and mentally, so I am always learning. I realised that they are my coping strategies, which in 2016 I left behind. Unconsciously, I gave them up when actually, I needed them the most. 

I wanted to share what valuable lessons I have learnt:

  • Learn what your coping strategies are – think of at least two things you enjoy that you can turn to when you are faced with life’s challenges.
  • Pro-actively practice them, regularly. Don’t lose sight of them.
  • Don’t give up on the things you enjoy, or on yourself.
  • Find your own happiness – learn about YOU.
  • Talk, Talk, Talk.
  • Write, read, draw, paint- whatever helps you to be creative.
  • Rest – listen to your body, take a break from the speed of life.
  • Set goals.
  • Celebrate your strengths.
  • Connect with others.
  • Be grateful, always.

It really is so important that we interrupt our chaotic minds from time to time, to recharge, set the refresh button and let go of any negativity we hold. Whether this is from a hectic day, week, month or year (if you’re like me!). As you know, I focus a lot of my energy on my mental health, because my beautiful lady who lives in the sky no longer can. It scares me that it is so easy for us to be less aware of the traffic running through our minds, the thoughts we hold that block our perspective and the ability to slip into ways that aren’t helpful. I have learnt the lessons above and am grateful to have recognised the self destructive way my mind works at times. This year sees less of a runner in me presently forced by the slight difference in my life direction but I am doing what I can which still feels good! Reading and journaling is my new thing and so it would seem, is returning to blog writing😀
So far this year has already proved to be incredible. I cannot explain the level of gratitude I feel, knowing I am growing a little life inside of me. An amazing experience I have always dreamt of; a chance to teach another little mind all that I learn. To know I will be a Mum soon, is beyond anything I think I can describe. A longing to have that mother/child relationship back again, present in my life is significantly special and something so close to my heart, but for another day….

14. Legend

Many people will inspire us throughout our lives, and my Grandad was and is the inspiration that glows in my heart, along with my beautiful lady who lives in the sky. I could not be prouder for the man he was and for what he taught me, even without an utter of a word. His warmth and smile just melted my heart each and every time my eyes reached his. A relationship so close and connected as Grandfather and Granddaughter; nourishing the lost connection we both missed from the beautiful soul that was taken so young. The deteriorating months that began, creeping up on us without warning was a tough time; seeing the one person so special fail to be the person they so desperately still wanted to be. But the day he was waiting for came, when I told him I was getting married! Just registering in his old and confused mind, that was enough. He was content. With 4 months to go to the big day, the most special day of my life, the day I longed for him to attend, life throws that curveball and he has gone. Forever. To be with my beautiful lady who lives in the sky. I take comfort in believing they’ll still be there,  just deep in my heart.

My Grandad was a ‘happy go lucky’ kind of man which I loved about him with an amazing sense of humour, even to the end. There are things he taught me with his ‘it is what it is’ attitude that I will be eternally grateful for. The wise words ‘you can’t bring them back’ that came from his mind when we talked so fondly of his beautiful girl, sharing special memories with the strong attitude he portrayed, he was an inspiration for not giving up. My inspiration. He taught me you cannot give up on anything, whatever it might be. As a young boy my Grandad caught Meningitis but with his strong fighting ability, he recovers. At 28 years old, he can’t believe the reality that he hears, when he’s told his Father has been pulled out of a river. He had no goodbye, no final words, just a feeling of hopelessness sinking deeper and deeper. He managed to pick himself up and grew a way of thinking that, little did he know would be the foundations his only Granddaughter could reach out to and feel so inspired and motivated by. 

In 1995, he receives a call no Father should ever receive. His beautiful girl, his only child and reason for breathing the air into his lungs, has fallen asleep, never to wake for another day again. That sinking feeling of hopelessness makes it known to him again. Memories pop up and thoughts travel through his mind hoping to remember his last words to his beautiful daughter. After many years, Grandad showed a new curiosity about his beautiful girl and would regularly ask me about the torment that was going on in her mind. I would look blankly at his hopeful face, hoping to learn something that would enlighten him as to why his girl had gone. 

Day dreams enter my mind as I continue to live and keep his memory alive. Moments of smiles and laughter brighten my days with the knowledge that we shared a love so pure and a relationship so close that a Grandfather and Granddaughter shared; one of the closest relationships I will ever have in my lifetime. As a child I loved his playful ways, always drawing me pictures of birds or cars or pushing me on the swings as high as I dare to go. We shared every Christmas together, without fail where his gratitude shone so bright just to be part of the family. My Grandad’s gratification was something that I observed more and more. No matter what someone did for him, be it making a cuppa, a sandwich, cleaning his house or bathing him. After each visit, when the time he dreaded came once again and we would need to leave, he never failed to say the same as he did every single time…if all he did remember towards the end, was that of these words…’thank you for all that you do for me’. My heart melted every single time. 

I feel compelled to continue with the same gratitude, strength and fighting ability he showed me. The resilience he built in his younger years, only to be shared with generations to come. The determination in his mind, never spoken about but so clearly present with 91 years until his last breath. I cherish the last moment I shared with him where the three special words…’I love you’ travelled from my voice and acknowledged in his aging mind and I watched the tear drop down his cheek. I closed the door behind me and thought to myself, what a legend. My legend.