I re-read this book recently which is full of letters from brilliant women to their younger selves. The letters are inspiring, encouraging, heartbreaking, funny and so very wise. I found myself crying and laughing in equal measure and was left with the conviction that our capacity to overcome and to really live is quite amazing.
I started to think what I would write to my younger self.
Would I document all the highs and lows that were going to come or would that take away the sense of adventure and discovery?
Would giving too much away about the life that was to come detract from the learning in the hard places and the joy of the mountain tops?
Forewarned is forearmed as they say and perhaps I would rob myself of the lessons I needed to learn when I found myself challenged beyond what I thought possible and I had to dig deep to find treasure I hadn't know was there.
After much thought and re-writes, I think this is what mine would say:
“Dear younger Jo,
Life isn’t going to turn out how you thought -and that’s okay. It’s going to be so much better, so much harder and so much more worth it than you can imagine right now. Your heart is going to break and expand in ways you didn’t think possible.
You can do it and you are enough.
It’s going to hurt at times but trust the process, let people in and always, always look for the joy.
You’ve totally got this.”
What letter would you write to your younger self?
We had a hard conversation at the beginning of our sailing holiday.
My daughters have always crewed for my husband and have got used to winning most of their races. This year, we suggested they step up and learn how to helm the boat for themselves.
A new challenge which meant moving out of their comfort zone, accepting they wouldn’t win but they would learn a new thing and move up in their sailing skills.
They accepted the challenge and in doing so they have both discovered an even deeper love for sailing. It turns out they were pretty good at it too! Fifth overall in a fleet of 14 and first youth helms!
The magic only happens when you step out of your comfort zone.
Go on, give it a try!!
I’ve seen this meme doing the rounds on social media and it sort of jarred with me a bit. I get the sentiment; be grateful for the present and enjoy the moment but it just speaks a bit to me of guilt and pressure I guess. What about when you’re wondering how to manage the next 18 minutes let alone the next 18 years!!
Here’s my thoughts having reached the end of those 18 summers.
Some summers I had activities all planned, others I worked and depended on grandparents, one was spent mainly in hospital, a couple we were skint so ‘fun activities’ were mud pies in the garden. My girls survived them all.
We decided to do one thing well every summer. We’ve holidayed at the same place for 14 years and cultivated family hobbies around that. It’s become a big rock in our family rhythms. Even if it’s a day that stays the same every year or a weekend, make a family tradition. It’s what memories are made of.
Children have different definitions of successful summers than we do. Did we laugh more than we cried together? Did we bend the rules on sweets and bedtimes? Did we do something something outrageous for the sheer joy of it?
It takes a village to raise a child. Find your village and ask for help. Team tag childcare, commiserate over gin. Whatever it takes. We’re in this together.
18 years aren’t all you get. My girls are still here, hanging out with us, coming on holiday with us. It’s different; we’re friends, debaters, encouragers. We share each other’s joys and challenges and we’re a team. This stage was hard won but it’s worth it. I’m grateful for what I had but I’m grateful for what I have now too, for what was and what is just beginning.
Please don’t live in fear of ‘losing your children’ to adulthood. It changes but it’s beautiful too.
Lastly, to my girls who occasionally read what I write:
I love you with every fibre of my being. I didn’t enjoy every single moment of your childhood. And that’s okay.
Normal. I’ve been thinking a lot about this word this week and what it can mean to us. It’s definition is ‘usual, expected or standard.’
When we’re chasing goals and wanting more ‘normal’ doesn’t really feel very exciting or fulfilling but normal is often when we get to breathe out, to rest and just be.
Normal can be a major achievement too. I still need 3 monthly reviews and blood tests as I’m less than 2 years post stem cell transplant. I saw my consultant yesterday and all my test results are still normal.
I wouldn’t want to be anything else.
I read this quote a week ago and its really stuck with me and made me think. I’ve re-written this post a few times as I’ve tried to work out what I want to say. I think that’s because I want to love people without conditions but once you’ve been hurt a few times it gets a bit harder.
Life can be tough and people don’t always behave towards us in a way we would like. We can feel as though we need to build a defensive shell around ourselves. It can feel like the sensible thing to do is to be more wary of the next person, the next situation and to not love as abundantly, to give of ourselves so freely.
I know though, that what happens when we do that, is that we become a shadow of who we would like to be because we’ve been shaped more by people’s reactions and behaviours than by who we are on the inside; who we were created to be.
The good news is we can choose to change. We can stop to listen to who we really are and we can choose to live that out. We can choose to live a life defined by who we want to be and not by other people’s opinions or responses. It takes bravery and courage to live a life that’s true to ourselves but it’s so worth it.
Let me know if I can help.
Earlier in the week I was pondering the question of what is it that I do? At any given time I can be a life coach, a carer, an artist, a mum, a teacher or an urban farmer (I’m sure there’s others that I’ve forgotten too!)
I used to freeze when someone asked me ‘What do you do?’ because I never really knew what to say. I didn’t want to be defined by what I did but I also wasn’t sure which activity I should answer with. I had an either/or mentality where I should just choose one thing and surely if I did that thing then I couldn’t do the others too.
I remember when I was struggling with a different issue and speaking to a wise person about it. I felt I had to make a choice between two scenarios and each one would involve a keen sense of loss for the option that I didn’t choose. I was asked the question ‘Is this an either/or situation or is there the possibility it could be a both/and?’
It felt like a lightbulb went on in my head!
Not every situation in life was either/or. Some definitely are but some could be both/and!! This opened up a world of possibilities and suddenly when I looked at the various components of my life I could see that I didn’t have to choose one above another, they could all co-exist together.
The power of a good question!
The next question that made the lightbulb shine even brighter was, ‘What is your why?’ A much more interesting question than ‘what do you do?’
Why do I do the things I do?
I’ve thought about this a lot and when I was in post chemo recovery it was a question I would come back almost daily to help me create something of a mission statement for who I wanted to be and what dreams I wanted to chase once I was well again.
I’m motivated by a strong desire to nurture and encourage and to see things thrive. Whether that’s people, my tomato plants or our ducklings, I love to see growth and a journey of fulfilled potential. I’m passionate about family and seeing mums and dads enjoy parenthood and feel encouraged and empowered to confidently raise their children. I also want to play my part in seeing people live joyful lives where they are sure of their purpose and have the confidence to walk in it.
Knowing my why helps to make sense of all the different parts of my life. I can see that although they look quite diverse there is a common thread running through them and they are all an expression of why I do things.
Good questions helped me get here. So did the process of sitting in the discomfort of not immediately knowing the answers and sifting through my thoughts and preconceptions about what should be the answers until I found what mattered to me.
I wish you the same journey and life giving realisations.
Let me know if I can help.
It’s been really fascinating watching our ducklings grow up. They hatched from an incubator so they haven’t had a mamma duck to look after them and teach them what to do and how to be and yet they are still definitely behaving like ducklings. I guess being a duckling is hardwired into their DNA.
They’ve imprinted on me and know that I give them care, food and water. If they haven’t seen me for a while they call out to get my attention and then come running. If I’m out in the garden they’ll sit under my chair in a glorious fluffy huddle. They don’t try to mimic me though because they’re too busy catching flies, grubbing for worms, paddling in their pond and generally being ducklings!
Its made me think about us as humans. I believe we’re all created with a unique identity and purpose and that its hardwired into our DNA just as much as our eye colour. We can look outside ourselves for inspiration but it's a dangerous road to copy those around us because they weren’t created to be us.
It often takes bravery and courage to truly be ourselves and there will be mistakes along the way (these duckling take a lot of tumbles in their pursuit of their next tasty snack) but keep going because authentic, wholehearted people change the world.
So here’s my question for you today:
Who were you created to be?
I think about this quote a lot.
Firstly, I think how deeply grateful I’ll be to have lived to 65 or 75.
Then I think about whether I will have lived that big, juicy creative life of imagination and radical silliness.
Will being perfect really have mattered or will being present and showing up, flaws and all, have mattered more?
Will people’s expectations and judgements have mattered more than my hopes and dreams?
There’s a quote that say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the next best time is now. If your life isn’t feeling big enough, juicy enough or creative enough there are things you can do today to change that.
Change feels like such a big word but you change with every next decision you make and taking one step at a time even if they start off as baby steps. Those steps add up and you find yourself on the journey to where you want to be.
Live the life you were created for.
I’m cheering you on!
I’m quite proud of these peace lilies! I bought them as 99p mini plants to go in a planter and they’ve continued to grow bigger and stronger.
Lately, I’ve noticed that even though they’ve been in the same warm, bright place and getting watered regularly they’ve stopped looking so well. A closer inspection showed that their roots had outgrown their pots and were trying to escape!
It got me to thinking that we can often look for the visible signs of growth in our lives but we don’t always take the time to tend to our roots. Healthy roots are vital to healthy growth but it's easy to let their care slip. I think our roots are things like our emotional wellbeing, our relationships, our spirituality, our self care and our thinking patterns.
These are all generally hidden away and its easier to focus on the more obvious things in our lives such as achievements and busyness. The thing is, we start to get less and less healthy and our capacity starts to reduce if our roots aren’t being properly nourished.
My peace lilies are now happily replanted in bigger pots with our own matured compost from the garden. Their roots are being nourished once again and they look better for it already.
Where might your roots need a little bit of care today?
It was my oldest daughter's 20th birthday last weekend. Birthdays are a time for celebration and celebrate we did. Brunch, cinema, pizza, presents and a mound of cards full of love and encouragement due to the kindness and generosity of friends.
It was also a bittersweet time of reflection. You see, my daughter has M.E. and first started to be unwell when she was 13. Her whole teenage years have been lived under the shadow of an ill defined but devastating illness.
In the midst of that she had shown a strength, resilience and compassion for others that has consistently taken my breath away. To meet my daughter is to be inspired.
As she stood on the threshold of her twenties she had to say goodbye to teenage years that were lived in a different way than she had imagined. There is a grief associated with that and with the fact that those years will not come again.
This new decade offers hope that things will be different and a fear that they may not be. Alongside this fear is a steely determination to do what she can with what she has.
Life is so very complicated for us all. We live daily with grief and hope intertwined and I have made my peace with that. We hope for full health but are determined to thrive with what currently is. It is the most whole, honest and faithful way for us to truly live.
The painting is by my youngest daughter of her sister. Blue and purple are the colours of fibromyalgia and ME and the grey hair shows the sense of invisibility. Look at the eyes though! They’re looking forward and holding onto hope.