Grease Is the Word

This week we said a sad farewell to the iconic Olivia Newton-John who lost her battle with breast
cancer at the age of 73.
My friend Cate text me the news and immediately I welled up. It felt like a big loss and, even though
we all lap up the gory details when a “celebrity pops their clogs”, this one stirred up a lot of feelings.
When Grease was released in 1978 I was in my final year at primary school and as soon as I heard
Summer Nights I was hooked in. I had posters of Danny and Sandy on my bedroom wall and every
time a new single was released I was first in the queue to snap it up. I even wrote to Jim’ll Fix It.
“Dear Jim. Please fix it for me to dance with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John but please don’t
show it on TV as I’m shy”. Thank goodness my Dad intercepted my mail and kept it otherwise I may
have been writing a different blog today.
We played “Grease” in the playground at every available opportunity. I was always Danny which felt
a bit unfair but was probably down to my unflattering brown brogues and general lack of coolness.
My friend Sarah was always Sandy. I’ve never really forgiven her for this or for being crowned May
Queen as well that year. Life can be so one-sided. We didn’t even know the plot line as there was no
such thing as google, so we just skipped about and sang the songs and made it up as we went along.
It was magical.
Finally, one Saturday afternoon I actually got to sit in the Odeon cinema in Bolton and see what all
the fuss was about. I had queued up every week but it was so popular that we never made it
anywhere near the door but here I was. I soaked up every single second of it. I loved every single
song and I wanted so much to be Sandy that it hurt. She was everything. Beautiful. Talented. Cool.
When she stubbed out her cigarette with her red stiletto and uttered those immortal words “Tell me
about it…Stud”, it sealed the deal for me. There was no going back.
Of course, the PC brigade would be up in arms about the film today. Admittedly there are some
dodgy lyrics and I guess you could argue that turning yourself into a vamp to get the man of your
dreams isn’t really the way forward but I don’t care. Sandy donned her skin-tight pants for Danny
and Danny threw away his T Bird jacket and popped on a cream cardi for the woman he loved. They
met in the middle and moved forward together and lived happily ever after (we think).
So although I don’t normally encourage people to spend too much time looking back I think it is ok
to indulge and take yourself away on a sentimental journey once in a while. 1978 was a happy year
for me thanks to The T Birds and the Pink Ladies.

Thanks for the memories Olivia.

The Curse of Covid

Well I finally succumbed to the dreaded Coronavirus after being double jabbed and pretty careful for eighteen months. I knew that I would get it in the end and, as an asthmatic, I was pretty fearful of what it might bring to the table and oh boy did it deliver. It was like the ultimate taster menu in nasty symptoms that literally knocked me off my feet for a fortnight.

Of course I am not unique in contracting this dreadful virus but it did get me thinking about my overall health and it was also a huge time of reflection whilst I was isolated and bedridden. I found myself going back to my childhood and fondly remembering (weird right?) those sick days when you stuffed the metal thermometer under the duvet for ten minutes to increase the reading (these modern day forehead detectors are so much less fun) so that I could have a day off school. There was something quite comforting about having a whole day in bed with a well timed cough when I heard Mum and Dad on the stairs. There would always be chopped up egg in a cup with butter and lots of milky coffee and toast to keep me sustained throughout the day  and whilst Netflix wasn’t a thing there was a stack of paperbacks to thumb through and, if I was lucky, the latest Jackie magazine. A sick day would stretch ahead like a glorious treat to be savoured (apart from when I was really sick of course).

Being ill when you are an adult is far less entertaining. Unless you are very disciplined you still get to read all your emails and fret about what is going on in your absence and, because you haven’t been to the shops, you have to make do with whatever scraps lie at the bottom of the freezer until your partner returns from work. Having Covid also means you feel pretty rough and even a well timed Christmas movie doesn’t cut the mustard (the Elizabeth Hurley/Kelsey Grammar one was just horrendous. It really is quite miserable (the movie and the illness).

I spent most of the last fortnight staring into space and berating myself for not appreciating the times when I have felt well. Our physical and mental health is often something that we take for granted until things go pear shaped and Covid does seem to have a negative effect on your mental well being. Had I been too relaxed as we came out of lockdown? Was I washing my hands enough? Was this it now? Was I going to succumb to “Long Covid” and spend my life trapped in a sort of twilight world? Well thankfully not as I feel much better which was enough to give me a massive kick up the backside. I woke up this morning and tentatively offered up a silent prayer of thanks that I was through the worst and I vowed to myself to not take my health for granted again.

Staying well can be hard work as you get older. Both physically and mentally we need to put time aside each day to keep ourselves in the right place. It’s simply not good enough to just hope for the best. Particularly the decline of our  mental well being can be a silent killer that creeps up behind us ready to pounce so its critical that we take the time and effort to keep ourselves in the best possible shape. Just half an hour of mental and physical exercises can really make a difference if they are embedded into our daily routine. It really is worth the effort.

Now I am not saying that I am unhealthy. I would actually go so far as to say I am a pretty healthy individual who hasn’t had a day off sick in years. Having Covid however has forced me to  recalibrate. Two weeks of low energy and low mood was enough to make me realise that we shouldn’t take life for granted. Every day is precious and our health is the most precious commodity of them all.

So back to work I go with a spring in my step and lots of plans for the months ahead.

Covid you may have got me on the ropes but I’m back in the ring for another round.

Don’t let the plates crash (a guide to work life balance).

I’m selling my house at the moment and I can assure you that its right up there with the rest of those things that they say are the most stressful things to do in life (alongside shopping for toilet rolls and pasta in a pandemic). The funny (not so funny) thing is that I haven’t even found a house to live in so my Apple watch keeps buzzing me and reminding me to breathe as I contemplate packing all my belongings, husband, two dogs and three cats and relocating to a caravan if I don’t find something soon.

Moving house is stressful but viewing properties has provided me with a sometimes sobering insight into lives lived and the sad realisation that the paths you choose in life often lead to solitary destinations.

One property I viewed was occupied by a delightful elderly couple who I feel were thrilled to have a bit of company. The lovely old chap was suited and booted, wearing his best leather brogues, for this auspicious occasion and we spent a pleasant hour looking around their home as he regaled us with snippets of history and interesting facts about his life. They were heading to a cottage that sat alongside their sons and whilst wistful about leaving a home they loved, it was a new chapter with their family where I suspect they would be well looked after for the rest of their days. As I looked around the property I found myself feeling emotional on seeing their photos of a life well lived through the decades, a balance of work events and family parties full of beaming smiles.

This wonderful gentleman reminded me so much of my own Dad (sadly departed) that I had a little cry when I left after wanting to give him a hug which may have seemed a bit inappropriate for a house viewer. It was a backwards glance into a life that I knew so well with my Dad retiring in his early fifties to focus on the things that he loved. I know that if he had ever sold his beloved house he would have worn his well polished brogues too.

A second viewing on a different property a week later left me rattled for very different reasons. This beautiful house in a picture perfect village was occupied by a solitary old man who opened the door in his pyjamas and best dressing gown. The house was chaotic, every surface covered in clutter and broken plates on the floor. He was clearly confused as to why we were there and there was no evidence of any family support. My heart broke for this poor old chap. Where were his friends and family in his hour of need? Had work been his priority over family? Probably not but surely there was someone out there that could step in and support him.  I was making assumptions but I felt angry on his behalf. There was no sign of a family cottage to go to or any comfort in the last years of his life. Just chaos and confusion. How had it come to this?

After reporting my findings and suggesting that they seek to help this gentleman, I hung up on the estate agent and found myself wondering where my own path would lead to? Self care and reflection had hit me like a steam train in my early fifties after experiencing some serious burnout due to work overload and the sudden death of both my parents. My priorities changed overnight and I realised that work actually wasn’t that important. What matters is family. What matters is leading a life that is balanced. What’s important is avoiding the tunnel vision that comes alongside work overload. The sort of vision that leads to you look up later in life and realise that there is no one left. Everyone else is enjoying the life you said no to because work came first. The family parties, the sports days, barbeques, bath times and bedtimes. You kept saying no so the invitations stopped. Real life dried up and you found yourself on a barren landscape.

Getting that balance right is easier said than done though. I remind myself every day that I’ve probably had a lucky escape. After years of pulling myself up the career ladder I’m quite happy now to step down a few rungs and laugh at the fools still answering their emails at 11pm at night. If I’m working from an office then I’m like roadrunner out of the door at home time, desperate to get back to watch The Chase and a couple of episodes of Gilmore Girls. I’m lucky because I can afford to be a bit nonchalant about the whole thing and I appreciate that not everyone has that luxury but  there are things that everyone can do to keep their sanity intact.

Making a plan is a critical part of getting the balance right and setting out your non negotiables is a big piece of this. Try mapping out the next couple of months making sure that all of the important family stuff is clearly posted. No one will remember if you left the office at 7pm but your kids will remember if you were the only parent not there at sports day. No one will recollect you dragging yourself into the office with flu but your friends will remember all the parties that you were too busy to attend.

Have set working hours and stick to them. As a rule I finish work at 6 pm and my laptop is closed for business (note this is when The Chase starts on plus one). Nothing is so important that it cant wait until 8 am the following morning and I refuse to be accessible to everyone twenty four hours a day. We survived in the past when all we had were letters and landlines and nothing has changed. Switch off, wind down and reclaim back your family time.

Making exercise a priority is another key aspect. I found myself cutting short my dog walk this morning as I had a lot of emails to send. My Labrador gave me a sorrowful look as I bundled her off to doggy day care and an hour later I immediately regretted my decision. The emails would have waited and we would all have benefited from the fresh air and exercise.

And finally remember you don’t have to do it all or be perfect. Being busy is a badge of honour these days and we all aspire to live in the perfect houses, have high flying careers, go on Instagrammable vacations and be culinary genius’s. Forget that I say. Nigella has a lot to answer for with her larder full of home made pickles. If all you have time for is a can of beans on a microwaved potato on an evening then who cares?  If a soggy weekend in a tent in Wales makes you happy then go for it. If your house is a bit shabby around the edges it shows that its lived in. Work hard enough to pay your bills but treat your down time with the same enthusiasm. Work to live not live to work and focus on the people around you – not the messages that pop up on a work screen.

Don’t beat a path to a lonely ending. It’s never too late to press pause on a busy work life and get a bit of balance back. You might even end up  finding the time to polish your own brogues and pickle some cucumbers and if that makes you happy then go for it!!

Learning To Deal With Disappointment

Disappointment is a big word and such a big part of our every day lives. I mean it obviously isn’t something that we want to experience as a feeling but its a word that we often associate with so many experiences over the years and one in particular stands out for me.

I was brought up in a very strict catholic family and there were lots of expectations of how I should behave as a child and a young adult. Boys, make up, parties and general frivolity were all things that were severely frowned upon and, whilst I loved my parents dearly, I yearned for the day when I could be free from the restrictions and restraints that this sort of upbringing imposed on me.

Despite being a rebel in the making I was, and still am, a people pleaser at heart so generally played by the rules to avoid that nasty confrontation that inevitably followed an act of defiance. I say generally as on the occasion of my 18th birthday I decided to go all out and channel my inner Lindsay Lohan (she was a rebel right?). I slapped on an excessive amount of war paint, swigged back some Tesco’s own brand cider and headed for the local nightclub with my gal pals. I can’t remember what I was wearing but I do remember that I was wearing my Mums antique silver and onyx bracelet (oh yes you know this is going to go horribly wrong).

Fast forward a few hours of intense partying and I staggered back home in a drunken haze and quietly let myself into the house.  It would have been a perfectly executed rebellion if I had noticed the strategically placed family sized box of cornflakes in the hall. As it happened I crashed head first into the console table and landed in a noisy heap on the floor where I was found by my mother who was not best pleased at this display of less than ladylike behaviour. The next morning I woke dry mouthed and slightly anxious at what lay ahead and when I realised that Mums silver bracelet seemed to be missing it amplified to a whole new level so I did what all good rebels and cowards do – I left a grovelling apology on the kitchen side and made a run for it.

When I returned home later that day my Dad had been to the nightclub and retrieved the bracelet and life could return back to normal but I knew I wasn’t off the hook yet. I was waiting for it and the sense of anticipation and dread hung like a damp fog in the air. Anything would be better than this- a quick smack around the ear or a beating with my Mums carpet slipper (these were the days when it was acceptable to throw a white board duster at a child’s head during class and not face twenty years behind bars).

It came…eventually. “I’m so disappointed in you Elizabeth”. I only ever get called by my “Sunday” name when I’m really in hot water.  It was enough to knock me back into line and etch itself into my memory as one of those moments that you don’t ever want to relive again.

Most people manage to successfully work through their disappointment although my Mum did remind me frequently about said incident. We use disappointment as a learning tool to grow and improve and to avoid making the same mistakes again (I always watch out for stray cornflake boxes after a few too many glasses of wine) but its important that we have the tools in our self care kit to avoid it holding us back and turning into something less manageable than a passing sensation.

So to deal with disappointment we must first learn to understand why we feel this way and differentiate from what we can and cant control. Focusing on this can help us to deal with our frustrations appropriately. If it is out of our control then it is ok to feel disappointed but there is little that we can do about it. If it is within our control then what have we learned from the experience?    It is also important to check that our expectations are realistic – very often we are so looking forward to something and have built it up in our minds so much that nothing will ever live up to this impossible standard and disappointment is inevitable.

Accepting disappointment is also important. A lot of people stay within their comfort zones to avoid failing and feeling disappointed but its important to remind yourself that you have had the courage to try something new and are far from a failure. If you feel disappointed in yourself then its ok to allow yourself those feelings – just don’t let them consume you.

Peoples actions and behaviours are also often a constant source of disappointment but again these are outside of our control so it is best to accept this and focus on what you can control which is your own behaviour.

Another good way of dealing with disappointment is to talk about your feelings or write them in a journal. Reflecting on a situation, especially with other people, often helps us to gain some perspective and let those uncomfortable feelings subside. This is particularly useful if someone is disappointed in your own behaviour. Talking about it helps us and them to put it in the past and move forward.

Another way of helping to avoid disappointment is to avoid the comparison trap. On a recent holiday of a lifetime to the Seychelles (ok that sounds a lot fancier than it should) I spent the whole week comparing my wobbly tummy and upside down traffic cone legs to my body beautiful, perfect friend who glowed in her hot pink bikini whilst I stretched my industrial strength black bikini buttons in an upwards direction to contain my increasing muffin tops. I felt disappointed in myself that I had not put in the effort to get my body up to scratch and instead I had mainlined on wine, cheese and crisps for months with a promise that I would lose a stone before the vacation which of course  I never did. It was only when I started focusing on my own self care that I realise that this destructive and negative mindset only led to one destination and that wasn’t a gorgeous Seychelles beach – it was Pity Town. Instead of enjoying my holiday I wept silent tears of frustration because I didn’t measure up to what I felt I should look like. In a world where we are force fed images of perfection on an almost daily basis it is really important to not only avoid comparison but to focus heavily on the positive aspects of ourselves and our own lives which are unique and extraordinary. 

Its also important to remember that disappointment is just a feeling. It isn’t meant to destroy us and if we deal with it appropriately it can actually be used as a tool to help us grow and move forward.

Just a word of warning though – if you ever borrow expensive jewellery always fasten the safety clasp.

A Life Less Filtered

Recently I met someone for the first time that I had got to know through Facebook and when we were actually sat face to face over lunch I was quite startled at how different she looked from her glossy social media presence. Now this probably sounds like I’m being a bit mean but I have to say that I actually preferred the real unfiltered version with  the faint laughter lines, the smudged lipstick and the slightly crooked teeth. The unfiltered version shouted to me…I’m real!! I’m a person!! I don’t really have bunny ears.

We live in a society that’s obsessed with filters. We are force fed images in magazines of perfect creatures with prefect skin and airbrushed curves. Is it any wonder that we are breeding a generation of emotional vulnerable teenagers who fear that anything removed from perfection is unacceptable. We can turn ourselves into cute animals or superheroes at the press of a button, smooth out our skin and whiten our teeth on our iPhone and then delete our images if we aren’t “liked” enough. Its a vicious circle of validation, negativity and loathing as we constantly seek the positive affirmations that we feel will lead to our mental nirvana but actually land us sweating profusely in hell.  Why is being real not good enough?

Step away from social media and the devil that calls itself airbrushing, our brains do a pretty good job of filtering out the nasties anyway. A good old filter can not only be applied to a photo but to people and life itself. This past weekend I found myself almost inconsolable over the death of Prince Phillip. I met him years ago and we had exchanged a few words and he seemed a pleasant enough chap and as story after story came out over the weekend of his life of duty and service I conveniently filtered out all of the negative press that I had heard about him over the years. I stand by the fact that he was an exemplary consort to our Queen but was he perfect? He was a human being after all so probably not.

When my parents died a few years ago I listened to the eulogy and thought that they perhaps should be canonised. Yes I recognised all of what was said but that wasn’t the whole unfiltered picture. Even in death we apply a  glossy spin to remind ourselves that only perfection is acceptable. They were really good and kind people but again, they had faults…they made mistakes. Don’t we all?

At The Power of You we encourage people to embrace their imperfections and to avoid the comparison trap. Isn’t life more about the moment than frantically ironing out any wrinkles that we gain along the way?  I am always reminded of the scene from Shirley Valentine where she tries to cover up her stretch marks on a romantic boat trip with Tom Conti. “Don’t hide these lines” he says, “These lines show you have lived”. She bats him away but as corny as it sounds its absolutely true. Real people get wrinkles…its called ageing. The grim reaper is going to start getting confused if we start turning up all smooth skinned and glowing!

As we step out of lockdown into real life we will be leaving behind the protection of our zoom filters and ring lights and standing face to face with reality. Why not embrace it. Our lumps and bumps and lines and wrinkles are unique to us. They show that we have lived, that we have survived. These imperfections are what make us unique masterpieces.

So my advice is to ditch the filters. Let people see you in a light that isn’t designed to flatter but one that shows you as you are – an individual.

And as for my eulogy… when the day comes I would like to be remembered as I am. Perfectly imperfect in every way.

Lockdown Lid Lifting

It’s been just over a year since we first went into lockdown and I can vividly remember the first announcement, it almost felt bizarrely quite exciting as we were ordered to “Stay At Home”. This was history in the making and we were part of it. I slugged back a glass or three of wine and did what most people did in lockdown one – got fatter.

Fast forward to March 2021 and thankfully my muffin tops have receded and I’m back in my skinny jeans but it has been a real period of personal highs and lows and now, as we move into what looks like a more normal world, I’m sharing my anxieties about how it is going to feel when we are finally set free.

Lockdown for me in my early fifties has been pretty tolerable. I can easily work from home and whilst I’m not exactly technically savvy I can find my way around social media and zoom so communication with the outside world has been daily and intense. Whilst I may have been a party girl a long time ago I am now more than happy to be in bed with my hot chocolate at ten pm and I’m not one for pubs and (uugghh) certainly not clubs. Give me a Reece’s bar and a good box set and I’m happy. Of course I’ve missed seeing family and friends and its been hard to watch as some of them have struggled with the isolation. I think that we all try to help and support the best we can but sometimes the only thing that really works is a huge hug from a loved one and we have all missed those.

For me the benefits of this enforced period of isolation have definitely been a prolonged period of self reflection. Pre pandemic I was living life on fast forward and missing out on the best bits as I hurried from day to day. Now I see the pleasure in a clear sky, the beauty of the spring flowers, even the soft touch of a morning breeze on my cheek. I no longer rush my meals but savour each mouthful, I am more resourceful, more creative, less wasteful and I like to think that I have become a more caring and compassionate member of society. I have realised what matters. It’s not fancy clothes, a fat bank account or holidays splashed all over Instagram. It’s not numbers of followers or likes, high flying careers and staying late at the office because everyone else is. The things that matter are very simple. Family, friends, relationships full of love. Time spent being present and doing things that you enjoy. Time – time to relax, unwind and be still. Time to just be. Daydreaming, long lie ins and laughter. Things that don’t cost money. Things that I have overlooked because I have always been so busy.

I know that a lot of people will feel anxious about the months ahead and what that may look like so my advice would be to take things slowly, an hour at a time if it all feels too overwhelming. You don’t need to rush out or attend every event just because you can. Do what feels comfortable and take things back to basics. Don’t feel pressured doing what you used to do. The world will hopefully unfold slowly so we will have time to adapt and adjust to what it looks and feels like. There is always an opportunity to reset and start again and you can press that button anytime you please.

One of the things that I worry about (worry probably being too strong a sentiment) is wearing heels again. My feet have had decades of being stuffed into stilettos and have definitely benefitted from the enforced rest and my lovely comfy Uggs as workwear. So I’ve decided to give my feet a break and ease them in gently with lower heels and less time teetering on the brink of bunions. Wearing flat shoes doesn’t make me a bad person – just a short one so I’m going with it!! Stress over.

I also worry about invitation overload and having to go out again. I have heard my friends saying that they will be doing everything but I know that this isn’t the route I want to take so I’ve decided to not feel guilty about it and just be honest. There is nothing wrong with saying no and reclaiming time back for yourself – even after a year of isolation. The right thing to do is what is right for you and these are the rules that I’m laying down for my lockdown reveal.  

So lets head towards the summer a little older and a lot wiser. We are the fortunate ones to still be here so now is the time to make a future that we have control over, a future where every day contains some rest, some reflection and a huge dollop of self care.

One day at a time with, or without heels.

Step Into Spring

February is a strange month and  this year is no exception. As we all wait with eager anticipation for Boris’s “roadmap” out of lockdown it would be fair to say that most of us are literally counting down the days when we can head to the beer gardens and bond with our friends over tepid pints and scotch eggs again.

February is also a strange month for weather. One day you step outside wrapped up like an Eskimo as the Northern gale force winds literally blow you off your feet and the next day it’s ten degrees warmer and we are all wearing shorts and rejoicing that winter is over once again before it returns the following day along with our now standard teddy fleece bedding and log burning stoves.

Life is a little bit like the weather at this time of year. One day it’s sunny and you are feeling warm and relaxed and wiggling your newly painted toes in your summer sandals and the next day an unexpected cloud appears and drenches you leaving you slightly battered,  shivering and wondering if the sun will ever come out again. The good news is that it always does.

Good times and bad times, rainy days and sunny days come and go as we travel along life’s path. Whatever life throws at us we can equip ourselves to weather the storm (remember there is no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing). The more time we spend on our self care the more resilient we become and the more tools we add to our toolbox to be able to cope with a stormy period.  Life, like the weather, isn’t all about sunshine and also, like nature, we need a little rain to help us grow.

That being said I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of days as the milder air has encouraged the bulbs to start peeking their heads through the soil. I’ve developed a habit of purchasing £1 bunches of daffodils from the supermarket and their beautiful golden trumpets signify to me the start of a new season and a sense of hope for the months ahead. I love looking ahead to Spring and watching nature come back to life after the grey winter months.

One of the things that I have really learned over the last year is that whatever the weather a day can still be beautiful. I spent a good fifteen minutes sat in my car a few days ago in sub zero temperatures just marvelling at the intricate ice crystals that had formed on my windscreen (ok I know that sounds a bit weird but they really were very beautiful), then today I watched a pair of blue tits dancing through the air as we experienced an unusually mild day.

Even on a rainy day just being inside feeling cosy and dry can feel quite satisfying and calming as can splashing through the puddles in my brightly coloured wellies with two muddy dogs in tow which is no longer a chore but an opportunity to breathe in fresh air and have a bit of fun.

So Spring is nearly here but remember that despite the longer days and warmer weather an unexpected icy blast may return at any time. All you need to do is stay prepared, stay calm and stay focused and the storm will pass leaving clear skies and new opportunities. 

Lets Get Spring Cleaning

At Power HQ we are all about structure and routine so much that we are practically leaping out of bed in the morning and telling ourselves how amazing we are before we do fifty squats and a couple of star jumps. Its great to get ourselves mentally organised but sometimes a good old tidy up can have a really therapeutic effect on both body and soul.

Ok its not officially spring yet but I saw a clump of snowdrops in the garden this afternoon so that’s a good enough reason to think that winter is retreating and we will soon be basking in glorious sunshine – ah well I can dream cant I?

I am a huge lover of organisation and have been know not to go to bed until my wardrobe is properly colour co-ordinated. My Mum used to say “That girl can fill a bin” – praise indeed for someone whose idea of a good time is depositing trash at a local recycling site. I love everything being neat and tidy and I also find clearing out the clutter very soothing.

Simplifying and keeping our environment clean and tidy has huge benefits and whilst I appreciate that this can be hard when we are in lockdown and home schooling we really don’t need so much “stuff” and living in a cluttered environment is extremely stressful. Once I learned that possessions really didn’t make me happy and that a shopping trip was just a quick high that soon dissipated I started to really love and appreciate what I actually had.

A  couple of years back a friend and I set ourselves a challenge of not buying any new clothes for a year. I cheated a bit and bought some shoes but after a couple of months I really started to embrace the challenge and of course I benefitted financially too. I found things in my wardrobe that I hadn’t worn for years simply because the lure of a shiny new object was so strong. I gained back so much time I would have normally spent scrolling the internet for new outfits and then visiting the post office to return them as the majority weren’t right for me (or had been bought in a prosecco fuelled haze).  I started to really appreciate what I had and even wore an old ball gown to a charity event that I was hosting  – this normally would have sent me into a buying frenzy.

The wardrobe is just one area that we can downsize but having a spring clean can feel a bit overwhelming so my suggestion is to start small. Spend fifteen minutes a day clearing out a cupboard or a drawer and if you haven’t used something for six months then bin it or, even better, pop it in your charity bag (one mans trash is another mans treasure and all that). You will be amazed at the sense of satisfaction that you get from streamlining your life. Don’t get emotionally attached to that old bottle opener you bought in Spain twenty years ago that is gathering dust at the back of the drawer or those glo sticks you saved from a girls weekend in Ibiza. Be ruthless and remind yourself that the less you have the easier it will be to keep things clean and organised.

So dig out the rubber gloves and a bin bag and get sorting. And as the wonderful Marie Kondo says “When you tidy you gain a little confidence. You start to believe in the future”.

I’m Ditching The January Lockdown Blues

IT is officially 2021 and we are back into another lockdown coupled with the obligatory January blues where the skies always seem to be threatening and pay day feels as though it’s a long way away. The good news is that we are at the mid way point and spring is on the horizon along with the roll out of the vaccine. Is normal life going to resume sooner rather than later?
As I’m writing this blog I’m looking out at an almost picture perfect winter scene. The snow is inches thick and laying heavy on the ground. The world is gently muffled and I’m warm and cosy inside, with my two dogs laid at my feet, feeling more grateful than I feel miserable and there’s a reason for that. Last year I decided to focus on what I have in my life rather than worry about the pandemic and the many things that I can’t control. Every morning when I wake up a write a few words in my diary that draw my attention to the things that I have and it’s been instrumental in helping me through what has been a very challenging year.
In my Facebook group we share our gratitudes every day. It can be something as simple as a cup of coffee in bed, time to read your favourite book or binge watch a box set, a walk on a frosty morning  or a doorstop delivery from Betty’s (now I would be grateful for that). They may sound like small things but they are often things that we take for granted, things that are just part and parcel of our everyday lives. Focusing on small things each day has made me fall in love with the life that I have. It’s not without its challenges but each day I am literally counting my blessings. 
One thing that this pandemic has taught me is to slow down and appreciate things. I’ve spent much of the last twenty years living my life with my finger very firmly on the fast forward button and I’ve been forced into a situation, as we all have, where I have the time to literally take stock. I’ve reconnected with friends and family, I’ve reviewed my finances and stripped out any unnecessary outgoings, I’ve decluttering and discovered the joy of crafting and I’ve learned to love and appreciate my home which may sound strange but pre covid it was literally just somewhere I laid my metaphorical hat in between outings to the office. Now my home has become a sanctuary that I love, it’s where I feel safe and protected. It’s where I can just allow myself to “be”. I guess you could say that I have literally woken up and am smelling the roses. 
So January for me has become like any other month. I’m ignoring the social media posts that say people have tried their seven day trial to 2021 and wish to cancel their subscription and instead I’m maintaining a sharp focus on the positives. If you are reading my blog then you have survived 2020 and I for one am grateful for that and for all the opportunities that lie ahead of me.  Im ditching the diet and if someone leaves me a doorstep delivery then I’m going to take a big bite of cake and enjoy it!! 

A Year To Remember

By the time this blog is published we will probably have taken down the decorations, perhaps gone back into lockdown and inevitably broken at least one of our New Years resolutions. Life is pretty predictable like that.
2020 was, however, anything but predictable. Certainly for me it was a year of huge change (more of that later) but for all of us we experienced becoming part of history as we lived through, and continue to do so, a global pandemic.
I sometimes wonder when and if we will come out of these strange times and if life will ever be the same again but I also hope in a lot of ways that life won’t return to how it was before. 
On New Years Eve I wrote this poem which explains how I feel my life has been impacted in a positive way.

A New Years Eve Reflection

As the sun starts to set on the year that wasAnd the light begins to dim and the muted revellers raise a glass to welcome the new year in.

We reflect on twenty twenty the strangest year that we have known when our whole world turned itself upside down and the future was unknown.

We learned to live a different life with hand wash, masks and zoom where we socially distanced and stayed at home and the news was filled with doom.

But for me I watched with open eyes as a whole new world unfurled where kindness prevailed and life slowed down where we listened and we heard.

I made new friends and started hobbies things that mattered rose to the top. I saw the beauty in the sun and the stars the caress in a single raindrop.

I embraced family from a distance I listened and I cared no rushing around in an endless whirl precious time with loved ones was shared.

So my friends the year that’s passed by take from it lessons learned time is a gift and it is precious make your life one that is earned.

Start each day with gratitude and thanks count your blessings not your woes learn to love the life bequeathed to you see the highs and not the lows.

A peaceful New Year may I wish to you Good intentions we all will setLet this blank canvas of time given to us this eve be our happiest and healthiest yet.

So whilst I haven’t exactly welcomed Coronavirus I have embraced a different pace of life and I know that many others have experienced this too. Slowing down sometimes actually helps us to be able to see exactly what is in front of us rather than life passing by in a frenzied blur. Sitting and taking stock helps us to focus on what’s important and to sift out any unnecessary or unwanted drama. Living a simpler and more mindful life can actually unlock a door to a much more tranquil existence.

On New Year’s Day my husband said to me that he was glad to see the back of 2020 and my social media timeline was filled with similar sentiments. We tragically lost his father (my father in law) just before Christmas so I understand completely why he would want to close the door on a year that brought him so much pain personally but I urged him to focus on the good things that happened in 2020. We got to spend a lot more time together in lockdown which we enjoyed immensely, as previously, with our busy schedules, we were like ships passing in the night. We decided to sell our house and downsize, something we would have been too busy to even contemplate pre pandemic. I set up my consultancy with my son and we delivered a very successful online programme and have had incredible feedback from people out there who wanted and needed our support and much more.

As humans we like to draw lines under things and close doors on periods of time that have been difficult. It’s second nature to us but I urge all my followers to try and look at things differently, to turn the world upside down. Every year, month, week and day (and sometimes even hour) has its high points and its low points so rather than focus on the negative let’s focus on the good things that happened and the lessons that we have learned. So yes, 2020 has been an incredible difficult and tragic year but it has also been a year where people have shown unprecedented levels of kindness and where we have seen the best in many. It’s been a year when people have realised what’s important and appreciated the things that they once took for granted (like hugs). I sincerely hope that once this pandemic is over we all retain that sharp focus on family and community and don’t fall back into a high speed, filtered existence.