Fledgling Mummy Blogger Hits the Wall

Wall

So it has happened. A mere two and a half months after launching my blog, I have hit the wall and since my last blog a week ago, have not felt the urge or the inspiration to write. Normally, on any given day, I am mulling over headings, growing ideas, structuring a piece, forming sentences. Last week, nothing. I just couldn’t be bothered and did not feel the pull to put pen to paper.

I have to say, it has come as a bit of a surprise. I have been loving it and also been feeling that I have found my ‘thing’. I have been genuinely lost in the moment as I have been writing, enjoying writing just for the sake of writing and feeling genuine wonder at the joy of being creative. Beyond this, it has also been really encouraging to get such lovely feedback and to be told that what I have written has had an impact on people. It hasn’t mattered to me that my readership is largely made up of friends and colleagues. To know that on any given day, my blog has made someone feel better, has given them hope, has triggered a spirited discussion, has made them cry, has made them laugh….well actually, that is more than enough.

So, what happened last week?! Why was it that every time, I started to form an idea, I felt fed up with myself? Irritated by my own introspection. I mean, let’s be honest – who cares? who am I?!

It’s true that I am still unwell – it’s more manageable than a few weeks ago, but it is still a drain. It is also true that I am a PTA mum with only a week to go before we host a circus, aiming to sell 600 tickets and it is like a full time job. However, both of these things, are part of our everyday chaos. There’s nothing new here.

Those of you who have read my blog before will also know that, whilst I am ashamed to say it, I am one of many for whom approval is important. Last week was a second week for me of heightened anxiety: worrying about what people thought about the blog, worrying that people don’t like me, worrying that people actively dislike me as I tried to rally volunteers for the bouncy castles and sell tickets for this bloody circus. This coincided with the first open criticism of the blog where I was teased for it being twee and predictable in its happy endings/rousing sentiments. Ooof. That was hard to take. It was meant in jest and good spirits but when you are putting yourself out there and when you know that the large majority of your readers are friends…well it makes you think that actually your own worries and insecurities are not without foundation, which of course, makes it all worse and self-perpetuating.

Then there is the larger picture. It’s not just my own blog that has annoyed me this week. All the self-development stuff which I have not been able to get enough of, has rankled. Instead of pausing to read the posts by my usual favourites, I have tutted, sighed and scrolled on. Spirit junkie – bah, white hot truth – blurgh, overwhelm – pass the bucket, money mindset – please….In weeks filled with political uncertainty amidst generation and identity changing decisions, in weeks filled with atrocious acts of terrorism and the unimaginable tragedy of Grenfell Tower, well it has all felt a little bit self-indulgent, irreverent and irrelevant.

Even as I write this now it almost feels disrespectful. I am sat in the garden of my worn but lovely home, with a glass of bubbles – because we had a BBQ and it’s sunny….My beautiful babies are in bed, safe and sound and my lovely husband is in the bath, soothing his aching muscles after a perfect boys weekend in Wales climbing mountains in summer splendour. What cares do we have the right to claim really?

So today, I am here because I said I would be. By launching a blog, I declared my commitment to write. And I do so very much want to write, even when it feels difficult. Consistency and practice is key. Yet for the first time, tonight feels like a chore.

So no twee ending today, just hope that there are happier, more peaceful days ahead.

With all my love and prayers for those who are suffering and in pain tonight.

Kerry

x

 

5 lessons from a Coast to Coast

Coast to Coast

On Sunday my wonderful husband cycled 131.8 miles, including 6,200 feet of climbing, from Whitehaven to Sunderland. He was part of a dads coast to coast cycling challenge raising funds for our primary school. He was one of a team of 7 cyclists and 2 support drivers. These are the lessons I learnt.

  1. Mindset is king

You may have already read that Dan had not really been on a bike until March and with a knee injury and weighing in at almost 20 stone, he had not really exercised regularly either. The challenge ahead and to be ready in time was immense. There were those who doubted he would make it. That was never my worry; come hell or high water Dan would have got himself there. I knew that.

What we both found really interesting, is that prior to Sunday, the longest training ride that Dan had done was 63 miles, after which he was completely spent and it took him 2 days to recover. Yet on the day, 68 miles in, with another 63.5 miles to go, Dan felt fresh as a daisy….that first stage had been a breeze and he had plenty left in the tank. Onwards and upwards. So fascinating: the same distance which had previously stretched him to his limits had been easy, simply because he knew how much further he had to go. That 68 miles, was just the start: His mind knew and so his body knew what he had to do, and adjusted his strength and energy in line with the challenge.

Contrast this to the end of the ride. In Dan’s mind, once he hit Newcastle, he was only a few miles from the finish. Not so – there were still 15 miles to go. Having flown, been faster and stronger than he dared to believe, Dan hit a wall. His body had been lied to – it was ready for the end and so it started to shut it down. Every turn of the wheel, more and more painful, Dan’s motivation slumped.

Of course, the ride was going to get tough at some point, but it was literally like a switch. His mind and his body had been prepared to get 10 minutes beyond Newcastle and that was all it was prepared to do!

It just goes to show that what you think and believe really can manifest results and of course, the reverse. The power of belief; the law of attraction, whatever you want to call it; your mind is the most incredible tool.

2. You can be more than one version of yourself

 

The Dan who completed the coast to coast on Sunday was elite athlete Dan and a hero of success manuals everywhere. He was confident, focussed, determined, motivated, competitive, powerful, disciplined. Not because he completed it, but in the tone of his voice, the things he said, the things we discussed and because of the way he did it. Knowing Dan, he wasn’t a little bit determined, a little bit confident: he was 100% committed and was all of the above in all their glory.

He can be such a conundrum. A tale of two Dans. Everyday Dan is not these things; not often. He is many, many wonderful things but not these. Extreme Dan makes an appearance every now and then and I know he is in there, hidden away.

We have talked about it since. Imagine, if Dan took the same approach to health generally, to work generally, to his aspirations generally.

What is the powerful force that keeps Extreme Dan hidden, such that he only breaks out from time to time? I know Dan would like him to make more of an appearance and one of his aims after Sunday is to do just that.

Some might call reverting to Everyday Dan, comfortable Dan, as hitting Dan’s upper limit. Adopting self-limiting behaviour. We are going to work on that.

3. Team work really does make the dream work

 

Our boys on Sunday and in the months before hand were an incredible team. The 7 cyclists ranged from my Dan, just beginning right up to our semi-professional cyclist, who competes regularly, has a coach and last year completed an Everest Challenge – look it up, it’s breath-taking. But those boys crossed the finish together on Sunday.

They have trained together, mapped a route together, created tactics together and they stuck together. Learning how to get each other through the challenge.

Dan and his particular team buddy were incredible. The boys have joked that from behind it looked like Dan was taking his son for a ride such is the difference in their physiques. Little and large! And yet, they were perfect together. Dan stronger on the flat pushing his buddy further between stops, his buddy, hanging back to stay close literally talking Dan up the hills.

Their support driver for the ride itself, on his own, shuttling between the three groups (they did a staggered start to reflect abilities and so they could finish together), taking care of all of them, making sure they were sustained, motivating and encouraging them.

To witness such a collaborative spirit, to see the genuine concern for all team mates and to know that it was all of them or none of them…well, it was humbling. 

4. The power of brotherhood

 

Any of the dads reading this are probably already cringing, but I am going to say it anyway. The teamwork yesterday went beyond participating in a cycling challenge.

These boys actually have a real affection for one another. I’ll admit, they are not going to openly declare their love for each other the way mums might but they are really connected. Yes, they regress to teenage discourse and are merciless in their jokes and sarcasm, but when it comes down to it, they genuinely care. These dads lift each other and support one another. They praise and applaud each other’s achievements and if it came to it, their shoulders are there to be leant on. The bonds of their friendship are true and strong. Which brings me onto….

5. There is a time and place

 

So as the mums left at home tracked our husbands progress, some of us anxious, I began to feel dreadful that we were not there to cheer them on and that I was not being the supportive wife I like to be. Encouraged by my friends, with only the last stint to go, I threw the girls in the car and sped up to Sunderland, determined to make it to the finish line and greet my amazing husband as he finished his mammoth challenge. It was the stuff of all good Hollywood romantic comedies. He would be tearful, he would sweep me into his arms, I would stroke his hair, then we would embrace as a family; he would be so glad we were there. Dan and I are the couple who together, pre-kids, watched on repeat the High School Musical films and sang the duets in the car – it was the stuff our perfect endings are made of.

Only it wasn’t. No hugs, no tears, no laughing pats on the head for the children. Instead, barely a word, clear irritation with the kids, tangible awkwardness and only a half-hearted wave goodbye as heads down, the girls and I headed back to the car for home, alone.

I wasn’t angry. It was clear to me, why we were not wanted. Yes, I felt hurt and also a bit humiliated (I was right – I know now that the other dads felt pity for Dan and also relief that it was just me)….but I did get it. We were like cuckoos in the nest.

I completely misjudged the moment and after my initial wave of disappointment, a lesson that sometimes the loving thing is to let someone go, to give them their own moment, their own time. It’s not the ending I would choose but we are all different and perhaps I could have anticipated it better.

So next time, when the boys are thinking about cycling from London to Paris, maybe the other mums and I will take a mini break to Mallorca or Ibiza. Far away from the boys and their bonding. After 131 miles in one day, they all stank anyway!

Kerry

X

Enough is not enough

Enough 1

For over a year, one of the words which daily fills my consciousness is ‘mediocrity’ and even long before I started this blog, it has been something I felt pulled to write about.

My thoughts go something like this: I don’t want to be mediocre….what if it is ok to be mediocre….Who gets to decide what mediocre is anyway…..I want to be a full time homemaker, a stay at home mum….but I’m wasting my talents and my education….I need to be an all singing all dancing example of what you can achieve if you believe….I don’t want to meet my maker and feel regret I didn’t really live….

And then I see articles cropping up on my FB feed saying “You are enough”; being quiet and introverted or living a ‘small’ life, is “enough”.

But I find little comfort from these words, offered up like some kind of consolation prize – don’t worry dear, its ok, not everyone can live in a blaze of glory, it’s ok to come in second, third, fourth – it’s the taking part that counts.

I know I am not alone. Just yesterday, I spoke with one of my dearest friends about how, as mums, we struggle with guilt or a nagging sense that we should be doing more. A nagging need to justify our decision not to be at work or our decision to be at work part-time. An uncomfortable sense that we need to explain our decisions away. A worry we are not setting the right example of female empowerment or that we are letting ourselves down: surely we have greater gifts and we need to be bestowing them on the world?

One of the first ever self-development books I read, urged me page after page after page to rise up and be in the top 5% of the population…don’t spend your life floundering in the bottom 95% and I highlighted the words: “Being average means to settle for less than you truly want and are capable of, and to struggle for your entire life”. Ouch. If you are what you read it’s no wonder I wandered into my 41st year feeling uncomfortable.

But it’s not all Hal Elrod’s fault. There are books and books filled with this kind of ‘motivational’ goal driven hyperbole, urging you on to greater success. It’s how we operate: it’s inherent to our make-up and society – achieve, achieve, achieve; strive, strive, strive; get the bigger house, get the faster car, stop shopping at Next and start shopping at Whistles, Jigsaw….and so on.

And if we choose not to? There is an undeniable judgment made by others and by ourselves that we are not fulfilling our true potential. A sense of waste.

But I for one, am fed up of feeling like I am in second place. So I am working on how to feel better about the life we are creating. Silencing my inner critic who whispers, ‘but Kerry you went to Cambridge…but Kerry you were going to do amazing things.”

I have written before about “Unleashing My Inner Wild Woman” and I often think of her: instinctive, maternal, creative. That helps and I celebrate the decisions she makes.

But as I move forward?

Two things: first, I am trying to remind myself that I live this life intentionally. It is not an accident; it wasn’t forced on me. I CHOOSE this life. Equally, I need to remind myself every day to live with INTENTION. So if I am at home with the children, if I am at home making my home, then do it with meaning. Don’t drift the day away, stop checking Facebook – it hasn’t changed since you refreshed it 60 seconds ago…live the life you are choosing, do it properly, do it passionately, do it gladly and don’t feel ashamed that you enjoy it.

Secondly, I have been thinking a lot about redefining our goals.

If, to feel successful, we need always to move forwards, then I want to be moving towards something which makes me feel good. So, I have been thinking a lot about my own values and aligning my decisions to those values, making sure that my daily actions and my big decisions, reflect the values and things I cherish most (thank you Rachel Flower).

Additionally, a few months ago I watched an interview with Danielle LaPorte and I have now also started reading her book, ‘The Desire Map’. It’s about “creating goals with soul”, so instead of focusing on tangible, material items and targets, you first think about your “core desired feelings”: How do you want to feel? In your life and lifestyle? In your relationships? In your health? In your education? And so on. You then determine your goals and intentions with these feelings in mind. If you accept that consultancy contract will that help you feel x? If the answer is no, turn it down, even if you lose money, even if you think people will speak badly about you.

If you are not motivated by rising through the ranks, by earning £x a year, if you don’t want to be a ball-breaking career girl, it makes sense that judging your development and progress by traditional tangible goals will make you feel miserable, as though you are failing.

If, however, you move your life forward towards the things that really make your heart sing, then you will feel like an Olympic athlete who has won gold. You will be taking part but you will be taking part with your whole heart, your soul on fire.

You won’t feel apologetic, and you won’t need to congratulate yourself on feeling that you are “enough”. You will be MORE than enough – you will be living the life you choose to with desire and will be celebrating your many, many achievements. Achievements which you set by reference to how you feel most alive.

As ‘The Desire Map’ says – less striving, more living.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you won’t earn £X a year, but it might mean that you are happier doing it. That you will do so without a sense of battle, burn-out and fatigue.

And for me, it means because I am no longer assessing my own achievements and own decisions in the traditional way, I can stop trying to accept my own mediocrity. I am not mediocre and I am not standing still. I am still using my many gifts and talents; I am living the life I am meant to live.

I have so much more I want to say on this…Cannot wait to explore it more.

Kerry

x

ps thanks to Pinterest for the images

Enough 2

True colours

True colours

My parents will not tell me who they vote for and they never have. Until recently, I have always been suspicious of this. Why not? Are they ashamed? Are they being lazy, refusing to enter into a dialogue about fundamental issues? But today, I get it.

For three reasons: first I dare not invite the level of criticism and judgment I have seen made of others via social media. Second, I do find it a struggle and sometimes feel ashamed of my own decision. Third, I was alarmed at the way a discussion with the girls on the school run went this morning…..

Let’s take each of these in turn.

Firstly, I will start by saying that I have always been in awe of people who feel so passionately about policy issues, campaigns, issues. I have always admired their eloquence, force of feeling and commitment, in declaring their position and promoting their opinions. I have envied the strength of emotion and the depth of their expression and often wished that I felt as inspired by something. However, as with the referendum, I have found that the way in which so many people feel that this election has entitled them to make judgments about those who have the temerity to disagree with their personal political opinions, alarming.

I have seen people who have declared their vote as blue, belittled as gullible, taken in by the press or worse, as selfish – motivated only by their personal advancement. I have seen people who have declared their vote as red, ridiculed for a lack of understanding about how economics work, caricatured as Guardian reading, vegetarians. I have seen people who have declared their vote as purple, as uneducated, racist, lower class. Why does it have to be so personal? Isn’t it possible that someone voting blue, is not just considering their own financial position but might be considering the economics of the country as a whole? Or might just not trust another leader? Isn’t it possible that someone voting red, is not a communist, but might just believe in a different way? Isn’t it possible that someone voting purple, might feel very strongly about the greater constitutional issues in discussion? Or isn’t it possible, that in casting a vote one way or another, a person is not a representation of the complete set of principles outlined by that party? Even if they are, does that give someone else the right to judge them? To declare that they are being irresponsible, selfish, careless, foolish? Isn’t it a wonderful part of democracy that we are entitled to different opinions and that we are entitled to make a choice?

Yes politics by its nature invites debate and yes emotions are high, but who declared that an opinion or a strongly held political view, entitles someone to belittle another, to bemoan as uneducated, foolish masses those who disagree with you? Surely strength of feeling and passion need not exclude respect, empathy and open mindedness?

In relation to my second reason for not wanting to declare my own vote: I no longer have a concrete affinity to one party or another. I once voted X but recently have voted Y. However, I would not consider myself to have an ongoing dedication to Y and it would not surprise me if I voted X again or indeed Z. Does this inconsistency, make me fickle? Are you allowed to be fickle when it comes to politics? Am I just lazy? I often feel ashamed of my ambivalence and lack of interest. In particular, since the children arrived, I have just not had the energy or the time to dedicate to the news and in particular, the finance pages. Blimey, it’s the best I can do to make sure I read anything and am damned if that’s going to be anything that doesn’t have a bit of romance, or more lately, tells me to journal, be grateful, find my truth, reveal my light! So as someone who used to confidently argue into the early hours, revelling in my ability to change opinion or have my sparring partner concede, I now shy away from declaring an opinion: feeling that unless I ‘really’ know about something, I ought not really express a view…..But the shame is greater than that: by abandoning X and voting Y, I do sometimes feel as though I have ‘opted out’, ‘given in’…..done exactly as my Dad predicted. The truth is, our own circumstances do influence my decision; I am no longer purely motivated by ideals and that truth is a canker, a shameful infection I don’t want to reveal. Though in writing that, I wonder is it really so shameful to have a change of opinion from that held in my youth? Of course, I think about the impact of policies on our household, I cannot help that. But life experience and my own reading has also changed my understanding of economics and the world stage as a whole. Is that so shameful? Perhaps only because I compare myself to those who remain so committed to the politics I have always known them to hold?

As for my third reason? As a woman, I do feel quite strongly, the responsibility of exercising my vote. I also want the girls to understand that and I want them to be fierce, to express their own opinions, to never be afraid, to make a difference. So, in the car on the way to school, I reminded them that today was polling day and that today Mummy and Daddy would be voting and explained why we were voting. The girls asked me who I was voting for and I told them and they wanted to know why. What followed, really bothered me and I am now backpedalling, trying to undo what is done…. I tried to explain it to Dan as follows: Who are the girls biggest influencers? Who do they trust most? Why it’s Mummy and Daddy of course! So instantly, my vote, is their vote. My reasons, are completely the right reasons and held by them too. It was instant indoctrination. Wow!

So, if from the ages of 3, 5 and 7, I pass on to the girls my own political opinions and persuasions, what will they grow up believing? How does this enable them to hold their own independent views? I felt so very uncomfortable hearing the girls parroting back to me my own justifications for voting, as absolute truths.

It also felt odd, hearing the girls discussing such grown up issues. Can we not teach them financial sense and social awareness in a more age appropriate, general sense? Yes there will come a time when it is appropriate to talk to them specifically about the NHS, about tax etc. But will I do a better job, if when that time arrives, they have learnt about the importance of kindness, caring for others, not discriminating for any reason and have learnt how to save, how to invest, so that they can take their own informed decisions and follow their own leanings?

I have thought it marvellous to see young children on protests, marches etc. I thought it was amazing and admired the parenting – ‘just think those kids are going to grow up to be the ones I was in awe of at Cambridge. Intelligent, educated, political, worldly’…but what if those kids were just imitations of their parents? Maybe Mum and Dad were not shying away, maybe they were giving me the freedom to find my own way?

Who knows, there are no rights and wrongs, but it has certainly got me thinking and for now, I am reluctant to reveal specifically my true colour.

But as I come to the end of this blog, I do have to celebrate, the power of the discourse around electoral day. My head has been buzzing with thoughts all day, about the policies themselves, but also around the issues I have written about. I have felt stimulated, interested, alive. It is genuinely exciting. And whilst I have struggled with the tone of some of the debate, I remain, impressed and inspired by those who feel so deeply and passionately.

Kerry

X

Ps thanks to Pinterest for the image

 

Dark clouds

storm 1

I have written about some personal things in my blog but today is a hard one to share because for some reason this feels actually quite private and also I don’t want to invite pity – what I am about to talk about is not life threatening and please know, I do count my blessings. However, I am writing about it because, right now I am finding it hard to think about anything else.

I suffer from palindromic rheumatism. It started around 12 years ago after a really bad dose of tonsillitis, when the doctors called it viral arthritis. Essentially, any time I get a virus or infection, I also suffer joint pain. Over the years, it has got worse, and whilst it still hits with things like colds, I also suffer episodic rheumatism by itself. Sometimes it lasts for a few days, sometimes several weeks. It affects all my joints, I have muscle pain across the top of my back and I feel absolutely exhausted and sometimes like I have a low level temperature. The longer it goes on, the more tired I feel – I don’t sleep well and also I think I feel shattered by fighting the pain. It started to affect our lifestyle quite significantly in 2014/15 but actually since then, I have had a really good spell of about two years. Unfortunately, over the last 6 months or so, I have felt it creeping back into my bones and I am currently in the midst of an extended episode – 3 weeks in. I am uncomfortable, getting through the days on painkillers, cross with the children when I don’t want to be, shattered and tearful.

The Friday before half term was for many of us a school training day. The sun was blazing and my friends and their children were at the beach, visiting abbeys, splashing in rivers, celebrating friendships and creating wonderful memories. The girls and I were at home and I was a deep, dark blot on what should have been a bright and happy day. I was unreasonable, I was angry, I was tired and I yelled at the girls for no reason and I didn’t just snap – I spoke to them in a way which was too grown up and in a way which was about me unburdening myself and not remotely justified. I was foul and I knew it. Eventually, I gave in and succumbed to the sofa….drifting off and losing time, waking fitfully, to see the girls, unsupervised, playing on in the garden….At one point, I woke to see H undressing F, and ensuring they all had sun-suits on as they pulled the hosepipe out for some water fun in the garden. My 7 year old, taking care of the family. I went back to sleep, hating myself and wondering if this is what it was like for children of addicts, who are lost in a different kind of blackness. I was the worst version of myself and since then I have replayed that day over and over, revisiting everyone’s pictures of their glorious days on Instagram and Facebook, poisoning my mind with self-loathing and guilt about what an awful example I was to the girls that day. Always aware that H, in particular, is now at an age, when this could be a memory which stays with her forever.

We are just returned from a week in Normandy, where Dan and the kids had an amazing time. We all did – if you have read my blogs before, you will know that our family alone time is my most prized and precious thing. We are a complete and amazing unit. But after last week I am struggling to shrug off the nagging thought that the girls might have had a better time, were it not for me, the short tempered Mummy mood hoover munching on her ibuprofen. After one glass of red wine too many, I sobbed and thumped my chest in the dark, crying to Dan and wondering why I felt so joyless…..Did I mention, I can be a bit dramatic?!

Both of these days have been my worst in the last 3 weeks. Generally, I am fine. Yes, I am in pain and discomfort and yes I am tired. But like I say, it’s not life threatening and I wouldn’t call it a disability. It is manageable, I ignore it as best I can and I also know it will pass.

On one of our nights in France, we sat out on the covered terrace to our little caravan, looking across the Normandy hills, watching the most incredible storm roll in. Slowly at first, masking the ferocity of the elemental attack to come. The dark foreboding clouds, gathering, pregnant and purple with the torrents of rain soon to be unleashed. The thunder rumbling, soon an unrelenting Blitzkrieg, with barley a pause in between. Lightening illuminating the surrounding trees like a succession of gunfire. Then came wind, blasting the rain into our little shelter, whipping up the garden furniture, forcing a very hasty retreat to watch behind glass doors! It was absolutely explosive and one of the most hypnotic storms I have seen.

It also made me think about the phrase “weathering the storm” – it’s a phrase we use almost glibly. But how many of us actually do “weather a storm”? When I am in the middle of one of my little ‘episodes’, I can be prone to a bit of self-pity (I blame the lack of sleep). So at first when I was thinking about the phrase, “weathering the storm”, I was thinking about me, a dark cloud on that sunny Friday, who just needs to get through this….But actually, I am not really weathering a storm – I am not being punished by lashings and lashings of unforgiving weather, I am not drenched to my very being. I am not being tossed around on high seas, lost to the depths. My walls are not caving in, my roof is not being blown off. I am not flooded or scorched. After a few dark days, I had some perspective.

Which made me realise I also have some control.

I mentioned that in 2014/2015, the rheumatism was having a significant impact on our quality of life. Desperate, I visited a homeopath and inspired by Ella Woodward, made a decision to eat my way into better health. I am no expert and of course, it could have been co-incidental but cutting gluten and refined sugar, filling myself with greens and a rainbow of vegetables, seemed to work. But what if there was something in it? After my return to work, I slowly but surely let my healthy diet go and once again, put self-care at the bottom of my list. Should it come as a surprise that my body feels toxic and the rheumatism has crept back?

It is frustrating that this prolonged three weeks has occurred after I had already declared a renewed commitment to health and exercise….This time motivated by a desire to be strong and fit, to ensure my longevity for the family but also to be an example to the girls. But perhaps this episode of rheumatism is just a blaring siren to make sure I know how important self-care and healthy habits are. Clearly, I don’t want another family holiday to be marred by this condition and I don’t want to miss out on opportunities to build happy memories, filling the girls with love. So, I will see this blip as a lesson in taking responsibility, not just for the well-being of the girls, but for my own too. It’s time to treat myself and my body with respect. I want to dance in the rain.

Kerry

X

Ps thank you to Pinterest for the images

Storm 2

Failing faith

Faith

Before we had the girls, Dan and I were long agreed that our children would be brought up in faith, with God and ideally attending a faith school. Neither of us had been brought up as church goers and both of our mothers are unsure about whether or not they believe, but this is something we feel quite strongly about. Both of us expressing the view that being brought up with God gives you greater freedom to make a choice about your beliefs when you are older: if you are brought up without God, it is harder to find a place for Him and to put your belief in something unseen. It is a bigger leap to allow Him into your life and to make your decisions on His teachings if you have not always done so. Whereas, having God in your life as a child does not make it harder to make an informed choice to turn away. We also feel strongly that in a changing world, that extra place to turn to and that extra set of guidance and values, is almost essential for a teenager or young adult faced with new and unknown pressures and significant decisions to make.

And so, some years ago, we set out to discover a church which would suit us all. Up until this point, both Dan and I had always been curious about God and had found solace in church buildings but had not attended church other than for weddings, christenings and funerals. The idea was that I would visit all of our local churches to find out which one was our spiritual home, but actually I never left the first church I attended, finding in that place such an overwhelming sense of love and acceptance, that I didn’t need to look anywhere else.

The decision about attending church was always motivated by the girls, but after almost a year, it was clear it was about more than that. I too was finding my faith. I found mass cathartic, therapeutic and emotional, ending most services in tears, without ever really knowing why. I found comfort in learning to accept and appreciate my blessings and the many gifts bestowed on me and no longer felt consumed by material gains – my sense of failure at not keeping up with the Jones’ fast disappeared and that remains today. My weekly attendance really was food for my soul and I felt starved if I missed, satiated when I attended.

I had already attended church run playgroups and a course on family life run by another local church and then I found myself signing up for faith classes with a view to being received and confirmed. Sessions again, that I sobbed through and at the same time felt uplifted by. That Easter was one of the most profound and moving experiences of my life, I genuinely felt like I had come home. Two years later, Dan also undertook the faith classes and was baptised and confirmed. The girls now attend our local Catholic primary school, which we adore and we remain so very pleased that we made the decision for them to have God as such a fundamental and intrinsic part of their lives.

So why is it, that another Sunday has come and gone and we have not attended mass? For the first time, in I think 5-6 years, we have only been to church, I think once in 3-4 months.

When I first started attending church, my family was sceptical, suggesting that it was all about getting the girls into the best primary school and not about God or Christian values. And this niggles at the back of my mind, in our current absenteeism from mass. I am sure my parents were not the only ones to wonder….I do know, however, in my heart, that we were not motivated by school choice – yes we wanted the girls to be in a faith school so that the values could be embedded and part of their everyday, but it has always been about the bigger picture and not about Ofsted reports.

I have blamed our recent lack of attendance on our busy lives. We get the girls out of the house by 8.30am Monday- Friday and they are busy during the week with gymnastics, piano and swimming and then on a Saturday we are at the dance school 8.45-3.45. It sometimes feels grossly unfair to march them out of the door on another day when all they want more than anything is to just ‘be’, to spend time at home, with their things and each other and sometimes, not to get changed. I sometimes just don’t have the heart to deny them this.

And if I listen to my heart, I am not sure it is fair to label this as an excuse. I feel that it is an instinctive maternal decision: love and connections thrive when we slow down. When we are always rushing and always busy, you can guarantee that frictions will arises – with your partner, with your friends, with your children. Particularly with your children – they will scream, fight and contradict you not because they are naughty, but because they want you to hear them. To really listen. To really pay attention. To be with them – really be with them. So if we are guarding our one day to slow down, a day we reconnect with home and each other, is that a decision worth making to the detriment of our church life, if only for the time being?

On the other hand, we know every other family has the same busy life and yet our friends still chose church. The difference mainly being that they themselves were brought up with God and with always attending mass. It is part of their fabric, interwoven into their expectations of family life and integral to their faith.

Isn’t this the very thing we aspire to for the girls? That God and church are indivisible from themselves, part of their own make-up, an essential element of their wellbeing? Without this, will they really ever be able to turn to God in times of uncertainty, distress or pain?

Is it enough to attend a church school? As with everything else, don’t we need to lead by example? If we don’t, are we denying the girls a full and real faith?

Dan and I don’t have the same exposure to God and his teachings in our everyday lives as the girls, but we do know that we feel the absence of God having not been attending church the last few months. The difficulty is deciding whether or not he has been missed…..True, we always feel better after church but there is no gaping hole….But is that just reverting to the life we led before we started attending church? Have we just fallen out of practice and would feel better and more enriched once back in the habit?

When devastating events occur like they have in Manchester this week, it is always easy to wonder if there is a God or what kind of God would allow such pain and suffering…this is certainly a question in my mind this week. In my weakest moments I wonder, if we have faith instead in humanity’s ability to choose love over hate and joy over suffering, do we need God? I read this week about making a decision each day to be a “representative of love”. If I make this my daily personal mission, is that good enough? I will still be following Christian examples….

That might be enough in my ordinary life but if I am completely honest, I have not faced real adversity in my life. Yes I have had my own heartache but I have not yet been laid completely bereft, naked with the need to anchor myself to a deeper faith and belief that there is someone to watch over and to guide me. Someone to answer my prayers.

And it’s this element of faith, we want to deliver to the girls. One day we won’t be there and we need to know that they will have another rock to lean on. Another certainty. Another given. An unquestionable belief that they are loved and will be cared for and an unquenchable hope for the future.

Will it matter if we take the girls to church, our own faith wobbling? Do we need to sacrifice our slow time, our own sacred family time? Is it enough now for God, that we want so desperately to embrace Him but cannot always….right now, we feel our immediate need is to have time together but we are also aware that if we want the girls to have the faith our friends have, then we cannot do this always?

Right now, I feel we are failing in our Christianity – our own faith is failing, but we are also failing faith by not leading by example…

Yet even as I acknowledge this, I feel the tug of those lazy, relaxed, family times at home. Wanting to be just our little gang, at home, away from everything else…

I am lost.

But my priest and my faith classes have taught me that faith is a journey and I am not at the end of the road.

Kerry

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Ps thank you to Pinterest for the image

 

 

 

Big boys do cry

Big boys cry 2

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog called “For the Dads” which touched on men suffering from depression. Inspired by an article in The Times Magazine on Saturday, I want to say a bit more.

Around 12 men take their own lives every day in the UK. This is devastating in itself, but if 12 a day take action imagine, “the number of men who inwardly wrestle with the instinct [which] can only be exponentially greater”.

We have a good friend who 5 years ago, suffered a dark time and pulled through and then 2 years ago, even darker times arrived. This time, he felt like his family would be better off without him.

Thankfully, our friend was eventually able to open up and once his internal wrestlings were known to his family, was able to find help.

However, as was explained by Tim Grayburn interviewed in The Times Magazine on Saturday, once that thought has been had, it is there and cannot be taken back. It remains in all its bleakness, sending silent shockwaves to undermine our foundations of inbuilt certainty, that life goes on.

It is a thought which can never be erased from the memory and heart of our friend’s wife. Her heart races and races if her husband is home later than expected and doesn’t answer his phone and for her, a stressful time at her husband’s business has a secret, additional weight.

But a thought like that, inside a man already struggling, grows ripe and pregnant with misplaced relief.

In Tim Grayburn’s interview he reveals that initially, as a young man, he just did not identify his feelings of despair and helplessness as depression, rather he “just thought [he] wasn’t very good at life”. This is not uncommon.

I wonder if friends and family too, might not as readily name a male friend’s emotional turmoil as depression, as they would a female friend’s. This must perpetuate the issue and in itself is a barrier to assistance.

75% of suicides in the UK are committed by men yet men are no more likely to suffer from depression than women.

The issue is the stigma perceived to be attached to men’s mental health problems and the fact that men are less likely and less able to seek help. Often hiding and masking their troubles either until it is too late or until they are completely disabled by their helplessness such that their silent cries for help are at last heard.

Equally, although much is currently being done to promote these issues, certainly, Dan feels that the health system is skewed heavily in favour of women and so, in circumstances where you might look to a professional and not your family, even booking an appointment is no mean feat (whereas I can get same day appointments, Dan always has weeks to wait; whereas I receive requests for my 40 years health check, Dan receives none). This perhaps does not invite openness nor does it set the right tone for deeply personal and weighty revelations. Tim Grayburn was prescribed medication, “given a leaflet and sent on his way” and found the whole process “impersonal and vague”.

I am no expert and I don’t have the answers, I am writing this because I feel acutely aware of all the wonderful men and husbands I know and all that they give. I know I live a blessed life and that we are privileged, but much of that is down to the amazing men who give us opportunities to spend time at home and grant us many indulgences. I also feel we don’t give them enough credit and perhaps dismiss their own concerns, if we ever give them more attention than a dismissive, “don’t worry”.

So tonight, my goodnight kiss to Dan will be a little bit longer. This week my “how was your day” will be said as I sit down to look at his face and listen, and not whilst I unload the dishwasher. And on the school run this week, when I see the other dads helping, I will look at them and hope they are all ok and if they are not, I hope they can find the courage to stand up and say, I am struggling. Because, that is ok. It’s ok not to be joyful, assured, confident and hopeful all of the time. You are enough and you are loved, more than you can ever know.

Kerry

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Tim Grayburn is author of “Boys Don’t Cry” and was interviewed by Ben Machell for The Times Magazine, published 20 May 2017.

This blog was written in consultation with our friend.

Thank you to Pinterest for the image.