The strangest feeling

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Today the strangest thing happened. I went back to work after the holidays – and I actually felt confident! I never usually feel confident. Nervous yes, anxious yes, stressed yes but never confident. And what’s even stranger is it stayed like that all day!

I didn’t even have to deal with the crippling anxiety the night before. It’s a very weird feeling. Nice, but weird. Today I walked in and I felt comfortable with who I was. I felt confident that I could do my job and do it pretty well! I rocked that confidence outfit today 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfish?

 

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Took me a while to realise this one…. that it’s not selfish to put yourself first. I know that if I don’t get enough down time then I’m totally useless. I now actively plan in free days so I can regroup. Since I’ve been doing this I actually feel much happier because I’m not stretching myself in every direction. I enjoy the time with other people much more because I’m more relaxed. Never feel bad for taking the time for youself … after all who will look after you if you don’t?

Being organised

The more posts I write for this blog, the more aware I am becoming of how happy I feel when I am organised. All aspects of organisation make me feel better, whether I have cleaned and tidied the flat, made a list, sorted through the post or made a phone-call, it all brings me a feeling of happiness. Thinking about it more carefully, I think the happiness comes from a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment that I have achieved something positive and a sense of relief that I don’t need to worry about it anymore. I also get to enjoy the results of being organised, whether that’s living in a tidy space or knowing that I have made the necessary arrangements for something good to happen.

The reduction in mental stress is huge – I think everyone knows the feeling of brain-ache, when you are using so much energy to simultaneously remember, organise and arrange 101 things and you are worried that you might forget something. I often describe this as having 72 tabs open on Google and trying to work on them all at the same time. I’m sure you can relate to that!

To help me be more organised I have many resources and routines in place:

  • Every morning I check all of the places that I receive messages – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, texts and WhatsApp and make sure that I have replied to anything I have received (and even then I miss some – as Karen will be able to tell you!).
  • I have a calendar on my phone that is automatically set to give me reminders of events. I am also able to use it to set myself reminders for jobs that need doing on specific days.
  • I have a magnetic whiteboard on the fridge to write down my shopping list – I can add items as I go so that I don’t have to remember them and I can wipe items off as I buy them.
  • I have a calendar on the wall so that my husband and I can write down any major events we’re attending so that we don’t double book ourselves (it has happened many, many times in the past…).
  • I keep pens and post-its near the calendar so that I can write myself any reminders and stick them in an appropriate place.
  • I keep a toast rack in the kitchen to store any unopened post from the letter box – this stops any post being missed and reminds me to open it!
  • I have pretty bulldog clips hanging on the wall in my office to hold any paperwork I am currently using – this stops it getting lost and stops my desk getting cluttered (they also look very cute!).
  • I have a book (yes, a book) of to-do lists. I have different lists for different areas of my life (such as home, work, Guides, Zumba) and when I have time, I work through the lists as much as I can. This helps me to allocate my time more effectively so that jobs don’t get forgotten or left languishing too long. It also stops my lists getting lost!
  • Everything has a home – nothing is allowed to live in the flat without having a place to belong. This stops the place being constantly untidy because of random items that have nowhere to go.

I could probably think of more things that I do, but we’ll leave it there for now! What do you do to help yourself be organised? How does it make you feel?

Make up moments

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Until about ten years ago I’d never really worn make up at all. Then I acquired a few bits and wore it occasionally when I went out. The reason I gave was that I was allergic to most makeup and my skin was too sensitive. In truth these were excuses. I didn’t like myself enough at that point to make the effort to look good. I didn’t think I deserved to look nice and I didn’t want to be considered attractive by other people.

Since I came out on here over three months ago things couldn’t be more different. I’ve felt so much more confident and happier and I am actually starting to wear make up, not just a little bit occasionally but actually properly and regularly. Now I am certainly not saying that I need makeup to feel good about myself, quite the opposite. Because I like myself I think I deserve to look nice and I like the way I look when I wear makeup.

Ive actually had several people compliment me for the way my make up looks! Yes me, who didn’t have a clue how to do more than put on mascara! I’ve spent more money on makeup and beauty products in the last three months than I think I have done in the rest of my life lol.

I like experimenting with different looks and colours and products. I like learning how to get better at something. I like how I look both with and without makeup on. Makeup up is most definitely a happy little moment for me now!

My Ink

Until I was 30 I was adamant I was never having any tattoos. Then I got my first one and I can safely say I love them and they are very addictive! Yes they hurt at the time, yes they can be expensive, no they are not to everyone’s taste but to me it’s like personalising my body. To be they are my art. All my tattoos mean something to me and were chosen for a reason so here is my explanation.

My first tattoo was three small stars on my foot. They are to represent the stars in heaven of my Grandad, my Auntie Doris and my Uncle Norman who were like grandparents to me. My next one was my butterfly on my wrist. This is for Olivia, a fabulous girl who was a brownie who sadly lost her battle with cancer. It’s a butterfly as we released butterflies at her memorial and they always remind me of her when I see one. They are also a reminder of the fragility of life. The placing is not insignificant as when I make my brownie promise salute the butterfly looks out my current girls.

My next ink was my ladybird which is for my gorgeous niece Ruby. When she was little everyone bought her ladybird things and they came to be associated with her.

My fifth inking was my owl on my side. Partly because I love owls and partly because of the Guiding and Brownie connection. And obviously I am Brown Owl! Somewhere around there are some photos taken by my co-blogger of me grimacing having that’s one done!!

Number six is a Japanese kanji which means friendship. This represents my best friend. Enough said.

And then we come to the most recent three. The hands is an original drawing by another of my best friends which she gave me on a card when Granny died earlier this year. The detail on it is amazing and she is one talented artist. The hands are significant to me because when I was little she always held my hand and guided me and as she got older and frailer, I held her hand to guide her. And now she will be with me forever. On a side note, she always loved my tattoos and coloured hair- I think she had a secret inner rebel! Well Granny now you have your own ink!

The rainbow heart represents the year I came out properly and you lovely blog followers made me happier than I’ve been ever with your total acceptance of everything that is me. Love is love, whatever and whoever.

And finally my smallest (and ironically the most painful!) is a semi-colon on my little finger. This represents the fact that 2017 was a turning point in my life. A fresh start, one where I can be me and will be me and am happy. And one to raise awareness of mental health. A subject which will always be close to my heart.

Whether you love them or hate them they are part of me and more importantly I love them!

H.A.P.P.Y.

Happy. A small word to describe a big feeling. Today I feel happy. In fact I have felt happy basically every day since June 12th. You may wonder why I know the date. Well it was the date that I took a deep breath, felt the fear and did it anyway. June 12th was when I finally came out via this blog and the post called ‘This is me.’ And you all reacted in such an amazingly positive way. You have no idea how you have changed my life.

I never realised that a blog post could have such a massive effect on my whole life. Since then it’s as if a weight has lifted. A weight that I didn’t even realise I was carrying. I feel different. I haven’t had a single anxious day since then. Not one. And I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a teenager. That’s a whole month with no anxiety.

Several people have commented that I’m like a different person, especially at work. I went out with my work friends and danced til the early hours (took me a couple of day s to recover lol but hey) and I loved it. I chat to people at lunchtime. I no longer feel grumpy and want to snap at people in the morning. I want to be sociable. I actively seek out people to chat to at lunch time. I chat to my friends about crushes, make up, tv etc. all normal things I know but not for me til now. I even message them out of work – something I would never have previously done. I used to keep myself separate. I went to the pub with them after work and felt accepted and included. So much love for my work friends right now.

I crack jokes, sure I’ve had frustrating times too but nothing really seems to bother me too much or for too long. And I’ve been sleeping – not perfectly but a damn sight better than before. I even ordered myself some make-up. I will confess I’ve rarely bought myself make-up before. Most of what I have has been presents.

And the biggest thing of all for me. I don’t dislike myself anymore. Sure I could do with losing some weight but hey so can most of us! I went out and felt good about how I looked. I feel comfortable with who I am and what I am. I’m happy. IMG_1345

Good friends

IMG_1321When I was growing up I was never in the popular group. I did have friends but they weren’t in my class or year at school. My friends were at the stables, at guides and in my street. At school I was often lonely. I was the child who was always picked last for teams and who never had a partner or group to work with. I used to dread the moment the teacher would say “Now get into groups” knowing that I would be an outsider and that no one ever actually wanted to work with me.

Depression also robs you of your friends, you desperately need and want them but end up pushing them away because you don’t believe that you are worth liking.

Its hard to pinpoint when things started to change in the friendship department. For years having a crippling social anxiety meant I hardly went out and although I desperately wanted to take up invitations I just couldn’t do it.

I think things started to change when I was around 30. A chance meeting through a mutual friend (interestingly who I am no longer in contact with!) meant that I met my best friend- my first best friend since I was 8. Someone who liked me for who I was and actually chose to spend time with me. She also stayed by my side when I was in some of my darkest paces and for that I will always be truly grateful. It still surprises me now when she says she looks forward to seeing me! But now I am lucky enough to not have just one best friend but to have lots, more than I can count on one hand unbelievably. And not only do I have best friends, I also have other close friends and lots of people who love me for who I am. It’s taken me a long time to realise that they are not going anywhere too.

One of those friends said to me the other day “you are so good at keeping in contact with people and that’s such a great quality”. Yes I suppose I am, because the one thing I will never, ever do is take my friends for granted. I know how it feels to not have friends. I love each and every one of my friends and if you know you are one of my friends please know that you mean the world to me. And just like the picture, many of my friends I don’t get to see anywhere near as often as I’d like but it’s ok as, finally, I can believe that they will always be there.

Nights are for sleeping?

Night time is for sleeping right? Wrong! At least for my body clock. You are probably thinking why on earth does insomnia make it on to a blog about happiness! Let me explain. I would prefer not to have insomnia but it does also bring me some happiness. I am actually pretty productive around 4am I have discovered! I reply to emails, do Guiding admin and sometimes even the housework!

But by far the best bit of insomnia is that grey time just before dawn when the whole world feels still and silent. You feel like the only person in the whole world. I’ve seen hundreds more amazing sunrises than most people. I’ve listened to the dawn chorus trying to identify which bird is which and listened to the world waking up. I’ve watched the mist lift to reveal a dew-covered world and seen the pair of Robins dancing on my bird feeder. Mrs Blackbird often pops in to say hello and sometimes Mr Hedgehog too.

Insomnia is definitely not all bad.

Fire!

I have loved camp fires for as long as I can remember. I love the challenge of laying a superb fire, of finding just the right wood to make it perfect, of making it symmetrical, of deciding whether to go for a square or a pyramid. Then there’s the challenge of getting it to light with as few matches as possible. And yes I have done one with no ‘artificial kindling’ just dried grass which was lit with only one match! I love the tending of the fire, adding just the right amount of wood to make the fire as hot as is needed, the raking it out to form embers. And then there’s cooking on the fire. I am proud to say that I have, on many occasions, cooked an entire meal on fire. Not just the obvious things like marshmallows but camp pizzas, jacket potatoes, chips, eggy bread, chocolate cake, stuffed bananas, sausages, bacon, full English, stews, soups and dampers(which are delicious eaten with jam!)

But nothing beats a toasted marshmallow. I like them once they have ignited and sizzled for a bit so the outside is crunchy and the inside is oozy and sticky and coats your entire face and fingers! I love that I have introduced literally hundreds of children to this delight (often sandwiched between two chocolate digestives for them) However, I am ashamed to admit that my own niece does not like marshmallows! Hey ho, all the more for Auntie Karen – and Ruby is a champion toaster now as although she does not eat them she always takes her turn toasting one for me!

Then comes the camp fire songs. They come in phases just like any craze but many a child I have babysat for has been regaled with my full repertoire. The words are never written down, just passed on as children learn them. Old favourites such as ‘camp fire’s burning’ never go out of fashion. And then there are regional variations! My guiding family come from all parts of the country, it has been known that there are four versions of the same song all being sung at the same time around the fire. Each one of us sticking to the words we’ve grown up with, all blending together. The great thing about camp fire singing is that is does not matter if you cannot hold a tune (just as well in my case!) enthusiasm and volume are all that are required!

And then after the songs have been sung and the marshmallows toasted you can sit around the embers watching the sun go down from underneath your blanket and just chat and laugh. Before you know it, it’s too dark to see and you’re wishing that you’d brought a torch with you ( thank goodness for smart phones!).

And the camp fire doesn’t just last that night, that beautiful woodsmoke smell lingers, sometimes for days. Personally I do not mind that at all!

Ive lost count of the number of camp fires I’ve done. There’ve been daytime ones, nighttime ones, evening ones, ones that started out as a barbecue but then we decided wood cooks better ones I could go on. But some stick out in my memory more than others.

There was the one at guide camp where we ended up cooking frozen chips over a very dodgy fire in the rain! The one where it was so hot the marshmallows melted in the car before we even got to the fire. Several where brownies, and leaders have made their promise to me and many more where they’ve said goodbye. But the one that stands out for me is my last night at guides. I was fifteen, I had been presented, along with three of my best friends, with my Baden-Powell award. And, as was my unit’s tradition, we left the fire while the others sang. The song ‘Go well and safely’. It still brings a lump to my throat now.

Camp fires are definitely one of life’s happy little moments – thnaks to everyone who has shared them with me.

Lazy Sundays

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Today was one of those Sundays! Me and my best friend, pjs, the sofa, our duvets and the tv. Lazy I know but the perfect end to what has turned out to be a very busy half term week. I love that I have the freedom to choose to have a lazy Sunday. Being an adult does have its advantages! Hope you’ve all had a good Sunday too 🙂