What my fears have taught me

I don’t suppose anyone sits down and thinks intentionally about what their afraid of, but somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve always known.

I remember once on a date, I was asked – “what are you scared of?” He meant like spiders or snakes, but without even thinking I blurted out “not being able to have children.” Needless to say I didn’t see him again.

Recently I’ve found myself wondering, if  perhaps I’d manifested this painful reality there and then? Did the universe hear my worry and set out to challenge me? Is there a lesson I need to learn?

And, on other days it feels as though life is just a line of disconnected events, that we’re so desperate to join together in the hope of making sense of it all?

Whatever the reason for the things that happen, I’ve found two things to be true.

  1. There are things you can change.
  2. There are things you can not change – no matter how desperately you want to.

And with this knowledge I re-access the damage caused by this all mighty fear coming true. I am still standing, I have not ceased to exist, the world did not end – although perhaps it did, if only for a moment.

By accepting the things I can not change, I’m not giving up. No, i’m just loosing the tight grip that’s controlled my world. I’m unclenching my teeth and breathing out – this is me. I’d spent so long focused on things that were outside of my control, that i’d let the important stuff slip away. So much worry, so much fear and for no benefit, nothing has changed.

And so to focus on the things I can change, here comes the fun. My mindset, my thoughts, in time my feelings, but most importantly my future. It’s ours to shape however we want.

Focus on the good stuff and pour your energy into the things you can change.

For I truly believe, the best is yet to come.

Why I’m selfish

Being selfish has never been a good look. I get it, being nice to other people is important.

However, if you don’t put yourself first and be selfish, I know from experience it’s super hard to be there for others.

I’m a crappy friend when I need a bit of me time. I’m a shitty girlfriend when I make everything about him and when work takes over, I eventually run out of steam and quit.

But, when we’re constantly told not to be selfish, how do you make it more about you?

The saying goes “you can’t pour from an empty cup” – that is, you can’t give away what you haven’t got. So how do you fill up your cup?

For the longest time, I thought my problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know what made me happy. I’d try writing lists of things I liked to do, but never ended up doing them.

As I looked at my latest list, I realised the issue wasn’t knowing what I wanted, the issue was that I wasn’t prepared to make it a priority. I never made space in my life for doing the things that made me feel like me. And slowly but surely those things slipped away.

It’s not a matter of having time, it’s always amazing what you can fit into a day when your being productive. It’s a matter of boundaries. The amount of me time I have is no one else’s responsibility, and it’s no one else problem if I made it to the gym or not.

And, if I want to there for you, i’ve got to be there for me first.

Whatever makes you shine hold onto and don’t let go – even if a better offer comes along. I promise that offer will still be there after you’ve been to the gym or meditated.

Pissed off therapy

I’ve been trying to ignore it but it won’t go away. I’ve been dancing around in the hope it will disappear, desperately trying every strategy to shake it off.

But it’s still there.

There’s the big issues, the ones that you give yourself permission to feel, because you know they’re a big deal. And most days I can take them in my stride.

And then there’s the smaller issues, the kind of things that are so small I shouldn’t even acknowledge them and yet, it is the weight of these little dramas that seem to send my whole world toppling over, spinning out of control – like the guy who beeped at me in the car park and then stole my space, or the fact we don’t have any milk in the fridge.

It’s all just too much.

So today i’m trying a different tactic. I’m putting my positive mantras down and diving into a whole world of pissed off.

I’m allowing myself one hour to be totally annoyed.

In this one hour i’m going to indulge in the feelings. I’m going to list every single little thing that is getting on my nerves, making me sad, mad or just generally pissing me off.

If it’s a person i’m writing them a letter, with no intention of them receiving it I can let loose.

I’m going to dive in, fully embrace and totally explore these feelings. I give myself full permission to be pissed off, annoyed and as emotional as I want.

However, when the hour is up, that’s it, we’re done, it’s over.

Step two: 

Taking a different pen and setting one more timer on my phone.

In this next hour I address each and every point on the page. It’s incredible what a difference letting the problems out has. Having to not just articulate what’s annoying me, but also write it down. The smaller issues seem to instantly dissolve away and the bigger ones are clear now and easier to tackle.

And just like that I feel better, even lighter.

The rules of saying I love you

He told me he loved me on our 3rd date. Not in any romantic way, he just chucked it out there, like it was nothing. I wondered for a minute if it was a mistake – like when you call your teacher mum. But it wasn’t.

All that was left to think, was it must be some sort of weird joke.

When he said it again on the 4th date, I thought perhaps he did mean it, but  I couldn’t help but wonder, “how can you possibly love me, what do you know about love? You don’t even know me.”

Turns out he knew a lot more about love than I gave him credit for.

I used to think there were these rules about falling in love. Rules that if you played to, you were guaranteed love, happiness and everything else that’s meant to follow. I’d been playing by these rules my whole life.

Rule 1. Wait 3 months before you say I love you.
Rule 2. Look deeply into each others eyes.
Rule 3. Be totally blown away when you hear the words.

As I discussed his obvious disregard for the rules with my friend she said, “maybe he does love you? Love isn’t about looking into each others eyes, it’s about looking into the future together.”

I thought back to past relationships, where the moment had been right and the sacred three words had been said, but there was nothing more to it, nothing to back that perfect moment. No future, just all present.

Suddenly my rules dissolved, they crumble away. Falling in love and saying it, isn’t a one time transaction that has to be perfect or even life changing. It’s simply a feeling that you want to be around that person for a lot longer. You’re saying you want to be in their future.

And with that, on our 5th date, I casually told him I wanted to be a part of his future too.

I love you.

Should you tell your friend you don’t like their partner?

A very close friend of mine recently broke up with her long term partner.

Over dinner one night, after the debris of the breakup had settled and a few wines in, I confessed – I never really liked him.

He wasn’t abusive, he never cheated, in fact, he didn’t actually do anything ‘wrong’, it was just a feeling I had. Come to think of it, it wasn’t even that I didn’t like him, it was that I didn’t see him make her happy, he didn’t bring out her best self.

She thought for a moment and then responded, ‘you’re not the first person to have said this, why did no one tell me while we were together?’

Would it really have made any difference? I justified my inaction with another question.

Who am I to tell you what to do?

And then, I thought about my own experience, one past relationship that ended particularly painfully. As my friends came one by one, to console my broken heart, the truth soon came out. They never really liked him.

Why, oh why, did no one tell me? I felt instantly annoyed. Could someone have prevented all this heartache?

Are we doing a disservice to our friends by not saying something when we don’t like their choice in partners? Or when it’s just our own preference should we keep our opinions to ourselves and let them make their own mistakes?

When you’re in love, it’s hard enough to see the signs right in front of you, or feel the niggling doubt in the back of your mind, let alone hear it from your friends. Would you really listen?

And maybe there’s something in going through the pain.

If we’re the sum of all our experiences, good and bad, then going through something shitty – like a breakup, is important for our growth.

I’m not saying sit by and watch your friends stay in terrible relationships. But, maybe when we don’t feel it’s the right match, it’s our duty as friends to simply support each other while we figure it all out.

Why you can be thankful for his ex

So you met someone new, and you are in love.

All there is, is you and them.

Exploring one another, spending hours alone taking everything in, from how they take their coffee, to the way they smell first thing in the morning – you just can’t get enough.

Now, unless you’re a teenager or coming from a monastery, it’s inevitable, the ex is gonna come up.

But why, when it does, do we have to feel negatively?

I guess it comes down to the story that’s told, and I understand that not all relationships end amicably. But why, as the new partner do we take pleasure in hearing how terrible things were?

Perhaps it’s the egos, needing to be told that I’m special and nothing compares to what we have right now, or do I just want reassuring that my new love will not be running off with an old love.

Whatever the reason, it seems to me a little backwards.

Non of my ex’s where bad people, even the relationships that ended badly. And if you put them all in a room together, would they get along? In my case, most likely yes.

After all, they all share similar values, goals and dreams, the very things that drew me to them, and them to me, in the first place.

They are by no means the same people, but at their core there is something similar – I guess people do have a type.

So now turn that round on you, would you get on with his ex? Are all ex’s really that bad?

Of course they’re not. After all, you’re someone’s ex.

What if the problem doesn’t come from them, what if it comes from us?

If we can learn to let go of insecurities about the past, about other people being better than us, about us not being enough – then maybe we can just accept the ex as being part of the past.

A part that actually got us to this point, a part that made us who we are right now, the part that brought us together.

And with that in mind, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for all the ex’s, for all the experience’s good and bad, for every twist and every turn. Because, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now trying to memorize they way he smells first thing in the morning.

This article was published on The Huffington Post, check it out here