The gift to myself of a clean slate for my mum-in-law

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I’ve known my husband for 31 years this month and by association, I’ve known his mother, Elma. Over those three decades our relationship has been interesting; we are both strong-willed women and at times we’ve clashed head-on whilst in times of crisis we’ve supported each other un-conditionally.

when John and I took the decision to live in Wales, with Elma, it was a life changing decision from which we knew there would be no going back. We knew mum would feel safer and less isolated if we lived closer to her, we knew we wanted this to be our last house move and we also knew it would be a challenge to find somewhere that suited all of us, with very different lifestyles. Our greatest concern was that we’d find it a huge challenge to live too close to each other, as we all like our own space and wanted to be sure that would be respected.

within a few weeks of Elma arriving in Wales, I began to struggle with our relationship; I found I was losing my temper frequently, feeling undermined and taken for granted. When I started to resent her for having fun in her volunteering work, which she goes to every day now, I knew I had to challenge my feelings or we were doomed to failure.

“I don’t know what to do differently” I said to John, “I’m doing everything I can to make this work, but mum is just driving me mad. She’s doing nothing to contribute here, she’s out enjoying herself all day while we’re working our **** off…”

This was one of those moments where I’m reminded why I love my husband and why we’re so good together; he helps me see things so differently.

“I know mum’s upset you over the years, I know she’s said and done things that really were pretty bloody awful, that you’re still unable to think about without getting angry or tearful. So how about letting it go? How about giving yourself the gift of a clean slate?”

“A clean slate? You mean what about forgiving her?” I was getting angry, could feel myself thinking that, yet again, I was going to have to back down for the sake of peace and quiet.

“Not forgiveness, you don’t really believe in that, you hang on to feelings and then you end up going over and over what it was that upset you. No, I’m talking about totally wiping the slate clean, behaving as if our life with mum starts here and now, today. No “history” together, no details of who had done what or said what in the past and no blame. A new beginning. How would that feel?”

i had to think about this idea for two days; mulling it over in my head, looking at why this might actually be a clever idea and also looking at whether I was able to stick with it, to actually let go of these memories that served no purpose in my life other than getting me angry and feeling hard-done-by.

This was about ego, my ego! This was me choosing to stay angry with Elma for things she’d said and done already, some of them many years ago. How was this serving me? What was I getting out of staying attached to this stuff? Honest answer – nothing positive or helpful was coming from it and it was making me stressed and not that nice to be around.

The following day, I got up with a new slate, fresh and clean in my mind.  I decided to give myself that gift, to allow myself to live in the moment and enjoy it for what it is, to experience my own joy and not allow my head-talk to go back to past experience, focussing instead on the now.

Six months in to our new lives, the slate is still clean and I’m possibly the calmest and most content I’ve ever been. I’ve learned something hugely important about how I had remained stuck because I dwell on things that seem ‘unfair’ that are not resolved. I’ve also learned that somethings will never be resolved, simply stirred up and re-lived with many different versions of people’s truth.

Wiping the slate was a real gift to myself, one of the most precious ones I’ve had. It has given me a new life and a new sense of happiness I had not experienced before. Who is holding you back and keeping you in a place of anger or self-doubt? Imagine what you could achieve if you started with a clean slate in that relationship…

Let’s talk about…our bodies

 

Really?  Talk about our bodies?  In a public space where other people might be listening?

It’s one of those topics that so many women find difficult.  My earliest memories of talking about my body feel embarrassing and uncomfortable.  Hushed tones, fast spoken questions like “is it meant to hurt when I touch my boobs?” and “can you use a tampon if you’re still a virgin?” usually accompanied by giggles and exaggerated suggestions of expertise from equally bewildered friends.  We certainly never spoke to a grown-up about the changes we were experiencing in our bodies and the way we perceived them.

I remember the one attempt I made to ask my grandmother about periods; the result was a trip to a book shop where she purchased “what’s happening to me?” and handed it to me, under the table, in a brown paper bag. I kid you not!  The very idea of speaking to my mother was, in my mind, ridiculous.  It took me four months to tell her I’d started my periods (aged just nine) and almost as long to agree with her that I had to start wearing a bra to my junior school.

Yet as we age, as we learn how often the questions and fears we had about our bodies growing up, are shared by other women, do we actively do something to change this for future generations?  I’m confident I had more conversations with my daughter than I experienced;  I’m also sure there were plenty of things I didn’t tell her that  could have helped her to leave those concerns to one side.

How do we start to have these difficult conversations?  We can choose to be the ones to tackle them with our daughters and our friends.  I recently suggested to a life-long friend that we go and treat ourselves to some gorgeous new undies.  I was met with a less than enthusiastic “Okay.”  When I asked if I’d made a bad suggestion, she admitted that she’d always hated buying underwear.  “What, even the gorgeous girlie variety that lifts them to where they used to be?” I asked.  That’s when she told me that she felt awful buying bras because her left breast was larger than her right one and she felt like “some kind of freak” (her words).  When I told her that it was my right one that was larger she replied “Seriously?  You’ve got one bigger than the other too?  But you’ve got fabulous boobs!”

It’s extremely common.  Most women have one breast larger than the other; I’m told it’s often on the side of your writing arm.  Makes sense.  My friend said it made sense too.  She also told me she’d felt like this since we were 17.  That’s almost 30 years.  30 years of feeling negative about her body because nobody had told her it was normal.

Seems to me, it’s time to start those difficult conversations and talk about our bodies.  How will you start yours?

Dinah x

 

Give the gift of saying “Thank You”

accepting a compliment with a simple Thank You can feel difficult,  Accept that it's not about you.

“Really? What this old thing?”
“You’re joking, this makes my bum look enormous!”
“That’s sweet of you to say; when did you last get your eyes tested?”……

Sound familiar?  What is it that makes it so hard to accept a compliment at face-value and respond with “Thank you”?  What is the force that prevents so many women enjoying something that was intended to lift their day, to acknowledge something about them that prompted another person to say “Wow!”?

For many years I was convinced that accepting a compliment with a “thank you” was somehow saying “I know.  Yes, I am fabulous, thanks for noticing”;  of course, in my head this was done in a highly dramatic arrogant tone that was, frankly, repulsive.  I visualised people walking away and whispering to each other “I only said it to make her feel better!”  And of course, I gained little from these encounters except an opportunity to emotionally beat myself up, to remind myself I felt less than pretty, less than perfect.

Then I learned an interesting lesson from a friend;  accepting a compliment is not about ME.  When I allow someone to tell me I look great and greet this with a smile and a “Thank you”,  I give them a gift.  When people pay us a compliment, they do so with the intention of lifting our mood, making us feel great, making us glow.  When we treat that compliment, that gift, with contempt, we are showing them we don’t trust them, don’t value them.

When we accept the praise and the compliment, we allow them to enjoy that moment when someone unwraps a gift and you know you found exactly the right thing; they smile, the smile travels to their eyes which start to shine, they want to hold the gift up and show the world and you know that they understand why you chose it, that you’ve been paying attention, that they matter to you.

Focus on the person paying you the compliment today and thank them for taking the trouble to choose the perfect gift by giving them one in return – you’ll be surprised the impact “Thank you” can have on you both.

Dinah x

You are allowed to be you

I loved Toyah as a teenager; I still do.  Her hair (of course) and make-up, but also her power, her self-confidence, her rebel-quality.  I looked up to her and emulated her style with more and more outrageous hair-cuts and colours that resulted in the inevitable suspensions from my posh school for young-ladies.  Result!

Toyah showed me I was allowed to be myself at a time when I was struggling against conformism and struggling to find my identity.  To find myself; a time experienced by so many of us as teenagers or young adults.  It’s also something we experience as “grown-ups”; that sense of wanting to fit-in, or stand out, for the right reasons.  I think one of my greatest fears in my early forties was hearing “mutton dressed as lamb” when someone described me.  Hannah, my daughter, became my “mutton meter” always guaranteed to tell me the truth about my outfits.  Indeed, she helped me see that my fears were holding me back from expressing my personality as I always used to, in my bright colours and outrageous hair cuts.

When I turned 45 last year, I was rooting through my CDs and came across this track.

I was reminded how empowered I’d felt by the words and the by the woman.  I re-connected with that permission to express myself, to be myself.  I was allowed to be me.

I recently had a dramatic change thanks to my hairdresser; I went from rich red to platinum blonde – it took four hours and a serious sense of humour, but it was worth it.  I was born a blonde although many people in my networks are seeing me this way for the first time and I’m loving their reactions.  They’ve all commented on how confident I am.  My husband can’t stop paying me compliments.  I’ve allowed myself to be me and I’m loving it.

How will you allow yourself to be you today?  I’d love to hear from you

Dinah 🙂

Choose to play

choose time to play to top up your tank
Mischka the happy husky

My morning has been full-on today!  Starting as always catching up with friends on Twitter which was promptly followed by two client sessions and a trip to the shops before my next client at 11.15.  It could seem overwhelming – but I still choose time for play.  Time to play with a ball (inside today) with Mischka, the Husky.  Time to just be; to relax and laugh and focus on the moment.

It can be so easy to be “busy” that we don’t allow ourselves time to play; this is a choice.  It is hard to be “hard-done-by” or “seriously overworked” when we have time to play.  And that is the point.  Choosing time  to play is just as simple as choosing to be busy. Is what you do really so important that 20 minutes of time for yourself would mean the end of the world?  I doubt it.  When we choose to give time in our day to play, we choose to make an investment in our well-being, an investment in our business and our relationships.

When I choose to play with the dog, watching her bound from one end of the sitting room to the other in pursuit of her toy,  I feel lighter, less concerned about the little things, more relaxed.  I know that my clients get the benefit from my play time, as I am focussed and positive when we speak.  Play time is good for me and for them.  My family get the benefit too, as my mood improves and my relaxation levels increase.

Choose to enjoy some playtime today – and do let me know how you spent it.

Dinah