Archive for the 'Mindfulness' Category

10 free things I like

I love Super Single Mum’s post 10 free things I like.  It’s amazing how money, greed, materialism can tie us up in knots and make us lose sight of what’s really important.  I’ve got to disagree with her on the dawn chorus though.  I’m a light sleeper and the tweeting sods, coupled with the brightness so early, is making me wake up at 6am every morning.  To say I’m counting down until the clocks go back on Sunday is an under statement!

So what are the top 10 free things that you like or love?  This is a great meme so here’s mine:

  • The expression of delight on my daughter’s face when she sees me at collection time at nursery.  Followed by the way she runs across the room shouting ‘mummy, mummy’ and flings her arms around my neck.  She isn’t talking properly yet but she doesn’t need to because I’m bathed in her love every time she does that.
  • Reading a book with my daughter before she goes to bed.  I sit in the arm chair and she goes to her bookcase and chooses a book, brings it over, I take it and lift her up on my lap and we have a nice snuggle with Pooh Bear, her milk and read together.  It always makes me giggle the way she’s so insistent on climbing down to go and get more.
  • OK, another the same as Super Single Mum here but you can’t be spending time with friends and family. 
  • Watching and listening to the sea.  No matter what country I’m in.  It’s so relaxing.  One of my favourite memories of this is being in Zanzibar on the final happy holiday that my ex husband and I had.  Despite the contempt I have for him now, nothing will take away my memories of that holiday.  There was a reef about a half a mile out and there was a constant roaring sound of the water breaking against it.  I stayed in a straw beach hut and at night, all you could hear was the wind blowing through the palm trees and this almighty roar of the water, intensified by the quiet of everything else and the darkness.  It was an odd and eerie feeling to hear the power of the water but know you were competely safe from it’s harm.
  • Meditation.  I’m rather rubbish at it and I don’t have the discipline to remember to do it despite setting myself a target to do 20 minutes every night before bed.  But when I remember and do it, it’s bliss.  I can’t recommend Mindfulness in Plain English highly enough.
  • Feeling the sun on my skin.  I love the summer.  I love feeling warm and not having to wear shoes.  I count down to the day it’s warm enough to wear flip flops.  
  • Eating outdoors, especially breakfast, which feels decadent for some reason!
  • Music.  It’s mood altering powers scare me every time.
  • Being in bed when it’s raining or stormy.  It reinforces the cosiness of being indoors.  It takes me back to being a little girl and being on holiday with my parents in our caravan.
  • Cuddles.  Needs no explanation!

Single parenting and divorce: living on your own and the importance of rituals

As I said in my last post I have recently signed the contract to renew the tenancy on my flat after being here for a year.  When I moved in to my flat I had never lived alone before.  Never mind living alone with a small baby.  I moved back home to be with my parents during the aftermath of my marriage breakdown and stayed during my pregnancy and early motherhood.  However I knew their loving cocoon was not real life.  Mum was cooking for me and doing my washing.  Her and dad took care of the food shop.  I ironed and helped clean the house but did little else.  The reality was after 8 months maternity leave, and with a 6 month old daughter, it was time to stand on my own two feet. 

When I moved in I found I was a scared mum in her mid thirties who wasn’t sure if this was such a good idea after all.  I’d never lived on my own before.  I wasn’t sure how you ‘did’ it.  The loneliness and boredom during the evenings hit home immediately.  No banter with dad.  No gossiping with mum.  No nipping down to see my sister whilst the folks babysat.  Just the sound of the clock ticking and endless repeats on Freeview or News 24 or whatever I could watch to distract myself.  I could have phoned a different friend every night. I don’t know why I didn’t.  Pride maybe.

Four weeks later and I returned to work which was a god send.  It was a joy to have some structure back in my day that went beyond regular nappy changes and bottles.  The early months back at work whizzed by and before I knew it, I was doing it.  With no stabilisers.  Heck without even holding on!  Looking back I realise structure was the key.  Once I developed my own habits and rituals I was in delicious control of my time.

The loneliness was still hard.  The weekends, particularly.  I soon realised no one was going to make my life happen for me so I always made sure I had some arrangements in place in advance so I had something to look forward to.  I also cultivated some new habits for myself and my daughter to keep us going.  Regular trips to the duck pond to feed the ducks soon turned into cherished moments, early on Sunday mornings, for us to bond in the quiet of the park. 

Shopping trips that were first dismal at the humiliation of shopping for one became lazy, ambling and joyous at not having to hurry up for anyone and using the experience as an educational experience to boot for munchkin.  I soon got used to the idea that with a baby in the trolly the only guys that’d be checking me out in the frozen section were aged 79 and cooing at my cute munchkin as she cooed back.

I decided I wanted to get fit and meet new people so I finally gave in to the suggestions of my dear friend and learnt to windsurf on the weekends munchkin was visiting her dad.  Pitting myself against the elements was exhilarating.  Windsurfing is a total mind and body experience and I found myself unable to think, worry or fret whilst doing it.

I’m now so thankful that I have had the opportunity to experience living on my own, albeit with munchkin in tow.  I’ve got used to my own company and it makes me appreciate the company of others even more so when it happens.  It’s forced me to be self sufficient in a way that I never dreamed I could.  It’s still hard when I’m stressed, like now.  But I’m doing.  Oh yes I am.

Single parenting and divorce: some tips on coping

As my divorce ratchets up to blistering levels of stress, I find myself pondering on the different ways I’ve coped with the strains of becoming a single parent and the whole divorce process over the past 2 years.

Coincidentally its exactly two years (give or take a few days) since it all fell apart.  That night in February 2008 is seared in my memory.  It’s 3am.  I’m 5 months pregnant.  I’ve woken with a start to realise my husband hasn’t come home.  His mobile is off.  I ring and ring.  Then I doze.  Then I wake up crying again and try ringing again.  7am the next day and his parents have no idea where he is either.  I have no idea where he is.  Except deep down I do.  He’s with her.

First it was the lack of excitement when I jumped on the bed with the positive pregnancy testing kit, so full of hope for the future now that our dream of having a child was a step nearer.  Then came his creeping emotional distance as the weeks passed.  At 3 months pregnant he offered to walk me to the station in London so I could get myself home so he could continue socialising at a work function I had attended with him.  The girl who patted my stomach in a sisterly way and told me she loved children and coo’d about how lucky I was at that event I would later find out to be the woman he had fallen in love with.  Then there was the constant ‘mentionitis’ of this woman’s name and endless ‘leaving drinks’ to attend with his company.

So I did know where he was that first night when he didn’t come home.  It had simply been a matter of time. When we finally discussed it the next day it was no surprise to hear him say he loved me but was not in love with me and instead was in love with her.  I phoned my parents in a trance to ask if I could move back home.  He sat in bed next to me, silent.  No protest, no tears, no guilt.  I thought I had it all.  The dream wedding.  The move to the beautiful country cottage in the picture book country village.  The falling pregnant straight away.

Six months of promises to leave her followed.  I’d made it clear six months was all I’d give.  Then I found myself on a late summer’s morning in 2008 pushing my beautiful daughter in her pram up the pathway to the court to file for divorce.  It was processed was by the clerk quickly.  Minutes later and I walked back out with a receipt.  Not a purchase I had ever wanted or thought I’d be making.

Two years on and I’ve slowly put it back together again.  Because knowledge management is a practice as well as a profession it pushes me to pass on possibly helpful insights to help other newly single mums or dads who might be wondering how the hell they are going to get through this.  But this is for me too.  I need to try and recentre myself as I feel paralysed by the strain of things right now.

As I’m typing this though deep down I know that there is little I can say (to you and to myself) other than that you will have to find your own way through it but you WILL get through it.  Yet in order to do so you must truly believe that you can.  And you know you can, but you have to tell yourself that regularly.  Let it become your mantra.  I lost count the number of times I said ‘I will get through this’ to myself.  And more importantly to my then unborn daughter.  She remains the single thing aside from my self belief that keeps me going.

There are some practical things too.  Here’s some of what I did – I can’t say if they will help you but feel free to try – and for the record I’m back on the knitting 🙂

  • Keep a diary if its cathartic, for as long as the process works for you.  Or blog! Just be sure about what you want to put out there.  
  • Surround yourself with anyone that will give you the love and support you need – be it friends, family, work colleagues.  Distance yourself from those can’t or won’t.  But think carefully about how many you choose for the closest support.  My experience was that everyone was phoning regularly to see how I was, which I appreciated hugely, but then I would often recount the same words which were usually painful to hear myself saying. 
  • Think about things that made you happy before you met your ex, your happy things, and try them again.  It might be a forgotten hobby, a book, certain albums.  And/or try something new.  I learnt to knit.  I’ll blog more on this in due course but it helped me relax and gave a productive outcome in the toys that  made.
  • Don’t hold it in.  There were times I didn’t think the sobbing would end.  I can’t imagine the pain my parents suffered during the time I spent hours in my childhood bedroom, laid on the bed holding my pregnant belly, wailing like an injured animal.  Trust me the sobbing will stop eventually.  For it to stop though it has to start and run it’s course.
  • Make a running list of the things you have to be grateful for.  It might be to do with your life, such as fantastic friends and family.  Alternatively it might be more lateral, such as beautiful sunsets or digestive biscuits(!)  The point is it doesn’t matter what those things are but making that list really helped me to remind me that there was life before him and life will continue after.  Go back to it time and again if you need to.
  • Make new friends online if the mood takes you. Sites like netmums are great and friendships often translate to real life in due course.

If you’re reading this because you’re going through it then I’m truly sorry but please, please, please believe me – you will get through this.  Just give it time.  It’s not to say there won’t be hiccups as there will.  Believe in yourself and you’d be amazed at what you can do.

No alarms and no surprises please

I have a confession.  This past two weeks have been awful.  Two of the worst since I filed for divorce.  It’s been nothing but threats and counter threats of court action with still no clear way forward.  I’m drained, wired, unable to sleep properly, eat properly, concentrate or relax.  Eighteen months of trying to get a resolution are taking their toll.  My efforts at any degree of meditation of acceptance and letting go of the stress I’m under continuously fail.  The pressure is palpable, crushing, deafening, disempowering. 

It’s not a surprise but it still stuns me even now how incapacitating stress can be.  There’s a cracking white paper on knowledge management I’ve had in my bag all week.  If I can’t concentrate on it and take it in then I can’t assimilate my opinions on it and start to think creativly about how I might use any of its learnings with my clients.  The true reason for my week of inspirational quotes on this blog is because I can’t think straight enough to focus on interesting thoughts and observations that I might want to post here.

Undoubtedly the worst is how it impacts my ability to look after my daughter.  She notices nothing.  Mummy is still smiling, playing and having fun with her.  She has no idea that despite the joy she brings me I’m on the cusp of bursting into tears at every second.  She has no idea that I’m fighting a massive battle to keep those smiles on my face for her.

I wish I knew how to let go.  I know I have to.  I’ll of course keep trying. But if I could have one wish right now it would be to be able to let go of this pain.

Inspirational quotes #4: Winnie the Pooh

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

Winnie the Pooh

Inspirational quotes #3: Dharmachari Nagaraja

“It is only natural to want things to stay as they are, but life is a journey and change is unavoidable.  A wise person accepts this and enjoys each precious moment as fully as they can”.

Dharmachari Nagaraja, Buddha at Bedtime – Tales of love and wisdom for you to read with your child to enchant, enlighten and inspire.

Inspirational quotes #2: the Dalai Lama

“The first step in seeking happiness is learning.  We first have to learn how negative emotions and behaviours are harmful to us and how positive emotions are helpful.  And we must realise how these negative emotions are not only very bad and harmful to one personally but harmful to society and the future of the whole world as well.  That kind of realisation enhances our determination to face and overcome them.  And then, there is the realisation of the beneficial aspects of the positive emotions and behaviours.  Once we realise that, we become determined to cherish, develop, and increase those positive emotions no matter how difficult that is.  There is a kind of spontaneous willingness from within.  So through this process of learning, of analyzing which thoughts and emotions are beneficial and which are harmful, we gradually develop a firm determination to change, feeling, “Now the secret to my own happiness, my own good future, is within my own hands.  I must not miss that opportunity!””

HH Dalai Lama taken from ‘The Art of Happiness – A handbook for living‘, p26, by HH Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler.

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