Quagmires, Self-belief and Sunscreen

Humans are contrary creatures. We spend our whole lives seeking happiness, meaning and validation, but in the process somehow manage to repeatedly get dragged into the toxic quagmire of anxiety, comparison and ‘never enough’ thinking.

I’ve been languishing in the quagmire again myself this week, worrying about my son’s health – as usual – but this time also about money. We are hardly on the breadline, but we are managing on one income this year. It was a decision we took together that we were – and still are – confident in, but nonetheless there are moments when we waver. Like when the bills are more than we’d anticipated, or when we check the account and realise that we’ve been more frivolous than we should have been for the past few weeks. We knew that moving back to London on one salary would be painful and so it is proving to be.

But it’s important to keep in mind the bigger picture. We made this choice because it’s best for our family that I become self-employed. And the career I have chosen – coaching – is one that is still largely unregulated and full of amateurs. To stand out amongst the crowd I need credibility, and to build credibility I need credentials. The path I have chosen begins with further study, which is why I am taking this year to return to my MSc in Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology at the University of East London. It’s not been an easy road so far this year with my son’s ill health hampering my ability to study, but nonetheless I am managing to forge ahead. Some people have commented that perhaps it’s too much to have a one year old and study for a degree, but keeping up the momentum is critical for my confidence and self-belief.

On that note, I have a tattoo on my right arm which says ‘Believe’ (or ‘Belieber’ as my husband takes great pleasure in saying to wind me up, due to the curly script in which it’s written. But I digress..), in a nod to my writing ambitions. I got the tattoo some years ago when I took the decision to accept a four days per week role in order to devote one day a week to my writing. For a while it went well, I got some commissions for features, was shortlisted for a fiction competition and really felt I was on the right track. But for myriad reasons I got demotivated, lost my confidence, and before long my writing day had turned into an extra day of weekend. I have always regretted this, and, ironically thanks to my tattoo, now have a permanent reminder of what happens when you don’t believe in yourself. But you know what? It spurs me on to never make the same mistake again. This time around I’m older and wiser, and I know in my heart that coaching is what I want and need to do. It will take time and require sacrifice, but I am now in a place where I am able to accept and embrace those truths.

All that said, I still have moments of weakness and self-doubt. I’m only human, after all. But life has a funny way of showing you the way, if only you look for the signs. Take this morning, for example. After a bit of a rough night/morning with my son (bad conjunctivitis, yet another cough, pre-toddler mood swings) I got him to nursery later than planned and was running late for my Body Balance class at Studio Society (I know I sound like such a Hampstead Mum, but I cannot tell you how much this class sorts my head out, it’s literally balm for the soul). I was rushing along the road, battling with my brolly against the wind and the commuters, checking my watch every two seconds to see how late I was going to be and feeling general sense of stress and unease. Then I consciously took a moment to check myself, noting that checking my watch was pointless as it wouldn’t get me there any faster. I decided to let go of the anxiety and trust that my legs would carry me there as fast as they could. If I was a few minutes late to class, so what? The world would keep on turning. And in the end, not only was I only a couple of minutes late, but for the first time today the teacher was ten minutes late! There seemed a certain serendipity in that outcome, and certainly a life lesson.

I have one final point to make in this meandering but cathartic post. In 1999, the year I left school and started university (literally showing my age here), Baz Luhrmann’s song Sunscreen was released. In the years hence I have often found myself returning to the lyrics, and this morning was reminded of these ones specifically:

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind
the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

When I’m in the quagmire of anxiety, comparison and ‘never enough,’ I try to remind myself that none of the things I am worrying about are actually significant. All that really matters in life, at least as far as I’m concerned, are love (loving and being loved by friends and family) and health. I’m at an age where it’s becoming harder to convincingly wear the cloak of invincibility. Several people close to me have experienced cancer in the past year, and right there are the real troubles that Baz Luhrmann talked about. So for as long as I’m fighting for my lifestyle rather than for my life, I will try to remember how very lucky I am.

sunscreen

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Changes

I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there’s something amiss in my world at the moment. Possible reasons are:

a)      The weather (if in doubt, blame that)

b)      My best friend moving to San Francisco next week (I’m excited for her but will miss her tremendously – just thinking about it makes me well up)

c)       Lack of exercise – after months of marathon training it’s now been over 6 weeks since I did any exercise due to my training-related back injury, so the endorphin supply is running low

d)      Lack of sleep – probably due to all the other reasons, but in recent days my quality of sleep has dropped dramatically, and I’ve noticed when my alarm goes off I’m often slap bang in the middle of a traumatic /stressful dream, which doesn’t get my day off to the best of starts

e)      My overdraft, which is once again getting so large it’s scaring me

f)       Pressure to succeed in writing (see point e, though this is about far more than just money, it’s about realising ambition – or not, as the case may be)

g)      The onset of wanderlust (which may or may not be related to point b)

h)      A combination of all of the above (most likely)

Whatever the reasons, I’m feeling out of sorts and stressed, and I need an action plan to ease me out of the doldrums. That plan is as follows:

a)      Hmm, not much I can do about the weather…

b)      Not much I can do about the friend moving to the US either…Oh dear…

c)       Aha! Here’s one I can work on! Lunchtime Pilates class booked. Let’s see how that goes…

d)      Earlier nights. Switch off technology, have a relaxing bath and go to bed with a good book. This approach I shall trial tonight.

e)      Stopping spending is the obvious one, or moving out of credit crisis London? Neither looking all that possible in the immediate future…Stop eating perhaps? Become a Breatharian?

f)       This one’s obvious: Write more. And believe in myself more. Also maybe give up sleeping and socialising as well as eating in order to find time to get my writing where it needs to be.

g)      I would say go travelling again, which would certainly address point a), but since it would do nothing to help point e), in the short term I’ll just have to settle for booking a (very) cheap weekend away in the UK to keep the wanderlust at bay.

I’m so glad I decided to write it all down. Just a few ‘small’ lifestyle changes and I’ll be back on an even keel before you can say ‘it’ll never work’….

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