Smug…

Tonight my gratitude has a tinge of smugness…

 

Is that a bad thing?

 

To be so grateful that you feel smug? To feel smug is feeling almost offensive satisfaction for your situation, does it not?

 

Well that is how I feel…

 

Grateful and smug…

 

Today, I got to kiss my boys good morning and have breakfast with them both… I got to see Willy make his own toast for the first time…   I love the firsts…

 

Today I got to read with both my boys and hear how well they are progressing at school…

 

Today I got to stand in front of a classroom and inspire children to think for themselves.. understand the world and their impact on it and the impact of the world on them.

 

Today I got to spend time with a wonderful ‘old’ friend and wax lyrical about how lucky we both were! How grateful we were to have this time with our children … to have the time to grab a nice coffee and share our gratitudes, and swop stories…

 

Today I got to exercise… to feel fit and healthy… even though I can feel a tickle and a sniffle coming on … (I am healthy.  I am healthy!  I am full of health!)

 

Today I got to pick up my youngest and have quality time with him, make him feel special with one on one time… and wave to him in the pool and watch him proudly swimming like a frog…

 

Today I got to eat supper with my children, cuddle them on the sofa under blankets and kiss their soft cheeks and hair… and hear the words ‘I love you, Mama’ as I tuck them under their duvets…

 

Today I got to treat two friends to a facial and a makeover .. and if I do say so myself, my work was good! And I am proud of myself…

 

Today I got to do the 2 things I always wanted to do – be a Mummy… not only in just the physical sense of the act of becoming a parent and giving birth, but actively taking an interest in my offspring’s wellbeing, safety, security and providing a loving environment myself…   and secondly to stand in front of a school class and provide an inspiring environment for children to learn.

 

Today I got to do the 2 things I always wanted to do AND see friends, have fun and keep healthy!

 

Today I am full of smug gratitude… Today I am the cat that got the cream! I could even be Bagpuss!

the cat that got the cream

 

 

The Secret…

It is no secret that I am a big fan of ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne… and also her book ‘The Magic’ which goes in to more detail about the importance of Gratitude…

I often wish that I had read these books earlier in my life. While there are some of the techniques I know I did subconsciously – for example, the daydreaming of my tall handsome prince, a house full of crazy children, big family Christmases, big house in the countryside…. Bedtime prayers giving thanks for good food and winning another lacrosse game, getting a promotion, a pay rise….

I didn’t do them regularly, nor did I understand the science behind them…..

Visualisation and daydreaming of a life you want in the future should be and for me is an uplifting experience. I have now even done guided meditations to meet my future self…. (the first time in a conference… and the second time on a crowded train to London in fact! Other travellers must have thought that rather strange – seeing someone plugged in to ear phones, eyes shut and crying!).

And at this point I do wonder whether my younger, less mature self would have been able to or even open to doing this? And at some points, I have felt that this was rather a materialistic thing to do… and didn’t always feel right as it seemed to come from a place of scarcity, feeling that I didn’t have enough so dreaming of more…

What I have found is that myself at this stage of life has totally benefitted from introducing these practices.   By meeting my future self, talking to her, I recognise the daily practices that she has done and continues to do to become this calm, serene, abundant, loving, selfless figure. By recognising them in the future, it is therefore easier for me to start implementing those practices in to my daily life today. Hence the early morning pilates, healthy eating, writing, sketching, spending as much time as possible with the boys. By speaking to her, I know the types of people she spends time with and so when I meet people, I know instinctively whether they are part of my future or just my present. By speaking to her, I know my purpose, it is cemented in my core for I know where I am going and because I know that, decision making becomes easy and if others try to influence me from my path, it is less easy for them to deter me, the less I care what they think – it’s not their future, it’s mine.

I recognise now that there is nothing wrong with knowing where you want to go. And I also recognise the importance of gratitude.

There is fantastic quote by Oprah Winfrey ‘ Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough’.

So while my evening prayers used to be sporadic, it is now a daily habit to list all the things in the day that I am grateful for… from my family, to the house we live in, friends, from the running water, to electricity… I go through a list of all the things I couldn’t do with out… It is amazing how long this list is… but as I run through it in my mind, I drift off to sleep. Maybe that is why I sleep like a dead person… I fall asleep in a state of gratitude.

Another practice I have recently started is another from the Secret. You can even buy Secret Gratitude Journals… one side of the page you write down all the things you are grateful for in your life right now and on the other, you write down all the things you are grateful for that you know will happen in the future.

I have only been doing this a week, but given how good my week has been so far, I am confident this practice has contributed to it. After my morning pilates, I am grateful for the day ahead and if I anticipate conflict or drama or difficulty in any part of my day ahead, I give thanks for the fact that it will go well…  or if not well, then the way it is meant to go

The books say that these practices – the visualisations and gratitudes – are all subconscious messages to your brain as well as to the universe to let it conspire to make what you want happen. The Law of Attraction.

And whether you are cynic or a believer, I overcame myself, my old negative, cynical frame of mind by asking myself ‘what was the worst that could happen?’ That I stayed negative and cynical by writing a few gratitudes down and believing in the future that I desired? I had nothing to lose.

And I have gained so much.

The positive attitude of my childhood has returned.

Daydreaming is fun!

Being grateful has made me less desperate, less competitive, more appreciative and far more abundant and giving, because I need less to make me happy.

I still feel that I am a long way from being the person I met in my meditations… but she was about 70… so I have 30 years to go to get it right.

And the best bit, I realize now, is enjoying the journey or adventure, I am currently on to get there… because I know, it will all be ok.

Just as it should be.

Because I told me, it would be.

And I believe her.

The Secret

Home Sweet Home

There is nothing like taking the last turn in to your own village after 360 mile journey…

There is nothing like driving back through your own gates and walking through your own front door…

There is nothing like carrying your sleeping boys up to their own beds and hearing their sighs of comfort as they snuggle under their own duvets….

There is nothing like unpacking the car on your own, laden with bags, boxes and rubbish… and realising for the first time how much easier it is when there is 2 of you.

There is nothing like realising how amazing single mum’s are… hats off to them!

There is nothing like leaning against the aga to sooth an aching back…feeling the warmth of your own kitchen and feeling waves of gratitude…

There is nothing like putting on the first of many washes and getting ahead of the game before bed…

There is nothing like munching on a piece of hot buttery toast as a reward for doing so well on a long drive alone…

There is nothing like the relief as you find the Halloween costumes have been delivered while you have been away…happy boys tomorrow!

There is nothing like opening 4 letters from HMRC explaining they have recalculated your tax for the YE 2013/14 and it is now double and you have multiple late payments (!)…. (Thank you, thank you, thank you… it must have meant I earnt a lot of money that year and benefitted from it at the time!!)

There is nothing like blogging on a laptop after a week of finger tapping on an iphone…

There’s nothing like getting in to your own bed, having your own pillow, a good book and an early night….

There’s nothing like home sweet home… There’s no place like home….

theres_no_place_like_home_sized-537x405

Where are the brakes?

Where are the brakes?

10pm and the sudden realisation that the day has gone and I almost missed a day of blogging!

Where did the day go?

Where are the weeks going?

Did someone say it was half term this Friday?! I thought I had another week! Eek!!!

Time is just racing by… I am hurtling along in a roller coaster, flying round and round…. Never really slowing as I go through the start gates… or are they the end gates?

Any one else feel like that?

Tom is nearly 8, Willy already 6… if the time continues to speed up like it is currently, accelerating every year to go past faster… will we soon enter Warp Speed? Will I wake up one morning, the boys taller than Daddy, leaving home to go to Uni, live in London?

Tonight I will hold them closer, snuffle their faces for longer, linger longer to hug them while they sleep…

Soon they will have left the house and the noise and the clutter, the grassy boots flung by the door, the left up toilet seats, clothes in heaps, discarded book bags, laughter and giggles, the occasional thud, little elephant feet running along the landing and long, heart felt cuddles, hot cheeks against mine… will all be but a distant memory… and there will be quiet.

And how I will miss them.

Where are the brakes? Can you slow the hours? The minutes?

I am going to take one… and live in the moment and appreciate the delicious, delightful chaos that is my life.

you-will-never-have-this-day-again

The art of finding the hyacinth..

a weed is just a flower

As I had a quick scroll through facebook posts this morning, and an image with a quote saying ‘A negative mind will never give you a positive life’. And I had to comment… share my thoughts about the concept of ‘Mental Gardening’: a beautiful garden only remains beautiful, if consistently maintained, fertilized, loved and cared for.

Yes, you can blitz it every once in a while, but if you leave it, it will soon become overgrown with weeds and brambles again, strangling the life out of the good plants and flowers. It is an onerous task to dig up and re-plant an entire garden. Therefore, the concept of mental gardening refers to the daily maintenance of your thoughts, the weeds and brambles the negative thoughts, the maintenance being the ‘weeding’ out of thoughts that don’t serve you and the fertilizer the way in which you feed your mind with positive thoughts and feelings.

A comment back made me think this through further and as I walked along the river and through the woods this morning, scenarios played in my head…

There are many types of gardens… and we all have our own personal images of the idyllic garden. For me, my favourite garden is my Godmother’s … a beautiful English country garden, overgrown with roses of every colour, height and smell… a long meandering garden, with hidden corners, trellises, dark and mysterious in some parts and light and warm in others… with the fairies at the end of the garden behind the compost heap.

IMG_1807

I compare this with Mr OCD’s perfect garden: regimented, perfectly straight mown lined lawns, trimmed box hedges, clipped, tall arrow fir trees, mainly green but with a few, simple coloured flowers that would have to be in rows and planted in total symmetry.

IMG_1810

Does this reflect our differing minds and mentalities? My mind overgrown, a tangle of thoughts, feelings, a beautiful, interesting mélange, perfect…   His, structured, neat, perfect….

I can see us both walking in our own gardens at peace… James standing tall, walking proudly, nodding at the perfect lawns, surveying the future clearly laid ahead of him…

And me, smiling, wonderous as I wander along the path, bending under branches of low apple trees, smelling the roses, excited to discover what is beyond the next gate.

My country garden would definitely have weeds, for some are beautiful…. I love daisies, poppies, clover, dandelion puffballs.. the fields and acres of Swiss mountain wildflowers of my childhood… silvery edelweiss, fields of blue gentians and sunshine primulas…

So that begs the question – do weeds provide a purpose too? Are they just as important and nutritious to keep our soil fertile to allow the true flowers and plants to grow?

I look at some of the weeds in my mind – the sad thoughts I have about my Mum… If I was to pull out those weeds, strim them down… would something worse grow in their place? Would they be replaced by more harmful weeds, nettles and the guilt of not caring? For that would surely sting more than reflecting on the sad, pretty cluster of daisies, representing the memories of my pretty Mum.

As we walk along the river bank, there is a large patch of ground covered in brambles, leaves, woodland weeds…. And sprouting in the middle, right in the middle is a beautiful patch of bright pink hyacinths. How perfect. To me this represented a mind that is in despair and it made me think of a few close to me whose mental garden could be reflective of this image. For in amongst every overgrown, strangled, desperately bland garden, there can always be a little patch of beauty… the quest is to find it… and focus on it. Find the joy in that small, pretty flower, fertilise it, water it and watch it grow… for like the hyacinths it will grow and spread and soon become a carpet of beautiful flowers, taking over the painful brambles and nettles.

IMG_1817

How am I?

IMG_0188

Following my update a few days ago, many lovely caring friends have been in touch to ask how I am…

This has surprised me in a couple of ways…

Firstly, how many people actually are reading my blog! I actually cannot tell who or how many read it unless they ‘like’ or ‘follow’… I am secretly thrilled at how many people are enjoying it and at the same time, secretly totally freaked out by how many people now know my deepest darkest thoughts! This started as a way for me to get through the sandwich years – both looking after multiple generations but also the transition I am going through from being a solid, successful corporate career person, to professional mum, entrepreneur, coach and mentor… wifely PA! It seems that what I write resonates with a few…

Secondly… I had to ask myself the question ‘how am I’ in order to actually reply to the many questions … some people I have ignored. Which is very rude. But I wasn’t sure how to answer at the time…

So How am I?

I have gone through a list of multiple emotions that I think many expect the response to be:

Sad. Sure. But not overwhelmingly…

Worried. Sure.. but there is nothing I can do about any outcome or the situation…

Emotional. Of course.. but again, not overwhelming.

Helpless… Yes. But only in terms of being able to help my Mum, but again, no point in dwelling on that because the people who can help her are all around her.

So if not the expected answers…

How am I?

As I received another message from a friend today, I was on the treadmill… and the acute feeling I had all of a sudden was gratitude. I felt my shoulders relax and my feet beneath me swing effortlessly as I turned up the pace.

Gratitude…

I am hugely grateful that I can go down and spend time with my Mum and Dad tomorrow. I am hugely grateful for my credit card to pay for train tickets, money in the bank, for friends who are helping me out with looking after both the boys while I am away and ferrying them to and from school and feeding them.

I am hugely grateful that my Mum is in a hospital that still cares enough to do tests to find out what’s going on in her body, her brain and to find the medication that will make her life a little easier. I am hugely grateful that my Dad is still fit and healthy enough to be there to support her.

I am hugely grateful that my sister was there with my Dad when they got the scary report. I am so lucky to have a sister who is so methodical, calm, knowledgeable.

I am hugely grateful that I found a lifeline. For when I connect the dots back in my life… nothing has happened for no reason, in fact, every experience has served a purpose in the journey of my life to date.

I found a lifeline just over two years ago, that brought into my life all the ‘tools’ I needed to get through this period of difficulty, as well as a time last year when it felt like my life had unhinged itself from reality.

I am grateful for the mentors, the coaches, the leaders I have learnt from who have shared their knowledge and experiences and especially the book recommendations on how to grow yourself and therefore myself in to a better, more mindful, calmer, spiritual, abundant and grateful person; someone who can overcome obstacles, tangible, mental or otherwise.

I am grateful for the professionals who have taught me about nutrition, health and the importance of feeding the body and the soul to live out a life of longevity.

I am grateful for the many friends I have in my life that provide a support network – whether it be to have coffee and cake in the coffee shops around York (except we all drink herbal tea and eat seed bars.. honest guv!); friends in whatsapp groups who remind me that ‘Mental Gardening’ is the positive change that will improve the lives of so many; colleagues I work with who encourage and inspire me to continually step out of my comfort zone and grow and learn; honest and close friends who know when it has been time to give me a kick up the backside and get on with my life! I think one even said ‘it’s time to strap on a pair and walk like John Wayne’!!! I am grateful for all friends for whatever part they play – a drink, a laugh, a moan…

I am so grateful that our current weekend family life has taught me that I can let go of my career, the titles, the pay cheques and the biggest wrench of all – my ego. I am grateful that this experience has made me brave enough to start new things, have the courage to learn to mentor and teach, to bare my soul through blogging…

I am grateful that I am now able to connect the dots back and see that everything in the past has happened for a reason, even if it felt like a tragedy, a disaster at the time. Each experience has a part to play in the adventure of life… and it always ends up working out for the best, even if just a lesson to learn.

This is just another life experience and sadly one we will go through with 4 parents, or 4 grandparents to the boys. And there in itself is another gratitude – I am so grateful that our sons have been so lucky to enjoy and benefit from the company and love of 4 amazing people.

As I drive to school, feeling this sense of gratitude, of happiness as I go to pick up the smiliest boy in the world, I am called by a friend of mine’s mother who needs to pay me some money! I haven’t seen her since my school days and we have a lovely catch up. She asks about my children, what my husband does, where I live and finally asks why her daughter owes me money? I explain that I had a wake up call 2 years ago and wanted to spend more time with my family, so I had left a team and career I loved and started a new business in health and wellness and that her daughter had wanted some of my nutritional products, to ensure she gets the right nutrients when she is racing around after everyone else! I explained how this business enabled me to still see my children, but still have a sense of purpose and a challenge.

Her response still gives me goose bumps… and tears in my eyes; ‘Ali! Ten thousand cheers for you! Keep it up! You are doing absolutely the right thing by using your intuition and your initiative… looking after your children yourself is the best job you can do! And if you find something else that fits with it, that is brilliant. Keep it up.’

The tears are in my eyes are of happiness because I know that if my Mum knew what I was doing, those would be her words; she would have been my biggest customer and my biggest champion.

So how am I?

Grateful and happy!

Sunday Medicine

Sundays to me have always been a little bit about tradition… Family. Walks. Sunday Roasts. Peeling potatoes. The Archers in my childhood, more recently Downton…

Today was the perfect medicine and I found my off switch.

There is nothing lovelier that being brought a cup of tea in bed on a Sunday morning, the curtains opened gently so the sunshine streams in. And as I watch Downton this evening, I wonder how lovely it must have been to have had that every day…. I must have been Lady Mary in another life!

There is nothing lovelier than gathering soft cushions and pillows all around you to have a peaceful 30 minutes of reading a good book, with the gentle noise of 3 boys having breakfast together and I leave them to it for this is the only day a week they get to have a ‘man breakfast’ together…

There is nothing lovelier than pulling on your favourite winter jogging pants, slipping on your trusty trainers and letting popping tunes fill your head as you pound the pavements… There is nothing lovelier than jogging in the autumn – watching your breath whisper in the cool as you sigh at the beautiful countryside in the clear autumn sun, reds, oranges, yellows still mixing with the greens….

There is nothing lovelier than coming home to little boys wanting to throw rugby balls, tennis balls and run around the garden with you.

There is nothing lovelier than an impulse decision to go for lunch and a walk… 2 minute hot steamy showers, grabbing coats and scarves and pocket snacks as we fly out the door…

There is nothing lovelier than the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, rolling lawns, random enormous sculptures made to seem insignificant in the giant spaces, but beautiful, impressive against the blue, blue skies of the North today.

IMG_1690

There is nothing lovelier than seeing your boys race and run, twist and turn, scrap and laugh, clamber and roll… sweaty noses, dirty knees, fishing for pocket treats, asking for ice creams.

There is nothing lovelier than family potato peeling, table laying, Grandparent teasing, clean plates, full bellies… there is nothing lovelier than the first roast ham of the season, nothing lovelier than comfort food.

There is nothing lovelier than hearing the boys read, how well they are doing, hearing how Tom helps his brother recognize words….nothing lovelier than 3 in a bed around one good book.

There is nothing lovelier than a full pot of tea, Sunday TV… and while I am a little melancholy the big man had to leave unexpectedly early, there is nothing lovelier than the realization, I am seeing him on Tuesday, just the 2 of us, our favourite London pub, bottle of red… nothing lovelier.

There is nothing lovelier than going to bed on a Sunday and waking up to brand new week…

Blackberry picking

IMG_3125

Dobby is blocking my conversations with Snow White today. It’s one of those days… he is on my shoulder, in front of my face, relentless.

I feel guilty for eating a curry, for having cake, my jeans feel tight, I haven’t exercised for a week other than a couple of dog walks… I feel unappreciated as I peel potatos, sweet potatos, apples, carrots and make a gluten free crumble. Everything is winding me up – grass all over the kitchen floor from football boots and Timberlands from double rugby this morning…. I can’t remember any time anyone said thank you or made me feel valued or loved… I am sick of having a cold. Frustrated by inertia.

I am torn.

Torn between letting my emotions out and throwing cushions, having a trantrum or a cry… or just growing up and getting on with it. Jobs to be done, Sunday roast to be cooked, rugby kit to be washed, homework to be done… blackberries to be picked.

I pick blackberries… it makes me a little melancholy as I am reminded of the boxes of blackberries I picked with my Mum this time last year…  I wonder how she is?  Dad took in some shampoo and her favourite tea yesterday, I do hope they have washed her … given her a cup of Earl Grey with lemon.

….

I make a wise decision. I put on my earphones and hit the play button to listen to Oprah.

Wherever I had left off before, started with the right chapter, for sure. She talks about her interviews with men who all had affairs, despite their strong loyal ethics. They all had a common theme – they all wanted to be heard, valued, appreciated, listened to… to feel loved.

Isn’t that what everyone wants? The feeling bit anyway – the feeling of being loved and appreciated…

She makes an interesting point – we shouldn’t wait for others to make us feel this way… We need to feel this for ourselves first…. Value ourselves, love ourselves, appreciate what and who we are first…   For then we aren’t reliant on others to feel good, happy. Look inward and work out what is good about ourselves and our lives… Use gratitude as a way of recognizing how lucky, how brilliant, how wonderful we and are lives are.

How did I forget that today? Since reading The Magic last year, gratitude has played a major part of my daily routine – either in the morning or last thing before I got to bed.

How grateful am I to have gorgeous, healthy sons, a kind and generous husband, a beautiful, warm, spacious Yorkshire stone converted barn to live in with all the mod cons (soooo grateful for my washing machine and tumble dryer – imagine doing all that washing by hand?!). How thankful for a lie in this morning, a hand delivered cup of morning tea, a proud 90 minutes on the sidelines watching the boys play rugby and score tries…more than the England team did last night!. Talking of which, gratitude for good friends as neigbours who bring delicious puddings and beers….

Gratitude for Oprah, for itunes and audiobooks to get me back on the happy path and out of the pity party.

So now it’s back to the aga – my in-laws arrive home in a couple of hours, the pork needs to go in and the topping on the crumble needs spreading…. But first, I think I will gather my family for one of our favourite Sunday past-times – a family cuddle on the sofa!