My Life of Learning

Navigating life and sharing the valuable bits along the way

Category: Life lessons

My ‘toolbox’ for the stormy times

I mentioned in ‘Who am I, again?’ the notion of getting a ‘toolbox’ together for those times when you need a more personal type of DIY. 

No smut intended, but kudos to you if your mind went off on that tangent.
I salute you.

Creating a toolbox that contains a multitude of nourishing, accessible and kindness laced activities (ones that work for YOU) can be a huge help. Collectively, they’re like a sturdy anchor, ready for deployment during the inevitable stormy seas of life. A well-stocked toolbox can give you the best chance of keeping your feet planted firmly on the deck to ride them out.

We’re ok for a bit of a wobble though, I mean, jelly does it, so it can’t be all bad.

When I began to build my toolbox, I realised I had some work to do to acknowledge that I am worthy of the compassion and self-love that is required to put it together.
Ironic, but a good opportunity to practice what could get me over that hurdle and, therefore, what stuff might then go into my toolbox for other hurdles.

Cue next hurdle.

I really didn’t know what would work for me. I got ‘perfection paralysis’ thinking I needed to find the ‘perfect’ things, when in reality, that is a load of bollocks. I needed nourishment, not punishment, and searching for ‘perfect’ tends to lead me down the latter path.

So I just tried a few things, discarded some, adapted others, and came up with a (constantly evolving) toolbox that you’ll see, in it’s current form, listed out below.
I hope it helps as a foundation to inspire you, or even as a little light entertainment; there’s a couple of laughter-worthy ones in there. 
[laughing on its own often provides a remedy in itself – winning!]

1. Learning to play the piano

2. Learning to knit/crochet

3. My motorbike (reading about riding or actually getting out there)

4. Getting outside for a walk

5. A squeeze with my dogs (no surprises there)

6. Squeezing Play Doh

7. Writing/Drawing/Thought dumping (my house is littered with part completed notepads)

8. Baking (+ eating it at the end…or during…)

9. Reading (nutrition/gym training/most things human psychology)

10. Podcasts

11. This little handy anxiety breathing shape

12. Using Google Keep, Docs and Calendar (taking the to-do’s out of my mind)

13. Thinking and/or writing down nice things I’ve heard/seen/done

14. A pep talk to myself (yes it feels weird, but sometimes it actually bloody works; who’d have thought)

15. Changing my clothes (to something I feel good in. It’s always wise to actually own the item yourself though)

16. A nap

As you can see, I’ve got quite a few, I make no surprise of the fact that I love choice.
(you’ll not be surprised to learn that I *love* a good buffet)

N. B creating nautical analogies doesn’t feature…maybe that’s a new one.

I also turn to these things when the water is beautifully calm, there’s no storm shaped access key to the toolbox, these things are lovely outside of those experiences, too.

Also, sizing up new things for the toolbox may be best when you’re in this calm place, too. For me, trying to do that when I’m dangling by a shoelace from the side of the boat isn’t the time, my focus tends to be on slightly more pressing matters.
Oh, there’s another nautical analogy…


You don’t need to be of a certain standard of any of these things, no-one is marking you, it doesn’t work that way.
There’s no invitation here to mark yourself, either, thank you.

Likewise, one thing may work on one occasion but not the next, that is totally normal. Be kind to yourself, if not on your own instruction, on mine.

I find that being a novice at something can feel much more freeing, there are no expectations of what I ‘should’ produce, what I ‘should’ do or how anything ‘should’ look.

These are all about turning the pressure off.
The only pressure allowed here sits within the kettle as it boils water for a good cup of tea.

If you want any further information about any of the above, or want me to write a full post on any of the things I’ve mentioned, pop a comment below – this blog is all about being a helpful addition to life and sharing the valuable life lessons, you are best qualified to help me do just that!

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Who am I, again?

Since Mum died in June 2016, I found myself propelled into a head on face-off with the warm, familiar comfort blanket of an identity that I’d wrapped around myself for the previous 28 years. I personally found it frightening as hell, this whole identity questioning, it made me face the reality that I didn’t know what I liked, what was genuinely in my ‘love it’ bucket.
If I didn’t know, who on earth could help…

When people would ask what music I liked, what I love doing, what career I want (we like a good neat box to pop life in to) I was stumped. I’d been busy living life to look after, support, celebrate and take care of others in a way that I wanted for myself, too. I just didn’t value myself enough to afford this approach to me, I was never ‘good enough’ for that.

I’m learning that I can have faith, trust and compassion for myself in the way that I have for others, that I can get through tough shit even when my mind tells me that there is no way I could possibly cope. The way I learnt that is by going through the shit (oh joy) but, most importantly, recognising that I have gone through it, am still living, smiling and witnessing that it was me that steered the ship I’d been scared to paralysis of.

I learnt that I need to swallow the ‘be strong’ Brussel sprouts that I’d long pushed around my plate and open up my vulnerability, my flaws and imperfections and make space then to bring on board my beautiful friends and create positive coping mechanisms to help me navigate the sea and manoeuvre the not-so-infrequent tidal waves that sometimes near threw me off the deck.

I might be able to eat them, but I still don’t like Brussel sprouts #JustSaying

The lesson in summary…

Sprouts aside, identities evolve and grow, even when we don’t feel ready for it, or we want to hold so tightly to it. It didn’t need to be held tightly though, it was already mine and wouldn’t ever be discarded. As soon as I could let loose the reins that held on to that fear, I found a windy path extended in front of me, which opened up opportunity to grow and evolve.

‘Good enough’ and ‘perfect’ were long held aspirations – so they won’t go away quickly, but I’m working on it – and, obvious as it may seem, I realised that they are only standards I set myself, if I set them, then I have the power to change them.

You do too, I promise. It’s not easy, so get that coping toolbox full-up with good stuff, stuff that works for you – messages to friends, your favourite smells, things that make you smile.

Aspire for imperfection, it’s hard but, boy, it’s worth it.

See you later, Mum x

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This blog began to the tune of…

‘this will be rubbish, what a stupid idea’

‘as if you have the time’

‘you’ll not do it well anyway’

‘your writing is rubbish’

Sadly familiar, that little voice. I’m willing to bet I’m not alone, though.
I wonder how many actions and ideas miss their ‘start’ because of it?

I know many of mine have, prior to getting to that JFDI ‘who gives a shit’ age. I’m now in a phase of learning how not to aspire to perfect (what on earth is that anyway) and jump starting the ideas that I’d stalled, of which this blog is one.

My tactic is to remind myself that being critical of who I am, my thoughts, feelings and ideas rarely ends well.
It’s not wholly bad, there is a positive time and place for that critical voice (choosing which flavour cookie to have, or what route to walk the dogs, for example) but I’m practising turning the focus of it away from me.
I’m done with it.
It’s taught me a lot over the years, but I’m happy to have a go at living life without it now, thanks.

When it doesn’t quite work, Hugh Laurie helps me over the hump;

That quote is one of two I had printed by the amazing Book of the Dad, the other is another mantra that I aspire to;

(the necklace was custom made by the wonderful Vicki at VJG Jewellery in memory of Gramps, a man who definitely went after life)

I have creativity, positivity, kindness and life lessons that I’d like to share, rather than keep locked up and only be of value to me.
Does this mean I might get stuff wrong, make numerous cock-ups along the way and not be everyone’s cup of tea…yep…is that frightening…incredibly…but what is worse (for me) is not trying.

I’m here to remind you that;

  • it doesn’t matter if you think your photography is shit,
  • if your cakes don’t turn out to be ‘Instagram worthy’,
  • if your ideas feel messy and imperfect,
  • if you’re not doing doing meditation/yoga/living your best life (WTF) in the ‘right’ way.

Do what works for YOU, please, and do not let those be barriers you put up.

The gorgeous Glastonbury Tor, taken just before I tackled that mountain (truly it felt like that more than a hill)

You have such unique value in being who YOU are, no-one else on this earth has that treasure. It’s by no means an easy choice to work on embracing that, but if you choose to share the the glorious, evolving, lovely you, the world will be all the better for it.

And the others who don’t share the love? They can go do what works for them instead.

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