So are you too much or not enough?
I bet at some point in your life you’ve been told either that you’re too much (too loud, too opinionated, too fat, too showy, too out there…) or not enough (not speaking up enough, not showing your real self enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough). You may even have been told you’re too much AND not enough by different people. Or the same person at different times! The truth is, you can’t please everyone. Whilst that’s a truism, why is it that we still try so hard to be liked by everyone? What I really want to know is: do you please yourself? And how do we do that in times of uncertainty when everything feels out of our control?
Most teachers value imagination in children. Not my teacher when I was eight years old. I had written a detailed story about lions and elephants, and the teacher called my mum over at the end of school to say (with an eye roll), “Tessa, has an inflated imagination. This was supposed to be a story about a real experience.” Can you be too imaginative? You can be accused of lying. Thanks to my mama bear defending me, my love of writing was unharmed. But a need to rein in my experiences for fear of others disbelieving me was born. We had not long returned from Malawi, living half an hour from safari heaven.
I wonder if you can think of defining moments when you were a child that changed how you presented yourself to the world? A moment when you were made to feel that you were too much: taking up too much space and should just make yourself a little smaller to be ok (or safe). Or a moment when you felt that you were considered lacking in some way and not worthy to be considered an equal, and so should just stay small and out of the way. It may be that you’re a highly sensitive person (like me) and are much more affected by these moments than others in your family or friendship group seem to be. How can we build resiliency, particularly in times of uncertainty when it’s not clear what is needed to be safe in life?
As is often the case, the answer is: it depends. I don’t want to give you four top tips for how to be comfortable with uncertainty and how it’s manifesting for you. That would be disingenuous. What I want to suggest is that we need space to be present with the uncertainty. Space to feel what effect it’s having on our physical and mental health, and what might help. Then we can find our way to what will nourish us and keep the ship steady through the storm. If your livelihood is threatened, it’s tempting to work all the hours that Goddess gives us. However, without downtime to rest, we will become less productive in the longer term. Burying your head is ok for ostriches (I never saw one of those in Africa), but will mean that you miss opportunities to adapt to the new situation.
Personally, space to decompress comes in the form of yoga nidra (a relaxation technique – check out an amazing resource here). Uncertainty tends to make me physically tired and overwhelmed by nervous system overload. When I’m listening to a yoga nidra track, I am resting my body, not on social media or listening to news, and have a chance to totally switch off. Another form of spaciousness for me is going for a walk in nature, and specifically ‘shinrin-yoku’ (森林浴): taking in the forest atmosphere. I’m then reminded by humans’ insignificance in the history of the universe and that melts away the overwhelm. I admire the magnificent oak trees and get over myself! This fits with my values that one species is not more important than another.
I live on a road that leads to a cemetery. Some people might not buy a house on such a road, but I like it. I’m not a horror or vampire fan (far from it, remember my inflated imagination and sensitive nervous system?!), but I do appreciate a reminder of the inevitable cycles of life. When my daughters were babies, I used to walk around the graves in the hope of settling them into an overdue nap and found that the engravings would put the most taxing day into perspective. We do ourselves no favours from hiding death in everyday life. A practice of gratitude is another way I create space in times of uncertainty. These things work because they fit with my physical, mental and spiritual make-up.
Finding others that share your values or your traits helps tremendously in not feeling alone with uncertainty. The Red Tent that I host has created a sisterly community where I feel totally accepted, and there are other forums online that provide a nurturing camaraderie like the Commit to Kindness Facebook group. I have had a Listening Partnership for three years and know that I can say anything, absolutely anything to this woman who is also sensitive by nature, even though not all of our values align. We are committed to non-judgement and the process of deep listening and witness. I have found a tribe through these different mediums.
You are a unique tapestry. Only you can do you. You might agree that you are a bit too much of something and not enough of something else. As long as these are not projected onto us, we can accept that we are a combination of quirks, passions, ennuis, life experiences and values that will thrill some and turn off others. Yes, I get too swept up into an idea without knowing all the facts. (It drives my husband crazy) but that’s me. No, my house is not tidy enough that I know where everything is. That’s ok.
We can own this tapestry and know that this is what we have to share with our families and friends, our community, and beyond. With those who have enough commonality with us, to get us. Our own unique story will also hold the key for how to cope with uncertainty at this moment in time – your way. If your way to channel is uncertainty is rage, you will need to find a way to express that safely. If it is despair, a process to move through it and towards hope.
We don’t have to be made to feel wrong or a failure by experiencing the pandemic differently, or not finding the well-meaning advice of others doesn’t help. Recognising your personal weaving of the many threads that make you you is also the route to finding meaning and self-expression. I'm not going to rein in my experiences for fear of others disbelieving me anymore.
I want to hear your story because nobody else can tell it.
Why mothers are not always right
Have you ever had a transition in your life? Gone through puberty, left home, started a job, moved in with flatmates? Maybe become a mother, been made redundant, retired, bereavement? Of course you have – change is a part of life. These transitions affect our sense of who we are and form our identity.
For some of these transitions tailored support is given, like with the increasing number of workshops for mothers and daughters preparing for menarche (the first period) or employers who offer work-to-retirement workshops. But for so many changes I hear you say, “What support?”
When I became mum to baby Zara, I felt nobody had prepared me for how the responsibility would change me. In the middle of the first night at home with this little being, it felt like I had been pushed off from the harbour wall in a little boat towards an immense ocean with no way of navigating. I was no sailor and I was no mother, yet. From being an academic researcher having intellectual discussions on a tight schedule to a knackered mum wondering how I couldn’t get out of the door before 10am, it felt bloody challenging some days. I was a mother, but it hadn’t landed fully in my psyche. Why did I feel like I was grappling with something shapeless?
I wondered then, “Why don’t we have a map for how to make sense of the big life transitions?” I will share four stages of transformation that can be applied to any life event, from the perspective of somatic experience. I’m going to use the process of becoming a mother – matrescence* - as an example because it’s one of the biggest changes in our lives: when we are responsible not only for ourselves, but another little human being, we’re in for a journey you won’t forget.
Although millions are spent every year on antenatal courses to prepare for the birth itself, the emotional part of becoming a mum is often overlooked. The shift in identity is usually realised retrospectively when the dust has settled. What if we could shine a light on the process to make the different feelings recognisable and potentially less unsettling? If we don’t know how to navigate change, we can feel confused at best, and sick at worst.
Change goes through four stages according to Richard Strozzi-Heckler of the Strozzi Institute for Somatic Coaching: current historical stage, the open unbounded stage, the new shape and an embodiment into the new shape. I’ll unpack those terms in a moment, but they point to the fact that transformation takes time and takes you through an undefined, uncertain phase. This could be exciting if it was setting off on a backpacking adventure or starting a new job that you’ve been working towards.
Interview with Sarah O'Mahoney
In this conversation, Sarah and I talk about where the idea for our books came from, the writing process and publishing decisions. We had technical issues so went back to the written word! I know, old school!!
Making Pink Lemonade & Ruby Luna's Curious Journey
Both of these books deal with periods and normalising menstrual cycles. Making Pink Lemonade is in a diary format for 9+ girls and Ruby Luna's Curious Journey is an illustrated book with fun actions on each page for 5+ year old children.
Cyclical Wisdom for Birth (1): Surrender
One of the most fundamental processes of birth is surrender. This is not a popular word today because it has connotations of weakness and handing over power to another in our culture. But what if our habit of controlling and doing is derailing the natural unfolding of birth? This is the first in a series of blogs where I will share with you how cyclical wisdom can help us prepare for pregnancy and birth.
12 minute video of four postures encouraging us to slow down, be present and surrender to the magic of our bodies.
You will need a pile of cushions or pillows, a chair and a belt.
[Please read the description below the video on YouTube for modifications where there is pelvic pain.]
Menstrual Medicine Circles for Menopause
You may have heard me talking about MMCs, but what on earth are they? I talk to my dear friend and colleague Kate Codrington about how she specialises in using this amazing process for women who are journeying through menopause. She can be found at www.katecodrington.co.uk.
I focus on cycling women, those who are pregnant and wishing to become pregnant. I charge £40 a session.