Adjusting

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Following on from the adrenaline rush of the move, starting school and getting the house functional we’ve now moved into a new, slightly unexpected phase, I guess you could say we’re a little bit ‘post-partumy’ if one were to continue the labour analogy from one’s last post which one just might.

We always knew that whilst we actively wanted to downsize, this house as it stands is too small.  And dark. And overlooked by 8 sets of neighbours. And bathroom activities can be heard from 4 of the 5 other rooms, and possibly by all of the 8 sets of neighbours, who knows.  And Vince and I can’t get dressed / undressed in our bedroom at the same time because it’s tiny, and either way we have to close the blinds because…well…the neighbours.  And we miss people.  And the Little Chap misses having a bathtub, and hates the shower and howls like a wolf throughout each and every one.  And our soon-to-be 5 year old wanted a Ninja Minecraft birthday party but we don’t know enough small people locally to make that happen.  He also wants a sausage dog and, just like the party, that ain’t happening either.

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Nope! Stop looking at me with those adorable eyes.

There’s an irony that the stress and disruption of a move like this means you want nothing more than to have your friends and family close by to help shore you up, but by moving we’ve geographically forfeited that particular comfort (although thank goodness for two very old friends who happen to live fairly close by).  All of this is totally of our making but that doesn’t stop us from feeling sad and a little isolated at times (there may have been a moment of me silently crydriving us to school this morning).

But apart from that…yay.

Sigh.

Today has just been a low one for me, but there are tons of positives that on most days shine through the negatives.  We LOVE the village and are making connections with the locals on our high street, people are unusually friendly here. I’ve started running again, motivated by the fact that there is a park outside our front door. Vince has joined a local running group which he loves, and he’s also started a training course to give him a professional qualification to help him set up a community-focused business.  The Little Chap is thriving at school and we couldn’t be happier with things on that front.  Every day he reports his day has been ‘brilliant’ ‘fantastical’ ‘all roses’; he’s been awarded ‘star of the day’ on several occasions, with his TA quietly saying to him he’d get star of the day every day based on his consistent good behaviour.  Out of nowhere he can write his name and is learning his letters with gusto. And he’s starting to make a couple of lovely friendships, completely of his own volition.  He hosted his first playdate yesterday which went swimmingly apart from me burning the pizzas and setting fire to the pizza oven. The children voted with their feet and ran off to dress up as a tiger and a helicopter pilot, leaving their flame-grilled pizza’s mostly untouched.

We’ve also just found an architect who’s totally on our wavelength, who will help us shape this house into something more loveable which feels SO exciting…and SO expensive!!

I continue to work via Skype with three clients a week who chose to migrate with me from our work together in High Wycombe, and the transition to online counselling seems to be working well.  I am really missing my lovely counselling room but the beauty of Skype is I can carefully frame out the fact that I don’t have a client friendly space yet thus retaining a modicum of my usual professionalism, at least on screen.

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And so on the low days, we have to remind ourselves it’s only been a month and a full on mother-fucker of a month at that,  and even so we’re still moving forward, making plans, making friends.  We need to give ourselves a period of grace to adjust to this smaller living malarky and continue to trust that we will find our feet and make this work.

As I am often saying to my clients, when they come with a sense of urgency, it’s about us setting a realistic pace for change to take place; when they realise it’s not all going to get sorted in a session or two I can visibly see them relax into the work and that’s when we can really get started.  I probably need to follow my own advice.

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Sweet puppy image source

 

 

Transitioning

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I feel like we’ve made it through a 9-month-long labour.

The time between making the decision to move and actually moving has been long and, at times, decidedly gruelling – we had a very complex property / business situation to untangle (I’m talking ‘SIX solicitors and two tax experts’ complex!) but we are thankfully down to straightening out the very last few threads.

There is a common point in many labours (right before a woman gives birth) that the mother-to-be panics and becomes certain she can’t do it – it’s called the ‘transition phase’.  There was definitely a point of crescendo towards the end of this process where we were hit with constant curveballs, each threatening to totally derail the whole thing, and we started to despair.  Tears were shed, stress-levels went through the roof right up until the very last minute and then the call came to say it was done.  ‘Done, done?’ I asked, ‘as in ‘we can pick up the keys’ done?’ ‘Yes, totally done’, confirmed my solicitor. And in that moment our tiny house was wrapped in a crocheted blanket and placed in our arms.

We impulsively jumped in the car, drove the 90 minutes to pick up the keys, our eyes wide with disbelief the whole way there.  On arrival at the house that hadn’t been lived in for nine months we realised we’d not thought to bring anything useful with us like cleaning products or tools so Vince went to the local independent hardware store and bought a selection of heavy duty gloves, bin bags, an array of cleaning products and a couple of sharp garden tools.  Having pointed out to the shop keeper that he was aware his basket contained the implements to both commit and clean up after a heinous crime, the shop keeper conspiratorially leaned in and said ‘just remember to ditch the receipt’.

NOW THIS IS OUR KINDA PLACE!

And so for the last week and a half we’ve forged ahead to unpack everything and get every room functioning as best we can for a first pass.  We moved in on the Tuesday and the Little Chap started school on the Thursday, talk about skidding in by the seat of our pants.  It’s been a huge change for us all but particularly for him and he’s handled it incredibly (not least nine days without internet access).  Of course there have been wobbles but we are super proud of his adaptability and willingness to start school after almost 5 years of being at home with us, it’s an incredibly nurturing school so we are confident he’ll love it there.

We have lots of plans for both the house and our work but as Vince put it when we were at a particularly low point in the lead up to the move, ‘it feels like we’re seeds ready to burst forth but we’re planted in the wrong pot’.  When I go all the way back to when I started ‘Operation Bloom’, this life change and move has 100% stemmed from that invitation to myself to be open, explore ideas and follow my gut.  Re-reading that first post just now, I realise I still get excited about the book idea I had back in Christmas 2016, and who knows maybe that will manifest but for now this move feels like exactly what we should be doing.  We’re finally in the right pot and are excited to see what unfurls.

Emerging

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This winter has been a real struggle, rounds of winter bugs, followed by bone deep tiredness and lethargy; I fractured my arm just before the snow hit and I didn’t set foot outside for seven days straight.  The slings and arrows of the darker months felt pretty relentless and I confess to feeling sorry for myself at times.  That said, the practice of mindfulness really helped prevent me from entertaining those unskilful thoughts for too long, and for that I am grateful.

In the midst of all the crap a truly unexpected new life-path opened up for us, we found a heart-soaringly lovely, Buddhist-ethos school for the Little Chap in Brighton.  We went along for their open day at the end of January with open minds and with much curiosity and, honestly, the minute we walked through the gate it was like falling in love at first sight.  I spent the entire assembly (Puja) choked up with emotion as I saw staff and students reflecting back at me many of the things I feel passionately about and desperately want to see prioritised more in schools: compassion, kindness, mindfulness, love, empathy, individuality, creativity, affection, gratitude, embracing of difference.  I could see it’s a place where children are respected and heard, and where individuality is celebrated, and lovingly supported.  Mindfulness meditation is part of the each school day which we both think is such a great tool to give children from a very young age.

Over the years we’ve thought long and hard about home educating and, as the deadline approached for state school applications we also looked at a couple of popular local schools, both of which no doubt would have been fine…but that was the problem for me, ‘fine’ didn’t sit right.  The Dharma School fills us with excitement, and feels like a great fit for our particular family; just as those two local schools will no doubt fit for those families that choose them. (I’ve found that sometimes when one makes a ‘different’ choice to the norm, some people can see it as a judgment on the validity of their choices.  It isn’t.  In the words of comedian Amy Poehler ‘good for you, not for me’.

For a long time we’ve been considering moving to a new area that suits us better but when there isn’t a particular pull to a new area you’re left with pretty much sticking a pin in a map which didn’t feel right.  This plan came about through several strands coming together.

Last summer we’d had a really magical camping trip with family and friends in the South Downs and had loved the landscape and the nearest town of Lewes.  Alongside, I’d also been researching independent schools and had found a very cool one in South Devon.  Loved the school, didn’t love the distance it would create between our friends and families so dismissed it.  I’d also had a hankering to be nearer the sea and we felt we wanted to find a community that leaned more towards the arts and creativity, a little more bohemian than where we live currently.  Finding this wonderful school in Brighton brought everything together: a reason to relocate to this beautiful part of the world and a short enough drive to remain connected to the people we love.  There is a creativity and an open-mindedness to the people of Brighton which appeals too.

We’ve chosen to look for a house in a village just north of Brighton, this feels like a great option, closer to family than central Brighton would be but still with easy access to the city and all it offers…but far enough out to be able to afford a property that will work for us as a family.  The drive to the school is very reasonable and there seems to be a warm and welcoming village community.

There have certainly been some pangs of sadness at the inevitable loss that always accompanies change, I will miss being a stone’s throw from my local friends and the biggest wrench will be being further away from our nieces who are the Little Chap’s best buddies BUT I am confident that we can make up for it by spending quality weekends together, either us visiting them or having them come to us, where we can adventure through our new area with fun times at the beach, walks and picnics in the rolling South Downs, exploring Brighton and its restaurants together etc. Where there is love there’s a way!

We’ve yet to find a house, we’ll be downsizing – something that we’ve been wanting to do for some time – and we’re really excited about creating a home that is smaller in footprint but greater in functionality.  We hope to move by the beginning of August to give us time to settle a little before school starts (a bit of a tight deadline!) but rather than panic I’m trusting that the right house will present itself at the right time.  Pretty sure that’s how it works.

I came up with the name ‘Operation Bloom’ as it described a feeling I had about being on the edge of big change and growth, this next move feels like the manifestation of that very thing and I can’t wait to see what unfolds…

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Header photo copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_tomertu’>tomertu / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

The Mr. Worry List

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A couple of weeks ago during our pre-bedtime wind down, the Little Chap and I were curled up together reading my old Mr. Men books, many of which I’d not read since I was a kid.  We came upon ‘Mr. Worry’ which, for the uninitiated, is a woeful tale of a round, blue man riddled with anxiety about everything you could think of (assuming a rise in global terrorism and a decline in our ice caps aren’t in your purview).  A truly troubled soul was poor Mr. Worry, and as we read I kept everything crossed for an upturn in his mental wellbeing.

Not to be disappointed, [SPOILER ALERT], he meets a kindly wizard who tells him to write down every single worry he has.  Mr. Worry is to then bring him the list so he can weave some Mr. Men magic and ensure none of those things ever happen.  The next day Mr. Worry turns up at the wizard’s house with a long snaking list of all his penned worries.

With bedtime successfully implemented, followed by a lightning fast costume change into my jim-jams, I got to thinking about the story and it occurred to me that, just like Mr. Worry, there were a few things on my mind; things that had been kinda keeping me awake at night or generating a low hum of anxiety during the day.  So I decided to put pen to paper and make my own ‘Mr. Worry List’.

I wrote down eleven things.  And do you know what?  I instantly felt better, even in my wizardless state.  My initial observation was to note they were all pretty benign things and I took a moment to gratefully acknowledge that I was lucky to have such an innocuous list.

Nine of the eleven things simply required some effort and graft on my part to reach a resolution.  These were practical tasks, with tangible solutions, such as the creation of a new spreadsheet before I could tackle my business accounts, booking an oven cleaner as clearly I couldn’t face doing it myself, making a technical call to sort out a tenant dispute.  Slightly tiresome and certainly dull jobs but totally fixable and really nothing to lose sleep about.

Only two of the eleven things were trickier and more daunting (in terms of finding solutions that is, certainly none were of life and death importance).  And even looking at the two tricky things, I realised one of them could actually be broken down into a series of smaller practical steps (albeit lots of them, probably over a good number of months) but it could, in essence, join the ranks of the other nine practical tasks.  Until I’d actually written this particular worry down, I’d just seen it as a huge, complicated mess that would fry my brain every time I tried to think about it.  Writing it down was key to breaking that negative cycle. It just shifted something. Helped me get my pragmatic on.

It’s so strange how many of us can worry about unattended tasks and allow them to become shapeless, gelatinous globs of anxiety.  It’s only when we face them head on, one at a time, that their form becomes clear again and the unease lessens as we see a way forward.

So my friends, I urge you to take a quiet moment to write down your own Mr. Worry list, get it out of your head and onto paper and I’ll bet you’ll feel a hundred times better just having a clearer perspective and getting back in the driving seat.  If your list feels overwhelming (hell, Mr.Worry used a whole roll of till receipt paper), tackle one of the easier items on the list first to help gather some motivation; there’s nothing quite like ticking things off for gathering momentum.  Or see if any of them can be broken down into smaller, more manageable actions, this has made ALL the difference for me.

I’d love to hear how you get on; what insights you glean from the process.  There may not be a kindly wizard offering to take care of all our worries, but facing our fears and taking positive action has got to be a close second?  I think there’s a special kind of magic in that.

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Header Image: Copyright Roger Hargreaves 1978

 

Breathing through fear

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This morning I woke up at 5am from the most awful, awful dream about a terrorist attack in my town.  I won’t give all the gory details but let’s just say it paralleled with the recent London Bridge attack.  In the dream I was with Vince and Spike and other locals trying to hide and protect ourselves.  As a mother it was gut wrenching to have to be protecting our sweet child from the horror.  When I woke up I went into the bathroom to try to shake the dream but I couldn’t and for the first time in over 20 years I felt the first flurries of a panic attack.  The root of the fear that was trying to take hold was the realisation that, unlike nightmares I’ve had in the past where Vince has left me for Juliet Binoche, when I woke this time I didn’t have that comforting realisation that it wasn’t true, that it was just a silly dream, that all was well in the world.

The truth is that my nightmare has been many people’s reality and, sad to say, will be likely be a reality for others in the future.  This was where I started to panic. My bad dream was to some extent true.  The bogey man does exist. I knew I needed to somehow put my existential dread back in it’s place, and I did.   I was able to stop the attack from taking hold by yoga breathing and repeating the mantra: ‘There are so many good people in the world, there are so many good people in the world‘ and as I did this I could literally feel my heartbeat slowing down, the swirl of fear in my brain subside and a level of calm descend.

It’s an awful feeling to know I have no direct control over preventing awful things from happening to me or worst of all my family; and the responsibility I feel for bringing a sweet life into this world weighs oh so heavy on my heart.  The future, as it’s ever been, is uncertain but I believe we will always be able to count on the fact that there will more good people in the world than bad, legions more, and what we can do on an individual level (short of joining MI5) is live good lives, actively seek positive connection with others, create communities even on a small scale and live as fearlessly as we can.

The well used meme has it that television’s children host Mr. Rogers said his mother responded to scary news by telling him ‘look for the helpers’ which is a beautiful idea, but let’s not wait for the disasters before we look for the helpers, let’s actively look for the goodness in our every day.  Let’s draw it in and beam it out, all the good people of the world breathing our way through the fear as one.

 

Photo credit: https://tinyurl.com/ybp6jevl

Educating with Freedom

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Last month many of our friends found out which primary schools their 4 year olds had got in to. We, in theory, will be doing all that next year.  I was struck by tales of mums in tears because their child did (or didn’t) get in to their first choice of school.  There is so much anxiety around education and schooling in this country and I worry about how that transfers onto our children, the last thing we want is for their place of learning to become associated with anxiety.  I also worry that the school system is so rigid and test based that parents feel disempowered to take the lead in their own child’s education.

From way before we even became parents we’ve long admired the Finnish model of education with the ethos being to wait until the child is 7 before introducing formal education i.e. numeracy and literacy. In the early years the focus is on play-lead learning and developing social skills such as caring for others, empathy and self-care.  It’s also worth noting Finland has some of the best education outcomes in the world.

As the UK is not set up for a delayed start we would either need to ‘home educate’ or find the funds for something along the lines of Steiner so his early learning is play- / creativity-based and child lead. Every fibre in my body feels we start formally educating children far too early.  I also feel culturally there is a rush for our children to hit every milestone as soon as possible, when there is much to be said for letting their childhoods and achievements unfold at a natural pace, lead by them and facilitated by us.

In terms of our approach to parenting our instinct has been to sit back, and let the Little Chap take his time in discovering his capabilities and the world around him. For our family this has worked very well.  For example he stopped wearing nappies a couple of months after he turned 3.  Some of his male peers were considerably earlier than that.  But what I can say is that we never had any tears, there were no battles, and pretty much nothing in the way of ‘accidents’ because we gave him the time and space to do it when he was ready, there was no ‘training’ involved.  We had no need to rush that transition.  It’s been totally stress free, and actually a real pleasure to tune in to his pace and watch him succeed in his own right.  And I want to offer him that same approach to his early years of education.

There seems to be a huge shift between how our infants learn and how our pre-schoolers and beyond learn.  We didn’t sit down and formally teach our chap to roll over, to reach out for toys, to crawl, walk, say his first word. These things happened naturally through us playing together, him watching us, through his own biological imperative, through him testing things out in his own time, through us gently encouraging and facilitating.  None of his progress has happened as a result of us sitting down and making a lesson out of it. It was his own curiosity / frustration which lead him to try to roll over (and fail) and try again until he figured it out.  And then suddenly this style of learning stops and learning through play becomes ‘learning to the test’ and little fidgety children are expected to stay seated, to focus on one topic; and just as they are in the flow, the topic changes and they’re expected to switch gear and with it their focus.

Currently Little Chap is in the very common phase of asking a million questions every day; How is the sky made? (ask your father). When I’m bigger can I fly my helicopter up to heaven and bring Granny Anne down? (if only!), How is poo made?  Do foxes eat poo? Does anything eat poo? (I googled that one, it’s a surprisingly large list).

A recent non-poo-based question was ‘how are volcanos made?’.  I’m not even sure how he got to hear about volcanos but it prompted him and I to sit down and watch some videos on volcanos.  Vince went out and bought a book on volcanoes and a volcano making kit which they made together. In that one project they got to learn about mould making (by using plaster of Paris to create the volcano), they did some painting to make it look realistic and then some chemistry in the form of mixing store cupboard ingredients to make the erupting lava.  The Little Chap also asked his Uncle Grant to tell him about the time he was filming at a Volcano and they sat together and looked at the pictures of that trip as the stories unfolded.

None of these activities felt like ‘education’ to any of us, they were fun, we all learned stuff and we had the time to follow these activities through until he was ready to shift focus.  But the point is he expressed an interest, he chose the topic and therefore he was totally engaged.  This is what I want for his early education.  I want him to be able to immerse himself in a subject, an experiment, the creation of a piece of art until he’s done.  I want him to freely follow an ever unfolding thread of learning.  I want him to learn to learn for the love of it and not because he’ll be in trouble with the teacher if he doesn’t.

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I know there are benefits to going to school and for some children it’s a place where they thrive but it’s not for everyone.  One of the most common things I hear when I tell people we’re thinking of home educating is ‘but what about socialising him, won’t he miss out?’  Well yes and no.  He will miss out on seeing the same people every day and forming friendships (and potentially enemies) on that basis but home educating doesn’t mean staying at home all day.  We would meet up with other children (of all ages) being educated outside of school.  He will have playdates once school is finished for the day with his friends who do go to school. He will hang out with his beloved cousins and the whole host of adults he encounters in his life.  He’s currently not in school or even pre-school and yet already he’s one of the most social three year olds I know.  He instigates conversation with his peers and adults alike.  I don’t think his socialisation will be a problem.

For the sake of super easy access to 25-30 other children his age on a daily basis I’m not prepared to accept unquestioningly the structure and ethos of school.  Why are primary school aged children getting homework when research shows there is little benefit and a very real risk of negative psychological effects?  The school day is long enough, I believe they should be playing, or doing recreational activities they love, spending time with their families.  And yet I regularly hear parents talk about the nightmares they have getting their child to do their homework, how there were tears, tantrums, bedtime anxiety over homework not completed, how the parent spent the evening finishing the homework etc.  As the young people say: WTF?? The more empowered amongst my friends send the homework back to the school, unfinished, with a note to say they are not putting their child through that level of stress aged SIX, and I applaud them for this.  Why are we doing this to our little children?  If primary aged children want to continue working at home then happy days, let them do it with joy in their hearts, but at this tender age, and where there is resistance and anxiety, we run the risk of turning our children off learning completely if they feel forced.  There is plenty of time for them to develop self-discipline around study when they are mature enough to understand the benefit.

And why are we testing them so young?  It is absolutely not for their benefit.  Teachers are saying they don’t want to be doing it, it’s box ticking, it’s for the stats, not for the healthy development of our children.  These tests aren’t measuring a child’s self confidence, self-esteem, creativity, wellbeing, love of learning, ability to engage in a topic of their choice, life skills, social skills, vocational skills, empathy, dexterity, and these are some of the vital skills we need for a healthy, happy adult life.

Not all children are destined to be academic so what about them?  Where do they get their educational and personal validation from if all the tests are about academic ability and demonstrating you can commit a bunch of facts to memory?  We each have our own set of valuable talents and abilities, and when we emerge from the school system (for many of us) that is where we begin to learn who we are and how to be who we are with confidence (I’m still learning), how to figure out where we belong, what we are good at outside of whether or not we know how to do quadratic equations.  It’s a worry.

School never suited me, I did well enough academically but even in primary school I used to look at the cars driving past the school and long for the freedom of those drivers…I was eight!  It’s therefore little surprise that I’ve spent most of my working life as a freelancer or self-employed.  I find institutions stifling.  I never wanted to be a sausage in a sausage factory. The current school model is based on the early days of British industrialisation when children were being primed for life in a factory.  That is just not the future our children are facing.  With the rapid growth of Artificial Intelligence taking over the human workforce we are going to need to get creative career-wise.  And therefore we need to be teaching our children how to be adaptable, free-thinking, self-directed, entrepreneurial individuals with a life long love of learning.  This way they will stand a chance of finding their place within a fast changing world.  I simply don’t feel confident our school system is going to do this as well as we can, for our specific child, particularly in the earlier years.  As a side note, some years ago I came across an exciting alternative to mainstream secondary school (unfortunately as is always the case the fees are ££££) but the style of learning they offer would have suited me to the ground.  I’m certain I would have flourished there and I would love the same for our Little Chap.  I highly recommend a watch of their video.

We will certainly visit our local schools, we’ve by no means made up our mind (although having written this post my gut tells me I may have!) but I will remain open to what our local schools can offer.  Taking the unconventional route feels both liberating and daunting, taking the conventional route feels societally simpler but at right angles to our values and how we choose to live our lives.  We’re a way off needing to make a decision, thankfully, but these things creep up and I want us to glide into this decision feeling well informed, and not rush it because a deadline is snapping at our heels.  So watch this space, I will post an update once we are clearer about the path ahead.

Hey friend,

I am aware this may be an emotive subject for some, and this post is not designed to be a critique of your own choices around education, we are all striving to do the best we can for our own children.  I’m still trying to figure this stuff out and I’m choosing to do it here because if I’m honest I have been fearful of negative reactions and people telling me we’re going to fuck our child up or turn him into a weirdo so I needed to walk through that fire and put my thoughts out there.  Fear can be a crippling voice in one’s head, but my gut tells me we’ve got a lovely boy so we’ve done a good enough job so far, and there’s nothing to say we can’t continue to do so.  I’m inclined to listen to my gut over fear.  I can see pros and cons about both routes and I would love you to share your thoughts and experiences, whatever your choices have been.

Header image courtesy of: www.homeschoolersanonymous.org

Stepping forward

Stepping Forward

Over the last month or so the same ‘lesson’ keeps presenting itself to me, namely ‘good things come from stepping forward’ (G.T.C.F.S.F – hmm that acronym needs work).

For example, I’ve already mentioned the super-stylish, Canadian mama I met on Instagram who’s helping me kick my wardrobe into touch.  This purely came about as both of us were willing to ‘put ourselves out there’.  I fell in love with some images she’d posted of her capsule wardrobe so I made the effort to connect and left a gushing complimentary comment.  I then left a follow-up comment to tell her she’d inspired me to do another clear-out of my wardrobe and as a result of my ruthlessness I was almost rendered naked, the situation was dire, the services of the John Lewis personal shopper may be required. As she too is someone willing to put herself out there, she DM’d me and tentatively offered up her services, for a modest fee, to help style my wardrobe, having recently done the same for someone else.  I bit her hand off! And so, a really lovely, creative, connection has been made, and only because we both took the risk of stepping forward towards the other, extending our reach beyond our immediate comfort zones.

Other recent examples of where I’ve stepped forward and been rewarded, are growing in number:

  • There was this dress I’d pinned on Pinterest from the US that I became a little obsessed with, it was out of stock everywhere so I emailed two recent stockists and told them I was in love with the dress and asked if it was likely to be restocked.  I got helpful replies from both, but one of the them said whilst they weren’t going to re-stock (boo) she thought she might have one left in my size in the warehouse and would be happy to check (yay!).  Low and behold she was true to her word and it was in the post to me the next day.  I would have been ‘THAT DRESS’-less had I not made an extra push or written a less impassioned email. PS I love the dress, we’re getting married.
  • Then I got a great deal on the Little Chap’s new bed by asking the supplier if they would match a discount they had on a very similar package but in the colourway I wanted.  They went off to ask their powers-that-be and came back with the same great deal saving us £60 and giving us our ideal bed combo.
  • An Ebay supplier who sells pre cut / set sizes of brass sheet was happy to custom cut some sheet to my specifications when I explained what I wanted them for (making my bangles) and gave me a great price.
  • I fell in love with a pillowcase I saw in a Next display for the Little Chap, I searched the shop for the set but couldn’t find them, I might have given up but I asked a shop assistant who kindly went to great lengths to track it down and eventually order it (even though it wasn’t even showing on the website). (No hyperlink as it’s still not on their website, spooky, mystery, ghost bedding that it is).
  • We recently ebay’d some old photographic slide boxes of my grandfather’s and one got damaged before we posted it out.  I felt awful and contacted the buyer to let him know how sorry I was about the breakage and that I had gone ahead and posted it along with the other items he’d bid on but had refunded his bid and his postage.  He was so sweet about it and this lead to an unexpected, poignant exchange of emails. The buyer was a man in his 80’s, he didn’t have long to live, his ‘lovely wife was clearing out things from his old life and had just taken a car load to the charity shop that day’. He was taking pleasure from looking through his old slides collection from the 50’s and revisiting those memories; clearly bittersweet.  I truly believe because he and I were both open to connection, the few emails that we exchanged about life and change were meaningful on both sides.
  • And my latest endeavour involves me trying to get in contact with the originator of the Operation Bloom roses photograph, used as the header.  It’s an image I found several months ago and fell in love with.  As I felt the first flutterings of Operation Bloom (before this project even had its name) the image in my mind that accompanied that delicious feeling of being on the edge of something exciting was of roses in full bloom, opened wide, wide, wide to their fullest potential.  I found myself searching for images of roses and I came across this one; it leapt out at me as the perfect one to represent the image in my head.  I saved it as my desk top image and each time I looked at it, it made my heart lift. So when it came to starting this blog it was the only image I wanted to use. I hadn’t made a note of the original source so I had to do some super-sleuthing google image searching and eventually tracked down the photographer to Instagram.  I sent a message asking for her permission, and meanwhile took the risk of going ahead and using it, but I felt very uncomfortable not yet having her go-ahead.  Morally I knew I would have to change it if I wasn’t able to track her down within a month.  Almost three weeks passed and then I got a sweet message back from the very kind Sheila Peterson saying she’d be flattered.  I was over the moon.  I’m so, so happy to have the image I absolutely LOVE and have her blessing – such a relief.  Again, another lesson in putting myself out there and having the courage to ask, and risk rejection.

One last note about one of my earliest learnings to step forward… I was in my early 20’s sat face to face with my boss, a fairly formidable Scot (total pussycat underneath as it turned out) at my annual review where I was getting my first promotion at the film production company I worked for.  He favourably reviewed my work and told me what my salary increase was going to be.  I nodded and said thank you but as we continued talking I had this rising feeling of crushing disappointment at the figure, I felt I deserved more. Just as he was drawing our meeting to a close, I plucked up every ounce of courage I had, it was now or never, and I blurted out that I was a little disappointed with the increase, and gave him my reasons why I’d hoped for more.  To my amazement, his face broke into a beaming smile and he said the words I’ve never forgotten, “I’m SO pleased you spoke up, I wasn’t allowed to offer you more but was told if you asked I could”.  And lo, I got the salary I’d hoped for.  So at the ripe old age of 23 I learned ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. And likewise, if you don’t step forward you miss all those opportunities for meaningful human connection or even getting that perfect dress, pillowcase, bangle sheet size!

Asking for our needs to be met can make us feel vulnerable, there’s a chance we’ll be rejected, told ‘no’.  But I truly believe life becomes all the richer for stepping outside our comfort-zones, stepping forward, taking relational risks, investing a little more of ourselves and seeing what happens in response.

I’d love to hear your examples of when you’ve put yourself out there, or what holds you back from asking for something or taking those emotional risks…