It’s a really long time ago, but it feels like yesterday. It hurts like hell, but makes me smile. It makes me immensely proud to have got to where I am today without her, even though I wish she was still around.
I’m talking about my mum. She died today, 37 years ago, when I was 15. This year feels different because my own daughter is 15 and I know how much she needs me to be her guide. I’m guessing I must have been exactly the same. It sends chills down my spine at the thought.
The question I’ve had on my lips all day is… how the hell did I do it, still doing it, will always do it? The drama of her death all that time ago, the dispersed family, the pain and torture everyone felt, and the forgotten years that followed. And I have to add that I was a Wham T-shirt wearing teen that was an ace at backcombing my hair, but was not prepared to be transported from my cosy home to a life of fending for myself. My dad would tell me on a regular basis that no-one understood his pain, which was probably true, but as he ran off and remarried in a flash, my sympathies for him ran dry.
I’m now a cancer surviving, marathon running, mum, who’s happily married (finally) with a thriving business and a grateful, yet rebellious heart. And for the first time, I can tell you what I’ve learnt along the way.
You’re always stronger than you think you are.
I have no idea how I put one foot infront of the other for a really long time, but I did. I could have easily fallen into bad company, I think I even tried, but always found my way back, to shake myself down and start again. I ‘started again’ every day for about 10 years. I got myself to school, got my exams, got myself to college, and then university whilst working as many jobs as I could. I knew my mum loved education, and she’d instilled the same in me. I had no plan, other than to occupy my head with anything other than grief. It worked. I’ve alway been very successful, be it at work or making massive decisions about my life whilst fighting my own battle with cancer, my strength has always been my guide.
It’s always there, even when you fear it’s not. I’ve been in a relationship that was totally emotionally abusive, yet didn’t leave when I should have. Where’s the strength in that (I’d ask myself)? The strength was in letting go of the part of me that needed protection. To stop me putting my neck out too far and getting it snapped off. The part of me that needed time to adjust to going it alone again. The part of me that needed to learn that every time, will never be anything like that time. We have one mother, losing her is a one time thing. Nothing ever compares.
And that’s why you’re stronger than you think you are. Every experience gives you the power to live an empowered life, it’s a matter of choice and a desire to want to grow through it.
Your confidence is always there. Even if it feels really hard to find.
It can feel like a slippery fish, and can change from one day to the next, but it never leaves. Just as our muscles have muscle memory, so does our confidence. It needs a good practice on a daily basis to be your ally, but it’s worth every excruciatingly powerful pep talk we have to give ourselves to show up. The day I realised I was confident, was the day I was able to feel again.
How do you do it? Assume being confident is just who you are, stop questioning it, stop comparing, stop listening to anyone who’s begs to differ and ask instead what they’re trying to project onto you about themselves and move on. I spent a few years in the emotional abusive world, it felt real and I felt responsible and I packed my confidence away because of it. The day I saw the reflection and the projection, I was able to walk out the door.
Have strong boundaries, trust your instincts and practice being confident every day, small steps, small wins, small milestones all make big change.
Self love is actually everything.
In my 40’s I had a moment when I suddenly felt like life got real. I hadn’t been overly kind to my body and I didn’t want it to retaliate any more than it already had. I was done punishing myself to feel the pain that had been keeping me subconsciously safe. I wanted to show my daughter than life is the coolest thing ever and how to enjoy it, rather than live in fear. And I wanted to create financial freedom rather than hide my emotions in shopping bags. I wanted to make an impact, do great things and the list goes on. It became painfully apparent that the only way to achieve all that was to start with yourself first. I used to think self love was a overused phrase from woo woo land, turns out it’s the most strategically simple move we can all make, that’s free and is life changing.
I don’t believe I learnt this from my mum, but I do believe I learnt it because she wasn’t around. And I’d rather everyone could learn it without having to have the big loss to work it out.
It’s a simple mindset shift. Love every millimetre of your body, whatever shape, size or condition. Just go ahead and love it. Catch the thoughts that aren’t been very kind and laugh them away, because our thoughts are not the news, they are just thoughts. We have 100% control over them, so give the middle finger to the ones that are tying you up in knots. And start to work in partnership with your body. Treat that partnership like the great partnerships of our time; Bonnie and Clyde, Laurel and Hardy, Lennon and McCartney and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. They became great together, and you will do too.
That’s it. Just show up. If life isn’t showing up for you, ask yourself how you’re not showing up for your life? Change the latter and the rest will follow.
Success is based in gratitude.
I’m grateful for the good, the bad and the ugly, because that’s life. We are 50% light and 50% shadow. Embrace the shadow side to make it less shady, and you’ll feel the pressure drift away. I’m grateful for everyday of the 15 years I had with my mum, even when she made me wear green corduroy dungaree’s to the school disco. She showed me my creative side and being a geek is where it’s at (I believed her).
I’m grateful for my strength, my confidence and my ability to show up even when I want to curl up and hide. I love that I love myself. It makes me a better mum, a better wife, a better coach and a better person in general. It helps me make more powerful decisions. I’m grateful that I survived cancer and I make damn sure that I abide by my many chemo fuelled promises I made to myself at the time. I’m just grateful full stop. Even when I have to force myself to find the good, even in the darkest of places, when I do, I elevate my spirit and that feels good.
If you’re struggling on this one, write down 10 different reasons to be grateful everyday. In about 4 weeks your life will be different. I know, because I’ve done it. Define what success means to you, get super clear on how you want that to feel and work towards it one grateful step at a time.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt in the past 37 years, is how I lead myself, I be myself. A strong leader believes in what and who she’s leading. If I believe in myself my actions are deliberate, purposeful, heart centred and (although a little rebellious) successful. If I don’t, my emotions run the show. And emotions are shocking leaders.
When I completed my masters degree in leadership and strategy I had no idea I’d be using it to navigate breast cancer and an early menopause. I was diagnosed just after I graduated. The timing was uncanny. All of my carefully researched methodology’s were suddenly proving very useful for my life. I practice self-leadership everyday and I teach/coach it to everyone who’ll listen.
My mum did actually teach me this, I just hadn’t spotted it until recently. She was a woman who rebelled against the norm, who believed in her abilities and really lived her life. She believed anything was possible, forged ahead in a creative career that her parents didn’t believe in and she ran off to Paris after her 18th birthday to start her journey. How she led herself, she was herself. And she did that until the day she died.
In a flash, I’d have her back. But those moments only exist in my dreams. So instead, I’ve found a way to be the best, healthiest and happiest version of me possible, not just because I know that would make her smile, but because my life is mine. I get to make it the best I possibly can by learning these massive lessons along the way.
I hope something I’ve learnt can help you too.