What to do when life goes wrong?

There are times in life when everything is going stupendously. The flowers are in bloom and there is a spring in your step. But what happens when life takes a turn for the worse and everything just goes a bit wrong?

I was thinking about this today having just watched an interview with Glennon Doyle. I had come across her before and I knew her work but I didn’t really know anything about her life before she was a big writer and married to Abby Wambach. I didn’t know what had led her to the point that she was at when I came across her.

In the interview, she spoke about how she had the blog that she still runs called Momastery. She was a Christian mommy blogger with a husband and a couple of kids. Life looked pretty amazing from the outside, and it sounds as though she thought it was pretty amazing from the inside. And then disaster stuck and her husband told her that he had been unfaithful for the entirety of their marriage.

Now, for a lot of us that could have spelled the end of everything. The perfect life that she had portrayed on the internet had just been blown to smithereens. But instead she picked herself up and wrote a book.

Then, rather than worry about what people thought of her in the small community she had surrounded herself with she married the woman who she fell in love with, Abby Wambach. She didn’t care that people who had previously followed her were saying that she was wrong, she did what her heart told her to do.

And now, the two of them are one of the biggest power couples out there. They have a following of millions and they raise millions of dollars for charities that mean a lot to them.

I bet that there were some really dark days in between her husband leaving her and her marrying Abby and being where she is now. There must have been times that she got down on her knees and asked her God why life had to go wrong in the first place. But she persevered and kept following her heart and just look where she ended up.

There are times in all of our lives when a catastrophic event sends us careering off course, ending the life that we have come to know. But we need to remember that it is just lining us up for the next step in our life. And when life goes wrong, that is the time when we really truly grow. It’s the time that teaches us the most about ourselves if we are willing to stop and learn.

So next time something bad happens, remember that Gods timing is always perfect. You have been dealt that blow so that you can become a stronger person and be in the right place for your next blessing. If Glennon’s husband hadn’t left she would never have met Abby and if they hadn’t faced difficulties together then they wouldn’t be the inspiration that they are to so many young people.

Life has a funny way of working itself out so just enjoy the ride and really appreciate the full human experience, and that includes the bad parts!

When the time is right, I, the LORD, will make it happen

Isaiah 60:22
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How do I master my feelings (plus poem)

I don’t know about you but I really struggle to master my feelings when emotion is running high. It’s like I lose the ability to act like a normal human being (or at least a normal adult human being).

Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation and all that you can do is cry? Have you ever wanted to keep your cool and found yourself screaming at the top of your voice? Well, I think we’ve all been there at one point or another and apparently it’s completely normal.

Now, I’m all for showing your vulnerabilities because I believe that it helps to foster good relationships with others. Showing that you’re vulnerable and that you do have feelings makes you more much easier to relate to. However there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Don’t become known as the drama queen!

If you’re always kicking off and making a scene you’re going to become really unpopular pretty quickly. We all know that one person who we shrink away from when things go wrong.

So how do you master those emotions and become a little more zen when the proverbial shit has hit the fan? Here are three ways to change your thinking so that you can stay as cool as a cucumber in an emergency:

  1. Learn the art of meditation. It will help you to stay calm especially if you practice it in the morning, before you start your day. There are tonnes of guided meditations on Youtube that you can use for free.
  2. Remember that emotions can’t hurt you. You lash out at people and cry because you are frightened. The little kid in you is just trying to scare off the perceived attack. If you can tell yourself that the feeling won’t hurt you it’s much easier to curb that fear and stay calm, at least on the outside!
  3. Don’t engage with the person who has wound you up. Tit for tat is not going to work if you want to master your feelings. If somebody says something that is hurtful and would normally set you off try saying “Thank you for your input. I will take that on board.” It will totally stump the other person and they won’t really feel like they have made a chink in your armour. It actually becomes quite funny to watch them try and come back from that.

Bonus Poem – Emotions

Sometimes I really do not know

In which direction I should go,

When I’m pinned against the wall,

And this person’s gunning for my fall.

I feel like maybe I should cry,

I cannot fight but also cannot fly.

I’m trapped with no control,

You’re crushing my very heart and soul.

I used to drink to dampen down

The feelings and to place the crown,

Of painful thorns upon my head.

Now it goes without it being said,

That letting feelings flow and ebb,

Will free me from that sticky web,

Of tears and screams and then the losing

Of the words and actions of your choosing.

But those feelings will not hurt you,

So take it down a notch or two.

Don’t fight back or engage

And dissipate your angry rage.

The Parenting Journey (a poem)

Sometimes when you set out into the land of parenting you can be a little bit gung ho and think that everything is just going to fall into place. You think that you will give birth to this rosy cheeked angel who will grown into the perfect child and then the perfect teenager and the journey will end when they fly the nest as a fully formed adult.

But in reality we all know it’s not quite that simple. We forget that most of the time we spend struggling with next to no sleep. Partners who seemed almost perfect suddenly become an annoyance at best; at worst, they disappear altogether and leave you to do the job all on your lonesome.

It’s a really difficult road to traverse and a lot of people gloss over the horrible bits. That’s pretty much what this poem aims to address. It’s the pain and the agony, the tears and the tantrums in all of their technicolour glory. It’s true that children really are a blessing but life is difficult and parenting really brings this message to the forefront. So without further ado, I give you The Parenting Journey:

The blurred and fuzzy black and white

image doesn’t seem so right

knowing that the little bean is mine.

I’ve seen it played out for

The other couples that deserve it more,

That know the way to sparkle and to shine

As loving leaders who will guide

That little child and push aside

The horrors that can plague our earth.

And when the babe is finally born,

And our hearts are gladly torn

Into shreds that have no worth,

We realise without a doubt

That older worries all mean nowt,

As new life starts to take its root.

There will be pain and hurt and strife

As there is as part of life

And that’s a point you can’t dispute.

So then you have to watch them grow

Even though it hurts you so

To watch them stumble, trip and fall,

When all that’s running over, round and through

Your mind are all the things that are not true

That hold you back from standing tall.

It’s all a bunch of hurtful lies

That are designed to close your eyes

To all the things you do so well.

You’ve brought him up through all these years

Of fun, of laughter and some tears.

Sure you lose your temper, you may yell.

You may wonder what it is that keeps you going,

And then you see him as he’s growing

And see the journey you are taking.

You realise it’s worth the struggle,

The daily battles that you juggle,

Because there’s love with no mistaking.

Can’t connect with people? Try this one easy trick.

As a quiet person I often feel really awkward around people, and quite frankly, a little bit boring. I just don’t know how to connect with people in the same way that a confident person seems to. I have often watched people at events and parties and marvelled at the way that they work the room with ease. Everybody that they come into contact with seems to be putty in their hands and I wonder how on earth they manage it.

This has meant that I have spent quite some time studying them to try and pick out exactly what it is that they do that is so different from what I do. And there is one striking difference that I have noticed. I quite obviously want to impress people, and with them, (even though they still want to impress people) it is far less glaringly obvious.

How not to go about it….

To illustrate, I think it’s best to look at an example of when I have done this spectacularly wrong. A couple of years back I decided that I wanted to earn a shed load of money so I got a job as a recruitment consultant. It was my job to go out and win over the financial directors at local businesses so that they would turn to me when they needed to recruit. I was woefully bad at the job and crashed out after eleven weeks having achieved absolutely no sales. It is only recently that I have started to see where things were going so wrong.

Back then I was drinking so I had some serious scarcity issues, completely believing that there isn’t enough to go around for everyone. Therefore, whenever I went in for business I felt absolutely desperate. My mind was clinging to the fact that I needed to connect with the person and get the sale as there would be nothing else for me if I lost it. That put a hell of a lot of pressure on me and it showed. I would go into the meeting terrified that I would not be able to impress the other person and it was obvious that they could see it. Hence the reason that they would shake my hand at the end of the meeting and I would never hear from them again. Because why would they want to hire a woman who was so blatantly desperate for the business?

A change in mindset changed how I connect with people

Since putting down the drink, a lot of things have changed but two of the big things are that:

  1. My values have changed so I’m not so engrossed by the thought of money. I know that I can survive on what I earn so it’s not the end of the world if I don’t earn the bucket loads that I used to chase after. As long as I can put a roof over my head and some food in the cupboards, I’m not going to die. And;
  2. I try not to worry so much about whether or not people like me. So if that one financial director decides that he doesn’t like my sense of humour or the colour of my shoes, it’s not the end of the world. There are seven billion people on the planet and so there are bound to be at least a few that really think the world of me!

So changing my mindset was the first step and this was then followed by a little trick that I have since tried out and it really does work. It was so simple that I didn’t believe it would have any effect on how well I connected with people.

Basically, all it involves doing is getting the person that you are engaging with to impress YOU. I couldn’t understand how this could work as my confidence was low and I didn’t know why anyone would want to try and impress me, but it really worked a treat.

Next time you go into a room and you’re nervous that nobody is going to connect with you, find someone to talk to and try to imagine that you have five minutes to learn a bit about them so that you could introduce them to an audience. This encourages you to start thinking “what can this person say that impresses me?” rather than “what do I have to say that will impress them?”

This also means that the other person feels listened to and this makes them feel valuable. Normally, in a networking environment people are all wanting to talk about themselves so if you’re the one that is bucking the trend you are going to be far more memorable.

The caveat

The only thing that you need to remember with this technique is that it still pays to be kind. It’s fun to ask yourself what this person does that is impressive but don’t go in with the mentality that you are better than them or that you want to disregard them if they aren’t the most impressive person in the room. Liking the people around you, in turn, makes you more likeable so it’s always worth being the nice guy.

This also leads on to the point that you shouldn’t just go in thinking “what can I get out of this exchange?” It’s sometimes far better to think about what you may be able to give (and this is aside from the services you provide as a part of your business). So you might be able to start talking to the stranger who looks like they’re standing awkwardly in the corner, or you could put a person in contact with somebody you know who could be a help in their career. Neither of these give you any immediate benefit but you never know what it may lead to further down the line. Events are far more fun if you are focusing less on what monetary value you are going to get out of it. There is a reason that surprising benefits come out of meetings where you didn’t expect there to be any value. It’s because the real you can shine through and ultimately that is what people want to see.

Give it a try and see if it helps you to connect with people

So next time you’re at a networking event or business meeting , try it. Ask questions as though you are going to introduce the person on stage and try to forget about the transactional nature of the meeting. Look for things you can give for free, at no cost to yourself, and imagine that everybody is already your friend. I promise you that it’ll work and you might even find yourself having some fun.

On Losing Friends (a poem)

I am going to write a full blog post about this because it was such a hard part of my drinking days to deal with. I lost so many good friends who I ended up having some kind of misunderstanding with. I just felt so disconnected from the rest of the world and I didn’t understand the way that it operated. This made it really hard to hand onto the special people because I just couldn’t understand their reasoning and they couldn’t understand mine.

You hurt me more than words can say,

I did not do a single thing,

In the starting of that fray.

Everything was down to you.

The painful words and twisted face.

None of it was even true.

None of it was down to me,

I’d never hurt a loving friend,

Despite the fact we disagree.

But it is me who must be right,

I’m perfect, blameless,

But always ready for the fight.

I hope that one day I will find,

Another person on this earth,

Who’ll love my spotless drunken mind.

How to live your most authentic life (and be super happy about it)

I think that one of my biggest problems during my twenties was the fact that I didn’t know how to live my life as I was made to; I didn’t know how to live an authentic life. What I mean by that is that I spent all of my time trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations and then had no time left to explore what was important to me.

When I was at school I was a straight A student so I turned to my parents and my teachers for guidance in what I should do when I left. The feedback I got was that I should be a doctor because I was clever and that was what clever people did. However, this did not take into account any of the things that I enjoyed outside of school; it was a decision based solely on how well I retained information.

So, off I went to college to pursue this ‘dream’ and I came royally unstuck inside of the first twelve months. I dropped out of college, found myself pregnant and eventually addicted to alcohol, and that nightmare continued for a whole decade.

If I had paused for a moment and thought about what I really wanted to do with my life, I would have known that I liked the more creative subjects like English and Art. I may not have landed a job that held the esteem that being a doctor held, but at least I’d have finished college and started doing something that I was passionate about.

I think that a lot of people do this; my case not a rare one. Of course, not everyone finds themselves so desperately unhappy that they turn to alcohol, but there must be millions of people out there, stuck in jobs they hate because they didn’t listen to what their heart was telling them at crucial points in their lives.

So what would my authentic life look like? Where would I be if I just did as I pleased and didn’t listen to society? I’ve had a think about it and it’s a really fun game to play. It even gives you a starting point from which to start turning your life around; a goal to aim for that is more in line with what really makes you happy.

My authentic life would involve being a writer who is a little bit reclusive. I would just visit the shops in my local village and I would have a pug that I would dote on. I’d be super conscious of the environment and never be wasteful or drive a car. The most interesting thing to come out of my research was that I would like to live in slightly more unconventional lodgings. I thought a van or a tiny house would be ideal until I stumbled upon cob houses. They look like little hobbit houses and they can be built really cheaply and quickly. I don’t know whether I could ever live this life in reality, but it feels more true to me than the life I currently live.

If you want to find out what your authentic life could look like here are a few questions that you can ask yourself and a few exercises that you can do:

  • Does the work you are thinking of excite you? If it’s really true to you then you should actually feel a flutter in your heart when you think about it. You will know that it’s something that’ll never give you that Monday morning dread. It will inspire you constantly and never fade.
  • Where would you want to live? Some people thrive in the bustling city whereas I know that the Lake District would be far closer to my ideal.
  • Try free writing or journalling to see what comes out. When you’re not consciously thinking about the societal pressures that you have on you, some interesting things might emerge. For this same reason, meditation can be useful too because you’re not thinking about the hear and now and the bills that need to be paid and what the kids want for tea.
  • Think about what you can do to be of service to others. This is the cornerstone to a happy life because you get satisfaction from helping others rather than constantly competing. Even if you dream of being a CEO, the saying goes that if you’re not prepared to serve then you’re not ready to be a real leader. You won’t inspire anyone by just barking orders and the novelty will soon wear thin for you, so keep that in mind.
  • Be open to being vulnerable. It is not weakness and it will help you to learn a lot about yourself.
  • Don’t let fear stop you. You only need to make one small change at a time. If you’re scared it’s probably get a lot to do with being worried about what others will think. I’ve been scared to go and tell my family that I want to live in a hobbit house because I know they’ll think I’ve gone bonkers.

But most importantly, just enjoy yourself. Life is supposed to be fun and a lot of the time we force ourselves into boxes that don’t fit and it just makes us miserable. Other people don’t know what’s best for you; only you know that, so do some homework and find out what it is!

Much Love,

Rachel xx

On being a single parent; don’t become the victim (a poem)

A poem about the feelings that go along with becoming a single parent. It’s painful and heartbreaking but everybody comes back from it. You have no choice.

The father left quite early on,

One day he’s there, the next he’s gone.

It caused a huge amount of pain,

And the feelings took so long to wane.

He packed his bags and left so quick,

It felt like just a heartless trick.

But he was not to come back home,

He felt that he was free to roam.

To play the field and sow his seed,

To live a life of selfish greed.

And into darkness I would fall,

I lost the battle to stand tall.

Depressing thoughts were all I knew,

And happy days were far and few.

But soon I found I needed light,

And so I put up quite the fight.

I had to do it for my child,

I couldn’t be so meek and mild.

I got a job and found some friends,

And to my heart I made amends.

I learnt to love myself once more,

And what my life was really for.

I mustn’t dwell on all the bad,

And spend my time so glum and sad.

I have a child I must adore,

And goals to set and to explore.

My life is worth more than that guy,

And now I’m ready to go and fly.

I became a single parent when my son was just nine months old and I was absolutely crushed. I loved my husband and I was devastated when I found out about the affair. But I had to pick myself up and carry on. I limped along as an alcoholic for a decade and only recently have I started to sort my life out. I hope that this poem can give you a little bit of hope if you are going through the same thing. Don’t go down the same path that I did. Life is a gift and you mustn’t waste it. The little ones grow so quickly and you don’t know when it could all come to an end. So find something that you’re passionate about and make every day count.

Much Love

Rachel xx

Self worth: How you should be talking to yourself (plus poem)

Before I started really working on myself and understanding that there was work to be done my self worth was incredibly low. I used to talk to myself like crap. I think that a lot of us do it and, worse still, we sometimes don’t even realise how badly we are doing it.

I remember when I was slowly reaching my ‘rock bottom’ (I really hope it was my rock bottom because nobody wants to go there again!) I would say the most dreadful things to myself. I recall saying over and over in my head that I was useless and I even went as far as to call myself evil. I would find myself crying and wishing that I was dead as this voice just rang out over and over again. “You’re evil, you’re evil, you’re evil. The world would be a better place without you in it.” It brings chills to my body to even write that because it really does bring back that awful time with such intensity.

However, through a lot of hard work and therapy and going to meetings for my alcoholism, I have managed to (almost) swing it around. There are still days when I am stressed or tired and I find myself slipping back into my old patterns but, on the whole, I am so much better.

If you are struggling with the crippling effects of talking to yourself like you don’t matter, here are a couple of ways to try and put a stop to it:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep and try to avoid stress. As I mentioned, these are two things that are bound to set me off.
  • Read some self help books or watch something uplifting on Youtube. You may think it’s a load of old woowoo but hopefully the uplifting message will give you a bit of a kick.
  • Meditation, because this is bound to quieten the voices in your head. It takes some practice but the benefits once you’ve gotten the hang of it are not to be sniffed at.
  • Be creative because this is taking your mind off the words that are tumbling through your mind. And if you make something nice, you feel as though you’ve accomplished something. Useless people wouldn’t be able to do that!
  • Talk to a friend. Again distraction and connection with other humans are so useful. It’ll help to remind you that there are people out there who love you and value you.
  • Talk to yourself as though you were talking to your four year old self. You wouldn’t tell that little girl or boy that they were pathetic and vile. So don’t tell your grown up self that!

Drunk Dial (a poem)

When I was in active alcoholism, the drunk dial was the bane of my life. I would wake up in the early hours of the morning feeling like I’d licked a carpet and having to reach for my phone immediately. My first thought was always about how terrified I was that I had texted a guy or emailed my boss. It was a humiliating and scary time.

But these days I am free of that and I’m really keen to help others who are struggling with the same issues that I did. It is a big part of the reason why I started this blog and I hope that it will also motivate me to stay on the straight and narrow. It’s a serious illness and it needs to be treated like one.

However, the drunk dial does have some comedy value and I think that everybody needs some fun in their lives so this is my take on a subject that used to bring me out in cold sweats.

I didn’t mean to grab the phone,

I heard the sound of that ominous tone,

But I won’t recall this when I wake,

I’ll forget the mess that I can make,

After one too many pints of beer,

When life’s all rosy and full of cheer.

I won’t remember that awful text,

Or the old flame that I rang next.

I’ll see it there upon the screen,

The words I wrote that were so mean.

The dawn will bring an awful pain,

And towards myself I’ll feel disdain.

I’ll wish that I could take it back,

And I know that I will get some flack,

For what I said when I’d had some wine,

and thought that texting would be fine.

How to worry less in social situations (particularly when you’re an introvert)

Because let’s face it, introverts do spend about 90% of their time worrying about stuff. It stems from the fact that being around people drains us and with lack of energy comes that nagging self doubt that tends to plague us wherever we go. Did I just say the wrong thing? Is that person looking at me funny? Does everyone in the room hate me? Did I pick the wrong colour socks to wear this morning? It goes on and on and on. BUT, there are several really easy steps you can take to help yourself calm down and remember how flipping fabulous you really are.

So here are five of the first things that I go to when I can feel the panic beginning to set in.

Breathing

Taking deep breaths seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are starting to panic it is the first thing that goes out of the window. It will help to fill the body with oxygen and clear the mind of the racing thoughts that go along with being anxious.

Smokers do get most of their relief in anxiety filled situations from the nicotine in their cigarettes, but they also calm down because of the style of breathing that is involved with inhaling and exhaling the smoke. It is absolutely ideal for calming the nerves. Now I’m not telling you to run out and buy a packet of cigarettes, but try and picture the way a smoker holds in their breath when you are next feeling the nerves. A good rule of thumb is to breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Repeat this for a couple of minutes and you will normally see a difference.

It’s sometimes good to do this before you even go to an event that’s likely to stress you out. It’s like meditating in order to prevent the panic attack before it even happens. If not, it’s quite OK to just quietly excuse yourself and wander off to a quiet corner of the room, or to the bathroom to do this technique.

Removing yourself from the situation

That leads me nicely onto this point, and that is that it is perfectly OK to leave. If you are about to pass out with anxiety, nobody in their right mind would expect you to stay put. And you can either leave for a few minutes to practice that breath work, or you can disappear completely!

The ideal would be to train yourself to get to a point where you can talk yourself down and not let anxiety get you to the point where you have to leave any event, but in the meantime, leaving an event is not a crime.

Remembering that you are not bad

My problems always started with something small and by the time I reached the thought that I was evil and everything bad in my life was as a result of that, it was game over. It took a lot of therapy to understand where those feelings came from and now that I am more aware, it is far easier to stop those thoughts in their tracks. However, even if you don’t know where they come from, the chances are that they are a load of bull crap.

Repeat the mantra ‘I am a good person’ if you have to. Because you are. Even if you’ve done bad things in the past (I mean, come on, who hasn’t?) you can always turn over a new leaf and start afresh any day of your life. You deserve an amazing life and it’s awful to think that you might hold yourself back because of a lie that only you believe.

People just aren’t thinking about you all that much

One of the things that I have to regularly remind myself of when I’m anxious is the fact that everybody else has all their own crap to deal with, and actually, I don’t rate too high on their list of important things to worry about. We are each the centre of our own universe and it’s easy to think that people care but sadly (or gladly as the case may be) they don’t. In a way this is bad, because it means that we all have massive egos and a lot of people are willing to step all over you to get to where they want to go. But on the other hand, it’s very freeing to know that that stupid thing you did one Monday back in 2009 is all but forgotten about by 99.9% of people. Hooray for that!!

So really this one is all about looking at it from a different perspective. Worry can magnify everything intensely and distort the truth, so try telling yourself that a lot of it is just lies that you are telling yourself and you should start to notice that people really aren’t looking at you at all.

Stop trying to be perfect

Nobody is perfect and nobody really expects it. Not really. We may pretend that we’re perfect and that that’s what we want but none of it is real. The Instagram and Facebook accounts with thousands of perfectly filtered pictures are hiding the blazing rows with husbands and the kids that are disrespectful and throw regular tantrums. The old school friend who you recently found out has a CEO position in the city goes home to an empty flat and cries herself to sleep. Everything is an illusion to a certain extent. The trick is to focus on the good bits that you have in your life and stop trying to aim for what the next person has.

Trying to be perfect also puts a huge amount of pressure on you in your day to day life. Even if you just want to do everything in your crappy, low paid job absolutely perfectly, you are still heaping a load of unnecessary pressure onto yourself. And guess what? You’ll probably make yourself even more worried and make even more mistakes than you would if you just relaxed and accepted that sometimes you’re going to do things wrong.

If you make the teas for all the people in an office and you worry excessively about getting somebody’s order wrong, the chances are you will get an order wrong. The nerves will get the better of you and you’ll put two sugars in Gary’s coffee instead of one. But, if you relax and have a laugh with Gary he’ll remember you as the funny one who makes his tea rather than the one who got it wrong.

I hope that some of these can be of use to you. I find myself using them all of the time and although I’ve also had therapy for a couple of years, they really do help. I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any others that could be useful too.