Don’t you just adore September? It has such a lovely fresh start feel about it: new stationery, new uniform and of course the promise of crunchy autumn leaves, roast dinners and blackberry and apple crumble… You might have seen that I wrote recently about some of the lessons I’d learned after 12 years of blogging. I made a mental note at the time to revisit my positive life plan and update a few of the categories, because I feel like I’ve been making quite a few changes recently, both with my work, my health, and my general outlook on life. If you’ve never come across the positive life plan before, it’s a chilled out way to perform a bit of a positive life edit, where you can take stock, set goals, record your hopes and dreams, then keep referring back and updating to keep track of your progress. I find it hugely helpful, so it thought it was about time for a September life audit. Here goes, then:
1. Health and 2. Fitness
I’ve squished these together because for me, the two are inextricably linked. I probably spent most of my adult life wishing I was thinner/more toned/more sporty, but it didn’t really ever occur to me to do anything about it other than wish. I think after 40-odd years I’m finally learning to be a bit kinder to myself and accept that when I was a size 8 in my 20s, I was living a very unhealthy life and probably on the verge of starving myself too. I feel like I’ve now made peace with the fact that I’ll never be stick thin, but – thanks to couch to 5k – actually discovered that I can do something about my fitness levels. Weirdly, I actually weigh more than I have for a while, but I feel healthier and more toned, and also less guilty if I do have a bit of a blow out, because I’m getting out there and running three times a week. I’m a terrible runner – very slow, and a bit ungainly, and I never manage more than about 4k – but I find it immensely good for my mental health and the feeling when I’ve completed a run really sets me up for the day. Whoever thought I’d be a runner? Not me.
Oh, and talking of toned – I’ve been really into body brushing since coming back from the Viking Sea cruise where it’s performed as part of a Nordic bathing ritual. It really does make you feel glowy and I’m sure my legs feel firmer too.
One word sums me up with money: hopeless. I’m probably the worst person in the world to run her own business – I forget to invoice people (or invoice them twice), my accounts are a mess, and I’m a terrible spendthrift. After a particularly bad start to the year, when I was down to £17 in my bank and had to borrow money off him, I sat down with Jim and had a proper chat about my financial situation. One of the biggest issues is that my income can be a bit up and down, and I need to be putting money aside during the good times, to see me through the slow bits, or when people take their time paying me (which often happens). I’ve decided to allocate myself an amount every month, and put any extra away in a savings account. Hopefully this will stop me being lavish when I’ve got a bit of extra cash too. I’ll report back on this one.
4 Beauty/personal style
Still my favourite category – I’m continuing along my path to an edited – if not exactly capsule – wardrobe, in mostly monochrome. I’m pretty aware what suits me and what I like: fitted jeans, tunic dresses, Converse, classic black/grey knitwear and plain, boxy t-shirts, and my new attitude to spending is putting the brakes on some silly purchases too. I had a massive wardrobe blitz, sold loads of things on Ebay and gave about ten bags to the charity shop. I’ve also committed to using up all my existing skincare before splashing out on anything new.
On the home front, I’ve realised that too much stuff, clutter and chaos makes me anxious, and that I’m happier with less. I’ve made a conscious effort to start clearing stuff away from work surfaces, windowsills, drawers and cupboard, and just keep the things that are functional or that just plain make me happy. For more gorgeous decluttering and capsule wardrobe inspo, have a look at Jessica Rose Williams’ gorgeous website.
I’m so lucky, because Jim is fab (and thank god he’s better with money because otherwise we’d be in serious trouble). We celebrated our 24th anniversary this week (musical instrument – rubbish). Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments, but this year has been tough for us both with my Dad dying, and it’s made us appreciate our time together. We’re pretty good at talking (and listening, when the other needs it) and we’re planning a special holiday at the end of this year to create some lasting family memories.
I really beat myself up about friendships: do I have enough friends? Should I be ‘putting myself out there’? I’m naturally quite introverted, and I find meeting new people quite stressful. I’ve decided to quit worrying and just go with the flow a bit more, arrange to see family and friends for coffees and catch-ups, and just take a bit of pressure off myself. I got to spend a whole week with my lovely friend Erica recently, and it’s made me realise how lucky I really am.
7. Work/your personal brand
I’m loving English Mum at the moment, and I hope you are too. This year, my plan was to write more personal posts, invest more of my time in simple pleasures, create some delicious recipes, share some wanderlust-inspiring travel, and make time for the moments that count. I hope you’re enjoying the content here as much as I’m enjoying creating it. I’m also continuing to love writing pieces for Cruise International – you can find my work here. Also, I won Best Blogger at the British Cruise Awards on Monday – I’m so, so chuffed and it feels like a great reward for some pretty hard work. Yay!!
8. Quality time
With Sam now having finished Uni (eek!) and Charlie at home after completing his first year, we had a pretty full house over the summer. We made sure we made the most of it by spending time with them and their girlfriends: chatting over eggs for breakfast in the kitchen, eating al fresco in the sunshine, going to the cinema, sharing the odd bottle of wine and enjoying their company while I have them captive here!
For me, the weekends are my favourite time. Jim and I both try not to work, and we’ll often head to the market for fresh bread, flowers, fruit and veg. It’s time for us to cook special meals, spend a bit of time pottering in the house and garden, and chill out with the family. I’m really happy right now with my work/life balance.
I’m always dreaming. Whether it’s that little cottage in France where we hope to retire, or a cute little VW Beetle convertible that I’ve always wanted – my head tends to be somewhere far away most of the time. B: This is another favourite for me: grab your pen and just write: what do you dream about? What are your hopes and goals? Where do you see yourself in five years? 10 years? 20? It doesn’t matter if it’s retiring to a little cottage in Brittany with chickens in the garden (yup, that’s mine), or just wanting to achieve a bit more time to sit and read a book in peace – write it all down!
I had a bit of a wobble earlier this year on a work trip (in fact I’ve had a couple of big wobbles this year), and it really made me stop and think. I find big groups of people quite a challenge (especially when, in my line of work, I tend to be mixing with some big, confident personalities). During my cruise with Erica, we had some pretty in-depth chats and explored some of the reasons why my confidence isn’t great (Erica is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist), and I’ve come to realise that I’m being incredibly hard on myself for things that happened when I was just a child. Moving on, I need to lighten up, be kind to myself, relax and enjoy people’s company. In conversations, I tend to have a constant, stressy dialogue going on in my head: do they like me? Am I saying something wrong? Can I say contribute anything intelligent to this conversation? It’s a vicious circle: I’m nervous, so I talk more, than I’m mentally kicking myself for blabbering… I’m learning to recognise it and break the cycle. Aaaaand relax…