March! A whole new season! What a hopeful, life-filled month this is. The ground is already teeming with new life, evidenced in the delicate cups of the crocuses shyly opening toward the sun, and the hanging heads of snowdrops bobbing in the wind. Daffodils are trumpeting and the bird song is intensifying by a few decibels each morning too. If you manage to catch the sun in a windless moment, it feels gently warm on your face, a sweet promise of what’s to come.Read More
I love the promise of a new year. I love it in the same way I love the promise of a new season, and sometimes a new month, week or even a fresh new morning (especially the frosty mornings we’ve had this week). I like the first page of a new diary, the first sprouts in the soil. Perhaps this explains my love of the changing seasons, the new startness of it all. Either way, January is a both a calendrical and symbolic new beginning. When done from a place of love and kindness, using this time to celebrate your wins and set some intentions and #tinglygoals for the year can be really powerful.
I don’t usually start my review and planning process until later in the month, it takes me (and, it turns out, quite a lot of you) a while to get into the new year. But this year, I have turned my January Book (or Life Book, January Chapter) into an e course to enable me to better serve you, answer questions and go a bit deeper. So Dave and I started our January Book on New Years Eve, earlier than usual, so I can go through the process with students on the e-course. I was again reminded why I love this process, why it enriches my life and widens my perception. I entered the conversation with one subject at the front of my mind (without even knowing it) and ended it with a much wider appreciation of what constitutes my life, how I can choose to approach it, and a lot of gratitude.
I wanted to share some of my reflections on 2018 because it has been a surprising year, one with some real lows and some really high high’s. And also because I think starting with reflections on the last year is a really lovely way to begin the process, grounding us in the present- today,-and providing wisdom for when we feel ready to think about 2019.
I also write this for anyone who had a hard year and who may be resisting looking back. Some of this was hard to write but I have learned so much in the process. I am still distilling and mulling 2018 in my own January Book and this will continue throughout January, and in community with students on the January Book e course.
Quite a lot of this year was hard. I look back at journal entries in the first half of the year and wince. I was deeply sleep deprived (baby related) and starting to lose my shit with my mental health. The months leading up to and following us night weaning Auden (stopping breastfeeding at night) were some of the hardest of my life. My anxiety roared. I was heavily relying on beta blockers and paracetamol, was tearful and and anxious, waking with panic attacks in the night. I ended up in A&E in early summer with heart palpitations so bad I thought something was really wrong with me. I felt scared.
My word for the year was ‘Brave’ because I envisioned 2018 to be the year I took myself out of my comfort zone, took up my space, and started working more and charging my worth. It didn’t quite go to plan.
This did actually eventually happen, primarily in the last quarter of the year (more on that later). For the rest of the year I just had to offer myself kindness and more kindness. The January Book has a lot of room for change. I cancelled plans. Delayed goals, then delayed them again. I prioritised rest, and used my word for the year in an entirely different way than I envisioned. I needed bravery to simply get through some of the days. To say that I needed help. To go the the GP. To book counselling. To say no to some stuff I needed to say no too. To fully and honestly face my anxiety and inner talk. To talk myself down from panic attacks. In many ways, these are some of the bravest things i’ve done.
Dave and I have also been working through some financial stuff in 2018 that has been really bloody challenging. The result of maternity/ paternity leave and unexpected tax debt meant some changes to the way we were living that have not been easy. The financial instability combined with the anxiety and sleep deprivation has at times been a pretty toxic mix.
The January Book prompts me to speak to my past self like i’d speak to myself as a child, or someone I cherish and love. My journal although difficult to read at times, is also lovely. I heavily relied on it. My feelings are poured into the pages like a deep dark pool. But surrounding them like a tidal barrier are my gratitudes and intentions, gently directing me back into a healthier more positive place (I am so grateful for this practice). I see myself choosing to speak kindly to myself. Giving myself a break. I see my past self going into the garden most mornings to start the day with my coffee and my gratitudes. I see me deeply grounding myself in small pleasures, hanging onto gratitude for dear life, allowing myself to feel the feelings I felt, offering myself kindness.
I feel so so proud of the way I coped with those things, lots of which are ongoing. I am literally taking a moment to high five and hug myself simultaneously.
And then the final quarter of 2018 happened. I had been deliberating about what my offering was for a really long time, and then decided to sort of just go for it. Having finally felt rested and well enough to take a leap (thanks to sleep, drugs and CBT) and wanting to contribute more financially , I launched my ebook, A Soulful Gathering. It contained all the things I have learned about hosting and styling a stylish, soulful gathering, something I have wanted to write for years. I was blown away by the reaction of my community. I also launched 4 (!) Christmas workshops and two day retreats, volunteered to style a really special Christmas day event for care leavers, and started working on my first e-course, The Life Book January Chapter (or The January Book!). I had a few amazing press mentions and articles, released an accidentally slightly viral wreath making tutorial, had my best ever month financially in November and was interviewed for Sara’s podcast, Hashtag Authentic. Just writing all that makes feel ‘whoa’. In hindsight it was too much. I got sick over Christmas and didn’t give myself enough rest time. But it felt incredibly liberating to do the following: Just take action . Stop pondering. To stop agonising about what my ‘thing’ was. Try some things. Learn again and again to divorce myself from external approval. To hold things lightly. To play. I hold these lessons close to my heart as I look ahead to this year.
These are snippets of the story. There was so much other good stuff, too, a lot of joy. I haven’t even touched on kids, marriage, politics or lots of the other things that happened last year, but I wanted to share some of the high’s and low’s of last year, and how I approach them. I’m so grateful for The January Book process for providing a kind and loving space in which to figure all this out.
If you are reflecting on a tough year, maybe one significantly tougher than mine (i am deeply aware of all of my privileges in this), I have pulled together a few helpers.
How to look back on a tough year:
Speak to yourself like you’d speak to a child or someone you cherish
Offer your past self grace and understanding. Look at what happened simply as information about the circumstances in your life, rather than as evidence of your failures.
Remember. You’d be surprised how much you have forgotten about how much you managed. Here are some tips.
Look through your phone photos of the last year
Flip through your journal, dairy or calendar over the last year
Scroll through look your social media posts
Speak to trusted loved ones about their recollection of what you aced in 2018
End your reflections in gratitude. It can be hard, especially after a hard year, but think about who was there for you? Who were the good people? What were the good experiences? Write as long a list as you can manage and include the small little daily pleasures as well as the big stuff too.
What did you learn? What changes in perception or approach did you experience?
Join the e-course
If you would like the chance to create your own Life Book, you are welcome to join my e-course which starts tomorrow! (eeee!)
Enrolments for the course close on the 14th Jan in 7 days.
Create your very own Life Book utterly bespoke to you. Learn more about the process, the mistakes I’ve made, and the way it’s impacted all areas of my life, all within a welcoming community.
Lots more information here.
***A quick note to let you know that my Life Book January Chapter e-course (my January Book) closes for enrolment on Monday morning, so there are just a couple of days left to join me to create your own Life Book and make some January goals based on love, that actually stick. It’s only £45 (and won’t be this price again) and you can book here****
Hello and joyous 2019 greetings to you! How are you? How are you feeling about this new year? My Sunday Supplement took a little unintended break in December but is back for 2019 with some lovely things to make, do and celebrate this month.
January can get a pretty bad rep; month of self punishment, debt, cold. But I really love this first month of months, and the new possibilities that come with it. In truth, I usually don’t feel really energised and raring to go until Spring, but I do love this month for the inside-ness of it, both figuratively and literally. The inner planning and dreaming. The darkness, the quiet and the cosy indoors ness of it. I am deep into planning and dreaming mode, my favourite winter-time activity.
We had a really lovely quiet family Christmas after a very very busy few months for me. We did even less than we planned to do on account of sickness, but the enforced rest was welcome. We didn’t travel and bought few gifts. We ate good food, watched telly, and went on some lovely walks. Dave and I spent New Years Eve in, by the fire, with our January Book, looking back over 2018 and ahead to this one. The whole thing was low key and man, did we need it.
10 wonderful things to make, do and celebrate in January!
1. Love your home
There are lots of words for it now, but i’m embracing good old ‘cosiness’. Think about all the lovely cosy things that make winter lovely. Keep the fairy lights and candles going, pile blankets everywhere. I love filling the house with winter flowering bulbs: White hyacinths, Paper-whites, Narcissi, Hellebores. Available from garden centres and supermarkets if you don’t have any growing.
2. Love yourself
January is traditionally the month of self loathing where marketers spend millions on making you feel shit about various aspects of your body and life in a bid to get your money. Take steps to nourish your body and your life if it feels good to do so, but do it from a place of love, don't do it because you feel you should.
3. Start a journal practice
I have been writing a lot about journalling recently, for magazines and on instagram, and of course for my e-course, which is a New Year form of journalling. I am indebted to this practice for so many things in my life. It’s revealing and motivating and cheaper than therapy! I wrote about it in the January issue of In The Moment magazine if you want some tips, and have blogged about it here.
4. Enjoy the January Supermoon on the 20/21st.
One of my favourite parts about winter are the sunrises, sunsets, stars and moons, all beautiful celestial events, happening at times of the day we can enjoy them easily. Darkness can be incredibly beautiful, and creatively productive. I love Virtual Astro on twitter who has also written a blog post about the night sky in January. The best lunar eclipse of the year is going to happen this month during a full supermen. Oooooh!
5. Go to see the murmurations.
December and January are the peak times to view Murmurations of starlings, the great swooping clouds of birds in the skies. It is one of the most breathtaking views, and they gather in both cities and the countryside. Click here to find a roost near you.
6. Book a winter mini-break
If you’re feeling the need for a break after the festive season, book a last minute winter break. Now is the cheapest time of year to go away. Go alone or with friends or family. If you are watching your pennies, look into a house swap.
7. Declutter one area of your home.
We have been in our house for one year now, and we both have noticed that we have not used some of the things in the cupboards. Now the tree and decorations are all cleared away, we’re assessing what is left, and are going to set aside a weekend in January to do some clearing out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with one drawer!
8. Celebrate Burns Night on Friday 25th
I lived in Scotland for a few years and really enjoy this excuse for a January knees up. Get the tartan out, crack our your crap Scottish accents (in my case at least) and enjoy a feast with friends. Aaannd you can buy Vegan Haggis from most supermarkets which makes me immensely happy.
9. Try some vegan meals
Have you heard about the perhaps slightly jarringly named ‘Veganuary?!’ Maybe you’re starting the year wanting to reduce your meat and dairy intake (the research on this being key in slowing climate change is fairly compelling) or maybe you’re ready to try some vegan meals, or give the vegan thing a try, its not too late to start. I heartily recommend Anna Jones for your delicious veggie/vegan meal needs. The BBC Good Food website has more vegan recipe’s all the time. The ‘SkintAFVegan’ facebook page is another great source for recipes. My friend Hannah shares delicious Vegan recipes for a family of 4 and her weekly shop (often £35) - she debunks the myth that vegan food is expensive
10 Review and plan.
If you’re in a thinkerly mood, you can download a free pdf of the structure of the January Book process here, and this year, in response to lots of questions, I have designed and written an e-course which allows students to create their own Life Book totally unique to them. This closes on Monday morning! Read more here.
January love to you. May it be a hopeful month for you.
Christmas day is just 13 days away (gadzooks! I am not prepared!) and just in case your thoughts are turning to hosting and styling a festive table, I have pulled together some tips for ES Homes&Property. These are all summarised from my ebook: A Soulful Gathering and focus on my core advice; plan ahead as much as possible, ask for/accept help and keep things simple. I also include some styling tips too.
I’m hosting my final workshop of the year this Saturday and it’s all about laying a festive table! It’s in central London at Berry Brothers and Rudd so there will be excellent wine! Tickets are only £35 and the workshop is 2 hours, 12-2. Guests will make a table garland, mini wreaths and posies, and you can get a ticket here.Read More
Hello and Happy Sunday! I'm so so excited to tell you that my brand new E-Book is now live! I've been in a writing cave for the last few weeks, and before that, in a messy but fun photo-taking studio cave. I have loved putting this together, stretching myself with the photography and styling, and flexing my long form writing muscles (thank god for editors) It's called A Soulful gathering: Simple Ideas to host 2 or 200. It's 130 pages (It's a beast!) of all of my best tips and tricks, inspiration and guidance to help you to host your own gatherings with soul. The release is timed to coincide with the Autumn/winter gatherings we are all thinking about ahead, but it is applicable all year round. I designed it to be inspirational yet practical and achievable.Read More