The blurb you need to read first
First of all, apologies. I have literally run out of original photos since the monster montage of the previous post, so other than the top picture, you’re going to get text only on this occasion. Second, this’ll be more serious than before…but not that much more serious. Third of all, it is very, very long. I nearly broke it into two posts, but it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Make yourself a cuppa before settling in.
Basically, three things have been happening concurrently that have had a major positive impact on me this last year or so. One is doing the hair thing. Another is the major increase in paid work as a musician. And the third thing is regular visits to Joy, who is a CBT therapist with many other qualifications to boot.
I have to admit, whilst I think I get which way round things went, and which things had an impact on the success of what, I’m still not 100% sure. I don’t really know if I can say that any one thing had more impact than the others. Have a read and see what you think. It’s still a little fresh and under-edited, but hopefully you’ll make good sense of it.
In the spring/summer of 2014, while I was unwittingly rather high on the anxiety/depression scale, I also had an opportunity on the music front. The first in many years. The chance to sing professionally. I’d sung at a professional standard before, but never been paid for the privilege. So when I was asked to sing at a wedding ceremony, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t know if that was going to be it for several more years, or if it was the start of things to come. But somewhere deep inside my subconscious I knew that that was what I wanted to do more than anything else. It set me on a path. So there was that going on.
Soon after that, I got to a point where things were just awful. And guilt-ridden…I had a good life, didn’t I? So why wasn’t I enjoying it? Why wasn’t I coping? I eventually realised that it wasn’t going to get better by itself and got in touch with Joy. That set me on a road to recovery and fixing my thought patterns so that they weren’t constantly berating me for not being good enough.
After a couple of months I had a fragile kind of happy going on. It wasn’t easy, as family life had to continue, and I had to keep earning. But then more music was happening. It turned out it wasn’t a one-off. I could actually sing and make some money out of it. And that boosted my happy factor big time. Nothing better for your self-esteem than being paid to do the one thing you love more than anything else in the world.
And then I was ready. I had arrived at a point where I realised I was properly OK again. And it was at around the same time that my thoughts kept turning to hair colour.
Now, if you know me well, I’ve not been one to particularly want to tread the beaten path. I’ve always done my own thing, and if I get really into an idea, no matter how strange or crazy, I will still just go ahead and do it. Hence the marathon. And that’s kind of what happened with the hair thing at this point. I couldn’t let the idea go. So I figured I’d better scratch the itch, satisfy my curiosity and deal with the consequences. (You can read about that here.)
I loved my new hair at the time. It was a huge deal. In hindsight it was a little nuts, but I’m so glad I did. I look back at those early photos now and I have to admit I’ve eyed them up with suspicion, as the colour then was very simple and I wasn’t that keen on the rest of my appearance….but what I do love is how it changed me on the inside.
Yes. Flattering or not, having hair that bright meant that I would no longer be able to shrink away and hide. It still felt like me, but it felt like the bold, brave, confident version of me. Which was always part of me; it’s just that I sometimes had to dig down and find it. Now it was there and out on display all the time.
Fake it till you make it
There’s a brilliant TED lecture somewhere. I’ll link it as it’s hugely significant for me. Here you go.
I found myself in a very similar position. It took a few weeks to get used to having the bold me on display all the time, and it did feel pretty weird for a while, but as described in the video, it just became normal. And once it had, it was transformative in everything that I did. It felt like the me that had been fighting to get out, but simply hadn’t had an outlet. Changing my hair forced the issue. I was this person, and most importantly I loved being this person. It was the me that came out occasionally with the kids when other grownups weren’t looking, or when I was really relaxed and happy. Only now it was…just me.
There’s more to it
Of course there’s more to it. I still have hang-ups about my body image, guilt about whether I’m parenting my children the right way, and major issues with screen addiction that lead to very little sleep. There’s a whole load of grey. Only now I feel happy and confident most of the time in spite of all those things. Even when I’m really tired. Even when I’ve got too much going on and I feel like I’m on an endless treadmill. Also, I’m dealing with all those things bit by bit. Not least because I still see Joy once a month. Seeing Joy helps get everything into perspective. Is it just my mind playing tricks on me? Is it something I can do something about? Also, she’s fun. She always has me in a good mood even if we’ve dealt with some emotional stuff.
Why colour and why hair?
It’s funny that it manifested in colour, isn’t it? If I’m honest, I’ve always loved colour. It’s just that my mum loves colour too, and the rebellious teenager lurking within me even now still hates the idea of having such a similar trait. So it’s quite convenient that I found a way to express my love of colour in a very different way. The subconscious is pretty sly, isn’t it? And I have to admit, I’ve only realised that tonight. Blogging is good for things like that.
The slight catch
So now I’ve realised all this, doing crazy things to my hair has served me incredibly well this last year. And I feel that if I wanted to I could still keep the happy, confident me and go back to a more conventional appearance.
Only thing is, I’ve kind of developed an obsession. It’s going to be a very long time before I get to a point where I’ve had my fill of all the possible colour combinations out there. If I have a moment of idle thought that isn’t taken up with some aspect of family life, or a piece of music I’m working on, it’s fairly likely I’ll be pondering hair colour. Right now I’m dithering when and how to do Christmas hair this year – it’s proving to be a real dilemma.
And there’s another thing. I suspect after all the colour, I’d find conventional hair terribly boring. Yes, I love it on other people. I love it on my children and my husband. I’ve even tried on wigs once or twice to see how I feel about it. Here’s the thing. I look in the mirror and it feels like I have lost part of my identity. Which is just bizarre, but there you go.
How I feel now
Writing this was quite a learning experience for me. I didn’t quite appreciate how differently I would feel about it now compared to a year ago. I felt superb a year ago, but somehow, today I feel miles better still. The confidence thing is innate now. The fun that felt inhibited, well, it’s on display. The sense of adventure in the everyday. That’s normal now.
If I had known I could love my life quite this much a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have understood that it could be possible, let alone believed it. I thought I was muddling through OK, as long as we didn’t have anything hugely difficult to deal with at the time. I didn’t recognise that I could be so much happier.
So I’m very thankful for how those three major changes in 2014 came about. For people who don’t know me well, it probably looks like a mid life crisis. I am 41, after all, and the timing fits. Though of course, for me it feels like the exact opposite of a crisis. Cheesy though it sounds, for me, it feels like God decided it was my time to shine.
I wrote this lighthearted post yesterday, blissfully unaware of the monstrous acts taking place at the very same time in a neighbouring country. I have thought quite hard about whether I should post something so seemingly trivial so soon after such a horrific event. And then I came to the conclusion that it was more important than ever to enjoy our freedom of expression and acknowledge it as a privilege, considering how, if those responsible for last night’s atrocities had their way, we would have such freedom taken away.
So here it is. Let’s not take our freedom for granted. Let’s make our world a happier place with talk of little things that don’t seem to matter and be grateful for the chance to enjoy them.
365 days. And yet now it feels like I’ve always been like this. (We’re talking about my hair, by the way, if it’s not screamingly obvious.) Is it really only a year? I’ve gone through a huge range of colours since November 2014. Look, see. This is quite a long photo by the way, so I really hope it behaves itself for you.
What do I know now that I didn’t know then? Well, quite a lot. Let me list them for you.
- Children will stare open mouthed and talk about you as if you’re not there.
- Adults will stare open mouthed and talk about you as if you’re not there.
- Some people won’t like it and tell you so.
- People often feel the need to react to your hair in some way.
- Some people will compliment you on a change in colour by telling you how they like it much more than the previous colour.
- It’s very easy to overdo the colour in your clothes.
- You don’t need make-up for it to look OK.
- Red bleeds like crazy and fades twice as fast as other colours.
- You can wear heaps of make-up – sometimes it looks good, and sometimes it looks like you’re a Goth. And you won’t know till you’ve passed the line and realised you have to reach for the wipes.
- You don’t need shampoo to wash your hair.
- Very occasionally people will genuinely think your hair is either patriotic, political or supportive of a football team.
- You don’t need hot water to wash your hair.
- Very occasionally people will deliberately pretend to think your hair is either patriotic, political or supportive of a football team just to see how you react.
- Washing your hair in cold water does wake you up very quickly in the mornings.
- It lasts longer than you expect, as long you can be bothered with the maintenance.
- Mostly you forget you have crazy hair because you can’t see it.
- Each time you do a new colour, it’s like planning your latest art installation.
- Primary school teachers like it because they can spot you easily in the playground.
- Your children will get used to it, and given time, like it.
- It can make you feel like being adventurous in other ways.
- White pillowcases are for other people.
- You realise you can never get away with picking your nose in public again.
- Navy and black pillowcases are your friends.
- The jury is out on whether grammar school teachers like it.
- It doesn’t fry your hair if you know what you’re doing.
- You learn very quickly not to be self-conscious about it.
- Random strangers will frequently approach you about your hair.
- It doesn’t take as long to do the colour as you might think.
- It’s not as high maintenance as you might think, but it is considerably higher maintenance than regular hair.
- People do actually feel the need to touch your hair from time to time.
- Every time you do new colours, it’s like that feeling on Christmas morning when you find your stocking brimming with presents
Follow my hair (and life) journey in pictures on my Instagram feed!
I just thought I’d update everyone since I’m almost exactly six months into the new direction hair-wise. And as those who actually have to see me most days will verify, I’ve not looked back.
Yep. Every new colour brings a little adventure, a small amount of excitement and a lot of happiness into my life.
Actually, the happiness was there already. I’m just expressing it through the hair.
You see, the great thing about doing something a bit nuts like this is, you find yourself in a place mentally where you just don’t care if other people think you’re crazy. Yes, some people make comments, but most of them are nice. And you tend to ignore the very occasional ones that aren’t, since they’re almost always from people I don’t know and whose opinion isn’t important to me.
Since the end of last year, I’ve got very used to dyeing my hair a heap of bright colours. Right now it’s a mix of bright blue, navy and violet.
Before that it was blue and green.
Before that it was flourescent red.
And I’ve loved them all. In the process I’ve forgotten my self-consciousness, which was still riding quite high when I wrote the first post about this. I’m getting to the point here slowly, I promise.
2015 has possibly been the most enjoyable year for me, ever. Because, while I still have hang-ups about various aspects of my appearance, for the first time ever, two things have happened.
- I am being ME.
- I feel like my life is the journey I want it to be.
About the first one, being me, well, I have to admit, a year ago, I didn’t think being me involved crazy hair. But then I did it, and it was so right for me. I look in the mirror and it’s right. It’s me. That’s who I am. There may be more of this me – it may evolve as I do. That’s fine. But I feel happy about the feelings inside being channelled through how I present myself.
As for the second thing. I’ve tried a lot of things that didn’t fit very well. My perseverance kept them going long after others might have given up. A big part of why I tried all those things was because I lacked the confidence to do what I love the most. I felt that if I kept persevering, something would work. I was desperate to do something well, not realising I had it all along if I focussed my efforts in alignment with my natural instincts and passions.
But those things that didn’t work out…they are part of what put me on the right track. I don’t regret a single one of them. They are part of the journey that got me to this point. Each decision, each challenge, each struggle, gave perspective and with help, eventually put me on track to find the joy – real joy – and fulfilment that until that point I had only found in my children.
It was incredibly difficult to give up so many things. I felt like I was letting people down. Good people that I liked and cared about a lot – and I still do! I felt that I was yet another failure for not seeing those projects through to the end… I felt a great deal of guilt for months…until the me underneath started to shine through again.
That was when I knew it had been the right decision. Finally, I could see where I was going, and it was a clear road! I knew what to do, I knew it would take just as much effort as many of the other less successful things I had done. Only this time my heart was truly in it. My passion, my talents and my instincts were all in alignment.
The last few months have been filled with joy and happiness because of this. My self-confidence, even though there’s plenty of room for improvement, has stayed high. My children are that much more fun to be around because I’m able to enjoy them properly without feeling guilty about not doing all the other things. My husband is happier because I’m happier and it rubs off.
It’s not been easy, but boy, I’ve come a long way in a year. In all my adult life I’ve never been happier or felt more fulfilled. And it keeps getting better as my confidence grows and I persevere my passions.
So this is really a post to acknowledge that there really is a lot of joy in my life. And to appreciate what a blessing it really is.
Um. So I coloured my hair a month or so ago.
I’ve done this before. A spot of purple for a party once. Another spot of purple I won in a raffle. Some purple streaks a few months ago. And oodles of highlights over the last two decades.
My normal appearance, until recently, would be something along the lines of the following three pictures. Colour varying from mousy brown to blonde highlights.
Since mid November, though, it looks like this.
So it’s quite a change.
There’s been a lot of comments, and most of them have been very nice. Those that weren’t were gentle teasing and, if there’s one thing I learned from the experience, it’s that people will almost certainly say something.
A lot of people asked, what made me decide to do it? In all honesty, I’m not sure. All I know is that I got to a point where I really, really wanted to. But if I look back over the year I can sort of see how it came about.
2014 has been quite a year. In the first 6-7 months I ran a marathon (runner 44234 if you want to look up my time!), ran a local branch of a charity, taught some lovely antenatal groups, went on a lovely holiday to France, returned to being a professional musician, saw some good friends and poured a lot of love and attention into my micro business.
The marathon, while I was training for it, took over everything. I had made a commitment and I had to do it. I felt better than I’d ever done before. All this exercise was new and exciting, if quite hard work and very time consuming. The marathon happened in April. It was harder than childbirth, but I did it somehow and raised over £2000 for the NCT. It now feels like it happened to someone else.
After the marathon, I tried my best to catch up with everything I’d been neglecting. But over the years I’d been piling up my obligations and there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to give everything the attention it needed and deserved. I found myself pruning things to the bare minimum, house, job, business, kids, everything but the music in fact, and feeling terribly guilty about it. And in the meantime I wasn’t really exercising any more.
By July I was feeling massively overwhelmed with all my obligations and, the moment I had dropped the kids off at school (almost always late) and shut the door on the world, I would burst into tears from the stress of it all. If I didn’t burst into tears, I would eat to mask the issues, or go and take a long nap which avoided it entirely. None of which was especially healthy.
This is where my antenatal teacher training came in handy. We learn to be reflective practitioners, so when this had been happening a while and clearly wasn’t just a blip, I did at least recognise that it was a serious problem and realise I had to do something about it. So I got in touch with a CBT counsellor I know. Over the summer and early autumn, we worked through a lot of issues. And I mean a lot.
In July and August I did as little as possible. I let other people take over some of the things that couldn’t be ignored for a while, and left the rest. In September I did the same, but became more active, taking Zumba classes, and rehearsing for some gigs coming up the next month. It was a fragile month. I was still quick to tears, but I was feeling a lot better. In October my music commitments took over. It was very busy, but I was loving being a musician again, and the fragility was starting to fade.
By November I felt GREAT. I had literally forgotten what it was like to feel normal. I hadn’t felt this OK in years. Not since smallest one was born back in 2010. And this time not just feeling normal and OK, but feeling actually happy. I have always felt happy when in good company or doing things I love, but prior to this summer I’ve had various feelings of guilt and obligation hanging over me, preventing me from being particularly happy the rest of the time. Stemming back from my senior school. For the first time, I’m feeling happy and content generally. I’m feeling like a huge weight has been lifted from me. I’m back into the housework (though it does give way when I have music or antenatal work on the go), I’m not needing to nap, I’m not feeling stressed all the time. So it’s a new, super-squeaky-shiny happy. I’ve been liberated from all the baggage that was weighing me down and knocking my confidence in myself.
So maybe it’s not surprising that by November I felt motivated to do something that showed the world I was a present and active participant in life, and not hiding from anything. I felt a strong urge to do something more noticeable. Eventually those feelings came out in vibrant, pillarbox red hair. And I have to say, I love it.
I’m still pretty busy. The house still looks like a tip most days. But that’s fine. Because when I do clean it up, I actually enjoy it. I’m loving spending time with my children when 6 months ago I felt guilty doing so, because I felt I should be catching up on everything else. I’ve had to make some serious cuts to the things I love doing. I’m no longer volunteering in a senior role. my micro-business is in hibernation, and there’s been a number of smaller things I’ve given up on too. I’ve finally realised I can’t do it all, and that that’s OK. Everything I have done has brought me closer to people, helped others and also been part of my journey to where I am now.
But I feel good. I feel happy. I feel connected with my family. I feel fully engaged with my teaching and my music. I feel alive. And (especially with my new hair!) I am feeling present in the world. Maybe in some way, the hair is a celebration of the return of my mojo.
Since the change my hair has had a separate identity. I no longer refer to it as ‘my’ hair.
And yes! It’s my first blog post in many, many months. And it wasn’t even a funny one.
I’ll continue to blog sporadically. No promises on timing.
Peace and love. And other festive wishes too!
Oops. Been a VERY long time since I blogged properly. I must learn to stop making promises I’m too busy to keep. Sorry.
Anyway, I’m typing on an old laptop with a new keyboard that’s improved things from some-keys-don’t-work-at-all-since-smallest-one-picked-them-all-off …to works-OK-if-you’re-prepared-to-type-as-if-your-fingers-were-tiny-sledgehammers. My desk now looks out of our living room window and the kids, some of whom came home from school in a really bad mood, have turned the volume up on the stereo and are bouncing round behind me.
I felt inspired to reach for my inner poet today, what with my loved one being, well, just lovely. Life goes on at such a fast pace that sometimes it takes me a while to stop, reflect and realise just how wonderful he is to me. So I wrote a poem in advance of our weddng anniversary. Thought I’d share it with you. Some of you will recognise the references…and if you want to ask more the comments section is open!
(Feeling quietly proud of achieving a proper Iambic Heptameter too.*)
Another spring comes round again;
We’ve reached that time of year
When daffodils and crocuses
And blossomed trees are here.
From this I know that very soon
For one sweet day and night
I get to have you to myself:
A rare but fine delight.
I bless the day I realised
That you were meant for me,
I must admit, I was amazed
That you seemed to agree!
From broken ankles, moving in,
Eclipses, trips and more
I bear two moments dearest
When I knew our love was sure.
The first was back in Central Park –
You sprang a ring on me.
I was relieved you listened
And stayed off the bended knee.
The glistening snow, the words you spoke
Were such a huge surprise
I really couldn’t stop the tears
That trickled from my eyes.
The second time, our wedding day
I knew our love was strong
But when we spoke the vows we gave
I realised I’d been wrong.
I knew right then that what we had
Was so much more than love.
The feelings that we had that day
Had reached a plane above.
Today we’re twelve years further on
And one thing I have learned
My love is sometimes buried deep
Which risks you feeling spurned.
So let me now articulate
Those feelings deep inside.
I love you more than life itself
I cannot stem the tide.
The flow of love I have for you
Is matched by you alone.
Through times when we are struggling
Or kept away from home.
Each year I love you more and more;
I take my strength from you.
It’s you that makes my life complete:
I love you through and through.
Here’s a little photo of Loved One. Just in case you were wondering what he looks like.
Thanks for reading! Till the next time…
*yes, I did have to look that up.
Hello everyone! How long has it been since I last posted? A year? Goodness knows.
Well, I am firing the brain dribbles back up again, and specifically on this night, because in exactly 6 months’ time I will be doing something really rather crazy. In my opinion, anyway.
Let me rewind three months and tell you the story from the start…
Back in July, I resolved to myself that I would do a parachute jump for NCT and raise some money to help us set up a much needed baby café (breastfeeding drop-in clinic) in Wycombe town centre. I had always wanted to give it ago, and had already put it off three years running. A bit too much alongside having a baby and moving house…
So I emailed head office to enquire. They emailed back, saying, sorry, not doing it next year. How about something else? Maybe the London Marathon? Applications available in a month’s time.
My eyes popped out of my head. If you don’t already know me, I’m overweight, technically obese, and haven’t run in 20-plus years. I haven’t done any regular exercise since having my children. It was out of the question. And how disappointing not to be able to do a parachute jump after all. So I replied, saying, not for me, thanks, not for an award-winning couch potato. I’d had something altogether less strenuous in mind. Jumping out of a plane is easy by comparison.
But then I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It’s as if they had sowed a seed and it had taken root. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that by doing something WAY out of my comfort zone, the more it might be worth sponsoring. And, for me, it doesn’t get further from my comfort zone than running a marathon.
So, when the applications became available, I sent it in the same day. Amazingly, they accepted me as one of the 8 NCT runners nationwide. And all the money I raise (£2014, so I’ll need all the help I can get!), can go towards setting up the breastfeeding drop-in that mums of new babies so badly need in the Wycombe area.
Now it’s real, and I am training. I think it sunk in when I ran in the pouring rain yesterday and I had to take my specs off to see where I was going…. So please sponsor me if you can!
Sometimes things don’t turn out how you plan. Maybe something unexpected happens. Maybe you thought you would have the cash for something you really wanted and were waiting for for months, and then you realise you just don’t have that kind of money. You had put off facing the obvious truth because you weren’t ready to believe it. It wouldn’t be the first time I wanted to do something and only later realised the money wasn’t there.
So that happened to me a while back, and I had to let some people down. So I sent an apologetically toned email explaining the situation.
Then I received an email from one of those people a few weeks later, asking me if I could change my mind. So I explained again, much more fully, that it just wasn’t an option, even though I was sad that I couldn’t make it work out. It took me a long time to write, because the person who sent the email is important to me.
I received a two sentence reply. The response implied that they didn’t understand that I cared. That I had spent a long time trying to find a solution to the problem and failed. Even though I had said so, in the email. Extensively.
I love email, it keeps me in touch with people I would otherwise lose entirely. But sometimes it really sucks as a form of communication.
Or maybe it just sucks because people choose to read what they want, no matter what words are in front of them. When I read the two sentence reply, I felt that my correspondent wanted to be offended. If I had been able to call, maybe that person would have been offended anyway. My inability to produce a magic wand and make it all better appears to have made me the wrongdoer.
Or maybe I am choosing to read what I want from that person’s short reply. I still feel there is a lack of understanding or perspective due to the words used, but maybe no offence has been taken. Maybe it is me reading into it. That’s the thing with email and written forms of communication. It’s too easy to assume how the other person is thinking when they write it.
I don’t really have a solution here. It just worries me that a few emails can seemingly create a faultline in such a cherished relationship. It has weighed on my mind for some time already. I will wait, and hope for understanding. If it doesn’t come, it doesn’t come. And that really would be a shame.
Has anyone else had this kind of experience? Or maybe read something into someone else’s words that wasn’t there?