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therunawayeducationalist

Why the runaway? Because it sums up my thoughts, what I like to do in my holidays, and what I like to do to de-stress,quite literally, just run.

Once a Wasp, Always a Wasp. Playing a Bit of Rugby

wasps muddy

This weekend was my birthday and it was a weekend of getting out of my comfort zone. I actually played rugby. I am now of the age where my age doesn’t count, and the years go by and I don’t care. I do like to feel a little bit special on my birthday though, and unfortunately this was a giant fail on all counts. So on Saturday I had a little pity party, had a little word with myself and got on with life. I didn’t go out and drink copious amounts of wine to celebrate because I was in match preparation mode. I carb-loaded, stretched and readied myself for Sunday. I was about to play for Wasps.

For the first time in three years I played for my beloved club. I played for 9 years, a faithful servant. Once a Wasp, Always a Wasp is our motto and I guess this weekend I proved that right. I correct myself, we proved that motto right. With lots of the current players away on holiday and a Cup match to play, the club feel short and called on us Ol’ Girls. So 2 World Cup finalists, an Ex-England International and me ( I garnered a few Welsh caps along the way). We donned our boots, and pulled on the rather tight Wasps shirt for just one more game. This year is the 30th year of Women’s rugby being played at Wasps and H, our scrumhalf stalwart came on at half time to play in her 30th season. As she came on we all clapped, such an achievement. Can you imagine that, playing every single season since she was in her teens. That is pretty legendary in itself. Are you wondering has she still got it? isn’t she over the hill. Nope, her delivery was sharp, she was at every breakdown bossing us and the all to our outside half was sweet. Our 10 with 44 caps under her belt had to catch the mud-ball like a fullback on a high ball in a bread basket, at one point being tackled to the ground as she released the ball to kick it and the ball just fell dead in the mud beside her. Kicking duties at kick offs and conversions passed on to the younger generation, but still giving us great lineout ball in the corners for a couple of catch and drive tries.

It’s like a drug. It’s addictive. There I was amongst all of the banter of the changing beforehand, everyone laughing with excited nerves. A collective goal, all wanting the exact same thing. It was electric, girls kept on coming up to me, shaking my hand, telling me their names. These young guns, I only knew a third of the team by name beforehand. On the pitch they were so talented, our tradition of Army girls playing for us has gone from strength to strength. I was worried I was going to let them down. What if I couldn’t tackle anymore? What if I gave away too many penalties (always a worry), what if I wasn’t fit enough to keep up with the game? For the first time in years I was nervous enough about something to be physically sick on the sideline.

The weather was horrendous and it got gradually worse. The pitch became this comical mud-sliding, glue-like substance. The back three schlepping through toffee. Towards the end all you could see of my face was my blue eyes. Nobody could distinguish one team’s shirt from another. Our centre made a huge belly flop in the mud and we all laughed, our second row slid for 3 metres past us all and we just laughed. There were so many comedy moments despite the cold. The camaraderie on the pitch was magic. My jaw was and still is aching from shivering so hard, hypothermia setting in. The game was called short at 60 minutes due to the weather. We won 39-0, I think we could have scored more. I stood in the cold shower wondering what on earth had made me do it. Why would I put myself forward for this. The truth is I miss it. I miss being part of something bigger than yourself and your own goals. I miss being part of a collective. I miss expressing myself at something I was pretty good at.

After the match all of the girls sang Happy Birthday and one had even made me my very own vegan cake. That’s the thing about the rugby community. It makes you feel pretty special. The Wasps family can make you feel pretty special. I don’t miss Saturdays doing nothing in preparation for Sunday, I don’t miss giving up my whole day for rugby. I don’t miss rugby in that kind of weather. I don’t miss those kind of pitches. But. I do miss tackling. I miss supporting players running lines. I miss turning over the ball in contact. I miss the laughs. I miss Wasps. It’s ok, I’m not coming out of retirement, I know my time is over. I love the fact that they have so many young talented players coming through and I know it’s no longer my time. But for one weekend it was so good to get out of my comfort zone, play rugby and feel that real high that only rugby seems to give me. I guess it’s true Once a Wasp, Always a Wasp

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Moniack Mhor- Starting out in fiction. Permission to be me

Aged ten I wrote a short story about a mother being chased, keeping those hunting her down away from her children, eventually being caught and murdered, leaving orphans behind. At the very end, I revealed it was a fox hunt. That was the first time I fell in love with writing. I have fallen in and out of love with writing ever since. I have read books from every genre, loved them, hated them, returned to them. Always left with a feeling that I have a voice within me, but never having the courage to use it. To write fiction. 

I have dabbled, a journalism course where I never really tried too hard to find a job writing. A few travel blogs along the years, this random little blog that a few of my loyal friends read. But I have never really dedicated myself to the craft of writing. I have not sat down for hours on end, never maintained a daily practice. I’ve always been pretty wishy-washy about it. Why? Probably because I’ve never really believed in my own ability, definitely because I couldn’t bear the idea of being judged. Lazy in my dreams, under no illusion that writers are grafters, who dedicate time to their art. I have never given myself permission to be a writer.

Despite all of the excuses that I have used time and time again. I signed up for a course at the Scottish Writers’ Centre, Moniack Mhor. I paid a deposit and put it to the back of my mind, until a very polite lady asked me at the very last minute to pay up and my plans for transport. I paid my dues with minutes to spare, shoved a bag full of clothes and notebooks and flew up to Scotland. Previous visits had included hotel rooms and rugby pitches, this was my first chance to experience Scotland. The centre is in the middle of nowhere, somewhere above Loch Ness.

I sat there on the floor on my first evening and one of the writers running the course asked all of us why we were there. I told her simply, I am practising being Brave. I am. I am pushing my own limitations, quietening the doubters in my own head. Being vulnerable, putting myself out there where I really want to. I am being brave putting pen to paper.

 I lucked out. I enjoyed the company of every single participant, all arriving from different places in their writing journey, all eager to get along, muck in, listen and appreciate each others’ work. I could write a story about each of them. My week has been filled with laughter, connections, pure joy.

The moment where I handed over, in black and white, my own words for the very first time, was like the scene in Ghost with Whoopi Goldberg and the cheque. Painful. Except, it wasn’t. I was given constructive feedback, my piece was even liked. Liked. There was a line that was good. I mean good. It gave me the confidence to read my work aloud, to experiment with flash fiction and to scrap my adverbs and adjectives.

I met people who blew my mind away with their grit. The journeys they had been on. Their skill in bringing words to life. I was childlike in my enjoyment of listening to professional writers reading their work to us in the setting of a straw house with the sun setting over the glen.

There wasn’t a moment I didn’t enjoy. It was totally self-indulgent, it was a time to explore my passion and to see if it was worth my while starting a journey towards becoming a writer. I am under no illusion, I am at the very beginning and the course was a catalyst. I have a clear desk and an inkling of an idea for a novel. As soon as school starts I am going to work out a daily time where I can sit and write.

Every day that I do write I will feel grateful for the support of the tutors on my course and the camaraderie of my fellow writers. Maybe one day soon I will tell people ‘I’m a writer’, until then I will think of myself as a Writer-In-Training. Being brave takes you to places you never imagine you could go. Not doing things that are challenges for others, but things that truly terrify you but you want so badly that you have to put yourself in a place of discomfort to move forward. That is my intepretation of being brave. Being true to your self and maybe that means being judged, failing, being refused but getting back up and trying again because you know deep down you can do it. 

If you could satisfy a lifelong dream what would it be? What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you living your dream?

 

Life Lessons of Brenin Evans


My boy, Brenin Evans’ life has passed with a blink of an eye. The 15 shortest years, they were never enough for me. I always wanted more, I wanted him to be by my side through my whole life. But life doesn’t work out like that. Not when your dogs are your world. They come, they love you hard and fast. And then they go. Their body anyways, not all my millions of memories.

Without children, I have become that crazy dog lady. I’m not ashamed of that. I had two boys from the age of 22. My whole adult life really. From the moment I left university I was that girl with two black dogs. They were my shadow. Rugby changing rooms, rugby training pitches, camping holidays, camper van holidays, skiing in France you name it, even rugby tour. I have left them four times in my whole life. 6 months at nana’s while I was a bit homeless and room-sharing for 6 months in London (I visited every weekend), 2 weeks in South Africa on tour, 5 days in Dubai and 6 weeks in Oz. Brenin spent the rest of his 15 years traumatised about the desertion at nana’s and proceeded to sit by the front door at Nana’s so that I wouldn’t forget him again.

Maybe, this is why I’m vegan, because I have fallen in love with the personalities of my dogs. They give so much without uttering a single word and so in my mind, other animals must have these huge personalities too, you just need to listen in different ways. What I do know is that Brenin loved me and this leads me to my first life lesson.

  1. Love fiercely and faithfully- Brenin was a one woman and her dog kind of dog. He went with his gut instinct with all humans. He either loved you with all his might or distrusted you with immense intensity. This gut instinct never wavered and on reflection he was pretty accurate in his judgement. When he loved you, you knew it. On walks, runs, bike rides, he never went out of eyesight and watched over you carefully, always keen to come back and stay close to your side. When I cried, he would bundle his big, fat, fluffy body onto me and need to get to my tears, he would cling to me and lick those tears away, I never had much choice in the matter.  He would love you with a tenderness that had no words. As a puppy he would lie by my bedside and extend his paw up towards me for me to touch him, he did the very same as he went into old age. He also gave his love freely to others, nobody ever wanted a favourite, but Brenin’s charms were hard to resist and I know lots of my friends loved my boy right back. Don’t be afraid to just love someone , love them with intensity, love them fiercely, stay faithful to that love.
  2. Be persistent, strive for whatever you want in life and focus on that- Brenin had major OCD and was possibly the most stubborn dog you could ever possibly imagine. Brenin would go into the kitchen cupboard and find his lead and drop it at my feet, if that didn’t work, a shoe would come next, then another (never matching), then if this didn’t work, the pacing would start- back and for past me, then sit by the front door and start to cry, then come and lick your face- let’s try the schmoozing tactic, then pick up the lead and continue on this thread until I relented, I always did. Who ever regrets a dog walk?. The same could be said about tennis balls. Brenin could sit and stare at you for quite literally hours with his foot on a ball and as soon as you moved he would roll it to you. He spent at least 5 years banned from having a ball in the house, and would often sneak out to the shed, open the ball draw and sneak them in while you were upstairs, he would hide them under his bed and then pull the ball out when he felt like I was in a mood to play.
  3. Always have fun and enjoy the moment-I always felt like a prize eejit, hiding behind trees and playing hide and seek, waiting for his circling tail to find me. He would be ballboy for any tennis game, loved rounders. Snow days were spent chasing me- a full-grown adult down the local hill on the sled and dragging it back up the hill for me. He would happily try anything, he loved boogie boarding, tried surfing, loved trying to catch snowballs. He was the boy who would find the most fun in any stick and would try to drag it in the car home. Once home, and during the tennis ball ban, he would often stick his head in the washing machine and drag out a pair of pants to throw to himself and rag. It was never-ending, he could find fun in anything and everything. My mam’s favourite trick would be to buy him a squeaky toy, that he would incessantly squeak for hours on end, and if you shouted at him to stop you could bet he would give it one more squeak. He loved ripping paper to open his christmas presents. Life was one big game, and I have learnt to enjoy life, not take myself too seriously. Have fun.
  4. When you think you have no more to give, just keep going- in the early days I was a runner, I ran for miles and Brenin would run by my side. Miles upon miles, I would get home exhausted. Brenin would eat some food, have a drink and be ready to go again. Right toward the end. He had a slow decline into old age, his body failed him, but his mind was alert. In that time, he never gave up. He would still roll the ball towards me to play throw and catch. He would struggle, fiercely independent to get up again and again. He never gave up on life. When you thought he had emptied the tank, he just took stock and went again. I have never known a dog who would go to exhaustion and just get up and go again. His mental toughness was something that I admired and loved until the very end. If I ever feel like failing and giving up, I am going to think of my boy and just get up and go again, try again, try harder, keep going.

Here I am, without my two original boys. I lost Diffa two years ago and wrote about the life lessons he taught me, here I am again, looking back on the life of my first boy. I feel like everything is changing. From the moment I picked up this bundle of black fluff that fitted in my one hand, to now, nearly 16 years later, I cannot express how much my life has been enriched. I have laughed, I have cried, I have had the most wonderful experiences with my boy by my side, I will always love my boy with a fierce heart. All I have left now are memories and I thought I would share a few with you about Brenin Evans, my handsome boy.

P.S. Black dogs are the hardest to rescue, no one wants a black dog. Do yourself a favour, pick one up. You won’t regret a single moment of it.

P.P.S- If you know us I would really love it if you would share with me some of your favourite Brenin moments so I can keep them too.

 

 

Bingham Cup 2016

A trip that turned into a journey. 

May half term I was fortunate enough to be asked to coach my mens rugby team at the Bingham Cup, Nashville. How could I possibly resist? Let me give you a little background, it is named after Mark Bingham, a gay man who sadly died in the 9/11 tragedy and during his short life was a hugely positive influence on the development of rugby in America. The cup is held every two years all over the world. The opening ceremony was overwhelming, 1500 men and a handful of women celebrating diversity and warmly welcomed by the people of Nashville.

We stayed at Vanderbilt University, which in itself was an eye-opener, Olympic standard sports facilities, leafy campus, beautiful buildings.

The club took the biggest contingent of players and supporters. 4 team, 100 players, 30 supporters. We trained for weeks, extra sessions on Saturdays. We could not have been more prepared if we tried. We flew through the pool games faultlessly, I thought about the fact that it wasn’t the best preparation to face tougher opposition later on. I was right. We came unstuck. We lost by the most narrow of margins in the quarters. Two mistakes cost us dearly. We were all devastated. Up to that moment, I had not realised how much I had invested into our team and I totally lost it. I was inconsolable. I coped with it in my usual way, loads of tears and a big fat run. I had to go back out there and face the fact that I had not been the coach that got those boys to the final, and that meant swallowing a huge amount of pride and stepping out of my room with my head held high the next day knowing I had to get on with the next job as much as the boys did.

On the Sunday we pulled it back and won the semis of the bowl competition. We lost by two points in the final, but it didn’t seem to matter so much. We had come for the Cup, nothing less. I don’t know if it was nerves from the 100’s watching or the disappointment from the day before but we just didn’t execute the plan. I watched the opposition and the standard is so high, two years away is already set in my mind. We need to raise our game, we need to up our rugby.  I stood there watching the final with Sydney and Melbourne and started to think about how we can get there. I have already spent hours considering the game plan, positions, personnel, what I/we could do better. 

I watched all four of our teams over the tournament. I am director of rugby of a club, not a first team coach. I am just as passionate about every single player we develop at club. Our seconds came the highest ranked 2nd team, 11 out of 45. Our thirds won the Hoagland Vase, I ran on the pitch like a lunatic to celebrate with the coach. The fourths came on so much over the tournament and narrowly lost in their final game. The 1’s gelled into a tight unit and were pretty bruised and battered by some huge American teams.Everybody came away feeling that the tournament had given them something, we had all learnt so much. 

The whole tour was one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had in my career. A celebration of rugby being inclusive and a game for everyone. I’m pretty sure Mark Bingham would be blown away by the camaraderie amongst players, the standard of the competition, the number of gay and inclusive teams competing. 

I came back home and realised that the kind of positivity I experienced is possible when you are amongst the right kind of people who want the same things. I have talked a long time about wanting a change and it would seem Nashville provided that too. At 4am on a Wednesday morning I sat at my laptop in university halls and interviewed for a job. I came home to find out I was successful. 2017 will see me begin a journey in higher education. I have no idea where it will take me but I know my love and passion for sport and its’ power to empower people will hopefully now be shared with the next generation of sport coaches and educators and in my own little way I’m pretty excited about that.

Nashville 2016 you were quite a journey. The Steelers without a doubt are my tribe and we seem to have just accidentally found each other and we fit. I’m now looking forward to where the journey will take us next. 

People not Places

  
I have travelled half way across the world, this time to visit People not Places. My people, my tribe, my old faithfuls. The build up to the trip hasn’t involved pouring over travel books, websites, advice. It has been a flurry of FaceTime and discussions of building excitement to seeing each other.

I am visiting two of my rugby friends. Friendships built on the deep rooted connections created through playing for the same club and team. Life has moved on, Danni is a mummy and Jan-Marie owns her own home by the sea. So it seemed like the right time to take a short hop across the world to spend some quality time together.

As Danni and I sat in her car from the airport we slipped into an easy normality as if it was only the other day we were hanging out. I was in awe of how she was a completely natural mum, she was born for this role. As I watched her hug her little man closely, then dunk him in the turquoise sea at Maroubra beach I knew she was living her own dream life. A beautiful family, living a stone throw from the sea, a firefighter, living the outdoor life. I’ve never believed you need money to be happy and Danni is living her own dream life. 

Here I was, stood in my bikini, the waves crashing down on me, hanging out with my bestest bud. Life could not be sweeter. Every hour on the plane, every mile travelled was worth it for these precious moments. 

Maroubra is an Eastern Sydney suburb based along a long beach, along the coastal path to the left is Coogee and Bondi. Maroubra is a little more tired, sleepy, but I like it. It’s not Bondi full of Brits and tourists, it’s not flashy like Coogee. It is homely, authentic, some houses are epic with glass balconies, infinity pools with seamless floor to ceiling glass doors others are flaky, crumbly 1930’s relics, needing a little TLC with overgrown gardens and leaf-strewn verandas. Last time I was in Sydney I didn’t appreciate it so much. This time, seeing it through a locals eye has given me a whole new appreciation for this laid-back, barefoot walking, top-knot surf dudes, bleached blonde, surf rescue volunteers in daggy yellow and red chilled out kind of city. 

I always feel like the best way to explore is via a run and after years of living in relatively flat West London it was a bit of a shock to the system to run the hilly suburb, speeding down towards the beach and along the coastline past the sea pool and into the next bay the smell of the ocean, it’s sea-saltiness hitting me as I rounded the corner. It reminded me sharply of my dream of living by the sea. 

I feel such a connection to the sea, the waves they just keep on coming, a constant reminder that life just keeps on going on and on regardless of whatever happens. As you submerge yourself under a wave, you accept the inevitability of life. It washes away worry and tells you that you can keep on going. As I stood last night on the rocks at the head of the beach, watching the sunset on the city I listened to the waves crashing, hypnotised by its’ persistence. Being next to the sea makes everything feel like in the end, despite all that life hits you with, you will be ok and you will just go on. It was the easiest and hardest 3 miles. I had to interval it back up the whopping hill! 

We sat in Bondi last night, eating Thai, drinking cocktails, laughing at each other, listening to each other and knowing that our friendship is everlasting. That feels pretty special, I am so grateful to have someone like Danni in my life.

Today all plans have changed. That is ok, I’m ready to roll with it as I hit up Auckland. See you in 10 days Sydney, I miss you already. 

What do you do when you fall in a ditch? 

  Have you ever felt like you have failed, not tried a bit and it went kind of wrong. A full-on car crash of an epic fail. Well that is where I am at right this very second. I feel like that notebook of handwritten bullet points and plans and scribbles and drawings needs to be ripped up. Burnt. Torn to shreds. Thrown in the sky in a flurry of anger and to walk away from all of it.

Sometimes I read these inspirational quotes that you have to really strike down and experience your nadir to ever experience the zenith of life. That our life has a yin and yang. That we have to experience umpteen failures to enjoy success. I am trying my very best to take strength from those ideas. But what if there is no fairytale ending? Life is just simply life, it just goes on regardless of what you had planned for yourself. 

Life really is about falling into that ditch and climbing your way back out of it. The problem is you just see the perfection of everybody’s best versions of their life on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I am not stupid enough to think that is life, but sometimes it feels like it normalises this rose tinted imagery, when we all have our highs and lows. 

The question is this. When we hit our lows. When things don’t go the way you always imagined they would. How do you carve out a new version of life? How do you re-imagine this hopes and dreams? 

I don’t have an answer. My 19 year old self would have wallowed in that ditch. Would have simply given up on life itself. Thankfully, I am a tough little thing. Today, I will run, I will put miles between myself and my past. I will run myself into my new future. I will have a long chat with my present self and work out what is going to happen with my future self. I may not get home with any answers but just the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other will help me move forward towards new goals, new dreams, a new version of me. I will run and mentally note all the million little things I am truly grateful for in my life. I will list all the rich intricacies that make my life lovely. I will run to renew my faith in myself. 

We all fall in ditches I don’t care what your photos say. I know the truth, we are all fragile beings, simply swept along by the tide of life, with ebbs and flows. What is really important is that you always find a way of dragging yourself out of that ditch. I would love it if you put yourself out there and commented on my blog and let me know how you dug yourself out of your ditch. 

January- Addictions and Plans

image.jpegThe month of January has been a little bit of an odd one. It started off on a massive high of daily runs, maybe everybody is the same. Full of thoughts of renewal, goals to achieve, plans to get on and do. There is always the jokes about people who only hit the gym in January and then fade away. I feel like that. On top of the world, 26 miles in my first week and then a respiratory infection hit me and it’s all ground to a halt.

I know it’s a good enough excuse, a dose of antibiotics is enough to set anyone back so I’m not beating myself up about it. I’ll be back on the fitness bandwagon soon enough. Look at that I think I just practiced self- compassion instead of the usual beat myself up routine. Go me.

Ive been thinking about my goals for the year, they are all over the place. I want to work on my social media addiction, this is going so badly. Being sick at home made it umpteen times worse. I am literally flicking through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest ALL OF THE TIME. I am driving myself bonkers. I need to set myself serious limitations, I am whittling away my life chortling at stupid videos and looking at people who spend their lives chiselling their body in the gym. Let’s be honest here, I don’t care that much about my body, have you seen my eyebrows lately? I don’t have the time or the inclination to be sculpting my body, yet I spend hours looking mostly at yogis posing in death-defying poses on sun-drenched white beaches. I need to get back to my real life. Right here, right now. I could spend a million years working on these hip flexors and I still would not be able to contort my body into these shapes, and anyway that isn’t what yoga is remotely about. I need to get over my social media addiction.

Ok Pep talk over with.

Moving on to another goal, living abroad for two years. Well I promised myself a recce trip. The beauty of being laid up ill has meant I have had the time to plan a trip. My wanderlust is being well and truly sated with a trip to Sydney to visit my long time rugby friend and her gorgeous bubba. I have already visited Sydney, so not so exciting, but I didn’t visit the Blue Mountains and I’ve not lived like a local. So a fresh perspective on such a great city will be fab. I am also going to New Zealand, it is only going to be a flying visit, but I can actually get a taste for the place and see if this could be somewhere I could live for a year or two. Again, I am visiting an old rugby friend so will be living like a local on a whirlwind tour.

I’m not sure why travelling makes me feel so alive. When I travel I feel like I’m me, I feel like a slave to the system when I get up ever y morning, join the commuting traffic, go to the same place of work, follow the same routine day in- day out. I feel myself dullened by the monotony of my life. When travelling I feel I am in charge of my own destiny, I am empowered by the endless possibilities of how I can create each day. I feel immense inner calm, I am the best version of myself. This Easter I will have two weeks of being just me.  I will work out if New Zealand is a possibility, if not maybe an adventure abroad closer to home may be in order. I have spent some time looking at ski chalets too. I am keeping an open mind about it.

They say January is meant to be the most depressing month. I don’t see it like that, I see it full of making plans and realising possibilities. I choose my outlook on January and I choose to make it all about plans that make me smile. How was your January? If mine was full of addictions and plans what was yours full of? What is in the pipeline? I have also realised I need to write much more, so give me some feedback, what do you want to read more of?

New Years’ Resolutions 2016. The Year of Change

  
I always make New Years’ resolutions, I believe you must always look towards a hopeful future with exciting ideas and plans to work towards. You may not achieve them all. It’s not a process of beating yourself up for not achieving your goals. It’s a process of realising that anything is possible. You have to dream it, you have to want it in the first place for any of your goals to come true. Some are aspirational, some are realistic, some may be absolutely ridiculous, but I believe that you have a fresh start to set new goals, to dream big. So do it. Set yourself a wish list. Be a dreamer. Put those possibilities on your very own horizon and see what happens.

Last year I did not go mountain biking, I did not run a marathon, I did not go on a writers retreat or begin a book. I believed I could and I wrote those goals down. Do I feel sad with regret. No. My life got in the way, I had to rely on external people to complete my house. Our house took a whole two years to complete. I never thought it would take so long and consume so much of my time. But it did and now I am sitting in a beautiful home. I stumbled on a wonderful opportunity to coach a rugby team, it wasn’t on the  goals list or on my agenda, but it happened and I took a leap of faith and went for it and it has enriched my life. 

Last year I did spend more time with the family and friends I love. I completed circuits in Bushy Park and run half marathons instead. I meditate regularly, it is now an integral part of my life. I embraced Carpe Diem and went on lots of mini-adventures around the city I love. Do I feel I’m Good Enough, some of the time, I’m a work in progress. I am grateful for the wonderful life I led in 2015.

So, enough of looking back. What about the future. What does 2016 hold for me?

1) I am going to get to Scotland and run up those mountains

2) I am going to read so much more and enjoy that process of being fully engaged, engrossed and sleep deprived with lots of good books. Recommendations much appreciated please.

3) I am going to go on a writers’ course or retreat.

4)  I am going to say YES to fitness adventures, whatever they may be. 

5) I am going to control my social media addiction and ration my time online so that I use it far more productively. Social media has become my latest form of procrastination, it used to be reading the news. I am not going to look at social media before my breakfast and I am not going to look at it in bed before I go to sleep. I am going to give myself time slots and stick to it. I am going to spend my time more wisely reading or writing or training. 

6) I am going to attempt to log all training so that I can see what I have achieved at the end of the year, whatever that may be 1000kms, whatever, no pressure on myself to achieve a certain number, just an opportunity to look back and see how much progress I have made. 

7) I am going to have a lot more fun in my life. I have a lovely work friend who is so very cultured and it has made me realise that when I lived in Cardiff I used to love to go to the theatre, so I am going to book tickets and go see stuff. I am going to let my hair down a little bit more often, drink cocktails and make the effort to go out. I am a self-proclaimed hermit, who would happily never go out. I find it so draining, I like being in the comfort of my own home far too much. This year I am going to be organised, get dolled up and go out. I have bought sparkly heels in preparation. Now for the invites to come rolling in……..it might be a while, I’m known to be a bit flaky on the social side of life! I think I might need to make this happen myself

8) I am seriously considering moving abroad for two years. I need to stop dreaming and work out logistics, is it possible with 4 dogs. Can I make this happen, what do I need to do to make this happen. It is far more complex when you have a partner, 4 dogs and a mortgage to consider. I think I need a recce trip to see if this really is for us. 

9) what makes me happy- being outdoors in the mountains or by the sea. There needs to be a lot more of this in my life. Can I find a way to make this work in my life. Do we need to move to the sea or the mountains to make me feel happy or is there another way. More of a question than a goal, I realise this. 

10) Find work that makes me feel I am making a difference in this world. This is a big one for me, I won’t expand on it now, maybe a blog post later this year. 

11) complete a blooming marathon. End of. 

12) Do things that make other people happy that gives me great joy too. 

13) Because of the house I didn’t travel, our budget didn’t stretch as far as house AND holidays. So this year spondoolies-allowing, I will satisfy my wanderlust and visit new countries. I will have a White Christmas on the slopes somewhere. 
2016. Go Big. Dream Big Dreams. Go after those Dreams.  Why Wouldn’t You? 

My life is already pretty damn good. I have good friends. I have family that love me despite and because of all of my faults. I am coaching rugby, the sport I love. I have my health. I have a job that sometimes in the middle of my lessons make me feel like I’m truly appreciated and that I am making a difference to a child’s life. I would even go as far as to say I’m pretty fit. I have a beautiful home. I am grateful for all these things in my life. So why not Dream Big? I am going to make big changes in my life, always embrace change- it is the only constant in our life. 

If I asked you to dream big, what would those dreams be? what would you dare to allow yourself to dream of? 

Yoga and Mindfulness with Teens and Me

I am fortunate enough to work in a school with girls who are switched on to learning. What does this mean in practice? Well, they turn up ready to engage in whatever I prepare, there isn’t any challenging behaviour, I teach every minute of my lesson the content of my subject, nothing else. Of course, along the way they learn about turn taking, teambuilding, self-confidence, self-expression. Sounds like heaven for some teachers, hell for others.

The issues I see in my classroom is the weight of expectation and results. They pile the pressure on themselves, their parents emphasize how important it is to do well, the school has a long history of academic success. Society says unless you go to the best universities, achieve the best grades you just won’t go anywhere. My students are all to aware of  life after school. Sometimes I catch myself having conversations with 14 year olds who know what university they want to go to, what career they want. I look back and think how much I simply daydreamed about Summer holidays and which book to read next. It makes me sad for a lost childhood. These are society savvy kids who already seem to be on our little hamster wheel of a rat race. And this makes me so sad. I grieve for the loss of their genuine childhood.

To make up for it in a very small way I ensure our PE department offers key stage four and five yoga and mindfulness. We are one of the lucky few who can afford to offer a yoga instructor, well trained and empathetic to their needs. She floats in to the dance studio an image of calmness and togetherness and if I’m honest the girls are in awe. They want to take away a little bit of that peacefulness of spirit. They crave it. And if I’m honest so do I. Every Tuesday I sit amongst my year 11 students as she asks what would they like the focus to be and every week they beg for Shavasana and breathing and quietness.

They playfully giggle and explore the sun salutations and poses, some are braver than others and will try anything upside down. Their personalities beam out as some remain cautious and stick with what they know their body can do and others explore their limits. That is the wonderful thing about yoga, it is all ok. Whatever you feel is right for you, is right for you. This is a gentle form of exercise, there is no judgements. Of course, there is wonderment as our yoga teacher demonstrates the extension of these poses that we fumble our way through. But they all get it, they all feel in a safe place. How many girls feel that physical activity and sport is a safe area? How many cringe at the feelings of judgements, how many are mortified as they compete as individuals or teams and shy away from the whole experience? As a teacher, a physical practitioner, I never get that vibe in the yoga class. I feel an energy that comes from the girls that says ‘it’s ok to just be me’. I wish there were more opportunities for those kind of feelings in Physical Education and Sport at all ages.

And then the magic begins. We finish our physical part and we begin to explore the mind. We lie down, palms to the skies, eyes closed, we breath as a collective, as an individual and for a few moments we just allow ourselves to be in the moment. For me I think about a blue sky, and every thought passes over like a cloud and I let it pass. They are mostly thoughts of what I need to do next in my day. But I allow myself to just empty my mind momentarily.Amazingly, so do the girls. I see as we roll up our mats, that they need that space. For a moment to be nothing, do nothing, think nothing. No pressure, no exams, no essays, no judgements, no worrying. They all chitter, chatter about how hard they find it. Some don’t find it hard at all and are so relaxed the fall asleep. The hardest part for them is spending a few moments meditating, not snoring and dribbling. But that’s ok too.

I know there is science behind, I know that it has positive effects. I know there is research to back up my thoughts. Every Tuesday and Wednesday I see it happening before my very eyes. I see a class leaving sleepy, chilled out, renewed, energised, ready to take on the challenges of the day. Wouldn’t it be nice if the government had a broader view of physical education. Wouldn’t it be great if sometimes we looked at it with an alternative perspective. Maybe then it wouldn’t be a case of women finding physical activity in their 30’s because they were so scarred by their experience in their teens. If state schools had a little bit more money to spend on broadening the curriculum then maybe every student could find the something that switches them on. Yoga seems to be the switch to physical activity for almost a third of my year groups. Of course, I still have the third who play on the teams, who participate competitively. But what about that other two thirds? Let’s get every single person moving, it’s easy for us to target those who are super engaged and competitive and super sporty. What if actually we need to find something that can make every single female ‘sporty’ and not in that jolly hockeysticks kinda way?

Back to my class. The class is packed out, the girls jump to choose it. They love the asanas and the mindfulness in equal measure. I wish every school could afford the luxury of an experienced, mindful yoga teacher that could give every child an opportunity to have a few moments to just be.Wouldn’t that be nice?  I am so very lucky that I get to sneak into these classes and get my Om on for a few precious moments every week!   What was your nemesis at school? Did you get switched off? What could have helped you find your thing? What physical activity makes you tick?

 

Automatic Pilot

  Do you ever feel like you are on cruise control? Automatic pilot has kicked in and you are mindlessly chugging through your life. I feel like that right now. More than ever I feel I know myself less and less and that I am on a directionless path. Mostly, this is to do with my career, but in general life too.

My relationship with work has been a sad, fading, distancing break up. I no longer head to work with passion and excitement. Is it like a relationship, which is full on at first and then fades? Well, I seem to be sat amongst the dying embers of a fire. I don’t really know why, have I not paid it enough attention? have I not tried enough? Have I not been grateful enough for all the joyous small moments? I’m not quite sure, I just know that it leaves me feeling empty, feeling like a fraud as I pick up my comfortable payslip.

Well, that’s easy. Change it, right? Well, yes. But only if you know what you want to change it to. Eight years ago I completed a post-grad in journalism and didn’t want to change to that. I sit here daydreaming about assistant headships, Masters, working for charities. But honestly, why change if you don’t really know what to. Out of the frying pan into the fire? Is it my procrastination, my dreaming that leaves my stuck in auto-pilot? Or is it my sensible self ensuring I pay that mahoosive mortgage?

I coached rugby this last weekend, and all my input made not a blind bit of difference. They simply didn’t function, of course I completely blamed myself and my coaching style. I thought to myself, maybe I’m not the only one cruising along on auto-pilot, maybe they just rocked up, without thought and just went through the motions.

Isn’t it easier to do that than be thoughtful, be mindful. To consider where you are right now and what you want in life and how you are going to get there. I am well and truly exhausted of considering what I want. I have thought so much about it that it all those thoughts seemed to have lodged themselves like a lump of cement and hardened around my feet and I am well and truly stuck in the same spot.

I would like to think that 2016 will be different. I have realised that I do not want more time to think about it. I just need to plum for something, anything. I need to think about what I want and just go for it. I can’t keep on telling myself to be brave. I simply need to be brave. Take control. Only I can set myself on the path I want to go on.

Do you ever feel like you are stumbling through sticky toffee? Like you are simply on auto-pilot and are going through the motions? How do you ever just stop, take stock and move forward? I don’t have the answers, I’m just wondering……

 

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