50 Shades of Grey – The Wardrobe Challenge!

Do you ever feel like sometimes life is a little bit grey? But not in the good silk tie kinda way?

Feeling a bit same old same old?

Bit MEH?

Need a bit of a shake up?

I often get that feeling. The need to liven things up a bit, dust the cobwebs away and reinvigorate my soul.

In fact, I have this habit of moving the furniture around in my house every 6 months, just so I feel like the room is new. Does anyone else do this, or am I slowly turning into Lawrence Lewellyn-Bowen? I think I watch too many makeover shows and have an unhealthy addiction to Pinterest, but it always makes me feel energised and fresh, even if it is short term.

I have been having that feeling again recently, but rather than my home decor it is ME!

THE WARDROBE CHALLENGE!

I truly believe that the way we feel on the inside is usually reflected on the outside and Visa Versa.

I have never really been someone who thinks about fashion or adheres to trends or style.  I never had the cool trainers or bought into brands and logo adorned clothing, apart from one Addidas tracksuit that I lived in throughout 1999. In fact, I have always been someone who really doesn’t give a crap about their looks all that much and is a staunch comfort queen.

3 years of wearing nothing but monochrome jogging bottoms and old, stained tops at Drama School, rolling around on top of each other in dusty studios, no makeup on, hair scraped back, rubbing your face in warm-ups and generally looking like a deranged foetus, whilst sounding out the atmosphere of the ocean, does not a glamour puss make!

All the energy for looking good went into performances. That was dress up time. Fancy, colourful costumes, thick war paint on and corsets, heels and Spanx shaping your body into unnatural spinal contortions. Pretty hurts, but it’s so much fun!

And don’t even get me started on being a mummy and how the exhaustion, sheer amount of vomit, faeces, snot and other bodily fluids ruin your appetite for getting dressed whatsoever. I literally spent the first 3 years of motherhood in the same bloody hoodie and yoga pants just to keep the laundry pile smaller.

I did go through a phase of cute dresses when I went back to work but generally have always been best friends with oversized cardigans, floaty yoga pants, work boots and my good old trusty leggings. I am quite a cold person as well, so love a good scarf to add to the pile of material, hiding everything about me.

For work I will make an effort though- I am not a complete disaster. I do have nice clothes and a crazy awesome collection of Poetic Licence and Irregular Choice shoes, (that I don’t really wear because I don’t wear heels – but hey, they are sooooo pwetty!)

Outside of my job, however, I tend to wear the same thing over and over again. I play it safe and like an easy life. A lot of grey, black, navy and brown… Plus, choosing outfits in the morning, when you have to get a reluctant 7 year old out the door, is just too much like hard work! I am generally rocking a bird’s nest hairdo being held up by a pen from my handbag, my child’s socks, because I didn’t pair mine up and a tea stained cardy. HOT!!!!

Now, I am not saying I am about to start dressing like one of those yummy mummies that I hate, with their Hunter wellies, riding jodhpurs and £100 Joules macs on – good god, you live in the suburbs – not rural Oxfordshire! PUT DOWN THE TWEED!

But who am I to judge? They probably think I am in my pyjamas!

MACIGAL CLOTHING!

So, I was at work the other week and was wearing a new wrap dress-coat I had bought. Nothing too fancy, but I loved it and decided it was right for the job I was doing. A character choice if you will.

At the end of the session, a client came up to me and said that she had wanted to tell me how she thought I was beautiful. How the way I moved, held myself and generally my presence always struck her and how she just had to tell me that she thought I was stunning! She continued on for 5 minutes and we ended up having a lovely discussion about how women needed to boost each other more often. (Feel kinda shit about the Farmer’s wives now!)

So WOW! Not only to get such an ego-boosting compliment at all but for such a beautiful thing to say to a woman who considers herself to look more like Oscar the Grouch, was such a touching moment. Compliments can be hard to take, but this one had me all goosebumpy and welling up inside.

Now, apart from the fact that I walk away from the session, sashaying to my car like I am Queen Bey at the Grammys, it also got me to thinking.

I am my most confident at work, for sure, so that plays a huge part. My entire job is to have presence and charisma and to work a crowd etc. so that all makes sense. Energy and engagement are what I do, whether I am acting, facilitating, speaking in public or teaching. They all require me to BE ON! So of course people get that from me, because I am doing it on purpose.

But, I also think it was the DRESS!

It wasn’t a sexy outfit by any means. In fact, it was a huge floaty burgundy thing that I thought made me look like a wizard for a job I was doing on The Tempest! But I felt awesome in it. I felt like magic!

So, I want to set myself a new challenge! Not a huge one but one that is going to require some effort!

I am going to take a stab at dressing to feel a bit more badass – just for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to throw away my cardigan collection just yet, or start buying the latest waxed jacket, but I am going to make bolder choices. I need to change things up a bit, make time to reflect my personality a bit more and to dress in ways that make me feel, well a little bit more magic!

This sounds like quite a superficial challenge, but is ultimately about confidence and self-care as well, about bringing the colour back into my wardrobe that I love so much and have slacked on in recent years. I am going to start showing off my body instead of hiding it under mountains of layers.

So today, as I go off for the day, I am wearing a bright yellow dress and have dyed my hair red! (I have a cardigan in my bag, just in case!)

Welcome to my Fort Kids – It has colours, confidence and sashaying badasses in it! 

 

7 Years Single – My Dating Profile!

People often ask me why I am single.

It usually goes something like this;

“You need to get yourself out there, you are not getting any younger. You need to find yourself a man, get back on the horse, jump back in the saddle and straddle life a bit more, take life by the reins.”

(TOO many weird equestrian idioms for one sentence? I guess dating is a bit like being a show pony though! ‘Look how pretty I am, how elegant and graceful, look at my cute ribbons and how I can trot sideways without falling over… wait, this has taken a weird turn. Where was I?

Ah yes, and the most popular question is always,

“How long has it been?”

“Um like…7 years.”

And down goes the jaw to the floor, hands raised to the sky like I am being blessed by the heavens, to cure my terminal illness. People look at you differently all of a sudden and call you irritating things like ‘Brave’ and ‘Strong’, to backtrack on their initial, unabashed dismay.

I also have people quite openly ask me other types of special questions like, “What? Like not even a quickie or, you know, a casual thing just to feed the beast?” Or, “Don’t you miss sex?” Or my absolute favourite comments, “It’s probably grown back!”, “We need to air out the bat cave don’t we.” And “Do you even know how to do it anymore?” All of which are delightful and not at all embarrassing, shaming or indicative of how we still put an inappropriate value on our worth in conjunction with our sexual activity. I am but a comedy spinster in a Jane Austen remake! I hadn’t realised my vagina was of such a concern to you or indeed any of your business, to discuss over coffee and overpriced cupcakes. But apparently, when you are celibate, you are a rare deep sea creature, (you know the ugly, glow in the dark kind), and the door is wide open on your private parts.

Suddenly, phones and laptops are whisked out, and I am seated in front of all of their social media contacts, including Google Plus and LinkedIn, (I mean, really?) They furiously scroll down to ANYONE single, because well… I must be desperate right? All the while ignoring the freshly painted bitch-face I am now wearing.

Everyone becomes an expert matchmaker, and everyone just wants you to be happy. I get it, it is all well intentioned, and it’s sweet of you to care and all…

But here is the thing, – I have been single on purpose! It was a choice, a bold and necessary decision and I don’t regret it one bit!

When I became pregnant, I had this image of myself. A barefooted, organic earth mother, but still fresh and trendy actress, living the hipster parent life in London Town, breastfeeding my baby in rehearsal rooms and still being able to go out with the girls and end up in the Arts Bar or The Groucho club, singing show tunes with Michael Ball every weekend. (This only happened once.)

My wedding was all planned out in my head, I was going to be the best wife to my city slicking husband, and we would be the envy of all. Everything was going to be PERFECT! My life was going to be a feel-good box office smash.

(I just threw up in my mouth a little bit!) Yes, I was a dick!

How naïve and blissfully unaware I was of what was to come.

When I became a single mother, Noah was just a mere 5 months old, and my whole plan was doomed like The Mary Rose, sinking before she had even left the harbour! Not waving, but drowning kinda bad!

182070_10150413278875046_4090297_n
My first true love!

After a few months of gasping for air, I slowly learnt to breathe again and dragged myself out of the murky waters of a nervous breakdown and set about making a new life for my son and me on the solid ground. I was so determined to make sure that I stuck to my plan of how I wanted to raise my son. I wasn’t going to change it all suddenly because I didn’t have another adult to share it with.

A massive part of that was deciding to focus on raising Noah, to healing my broken and weary heart and, to finding out what this new life was going to be – basically keeping my shit together, one agonising day at a time. This left no room for men. This left no room for anything else actually. I was holding myself together with school glue just long enough to keep my beautiful mini human alive!

And that I did! I can now confirm that he is still alive and in a mere 4 months, going to be an 8-year-old! None of my plants have survived that long, so I feel pretty fucking pleased with myself, thank you very much!

It has been a long hard road, but one that I wouldn’t change for anything.

The thing is, I was broken. Like really, really, really broken. It took me 3 years to just keep us on dry land. Then I went and got a teaching job, which was just about as much as I could cope with after creating the best fort known to mankind! It was more like a fortress actually, and no one was allowed in without the secret knock!

Around that period, I felt like it was probably time I got back out there. I wasn’t going to go out of my way or anything but was open to the idea of letting someone in, and I was sure it would happen organically and that I was going to meet people, now I was out in daylight a lot more. But, every time I convinced myself and others around me, that I was ready, my drawbridge would come snapping up, and the moat would be flooded. I always found excuses, like, I had no time, or I am too exhausted, or, childcare is tricky, blah blah blah. All of which are absolutely 100% accurate and the leading causes of most single parents not dating. But they were excuses nonetheless. To cover up the fact that I was still, a little bit broken and plainly WASN’T READY!

25500_10150178149440046_7105833_n
We like to dress up in matching outfits

So here we are. 2017 and I am still not sure if I am ready. I am forever changed by the experiences I have had with men, so although not quite so broken, still scarred indefinitely. But I do know this. I have spent the last 7 years of my life dedicating my very existence to being just a mummy and letting no one else past the gate! Everything I have done over my son’s lifetime has been for him, because of him and what I thought was in his best interest. And that is the way that I wanted it to be. He was and still is my absolute everything, and I owe that kid my life. For reals!

I have recently been having some feelings. I know, scary stuff! I have the overwhelming sensation that the fort is missing something. I never wanted to need someone, I am a stubborn and fiercely independent woman, who doesn’t like asking for help, even when she really needs it, and will watch YouTube for all things considered ‘manly’ jobs. I even learnt how to plumb my own dishwasher and everything, and so was never one to NEED a man about the house. I don’t need your money, I have built 2 businesses from scratch, I have been the mum and the dad for this long, I don’t need saving on a white fucking horse – unless it is a unicorn and I am ALL YOURS handsome!

No. I am just now ready to share my life with someone. I can’t keep myself hostage any longer. I need to start sharing the secret knock. Noah even wants me to find someone now, (probably so I don’t end up with even more cardigans and cats and living in his annexe when I am old – selfish spawn!)

I don’t have an extensive list of requirements or type suggestions to add or have a particular look or anything, I just have this:

About Me: I am a woman, who eats peanut butter from the jar and drinks milk from the carton. I am allergic to housework and am most likely going to poison you with my cooking. You will eat it and smile and tell me how horrific it was on the way to A&E. I fuck up on an almost daily basis and celebrate each small victory with a 30-second dance party. I snort laugh and am often the most inappropriate one in the room. I swear too much and have a weird sense of humour that often leaves awkward silences. Embrace it! I don’t iron unless I am melting the wax off the rug because candles are everywhere, and don’t eat cake so if you want someone who bakes, Mary Berry I isn’t. I work with children every day, so will often come home dressed as a caterpillar or magical creature with too much glitter on my face. I look like a bedraggled banshee in the mornings and own a top notch floordrobe.. I have a son and 2 cats who I love more than you and you have to be ok with that. I put my makeup on in the car and gag when brushing my teeth. I will not talk to you in the mornings, but will annoyingly wake you up in the night to tell you all the amazing 1534880_10151895373646169_1762883933_othings in my head! I promise to be a holy fucking mess and not apologise for it, because, well, I won’t. We have crazy Fridays and will go on spontaneous road trips, so have a bag packed always. I drive like a maniac and take mugs of tea with me wherever I go. I will sing lines from shows half –way through a conversation, and I will most likely bore you with useless facts. I won’t put up with lies or games and have a very low tolerance for bullshit, you are someone we are letting into our fort, and you must respect the rules of our land. So, come if you dare, intrepid traveller, welcome to our fort, I am opening the doors to a few lucky golden ticket holders.

The Dating Challenge

Challenge #2: I will sign myself up to some dating apps and also take offers from friends who would like to set me up on blind dates. I aim to go on at least 1 date by the end of May. (I will be taking this at my own pace peeps.)

Here goes! Now where are my Spanx?

Welcome to my fort – it has passwords, code breakers and secret handshakes in it!

(P.S. I will reveal the results of last week’s Improv class challenge soon, but that day took an unexpected turn and want to talk about it properly when I have processed it!)

“What’s the worst that can happen?” – Falling down to Succeed!

This is the question I ask my music students every single week!

I always ask them this same question towards the end of the lesson, when it comes to sharing what they have learnt with the rest of the class and someone hesitates or is nervous.

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

And the answer is usually a version of:

“IT WILL GO HORRIBLY WRONG AND I WONT BE ABLE TO DO IT RIGHT!”

And there we have it, the dreaded “DUM DUM DUM” moment – our FEAR OF FAILURE!

A feeling I know all too well – BIG TIME! As an actor and someone in a creative and often extremely vulnerable and exposing industry, I put myself in a rather awkward spot some might say. But, I wasn’t always so held back by my fears, in fact I used to get a weird kick out of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and always found my way out the other side better off, if not, triumphant. It was the fine balance between adrenaline and testosterone propelling me forward instead of fleeing to my fort.

But over the years and some very specific life events thrown into the mix, the balance shifted, something went out of whack and I developed an almost unhealthy version of this fear – Atychiphobia!

Atychiphobia is just that, it is a phobia – of failing. Not just the average run of the mill, ego-inducing fear of looking like a twat if you messed up, but a debilitating fear of doing anything that might not have a perfect result, and as a consequence, not only avoiding situations where there was a possibility of looking less than perfect, but also pretty much sabotaging any chance of happiness – by not trying anything at all!

So one day in 2013 and after 4 years of sitting comfortably and safely in my fort, I decided enough was enough and something had to shift. I made a list of all my biggest fears and decided that one by one I was going to see what happened if I faced them!

FUN FACT: We are all born with 2 fears – DEATH and FALLING! Everything else is manufactured throughout our lives.

So I chose those 2 things first, you know just to ease me into it. Gently does it!

The first fear on the list, was my fear of heights and falling from said heights, to my death. A BUNGEE JUMP.

My friend was going to do a local bungee jump and I was going along to support her. She had been talking about it for weeks and how it was ‘A Leap of Faith’ and how it changed everything for her when she had done it the previous year.

To paint a picture (and my darling dad will testify to this), I won’t even climb a ladder to the loft without spinning out and saying my last goodbyes, so there was NO WAY I was going to do it, I would just go and watch, feel a little bit sick at the thought of my friend diving off a crane, plummeting toward the earth at an unnatural speed and then go home safe in the knowledge that I was sensible, grounded and alive and have a cup of tea.

But something weird happened the night before and I may or may not have been drunk, but I went a little bit mental and blacked out because I happened to have signed myself up online and paid the fee to do the jump and then told my friend I was coming with her. I still to this day don’t remember taking the decision, so cannot comment on how I consciously got the gumption to become all brave and what not.

The next morning, before I had even opened my eyes, the panic started to rise and the comprehension of what I had done, drove me into a paralysed, quivering and breathless mess. What have I done? I can’t believe I did that? I can’t do that. I can barely jump rope let alone jump off a crane – you’re an idiot, this is suicide, you have a child, he can’t be an orphan now… WHY for the love of… OK, no big deal, the money goes to charity anyway, I just won’t do the jump, it will be fine, my friend won’t mind and will understand, no one else knows about it, so let’s just forget it ever happened. Shhhhhhhhhh! And breathe. Except my friend, who was also a teacher at our school, had let slip to some of the parents coming to support and now half the school knew, the kids had made 976666_10201361655471324_1695618910_o (2)banners for fuck sake and got a crowd ready to come down to the park – (how early did these guys get up?) NEWS TRAVELS FAST!!!

SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!

I was going to bottle it and now the fear of failing was having a massive bust up in the car park with my fear of falling – What the actual fuck?

You know the ending to this one already, so I will skip the part where I ended up in a crane cage with the Mayor and had ITV news filming my every move and get to the point. (Although, these two points did have a very big part in my decision, heightening the experience beyond what anyone had ever expected – only me could this happen to!)

So I jumped – or rather I let go! The bungee jump guy in the cage with me, told me to count to 5, got me to put my hands out in front of me and then he let go of my harness in 1… 2… 3… I didn’t even hear him after that!

So there I was, plummeting toward the earth, eyes shut, breath held and ready to meet my fate, everything still and silent. I may have passed out momentarily, because the next thing I remember is my body being yanked from oblivion and flying back up into the sky. I HADN’T DIED! The rope had not snapped, my feet were still attached and I opened my eyes to the banner, my 3 year old and a news crew all screaming and cheering at me metres away as I bobbed lower and lower to 2 saviours who grabbed my arms and pulled me onto a mattress. I laid there for what seemed like an hour, heaving and sobbing and punching my fists in the air like I had just won the Olympic gold medal for staying alive! 994741_10201361697832383_376373182_n

Needless to say that my phobia of failing was still strong willed that day, which led me to conquer the biggest fear I thought I had.

I want to be able to tell you that I can now go up ladders like a boss and that I have done a sky dive since and am some adrenaline junkie dare devil – but that would be a big fat lie. In fact, doing the jump made me realised how much I didn’t ever want to do it again.

But it did change everything else!

I let go!

I let go of staying still, I let go of not experiencing life in case I got hurt, I let go of feeling like everything was a threat and I let go of the girl trapped the fort! I suddenly started my life again, started making decisions to be happy, to move forward and to live my life a little bit more adventurously again.

Don’t worry, I still love my fort like a crack whore loves crack and have an incredibly long way to go, especially when it comes to putting myself out there creatively, but I have come a VERY long way.

I ask my students the same question every week, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

And my answer is always this:

Nothing! You might get it wrong, but the world won’t stop, the ceiling isn’t going to cave in, a dinosaur is not going to burst through the window. You won’t die!

(I also make them fist pump at the end of every session, sans the heavy snot-faced crying from me.)

Here’s the thing – I didn’t die and it felt awesome! I have since gone on to do hundreds of things that have terrified me, including starting this blog, but I still need reminding of my own advice on an almost daily basis at the moment.

So I would like to up the challenge.

Here is my pledge:

I Challenge myself to do one thing that scares me every week for the next year!

Challenge #1: I have booked myself on to an improvisation class this week – the epitome of letting go! I will report back next week!

Welcome to my fort, it has cats, over-sized scarves and buckets of tea in it! 

Welcome to my Fort…

Hi there tinternet,

I have had this blog page since 2011, when I was a stay at home mum, doing lots of awesome things like creating cute and eco-friendly veggie patches, crafting my entire Christmas, making organic baby mush, being a paleo goddess and generally rocking the whole ‘Earth Mother’ bullshit that I thought I was supposed to be doing to be a good woman. The kinda stuff people seem to find infinitely interesting to read about, watch you tube tutorials on and spend vast amounts of time creating pinterest boards for inspiration for their own – I know because I am one of these people!

Well obviously it didn’t actually happen – depression and anxiety happened and a loss of self-confidence and the stresses of becoming a single mother took its toll.

Skip, jump, leap and frolic ahead several years and I remembered I had this empty vessel waiting to become my new project (because I haven’t got enough to do, clearly).

So the whole perfect parenting thing went out the window after a couple of years and life is rather different now. My mini human is now 7 years old, going on 17, I am a business owner, entrepreneur, professional actor (again) and have quite a lot on my plate – no time for that veggie patch now, in fact I am pretty shit at all things domestic, (I recently killed the basil plant and burnt a pizza), so you get the picture… I am a HOT MESS.

So this blog is going to be about just that.

I have spent many years fighting the good fight to feel like a good human, but the threat of failure and the need for perfection often stopped me from achieving things, acting on creative ideas and putting myself out there for my career. I also commit a lot of my time to beating myself up for not being the perfect mother, feeling guilty at most points throughout my son’s life and tying myself up in knots just to appear to be holding all my shit together.

So this is a new beginning, a challenge if you will – to break the cycle of creative self sabotage and to fight my paralysing perfectionism, to be open and frank about some of the things in life that I don’t usually talk about, mainly because I am a single working parent with no social life and very few friends to talk to, (can you hear the tiny violin?) and to keep a diary of some of the new projects and tasks I am taking on – the accountability factor, which I am expert in avoiding.

So dear readers, if there are any out there… brace yourselves, here comes the train wreck that is my life – look out for my adventures into dating after being single for 7 years, literally not even sure what is down there anymore, healthy living quests, parenting fails, adulting fails and general ramblings on life.

Welcome to my fort kids – it has crayons, fairy lights and gin!