As much as a record for myself as a sharing for others, I wanted to create this list of books read this year. No reviews, no synopsis just a list that you might use as inspiration, or you might just choose to skim by :)
Read any of these yourself? Let me know!
I say no reviews, but I did add an asterisk to the ones I particularly enjoyed, and a double asterisk to the ones I loved…
Afternoons With The Blinds Drawn | Brett Anderson *
Mindfulness And Surfing | Sam Bleakley
The Dalai Lama’s Cat | David Michie *
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race | Reni Eddo-Lodge ** (also see here)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people describe her as ‘the mean one’, ‘the not friendly one’, ‘the hissy one’, ‘the stubborn one’ but the thing is she was the MOST loving cat – you just had to meet her where she was, and not everyone was willing to do that.
With me, she gave everything and, from her, I received some of the most wholehearted love and affection I’ve ever known.
She was her own woman though – to the extent that Jaime would often joke that she and I were essentially the same – and she’d make no qualms about showing you that she was the one in charge.
She’d sit and wait for AGES before deciding that she did indeed want to be in your lap. And she’d do a similar thing in the bedroom, padding her way towards my side of the bed (avoiding the rug – I don’t know why but she never made friends with that part of the rug), only to sit there for a while, peering up at me, before eventually giving in to the fact that I was where she wanted to be.
When she got there though… those were the moments. Absolute bliss, on her side and yours. She would nuzzle and purr like you were the only thing in the world, there’d be endless head bunts and she’d smoosh her head into any little gap – whether a neck, elbow crease or armpit! With me there’d often be a lick or a nose nibble as well, and I miss so much the pressure of her head, and the sandpapery feel of her tongue.
Without a doubt she was my cat but she loved her adopted Dad too. She and Jaime had their own thing going on and, particularly if he was wearing this one pair of jeans, I wouldn’t get a look in!
She was four when I introduced Renzo and despite initially being what you might describe as ‘less than impressed’, over time they became definite buddies. He’s always been a bit less feisty than her though, and many a time we’ve heard him get into trouble with a neighbour cat only for her to (again) pop off to his rescue, huge puffed up tail in tow. It was uncanny in the later years, the way I’d find them lying in the same place, together but apart, in identical positions.
I think we, and he, miss their ‘funny half hour’ of mindlessly chasing each other around the house. And he misses her in other ways too. It broke my heart in the days after she’d gone to see him looking at her spot on the bed as if to say ‘where’s she gone, Mum?’. And doing the same at tea time – actively looking for her and her bowl. We have to stay with him at the moment while he eats, or else he’ll wander off elsewhere and get distracted.
A friend and student said to me in the week of her passing that “I’d lost a true companion and teacher” and how true that is. I’d watch her in awe at times – wondering at her ability to be so consumed by the present moment, and impressed by her unwillingness to be anything other than who she was.
Because for sure she hissed at me too, and I’ve been on the receiving end of many a swipe with her paw – but I’d always knowingly overstepped her boundaries and she was only ever putting me back in my place.
She understood sensitivity; she had introvert characteristics. If the house was full of people, she’d be upstairs on the bed and that was that. If she was in the hallway, or on the stairs and you walked up to her/past her too quickly she’d let you know about it and quickly turn tail to run away. This, I think, is where she was misunderstood by many. But again, all you really needed to do was take some time to understand things from her perspective too.
Perhaps because of her sensitivity she’d ALWAYS be there if I needed her. I’d pick her up and she’d loop her paws over my shoulder and smooth her cheek against my face. If I found her on the bed, I’d curl myself around her and we’d lie like that for as long as was needed. I’m missing this part of her in a big way – it’s like my best friend, my comfort blanket is gone.
Renzo, interestingly, has stepped up here since her leaving – and whenever I’ve been upset he’s mysteriously appeared, delivering head bunts and purrs in a way that’s really never been typical of him before.
There are other changes too, not least him becoming more vocal – because whereas she used to do all the heavy lifting around ‘reminding’ us it was food time, he now is left to fend for himself!
It is definitely still more quiet than it used to be though. We’d never realised how much sound she contributed to our lives but the little wheeze she had as she breathed, her enormous purr, as well as her general day-to-day chuntering, is a backdrop that is now very much missed.
She was an unconditional ally in all kinds of times. Over 12 years, three jobs, a marriage, a divorce and a pretty steep learning curve as a stepmum she has been there.
I miss her love of the sunshine, her passion for a tennis ball, her meticulous and elegant grooming habits. I miss her presence as I teach (she has become well known to students these past months), her silhouette cwtched in under the duvet on the bed, the feel of the bridge of her nose. I even miss her relentless protests in the morning as she campaigned for someone, anyone, to get out of bed and open the food cupboard.
I’d give anything to have been able to change things. We had no notice that she was even ill, and before we knew it she was gone. I’m only grateful to the vet for allowing Jaime and I to be with her at the end but I do wish I’d been able to hold her while she was still aware that I was there.
Rossi, you were a unique and wonderful girl and your presence in my life was the best gift I could ever have asked for. Know that you have the warmest corner of my heart to live in now, and I will never let you go.
I know. It’s a strong statement, a book changing your life. And yet there is something about the written word that has the power to transform. I can hand on heart tell you that I was different after reading these books. I had new perspective, new insight, new understanding. And each of them rendered me changed forever.
These three books are ones I’d recommend to you in a heartbeat – and perhaps I already have. Get them, read them, share them, honour them. ABSORB them.
Much love to you all,Lis x
Women Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés
“A healthy woman is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving. Yet separation from the wildish nature causes a woman’s personality to become meager, thin, ghosty, spectral. When women’s lives are in stasis, or filled with ennui, it is always time for the wildish woman to emerge; it is time for the creating function of the psyche to flood the delta”.
I revisit this book all the time and with every opening of its pages some new insight sinks in. It walked me home after a long period out in the cold, and is now a lifeline back to myself whenever I get lost. My heart is set alight with its stories, and in reading it I rediscover over and again an ageless knowledge that, once found, is clearly only ever a thing I’d temporarily lost my way to.
It’s no overstatement to say that this book was the spark that re-lit my creative fire and that led me back to wildish-ness.
“What comprises the Wild Woman? She is the female soul.”
“[Who is the Wild Woman?] La Que Sabe, The One Who Knows.”
Do you have a gnawing sense of life deserving to be something more? Wild Woman. An itching feel of having had enough of being put in your place? Wild Woman. The beginnings of a fire in your belly, calling you towards a different truth? Wild Woman.
Pinkola Estés tells us that “the Wild Woman belongs to you. She belongs to all women”. Read this book for the beginnings of your journey towards finding her.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge
“I won’t ever stop myself from speaking about race. Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak.”
If you asked me what I identify as, the bottom line would be that I am and always have been human first. Get to know me a little more and you’d see very clearly that any judgement of another human as inferior because of who they are raises an anger in me that is so deeply visceral I struggle to put it into words.
Until I read this book I had no idea of the various privileges I was carrying around in my life, and I was also pretty uneducated about the nature of systemic racism in this country.
Since reading this book however I have been both learning and unlearning. And I’ve been able to have educated and influential conversations about race with people I’d never have been able to before. This book hasn’t just changed my life but has filtered its knowledge out into the lives of those around me.
It’s a book that should be on the national curriculum. A book that EVERY white person should have to read. It will be argued that without taking up your voice in this war on racism, you are complicit… this book will give you that voice.
Put simply, it is your civic responsibility as a white person to read this book.
Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle
“You can be shattered and you can put yourself back together piece by piece until one day you wake up and realize that you have put yourself back together completely differently. This sort of change – the change that happened to me while living and writing this story […] it’s revolutionary. […] no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot fit into your old life anymore.”
This book. I read it earlier this year as an ebook, pretty much in one sitting (which, given I’d only started it as I went to bed, took me well into the night). I remember Jaime looking over at me and asking what on earth it was that had so absorbed my attention – I told him it was something important, and that the next day I was going to have to buy the hard copy in order to read it all over again.
That hard copy now has so many turned over pages I can’t count and it’s lived with me ever since. I’ve recommended it and I’ve gifted it. It is essential reading for anyone who’s ever lost themselves. For anyone who feels alone.
“We’ve never brought to each other the heavy things we were meant to help each other carry. We thought that was safer. We thought that this way our real selves wouldn’t get hurt. […] it becomes clear that we are all hurting anyway.”
Of course I see myself in this book – not in all of the details necessarily but definitely in the journey. And I have learnt new things still about myself in reading it.
It has given me courage where I didn’t yet quite have enough. Clarity where my eyes were still a little clouded. The freedom to be vulnerable in ways I hadn’t quite yet dared. It is asking me to look at and confront the fear in my life and overcome.
If you’ve ever felt the world is telling you you’re not quite good enough, this one is for you.
As I sit here this morning I am overflowing with awarenesses. I feel words seeping out of my pores and filling the space around me. The air is so thick with them that I am holding them in my hands. Frankly, there are so many words that I can never hope to capture them all – and yet I know I have to try.
Their truth is at the same time overwhelming and astonishing. Life-affirming. Rescuing. But I have to capture at least a number of them to understand them, absorb them. And the others? Those I try and sit with, slowly letting them absorb unseen – like a heavy rain slowly percolating into the ground.
As an experience, this does happen – it’s not brand new, but it’s been a little while. It’s a beautiful, graceful, awe-inspiring and privileged experience – a coming together of hundreds of micro-learnings. An alchemy of things experienced, seen, read and understood. Magic.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve taken up watching Netflix’s Queer Eye. I remember it from the first time around as a ‘makeover’ show but this new rendition is so much more than that. I’ve felt it touching my heart over and over again – at times sending me into tears. Its fundamental message is one of acceptance. Of understanding. Of unconditional love. And while these are things I believe in so hard that it’s almost painful, rightly or wrongly I spent a long time believing them to be inaccessible to myself.
Somehow I acquired the belief that to be acceptable to the world, you needed to conform to the expectations of those around you. Well let me tell you wholeheartedly that this is NOT TRUE.
But knowing something and embodying that knowledge are two different things – and while I’ve known it intellectually now for some time I still today am learning to embody it.
Which brings me back to today. I’ve been let down this week in a very familiar way, but in a way that I haven’t experienced since we went into lockdown. The space of lockdown however has made it abundantly clear that today I can choose to play this out in a different way – I can, and will, advocate for myself, shouting from the rooftops that this is not ok.
Because I know in this moment that I am more than just enough – I am exceptional. And, in the same way that I will not stand for others being made small, I myself am not to be made small either. No matter what lessons I’ve previously taught myself to the contrary
And you know what else? I know in this moment that I can also do other things that life has over time told me I cannot – I can draw. I can dance. I can write. I can be my quirky, sensitive and, yes, perhaps slightly odd self and make the world a better place for it.
I can and will continue to process my own self-realisation publicly – in the knowledge that somewhere along the way it helps someone else too.
Which segues neatly into my final realisation – around the struggle I’ve had with stepping up to work in a space that’s been calling me for an age. I broached the idea of a journalling offer with students a couple of weeks ago, but I can feel the lingering doubt in my mind that I have the authority to do so. It feels like a big step outside of my comfort zone and (literally) as I write I realise why… I’ve not been told that this is something I can do. Instead it is very much borne of my own artistry, my own vision, my own creative soul. It is me – and that is scary.
And yet. Journalling is quite simply one of my most powerful tools – allowing what I feel in my body, what I feel today in the air, to be expressed and seen. To be seen and realised. To be acknowledged and put to bed. Which makes sharing this work an embodiment of my learning that I need not be afraid, I need not be alone, I need not be anything but myself.
So I say it again, largely for the benefit of myself, it is one of my most powerful tools. And I take the hand of the little girl inside of me who is still very much afraid, and encourage her to be brave.
Three more weeks in lockdown – at least. Can I be totally honest and confess that a part of me is relieved? Primarily because my nervous system is without a doubt in the best place it’s been in ages, but also (and these things are strongly interrelated) because I’m moving so much more than I was, and I have buckets of newly-discovered time – which for me is one of the most precious resources of all.
I’ve been musing on what it is exactly that’s allowing me to see the situation in this way and so far I’ve landed on a few key things. Before I get to that though, let me be clear: I’m of course making a distinction between the lockdown and the virus and it is in no way is it my intention to take away from the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in, nor the danger posed to so many. The broader picture of where we are right now is pretty grim and, even for us, the effects of the virus are starting to knock a little closer to home but, that said, I think the positive aspects of where we find ourselves deserve interrogation – particularly if we’re to learn from them going forward.
Firstly then, as an introvert, an INFJ and a highly sensitive person I get easily overwhelmed by the world around me (though this is perhaps a surprise to many who experience me as being extremely capable in complex and stressful situations (see my previous post)). The huge reduction in the stimuli in my life as a result of the lockdown is having a significant and positive impact on my wellbeing – one that I can feel every single day. My breath is easier, my digestion better, my skin clearer, my mood (in general) happier. I mean I have no idea what I do with this realisation as we start returning to normality but I really can’t ignore how evident it has been. My nervous system, quite simply, has been rescued and I no longer spend anywhere near as much time hyped up in a sympathetic state.
Secondly, and massively interrelated with the first point, I have been moving SO much more than I do in my normal day-to-day life. And by moving I mean consciously engaging in movement practices – rather than racing back and forth to work, class and everywhere else – and expressing what I feel so that’s it not just all bound down inside of me. On top of my yoga, I’m dancing when I need to dance (it’s not always pretty but I’ve decided I don’t care!), running when I need to run, looning around making nonsensical shapes when it’s needed and I’ve even now ordered some boxing gloves and pads so I can work out my anger when that’s appropriate too. I talk ALL the time about sensing, seeing and feeling when I teach and I now get a chance to embody that in an infinitely broader sense than I was able to before.
Continuing the theme of expressing what you feel, I’ve journalled my morning pages almost every day since this began. They don’t need to make any sense and I never read them back but when I miss them the accumulation of ‘stuff’ in my body is palpable – case in point last Sunday when I had to run around the park (and I quote my own words) “like a highly strung dog that’ had just been let off its lead”. If you take one thing away from this post, perhaps make it this (the pages not the dog!) and see what kind of an impact it has on the way you feel.
Sunday aside, with my nervous system more balanced I’m better able to sustain quality interactions with friends, family and loved ones. The value in and regularity of the time I’m now spending with these people is far improved from before (even though it’s all online) and I’m treasuring our regular catch-ups in a really big way.
Another outcome of the time that’s now available (a result of both the lockdown itself, as well as the nervous system reset) is that I’m properly able to appreciate the small things in life. From taking lunch outside to bumping into students in the street (such a joy to connect with them as real-life humans and not just faces on a screen!) and seeing the garden develop day-by-day, it’s all so much more joyful than anything I was distracted by before. Furthermore, what I would have previously thought of as another tedious task to be completed (putting up pictures, watering the garden, cleaning the cats’ water fountain, even doing the dishes…) is now just a part of the richness of life. I’m not struggling to rush through these things just so I can finally sit down and that makes a massive difference to how they’re approached
And then finally… one last thing that I cannot ignore – the impact of, the glorious weather! My entire life I’ve been more alive in the warmth and the sunshine than in any other conditions and, while it’s impossible to quantify how much of an effect it’s having on my mood, I suspect it’s serving to significantly enhance the effects of everything else I’ve described above. Tomorrow I get to spend my entire birthday sitting in the garden in the sun – and I’ll take that as a celebration any day of the week.
So yes. For me the additional three weeks is not unwelcome, and I might even go as far to say that the thought of being allowed out again is actually more stressful for me than being told to stay in. Which isn’t to say I don’t have my moments (and I do believe there are probably even harder times ahead) but I’m learning so much right now about how I’d like to live my life if I could and I need more time to work out how that might be allowed to continue on in the future.
Am I alone? What’s your own experience? I’d love to hear how you’re all dealing with this lockdown so please do use the comments to share…
It’s 5:30am. I’m awake and won’t sleep again until I’ve written this down.
I’ve been writing ‘morning pages‘ for a while now – not needing to write what I’ve written and overwriting my words as I go so that eventually it’s just one big garbled mess.
These past days however I’ve found myself scribbling down thoughts that don’t want writing over – that want to stand as they are. To date it’s been a practice of private catharsis but today it’s something else. Today it wants to be seen.
[Morning pages is a practice of offloading garbage thoughts – to clear your mind before starting the day and create space for creativity.]
We are not alone.
Because what I’m feeling this week is far from unique and it strikes me that there’s comfort for all of us in knowing we’re not alone.
This week has been tough. Really tough. And, despite appearances perhaps, I’ve struggled. I’ve not slept well since the weekend – and on Wednesday I wasn’t that far from a panic attack. My sense of wellbeing changes moment to moment. There’s been worry about income, and uncertainty around travel plans. I’ve lost some future work for sure with other work hanging in the balance. My (landmark… shhhh!) birthday celebration has been cancelled. And yet… there’s also been so much community, collaboration, connection. Plus, in our house, laughter and dancing too (you have to check out this coronavirus playlist on Spotify!).
[On the birthday front, I’m pretty sure it means I can stay 39 forever…]
What were streams of messages are now video calls (my raspy voice is testament to the amount I’ve been talking!). And so many beautiful souls have gathered around in SUCH a supportive way.
But there is no getting away from the fact that where we are right now is unprecedented and, quite frankly, bonkers. It’s no wonder we’re struggling.
I’m both built and not built for this.
Jaime and I joke about how it’d be fun to swap brains for a day (in truth I don’t really think he’s all that keen). Day-to-day, where he’s maybe holding onto a handful of thoughts, I’m grappling with what feels like a thousand. And where he can recognise experiencing perhaps a couple of emotions at a time, I could make one very long list. You can start to see why this week has been a challenge.
Some of this, for me, is there to be worked on. It’s important for my mental wellbeing that I ground myself in the moment and I continue to do that through my practices – whether journalling, movement, psychotherapy etc…
And yet what sometimes presents as problematic is also a source of power. Being able to hold all these thoughts and implications in my mind makes me an exceptional problem-solver and I’m pretty damn good in a crisis. Faced with any kind of ‘situation’, I’m already 10 steps down three or four different paths in my head as I decide what to do – meaning I’ve already unblocked many of the challenges that are about to present.
A case in point… Last Sunday, waking up with a sore throat, and realising that I probably shouldn’t be socialising with people, I put classes online for a week. And then, with Boris’s announcement on Monday, the problem-solving ability kicked up a couple of gears. We were online for the foreseeable, student comms were out, a community WhatsApp was up and running and social updates were live. Yay!
[Until Wednesday when I paid the price for all the adrenaline I’d been pumping…]
Another thing about me – I seem hard wired to help people. On Monday night, all I wanted to do was wrap my arms around everyone and hold their confusion, panic and concern. Which is essentially what I was doing – within my own sphere of influence. My first thought was PROVIDE. It comes from being a sensitive soul.
It’s a much-maligned quality however, and many people in my past have requested that I minimise it. That I “not be so sensitive”. Yet it’s also another superpower – I see and feel what others are experiencing (often regardless of whether they want that known) and am therefore able to help.
The flipside of this is that I tend to seriously overlook my own needs – again a contributor to that anxious Wednesday crash.
All day Wednesday I wobbled – shortness of breath, panic, anxiety, tears… And then I turned the skills I’d been directing at everyone else in on myself – I breathed, moved, walked, journalled. And slowly things got better.
[In case you’re a Springsteen fan… I watched Blinded By The Light on Wednesday night – a great bit of light relief]
I felt better, slept better and woke in a markedly different place. And then promptly got into panic mode again when I totally forgot that teaching online required I actually send students a link at which to meet me!
What do we do about X? What if I have to cancel Y? Will Z be ok? I should call persons A, B, C, D…. My thoughts as I head off to sleep Thursday night.
This morning at silly o’clock I’m sat on the sofa writing this.
And then, later this morning, I dropped the marmite on our tiled kitchen floor – obviously it smashed. Jaime came home from a run to find a carrier bag of goopy marmite/glass mix on the counter and wryly asked ‘what did the marmite do to you?’. I became a little hysterical – firstly laughter, then tears then I don’t know – a muddle of it all together. We called it craughter…
In short, it’s SUCH a fricking rollercoaster and I know all of you are feeling this too. I suppose what I’m saying is, I see you. And I am you.
To those of you who seem to have seen all of this and have been reaching out with eerily timed messages, I am exceptionally grateful (I suspect you have some of this same ‘sensitive’ gene I do). If I’m managing to reach people as you’re managing to reach me I’ll be very happy.
Back to today…
Teaching online continues to be a journey. I said it at class last night but, even if I appear to have all this sorted out, I can assure you that I am very much still finding my way – just like everyone else. Sometimes classes will run really smoothly, other times it’ll be a bumpier ride.
It turns out I can’t teach back-to-back sessions – because holding this space online is exhausting, who knew! I need to drink more water, because talking all day is knackering my throat. I have to make more time for myself.
I’m off to take an online class myself now and, as I go, I’m reminded that I am not a superhero, no matter that every now and again it might feel that way. And neither are you.
Be gentle with yourself. Be soft, be forgiving and be patient.
I continue to be deeply grateful to all of you around me for standing by and supporting what I’m doing. And I will continue to support as many of you as I can – while continuing to resource myself deeply too.
Signing off with love,
[I think it’s worth noting that though I picked up the laptop to write this directly this morning, the only way it would exit my head and land on the page was by putting pen to paper. As we continue to spend so much stuff online right now, there might be something in that to bear in mind…]
From the moment it started to form in my mind, the title of this post was set. It seemed apt after a fortnight of not being well – and of not being able to do any of the jobs (let alone fun stuff!) I’d intended, due to a head that felt as though it was wrapped in layers upon layers of fluffy cotton wool.
[It also seemed apt after what appears to have been more than a year of not blogging. Yeowch.]
I had big plans for the Christmas break this year – not least a review of the year to date and some serious thought around what the coming year would look like. But life had other plans and it all went very much out of the window as my brain got scrambled, all my ‘pieces’ got dropped and I was left with no option but to rest up – day after day after day!
And it’s been rubbish not being well, but in truth I’ve also been dreading the inevitable moment where I got better just in time to return to everything I’d been supposedly taking a break from – and that I’d been hoping to review and reset!
Except… I’m now a day and a bit into feeling more human again and, while all of my pieces are still there patiently awaiting attention, there’s been this beautiful window in between the illness and wellness where I’ve been able to sit with what is and realise a couple of important lessons from my year, perhaps the biggest of which is that I have given FAR too little time to myself.
Sound selfish? It kind of still does to me when I see it written but honestly, no. I have taken far too little time for me. I have put myself on the very bottom of my priority list. I have in no way recognised the enormous changes made in my life. And I have perhaps most importantly definitely not created myself the space within which to deal with it. And yet I have all the tools which with to have done better.
Life huh? But hey, realisation is everything.
As I’ve begun feeling better, I’ve started moving again – albeit keeping things simple and small. And I’ve been journaling too (it’s amazing the insight you can gather from this simple act of emptying your thoughts onto paper – if you don’t already do so, I highly recommend you start). And as I’ve moved and journaled I’ve reminded myself of why I practice, why I write, and by extension what I hope to deliver as I teach…
Space that’s created by a shedding of armour, and an unravelling of truth.
It really is that simple.
And so as I head into 2019, with a slowly-clearing mind, I intend to make this a year of honouring myself. And then of course of helping you to honour yourself – if you’ll join me on the mat…
Anyone in my classes will tell you that the past few weeks have been pretty slow. Fewer poses, longer holds, more consideration, more time to be.
Classes last week of course were an exploration of yin for many – after the week I spent in training with the fabulous Norman Blair. But even before then, and now since – a very definite movement towards slow. I joked the other day that it was a reflection of the dark outside but I actually think it’s a bit more than this.
Because life for so many of us (and I am very much included) is so, so very fast. Filled with all of the next things that need doing, and the next places that we need to be.
And even now as the days turn darker (there is a link – just not the only link!) we’re pushing ourselves to maintain our spring/summer levels of activity – and as Christmas approaches to perhaps do even more! No matter that at a deeper level we’re naturally programmed to do less.
So my practice, and by extension yours if you’re a student, is slowing.
And for it I feel infinitely better. More grounded, more at ease, more nourished, more able to make the right decisions – in every walk of life. I sincerely hope you feel it too.
Slow, right now, is definitely where it’s at. And if you’re not already trying it, maybe it’s time to give it a go!
For much of my life I’ve taken on responsibility for the choices made by those around me – people close to me, people not so close to me. Ultimately, I’ve made whatever people have thought of me (and how they’ve behaved towards me) my cross to bear.
I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen to attack rather than understand. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve assumed rather than asked. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen to (whether quietly or loudly) judge rather than accept. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve decided to mock, not hold out a hand. In this latest walk of life, I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen him over me.
I’ve been judged to be too much, not enough and everything in between.
And all of it I’ve assumed responsibility for. Somehow my choices, my behaviours, my knowledge, my appearance, my love have not been enough for them. My ‘me’ has not been enough.
The thing is it’s not really my responsibility at all what other people choose to do or think, it’s theirs. Which, writing this today, seems pretty simple but somehow is a revelation that eluded me for years. Weird how sometimes the pieces just click.
Because I’ve been half a foot in one world and half a foot in another for all this time. And I wonder how many of us are doing similar – because we’re choosing to make others’ choices our own.
It of course can be a hurtful realisation in some senses – there are numerous times where people haven’t chosen to stand with me but against me, explicitly or otherwise. But being hurt by someone else’s belief that you’re somehow not good enough is far less painful than being hurt by you yourself believing you’re not good enough – which is what I’d been doing over and over. For years.
What’s in a name, huh? Apparently quite a lot actually – as I’ll unfold for you in today’s post. We jump about a bit so bear with me, and allow me to start with a story about a t-shirt I bought this week…
It’s a plain grey and fairly unremarkable t-shirt, apart from the word feminist emblazoned across the front. I wore it the day it arrived (isn’t that always a sign that you love something – when it’s on the minute it’s been bought?). I’m normally pretty blasé about slogan tees but this one is different somehow, because being feminist is a big part of who I am, and behind the word is a set of principles I believe in most strongly.
I believe in equal rights, and a just, contributory, fair society where we’re all judged very simply on who we are and how we behave as our most beautiful, unpolished, unedited, natural selves. I hate any suggestion that we should conform without good reason, and I loathe seeing judgement passed over others because somehow they don’t conform to a norm.
In this vein, I also believe in my right as a woman to be the sole ‘owner’ of myself – free to represent ‘me’ in any manner I wish, including by the name I wish.
Which brings us some way back to the point of this post.
Where names (and women’s names in particular) are concerned, I don’t believe that if you get married you should necessarily take your husband’s name. And I also don’t believe that you should necessarily adopt the title ‘Mrs’.
[Now that’s not to say I believe you mustn’t. If this is your choice, then of course it’s your choice – and I stand by what I said earlier on letting each other be our own selves, however that manifests. I have no beef whatsoever with this, and many of my friends have gone down this road. My feelings are that I don’t believe you should have to. So do what you want, not what you feel you should, and all kudos to you.]
Unsurprisingly then given the above, I was adamant when I got engaged that I wouldn’t be taking his name after marriage. And that the only transition in my title would be from Miss to Ms. Until somehow my mind was changed.
I was born Miss Lisa Nichols and on my wedding day I became Mrs Lisa Innes. And if I’m honest somewhere along the way I became excited about it too. The husband was never keen on me keeping my name, and definitely not keen on the Ms. – and nor were many others I mentioned it to either. So the alter ego that was in charge then (the one I called my ‘autopilot’ in this post almost a year ago now) got me on board.
Except then I got divorced. And immediately that this happened, I shifted from Mrs. to Ms. (which felt good!). I kept the Innes though – it was all too overwhelming to make any decisions about that – too unstable, too new, too raw and too turbulent. But things move on. And so today, 7 years since getting married and 3 years since getting divorced, I’ve begun the process of changing my name…again.
It’s taken such a time because I’ve been unsure of what to do with it to be honest. I’ve known I didn’t want my married name for some time, but reverting back to my maiden name has never seemed entirely right either (though it would be simpler!). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve toyed with the idea but it just bothers me on a number of levels. At a symbolic level for example, on the day I was married I was handed to somebody else and I don’t now want to be ‘handed back’. If there’s anything I’ve learned these past few years (full disclosure – am still learning) it’s how to be me and so I want a name that is representative of this individual self.
So it was no to Innes and no to Nichols.
[An aside… The former is hopefully easy enough to understand, the latter perhaps less so. For sure though there’s no hidden statement, or agenda. It’s simply that that person is gone – gone 7 years now – and I’ve grown and evolved so much since then that taking the name again is an impossible step backwards. It also feels to me like clouding what is a positive and empowering decision with something that seems like (though believe me it’s anything but) a showcasing of failure. Even just practically, facilitating a change back to my maiden name means producing my divorce certificate for all and sundry – which is something I’m not willing to do.]
Which means what then?
It’s been percolating for some time but now I’m sure. I’ll be changing my name to that of Ms. Lisa James.
It is a family name actually – from my Mum’s side – but there’s no hidden statement in that either. It’s a name that has roots for me but is one that I’ve not held before – which makes it at the same time new, forward-facing, and representative of an evolution of self.
If I’m honest some of the delay in me making the change this has been in not wanting to be seen to be making a choice between one parent and the other (my parents are also divorced) but I hope I’ve now been able to explain myself well enough to both that this is avoided (and if not then fingers crossed this post helps).
What’s also solidified it for me these past couple of months has been a speeding up of my understanding and acceptance of self. I’m finally ready to just be me. I know who that is, and I’m ready to give her a name.
So, James gives me ‘me’, James gives me roots, and James gives me my future. It’s not quite official yet but it’s coming. So hello Lisa James – I’m very pleased to meet you.
NB – my personal Twitter and Instagram handles have now changed so you’ll find me on both as @_lisjam. All other change will follow as the paperwork is signed, and official documents changed.