GALs and Visonaries*

As I mentioned on Friday, I’ve just finished reading Mary Beard’s ‘Women and Power: A Manifesto’ (which has now been book-napped by my mother, and I will be taking back for a second read very soon!) It really took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting to have such light sharply shone on things about the relationship between women and power, or how women in power are treated, that I’ve either never noticed or had never thought about the implications of.

On Friday I wrote about how powerful women through history were often made more ‘masculine’, or effectively had their femininity removed, in order to make them more acceptable, just like the ancient Greek goddess Anthea. I mentioned there was one other thing that had struck me reading the book.

That was the discussion about women speaking about women’s issues. And how Mary brings into question whether this is done just because women want to, or because this is the ‘safe’ space we are allowed to comfortably occupy, front and centre, in the public sphere. She looks back – obviously – to the ancient Greeks and the Romans and the few examples of women who were allowed to “publicly defend their own sectional interests, but not speak for men or the community as a whole” and even then only in “extreme examples”. She also points to a few more modern-day examples where the public speeches made by women which we hold up and laud are often women speaking about ‘women’s issues’. The implication being that the well known speeches made by men in contrast are much more diverse.

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There is more to life than simply increasing its speed

Today I have been going nowhere fast thanks to a rather painful ankle roll while strolling the uneven streets of Covent Garden last night.

It was supposed to be a busy day, zig-zagging from one side of London to another for friends, family and commitments. But stiffness and swelling setting in overnight putt a literal stop to any of that, even armed (or ankled?!) with my trusty strap.

Thanks in part to the sunshine, I decided there was no point in wallowing in self-pity and instead taking it as a sign that this was a day to slow down. I also have a nasty underlying fracture in my other ankle that left me in a boot for three weeks the last time I rolled it, so it also could have really been much worse (and very un-timely given I’m off for a yoga week in just under a week).

Slowing down doesn’t always come easily to me. A busy work schedule, often rushing from one meeting to the next, emails from waking until late at night, grabbing lunch on the go, along with a sense that free time should be filled and an interest in experiencing experiences. I talk fast and I walk fast. Sitting with thoughts and emotions, with nothing to distract, can also be very uncomfortable and unfamiliar. It takes time and some perspective to realise that silence can be a sweeter sound and slowing down makes space for rest and renewal.

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Only those who forgive can be free

I’ve been thinking a little – not a lot actually, happily less than I feared – about how you move on from love when it ends. A few of my close friends are coming out of tough breakups and so its been a topic of long conversation.

One such friend was talking to me last night about that moment when you move from loving someone, when the clouds begin to part, the dopamine they stimulated begins to drop, and you start to see some of the wood for the trees. Of course, depending on the nature of the relationship and the break-up, and your personality, this can be the start of the shift towards hatred. When with some distance you can see the things that in the moment you either didn’t see or chose to ignore. My friend said that she’s been learning not to let the hatred win, that resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. She said when she feels like she is being dragged back in she remembers the quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel:

The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference

After all, to love or hate someone is still intensely emotional.

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Fall in love with a girl

When you commit to blogging every day for 100 days, it’s pretty bloody obvious when you fail! One thing I learnt this week is that even with the best of intentions, sometimes life gets in the way. This week was a multi-day away trip for work, with long days, friendly colleagues and lots and lots of sunshine (finally, just yay). I kept up a bunch of commitments but some things like blogging I’m afraid fell away. Now back at home, I have to say I missed it and some other elements of my usual daily routine. Without realising we can become little creatures of habit.

That said, a friend said to me tonight that as long as the important things stay true, there is no need to beat ourselves up about the ‘should’. After all we can’t change the past, but actions in the present matter. And in this case, words are action enough.

This week I did manage to devour Mary Beard’s latest book ‘Women and Power: A Manifesto. And I mean devour, on one not so long train ride. I actually had the happy fortune to meet Mary recently, unexpectedly at Houghton Hall in Norfolk visiting the Damien Hirst exhibition which she was filming for her new series of BBC’s Front Row Late. Just great. As is the book.

I have and always will classify myself as a feminist. My mother – who I affectionately christened my ‘trophy mother’ – was a staunch feminist who campaigned vigorously for equal rights, and very deliberately actually equal rights, including better paternity rights. I keep meaning to get myself a matching ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ top.

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The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough

Its lucky that I made a public commitment last night to blog about my recent butterfly encounter because I have to say I couldn’t think of anything else to write about today! (Note to self, must think of a compelling blog topic tomorrow). For a rare change recently, its actually not because I am sleepy. Its actually because I have just had a really good, uneventful, happy, content day! Which is a wonderful thing, but doesn’t necessarily make for the best writing.

I’m partly attributing my good mood to the sunshine which is an instant mood-lifter. I am a proper little sunflower and the (finally!) change in weather just lifts my mood. The other part of it was starting yesterday with a morning of reiki and spending the rest of the day with a newly found dear friend. (Oh, and I’m sure the end of Mercury’s retrograde and the Aries full moon last night is also to thank).

So, time for the tale of the butterfly. As I mentioned last night, it was my reiki healer Vickie who said she saw a butterfly around me as we went through the session (sceptics, please bear with me, or at least don’t give up on my blog for good!). Afterwards, we looked up the meaning of the butterfly and for a number of reasons it made me smile at the time:

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Restorative reiki

Today I experienced my second session of reiki, this time in a group restorative yoga and reiki workshop, with the absolutely amazing Vickie Williams who I met just under two months ago at the Re:Mind studio in Belgravia (PS it’s London’s first meditation studio, a proper sanctuary of serenity nestled just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Victoria’s station).

I had one private session with Vickie about 6 weeks ago, having wanted to try reiki for an age. It was one of those fantastic serendipitous moments where the only spot I had free for weeks happened to be the next day and by some small stroke of good fortune she was free too.

As you may have guessed from my loud and proud horoscope obsession, I definitely lean into my spiritual side. But reiki really is something else. It’s quite hard to find the right words to do the experience justice but feeling the energy re-balancing around your body is just… wow. And even more incredible when you think that reiki ‘just’ involves laying on hands. I can’t remember ever feeling anything that comes remotely close to the balance, calmness and peace that I have felt after those sessions, so much that it seems to be radiating throughout and out of me.

Wondering what reiki is? This description from the International Centre (yes I am overriding the American spelling) for Reiki Training is spot on:

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Tonight my darling this is for you

For picking me up not once but twice this week, for your wise words, friendship, humour and all round brilliance. For reminding me what true good and kindness look like. For being the thing I was actually looking for, not the fake dopamine hit I thought I needed. And for the endless stream of compliments about my sexiness and brain and for also correcting my spelling mistakes.

You are a superstar and gem of a friend Rosie Luff AKA my pilot Luffstar. Here’s to many more years of basically being the same person and endless opportunities for me to impart birthday twin horoscope insight.

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Sleep I’ll keep but sugar it’s time to split

Today is Day 10 of the 100 Day Project and into my inbox just popped a little check-in from the team, noting that this is the point when often people feel like they’ve run out of steam, but reminding us that this is part of the process and we just need to keep showing up.

At the end of the working week, I am feeling very literally out of steam. It’s been just over five weeks since I decided to stop drinking alcohol and whilst I absolutely, 100 percent stand by and actually increasingly enjoy this decision, there have been two big resultant, well, results that I wasn’t expecting.

Like everyone who picks up women’s magazines, men’s magazines, or even a weekend supplement, I have read countless articles on the miracle benefits of cutting out alcohol. After the initial few-day slump, it seems like all the writers suddenly start jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn, rested and revived, and the weight then starts just sliding off as a new found enthusiasm for exercise simultaneously kicks in, and the countless empty calories are out.

Whilst I have had compliments on my glowing skin (!), five weeks in I am still surprised by two things.

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Finding your cow

Last night I hopped along the Hammersmith and City line to Housman’s Bookshop in King’s Cross to hear author and journalist Johann Hari talk about his latest book ‘Lost Connections‘. In it he explores a slightly different – and I would say complementary, although not all reviewers have agreed – explanation as to why depression has been increasing and mental health declining, focused on the changed way in which we live today, where we have ‘lost connections’ with things that matter to our well-being, as opposed to it all simply being isolated to causes in the brain.

I touched on one of these nine causes Hari describes, a lack of connection with others, in a blog last week on self-care. Personally, I found it one of the most profound and thought-provoking of my recent reads and I would recommend it as a must-read for anyone with an interest in this area. To say that we are facing real problems as individuals, communities and society because of some mis-match between the way we live, versus what we really need, is an understatement. And whilst there are some signs that we are awakening to this – from the recent rise of mindfulness to the even more recent appointment of a Minister for Loneliness – there’s a still a huge amount Hari writes about which either remains unsaid, or at least poorly understood, including by those who are suffering themselves.

Last night Hari re-counted a number of studies or stories from his book, but there was one which I’d forgotten since reading that really struck a chord. It’s about a South African psychiatrist Dr Derek Summerfield, the Cambodian countryside and a cow.

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Follow the Call of the Disco Ball

As I confessed in a blog post last week I am definitely a born and bred Night Owl. On the thankfully rare occasions I am forced to haul my body out of bed before sunrise my caffeine intake sky-rocks and I want to eat everything in sight.

Last year however that began to change when my awesome friend and fellow glitter-loving goddess Jessi introduced me to the (roughly) monthly miracle that is Morning Gloryville. Much to the bemusement of my colleagues, morning sober raving before work is now firmly planted right at the top of my hobby tree.

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