If you where asked what your dream life could be, what would your answer be?
Winning the lottery, managing a multi national business, winning the X factor, having children, living on an island…………What would your dream life be?
When I asked myself this question last year I was turning 40 starting to realise that I was on the verge on one of those ‘mid life crisis, breakdown, breakthrough, what am I doing with my life doo dah’s’ instead of buying the fast car, getting botoxed to oblivion or jacking everything in to travel to India, I knew I had to give myself some time to really think about this.
I decided to spend 40 days celebrating my 40th birthday, spending time with people I loved, doing things I loved doing. A theme started occurring around my ’dream life’ question, I wasn’t quite sure what it was…….. But I was up for the adventure of discovering what my answer could be.
I came up with an answer one day whilst swimming; I am not the best of swimmers, I have a woggle or a noodle as some people call them and my swimming skills consist of, splash flapping, floating, woggling about and pretending to be a synchro swimmer.
Woggling away in the pool I was having one of those chats with one of my closest friends covering life, the universe and all the wobbly bits in between, then the answer came with a bit of prodding from my friend, my answer was simple, I just wanted to be ‘happy’ but wasn’t quite sure how to get there and knew this was going to be a bit of a journey. I knew the first thing was to take a good hard look at what I thought was making me happy and what I really needed and wanted in order to be happy.
Before I waffle on to much, I have just realised we haven’t been formally introduced. Hello my name is Jules, I am 40 nearing 41, I’m slowly starting to come to terms with the whole being in your 40’s thing, my body is changing, my mind is changing, the world is constantly changing all around me and there’s nothing I can do about it. I live with my husband Tom and our dog Murphy aka The Murphy Meister.
Last year we made a massive life change and moved onto a narrow boat ‘The Claverton’, our beautiful home for the past 10 months. It was a decision we made for a whole host of reasons including;
We loved the idea and had thought about it for many many years, wondering if it could ever be something that would ever happen.
We knew it would be a cheaper way of living.
A more sustainable and low impact life style for us.
We wanted to be part of a community that had similar ethos and ideals to us.
We where both looking for the ‘happy’.
The move brought up the question again of what made me happy. I have been what you could refer to as a ‘workaholic’ most of my life, people would ask ‘how are you?’ I would say busy, then proceed to tell them about the busy busyness that I was doing and oh how it was so great being busy. I would start a new hobby or class but got to knackered to carry them on, I missed most family occasions, days & evenings out with friends, weddings and christenings, sadly even funerals because I thought that’s what you do, you put work first.
I lived to work, always looking for the next job, the next opportunity, work for me wasn’t about big wages, I work in a sector which is low paid going the extra mile is always expected and that what I always did, the boundary between life/work balance was blurry, work was my identity, proving I was good enough, it was who I was, it was all I thought about and take it away, what was I left with………..
As Lemony Snicket would say after ‘A series of unfortunate events’, I had to stop and take a serious look at what I thought was making me happy…….it wasn’t work.
Who are you when the things that you think make you who you are, are then taking away? The small things and then the big ones; Work, Home, Health, Family, Loved ones
Our identities are this ever evolving mixture of ;who we think we are, who others think we are, who we think others think we are, who society, the media thinks we are, who we should be, could be, I am worn out just thinking about it! Social networking is a whole other thing where we can market ourselves to be whoever we want to be, as long as it’s our bestest self.
So I ask who are you? When all the commitments, the trappings, the bits and bobs of life are taken away, who are you and what’s your dream life?
Last year after the ‘series of unfortunate events’ I decided to spend an infinite amount of time, shedding old skin, my story, my identity,discovering who I could be, wanted to be and what would make me happy.
In no particular order things I’ve done this year that have been part of my journey to happiness
Bought a narrow boat!!! With much, much saving, scrimping, working very hard and then having some very much appreciated family support.
Driven a narrow boat, I can’t drive a car, the last time I got on a bike I fell in a bush (I was sober), I am a nervous driver to say the least, so how I thought I would be able to drive a narrow boat is beyond me, but in my quest for the ‘happy’ sometimes you have to say ‘yes’ to things that make you want to poo your pants….. It was surreally awesome and driving my boat gave me the courage to face more fears.
Giving away most of our possessions, at first this was a struggle to let go but after a while I began to really enjoy seeing friends enjoying the stuff we used to love and own.
Got rid of the telly! I love telly, I used to watch everything and anything, ‘opiate for the masses’ switch on, switch off. But I didn’t switch off I just sat there and wasted time and brain cells. ………I am not a saint though, I watch programmes on the internet, I just try to do it a bit more mindfully in my choice and anything ‘reality’ or dross has slowly been phased out
I learnt to kayak, I am the least action girl you could meet, but I am falling in love with the rhythm of paddling then floating down stream
Got stranded then rescued by a stranger when the floods came to Keynsham, the lovely chap who saved us and also saved our christmas, this story needs to be shared over a pint and a nice warm fire.
Got to know and be a part of a community, I know my neighbours, we talk to each other, we help each other out, we work together to create a beautiful place to live, I feel like I have come home
Went back to yoga and kept going, a bit ouchy, but oh the lovely feel afterwards is like magic!
Started Qigong, carried it on, calming and makes my head feel all mmmmm
I love my dance and movement with a gorgeous group of women in Keynsham called ‘Make a Move’ lots of sharing, playing, moving how our bodies want to, blissness!
Became a member of a la dee dah outdoors pool, goosebumpy, but the G&T afterwards helps!
Was a model for a street art campaign as part of International Women’s Day
Started my Masters, so proud to be accepted, I finished school with less than a handful of qualifications, a recurring voice in my head that I was thick and the message that all education wasn’t for me.
Left my Masters gave myself permission, compassion and time to reflect that this educational route was not quite the right path for me.
Spent time, proper time with old and new friends, I stopped telling them the same old ‘I’m so busy and tired story’ and began tell them I am learning to look after myself.
Walked away from friends who weren’t good for my wellbeing, who didn’t want to or couldn’t be a part of my journey
Welcomed family members who where struggling with their wellbeing and mental health, found the love to forgive past experiences and difficulties.
Worked and worked and worked and worked and worked and worked then fell over and stopped
I stood up to work place bullies and left a toxic work environment that I had allowed to take over my life.
Learning the life/work balance, it’s a bit of a see saw, but I am still balancing!
Who was I now? What was I going to do next?
A fab lady once said to me on a clown course (that’s a whole other blog when I trained to be a clown!)
‘I don’t know what I am doing but its ok’
And that’s how I have started discovering the search for the ‘happy’, moving forward, coming alive again
Repeat after me ‘I don’t know what I am doing but its ok’ say it enough times and it will be ok…………
Bio for Jules:
I have been managing community development projects and socially engaged/community arts projects for over twenty years.
I now specialise in managing and facilitating creative wellbeing projects, I am really enjoying working as a freelancer in various inspiring projects; working with Missing Link developing wellbeing sessions with the peer support group, I am the Coordinator for Stepping Out a charity that develops wellbeing programmes and activities with and for people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities, I have been working with The Misfits Theatre Company many years facilitating and managing creative projects with and for people with learning disabilities. I am the creative wellbeing facilitator and Mentor Coordinator with Growing Creatives a social enterprise working with people who are experiencing isolation in the community. I am also very excited to be working with local Keynsham Artist Jenny Drew developing a mentoring project for young people and local artists, look out for Jens monthly cartoon creations in the ‘Keynsham Voice’
I am a very big advocate for volunteering and have volunteered since I was little and love being involved as a volunteer in various projects, I am currently volunteering my time as a consultant with local Keynsham project ‘Make a Move’ supporting them with developing their volunteer programme. I am looking forward to volunteering in September with the Silai centre as a volunteer mentor working with women who are in vulnerable housing situations.
My freelance work-links to orgs
Stepping Out-We don’t have a website at the moment-link to info about us http://www.wellaware.org.uk/organisations/12967-stepping-out?page=100
The Misfits- http://misfitstheatre.com/
Growing Creatives -https://www.facebook.com/pages/Growing-Creatives/464734596987746?fref=ts
My volunteer work –links to orgs
Make a move http://www.makeamove.org.uk/
Silai centre http://www.silai.org.uk/
link for picture of street art piece – the picture was created by Carrie Love http://c-love.co.uk/