Laughter on the motorway

How has laughter helped you in challenging situations?

It’s 2.30pm and I’m on the motorway heading up North.  I’m stuck in traffic, my two and a half hour journey turns into much longer.  I’ve been waiting for this moment for months, preparing, practising and overcoming nerves as I’m about to run my biggest laughter talk to date.

I’d spent all week planning what I would wear for dinner the evening before, I don’t often dress up so thought I would make an effort. Now that I feel more comfortable with my figure and in my own skin, clothes have become an enjoyment once again rather than a stress.

I start to become frustrated and impatient, the journey is turning into a nightmare.  As I sit in the car I see the time slowly slip away, at this rate I might not even make the dinner and miss my chance of getting to know the group.

I decide I need to change how I feel.  I’d recently been wishing for more adventure and new experiences.  So here I am having a different kind of experience with no little person in the back to keep entertained. I only have myself to look after, I can do whatever I want. I’ve broken free from responsibility for one evening so I tell myself to enjoy the freedom I have and not to control what I can’t.

Then I start my laughter exercises, after all that’s why I’m taking this journey to share with others the benefits of laughter.  I feel my body relax and my mood lift, I laugh to myself at what I must look like pulling faces and talking gibberish to myself on the motorway.  Anyway, why am I so worried what other people think it might even make them laugh.

Five hours later, I finally arrive.  I am now driving around the biggest campus in Europe ‘Keele University’.  I get lost and waste more time.  I find my room and quickly get ready but it’s too late I’ve missed the dinner.  I need to remind myself worst things happen in life and try to get over it quickly.

I’m now heading out to town, as my mum would say ‘all dressed up and nowhere to go’. I find a Thai restaurant, it looks like I’ve been stood up.  I laugh to myself about it all. Table for one please!

The evening reminds me of my old life (pre-kids) travelling for work and finding new places to explore. Feeling empowered when venturing out to dinner on my own and with no distractions I can fully enjoy what I’m eating. I’d forgotten how much I like my own company, it’s definitely a way that I recharge.  I really need to do this more.

A thought comes to mind, I now have funny stories from my adventures I can bring to my talk. I walk on stage and experience the best 20 minutes ever, I feel a bond with the people in front of me and don’t want to leave.  Laughter is really the best medicine and leave on a high.

I head back to London, I think the journey took even longer than going but to be honest I was too happy to notice. No faces were pulled this time though.

So, bring on the next adventure please I’m ready for it 🙂

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Crazy landlady and selling perfume

How do you pick yourself up when energy levels are low?

I’ve been feeling slightly unresourceful of late, using lots of energy to create new work opportunities and feeling depleted when nothing materialises. I wake up the other morning wondering why I’m finding it all so difficult.  What’s happened to the determined and optimistic person that I normally am?   Then I think back to my 20s when I was feeling exactly the same.

I remember the phone call to my parents.  I was on a working holiday to Australia ‘living in the dream’. In fact I wasn’t really,  it was 3am and I’m crying down the phone.  I had just been fired from my job and my savings were depleting fast, I was feeling quite desperate.

I had travelled to Melbourne after being offered a job in a prestigious department store.  A friend of a friend said I would be perfect selling perfume for her business, selling was something I’d never done before.  It was a disaster. My work colleagues were immaculate, I instead wasn’t too fussed about my appearance.  After a month I was called into the office, they told me my sales were too low and they couldn’t keep me on.  I didn’t know many people in Melbourne and I now had no job.

Then to make things worse, my landlady was making life difficult. She wanted to know my every move and watched me like a hawk around the house. Each night there were a lot of strange men visiting her, I knew I had to get out of there and quick.

After the good cry and hearing my parents reassuring voices, I knew I would be ok.  I decided I needed to take action.  I started to feel focussed and resourceful again.  The emotional release was exactly what I needed to move forward!

I found a new house with lovely housemates who took me under their wing.  I threw myself into job hunting, walking the streets and feeling determined to find something.  I ended up waitressing, working for a great company and meeting fun like minded locals.  It turned into the best experience ever.

All in the space of one month everything turned out much better than I ever expected.  All thanks to that phone call and focussing on the fact I deserved more.

Today my energy levels are up and ready to take the world on again, all thanks to that positive memory.

So remember how brilliant and resourceful you are whenever you are having one of those days or going through a challenging time.  There is something much better just waiting around the corner for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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See Naples and Die

How often do you have time away from your phone?

It’s a Sunday and I am trying to resist using my mobile phone.

I keep hiding it in different places around the house. Why am I finding it such a struggle? Surely there was a time when I wasn’t dependent on it and the constant contact with others. I get a moment of inspiration.  Yes there was a time, it went something like this.

The year is 1996, I’ve just finished my qualification to teach English abroad. I write like crazy across Europe trying to secure a teaching job. It’s nerve wracking, I’ve never done anything like this before.

I receive a phone call on my parents landline, hooray I’ve been offered a job. That seemed too easy.  It’s in Naples, Italy. What’s it like I wondered to myself? I don’t know anyone that’s been there, I quite like that. After all I like to be different.

Weeks later I arrive in Italy, no Italian and little contact with home. I’m taken to a small town outside Naples where they make Fiat cars and good pizzas. I’m put up in a hotel until my accommodation is ready, that would start my two year experience there. No mobile, no email, no texting just the occasional phone call and a letter home.

I converse with the locals using just the basics.  I can’t remember if I felt lonely or even disconnected, I only look back and feel excitement and curiosity.

The language school I worked at wasn’t the best but I made the most out of it. Teachers didn’t stay, the owners were out to make a fast buck.  I didn’t really care, it was all still exciting and new. I decide to enjoy the experience even on low pay, in actual fact I was paid in Italian Lira so technically I was a millionaire.

I’m thrown into learning Italian and the glamour of Italian fashion. I smarten up quickly. I become more resilient and wise. It takes ages to make friends, men are charming and women cautious. I am sure they wondered what an English girl was doing in Naples – why not Milan, Rome or Florence? Luckily friends and family start planning trips to visit me, I loved being tour guide.

I toughen up, I stand up for myself. It’s not always an easy ride but I make friends and make wonderful memories. The family unit is strong there, the place has so many hidden gems.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.

So fast forward to 2017, can I really survive a day without my mobile phone? Of course I can, if it was possible back in 1996 I am sure it’s possible now.

And by the way, the phrase ‘See Naples and Die’ actually means something more uplifting than it first appears.  Just make sure it’s on your bucket list, it’s definitely worth a visit!

 

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A Romanian Holiday

What plans have you had that didn’t work out but something better happened as a result?

So when my husband Col suggested a trip to Transylvania, I knew this was an opportunity not to miss.

This year I had decided was going to be one of many new adventures.  Therefore, a visit to Dracula’s castle would certain fulfill that wish and get the year off to a positive start.

We planned a four day trip starting in Bucharest then hiring a car to travel through Translyvania.  We felt brave enough this time around to take Alfie along for the ride, now he’s five travelling has become a lot easier.  The holiday really began when we started heading away from the bustling city of Bucharest.  Once we escaped to the mountains, the landscape that awaited us was breathtaking.  I went with little expectation and so was pleasantly surprised with what I experienced.

Whilst away I knew that I had to keep fit, with my half marathon looming there was no time for putting my feet up.  Luckily the cost of the hotels meant we could afford a higher star rating with good facilities. One morning whilst staying in the scenic resort of Sinaia, I decided to get up early and take advantage of the hotel’s gym facilities (to avoid any injury).  I was pleased with myself for getting up at 6.45am but then soon disappointed to discover the gym didn’t open until 10am. I didn’t want to wake the family up so decided that I would at least try running outside although the paths looked quite icy.

It was around -2 degrees as I took in the snow capped mountains and clean air.  There wasn’t a lot of pavement to run on but then soon remembered there was a park next to the ice rink which we had been the night before. Note to self, must do more ice skating on our return.  On arrival, I could see out of the corner of my eye a gathering of people who looked like they were taking part in some kind of Tai Chi class.  Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to investigate.  I soon discovered that a group of locals were taking part in an early morning fitness class, there was a lovely mix of ages all enjoying a morning stretch and a little banter. I decided to join in.  It reminded me of the Saturday ‘Park Run’ except there was no running involved.  Although I didn’t understand a word the fitness instructor was saying, it really didn’t matter, I just joined into the spirit of it all.

Time flew as I took part in the class, my only wish was that I had a camera on me to capture the moment.  Although I now have a picture firmly in my mind.

I was so glad the gym had been closed, if it hadn’t been I would have never experienced that fun half an hour of exercise and sharing a laugh with the locals. Sometimes language really doesn’t matter.

It got me thinking of times when I’ve had plans that didn’t work out as I wanted, initially feeling disappointed but then something better happened instead.

When has this happened for you? I’d love to hear about your experiences below if you are happy to share.

Oh and by the way if you are stuck for a new holiday destination, I thoroughly recommend Romania. It really is a hidden gem.

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Sipping tea, laughter diaries and friendships

What helps you to feel at your best?

As the sun shines on a cold January day, I find myself sipping tea in one of my favourite places on Richmond Hill ‘Hollyhock Cafe’.

The minute I arrive I feel so relaxed and inspired, I realise it’s been two years since my last visit. Life has certainly changed since then, with Alfie now at school, moving house and leaving my main role at work. After quite alot of change I’ve been craving some time to myself and a chance to focus on my own well being.

As someone who loves to give and listen to others, I often find myself tired and neglecting my own needs.  Even training for the half marathon of late has felt like another pressure I have put on myself.

So I decide to go back to basics and work on the following:-

  • Make time for friendships – arranging meet ups without relying on social media and texting as an easy alternative for socialising.
  • Let others know what I need especially my husband who isn’t a ‘mind reader’ but somehow I expect him to know exactly what I need without telling him.
  • Laugh more – find the funny things in every day situations.  I’ve bought myself a laughter diary so I can write down when I do something funny (which is quite often) then look at it when I need it most.
  • Relax in the evenings – have baths and light candles around the house.  I stopped doing this (the candles rather than the baths) when Alfie was born but realise how much I’ve missed it. Although have nearly burnt the house down a few times.
  • Dream about the future – writing down big goals to go for which include individual and family ones.

The investment is paying off, I feel less resentful and not so envious of others.  Already I can feel my energy coming back and my mood much happier.

As I drink my tea and admire the river from my favourite cafe, I know it won’t be so long till I return here again.  I realise that by filling up my own cup I can be much more helpful to others so everyone benefits in the long run.

So enjoy taking care of yourself and would love to hear what you are focussing on right now.

Let’s make 2017 a year we made our own ‘self care’ a priority.

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Adventures down under

What do you feel grateful for?

The other night I found myself in Sydney, Australia.

I had been offered a few days of office work in the heart of the city.  On arrival I met my manager and she immediately started treating me like the office junior. As a young girl, I probably would have accepted it but the new 40 something me decided to rebel.  I explained to her I preferred to do tasks that play to my strengths, she agreed but asked me to leave anyway.  Suddenly I was free to do whatever I liked.

As I walked along by the opera house, memories of being there in my 20s came flooding back to me. I actually didn’t fancy being a tourist but had a real craving to see my old friends again, they would never be expecting me to turn up out of the blue.  In excitement, I made my way to the train station ready for my adventure ahead.

As I queued at the station, out of nowhere I spotted my son Alfie.  He was running around the busy ticket office, every now and then I would lose sight of him.  Suddenly the ticket office turned into a train and we were off. Alfie had disappeared, I couldn’t see him anywhere.  I remembered panicking, running along the carriage  describing him to fellow passengers, my heart racing and eyes everywhere.  Still nowhere to be seen.

My adventure was turning into a nightmare.  All I could think about was seeing my precious boy again.  A couple of teenagers then approached me and offered their help, so we got off the train at the next stop and retraced our steps back to the station.  I felt incredibly grateful for the help of two strangers.

A moment later, I woke up and found myself at home in Richmond in bed.  I rushed into Alfie’s bedroom to find him sleeping peacefully in his bed too.  Relief flooded over me as I realised it had been one very vivid dream!

All that day I couldn’t stop cuddling and kissing him, he was oblivious to why I was feeling so emotional and relieved.

As strange as it may sound I’ve been feeling a real sense of contentment since that day.  It had only been a dream but it had confirmed how important my family are to me and how I couldn’t possibly imagine life without them.

Since then, hubby Col and I have been talking about the future and the crazy adventures we’d love to go on again.  I’m starting to think ‘everything is possible’ especially as Alfie is that bit older and life is definitely feeling easier.

So here’s to adventures past, present and future as well as a peaceful night’s sleep!

 

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Keep on running

What activities help top up your positivity levels?

I didn’t always enjoy running.  In fact I hated it with a passion especially during my school years.

I dreaded those cross country runs in the rain and couldn’t wait to be back in the changing rooms under a hot shower.

One day, at the age of 15, a friend and I thought it would be fun to hide in the bushes so we could avoid running through mud, wind and rain.  On our return, the PE (Physical Education) teacher congratulated me ‘Rebecca well done that’s more like it, keep it up’.   I enjoyed hearing those words but deep down I knew I didn’t really deserve the praise.

Fast forward twenty years, I had a change of heart.  Hate turned into love and I now get a real buzz from running in the rain.  At 35, a mere jog around the park turned into a charity 5k with a friend, followed by a 10k with hubby Col and then the biggest achievement of all a half marathon in Paris in 2009.  I found running became my way of de-stressing and a coping mechanism for whatever life threw at me.

Last year I needed a new challenge.  I knew it had to involve running.  So I signed up to yet another half marathon, this time taking place in Brighton.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, since having Alfie (almost 4) I hadn’t done that level of exercise for many years.

I lacked confidence in my abilities, I had to keep telling myself ‘you have done this before so you can do it again’.  Mentally it has taken me a long time to convince myself I can actually achieve it.

The biggest breakthrough was finding other running enthusiasts. So there’s Emma at work, who is incredibly passionate about sport. I know I can confide in her about my lack of confidence, she has given me tips and encouragement along the way.  Friends of mine Imke, Lorna and Lucia who have woken up early to fit training around their family life, they have certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone and improved my self belief.  The guy at work who encouraged me to smile when I felt most discomfort, this I understood helps the endorphins kick in.  None of my runs though would have been possible without hubby Col who looks after a very energetic 3 year old back at base.

With 3 weeks to go until the big day, I now feel excited but also grateful for the past few months. Running has increased my positivity levels, helped me lose weight and given me a wonderful sense of achievement.  I sleep much better than before and have more patience and compassion generally.

So here’s to exercise and doing what you love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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