Sunday, 18 September 2016

Oh Calamity (Maybe)

I was in the process of writing a post about how I had some awesome news, and after spending just 6 weeks looking for a home of my own to buy, I had had an offer accepted on a lovely little Victorian house in Bristol.

I had already dubbed it the Little Yellow House, mused on how lucky I was (ha!) in the ferociously competitive market in Bristol to have found somewhere and managed to successfully bid on it in such a short time.  I had even mentally started the renovation project in my mind (and on Pinterest).

I.  Was.  Ecstatic.

And just 3 short days after getting the brilliant(ly unexpected) news about the offer acceptance, I had an equally unexpected and much less welcome call from my mortgage broker on Friday:  there was a major issue with my mortgage application, and when I asked if I should be genuinely concerned I got the very ominous answer of "yes".

At this moment in time, I honestly have no idea whether we can rescue the purchase and I'll have a house all of my own in just a few short weeks time, or if everything is going to come grinding to a halt and I'll not only have to let the vendor down, which I absolutely hate to think about, but I won't be able to even start the process again for another 18 months or more.

Distressed is really not the word.  Although numb and resigned occasionally comes close, as does panic.

Somehow, and I don't even know how this happened, I sailed through all the initial questions from the mortgage broker about my financial situation and got a provisional green light from the banks, and it only emerged on Friday when the broker took the actual real-deal mortgage application to the bank, that  there is a HUGE issue with my having been out of the country on my ski seasons.  Yeah - I don't get it either.

It would appear that at some point in the last couple of years, a lot of the banks decided that anyone who had lived abroad in the last 3 years automatically got benched in the mortgage game.  Where this gets super annoying for me is that, although I did technically live and work abroad and so put a French address in my address history, EVERYTHING to do with my credit, financial and work history during that period remained in the UK - my banking, my salary from my UK employer, my tax arrangements, my loans and credit cards and phone plans, my ability to vote, I wasn't even on the lease on the work property I was staying in - so the reason why they won't touch people who've lived abroad (gaps in the credit history so they can't judge the application properly) doesn't apply to me at all.

My broker and I are now desperately trying to work out a way round this, so that someone will give me a mortgage, but I don't know how long I actually have given I'm now in a chain.  It seems ridiculous that someone with my salary and credit score (significantly higher than the national average on the first and about 10 points short of the maximum possible out of 999 on the second) could end up in this position.

Cross all your fingers and toes for me if you will!!

The only good thing in this whole scenario is that I can tell that my tendency to stress eat is well and truly behind me now as there has been zero inclination to binge or snack outside of normal during the whole thing.  In fact, I'm actually on a pretty great eating kick at the moment, but I'll save that update for another day.

The only weird behaviour I caught myself indulging in was mentally finding sneaky ways to try and blame myself for what has happened, when it CLEARLY outside of my zone of influence. I found myself thinking it was my fault for celebrating too early, or of course I didn't deserve to have the house go through, and other weird inner-mean-girl-in-my-ear thoughts.  I told her roundly to shut up and eff off - I deserve this damn house and I'm going to fight for it.

Send all your good mortgage / buying vibes my way if you will!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


I feel really positive right now.  Which is weird, but entirely awesome.

Somewhere between mid-July and now, I feel like someone changed my batteries and my lightbulbs and now I’m energised and sparkly again and feeling wholly refreshed and rejuvenated.

Winding back to mid-July and I had, I think, hit full flaming burnout.  I was sluggish, apathetic and constantly tired – I had no energy, couldn’t face the gym, had no interest in anything but curling up in darkened rooms and sleeping.  I even got to the point where I cancelled seeing people because I just didn’t feel like I could put my mask on and act like a proper human any longer.  I recognised it and acknowledged it and set about trimming back my social engagements and trying to rest myself a bit better, but all I could really think about was holiday and getting away for a couple of weeks.

Oh boy, holiday was amazing.  Two and a half weeks in Malaysia (Borneo) with the first few days of that spent unwinding in 5* luxury in neighbouring Brunei.  We climbed 4,000m mountains (never again), saw So.  Much. Wildlife and visited surreally beautiful landscapes like perfect tropical islands where we sat on the beach and watched the sun rise over the islands of the Philippines as the final green turtles finished laying their eggs in the sand and scooted back into the glassy blue sea. 

Somehow the sense of peace of being away in such quiet locations has come home with me, and I feel quietly positive about life.  I’ve still got a bit of jetlag, but instead of getting frustrated with waking up too early, I’ve been using the time to enjoy leisurely breakfasts before work or go to the gym to swim or do yoga.  I’ve set about gently rearranging the flat now that my flatmate has moved out – spreading out slowly from my over-crowded bedroom and making the stark open spaces where all her stuff has now gone homely and warm again.  I’m on the hunt for possible future homes again, and taking my time and being patient with the process.  

I’ve been cooking properly – making fresh soup, eating fruit and pasta with homemade sauce and (a sign of the progress I’ve made) I'm not really fussed by the open packs of crisps, chocolate, biscuits or icecream in the kitchen from before holiday.  

I also decided against weighing myself on the return from holiday.  I was re-reading parts of The Goddess Revolution whilst I was away, and am generally feeling quite a peace with my body right now, so realised that the scales couldn’t really tell me anything useful at this point in time.  My clothes fit, my skin looks healthy and tanned and I feel strong (well, my dodgy back feels good, my ankle still feels a bit tender after rolling it 3 times on the way down the mountain), so the scales can only either tell me what I already know if I tune into myself, or ruin that.  I choose blissful ignorance and trying to trust myself.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Recently ....

I had a couple of posts queued up to upload but yeah .... life got in the way and suddenly I was sitting on the coach to Heathrow airport and they didn't happen. Soz and all that.

So instead, I thought I'd just do a quick catch up post, as it's been a busy couple of weeks.

Sooo - I didn't get the little house I fell in love with. I was just pipped at the post by another bidder - I was really disappointed about it, but after a few days (and a little search for everything that had sold in the area I like in the last 6 months) I felt comforted that there had been a good few houses that I think I would have liked and it will all happen in good time.

In the meantime I've buggered off on holiday and I'm currently sat by the pool at 5* splendour that is The Empire Hotel in Brunei, flying over to Borneo this evening. This trip has both come round very quickly and also seems like it's taken FOREVER to arrive!! However it's nice to be away with the girls again and fall back into the old comfortable patterns of chat and chuckling.

Elsewhere in my little world, I had a flirtation with what seemed like an actual, real life, nice man ..... which lasted exactly until he told me about his wife (back away, back away!) and discovered that my invoicing has been wrong all year and I've been substantially under-billing my current contract. This could have been a disaster, but my agency have been very sweet and helpful and I'll be getting all my missing back-dated fees since January as a lump sum while I'm away. Which is really pretty awesome as it means I'm getting an unexpected boost to my house deposit and a lovely pay rise going forwards.  For the first time in my life I feel really quite well off and well on the way to financial stability.

That financial stability will be super important and significant going forward as I still have every intention of signing up for my coaching course in January next year and exploring the options to become fully self-employed (and more fulfilled by my career). The extra money makes it easier to save for the cost of my course and to start saving a really good sized safety fund to help smooth any future transitions in my work.

So all in all, things are positive .... or I'm choosing to take the positives out of events. I will find a house and now I know how the process works and feels. I had a fun flirtation with a guy which reinforced that I'm a perfectly normal, not unattractive person and the fact that he had zero morals has no reflection on me (and I responded in a way that means I can hold my head high and know I did nothing wrong). Bizarrely, despite being still being bigger than I had been for a while on holiday, I also feel more confident in my bikini that I probably ever have - all this work on my emotional eating, self love and acceptance might finally be kicking in.

So I'm wishing everyone a happy August from here in Asia and I'll see you on the other side for more adventures in emotional eating and house buying.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

In Suspense

I HATE hanging around like this waiting for news.  Especially news that is life-changing.  I have enough trouble waiting for exam results and this is that same nervous flutter, except that this time there’s no studying or anything I can really do to improve my chances.  I guess I hate the feeling of powerlessness, and the spectre of potential failure, though in this case neither really reflect badly on me.

So, today I’m sitting with this nervousness, much as I’m trying to learn to sit with all those other uncomfortable feelings.

I want this house so much, and I’m also scared of the commitment at the same time.  I guess a house of my own feels like security and the start of a new phase in my life, so for me it represents so much more than just the literal bricks and mortar, and maybe that’s why this feels like such a pass or fail transition in my life – that it’s pass or fail moving to the next “level” of being an adult and successful.

In all honesty though, I love that damn house.  Something about it just called to me, I got that click when I went in.  And yes, it’s a standard 2 bed Victorian terrace, but I can see in my mind’s eye how cosy it could be, how me.  After 14 years of near constant moving I just want a home now – somewhere I can stop, settle and finally breathe out.

And so, even though I’m 90% expecting the call to tell me I haven’t got it, I suspect it’s still going to feel like a kick in the teeth.  I know, I know, that everyone keeps telling me that it’s only the third house I’ve seen, and by the 20th it won’t seem that special, but there are people I know like Hannah, who back me up that sometimes you just know.  And I’m sure there will be others out there, and that realistically that is the future I’m facing, that I will have to keep looking, but I know that aside from the practicalities of the constraints of my budget, this is somewhere I could be happy.

Sp please all cross your fingers and toes for me that this little dream could come true xx

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dreaming About Jobs

I feel excited about my career prospects for the first time in a long time.  More specifically, since about this time 3 years ago when I first realised that maybe I could do something much more exciting with my job than purely sitting in a big office all day, and applied to be a resort accountant in an Alpine ski resort.  That fateful day, when I submitted my application, kicked off one of the most exciting adventures of my life – it led to me achieving several life list goals and spreading my wings, and was a chapter of my life that was one of the happiest I can remember.  I lived abroad, developed my language skills, learned that I have what it takes to successfully financially manage a small business, independently work on my own from home and adapt on the fly to a highly challenging environment.  And I loved it.

As I made that decision, I really wasn’t entirely sure it was a wise thing to do, but it felt right.  Logically speaking, I would earn much less money than my sensible, safe banking job.  I would have to turn my entire life upside down to move abroad for 6 months, including leaving the lovely, affordable home I had fortuitously found at the peak of my personal debt crisis, and indeed putting back the date of me finally repaying all that debt by another 6 months.  I would be moving to a place full of perfect strangers, and would be at least partially career-dependent on a bunch of potentially flaky teenagers and ski-bums.  On paper, it was a horrible choice for my career, and some people including my beloved Dad thought I was nuts and it was too risky.  But a surprising number of people expressed envy at the freedom of my choice, and I followed the excited, fizzing sensation in my gut and the swelling feeling in my heart that told me yes.

Several years on, things have changed somewhat but I’m still not fully satisfied.  I’ve done two winter seasons and they were great, but ultimately not the long term solution to my career I’d hoped for.  I’ve now swapped to contracting, which definitely ticks a few more boxes but it’s still not right.  I think for the longest time I’ve known I felt dissatisfaction with my career, but doing the work on dealing with my emotional eating has really bought it uncomfortably to the forefront.  The problem is I’ve had no idea what to do to solve it.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time visualising what my dream job would look like, and it looked awesome, but sadly not in any way realistic. I mean, I’m sure companies exist out there like it, but to find a job combining the qualities I’m looking for, a salary I can afford to live on now, and in Bristol because I don’t really want to move from here ... well, let’s just say my weekly single Euromillions Lucky Dip looks more promising.

Something cool is happening now though.  I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been thinking about it honestly, admitting my hopes and fears when it comes to my career, and being open to the possibilities, but I feel like one of those possibilities is growing into being Something.  Something that makes my insides fizz with excitement again and makes me shout a great big instinctual yes! inside. In fact, I feel a bit like a scientist that realises that they’ve been looking at the confusing evidence all wrong, and if they re-arrange it something startlingly clear and completely different emerges.  I’ve been looking at the problem from the conventional wisdom of seeking a single job to satisfy all of my needs.  What if the answer isn’t one single job.  What if it’s two (or more!) strands of what I’m good at, all woven together to make a flexible satisfying whole?

Even writing this down and putting it out there feels like a great big “eeeek”.  I mean what if it’s too much?  What if I freak out and retreat back into my shell and don’t believe I can do it?  What if it’s yet another thing that I get all excited about and then it all fizzles out?  But I do have two actual career strands in mind, one of which is a natural extension of what I’ve already been doing all my working life and the other is .... not.  The other is way out there, totally outside my comfort zone, but something that definitely intrigues me.  Something I would need to train and study for and make a real commitment to but I can very seriously imagine myself doing. Something that has ironically been suggested on every single personality or career test I’ve ever taken. 

The funny thing is it was the way-outside-the-comfort-zone strand that came to me first, but one of my biggest fears that has held me back has been stepping away completely from my financial career – I trained 4 years for it after all, and there are aspects of it I do still really enjoy, and what if I’m wrong and I can’t go back???  I’ve also worried that for every career I’ve thought of, I can’t imagine just doing that full time and feeling satisfied with it.  I don’t seem to have the commitment to do just one thing, all of the time.  But then the strangest, most reassuring thing occurred to me this week – why I can’t I be making money from more one than one thing at the same time?  Why can’t I utilise two completely different skill sets in parallel to earn my way in the world?  Hell, I might even find that some weird synergy ends up forming and I actually end up with a blended business coming into existence, or it might evolve into something completely different from my two potential starting points.

Even better, having two potential business plans to run side-by-side means I could potentially dip my toe into the pond gently, one thing at a time, and ease my way into it, rather than having to abandon my current career in one big, bold (terrifying) step.

For the first time in years, I feel like I have something I can aim for, and having the aim means I can start dissecting that down into A Plan.  I have things I can research (I loves me a bit of research) and baby steps I can start to take towards seeing if this is something that can truly work for me.  It feels both big and bold and ambitious, and yet totally more manageable and realistic than anything I’ve done yet.  And it combines elements of everything that I had in my Dream Job visualisation.  It feels true to me and deeply satisfying.

I couldn’t be more excited.*

*I apologise extensively for the vagueness of this post – even putting the basic concept out there and saying I want to do it feels like an almighty big first step. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Day To Day

Despite being super busy last night and getting finished late – it was one of those nights when all the errands just got blitzed in one go and I was feeling super efficient – I still went to the supermarket, bought fresh ingredients and went home and cooked up something fresh.  Hooorah!  I am proud of myself for making something fresh and homemade, for trying a new recipe, and for coming back from the supermarket with an alarmingly healthy set of food after a long day.

Yes – I think the re-balancing of my diet is finally on the way!  Whilst the food I bought was healthy and balanced, it was not standard, strict diet fare – there were little treats in there like fudge and pita chips and things I banned under Weightwatchers like juice and fresh coconut – but there was also vegetables and lean proteins .... basically my basket represented lots of fun, tasty whole foods and less processed stuff.  

One of the adjustments I’m making is to focus on more protein heavy breakfasts.  I suffer quite badly with the mid-morning munchies if I have carbs and sugar alone for breakfast, which is fine on the weekend when I’m up later and then usually less inclined to eat through boredom or anything else, but not so great for weekdays in the office.  This morning’s breakfast was scrambled egg with smoked salmon on a slice of seeded toast, some green juice and tea.    Not the strict diet fare from my Weightwatchers days, but proper tasty food – butter not margarine, proper bread not some wimpy diet excuse, whole eggs, juice!!  Weightwatchers caused me to shun all juice like it was the work of the devil, but I’ve been having a small glass of juice with breakfast recently and it’s delicious – this week’s juice has been apple, kale, lemon and ginger and is super refreshing.

I’ve also been playing with getting back in the kitchen and falling in love with cooking again.  Half the battle of eating good food, is having the energy to prepare and cook it in the first place.  In The Goddess Revolution the author wisely suggests making your kitchen somewhere you want to be – we decorate the rest of our rooms to appeal to ourselves but often skip the kitchen as it is the site for so many psychological battles during dieting.  She suggests making as much effort with the kitchen – get some tunes of your choice going on a cute radio, bring flowers and candles or photos into the kitchen, whatever your preference, to make it a fun, light pretty room.  Clear your kitchen of all the rubbish so you’ve got space to work and nice tools to work with.  She has a point.  

At last Monday’s impromptu dinner party I learnt to cook with lentils for the first time, and turned out a rather tasty cod wrapped in smoked ham accompanied by lentils with sage and onion.  It was so good I used the leftovers to cook it again later in the week.  Last night I tried a Thai sweet potato soup, inspired by one of the menus from my second ski season – it turned out to be super easy and incredibly tasty and now I’ve got three portions in the fridge and freezer.  I bought avocados last night.  Avocados!!  This might sound ridiculous but I’ve never used avocado at home before.  I didn’t think I liked it much until recently, but I’ve been having it in food when I’m out and have realised how nice it is, so thought it would be something good to play with adding to breakfasts.

I also bought myself some really awesome work trousers yesterday – following on from the clothing theme the other week when I realised I was beating myself up constantly by not allowing myself to think I’m worth clothes at my current weight.  Result – I feel comfortable and stylish today, not crammed into something that’s slightly too small.  Apparently, when I did my shopping for my work wardrobe revamp last summer I did my usual trick of buying things slightly on the tight side, assuming that “this time the diet would work” as I had just started Weightwatchers again after my second season.  As I’ve subsequently changed my approach, and am currently a couple of lbs heavier instead of lighter, that had resulted in several pairs of trousers that were cutting my circulation off to my lower body and making me feel miserable every time I considered wearing any of them.  Plain stupid.  I think, just maybe, I’m learning to love and respect myself a little.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Coaching Myself

I’ve started wondering about looking into life coaching.  Not just getting a life coach, which is something I have previously considered, but actually how to become one.  I’m fascinated by the coaching process (as you can tell by the number of books I’ve consumed on the journey to find peace with food), and there’s a small part of me that wonders if it’s something that I would be good at myself and could incorporate into creating my ideal life.  But there’s also a second big reason for my curiosity – reading books by coaches, and getting actual coaching sessions would be ace .... but what if I could take it one step further and learn how to coach myself??

It would give me constant access to the resources I need to improve myself, and in understanding the process behind it, maybe I can take it one step further and build it into a deeper way to constantly, gently, evolve my life.

My frustration with work is currently more obvious than ever.  Things annoy me more quickly and I can feel that I’m not quite taking it as seriously as I should for something that is such a big part of my life (like last week when I got warned by colleagues that my boss has been taking credit for my work and down-playing what I do, and I couldn’t help but laugh even though as a contractor life can be precarious).  As much as there are aspects of business that I love and really enjoy, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that I need something more in my career to keep me satisfied.  And what if coaching part-time could be an answer to that.  Creating my own coaching environment and space and getting the satisfaction of actually helping people in a tangible one-to-one way.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself and this will be another flash-in-the-pan idea that fizzles out just a few weeks down the line, but it’s an exciting possibility to follow, and the first time I’ve genuinely considered the prospect of doing something outside the financial sphere.

Eating-wise – it’s a bit blah right now.  I decided to do a weigh in this morning, and I was bit up.  I felt like I was a bit up before I stood on the scales so it came as no surprise, and curiously I didn’t feel guilty, or bad about it, or beat myself up.  I just accepted it.  Having put on another lb or two I’m probably the heaviest I’ve been for a good while – I think since 2009 when I first lost the weight, but I’m still a good 2 stone off where I started.  But also 2 stone up from my lightest now.  However, I’m also far more relaxed and accepting, and I feel like my eating is taking another change in direction.

Since I mentioned it last week, my inclination is definitely starting to come back round to more wholesome, properly cooked food.  I’m starting to crave soups and pasta, protein at breakfast and less bread.  Certain types of sugary food are starting to seem a lot less satisfying and I’m more conscious of what fuels me well, and what leaves me with a energy slump half an hour later.

The weekend was gloriously relaxing as I was in the Gower near beautiful Port Einon.  My friend Jo and I did a 10 mile walk along the cliffs from Rhosilli back to the house, marvelling at the scenery along the way and enjoying a picnic, cake and ice creams at various points.  We watched bits of the Euros and Wimbledon, played cards and pool at the house and sunbathed on the beach on Sunday .... it was heaven and such much-needed downtime after the last few weeks.  I’m also re-reading the Harry Potter series and I’m totally addicted again!