A week of firsts

Last Monday I got up at the glorious time of 4am, packed up the car and set off for a week in sunny Scotland. Yes, sunny! We didn’t have a single drop of rain the entire week! Also we being, me and my parents. It was to be a week of firsts; my first sober holiday, my first sober birthday and my first long distance drive in over a year.

So, how was it? In a word; perfect. I honestly have nothing whatsoever to moan about. I wouldn’t change any of it…well except for maybe the amount of cake I ate. But what’s a birthday week without three kinds of cake hey? Gym workouts will be resuming tomorrow!

Aside from the stunning cottage we stayed in (Boltholecottage – highly recommend) the week was spent in the most beautiful of surroundings. We were literally staying at the top off what I can only describe as a very steep dirt track and there didn’t seem to be anything around us except fields and sheep. We didn’t do much while we were there. Seriously, we really didn’t. We went out for lunch a few times in nearby towns and I went for a walk one of the afternoons. That was it. The rest of the time was sat relaxing in front of the log fire and just enjoying our time together. And you know what? It was perfect.

My birthday lunch was a slightly fancy affair as we dined in the Clubhouse at Gleneagles golf resort. Funnily enough though as lovely as that meal was our other two lunches were just as good if not a bit better and I got to wear my converse and hoody, so you know…comfort over everything. 🤷🏽‍♀️😂

A few years ago I always imagined I’d be on holiday for my 40th. Somewhere sunny, a wine glass next to me for most of the day that mysteriously never found itself empty. With friends or if I couldnt find any friends, on my own. For the last few birthdays I am ashamed to admit that I did whatever I could to not spend too much of my birthday with my parents. Why? So I could drink as much as I wanted to without the glaring eyes of disappointment and judgment. Sad, isn’t it?

It was around April that I knew this time sobriety was not a phase. I thought about my birthday and how I would celebrate the big 4-0. The thought of not being able to drink did not bother me as much as I had thought it would. I had accepted that an alcohol free life was what lay ahead so if I’m honest I didn’t really make any big plans. At the time I did not foresee that the pandemic was still going to be playing such a part in our daily lives so I just thought I would do something low key with my friends or maybe just hang out with my parents.

Then sometime in June we were discussing holidays and how we’d had such a nice week at my friend’s caravan in Abersoch last year. My Dad started talking about how he really enjoyed previous visits to Scotland and had always wanted to go back; only now he didn’t think he was capable of doing such a long drive. So I said to him, ‘why don’t we go and I can drive?’. Nothing was set in stone and the subject just faded into the background for a few weeks until my Mum asked me if I had thought about what I wanted to do for my birthday. With us only just coming out of lockdown I told her I wasn’t too bothered about it and we could do something just the three of us. So she suggested that we look at going to Scotland for it if that was something I would like to do. Well, obviously I loved the idea and wasted no time at all in finding accommodation for us.

After that life just got busy for a few months. I had a lot going on with my business, training courses and voluntary work. And then all of a sudden holiday week came around and we were tootling along the M6 bound for Scotland.

My Dad started the drive but I took over around around Preston and drove the rest of the way. We of course stopped off a couple of time; once for breakfast and then again in Lockerbie. It wasn’t until we were a good 50 odd miles into Scottish roads that I realised I hadn’t driven for more than half an hour in almost a year. Not only that but I hadn’t been on the motorway for even longer than that AND I was now driving my parents new car. This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal and to be honest it wasn’t in the general sense. But for me it was about trusting myself behind the wheel, knowing there was no way I was over the limit and for the first time in so long I was just able to enjoy the drive.

So there you have it, my week of sober and hangover free firsts. A holiday, a birthday and a very long drive; survived and unscathed. Next up, Christmas!

And it was all going so well…

Don’t you just hate it when things are going so well and all of a sudden, out of nowhere life, the universe, whatever you want to call it puts a stop to it? And it’s even worse when you have no explanation for it? Like, I seriously don’t have time for this bullshit. This week was meant to be full of productivity and progress, instead it’s been a bit like mouldy cheese. That might be the worst analogy ever but I think you know what I’m getting at.

For a start my early mornings haven’t been as early as I’d like and come to think of it my sleep has been a little bit disturbed lately too. So because my day has been starting later, I’ve been skipping bits of my morning routine just so I don’t get too behind with other things. And as a result that 30min slot I’d allocated for working out has been conveniently bypassed. But I’ll come back to that little faux pas in a bit.

Anyway after last weeks Arbonne revelation I decided that this week I was going to get stuck in with getting my coaching business off the ground and be proactive with all my Bee Sober ambassador stuff. Unfortunately my brain didn’t get that memo and just decided that this week it didn’t really want to do a fat lot. Every post I’ve tried to write, every email I’ve wanted to send and every idea I’ve had…all started well and then, nothing. I’ve parked so many things I’m almost out of coins for all the meters I’ve got running!

By hump day I’d all but given up. I’d spent all day helping my Dad decorate the front room, my head felt like it was going to explode by the evening. So much so that I had to cancel my walk with my mate Kass and instead I just crawled into bed at 8.30pm. I thought a good nights sleep would help but I was wrong.

Yesterday I woke up in wobble central. Not been there in a while. I kept tearing up over such small things and all I really wanted to do was nap. All day. I tried to focus on getting all my homework actions up to date from the business course I’m doing with Laura at the moment. The training videos from this week were so good and I really thought I knew exactly what I needed to do. And I did, except when I tried to write I just kept hitting brick walls over and over. Which infuriated me even more and in the midst of a teary rage I suddenly remembered I was still the size of a baby hippo and had failed miserably at doing any form of proper exercise. So in an effort to feel even a tiny sense of accomplishment I joined a gym.

Later that evening I battled on with writing content for my blog. There was something that had been tapping on the inside of my head for a week or so now and I thought by writing about it, it would stop said tapping. But again the words just seemed stuck. Where they’d gotten stuck I don’t know but they just weren’t coming. So I did what any coach does when they feel like they’re going nowhere…they call their own coach.

Laura has already gone above and beyond as a coach and often feels more like a very supportive and reliable friend. I didn’t want to take up too much of her time so I sent her a voice note asking for advice. Considering I started blubbing half way through she managed to figure out what I was saying and gave me some very helpful guidance and we worked through some stuff before I called it a night.

So was today any better? Ummm, it was actually but still far from really productive. I didn’t wake up until 7.30, it’s taken me all day to write this blog post (which isn’t really all that) and I’ve not done much else. BUT I did go to my first gym session in three years…yes, THREE years!

Sometimes even with the best intentions, with our plans all laid out in front of us life just doesn’t play ball. Things get in the way, our energy is off or quite simply we just can’t be arsed. What we need to remember is that a few days of feeling shitty and not getting it done isn’t going to make all that much difference in the long run. Focussing on what didn’t go well is just going to fuel the negativity so instead we need to try and shift that focus on what did go well.

I know it’s easier said then done because I lived in the land of negativity for years and couldn’t see a way out. But I learned to adapt my way of thinking, and although I need a reminder every now and again (we are all human) most of the time I know how to make that mindset shift. It takes patience, practice and perseverance but when you get there it really does take away so much shitty stress that so many of us put ourselves through when we really don’t need to.

If you’ve read this and know exactly where I’m coming from. If you’ve had similar days or weeks of feeling like you’re going nowhere fast and ended up hating on yourself for it. Then rest assured it’s not as bad as you think and I can help you see that too.

And guys!!! I went to the frickin gym! I worked out for a whole hour. AND I enjoyed it.

A day in the life of… Part II

So we left off just after breakfast. Where I attempted to redeem myself with nutrition supplements and vitamins after my cheesy beans on toast…god that was good.

Now a little bit about my home life before I go on. As previously mentioned I live at home with my parents. This is something that for a long time I hated having to fess up to. But not anymore. You see I did move out, almost immediately after university. It was December 2004 and I’d just gotten my first proper job up in Manchester. For the next 4 years I flitted about a bit; Manchester, back to Liverpool (where I went to uni) and then all the way down to London. I then got a bit bored of working so sacked it all off and went backpacking on my own for 6 months. But that’s a whole other post in itself.

When I returned with my grubby backpack wearing hareem pants and a tonne of beaded jewellery; the recession resulted in me not being able to find a decent job. So I lived at home again for a couple of years, worked at the job centre for a bit before moving to Australia for 3 years. Summer 2013 I came back to the UK because my mental health was in a bad way and for that reason and a few others I’ve lived at home with my parents ever since. It’s been challenging for a variety of reasons and my health has impacted us all. But we are all still smiling…just! And without their love and never ending support I honestly would not be writing this today.

So back to my daily antics. Well in my parents eyes I don’t have a job. They know I ‘do Arbonne’ but they see it as something I’m doing for a bit of extra cash and to keep busy. If it hadn’t been for the positive impact this business has had on me and my mental health they’d be dead against it by now. Not because they don’t agree with what I’m doing but because they’re seeing how much time and energy I’m putting into this and I guess after they’ve watched me go through some seriously shitty times they don’t want to see me disappointed again. So they’re wary, but it’s from a place of concern and love.

Anyway the biggest challenge for me trying to build a business from home is getting my mum to understand that I can’t keep stopping what I’m doing to dry the dishes, whizz round with the Dyson or fold laundry. So we’ve come to an agreement that I do my ‘chores’ and start working at 10am from which time I am not to be interrupted. I mean of course that’s not really how it goes because even though the phone never rings for me I end up answering it. Or Dad needs help ordering something from amazon. But right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meet my friend Dyson

So 10am comes and I make my energy brain boost cocktail (strawberry fizz and mind health) and crack on. The next 6 hours minus; about a billion toilet breaks, 3 or 4 Louis being needy moments and covering me in dog hair and of course lunch, I work.

My office…in the conservatory

Now what is work for me at the moment? Well, I start with brainstorming my content. Content for my Instagram, content for my blog and content for my business. When your business is online and you are trying to reach a target audience you need to put out valuable content. Things people relate to, things people can learn from or things people enjoy. I think so many of us are guilty of posting positive or inspirational quotes and I do that too. But that’s not going to help you connect with people, they need to read your words and hear your stories. And let me tell you, sharing that stuff is bloody hard. People are so judgemental it’s ridiculous. As authentic as you are there will always be someone out there who thinks you are boring or attention seeking or melodramatic. To share this kind of stuff you need to look past that and just hope to god your words will reach the right people.

What I’ve learned is that getting your face on camera and talking is probably a quicker way to connect with people. And I know that it’s not really a big deal, BUT I just hate doing it. It’s my biggest weakness. I know it’s stopping me progressing in my business and it’s something I really need to work on. Or just get over my damn self like Romi Neustadt told me to. Actually….I heard good things about Hypnotheraphy so if there are any experts out there please get in touch!

In amongst all of that content creating I’m constantly communicating. With new people, potential clients, people who need help/advice, those who want to know more about what I do and anyone who might want to team up with me for my blog. This is why I love what I do so much, making new connections is exciting and interesting. I’ve made some awesome friends over the last few months as well, true keepers I reckon.

So that’s my working day in a nutshell. There’s a lot more stuff going on like team training, doing my own learning and development but generally that’s how my day pans out until about 4 o clock-ish. I then head out for a walk with Louis which should be a great excuse for some exercise, except after 15mins or so and having had a shit Louis is not interested in walking anymore and we have to head home.

I can never get good photos on our walks so here’s one of him in the garden instead.

When we get back Louis gets fed and I’ll help my Mum with dinner. We all cook but Mum does the majority of it. She normally knocks up traditional Indian food so I’ll help her make the chapattis. My nights in the kitchen tend to result in a cracking fish pie or experimenting with plant based stuff.

Chapatti making

We currently eat together in the kitchen at around 7.30ish. I say currently because there was a time up until recently that we just ate when we felt like it, in front of the TV and not always at the same time. Now relations between us are better (because I’m no longer a nightmare) we try to eat together as much as we can. It’s nice, a time when we can catch up on our day. Which might sound silly with us all at home all day but we are all doing our own little things and dinner time is when we have a little debrief.

After dinner we tend to separate again. But as we are tidying up, doing the dishes etc and when I remember to; I make up my breakfast for the next morning. My favourite chocolate overnight protein oats.

I then head back to the conservatory while my parents are watching TV. Sometimes I carry on with a bit more ‘work’, maybe I’ll read one of my non-personal development books and of course I always have a flick through Netflix options. I used to watch a lot of Netflix, documentaries mostly, but I can’t seem to find any good ones anymore. Louis is fast asleep at this point, so there’s also a lot of time spent staring at him like the obsessed dog momma that I am.

A visit to Grey Sloane Memorial
He sleeps

The parents tend to head up to bed around 10ish and I follow shortly after I’ve kissed dog child goodnight.

I’m now a regular skin care enthusiast so I’ll do my little bedtime routine, clean my pegs and then crawl into bed. Again this used to be more Netflix time for me but these days the early mornings, the improved mental health and calmer mind means that after my head hits that pillow you can guarantee I’ll be out for the count in about 15 minutes or less. I never understood how people could do that, fall asleep within minutes of getting into bed. Now, that’s me and I bloody love it.

So there you have it. A day in the life of, a look through the keyhole and a pretty lack lustre description of my home life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m just a girl, finally finding her way in the world after going through some seriously shitty times. I’ll leave you with a picture of my home, the roof that’s been over my head for the past 33 years give or take. The house where so many memories were made…and where I’m now working towards my dreams.

Home

Authenticity or attention seeking ?

If I’m honest, I don’t even know anymore. I guess it’s subjective? I could post a picture on here where I think I look nice and some would think I’m trying to grab attention. I suppose I am in a way, but not necessarily because I’m all ‘look at me, like my photo’ but mostly because I want people to read my captions. Again, not for popularity purposes but because I think at least some of the stuff I have to say might be helpful to someone out there. And I think if we’re all honest a slightly more aesthetic photo is more likely to get someone to stop scrolling then one where I look like shite.

They say social media, (Instagram in particular) is a highlight reel of people’s lives and people only post what they want you to see, which I agree with to some extent. But I think it totally depends on what you are using it for. My Instagram has gone through phases. It started out as an app where I posted the occasional photo before transforming into quite a health and fitness page. That phase of my life was inconsistent to say the least. I was either all in or on the couch. And if I was on the couch my mental health struggles were often on fire, fuelled of course by alcohol. Either way at the time I thought I was being authentic. But was I really? I know for a fact everything I posted was real, but it’s more what I ‘chose’ not to post that puts a question mark over my integrity. The bad workouts, the unflattering angles, the sweat patches. The stuff that basically didn’t look so pretty or impressive, that was kinda neglected so maybe I did only show the highlight reel.

These days those who’ve followed me through my trials and tribulations will see that my Instagram is focussed on my lifestyle blog, my mental health and soberiety, my health and wellness business AND me just sharing a bunch of life lessons and lightbulb moments because….well because I believe that I have some things of value to offer people. Whether that be nuggets of wisdom, solutions to problems or even just a friendly face and an ear to listen. And I think this is the first time I’ve really appreciated what it is to be authentic. I think I can safely say that prior to February 11th of this year I wasn’t authentic. I wasn’t going around trying to be fake but my mental health was so bad at times, even I didn’t know who I really was. And I’m pretty sure if you don’t know who you are, you can’t be authentic.

When I stopped drinking on February 11th 2020, I started a new journey. One of self discovery, personal growth and just learning to understand myself better. Only now do I think I’m seeing my true self, and that’s why I think it’s only now I can say I’m being authentic. And I think when you achieve that level of authenticity you start to notice those around you that aren’t quite there yet. I’m seeing it everyday in my business, all over social media and even in people close to me. It’s not their fault, they might not even realise. And being true to the core, voicing YOUR beliefs, following your own path even if it means upsetting those around you is not easy! In fact it can be really fucking scary.

I saw a post on LinkedIn a few weeks back. Someone asked a question and it turned into quite a…I want to say debate but it was actually more like an excuse to take the piss out of people who show emotion. So the question was something along the lines of ‘why do people feel the need to cry on their social media?’. Now, there wasn’t much more said in the initial post but the comments…wow! Some of the words I saw: Attention seeking, no-one needs to see or hear that, have some dignity, why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and call someone? Ridiculous, cringey, how embarrassing. These comments went on into the 100s! I was stunned and to be honest extremely fucked off by these responses. Someone’s tears could literally be a cry for help because they have no one else to turn to.

I try not to get into these keyboard battles but I took this one personally. So I rolled up my sleeves and started typing.

My response

I did get a response from the author of the post about it being jest but in today’s current climate, when mental health struggles are rife I didn’t see the funny side of it. What it did get me thinking about was the actually meaning of the phrase ‘attention seeking’. Am I right in thinking we use this with a negative connotation attached? Because that’s the only time I’ve ever heard it used. And when you think about it, all it means is looking to gain somebody’s attention. So really, this could be for all manner of reasons. You could be seeking attention because you’re in danger, or trying to get yourself noticed for your talents, it doesn’t necessarily have to be because you’re desperate for validation or want to have all eyes on you. And personally, I think showing that kind of raw emotion on social media whether it’s intentional or not is closer to authenticity then it is to attention seeking. Maybe I’m wrong?!

I’m noticing that this post does not have a clear direction. I don’t feel like it’s heading towards any big finale. Which I find disappointing. I always like to end with something poignant or dramatic. But perhaps this post doesn’t have a clear ending because there’s no clear answer. Being authentic is more than just being yourself. You have to know what that self is. And what I’ve learned is that through no fault of our own too many of us don’t really know who we are. Society has moulded us without us noticing and sometimes it takes a big life event (one that perhaps say involves wearing masks and staying indoors a lot) to make us stop and ask ourselves the questions. Am I being my authentic, true self? Am I attention seeking or just trying to stand out? Whatever your thoughts and opinions I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves…and probably more than once!

A day in the life of…

Confession: This little project of mine didn’t really go as planned. What I mean is there was no plan and I kept forgetting to write things down, take photos and videos. Turns out I don’t carry my phone around with me as much as I thought. So a day in the life of turned into a few different days in the life of, merged together and probably some missing bits. Just goes to show I’m not a professional, nor am I an influencer who has 10 photos minimum taken of everything little daily movement. I’m just me, I forget things and most of my day is pretty dull, but I said I’d share it with you so here goes…

So my alarm goes off every morning at 5.30am. And yes, that means weekends too. Why? Because I’m a weirdo! But mostly because after reading the 5am Club by Robin Sharma I was all inspired and have been trying to wake up early and get an hour to myself to do my morning stuff. When I say stuff I’ll explain in a bit. Anyway Shaena never quite makes it to 5(.30)am club and today was the same.

So I rolled out of bed at 6am, quick trip to the bathroom to use the lavatory and clean my teeth, threw on a hoody and my PJ bottoms, drew back my curtains and headed on down stairs.

Alarm turned off and first things first, go and see what Louis got up to during the night.

Turns out he stayed in the conservatory (sometimes he relocates to his actual dog bed) and has decided that it’s too early to go out for a pee so he’s staying in bed.

So I leave him be and go into my Dad’s reiki room. This used to be Uncle’s old room, he lives with us until I was about 20 if I remember right. We didn’t boot him out or anything, he has learning difficulties and he went to live in assisted living so he could have more independence. Anyway, he only lives a few minutes away so we see him all of the time. Ok, back to the reiki room. My Dad became a reiki master a few years ago and now that’s his thing. I use this room between 6-7am every day to do my miracle morning routine. For those new to my weird rituals, a miracle morning is a routine established to get your mindset ready for a new day. It’s taken from Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning and is a pretty awesome way to start your day. Admittedly I’ve not actually read the book but google gave me the info I needed. And I have read Hal’s second book, The Miracle Equation so I think he’d be ok with me doing that.

So anyway back to the reiki room…again!

I start by switching the heater on because this room used to be our garage so it’s always freezing in there, even in the summer! And then I sit on the floor and start my MM:

Step 1. 5-10min of meditation. The 21 day free meditation here is excellent if you want to give it a go.

Step 2. Affirmations. Look it up if you don’t know what they are. They make you feel badass, try it!

Step 3. Visualise! Imagine yourself in a moment. Any moment that you want for yourself. It can be literally anything but you have to see it, every little detail.

Step 4. Exercise. Some people throw in a whole workout here. I’m still working on that working out thing. Baby steps! Anyway I instead do a bit of a wake up flow yoga sequence.

Step 5. Read. I pick up which ever personal development book I’ve got on the go and try and read a chapter.

Currently reading

And finally step 6. Scribe. I write out at least 3 things I’m grateful for and a quick list of actions and ideas for my day.

So there you have it my miracle morning routine. Some days I go through each step effortlessly, some days I sack it all off…but then regret it later in the day and start affirming and randomly meditating in the middle of the day. I know this routine works for me and I should do it every day. But I am also human and spend a lot of time telling myself ‘I can’t be fucked’…so let’s just say it’s a work in progress.

After this I normally walk back into the kitchen to find my Dad making tea for him and Mum. He is always up first, always. If he stays in bed past 8am then there’s something massively wrong. We say our good mornings and I then head on up for my shower. Which as you’d expect is really not that exciting. But occasionally I listen to something motivational on YouTube like a cheesy graduation speech, Denzel Washington doing a voice over on a clip of some girl running up a mountain or one of those random videos on Facebook with a title like ‘the guy went to get on a bus and you’ll never believe what happened next’. That sort of thing…ya know?! I have also recently started whacking the temperature down to the coldest setting at the end of my shower. It’s this new thing I’m doing, which I’m probably going to write about properly next week so I won’t say much else. Other then I’m currently managing 60 seconds! Hardcore or what?!

All clean

Once suitably cleansed I wrap myself in my towel and with chattering teeth I relocate to my dressing room/old bedroom/reading nook. It’s a very versatile room as you can see.

Here I get dressed, depending on how daring I’m feeling I may or may not pull down the blinds. The likelihood of me choosing anything other than lounge wear is extremely low, but I always try to look semi coordinated. Then it’s a quick blast of the hair with the hairdryer. Slap on my skincare stuff and away I go…..back downstairs. Except for you lot I put on a bit of makeup 😬.

The beautifying process

Now I know you’re all finding this riveting and I don’t want to end the fun too soon but I just want to give you a heads up that I’ll have to do this in two parts. My day is clearly just so jam packed full of exciting things that I can’t just give you the highlights because every bit of my day is a highlight. And we haven’t even gotten to the part where I go into the garden and pick up Louis’ dog shit. Bet you can’t wait!

Dog shit spotting

Anyway I will end part one with breakfast. Because it’s such a glorious affair. Now the day I documented this was not ideal because I forgot to make my favourite breakfast (overnight chocolate oats) the night before so what did I have instead? Cheesy effin beans on toast!!! And it was bloody delightful.

Side note, this is possibly the worst back up option for me because neither bread or cheese are good for my gut so not the best way to begin my day. But I followed it up with my greens glow shot and my daily pharmaceuticals.

Greens glow up shot

Antidepressants, folic acid and a vitamin D (super strength) so that makes up for it, right?

Alas my loyal readers, it is time for me to go and mingle with the other people in the house. Mum and Dad. So I will bid you farewell and I will return in a day or two with the second thrilling instalment of a ‘A day in the life of…’. Until next time….

I am the 1%

It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.”

– Hans F. Hansen

All my life I’ve felt like the outsider. The one in the group who didn’t quite fit. Apparently, it’s a personality trait of mine but that’s something I’ve only recently discovered. 16personalities says that as an INFP (that’s what I am) the need to be understood is strong. And conforming to the norm or to be part of the crowd, is where that feeling of ‘I don’t belong’ comes from. Because we (INFPs) are not meant to follow the crowd, we aren’t meant to fit in with the majority. We can only be our best selves if we go against the grain.

It’s starting to make so much sense to me now. Wish I’d found this out earlier, but such is life. And really, the way things were going for me I’m just glad that I saw the error of my ways before it was too late.

I often refer to myself as ‘a bit weird’ but I’m not really sure where that’s comes from. Am I weird? What even is weird? If I’m honest I think I felt the need to excuse or explain my being a little different to the norm, so ‘a bit weird’ is what I went with. But why do I even need do that? Why can’t I be happy with just being me and not having to explain myself?

Our individuality is what makes us who we are but I think society makes us feel like we need to tone down certain things. In other words, basically shaming people for who they are. And then because you are made to feel this way you start looking outside of yourself, looking to other people, so you can try and be more like them. The ‘normal’ ones. This conforming has been going on for decades…longer probably but I wouldn’t want to speak for those born before my time.

I think these days what makes it worse is that there are people out there; leaders, influencers, even people close to us who we trust; telling us to be true to ourselves. Preaching that it’s ok to be who you are, imperfections and all. But then we do things that are a little bit different and we come up against frowning faces.

For years I tried to fit in and be part of the crowd because the ones in the crowd seemed to have it together. But did they? Fuck knows. Even if they did it doesn’t mean they were my crowd. But I didn’t know that then so there I was, Shaena the square peg. And I just kept trying to plug myself into every hole that I found that wasn’t square because I just wanted to fit. I just wanted to belong.

But here’s the thing about us square pegs. We aren’t meant for ordinary. There’s nothing wrong with ordinary, don’t get me wrong. But we like to do things differently and at first it’s scary because the majority don’t understand it. They get confused by our choices, actions and beliefs. They don’t know why we keep talking to the universe, why we love spending time alone with our thoughts, why we feel so deeply and fall so hard. Why we aren’t built for office jobs, settling down or just settling full stop. And all of this is okay, they don’t understand us because they’re not our crowd.

When I tried to fit, in I felt isolated. When I tried to do the same as everyone else, I got bored. When I tried to hide my feelings, I suffered with anxiety and depression. When I spoke, I didn’t feel heard. But now I know that it’s okay. Because all these things were like little whispers telling me ‘no Shaena, that’s not you’. And I get it now, I get why.

It’s because I am the 1%.

Excite your mouth with a bit of Boucha

As you may already know, earlier this year I decided to part ways with my dear friend alcohol. This isn’t the first time I’ve abstained but I feel like this will be the last. So, with this being a permanent lifestyle change I thought I’d better give myself some cushioning for the future occasions where I actually decide to leave the house and socialise.

Alcohol free options seem to have come a long way in recent years. I did fear that J20 or a pint of something fizzy on tap would be my only options if I didn’t fancy water. But…I was pleasantly surprised by all the stuff out there. Prosecco, beer, real ale, wine and a variety of spirits ALL 0-0.5%!

I’ve not felt the need to stock up but I’ve experimented a little so I know I have options. Wine was my drink of choice most of the time, a nice crisp Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. But I also liked me a nice Ale or G&T. Actually, who am I kidding, I’d drink most things. What I didn’t love was anything that was too sweet. I was never a Rosé kinda gal and the only cocktail I’d ever have in my hand was an espresso martini or a (strong) margarita.

So anyway, as I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram last week this popped up on someone’s story…

I saw the word refined and kombucha and I was sold. Firstly, I definitely thought of myself as a wine snob in my drinking days and I know that kombucha is meant to have a lot of health benefits with its enzymes and antioxidants so, for me it was a no brainer.

A little bit of background on Boucha. This classy beverage with a hint of boho chic (IMO), is the brainchild of Bryony Dunseith. Having given up alcohol herself in 2018, Bryony was struggling to find something to replace her love of wine that wasn’t overly processed or full of sugar. After trying Kombucha at the https://mindfuldrinkingfestival.com/ she was inspired to create a wine substitute following the kombucha process. After collaborating with experts in the field Boucha Kombucha was born.

So what is it? Well, it’s kombucha (fermented sweet green tea) with a sophisticated edge. I had my first experience yesterday and I have to say I was very impressed. Upon opening the bottle (and managing to not to let it fizz over!) the smell, or should I say aroma hit me straight away and took me right back to my village in India.

Ok, this might sound a little weird but if you’ve never heard of palm wine, it’s a drink made from the sap of certain types of palm trees. It’s something that’s quite common in countries…well, countries with palm trees. Anyway the aroma is distinctive and Boucha Kombucha smelled exactly like it. And for me this was exciting because I really like palm wine, or as we call it in Gujarat, Taadi.

The taste itself was right up my street. I’m not a wine connoisseur (despite thinking I am) so I don’t know know the right things to say in terms of description. But if I were to give it a go I’d say zesty, naturally fizzy with a soft tartness to it. It’s not like sucking on a lemon but it’s the kinda tangy that definitely tickles your taste buds.

So for taste I would give it a solid 8.5/10 but what I think gives it the extra brownie points is the fact it’s made with 100% natural ingredients, it’s organic and it’s vegan AND gluten free. And unlike so many other alternatives out there it comes in at 70 calories per bottle (500ml) thanks to it’s low sugar content.

And finally it’s for us dry drinkers! The alcohol content is 0.5% which admittedly I was unsure of at the start of my sobriety journey. But my uneducated self soon learned that an over ripe banana is likely to contain about the same amount of alcohol. So, for those who are open to alcohol ‘free’ alternatives you needn’t worry!

If like me (and Bryony) you once enjoyed a nice fine wine but are now looking for a healthy and alcohol ‘free’ alternative I definitely recommend you try Boucha Kombucha. You can get 3 bottles for £19.50 or larger cases are available. Head over to the website today to find out more and place your order.

Brené Brown said…

God love this woman! She’s so freaking incredible. Like I would legit use her words in an argument. “You don’t know what you’re talking about bitch. Brené Brown said…so don’t you come over here, getting all up in my grill”.

I’ve just watched her Netflix show ‘Call to Courage’ for the 3rd time. Today I’m vision boarding so inspirational background noise is very much needed for this kind of activity. And yes before you read that again, I have a vision board. I stick cheesy motivational and uplifting quotes, along with pictures of goals and dreams on a board. And when I look at said board it brings me tremendous joy.

So back to Dr Brown and her wicked words of wisdom. Listening to her got me thinking. Why do we seek validation? Why do the opinions of others matter? And before you say you don’t care what other people think, you’re talking out of your ass. Because everyone does to some extent. And there are some opinions we should consider. What we need to not care about are the opinions and thoughts of people that don’t matter to us or as Brené says, are not in our ‘arena’.

I grew up in a Asian-British household. Both parents born and brought up in India before arriving in the UK in the 60s. We are not a religious family but I consider myself a Hindu and there are things about my culture I love. There are however, things I cannot stand. And that is the small minded, busy bodied nature of so many people in our community. And when I say community I don’t mean just people locally, I’m talking curtain twitchers all the way over in India!

Growing up me and my sisters were far from rebellious kids in compared to others our age. We worked hard at school, didn’t go out drinking in the park (mainly because we weren’t allowed out 😂) and were polite and (mostly) well behaved. But in our Asian community had we have been born into a more conservative family I’m pretty sure I’d have been banished in my late teens. Coming home with a white boyfriend at 17…outrageous! Once my parents recovered from their heart attacks my mum said she was more concerned with people talking about me. And so for me that’s when it started, that’s when the ‘what will people think’ seed was planted.

Over the next 20+ years it continued but like I said, we didn’t do things by the (Asian) book. We all went away to university, we all went backpacking, my sister married a white Australian dude after living with him for several years before getting wed. We all moved down under at one point and both me and my younger sister were unmarried at the time (still are) so that would have been a talking point I’m sure. And then of course there was my struggle with mental health and drinking. Basically, I’ve always been aware of judgment and negative opinions. I dont think I’ve let it impact my life that much but maybe on a subconscious level I have.

The need to fit in and belong is human nature. We are hardwired for connection. So when you’re highly sensitive in nature like me, that need to belong is heightened even more. So what do we do? We conform, hide parts of ourselves that people might judge, try and be like the others…just to fit in. Nobody wants to be different because from a young age we are conditioned to believe different is wrong.

It’s so incredibly sad that we are told to be brave and courageous through life. But then in the next breath it’s ‘don’t do anything too wild though, because what will people think?!’ It happens all of the time. ‘Follow your dreams…really, is that gonna work though?’ ‘Just be yourself…you might want to tone down the enthusiasm.’ ‘The world is your oyster…oh, are you sure you want to go there, I’ve heard things!’

Here’s the thing, courage and bravery is badass. Because it means putting yourself out there, showing up, taking a risk when the outcome is uncertain. It’s getting uncomfortable and opening yourself up to criticism and judgment. Letting yourself be seen for who you really are is vulnerability at its finest. And all of this goes against the majority. Because the majority won’t take the risk, they won’t choose passion over practicality, they would rather adapt to fit in than be the one who goes it alone.

There will always be opinions. There’ll always be judgment. And there’ll always be a majority. But what we should never do is listen to those who criticise but would never dream of doing anything risky.

So be courageous in your life. Go follow your dreams and find your passion. Because that kind of bravery will always be a better option then having to wonder ‘what if?’

A Sober Education

Who’d have thought? Not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips in 151 days. I am pretty proud of myself but not because of my incredible willpower or determination, because to be honest it’s not really been like that for me. Not this time around anyway. I can’t really explain why but I’ve not really had any cravings, moments of ‘my life is going to be so fucking boring now, why could I not just drink sensibly like all the normal people out there?’ or even felt the need to fill the giant vodka bottle sized gap in my life with alcohol free beverages. It’s actually been pretty smooth sailing….so far. I am under no illusion that this is going to be a doddle and I’m never going to think about alcohol again, because that’s just stupidity at its finest. I am yet to try sober socialising, I have my first sober birthday since I was 17 coming up in a few months (and it’s a big one!) and I’ve just realized that if I ever decide that looking for love is a good idea again I’m going to have to go on a sober date! FML!

Anyway I digress. So, proud. Yes I am. Why? Because it’s given me the opportunity to go back to school. Sober school that is. No, not the online one. The imaginary one I made up so I could be a student again. A student of life! I’ve just said that out loud and I sound like a twat, but stick with me here.

I’ve learned more in the last 5 months than I did at school, university or in any job I’ve had. It’s been an incredible journey so far, so many light bulb moments and epiphanies. When alcohol was my pal, I spent so much of my time confused, lost, misunderstood. In fact I didn’t even really understand myself if I’m honest. I didn’t know who I was and now looking back, I think I spent too much of my time trying to be like other people just to fit in. No bloody wonder I was depressed. Feeling like you don’t belong or unsure of your identity is not a nice place to be. It’s actually incredibly lonely and I think as a society we underestimate the impact loneliness has on people. You don’t have to be elderly to be lonely, in fact I think older people accept loneliness better than most. I know for me watching people in my life; friends, colleagues etc go about there day to day lives with their families, other friends, partners made me feel like shit. It’s not like I didn’t have friends I just didn’t have a regular crowd to hang out with so to speak. So I hung out on my own…well, maybe not completely alone. Had my buddy booze there with me didn’t I?!

So what’s so different now? Well, since me and alcohol parted ways I feel like it took with it the dark cloud that used it hang over me, so I can see so much better now the skies are clear. I can see myself again and as a result I’m more aware and less dismissive of the impact my thoughts and actions have on myself and others. Having this clarity and self awareness gives me a sense of control that I didn’t have before. I always thought I was in control and it was my decision to do the things I did but if I wasn’t myself, how could it have been?

I’ve also done a lot of soul searching since going sober…wait is it going or getting? Anyway I’m talking actual soul searching. The spiritual kind, where you try and connect with your higher self and see the bigger picture. I never thought all that stuff was a bunch of crap, but I also didn’t think it was for me. Turns out I was wrong. Not only is it very much me and has opened up a whole new world for me, but I actually think everyone could do with checking out their spiritual side. You don’t even need to meditate, just google soul vs ego and I promise you, you’ll find out a lot about yourself!

Having found spiritual Shaena my life is so much more peaceful and calm now. I get less irate about things and even if something really annoys me I try not to react, but instead pause and take a breath. I also have way more patience and I find myself enjoying the simplest of things. I can’t even remember the last time I was in a bad mood which is saying something considering my whole life used to be a bad mood.

There’s so much more I could say about sober life and I’m sure you’ll get plenty more snippets in future blog posts but the last thing I want to mention today is people. I have made the most incredible connections via Instagram, I’m honestly blown away. I’m no stranger to making friends online, a few years ago I was following this fitness program and connected with a few girls who were doing it too. I think that was in 2015, since then I’ve been to 2 of their weddings, had 2 weekend cottage breaks with them and there was even a trip to New York! Madness! Anyway the sober community on Instagram is so welcoming and supportive. Obviously you don’t click with every single person but in just a few months I can definitely say I’ve gained at least 5 new friends. It’s funny actually, so many people worry about their friendships changing when they decide to stop drinking. I get it, I was worried too. But it’s true what they say about people all having a different role in your life and not everyone is there to stay. When you make changes to your lifestyle, some people adapt and evolve with you but others, their role in your life comes to an end. And that’s ok, because chances are you new lifestyle choice will bring a whole bunch of new people into your life.

So here’s to 5 months and to my continued education at sober school.

Cheers!

Play the tape forward

I hadn’t heard this saying until recently. It’s commonly used in the addiction/recovery world as a technique to make you stop and think when you get an urge or craving to drink. It walks you through the likely stages that will follow on from ‘oh go on, one won’t hurt’. Because with all the good intentions and will power in the world, chances are it won’t just be the one!

I haven’t had that urge yet so I’m yet to play the tape forward in that sense. But it got me thinking that the analogy could be used in a different way. What if rather then play the tape forward on a night out with friends, we play it forward in life?

Let’s say the tape is pretty long, five years long. If you played your life tape forward from this exact point today, what would you see? Where are you? Who’s with you? What are you doing? If you made no changes to your life today, where would you be in 5 years?

When I was in my 20s I had one of those 5-10 year plans. When I got into my 30s my plan hadn’t quite gone to plan. In fact I may have hit rewind rather than play…or at least that’s what it felt like. You see, my plan didn’t materialize because I didn’t do anything to help it. I didn’t look at what I needed to do or what actions I needed to take in order for me to be living the life I desired by my mid 30s. Some things were out of my control but I can see now that most weren’t.

So here I am about to turn 40 but thankfully I have a new plan AND I’ve already set the wheels in motion.

So let me ask you a different way. Do you have goals, ambitions, dreams? Of course you do, everybody does. The likely problem is you might not think they are achievable and that’s not your fault. When we are born our mind is infinite, we believe that anything is possible. Then as we grow older society tells us different. Limits are put on things, doubt is installed and you resign yourself to the fact that you are just not meant for extraordinary. So you settle. Because it’s safer. Less scary. Yawn!

But what if you chose not to settle? What if you believed your dreams were achievable? What if you found a way of to make your life a little less ordinary? Imagine a vehicle sat in your driveway with the engine running and someone is handing you the keys and telling you that said vehicle’s destination is your dream life. Would you grab them, jump in and never look back? Of course you bloody would! But what if all the Karen’s and Susan’s of the world were looking at you with that ‘hmmmm, I’m not sure’ look on their face, telling you that it’s too risky and that you should get your head out of the clouds and just be happy with what you’ve got. What would you do then? Would you listen to them and turn off the engine? Would you let fear stop you? The correct answer here is that you would thank Karen and Susan for their opinion and kindly tell them to fuck off!

No one is going to hand you your dream life, BUT they might hand you the keys. All you have to do is the work to get that car moving. And you also have to dig deep and find that fearless inner child in you. The one who believed anything was possible, the one who wanted to grow up and be an astronaut (yep, me!) and the one who didn’t let the risk of failing stop them dreaming. Remember when you learned to walk? No, me neither. But I’m pretty sure we fell over many times, acquired some bumps and bruises all before we took those magical first steps.

If life continues as is and you play your tape forward can you see the life you hoped for? Now, rewind the tape and imagine being handed those keys. When you hit play this time, what do you see? Keep that picture in your mind, hold onto it and know that it is possible. But it starts with you. It starts with you making a choice. A choice to remain stationary or to start moving.

Nothing changes, if nothing changes *pause*