I find it hard to know how to relate to my body. There is a lot of conflicting information thrown at me.It should be strong and sporty because 'this girl can'. It should be thin and well-kept because why wouldn't you make the most of what you have got? I shouldn't give it a second thought because appearances don't matter.It is confusing.And I am 37. Surely I should have got this one sussed by now?I know how I look is not the be all and end all.  And most of my life I have used this as my reason for...

I can't remember a time I did not know the lyrics to the theme tune of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Throughout the early '90s the song wormed its way into my ear, remaining in my head long after the show had finished.And, kudos to the song's composers, years later as my children grew up unaware of the origins of this piece of musical genius (heavy on the irony), we have on occasion found ourselves singing it to the kids, mock-rapping in the kitchen, initially thrilling and later totally embarrassing them.Last week my ten year old discovered nearly 150 episodes of Will...

Last Wednesday, I was in my car when I heard a programme on the radio about the Christian Feast that falls on that day.December 28th is the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents.A rarely celebrated day, this feast remembers the young boys who were slaughtered by Herod as he searched for the messiah.Very festive.Hot on the heels of Christmas, the day when hope and joy was made incarnate on the earth through the birth of Jesus, we are confronted with a feast that reminds us of the reality that his birth did not and has not brought peace.Atrocities still occur....

On the 1st December I started to write an Alternative Advent Calendar. I have been posting these 'gifts' daily on Facebook and Instagram.Christmas is busy, and expectations are high. It can become stressful and overwhelming very quickly. My Advent Calendar is an antidote to this. Each day I have been writing short thoughts about ways to manage this season, ideas about how to stay sane, maintain mental health and hopefully enjoy the festive period.I am writing to remind myself. To talk truth to myself.And to remind you. To talk truth to you.Here are the first seven daysDec 1st The Gift of...

It was seven years from my first panic attack to a diagnosis of anxiety. Seven years without any help. Seven years of thinking I needed to get a grip. Seven years of beating myself up for not being able to stay in control.Before my diagnosis I didn't think I was ill and I didn't think I suffered with anxiety. What even was that?I thought I was a freak. And weak.A weak freak.I didn't know anyone who had struggled with their mental health (or maybe truer to say, I didn't know anyone who had ever talked about it). I had no...

It is tempting to want to be a builder; to work with a plan, to know what you are going to produce before you have finished, to be sure about all the details.But better by far to be a gardener; to work with the elements, to be surprised by the things that grow and those that don't, to be malleable and open to change, to have to adapt in order to thrive.Builders have a level of certainty about the outcome. They plan and prepare and Are-Not-Wrong. Rarely does anything happen along the way to change what they are attempting. Sure,...

Recently I've been thinking about the connectedness of everything.About how it is all part of the same thing. We are all substance and soil and soul. We are all atoms and curiosity and magic.And we are all in the conversation.A few years back, we lived close to a big park where I sometimes used to run.I ran to get fit, but really I ran to get out. To leave the house and be alone without children talking and questioning and demanding. I love my children, but by 6pm. after a day on my own with them, I was often ready...

(Before the summer I wrote three posts about creativity, you can read the first one here. This is part 4.)I want to live a creative life, of making and discovering, of spontaneity and hard work.But I have a problem in achieving this and I don't think I am alone: My life is too full.My cupboards and counter-tops are full, my inbox and to-do list is full.My day is full of errands and requests to be fulfilled for the small (and not so small!) people I am care for.My mind is full of their hopes and needs and desires and expectations, and whether or...

Learning to love someone is like poetry.I don't mean that it is beautiful and full of romantic imagery.I mean that it is hard.Poetry is hard.When I was 17 I went on a school trip to a day of talks about literature in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. There were many speakers. They talked about their favourite texts, or about their own work.Some of it was very boring.But two of the talks have stayed with me, and I remember them all these (nearly 20) years later.Germaine Greer talked about her favourite Shakespearean sonnet and Simon Armitage unpicked his poem, Kid.I happened...

I wrote this week about comparison. I realised the idea of competition got a bit of a bad rap in this post. I felt the need to redress the balance.Not everything about competition is bad.Competition can provoke work that improves standards. It can be the impulse leading to scientific breakthroughs, or to sporting achievements. As iron sharpens iron, so those working in a similar field can spur each other on, to better their ideas, their communication, their achievements. And this can be good for everyone.The London 2012 Olympic Games showed us how a display of sporting brilliance can influence a...