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That time when I came to the end of a decade

The end of a decade is significant moment in time that makes a lot of us reflect over the past one. As I look back over the past 10 stretch, it’s funny for me to think sometimes that my life hasn’t always been this way. For those who stumble across me for the first time, you might make the same assumption also.

The truth is that in 2010 something magical happened: I ejected myself out of the life that I had created and built a whole new one, a new one with love at its core.

The journey hasn’t been an easy one, but my goodness it has been entirely worth it. Each and every year I feel like I get a little closer to my truer sense of self. Each and every year, whatever the headlines might have read in my life at the time (we all have dramatic headlines right!?), I have felt truly blessed and thankful to be right where I am, living and learning.

The question that I have kept asking myself along the way is: How do I keep bringing more and more love to each and every thing thing I do?

Indulge me for a moment whilst I track back through those years for a hot minute, and share with you the various stages of development. Like the evolution of Penfold. My path to wellness. My path to whole body livingness.

I’ve also punctuated each year with a song that captured my heart that year just for funsies… you can take the girl out of Shazam but you can’t take Shazam out of the girl after all.

2010: Swim Good, Frank Ocean. The year that I forced myself to accept the reality that I had been fighting against; that I had chosen to place myself in the middle of an abusive relationship for the past 12 years and I needed to leave. With the help of coaching I finally left in the November of that year, filed for divorce and left the home that I had built behind. In writing this post, I realised this is a whole post of it’s own, so my next blog post will go into a little more detail on domestic abuse.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or have someone close to you whom you are worried about, please reach out to me. I am not an expert on this matter beyond my lived experience. There are a myriad of wonderful support groups who can offer more practical support like Refuge, who have a 24 hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.

2011: Heartbeat, Nneka. This was the year when I managed to crawl back into life. I landed into this year completely shell shocked, and set about trying to establish some semblance of normality. I was afraid both of my past and of my future so I spent a lot of that time drinking too much alcohol. Somewhere within that I also allowed space for the friendships that became like family to grow. The possibilities that lay in front of me felt overwhelming, so I tried to stay safe with a small core group of people. After six months of turbulence I settled into a new flat and started to find my feet, but the struggle was real.

2012: Get Free, Major Lazer. With growing confidence, I started to make decisions that served me. This started with stopping drinking alcohol and caffeine completely, and was the beginning of my commitment to food choices that truly support my body (which I’ve later iterated on). I’d suffered from stress and food induced IBS throughout my 20’s, and I had pretty much fixed it by this point. I was still searching in earnest for an identity. I thought I’d found it in the art world. I started to let people call me Ruthie; a move that I now see was borne of fear, I felt it made me smaller and easier for the world to stomach somehow. I started to meet people, lots of people, and allowed my instinctive curiosity to flourish.

2013: Change, Natty. I came to the realisation that I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for outside of myself, but I struggled to find my way in. With the help of coaching, I managed to make some choices that supported me better, but I still lived to support others rather than myself. I’d thrown myself into the art world fully, and was doing that work alongside a busy day job. I joined Shazam at the end of that year and found a new obsession. Shazam captivated my imagination and I gave everything I had to build out the right foundation for that business. Where I grew at this time was mainly in professional confidence and competence. I arrived awash with imposter syndrome, but I was able to produce great work there that meant I was able to let some of that go.

2014: Live Your Life, Yuna. First new love. I started dating and started to try to find a way to share my world with others. It was pretty gnarly. The protection and independence I’d created to leave the relationship of my 20’s made it super hard to let love in. Honestly, at this time I simply wasn’t able to. I’d just started to show myself signs of love (baby steps), and the idea of another person truly loving me was more than I could fathom. So I guess you could say that this year I could see/smell/taste the delights that life truly had to offer, but I was still falling short of experiencing them fully. The song truly punctuates that for me, I can remember walking along listening to it, joy rising inside me, but very much living vicariously through the joyful experiences of others.

2015: Florasia, Taylor McFerrin. This was the moment I started to heal from the troubles I had experienced in earlier life. I started to see Sara Williams and began to connect to myself though sessions with her. That work was the beginning of the path towards gentleness and a deeper audit of the smaller details about how I was living. I got a taste of meditation here, and learnt what it felt like to connect to myself fully. I started to exercise and feel the strength grow within my body. I rented my first flat solo that year, which was a big bold step at the time, for someone who had up until that time been in a tiny box room feeling like that was all I needed (and deserved actually). The song captivated my imagination, and sparked a greater curiosity for the love that might be available to me.

2016: Lite Weight, Anderson Paak. The path towards gentleness continued with a sharp segway into some fairly aggressive yoga. It took me a while on this path to find the ability to slow down and breathe and find more of a balanced practice. I learnt how to meditate alongside this with Sara at her then clinic, being part of that group I learnt so much about rest and recovery, and though a well established early riser by this point, became much more committed to rhythms and schedules for my body. This was where my meditation practice truly began, and I started to learn myself and my reactions to things from the inside. The song captured my heart with its effervescence of spirit but with the deeper message of ‘there’s no reason to be afraid’.

2017: Tawo, Jordan Rakei. I took the meditation work a little further by getting involved in the ‘Just Breathe Project’ with Michael James Wong. I also did a little more speaking therapy at this time, as I began to wonder whether the walls I had built around my heart were going to allow the right kind of love in. My goal at this time was to embrace vulnerability, and learn to live less in my alpha driving mode. My world felt joyful though, and I got better at making quick decisions on things that weren’t serving me. I was in the groove at Shazam and seeing the impact I was able to create. The song captivated me and my feeling of being blessed by my experiences.

2018: Morning After, dsvn. I continued to work to try and find the space to enjoy the path of walking alongside another person. I joined Onfido, and could see the aching need for some of the work I was doing personally from a business standpoint – meditation, connection, care. It was like the stars were aligning for me again professionally speaking and like all the learnings were coming together in a brilliant way. My side note is that I’d also thrown myself into my work here in a fairly unhealthy way, which my obsessive streak is a little prone to. I was able to draw upon the toolkit I had created and dial up on meditation and other work to support myself at this time.

2019: Told You So, Miguel. I started this year with the goal of ‘being’ over ‘doing’ and I failed miserably. I am one of life’s do-ers and that’s hard to change. This whole time, even when it was detrimental to me, I’ve ridiculously overachieved at the thing I’ve set my mind to. So I finish the year with renewed intent. To live, to love, to breathe. To go deeper. To find more space. To slow down. I’ll let you know how I get on with that. The song is fabulous, but also carries the message for me that we actually always know what’s right for us, I knew it at the start of the year, but still carried on diving into the waves of doing. There’s a great question we can ask ourselves most of the time when we embark on a new project: ‘What are we going to ‘learn’ six months from now that we already know today?’.

I continue my work on the spectrum of love, sorting through myself and my ways of working to configure myself in the optimum way to truly thrive. I also carry that quest into the businesses that we are supporting within the Launchpad, to help them build the right experience for themselves and their people.

My intention is to fill the next decade with even more LOVE. Love is, after all, the most precious thing that we have my friends; love for ourselves and love for each other (and boy does our world need more of that now).

Happy new decade beautiful people.

That time when I learnt how to build an extension

“I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

I love Scott’s book. I’ve read it twice (both times by my friend Doug‘s recommendation), with about three years between readings. Each time I found a little something else in it, based on the degree of awareness I have of myself and how I operate. I agree with his definition of love being the willingness to extend one’s self into something expansive whether for your own growth or that of another.

We hear a lot about self love these days but often from the perspective of ‘outside in’. We have come to associate the phrase with the idea of doing nice things for ourself, or adding something else in to our already hectic lives. We add ‘self love’ as something to an already over burdened ‘to do’ list, yet seem to still procrastinate over that action over all the rest.

Real self love is an inside job.

It is not frantic, it is not stressful and it is definitely not striving to be something other than that which we truly are. It is the deep, delicious feeling of calm when you make choices that are aligned with who you are, how you want to be and your moral compass.

We all have a deep wisdom within that cannot be learnt as it has always been there, it can only be exposed by washing away and discarding the things that have contributed to the disconnection.

Real self love is therefore often less about what we add in, but more about what we take out.

Removing things that no longer serve us from our lives can be one of the most painful things of all, and therefore is likely to be something that we conveniently avoid doing. To successfully do so may well mean experiencing pain to some degree, and the experience or even idea of that pain can feel so overwhelming for us that we choose to abort the mission and stay just as we are.

Love is therefore the opposite. Love means being prepared to step into that pain and to put in the work to get us where we want to be. Extending ourselves beyond the confines of our comfort zones takes real courage and commitment.

Let us consider what that courage and commitment to extend might look like in real world terms.

  • It could be the more introspective examples like embarking upon a voyage of self discovery whether in the form of therapy or self education.
  • It could be learning how to meditate and finding a way to slow down and connect.
  • It could be learning something new; something children often do so well. I watch my nieces lap up and apply each piece of new information that comes their way and experiment limitlessly with how they might apply that new data.
  • It could mean taking on a project that you are scared of doing but is well within your capabilities. This is different to striving to be something other than who you are, this is about stepping into your power.
  • It could also be something seemingly benign like driving on a motorway, and that was me recently.

I am still a reluctant driver, due to the stories I tell myself about my capabilities as a driver throughout adulthood. As soon as I get in the car and start moving, I realise I love it. To me it symbolises a form of freedom, yet I still hold myself back from stepping into that power and therefore that freedom. To overcome it, I am pushing myself to do it, pushing to learn a new normal and to step into my power.

In doing so recently I felt a sense of expansiveness, a sense of breaking free of self imposed shackles. Right up until I turned the key in the ignition as I set off, I was trying to find excuses not to be there and reasons to make it okay for me to cancel the plan and take the train.

Instead I turned the key and set myself free again. It really is that simple. What are the limitations that you are placing on yourself right now? Where are you ‘taking the train’ instead of hopping on the motorway?

Are you taking up all of the space that you should be in the world? Are you keeping yourself smaller than you are? Are you making choices that extend you in the direction of spiritual growth? Are you really loving you?

Love is not something new to us. We are born as the very embodiment of love, embraced tenderly as infants (at least for the most part) and have no question at that time of what love is and what love isn’t. It just is.

As soon as we get a little older and more physically robust, the world changes its interaction with us to become less tender, and we grow harder to meet it. That can often spell the beginning of the end of love for us, until hopefully we find some way to make our way back to our default setting: LOVE.

Having gone on an expansive, invasive journey through my own experiences and learnt behaviours I’d be lying if I said the journey was without peril.

But I can also tell you first hand that the joy that is left in its place once the real calmness of your innermost is uncovered, is quite literally the stuff that dreams are made of.