Tuesday, 19 April 2011

How to be a Super Woman: Meet Lucy from Dreaming Aloud...

1. Hi! Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Lucy and I am a home-based mama to 3 home-birthed children ages 5, 3 and 1. My husband and I both work from home in a little pink house on the south coast of Ireland.

I am a freelance writer and contributing editor at my very favourite magazine in the world: JUNO. A soulful, natural family magazine which has been at the centre of my learning to be a parent.

I have blogged at Dreaming Aloud since November 2010, after years of resisting my husband's suggestion to “get a blog!”.  It brings so much goodness to my life: inspiring me to live even bigger, connecting me with wonderful like-minded people and giving me a public outlet for my more personal writing. I also have a baking blog Queen of Puddings, because I love cake.

I am a trained teacher and have taught a lot of different subjects for money and love: English, drama, creative writing, pregnancy yoga, craft, antenatal classes... I have also been involved in a lot of community development projects: helping to start a playgroup, a school, running an arts festival, leading a women's group and mother blessings.

I love to read: my books are my second babies and I have a massive collection of other people's wisdom lining my walls. I have to read, I consume ideas which feed my own life and work. I have started book reviewing professionally – what a perfect job! 

Juno: A Natural Approach to Family Life
I try to combine these myriad aspects of myself. My work and life intermingle...I am free spirited by nature and this works wonderfully for me. Everyone on both sides of my family is self employed and earn their money in creative fields too: it's in my blood I guess. I have learnt that there is another way of making a life and a living than having a job you hate, or sacrificing family and home for work. I am delighted to say that I am following my bliss and my life is very rich. 

2. Do you have a 'grand plan'? Do you think this has changed at all over the years?
Yes I have a grand plan – goodness that sounds pretentious, doesn't it, but I do! On my website I put it like this: 
“My intention is to assist in a re-visioning of our culture into one which is rich in more than material terms, one which prioritises human and ecological needs above those of institutions and the economy.” 
My passions are women's personal development and empowerment, natural birth, mothering, re-thinking education, home-based living, and fostering creativity. And so I work at these on every level. With my kids, in how I deal with people, in my writing, in my teaching, in my practical activities. I am very, very driven because I am doing what is important to me. I am being the change I want to see in the world.

The parameters have changed: my level of self-knowledge, my understanding of where my power lies, and the arrival of my children... but the vision has remained. I set out to have outside approval for my vision, I needed permission to say what I wanted to say. I wanted to be a self help writer. I wanted to be like Oprah. I wanted to lead personal transformation courses. I wanted to change the way the education system ran, to set up an intentional community, to run a cafe with lots of exciting workshops and a lending library... I am not short on dreams and ambitions!

But I have learnt that one person cannot do it all!  Life is no fun if you spread yourself TOO thin. That for me leads to exhaustion, panic attacks, migraine and depression.  But for me I have an idea, I gestate it and then I see how I can act on it: do I raise awareness, talk about it, write about it, start a project...? I am a leader not a joiner, and I have a great starting energy and enthusiasm, but am far less good at finishing stuff. This I have come to accept in myself.

As the kids arrived into my life in quick succession (I am only 30!) I have had to shift my timetable and expectations of myself. They provide so much learning for me and if it were not for them I would not have either the time, lifestyle or material, or be the person I am, to be able to write my stuff. So I keep reminding myself that they will not be young forever and not to waste these precious years. But I need my head-space and physical space and I find the constant being needed of three little kids very challenging. My writing keeps me sane. I write because I have to! I have cut right back on my community work and stopped teaching altogether...for now!

3. What gets you up in the morning?
My kids get me up – I am usually dozing breastfeeding our baby when our tropical three year old comes bounding in and lands on my head, pulling my hair and making me eff and blind my way into full consciousness. I would prefer to start the day with an hour's reading and then some meditation and yoga, followed by a blissful bath. This is for the self help authors who have no kids.

4. Run us through a typical kind of day
We dive into breakfast madness, with tantrums over how the toast is cut. I hate the hour before school: uniform, packed lunch, hurry up we're going to be late – it's not a nice way to start the day and makes we wish that we were home schooling. I always thought I was going to, but for me it is a trade off between my soul work and devoting myself to home-schooling, and my work wins out. It's not a decision I feel perfect about. 

However the walk to school, less than five minutes down a country lane, usually lifts my spirits and we see what magic nature has provided that day: cobwebs glistening with dew, dandelions or blackberries in the hedgerows. 

When I get home, we have self-directed time for an hour or so: the 3-year-old has her morning C Beebies fix, the baby trashes the joint and I catch up on my world: emails, blog etc whilst stopping to dole out snacks, breastfeed, stop fights.  If I do this now it sets me up for the day and then I can really give myself to them rather than feeling resentful. At some point the 3-year-old drifts away from the TV and starts playing by herself and I feel a lot less guilty!

Lucy commits random acts of beauty!
Then it's craft time. Or we go for a walk and explore usually up to the Cookery School gardens next door, often finding stuff for our nature table. 

At least three times a week we will bake a cake or cookies together. Cooking with my kids is really important. I love it, they love it and we love eating what we make.

Home for lunch, a quick check of email and then collect our son from school. A snack and we decide what to do for the afternoon. I feel he misses out on creative stuff and outside stuff by being in the school system so this is what we really focus on at home.

Then it's Scooby Doo O clock, so I can have half an hour to check emails and do anything for my editorial role before the end of office hours, before it’s time to make supper. 

Bedtime is 7pm, but often it'll be 8.30 before they're all settled.  When they’re in bed tucked up it’s my time! Most evenings are spent working: writing blog posts, articles, book reviews,  facebooking with friends. I try and make sure I have a couple of nights a week off. I try REALLY hard to connect with my husband too, but he respects the fact that getting to do my thing in the evening a happy mama makes. Because he is home based we get to chat throughout the day.

I usually go to bed around 10.30 – I need my sleep – unfortunately I have had 3 babies who slept like angels until they were 3 months old, then woke 5-15 times a night, every night until they were 2. 

Talking about my day in a linear manner doesn't really give you a sense of it – I am always multi-tasking: I will be planning an article whilst putting the baby to sleep or reading on the toilet, or blogging and watching TV. Rarely do I get a chance to do anything uninterrupted, so I use my time to the full. My life is woven of multiple strands, on multiple levels, and each is a crucial part of the whole tapestry. If I leave one part untouched for too long a hole emerges in the fabric of my life. I find it mostly manageable because it is inner directed and home based. When I was doing a lot of stuff outside of the house: trying to settle baby to bed before running out to meetings, having to be at certain places at a certain time, I found that really stressful, and more like trying to keep plates spinning on sticks. I prefer weaving!

5. When you experience a setback how do you pick yourself back up again?
I just make sure I don't get stuck in it too long. I have a couple of family members who totally lost their way, hopes, talents, ambitions and sections of their lives by getting stuck in self doubt and depression. It is such a waste. You have to take responsibility, at the first moment that you are capable, to own your thoughts, move forward, to choose to act, to find the positive. You are responsible for you: what kind of day are you going to make it? You cannot control everything that happens, but you can totally effect how you respond, the pattern of your thoughts. I have a tendency to moan and whinge. Ina May Gaskin is clear in her book Spiritual Midwifery that to have a positive birth you have to be positive: give love, focus on the positive, not whining about what's not right. Another help to me is Louise L Hay's You Can Heal Your Life:  All is well in my World. Every time something shakes me and I feel unsettled, I come back to this mantra.

6. Who or what inspires you the most?
A lot of people say I am like my grandmother, my namesake. I never met her but wish I had. She was a legend in her own right: a strong mother figure, a dynamic and influential woman who made her mark on all who met her and on her community. 35 years after her death people still speak of her with awe.

But also Ina May Gaskin, Pam England and others in the birth world. Creative people, people who live their truth big and publicly, who push for change. People of vision and courage who live their dreams.

7. We all have bad days when we doubt ourselves and our abilities. How do you get through yours?
I am thoroughly grumpy and miserable and no fun to be around. Usually it is one of my dear friends who helps get me out, or my husband, he is very good at handling me when I am low.

I try to get out, out of the house, out of my head – go for a walk, to see a friend, to physically change my mental framework. If I can do this rather than wallow in the hypnotic nature of mental suffering, then I can let go of it and move on to a new thought pattern.

8. What do you feel are your greatest achievements and why?
In the words of one good friend, "I'm amazed, bearing in mind what your life has been like, how well adjusted you are. This is not inevitable. I have worked very hard, consistently and deeply on personal development/ spiritual stuff to off-load the negative stuff from my past, work on close relationships and make myself a better person. 

But to the outside world, I think my greatest achievements are yet to come...

9. Tell us what you think constitutes a "Super Woman" and list 3 key ingredients for success
Actually, on reflection, trying to be a Super Woman is precisely my problem! And whilst it's nice to be recognised for what we do and achieve, how we live is far more important. Although most things I do come from my own inner drive, and are often reflective and spiritual, I spend far more time than is healthy in doing, rather than being. This comes at a cost: to my mindfulness, to domestic order and to my own health.

I think the most important thing any person can do is to know themselves and try to find balance amongst the various strands of themselves. And for a woman to know her cycles and her energy levels and work to these rather than against herself. This is absolutely what I try to do. But most often I fail on the balance front – I do too much and then burn out. In our culture this is seen as a good thing... but really it's a form of ego driven insanity.

My 3 key ingredients for success are:

  • Know yourself, follow your heart, and listen to your intuition 
  • Take responsibility for your own actions and potential –don't waste your energy on blame or excuses – if you want to do something do it and if you don't then don't, but stop moaning!
  • If you believe it you can achieve it – work hard on visualising with clarity.

10. Final words of wisdom?
“Do what you can with what you have where you are...” 
Theodore Roosevelt
Every time I feel stuck or stuff isn't working or I don't know where to start I come back to this. It reminds us to bring the dream back down to earth, to ground its roots in our reality not off in Never Land.

You can find Lucy over on her website, Dreaming Aloud blog and Queen of Puddings blog.

Do you know someone who fits the bill of Super Woman? Even yourself - don't be shy! If you would like to take part or recommend a friend, please send a message with the details to me at giveanearthly at gmail dot com.

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