Rage is my Superpower

Rage can work in a vicious cycle, destroying you & wearing you down, or you can turn its strength inwards, creating a virtuous cycle. Allow me to explain….

My rage is a supernova, an illogical, overwhelming roar of emotion that burns outwards, searing anything logical or calm in its path. Fighting and scratching from my emotional corner, I feel like I have little control over it.


This then sucks itself inwards into a fiery ball of heat, to burn itself out gently.


However, understanding my triggers, and turning my ‘ball of fire’ into productive energy has a two-fold effect: getting a LOT of work done, and distracting me from the initial reaction, which calms me down. The more time I spend in the blogosphere, the more I realise how many of us are battling similar demons. Waking up & showing up every day IS an actual achievement. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that doing a root-cause analysis on the cause of my rage can (& does) send me into paroxysms of panic & anxiety, with a full-blown case of hives. I just don’t want to go there. The analysis will probably be best explored in stages, at some later date, because there’s no real reason to hyperventilate noxious fumes of rage because my hand baggage which should have been waiting at the foot of the gangway is now going round on a carousel in the terminal, potentially adding another five minutes to my journey time and throwing my careful plan to exit the airport in one piece to the winds, right? Doing my Rumpelstiltskin-after-the-queen-guesses-his-name dance was all part of the routine, folks. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Or I could just accept I have chronic anxiety. I am hyper-aware of the environment I’m in at any given point, treating every situation like a potentially hostile encounter. My husband once asked me what it was like to live without a filter, to feel, see & hear everything, to notice every detail. It is sensory overload. It is absolutely exhausting. It’s why something small can completely tip the fragile balance I establish every day.

But I still say I’m lucky & blessed. I have a husband and child who try to understand, and accept my fragility. Who respect my triggers. Who give me space when I need it. They let me cry. Storm around a bit doing the Rumpelstiltskin dance. And then gently remind me, in order of priority, it’s just a bag. And we have insurance.

Great balls of fire, baby!

Another Liebster Nomination!

Lordy, people, you’re making me blush! This one came from Amy at Shirley’s Heaven, and here are my answers to her questions.

  1. What is one lesson you’ve learned in life that you want to pass on to others? Forgiveness. Forgiving myself and forgiving others. It’s harder than it sounds. I’m still struggling with it, but it seems to be a key factor in recovery.
  2. How has blogging affected your daily life? I feel like I’m more observant, I’m discovering more, my world has opened & expanded!
  3. Where is your happy place? Anywhere that has good coffee, a comfortable seat & the possibility to read uninterrupted.
  4. Where is your least favourite place? My memory.
  5. Do you express anger inwardly or outwardly? I let people know calmly that I’m not happy with their behaviour. I don’t rage. Raging makes me ill.
  6. Do you prefer the mountains or ocean? Mountains by the ocean. Scotland, Iceland & Cape Town, South Africa.
  7. Do you learn by watching, listening, or doing? Watching & doing. YouTube revolutionised my life!
  8. What historical figure would you most want to talk to if you could go back in time? Jane Austen.
  9. Would you be better at doing a crossword puzzle or bowling? Crossword puzzle. Just the thought of all those sweaty shoes is enough to make me shudder. Repeatedly.
  10. What was the last movie you watched? Little Women, I think.
  11. Showers or baths? Showers. I’m too fidgety to sit around stewing myself.

My blog recommendations still stand from last week, and I’d like to add Crafting While Anxious and All Out of Ducks to the list.

Awesome followers & visitors, could you please leave me a comment with your recommendations? ❤

It’s Too Big!

Get your mind above the waistline, dear reader. I’m referring to goals and dreams. I was working with a fellow participant in the #MFM2015 challenge, and we were trying to break through the barriers most humans seem to impose upon themselves on the path to success.

I’ve discovered that pushing through the not-knowing, the messing-up, the plans-not-panning-out is a growth experience, whether it ends in success or failure. It will change your perspective for the better and give you skills & wisdom that you can use in your next adventure!


Your thoughts & beliefs can be the biggest obstacle to overcome. Many of us carry around beliefs about ourselves that need to be removed or improved. If you believe you can’t, you probably won’t even try. Start by recognising your negative mindset and taking action to overcome it. Time and persistence are key to eradicating these beliefs.  A one-percent improvement isn’t note-worthy (or even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run, when you factor in the compounded effect of a thousand small adjustments and corrections. There is power in small wins and slow gains. This will help you accept the fact that no matter how well you plan, and think through, your plans will never work out quite the way you expect! Be flexible and allow your plans to evolve. You never know what might happen!


Making one HUGE step can mean having to sit back and wait to see if it worked or not. This makes the action more of a gamble and less of a consistent step in the right direction. Small actions built on another (called habit stacking) can lead to a big win further down the line. Compound effect again.

there’s no such thing as a “perfect” moment  

You’ll never see a perfect set of circumstances that allow you to leave your job/start exercising/change your diet/etc. etc. without stepping outside your comfort zone. Action is always better than inaction, and perfection is the enemy of progress. Pull a Nike and Just Do It.


Even if you’re raring to go, it’s going to mean little without the right people supporting it. Hold yourself accountable, and get someone else to support this. It doesn’t matter if it’s friends, family or a life coach. Without someone holding you accountable, your goal could vanish into the mist when the going gets tough.


Some people choose to let failure get the better of them and abandon their goals or dreams, but the truly resilient accept and understand that failure is perfectly OK, sometimes unavoidable and usually a great opportunity to learn & grow. If you keep this front and centre, it’s easier to accept failure and move on with a clearer vision.


Millions of people set goals every day, but not all of them follow through, or give up when the situation becomes challenging. Persistence & heart are the keys to achieving your target. When the doubts pile up, when you’re hesitant, and when you’ve lost the initial spark, persisting is the only way to see your ideas through to fruition. Focus on how you’re going to feel when you make it. Have faith in your own abilities to keep you moving forward even when you face massive obstacles along the way.

Stay in balance

When you’re aiming for something, it’s easy to be totally consumed by it, but this momentum is difficult to sustain. I’m trying to eat healthier, but I have never been able to stay on any diet longer than 3 hours (the time between breakfast and lunch). So my new take on this is Monday to Friday healthy cooking for the family, and I allow myself goodies on the weekend. No, I don’t go overboard, I just revel in the fact that I don’t have to cook and can even try something new.

To maintain balance, reflect on why you set the goal initially. You control how you achieve this goal, so be purposeful about maintaining balance on your journey. There will always be challenges to overcome but they are part of the fun when you can compartmentalise them. Keep climbing that mountain, but stop to enjoy the view!


Thanks to brepurposed.com for the image! If you enjoyed this post, sign up on the right for email notifications when I post again.

Tides of March

I knowed it, I knowed it, as my baby girl used to say. I get slightly manic towards the end of February – as a former resident of Iceland, this heralds the return of more hours of sunlight – and I over-committed myself to a zillion things for March. The likelihood of starting today slightly harried and breathless – HIGH! Urgh.

But then I reflected back on the message from Eiri Jones, church leader at the Borough Welsh Chapel. Yesterday was St. David’s Day, and if you’re Welsh, or a friend of someone Welsh (like me!), it’s a pretty fun celebration involving lots of glorious Welsh songs, food and good company. I am NOT a church-going person, but Eiri makes her messages relevant, both on a personal and a global level, which makes me listen. Her message yesterday was about simplifying, going deeper into our lives, and making the ordinary extra-ordinary.

So this morning at 9.30am, I did the never-before-done-unthinkable and actually looked at my list of things to do and decided to un-commit myself. I have lived most of my adult life engulfed by lists, mostly as a coping mechanism (more on that later!). But in my road to recovery and whole-heartedness, I’ve decided that I have to listen to the silence of ‘not doing’, to figure out how I feel. Time to strip away the extraneous crap and really get down with who I am and what I want. 

“Truly being authentic is knowing what matters to you, on the deepest level of who you are, and committing always to act from that authentic centre.”
Richie Norton

Blogging has opened up a whole new world for me. I have already had one interesting offer which has got me zinging today. 

Read the start of my journey here. And if you say “Sorry!” a lot, read fellow blogger Suzie’s post Sorry, I’m Not Sorry.

Friday Inspiration

I ❤ TED talks, there’s always something I find to inspire me or make me think. I’m having an up-week (thanks for all the fantastic feedback & welcome to my new followers), so I’ve chosen to share game designer Jane McGonigal’s talk from 2012. Listen closely to what she says about regrets, and post-traumatic growth.

Reality is broken and we need to make it work more like a game. 

~Jane McGonigal

When she found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter. In this moving talk, McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life. Happy Friday!

I blogged about another great TED talk earlier this month; watch it here (Wholehearted: The Power to be Imperfect)

Back to Basics, or recovering from PTSD

When every day is a dance between hypervigilance, constant alertness, feeling jumpy, irritation & insomnia, committing to the basics and mastering the fundamentals of recovery can be hard. 

#panic #anxiety #PTSD

Nine years on, I still wait for the watershed that I believe is coming, that magical moment when I will be healed and whole. But it’s the hidden power of small choices, daily habits, and repeated actions that I make on a daily basis that are going to take me through to a new normal. 

I have to stop wasting hours of my life wondering about the ‘edge cases’. Edge cases are the what-ifs, the could-bes, the minor details — the things that have a 2 percent chance of happening, but mostly distract me from the real life I could be living the rest of the time. Keen eye for detail or inability to filter & block? 

I’ve become an obsessive planner, from someone that used to fly by the seat of my pants. I’m always trying to “get all my ducks in a row” or figure out “the right way to do this”, which gives me an easy ‘out’ of the hard decisions. Research & planning is only useful until it becomes a form of procrastination, or worst case, totally cripples you from taking any action. I used to be a doer rather than a researcher; I still bake like this, going on feel and sight rather than a recipe. I need to bring this back into the rest of my life. I don’t need any more time or better strategies. I’m good to go. Starting this blog was the first impulsive decision I’ve made in ages, and it was liberating.

Moving on, I need to do the real work and master the basics of figuring out and managing my triggers, minimising their impact on my life. Eventually, hopefully, shaking their hold on my life. It’s hard to say, “I’m focusing on the basics, but I haven’t made much progress yet.” A one-percent improvement isn’t note-worthy (or even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run, when you factor in the compounded effect of a thousand small adjustments and corrections. There is power in small wins and slow gains. I intend to own it.

Read the start of my journey here. Sign up on the right to read more Random Musings from Petal & Mortar!

Leadership Skills I Learned from TV

I have a total #girlcrush on Olivia Pope (Scandal), Miranda Bailey (Grey’s Anatomy) & Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada). I don’t know if it’s their straight-talking, no-nonsense attitudes, their intelligence, or their fashion sense that grabs me.

Caliper’s whitepaper on women leaders makes more sense of my ‘je ne sais quoi‘ musings. They surveyed 85 women currently in senior leadership positions for this study. As individuals, they showed the highest scores in the following categories:

1. Assertiveness

Olivia Pope thinks fast & effectively, and speaks in short, sharp sentences. Miranda Bailey is infamously blunt, but we know she cares about her group of interns. Miranda Priestly is similarly sharp & succinct. They have a straightforward communication style.

2. Aggressiveness (let’s call this one assuredness)

Olivia is a fixer, leading a motley crew of educated staff to manage crises. She’s in it to win it. Miranda Bailey is straight-talking, but knows her stuff, and she wants to share her knowledge.

3. Ego-Strength

Being resilient to criticism or rejection. Olivia has the messiest private life, which makes it easier to relate to her, but she also holds her act together and gets on with business, challenging both the President and her father in turn. Miranda Bailey has a strong moral core; everything is seen through this lens. She’s a tough-love practitioner.

4. Stress Tolerance

Not worried about possible negative outcomes. All three women work in high-stress, competitive environments. They make quick, tough decisions with very little hand-wringing, although they are plagued by feelings of letting their families down.

5. Energy

Olivia has an intensity which infuses her team with purpose, Miranda Bailey started the free clinic at Seattle Grace because she wanted ‘something more’ & Miranda Priestly had had the infamous cerulean speech.

These three women are the embodiment of strong leaders: straightforward in their communication style, action-oriented, risk-takers, and skilled at solving complex problems. They’re not perfect, they make mistakes, but they inspire respect because they get the job done. The most common leadership style identified in the survey was Transformational Leadership, which means the leaders were intellectually stimulating, encouraging employees to take ownership of company goals, and providing inspirational motivation.

Which is why I’m going to keep watching Scandal & Grey’s Anatomy: I’m calling it continuing professional development.

To learn more about these traits, and how to develop them, try Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadShe draws on her own experience of working in some of the world’s most successful businesses, giving women tools to help themselves, and possibly effect change on a more universal scale. 

Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life, is also a good read if you’re trying to figure out how to balance it all and if there’s something more.

Communicating with my child

It is widely acknowledged that good communication skills help us to solve problems successfully and maintain good interpersonal relationships.

Communication with others begins at birth, through verbal and non-verbal output. I remember my baby girl used to stick her finger in her ear to tell us she was tired and due a nap. Our communication skills continue to develop through childhood and into adulthood, and as a mother, I want to make sure my child is equipped to express her needs, wants and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully.

As an only child, her frame of reference has not including sibling banter, and she’s had to pit herself against two fairly outspoken parents. Knowing this, I took the time to get down to her level when talking to her, I would sit her on my lap when I was correcting her, or discussing her behaviour, and try to make it as safe as I could to say what she needed to say. None of this came easy. As a full-time employee that commuted long hours, my nerves and patience were pretty stretched when I had to tackle these issues. Yeah, I yelled a few times (and felt wretched afterwards, as all parents do!). But for the most part, I truly attempt to keep our chats calm and open – I’m playing the long game and I need to know she’ll still be talking to me when she’s a teenager!

I usually let her know how I’m feeling about a situation, and then let her respond. Something like,”When you did this, it made me feel/made me wonder…” and she has a chance to explain why she did or said something. Sometimes she’ll say,”I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t act on it”. I respect that boundary (unless someone is in danger, when all bets are off).

Recently, we instituted a journal (we got the idea from here). We write notes back and forth to each other. Sometimes, if she’s too mad to talk, she’ll write, and it calms her down. She leaves it by my bedside, and then I’ll read and respond. It works for us. It teaches her that communication is a two-way street and you have to listen to be heard.

We’ve stuck to a few simple rules to help us:

  • Think before you speak
  • Don’t shout or speak in anger
  • Speak clearly
  • Tell the other person how you feel – use “I feel” instead of “You did/said…”
  • Say all you want to say, but take turns
  • Listen carefully
  • Hug it out!

And of course, we make time for dates, where we hang out, drink tea & eat cake. Mmmmm – we cake!