Why You Should Always Carry Stamps

This post is part of my
‘This is my real life’ week.  

To read how that began, you can click here for the opening post.

To read the first post in the series, you can click

Today I will be taking a walk up to the Post Office to
purchase postage for a large letter.  I
don’t quite know what size qualifies as ‘large’ for Royal Mail in the UK as
this is a fairly new category, but I think it’s some combination of size and
weight.  Anyhow, I know that my A4
envelope requires a different kind of stamp than is usual.  I don’t really mind making a special trip but
it is a bit irksome when I have four perfectly good regular stamps in my wallet

I always carry stamps.
As with yesterday’s favourite
mug habit
, I’m not exactly sure when this began.  It goes back at least to 2008.  It was around that time a friend lent me a
book (I think it was Sam Gosling’s Snoop: What Your Stuff Says about You)
where the author asserts that the world is divided into two kinds of people:
those who always carry stamps and those who don’t understand why anyone
would.  I definitely identified with the

My teeny tiny A Life
Of One’s Own
tip for today is therefore the suggestion that you get
yourself a book of stamps and carry them in your wallet.  As there’s no expiry date with postage, it
doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to use them, but when you’re
eventually down to one, buy another book before you run out.  Then repeat.


Firstly to help yourself.
Now that electronic communication has reduced levels of mail, we may not
use stamps as much as we used to, but often when we do need them it is for
something urgent or important: the birthday card that needs to be in today’s
collection, the bank form that has to be with them by tomorrow.  Now think about the nearest pillar box in
relation to your home or workplace.
Wouldn’t it be easier if, rather than having to go to a shop that sells stamps
first, you could lay your hands easily on what you need and pop the item
straight into the post?

If that alone doesn’t convince you (and why wouldn’t it?!),
a second reason to always carry stamps is in order to connect with others.  There are two aspects to this.  It is in part about communication via
mail.  Maybe you’re out somewhere and see
a funny postcard that instantly makes you think of a particular friend or
family member; if you have a stamp on you then sending it to them seems much more
straightforward than if you have to factor in getting postage too.  Likewise when you hear some big news or an
announcement.  Whether it’s passing an
important exam, an engagement, a birth or a death (or remembering a birthday at
the last minute!), having one less step in the process makes buying/sending less
hassle.  Carrying stamps opens up more
opportunities for you to connect with those you care about, recognising and
celebrating the important moments in their life.

The other aspect of connecting with others is the giving of
stamps.  We’ve all said to people around
us ‘I need to get a stamp’, and we’ve probably all asked or been asked if we
have a stamp.  It’s up there with the ‘Do
you have a light?’ appeal between smokers.
In a way, the two function similarly, albeit stamps posing less risk to
your health.  If the request can be
fulfilled, a moment of connection is forged.  The person receiving is grateful because
without that, their object (the cigarette or the piece of mail) is
useless.  It cannot function without the
other element, be it the light or the stamp.
In the case of the latter, you’ve also saved them time and possibly hassle.  

As the giver of the stamp, you’ve just helped someone out
for very little cost (in fact no direct outlay, as you’d bought them anyway)
and no inconvenience at all – they were already in your wallet.  You’ve done them a favour, made their day a
little easier.  That’s a good
feeling.  It may only be fleeting but
aren’t most experiences in this life?  

Grab opportunities to connect as much as you can.  Buy stamps.

What about you?  Do
you carry stamps?  If you don’t then has
this post encouraged you to buy some?
Who knows what opportunities it will facilitate!  If you’d like to share with me then there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or
the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page – or you can email (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).

This post is part of my
‘This is my real life’ week.  

To read how that began, you can click here for the opening post.

To read the first post in the series, you can click

My Favourite Mug

This post is part of
my ‘This is my real life’ week – to read how that began, you can click
for the opening post.

I’m not sure when the ‘favourite mug’ thing started but it
was certainly a thing by the time I worked in an office aged twenty-one.  In that instance, I became particularly
attached to a red McVities mug designed to look like a packet of their
digestive biscuits.  I didn’t realise how
attached a colleague proudly placed it on my desk after it was her turn to make
the tea one afternoon: ‘I like that mug’, I said; ‘I’d noticed’, she

Some years later, a counsellor asked me to tell her
something about myself and the first thing that came to mind was that I like to
have a favourite mug.  I elaborated
somewhat and she said it was one of the most lovely things anyone had ever
shared with her.  This perhaps overplays
it somewhat as there’s nothing elaborate or particularly special about it.  What it is: wherever you regularly have hot drinks
(home, work, round a friend’s), select which of the available mugs that you
like the best.  Whenever you are there,
try to use that mug or request your drink in it.  Not even any need to go out and buy a new one.  You could if you wanted but it’s by no means
necessary (I haven’t purchased a mug myself since the mid-1990s; it was from The
Body Shop, purple with a yellow elephant and the slogan ‘Now you see us – soon you

What’s the point of this?
There’s no great mystery or power to it.
All you are doing is drinking from a mug that you have decided is your
favourite amongst those available.  Yet
strangely that becomes almost talismanic: there you are with your favourite mug
again…and again…and again.  Like slim
golden thread weaving its way through your life, there’s a sense of continuity
but also of valuing your own preferences and idiosyncratic choices.  For many of us, particularly women, asserting
our desires can be difficult in a world where we don’t always trust that we
have the right to choose.  This can be
visible at the most profound level (abortion) to the most mundane (to have
dessert or not?).  Favouring a particular
mug is like practising using a muscle, testing it out so it gets stronger –
strong enough to face tougher choices too.

Even if not, you have an inanimate but intimate friend to
accompany your days.  Back when I worked
in that office, the cherry red McVities mug sat beside me on the boring days
and good days too; the day we read from the book box and the one where we had
an over-catered (and overwatered!) Christmas party; on the day we were made redundant
and many forgettable days in between.   I remember it as fondly as I remember the
colleague who placed in on my desk that maybe-Wednesday afternoon.  And that is why, my friends, having a
favourite mug is a small but beautiful thing to have in your life.    

What about you?  Do
you have a favourite mug?  If you haven’t
then has this encouraged you to adopt one?
It could be the start of a whole new relationship!  If you’d like to share with me then there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or
the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page – or you can email (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).

To read how the ‘This
is my real life’ week began, click

This is my real life: a week of sharing

This morning I found myself hosting an unexpected party in my
own head.  I was a reluctant host, as the
guests that showed up (or perhaps I should say gatecrashed) inside my mind were
pretty much every doubt and demon I’ve ever had.  I rolled from side to side in the vague hope
of returning to sleep but the cacophony was too loud.  The work-related gremlins were particularly
raucous.  They launched a two-pronged
attack, trying to undermine me on both a micro level and a macro one.  This ranged from ‘If you can’t think of a
title for the blog post you’ve drafted then that is a sure sign it’s total
rubbish and should never be read by anyone ever’ to questioning even the
possibility that I can forge a career path that allows me to combine being a
historian and a life coach (the fact I’ve been doing so for the last eighteen
months did nothing to quell this fear, because of course rationality has no
role when you’re in this kind of mindset).

These cunning tricksters then launched a new offensive, one
that played on some of the uncertainties I carry round even when I’m in the
best headspace.  ‘Is anyone even bothered
about what you have to say?’ loomed large, closely followed by taunts of ‘Who
do you think you are?’ and ‘Why do you think anyone would trust you enough to
pay you to help them?’ (again, the fact that people *have* paid for my coaching
services was conveniently left out of this reasoning).  This was quickly followed by a resume of all
my solopreneur weak points.  Technology
topped the list (*still* cannot figure out how to get comments enabled, thus
failing Blogging 101).  Next came marketing;
‘You’re too embarrassed and awkward and British to ever promote yourself
effectively’, the mocking voices rang in my ears (You know it’s bad when your
nationality – a chance of birth – is used against you by yourself).  My commitment
to getting support with these areas (Susannah Conway’s The Inside Story and
Sas Petherick’s support for
have both been, and continue to be, super useful) again summarily
dismissed out-of-hand.

In the face of this self-created onslaught, I decided to be
gentle with myself.  I write that
sentence as if it were the most obvious statement in the world, whereas it
actually represents a complete 180 degree turnaround from my typical
approach.  Previously I’d have actively
joined in with the berating and allowed the day to descend into a quagmire of
self-recrimination and wallowing inaction.
However I’ve come far enough in my own journey (wow, I got to 433 words
before I used that cliché!) to know that there were other options available to
me.  So I chose gentleness.  

The photographed list shows the form that took.  My soul already soothed as I got into that
hot shower, an idea came to me.  ‘I need
to share this truth of myself.  I need to
share my feelings about this morning’, I thought, ‘because this is me and my
life.  This is my real life’.  

As I stepped out of the bathroom excited about the emerging
vision that was stirring within me, I was greeted by the glorious stream of
light coming through the door (pictured at the top).  I took this as a sign, confirming that the ‘This is my real life’ whispering was one
to listen to.  I knew I had to capture
this moment to share as part of this idea – complete with the debris of last
night’s Chinese takeaway hanging on the door handle, because that is my real
life too.

So what is ‘This is
my real life’?

Every day for the next week, I will share a short blog post about
an idea or action that I’ve found useful since rebuilding my life after my
breakdown in late 2007.  Like Brené Brown, I had a breakdown
spiritual awakening.  Since then, I’ve been incredibly
self-conscious about life and how we live it, trying to observe and document
and refine in order to create a way of being that felt truly right for me.  Indeed, that is how the whole A Life Of One’s Own concept came about.

Some of what I’m posting you may have seen before if you’re
a regular reader.  Other tips will be
new.  All will be small steps that are
easy to incorporate into the life you already have.  Alongside these daily posts, I’ll be sharing
other aspects of my real life on social media.
These will be unedited glimpses into how I live.  They’ll be things that either feed into the
useful and soul nurturing stuff or, conversely, things that strike me as amusing
because they don’t fit into the image that I (and I’m sure others) have in my
head of how a life coach’s life is.  The
imperfect, the undone, the unfinished – they’ll all feature.

The purpose of ‘This is my real life’ is to give an insight
into my A Life Of One’s Own philosophy
and how I practice that in real life – and I truly mean real life.  There will be mundane
stuff involved, although I prefer to use the term quotidian (from the French
for daily) as it is in our everyday existence that our life happens.  Making changes on that level can be hugely
powerful because that is where we live in our real lives.

‘This is my real life’ is also about authenticity on my
part.  I’m not some polished shiny guru
type figure.  I’m a slightly plump
thirty-something living in the suburbs of a somewhat boring town in the English
Midlands.  I’m trying to juggle my
existing career and this fledgling life coach practice.  I know I’m a bit prone to publicising the odd
moments of vague glamour that I’m fortunate to have come my way whilst tucking
away the more humdrum elements of life in a box marked ‘Do not share because
you are your brand and you have to behave like you are A Brand’.  So this week turns that on its head.  Here I am in my real life.  All of it.

I fear that as a result of this you’ll think I’m rubbish, or
worst still, ordinary (as a coach but
also as a person too).  I also fear that
no-one will actually read any of this (and because I’ve still not figured out
enabling blog comments can only rely on social media or email feedback to learn
otherwise. I do have analytics, but that seems to indicate that every reader is
a spambot hence I refuse to believe it.  That can’t be true, can it?!).  

Actually, my biggest fear is that no-one will read this followed
then by the worry that you’ll think I’m
rubbish and/or ordinary.  However I hope
the opposite is true.  I hope the spirit
in which ‘This is my real life’ is shared resonates with you, and that you find
it inspiring and useful (perhaps amusing too).
I also hope that it nurtures a bond between us – that you’ll feel you
know me more, that you’ll trust who I am and what I am trying to do with my
work.  Then, if and when the time comes
that you need support and encouragement, maybe we can coach together – because I’m
sharing my real life and I’d love to share in yours too.

Look out for the first ‘This is my real life’ post later
today, and for social media sharing too.
If you’d like to share with me then (seeing as the comments don’t work!)
there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or
the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page – or you can email (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).

The announcement: not the one I was expecting.

I’d excitedly posted on social media the other day about a new group programme announcement coming at the end of the week.  Here it is.  It isn’t the announcement – or the programme – that I was expecting to make…

I had
developed a group programme under the title The
Fourth Quarter: use the time that remains
I was excited about, thinking about the different ways it might help
participants.  I put out a few announcements.  I even put all the bits of paper in their own plastic folder, a definite sign that
this was real and happening.

It would
have been a good programme, I’m sure.
But…you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you?  But it felt out of sync.  The material was strong but ran contrary to
where I am in my own life.  Right now I’m
all about nestling down, whereas the programme was about gearing up.  After an intense few months of work and
travel, I’m craving quiet nights under a blanket with a good book – a retreat,
not an expedition.  Whilst I knew I could
do a good job, I began to wonder if I’d be at my best if the programme’s
purpose was out-of-step with the ethos I’m channelling at the moment.

original plan also felt a little out of sync with what A Life Of One’s Own is all about.
Not contradictory or in opposition, just at a different angle by a few
degrees.  Lots of coaches could deliver
similar material.  Cerebrally I liked it
a lot, but it didn’t resonate deep down in the way 24 Days Before:
an advent journey
(my previous group programme) had.

deeply authentic material by some of my favourite fellow-travellers on this
exploring/writing/coaching journey made me pause the preparation process.  A beautiful offering from Sas
, a heart-warmingly honest missive from Susannah Conway, a thought-provoking blog post from Courtney Carver,
a blossoming community with Tori’s Tales
#talesofseptember Instagram challenge: these made me stop and think this this is what I want to do, want to offer, want to create – things
that touch people on a deeper level.
This is what A Life Of One’s Own is
about, this is where I want to get back to.

In the
spirit of my latest read, Brené Brown’s new book Rising Strong, I wanted to be open
and honest about this change of heart.
It makes me feel very vulnerable saying ‘I wanted to do this but now I’ve
changed my mind.’  The story I’m telling
myself (to use Brown’s phrase) is that you’ll think I’m at best a dilettante,
playing at self-help and navel-gazing, and at worst incompetent, not having a
clue what I’m doing.

I hope not,
dear readers.  I hope that you recognise
that this kind of work is always in progress, never complete, never
perfect.  I am working to create a product
– and more broadly a practice – that gives voice the deepest parts of my inner
life and in doing so speaks to yours.  My
original design and concept for the group programme was a good idea, but it did not do that.

And now the
instead…Instead I’m putting out there a much softer programme.  The Fourth Quarter
remains as a title, but this comes from a different place.  The Fourth Quarter now
is about scaling back, toning down, sinking deep.  It’s about growing in one another’s company,
hence the new subtitle: let’s
spend it together

With three
quarters of the calendar year now almost past, The Fourth
is about using the time that remains in 2015 to embrace the
seasons around us.  Let’s show up for
autumn, and then for winter too.  Rather
than simply trudging through the darker nights and trying to ignore the cold, let’s
work with this time of year to make it our own – a period with meaning.  

I was out
of sync and now am getting in line simply with where I am and where the world
around is.  I invite you to join me in
doing the same.

information about The Fourth Quarter: let’s
spend it together
is available here.

For some the night is always darker…Soothing words from fiction

‘For some the night is always darker –
for them the skies of dawn are bluer too.’

I came across this quotation, scribbled
on the back of a business card, when sorting through some paperwork at the
weekend.  I first read it many moons ago
whilst researching for my PhD.  It is
from a short story called ‘Whistle in the Dark’ by Gabriel Dundas, which appeared
in Woman magazine on 26th
January 1963.  I have only a vague
recollection of the plot.  According to
my notes, it is set on a farm.  Kay is
the younger sister and is back from college for the summer.  All her friends are doing a drama course, live
in a warehouse and talk about the fringe festival at Edinburgh.  Kay wears make-up and high heels when
visiting the farm assistant, a young man who has been to college and is looking
for his own farm.  She realizes that she
loves him.

Pretty standard women’s magazine
fiction.  I didn’t end up writing about
this story in particular, but could have done a nice little summary of what its
themes and motifs meant in the context of the time.  However historical analysis wouldn’t have
communicated what struck me about this story when I stumbled upon it in the archive.
What made the story stand out – what made
me write the opening line on a business card and tuck it away in my personal
possessions – is what Kay’s father tells her later on in proceedings.  He says, ‘The sky is bluer for you, and the
dark blacker. You live harder and you love harder…. But you’ve got to learn,
Kay, to whistle in the dark.’

‘The sky is bluer for you, and the dark
blacker. You live harder and you love harder…. But you’ve got to learn, Kay, to
whistle in the dark.’

At the time of the story’s publication,
Woman was the best-selling magazine
in the UK, with a circulation of over three million copies per week (that doesn’t
begin to cover the secondary audience – all the daughters, sisters, husbands,
friends etc. that would look at a single copy).
How many of those millions of readers also read those words from Kay’s
father?  Did they touch any of them in
the way that they did me?  Do they speak
to you at all?

The words may be as clichéd and
formulaic as the rest of the story, but something about them resonated deeply with
me during what was a difficult time in my life.
I’d long felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with me: that
I felt things (good and bad) more strongly than other people; I struggled to
live with highs and lows; everything was too much – I was too much.  To suddenly find acknowledgement that other
people (even if fictional) were like that was a balm to my soul.  I was not alone!  Others too felt the extra intensity, the
bluer and the blacker.  What relief!  

Years later, I still use Kay’s father’s
words as a framework for understanding how I perceive the world.  I’ve learnt to accept that for me (but not
necessarily others in my life) the sky is bluer and the dark blacker.  I live harder and love harder, with both the
joys and pains that this brings.  And I’m
slowly learning to whistle in the dark.

Tell me, what lines from fiction have
guided you?  What’s spoken to your
soul?  Have any quotations become
mantra-like in your mind?  Alas the comment
function here still isn’t working but posted below are ways to join the
conversation on social media.

I hope the sky is bluer for you today.

Get in touch by commenting below or via
social media: there’s Instagram,
or the A Life Of One’s
Own Facebook page
And of course you can also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

The more I treat myself like a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

‘I eat my
lunch early, around noon’, a colleague wrote in an email earlier this week,
before half-apologetically adding ‘like a child’. Her admission made me smile
because over the course of this year, I’ve been learning a lot about self-care (as
I’ve written about previously)
and much of that comes down to thinking about myself as if I were a young
child. Whenever I can feel my mood start to shift downwards or I find myself
losing concentration, I ask the same questions posed by parents the world over:
hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Too hot? Too cold? Need the toilet? Uncomfortable?
Needs playtime? Needs downtime?

amazing how addressing one of those issues restores equilibrium and allows me to
continue going about my day. Very occasionally it might be something else,
something more cerebral or adult-like, such as needing to send a difficult
email that’s been playing on my mind. More often than not, though, it’s a basic
physical or mental need that is most pressing. As I’ve also previously
, basic doesn’t always mean easy. Knowing that we need to eat
regularly doesn’t guarantee that we act upon our awareness. At the weekend I
found myself on the verge of a full on tantrum in the Marks and Spencer food
hall because my partner was lingering longer than I thought necessary in the
meat aisle and the effects of not eating lunch were taking their toll on my
sense of balance and perspective.  

we slip into the trap of thinking that we are too busy and important to look
after these kinds of essentials. We kid ourselves (fitting double-meaning!)
that we are too sophisticated to eat dinner early even if we’re getting hungry
when we finish work. We somehow imagine that we can simply override the need to
get a decent amount of sleep because it is not convenient; it would interfere
with our social life or desire to watch box-sets late into the night. Setting a
bedtime for ourselves seems so, well, childish.

Yet there’s
a paradox at the heart of all this. All the best insights seem to involve some
kind of oxymoron or apparent contradiction, and when this one came to me it
didn’t disappoint. The paradox of self-care is that the more I treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.  

The more I
treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

I’m sure
this doesn’t just apply to me.  Repeat it
to yourself and see if it resonates with your experience as well.

What this
means is that the more I not only accept but also consistently implement the
self-care basics as I would if I were caring for a toddler, the better able I
am to act in a mature way.

If I’d had
lunch, or even a decent snack like a banana, I wouldn’t have begun to meltdown
in the food hall. Maybe after a decent night’s sleep the critical feedback from
your boss doesn’t sting as much. Perhaps getting lost driving to a friend’s new
house doesn’t feel so stressful if you stopped for a loo break when you first needed
to rather than convincing yourself to ‘hang on’.  

When the
basic needs are met, we are freed up to be who we want to be in the world. We
have a solid base to build upon, our foundations are strong. It’s easier to
stay composed. Our moods don’t crash. Problems that arise don’t feel quite so
much like a crisis.

Our lives become
diffused with equanimity in a way that seems out of reach when we’re careening
round with too few hours of sleep, too little food and not even allowing ourselves
to sit on the toilet for long enough.

The more I
treat myself as a child, the more adult my behaviour becomes.

Think about
parenting yourself as you would if you were two years old. What is it that you
most need? Is it time to say ‘I think someone needs an early night!’ as your
mum may have done? Or make a rule that there’s no screen time between getting
in home and dinner? Need some shoes that fit properly?

particularly about your pinch points and what self-parental provisions you need
to make for in or around those situations: good music for a long journey, play
dates with friends, some kind of metaphorical equivalent of baby wipes in your
handbag (or perhaps actual baby wipes would help)?

something and notice the effects. Does accepting that we function in the same
way as small children allow you to maintain a more adult like demeanour?

Let me and
other readers know how you get on! Get in touch by commenting below or via
social media: there’s Instagram,
Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  And of course you can
also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

You don’t have to be superstitious to believe in the power of a charm

See that gold zip in the
picture above?  That’s fastens up my
wallet.  I love my wallet.  It’s navy leather and the inside has a purple
silk lining.  Using it makes me
happy.  Sometimes, on bad days when I
feel like I’m barely holding it together, getting out the wallet to make a
payment acts as a pick-me up.  How can
life be that bad, I think, when I possess such a beautiful object?    

Even more than that, the
wallet acts as a useful prompt – a visual reminder of how good, how confident,
how self-assured, I can feel.  Sometimes
that prompt alone is enough to help shift my mood in a better direction.  Looking at its beautiful lines, I tell myself
that the woman who owns such an item cannot possibly be a slatternly, uncouth,
slobbish, incompetent fool (a selection of the words that most regularly
feature in my negative self-talk hotlist).
The woman who went into a shop and selected that purse was calm,
content, knows her own mind (or at least her own taste) and able to make good

And if I could be that way on
the day I bought the wallet, I can be like that on other days too.  

The wallet isn’t magical, but
it does feel like a talisman for me.  It
has the power to change how I feel – or, perhaps more accurately, I have assigned
it with a level of meaning that can affect my mood.  More important than what it says to the world
is what the wallet tells me about my identity, my desires, my aspirations – who
I am and how I want to be in the world.  

Perhaps you are reading this
thinking I am potty, viewing an essentially practical item as some kind of
charm.  Maybe you think that declaring
such strong attachment to any object as a sign of materialism, with all the
negative connotations that carries.  

Or do you recognise what I’m
saying as being true for your relationship with a particular possession
too?  Think about your most treasured
belongings.  Are some of them important
to you because of the feelings they evoke about yourself?  

The shoes you wore to an
interview that you absolutely nailed?
The dress that you had on when you finally told your ex-partner that you
would not tolerate their behaviour any longer?
The necklace you bought when you earned your first pay packet?  The ‘proper’ cookware purchased to mark
setting up a home of your own?    

This is not simply about
particular memories but visceral feelings.
I believe that we all own objects which have the ability to evoke strong
positive reactions, objects that can remind and reassure us of our own
strength, power and agency.

Let’s make greater use of
this!  It’s not uncommon for people to
wear jewellery that they regard as talismanic but what about other items?  Which of your personal possessions take you
to your best self, your wisest self, your most awesome self?  And are you channelling that enough?  Can you use them more often, wear them more
regularly, display them more prominently?

If you’re struggling with
this, think about anything you own that makes you smile whenever you see it or
use it – that could provide some clues as to your own amulet.

And if you know what yours
is, please share a picture.  Get in touch
by commenting below or via social media: there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page.  And of course you can also
email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).