Back at the start of May, a close friend and I were laughing about all the talk over ‘Hot Girl Summer’. We concluded that, at best, we’d manage a ‘Lukewarm and Overtired Girl Summer’. Then the rest of May hit. Anecdotally, I know I’m not alone in saying May was a *lot*. In some way or another, I think we all went through it last month. I know that’s also been the case for most months since March 2020, and yet last month somehow felt so much worse. I think it’s down to the fact that we’ve all required being handled with care, to be treated gently and with kindness – yet we’re all so exhausted we’ve not got the emotional capacity for it – trapped in a vicious cycle where we’ve never needed each other’s support more yet never been as unable to provide it.
Those who know me know I put myself through the ringer last month, going on a break with dating apps as they were having a huge toll on my wellbeing (which you can read about here). You might also know that I’ve had Long Covid for 8 months (I wrote a reflection at the 100 day mark here). You possibly even know about my Post-Covid Clinic hospital appointment last week that confirmed I’ve developed asthma, am looking at two year recovery time frame from LC and have been referred to for Talking Therapy as I’m not coping well with things.
Perhaps the appointment was the last straw, or things had been brewing for a while, but I had a nasty all-encompassing cold hit immediately after and had a brutal 48 hours. Off work and alone with my thoughts, physically broken and mentally not that much better, I went to some places. Dark, nasty, lonely and cruel places. If asked to rank them, I’d say with some certainty that those two days make the list of Top Ten Days I’ve Felt The Worst.
Whether it’s the sun of this week, having had most of a half term to recuperate, the hope of a new month – or a combination of all three – I’ve emerged determined. Determined to feel better and happier. Striving to live and not just exist. I’m not going to be trying for Hot Girl Summer (though very flattered if you think otherwise [insert winky face and hair fluff here…] ) Instead I’m trying for Strong Girl Summer. My Long Covid Rehab sessions are allowing me to feel stronger on the outside. Brief aside for self-celebration here – back in April, for my interview for the programme, I managed 11 sit-to-stands in a miniute. Last Tuesday, at that appointment we shall never discuss again – 20. 20. TWENTY! Almost double the amount when I started! Now, I want to work on the inner stuff. I need to. And so, I’ve come up with these six mantras for Strong Girl Summer. They will hopefully be my guide to being braver, more powerful and stronger than yesterday. Let me know your thoughts on them and if you end up giving them a try!
- Thou shall pursue the path of self-kindness.
One of my biggest problems is holding myself up to impossible standards that I cannot meet, then berating myself for having not met them. Thus kickstarting a wonderful self-fulfilling, vicious cycle, inevitable prophecy of feeling undeniably shit. For double effectiveness, I may also chuck in a side order of comparison to ensure I feel like I’m failing at life. No more! As one of my favourite people told me during a much-needed pep talk recently, comparison is the thief of joy, my journey is just that – mine. There’s no such thing as a wrong choice or decision, whatever path I’m on and whatever diversions I take are the right ones. I will be working towards being more understanding of what is achievable, and most importantly what is in my control. And quieting the voice in my head that tries to undermine it all – if I wouldn’t say it to a friend, or even an enemy, how dare I say it to myself?!?
2. Thou shall be thine own cheerleader.
Which leads nicely onto this one, no more waiting around for other people to acknowledge us or our achievements. Own them and celebrate them, loudly and proudly for all to hear. If you do a cool thing let the world know, if you want. If you don’t, at the very least celebrate yourself and whatever brilliant thing has happened for yourself. Whilst it’s great you may have family and friends who will cheer you on, it’s not their job to. Turn the mic off for the nasty critical voice and dial the volume up to 11 for the encouraging and supportive one. Maybe even give them some jazzy pom-poms.
3. Thou shall be bold and no longer practice the ‘art’ of subtlety.
And when you’re doing this celebrating, don’t be afraid to do it boldly. Think of how much time and energy we waste wondering what other people think of us and how we need to play it cool. I vow to abandon any hopes of cool and enigma, if I like a thing you’re going to know it. And if I love it, then wow… it’s going to be wild. Good service in a restaurant? Make sure you let the bosses know. Liked a film, book, tv show or song? Tweet the creator, shout about it to all your friends. Liked this incredible blog post? Let the dazzling wit of a writer know (you total gem you!) Life is short and can be over in an instant, why be vanilla and neutral when you can dazzle. Brighten someone’s day by letting them know just how much they mean to you. I refuse to live a life of neutrality and sitting on the fence, when there’s so much joy to be had and shared.
4. Thou shall not chase those who do not wish to be chased.
This one applies to both friendships and relationships – although for me it’s definitely more of the latter. The amount of time I have wasted overanalysing messages, or lack therefore of, of men who genuinely gave zero shits about me – it’s genuinely nauseating (in the past and, in one instance the present too). I’ve constantly had thoughts about how I could adapt myself so they want me – be that physically or personality wise (If only I was thinner, shorter, quieter/louder, smarter, less nerdy…) Making sure I was available to reply to messages or to be there for them, because maybe then they’d finally see me. Scrutinising the replies when they *eventually* replied, bereft if no reply ever came, planning on how to get them to talk with me, how I could show I was good enough for them and their attention. NO MORE! I am exhausted from giving time, love and energy to those who I do not matter to at all. It someone loves or cares about me, none of those things matter – there will be no need to prove myself or my worth to them. They will want me for me.
5. Thou shall embrace the present.
My superpower (aside from fiercely strong facial muscles, as my combination of Bells Palsy and having my jaw broken 8 years ago inadvertently revealed) is my ability to assess in 60 seconds an infinite amount of ways things can go wrong. Useful at times, particularly with the teaching, not so much for living a happy and healthy life. Upon reflection, I think it’s rare for me to be in a moment – instead I’m preparing and doing all I can to anticipate the next one. Which leads to the question, what is the point? Why arrange exciting adventures with fabulous friends, when I’m already worrying about what time tube I’ll get home, if I’ve got food in and even rehearsing how and when we’ll say goodbye. This one will be tricky, but I’m going to try and slow my brain down. Not so much my internal clock and dazzling efficiency. More staying within my body, my mind and the moment. Centring myself and appreciating the moment I find myself in, not shutting myself off by disassociating and missing out.
6. Thou shall show openness to all that awaits.
I often find myself thinking about the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Ted wishes he was older, that he could skip all the process and be done – settled and desperately happy with the love of his life. I cannot begin to imagine how many times I’ve had the same thought as I scrolled through awful bios, awkward talking stages and navigating the dating graveyard littered with ghosts of situationships past. All of the previous mantras add up to this one, trusting the process and having faith that it will all be alright. And if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end. Maybe I’ll never met anyone, that happens for some people. Maybe I’ll never know romantic love. But, if that’s the case it’ll be that case for a reason. It won’t mean my life is lacking in purposefulness. I will not be failure when I have so so so much joy in so many other aspects of my life. There’s a reason I’m on the path I’m on, be that living out a great plan or a bunch of side quests. There’s no rush for whatever comes next, as there’s really only one inevitable destination for us all. Live in the moment, embrace the good and learn from the bad. No-one knows what will happen from one-minute to the next. As the great David Bowie said, I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.
Good luck with your Strong Girl Summer. Let me know how you get on with yours, I’ll certainty keep you updated on mine…