Friday Favourites: Things About Blogging

This week my Friday Favourites post is all about blogging!

Blogging is wonderful, in my humble opinion: what began as a hobby and an  outlet for my creativity has become a lifeline through living with grief, and provided me with a sense of purpose during the darkest days.

In no particular order of importance, here are my favourite points about blogging:

I can write my words, my way, and in my own time.

It’s my own little corner of the internet! No one is required to sign off what I write, which is refreshing! Provided I am happy that what I have written is for the right reasons, factual and accurate, and that I am not causing any offence (intentionally, at least) I have carte blanche to do as I like.

No one telling me what to do, no direction, no deadlines.

If I want to write, I write.

If I don’t want to write, I don’t.

Freedom!

Exploring different ways of writing

The majority of my posts in the last year have inevitably focused on Hugo, what happened around his birth, life, and his death, and dealing with what came after.

These posts have had a range of styles: some are stream of consciousness, some are commentary and opinion – I have even explored poetry as a way of articulating my emotions.

Over time, I have felt able to write about what makes ‘me, me’ with more frivolous posts including a bit of humour, contemplating life, the universe, and everything. Oh, and bags and dresses.

Just like with the point above, I am free to write what I want to write, according to my mood or feelings that day – and in the way I want to write it.

The freedom to explore different styles of writing has built my confidence as a writer – if you tend to stick to a particular style, why not experiment? You can always write drafts and not publish things until you’re happy with them.

The opportunities I have been given.

My blog is my platform for Hugo’s Legacy, to make a difference to other families in his memory. Through it, I have met the most incredible, inspirational people; been invited to speak at events; learned how Hugo is helping influence health care professionals’ practice.

It really is wonderful to behold.

Friendship and Support

While it may seem cheesy, the blogging community is wonderfully supportive to one another. We provide mutual support, and I have made wonderful friends. I’m fortunate to have met many of them in real life, too, such as at BritMumsLive a couple of weeks ago.

Bloggers – as well as others who visit my blog – have provided me with so much love and support, helping keep me going and giving me valuable reassurance that my Hugo will never be forgotten.

I feel privileged to be a part of the community.

Blogging also means I am able to provide support to those who are only just beginning their journey after birth trauma, neonatal care, or the death of their baby – the importance of knowing you are not alone cannot be underestimated.

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Above and below: Some of my lovely blogging friends.

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Without blogging, my life today, my outlook on life, and my view of the future are likely to look very different indeed.

Thank you all.

Mums' Days

My Half-Year Evaluation: Have I Thrived?

Half-year Evaluation for Leigh Kendall

Background

At the end of 2014, Leigh reflected on the events of that year. She acknowledged that she had survived the worst thing imaginable – the death of her much-wanted, much-loved son, Hugo.

You recognised that 2014 had shown you that the unexpected can happen, your dreams can be ripped to shreds. You surmised that while we can never know what is around the corner, we can still plan, prepare, and dream.

To that end, you identified three main goals:

  • To continue to grow Hugo’s Legacy;
  • To maintain your physical health;
  • To improve your emotional health.

You summed up your aspiration for 2015 using a quote by Maya Angelou: “…to not merely survive, but thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.”

Leigh articulated rough plans around continuing her passion for Hugo’s Legacy (which encompasses compassion); to expand on her writing; to allow herself to indulge in her humorous and stylish sides – the things that make her, her.

Performance

Leigh has difficulty acknowledging her own progress and success. A large part of this is that she, of course, wishes that she still had Hugo in her arms; that she had nothing to campaign for.

However, she must recognise that six months after setting her year-long goal she is doing very well indeed.

Some highlights include:

  • Hugo’s Legacy is growing bigger all the time. #HugosLegacy trended on Hugo’s first birthday, and clinicians have remarked how Hugo’s story has prompted them to reflect on their own practice, for example. Leigh is consequently increasingly recognised as a leading parent voice in neonatal and bereavement care.
  • Leigh has maintained her physical health by regular exercise at the gym, and running and walking. However this has slipped in the last month or so since the closure of her gym and a return to work.
  • Leigh’s emotional health has seen a marked improvement since December, thanks to intense psychotherapy sessions. These sessions helped reassure her, in her own words, “that I am not bonkers”, that the intense feelings she has experienced are natural responses to the events of 2014; to acknowledge that grief is forever meaning it needs to be faced however difficult that is, in order to find a way to live with it. At the beginning of June, Leigh felt as ready as she ever would be to return to work. This was a big step, and one that Leigh should be proud of.
  • Leigh has expanded her writing – achieving an ambition of becoming a Huffington Post writer, as well as being a finalist and on the shortlist of major national blogging awards.
  • She has published posts showing her lighter side, and about her love of style reflecting that while the events of 2014 may have changed her irrevocably, there are things she can return to that help her realise life is worthwhile.

Conclusion and recommendations

Leigh is indeed not just surviving, but thriving, with compassion, passion, humour and style.

She needs to make sure she continues to care for herself. Wanting to change the world is noble, but she must also remember to rest when her mind and body tells her to do so – burning out will help no one. Scheduling regular self-care time (including physical exercise) is vital towards maintaining her significant emotional and psychological progress.

That said, Leigh must remember that irrespective of how much progress is made, there is no cure for grief. Bad days will still haunt her, and as gruelling as they are they must be endured. She must remember that it is acceptable to hide under the duvet sometimes. She must never forget that living with grief and trauma is exhausting, meaning that self-care time is non-negotiable.

Leigh should be very proud of her progress so far in 2015. Bearing in mind the points above about self-care and balance, she should continue to thrive for the rest of 2015 and beyond.

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You Baby Me Mummy
mumturnedmom

I’m Going to BritMums Live!

It’s nearly time for BritMums Live… I’m really looking forward to the two-day blogging conference. It promises to be a brilliant event, with the chance to catch up with so many of my friends, and get lots of tips from the sessions.

Please do come and say hello!

Name: Leigh (you pronounce it like you would ‘Lee’)

Blog: Headspace Perspective

Twitter ID: @leighakendall

Height: 5′ 4”

Hair: It’s naturally dark brown, and I have some blonde highlights. In fashion jargon I believe my current hair colour is called ‘bronde’.

Eyes: Green. I may wearing contact lenses or glasses.

Is this your first blogging conference? No, I was at BritMums last year. Since then, I’ve attended Mumsnet’s BlogFest last November, and BlogCamp in Birmingham last month.

Are you attending both days? Yes! I’m staying in a Travelodge with my good friend, lovely Carla from Random Thoughts of a Twenty Something.

What are you wearing? On the Friday I will be wearing this beautiful gifted Kaliko dress. Saturday will no doubt be another dress of some description.

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What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015? So much! Most of all, I am looking forward to catching up with so many wonderful friends during the two days. Some friends I have met before and am so excited about seeing again, while others I am really looking forward to meeting for the first time. This is significant progress compared to last year’s event, when I arrived not knowing a single soul and was ready at one point to walk out and go home because everyone but me seemed to be surrounded by friends.

Besides the social side of the event, I am looking forward to being inspired by the sessions, and to leave with lots of ideas for my blog. I will be particularly looking for ways to further extend the reach of Hugo’s Legacy, so will be making sure I have a place at the digital activism session. Vicki (Honest Mum) will as always have fantastic tips on how to be a successful blogger in a way that is relevant to me (and you!). I am writing a book, so I will be making a beeline for the session on how to market myself and my writing.

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015? As above, ideas for generating further awareness of Hugo’s Legacy. I am also writing more posts about what makes me, ‘me’, and I often gain inspiration from talks at these events, as well as from exchanging ideas with other bloggers.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before? The event is huge, and can be overwhelming especially if you don’t know anyone as I discovered last year. The insta-walk taking place before registration is a brilliant idea, and will help break the ice.

Smile and introduce yourself to people. I know this can seem really scary, but the vast majority of people are kind and friendly.

It can be really noisy and overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to take regular breaks away from the hubbub to recharge. Not every session will tickle your fancy, so take the time to make the most of spending time chatting with your friends (and drinking wine!).

Phones and cameras are a must – and their respective chargers. I recommend wearing layers; even on a warm day, the venue’s effective air conditioning can be a bit chilly. Oh, and flat shoes for all the walking and standing around.

A small notebook and pen, and your business cards. You don’t need as much stuff as you think – you only end up lugging it around. Don’t forget the goody bag at the end of the conference is generous – and heavy!

This is what I look like with my specs on!

This is what I look like with my specs on!

Mums' Days

Being a Tall Poppy, and the Heroine of My Life

“Life-threatening is the ultimate in empowering”, I have heard.

It certainly worked for me. Growing up, teachers observed my lack of self-confidence and recorded their thoughts in my school reports. The reports included words to the effect of “Leigh is bright, works hard, and produces consistently good work. I wish she would put herself forward more, come out of her shell.”

I’m now well and truly out of my shell. Empowered. Confident.

My increased self-confidence was evolutionary to an extent. It developed over time, and with life experience. Increased self-confidence has come with being comfortable with who I am, what I look like, and caring less about what other people think.

That new-found confidence received a huge boost as a result of a life-threatening illness, and Hugo’s death. “What else could hurt me?” I thought. The worst had already happened. That is not to say I am completely devoid of feelings, of course.

But I am changed so utterly, completely, and in so many ways by those events of February and March 2014.

I have been writing about those feelings in this blog, giving talks to healthcare professionals, badgering people on Twitter, become an action lead for the #MatExp campaign. Incredible things that I could not have dreamed of doing about eighteen months ago.

Sometimes I have been fuelled by anger at the unfairness of the world. But my passion has been motivated by the desire for Hugo’s all-too-short life to have been worth something. For improvements to be made in his memory.

While my confidence was better than it had been during my school days, before Hugo died I did not realise or acknowledge that my voice is valid, worth expressing, with views to be valued by others.

I realise now I am a tall poppy. I have the confidence to say that, to be that, to be proud of it.

I am vulnerable and fragile, like a flower in a meadow. Yet I am also strong, reaching out to others, collaborating, trying to teach kindness and compassion.

Working on Hugo’s Legacy. Making a difference to other families in Hugo’s memory.

A member of our #MatExp group made this beautiful image about tall poppies.

Poppies

I also saw this quote yesterday, from the late, great Nora Ephron (screenwriter of classic films such as Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally).

Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.

My life is fraught with challenges. Legacies of my illness, and Hugo’s death. Anxiety, flashbacks, panic attacks sometimes. A deep, dark abyss of sadness. Sadness at what cannot be unchanged, and what can never be. Missing my son so very much.

But my life includes joy, too. I want people to empathise with me, but never feel sorry for or pity me. I have suffered, I suffer still, I will continue to suffer in some way for the rest of my life.

But I am not a victim.

I am the heroine of my life.

[Better make sure I have the ‘e’ on the end of ‘heroine,’ considering the connection with poppies. But anyway…]

A couple of weeks ago I approached some brands, and they were kind enough to send me some things. My other half, Martin is a photographer and this morning he took some photos of me for the posts I need to write about them.

The look in my eyes says it all. Staring down the lens of the camera.

There is strength behind those eyes.

Confidence.

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My voice matters, and so does yours.

You should not have to endure a life-threatening experience to feel empowered, confident, to know that life is not to be wasted, to take advantage of opportunities to fulfil your potential.

So off you go, use that voice. If you are lacking in confidence, find ways to build it up.

Make a difference to your life. Make a difference to others’ lives.

Be a tall poppy, and the hero(ine) of your own life.

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mumturnedmom

Friday Favourite – Me!

Today’s Friday Favourites post was supposed to be a light-hearted one about my favourite TV series. I had it all planned out in my head: it shouldn’t have taken long to write. Light-hearted or not, though, my heart just was not in it.

I was in a low mood anyway, and couldn’t summon much enthusiasm.

I procrastinated, tried to make myself write it, reasoning that I had already missed one Friday Favourites post (I wrote about the result of the General Election last week instead) until I realised that, of course, it does not matter. No one is going to be any worse off for not learning what my favourite TV shows. Probably no one cares, or noticed (not fishing here, I’m being realistic about people’s busy lives!).

Such a post – or any blog post, for that matter – cannot be more important than my own emotional well-being.

So, I switched off the laptop and snuggled on the sofa under a blanket (it was chilly this morning) and read my new book on resilience that arrived yesterday.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that for many months after Hugo died I would force myself to write, to work on my blog irrespective of how I felt as a form of punishment to myself. Self-care was something I really struggled with back then, but it is something I am now making a conscious effort to invest in, make time for.

Resilience is about understanding life will not always go to plan, and about having inner resources to deal with adversity, and getting on with life in a different way. That does not mean forgetting whatever has affected your life – I shall certainly never, ever forget Hugo – to me, resilience means looking after myself. Looking after myself means putting less energy in to things I cannot change, and investing more energy in to things I can.

More energy helps me cope much better.

Back to the book I was reading – it’s called The Little Book of Resilience, by Matthew Johnstone. It’s excellent, and I can recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning more about it. The text is engaging and down-to-earth. I’m a very visual person, and it is full of humorous illustrations.

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Reading the book, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment: I should make myself the topic of my Friday Favourite post. Not in a narcissistic or self-centred way; in a self-care way.

I enjoyed giving myself time out to sit and read the book rather than forcing myself to write a post my heart wasn’t in, it would have been rubbish as a result, and that wouldn’t have helped my mood!

In that reflection was a lesson.

So, I made myself my favourite. My reasoning is that you treat someone or something that is your favourite with extra care. It is about time I treated myself with extra care, especially now I have evidence of the benefits that I can remind myself about if I’m tempted to work through the fog again.

As a result, I made a few promises to myself:

– To write only when I’m feeling inspired, in the mood, ‘in the zone’

– To remember that self-care comes first

– To listen to my body more

– To trust my instinct

– To find time every day to practise self-care – even if (gasp!) that means turning off social media for a while so I can’t get distracted

– To be compassionate to myself about my feelings, meaning to practise self-care if I am feeling low rather than ignore them or tell myself off for feeling that way

– To have perspective about my blog (that’s part of the title, after all!)

– To not worry too much what others think, and remember most people are caught up with their own lives to notice what I am or am not doing

– To remember that not everything has to be done ‘now’

– To stay true to myself

There will probably be some other promises I add to the list too. What would be on your list of promises if you made yourself your favourite?

 

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Word of the Week – Me

The Reading Residence

The List

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