In fact it's been July for a few days... How on earth did that happen? How are you doing? This is your monthly reminder to slow down and take some time for you.
Focus on your breath for a moment. Where are you aching today? What do you need?
It has been a tumultuous few weeks in the world around us, and that means looking after ourselves is more important than ever.
This newsletter is your permission, should you need it, to pause and take a break, even as conflicts arise, and the world shifts around you.
Do you want to stand outside for a few moments? To listen to some music that you love? Pause for a cold drink, or a warm cuppa? Stretch out your body? Exercise your creativity?
What could you do to remind yourself that you are worthy of care and love right now?
Sometimes it's hard to see the courage in ourselves that others see in us.
And sometimes reminding someone else of their courage reminds us of our own.
This month, we've felt drawn to revisit a familiar activity: Encouragement Cards.
We're encouraging you to make a card to send to someone whose courage you admire.
To take a moment to reach out and encourage them on their journey. To remind them of their bravery.
Courage was the theme of our Mamas' Retreat this weekend. We made courage cards with simple paper feathers, inspired by those made by Lia Griffith and others.
What do feathers mean to you? Native Indian warriors traditionally receive feathers when they do something especially brave. For others, feathers are a sign from lost loved ones, or a message from angels. For my kids, they're magical tickling sticks: a source of much joy!
Who would you like to remind of their courage today? You can download a simple card and envelope template to make your card over here.
And while you make your card, here are two questions to mull on...
1. What is the bravest thing you could do right now?
My answer to this question can change moment by moment. Sometimes I'll get the same scary answer over and over. With luck, it starts to feel a little bit more possible every time...
Sometimes I act directly on my answers. And sometimes I take just a teeny tiny step towards them. Sometimes the bravest thing I can do is ignore the self critical voices in my head and not 'do' at all.
Sometimes the bravest thing to do is rest. And the more I rest and look after me, the braver I become.
This question has taken me along a path towards sharing my honest motherhood stories online and in front of rooms of people.
It led to me quitting the only reliable job I've had in motherhood so that I can focus on growing Story of Mum as a social enterprise.
This question took me into a leotard, and on to a burlesque stage. Tiny step by tiny step. You can read about my first ever public performance in a previous newsletter, and this month I took my courage up a step! (More on that in a future blog post...)
Where might your answer to this question take you today?
2. How real are your fears?
Oh yes. Courage and fear are inextricably linked. And it's no surprise that motherhood brings us buckets of both.
We gain immeasurable strength and bravery - we would do anything to protect our children. They are a motivation like no other.
Yet this courage sits alongside our huge fears for them, the immensity of which we may never have felt before.
In many ways, motherhood is a daily dance between the two. We discover just how brave we can be as we face our fears - of losing ourselves in them, of not being good enough, of letting go.
And so, whenever I'm trying to be brave, I have to pause and examine the fear that I'm feeling too - is it real? What am I afraid of and how likely is that to happen?
If the fear (or part of it) is really likely to come true, maybe it's useful: If I sprint like a lunatic on concrete in sandals playing Piggy Road with my kids, am I likely to injure my foot (again...)?
Yes, given past experience, that's pretty likely - so I'll listen to that fear, and modify my behaviour...
But what happens if, when I look at a fear up close, I see that, perhaps, it's isn't real after all?
Then I weigh those feelings of fear up against what might come of my being brave - how will I feel if I do this?
Even if it's hard at the time, and maybe even for some time afterwards, is the potential outcome worth the challenge?
I might decide no, this step is too big for me right now. And instead look for another brave step, one that isn't such a huge stretch. That smaller brave step might simply be to sit with my thoughts for a day, a week, a month. It might mean giving myself space to explore the potential impacts, the risks and benefits. Time to befriend my fear.
I might realise that in fact, what I could gain is big enough to give me the courage I need to move forward with those fears at my side.
And so here I am, standing behind the stage curtains waiting to step onto the stage and dance, alone, in unfamiliar clothes, in an unfamiliar place, with my trombone, feeling sick and scared, asking myself - what is the worst that can happen?
Will I suddenly forget my routine and how to play trombone?
Will people really throw tomatoes at me, point and laugh?
Will I be humiliated on social media for being overweight and ugly and ridiculous?
And I can say no, there are nice people I know in the audience, there are wonderful women in my troop who will stand up for me, I've practised and practised and I won't forget. Those fears are not real.
And I remind myself that if I can do this, it will be another step towards changing how I feel about myself: my sense of what I'm capable of, my beliefs about what defines beauty, my knowledge of what it means to truly celebrate yourself.
Even if it goes badly, I will still have taken that bold step, for me. I will have tried and failed. But I will have shown myself that I can be brave. And that I am more than my fears.
And so, I take that first step out onto the stage...
And in a few minutes of extreme courage, it is done. It is imperfect and flawed, but I am bigger and better for doing it.
And my bravery ripples out in ways I can never imagine.
I'm not saying that we're always brave. Or that it's 'easy' to overcome our fearful thoughts. Sometimes courage seems an impossible ambition. Sometimes some of our worst fears come true.
Sometimes we lose what we love, and what we need, and we don't know how we are going to get through, and we have to call on our bravery just to breathe.
Because sometimes breathing is courage. Courage, and love, that somehow pulls us through the impossible. Through loss and uncertainty.
Wherever you are in relation to courage right now, you are so much stronger, and braver, than you think. And there is hope.
(Thanks to Pete Knight and Kymm Sandum for the awesome Peachy Divine photo above, and to Stuff Made From Things for yet another lovely necklace).
What happened last month?
Our #somum Mamas' Retreat on twitter (or did it...?)
Last month I was poorly in the days leading up to our monthly #somum Mamas' Retreat on twitter.
I'd been taking care of myself with honey and lemon, rest and early nights in the hope that I would recover in time. But as the day wore on, I found myself feeling ever more exhausted.
I didn't want to let anyone down, but I also knew what I most needed was sleep. I struggled to put myself first:
Should I turn up to support all of the wonderful mamas who join us regularly and were so looking forward to it, but not support myself?
Or should I rest, so that I could come back to support all those mamas later, but let them down right now?
If I looked after myself, would I be disappointing mamas who really needed that connection? Would people think I didn't care? Would everyone leave Story of Mum...?
What was the bravest thing I could do here? And how real were those fears?
What would you have done?
I made the decision to cancel. And although we missed our lovely get-together, it was an important reminder to myself, and to other mamas, of the importance of self-care.
It was a demonstration of putting your own needs first, even when that might feel like you are letting others down.
Fortunately, this month, I'm fit and healthy, and all being well, you can join us on twitter on Wednesday 13 July from 8.30 - 9.30 pm (find the time in your timezone)!
If you don't know already, #somum is our free monthly community Mamas' Retreat, and this month we'll be courageous and make courage cards together. You are welcome, whether you've joined us before or not. If you're a twitter novice, just get on twitter at that time, add #somum to your tweets and we will find you and help you to join in...
Five A Day
We held our Five A Day e-course for the first time last month and it was fantastic!
We inspired mamas to take time for themselves, to think about their needs, and discover what they can do in just five minutes to feel more nourished, happy and positive.
Here's some feedback from mamas:
"Five A Day is an extremely easy way to shake things up a bit. Just watching a quick and friendly video can really make you think about how you're spending your time and what really matters. It was totally achievable, easy to access and complete, and you could get as involved as you wanted. " Claire
“Five A Day gave me something to look forward to each day, something to think about that wasn't for someone else. It made me stop and think about me and what I truly need to feel happy (apart from sleep which I can't magic into happening at the moment!). I wish it could have gone on for a month!" Sophie
So, for everyone who missed out on joining us, we've now turned Five A Day into our first ever self-led e-course.
That means that you can sign up at any time to receive the five videos and prompts over five days.
You'll get access to the private videos and online space as soon as it starts, (so if you want to watch all the material at once, you can...)
Sign up in the next 48 hours and you can use a special code for our lovely newsletter subscribers: use BRAVE to get a third off the price.
Raising Films is a website and community set up to share stories from women who also work in the film industry, and I wrote a guest post for them last week. Here's a snippet...
"Motherhood changed everything. My career had provided both my sense of identity and my self worth, and now I had neither. I had absolutely no idea who I was any more. The only thing I was sure of was that I was a failure.
I fell back on familiar perfectionist workaholic strategies. I pretended that I had it under control. But I simply couldn’t live up to the impossible expectations I had of myself.
Luckily, I had great support from family and friends, and slowly came to understand that other mums were facing similar challenges. I started to rewrite the stories I told myself about my ‘failures’, and began the journey to find out who I had become..."
If you're a working mama, or simply interested in my journey from film story editor to mother and Story of Mum, you can read it over here.
I hope this joyful photo of our Mamas' Retreat from this weekend brought a smile to your face (yes I am the one doing the spectacular star jump on the left!).
We got outside and made nature art and paddled and jumped and connected and loved and inspired and got a little bit sunburnt...!
Our next Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat will take place on Sunday 18 September in Penzance - can you join us? TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE!
Do you fancy an aromatherapy massage by a log-fire, listening to the sea...?
A body-confidence-boosting burlesque class, a chocolate tasting, or a 1950s sewing session?
How about riding along a beach, learning about woodland medicines, or bathing in a classic art deco lido...?
We've started to develop an amazing package of experiences for our new Bespoke Retreat programme...
You can choose what most excites and inspires you from a list of pampering treatments, one to one support, unique workshops, experiences and more for the ultimate in tailor-made mama nourishment!
Find out more over here. You could even combine the next September Sunday Morning group retreat with an individual or small group bespoke retreat over the same weekend if you like.
If you're in need of some deeper nourishment and support right now, get in touch.
Phew! That was a long newsletter
And now it's 11pm and I really should be well off my computer and making my way towards bed instead of staring at my screen. As you can see, we all slip in our self care routines sometimes...!
So if you haven't stopped and taken that little bit of time for yourself yet - here's your final reminder. You deserve time for you. Don't let yourself fall off the list.
Make time for yourself today, and let's be brave together this month.
Much love, fear-soothing, and fierce mama courage,
Pippa and Penny
PS If you need more encouagement to give yourself a daily boost of mama me-time, don't forget to use your special code BRAVE to sign up for Five A Day xx