Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Probably a bit of both. I find time with friends very rejuvenating, but also love time to myself; a day at home in bed with a good book is my idea of heaven.
What’s your greatest accomplishment in life?
I was going to say my daughter but I’m not sure we can take credit for who our children are, in which case I’ll say my career.
What’s your favourite quality about yourself?
What’s your biggest fear?
I gave up a staff job in a newspaper to become a freelance journalist after my daughter was born so that I could have more flexibility and spend as much time with her as possible. So far, it has gone well. I have enough work to earn a living, and I often get up early or work late, so I can spend afternoons with her (she’s five). But I worry inordinately that someday it will all disappear, and I will have to get a job where I am not in charge of my own time, and then not be able to spend as much time with her.
That said, I recently interviewed the author Elizabeth Gilbert for my podcast How to Fall Apart and she described how she handles fear. Instead of fighting it too much, or trying to quash it entirely, she acknowledges its presence and then gets on with things. I’ve found this very effective.
Have you ever been to therapy?
Yes, and I’m pretty evangelical about it; I have so far persuaded two friends to go to my counsellor. Getting a recommendation would be my big advice – I didn’t the first time and it wasn’t great. Starting can be terrifying, the knowledge that you’re going to have to face stuff that you have probably been avoiding for some time. But pretty soon, if you get the right person, it feels like there is someone entirely on your side, who can be relied upon for a good steer, excellent advice. Also know that there are several styles; get the one that suits you. One of my best friends goes to a guy who barely says a word and it works for him. With mine, we chat back and forth; she gives advice and feedback when I ask.
What’s your least favourite quality about yourself?
I hate confrontation, I wish it didn’t take so much out of me. It does get easier as you get older though.
Who is the last person you said I love you to?
Definitely my daughter, we say it daily. She is particularly good at it. The other night at bedtime, she told my brother casually “Mommy is definitely the love of my life”.
What in your life are you most grateful for?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
From my counsellor when I was pretending not to be angry over something and acting as if I could choose to circumnavigate anger because ‘it didn’t serve me’, when really I was probably a bit scared of it and didn’t know how to express it- Anger is like music. It will crescendo in you, and feel quite scary, as if it might overwhelm you, or not pass, but then it will subside.
This applies to all emotions, I have found.
What in your life do you take for granted?
In the wake of my marriage falling apart, the support of my mother, father and brother. My daughter and I operate under an absolute assumption that they are happy to be joined by, or to join us when called upon, for any and all occasions- Sunday lunches, walks at the weekend, my parents annual holiday. Having a very nearby, on call at all times, larger family into which you can be subsumed whenever necessary, when your marriage breaks down is incredibly helpful and comforting.
What do you value most in a friendship?
Straightforwardness, and lack of moodiness.
What makes you angry?
People who cross your boundaries, but I find for me, realising, and upholding boundaries it one of the biggest learning curves.
What does self-care look like for you?
It depends how much I am contending with at the time. Right after my ex-husband and I decided to separate, it looked almost invisible. I’m not a big drinker, but I gave up alcohol entirely, so as to give myself the best possible chance of feeling ok. And had tea and as much chocolate as I wanted on the couch every night after my daughter was in bed. As things got easier, I did a meditation course to help with stress, started doing more exercise. And making sure I have plans to see a good friend for coffee every couple of days. I think it’s important though not to make a self-care regimen a stick with which to beat yourself with. If you haven’t got the energy to go to the gym, grand. Just get an early night.
When did you last cry in front of someone?
Probably my brother, and most likely because I was feeling overwhelmed, and I burst into tears upon answering the door to him. He gets treated to that every now and again!
Who’s the wisest person you know?
My mother. She’s the most feminist person I know, but it’s not a consciously adopted stance, she’s just like that. On all important stuff- how friends behaved growing up, now how to raise a child, how you feel about your body, about food, about money, work, she has a naturally really sensible outlook on things. It’s very helpful to be able to go and check what she thinks about things, to get a steer.
What’s the biggest disappointment you’ve bounced back from?
Accepting that my marriage had fallen apart, and that the life I had envisaged for myself and my daughter was not to be, was a pretty big one. I always knew we would be ok, that it would be difficult, but we would put things back together, but accepting such a huge diversion from how you had planned your life is challenging.