Boundaries and The Guilt

Kicking bad habits. Why it’s time to make yourself a priority.

A few years ago over one of those never-ending Skype conversations I said to a friend, “ I hate scheduling in these Skype chats on a Sunday night.” This must have sounded quite odd and anti-social. I wasn’t sure where it had come from, but I felt like I had made a major life revelation. 

For me scheduling in long chats over video on a sunday afternoon is just so depressing. You are already slothing around in pajama bottoms (very nice ones from Anthropologie but still) with your hair up in a scrunchie. The Sunday blues washed over you with the last of the red wine at your pub lunch but you manage to ignore them by being organised. Food prep, face masks and sarcastic sunday columns occupy your time. So a long winded catch up only serves to confirm that the weekend is over. Mentally I’m already in that Monday morning meeting. Physically I just want to veg just that little bit more while watching the new Fyre documentary on Netflix.

Mentally I’m already in that Monday morning meeting. Physically I just want to veg just that little bit more while watching the new Fyre documentary on Netflix.

Well my comment went down an absolute treat. She heard my apathy as, “I just hate talking to you for long periods of time,” and went silent. So my ever present friend Guilt jumped into action, speedily correcting this hurt by trying to wangle me out of the situation. Reassurances that I loooooove chatting to her on a Sunday came pouring out (not true). I added that it’s just other people that I don’t like talking to at that time (definitely not true). Guilt then also started smothering me with mental reminders to schedule in calls with her…for an hour on a Sunday. 

Looking back I realise that I should have told Guilt to jump off a balcony. I wasn’t trying to be mean, I was (albeit quite badly) trying to set a boundary, something that clearly isn’t my strong suit. Now I’m generally quite a strong willed person but at the same time a terrible people pleaser. These two hugely contradictory personality traits play an exhausting tug of war in my brain. Statements like the following flow out of me on a regular basis –  

“Sure I want to go watch world cub rugby for £95 in Scotland in November “
(she says dreading the cold, bad accommodation and hangover that won’t be worth it) 

“I’d love another bottle of red,” (while feeling her liver squirm at the thought of the third day of binge drinking.)

“Oh yes I am totally free on the 19th for that Christmas party” (with that agency where she knows no one, mentally wishing she had a diary conflict) 

I’ve been told I’m a good communicator. So it strikes me as odd and even disconcerting to admit that saying no doesn’t come very easily. And this is across all aspects of my life. Until recently I couldn’t even admit that actually no, I don’t like hummus. HUMMUS! Ridiculous I know. But I would just eat it at friends dinner parties without a thought because I didn’t want to be rude.

Looking back I realise that I should have told Guilt to jump off a balcony.

In the January issue of Red Magazine Fearne Cotton also talks about the old Guilt. In her Six Things I Learnt in 2018 column, number one was her decision to not take guilt into the new year with her. Hang on one cotton picking minute (see what I did there?). If Fearne Cotton, a doyenne of the modern woman archetype, is still trying to close the door on guilt then I am in very good company. With her shiny hair commercials, cracking wit and general bad ass demeanour she out of any of us should be on top of this. And she’s not? Whew!

And actually NO is okay. No thanks, No. It’s a tiny word. Surely it can’t be that hard?…I won’t lie writing it so many times one after another has made me break out in a rash.

But enough, it’s time to be strong! No I won’t have another drink, no I don’t feel like going out, no I don’t want to spend money on the new girl in HR’s birthday gift because I met her half a year ago and haven’t spoken to her since. No I don’t like hummus for goodness sake!

And yes one must make compromises in life – be a good friend or partner; happy to do certain things for the happiness of others. We can’t just strut around being otherwise all the time. Only Russel Brand can get away with that. But if the boundary serves YOU at no cost to others then why not make yourself a priority? Why not listen to that little voice that whispers, “Because I don’t want to.”

This doesn’t mean that The Guilt disappears. Oh no that backseat passenger hangs around like a bad smell. But it’s a little bit more manageable. You send a gift rather than actually waste 5 hours of a Saturday ooohing and ahhhhhing over baby gifts. You text a cat meme to your friend who you haven’t spoken to for ages, to let her know you are thinking of her. She ends up calling on her lunch break and you have a 10 minute conversation that leaves you both fulfilled. You don’t go to that rugby game and remain happily ensconced on your couch watching Mrs Maisel while everyone else freezes at the stadium and has to deal with train delays on a hangover.

I do feel that since the Skype debacle I am not less awkward about setting boundaries. There is definitely a tipping point to FOMO and even perhaps The Guilt. Life is busy and you start becoming a little more important to yourself. And the more you do it the more you realise that ‘no’ is not the enemy. Politely but firmly declining does not a bad person make. Your time is precious and you are wise enough to know that this won’t be the last dress up party or holiday or bottle of wine, or crème brûlée or date you ever go on. If you want to miss out for whatever reason that really is okay. JOMO (the joy of missing out) is part of the new wave of self-meditation so you will be in good company.

And Guilt? Guilt packs its overweight bags and goes to harass someone else…Be it just for a little while…

image credits: pinterest / they all hate us / fashion editorials / style and minimalism / chloe le drezen / carissa gallo / the atlas magazine

Why We Travel

Why do we travel? My recent trip to Thailand gave me pause for thought…

Travelling is always a beautiful experience. Having said that I probably also need to define what I mean when I say ‘beautiful’. Because the truth might not always be Disney princess beautiful, but it is the truth. Therefore it should be admired or explored or enjoyed for the mere fact that it is simply there. It is real. It is what is in front of you when you travel and so should be appreciated. So deep for a Tuesday I know, but let me explain…

We recently went on the most eye-popping trip to Thailand. But coming home I have found it so frustrating sharing our travel adventures with friends and family. Some of my pictures have been received with horror and ‘Oh how awful, how can people live like that!’ comments. They were so confused as to how I could have possibly enjoyed a country where there are pockets of poverty and pollution. Where I had to make a bit of an effort to get to where I needed to go. Where there were stray dogs. Where the best restaurants weren’t Michelin starred and didn’t have a well-lit sign on the door or a menu with pictures on it. Where I wasn’t lolling by a pool having cocktails brought to me 24/7.

I think this is where the point of travel differs for so many people. While planning our 2 and a half week holiday I didn’t want to just find the most Insta-worthy beach and remain plonk. I wanted to go exploring. I had never been to Thailand or anywhere east of Mauritius for that matter. This excluded a brief work trip to Sri Lanka which did open my eyes and make me want to see more but also made me fully aware that a week-long stay in a 5 star resort with auto-connect Wi-Fi and afternoon tea does not an explorer of Asia make.

A week-long stay in a 5 star resort with Wi-Fi and afternoon tea does not an explorer of Asia make.

And for me the joy of travel is delving in. Immersing myself fully in another world, be it similar to my own or completely alien. And actually the more alien the better. Any experience can make us grateful for overlooked necessities or open our eyes to what is missing in our own day-to-day existence. But the point is that if we don’t engage and just keep sitting on those beautiful beaches in those all-inclusive resorts we learn nothing. We might catch up on some sleep, catch a tan and yes we pay our way and support a country’s tourism industry but we ourselves don’t grow.

At this point I must be clear that I am not a hater of 5 star resorts. I am as keen to indulge in a gourmet meal or exclusive balloon ride as much as the next person. And picture perfect beaches don’t offend me in the slightest. In fact I fully appreciate the need to sit on the sand and stare at the ocean for hours at a time. This is also good for the soul.

I guess my point is that every experience is exactly that – an experience. If you can afford the balloon ride do it, but taking a walk through the local food market is just as important. You need to give a little of yourself and see what comes of it. You will be surprised. The fish market will smell, the temple guaranteed to be hot and crowded, the jet lag all too oppressive and the mosquitos on the boat cruise will drive you insane. But oh the adventure! The memories! The world with all its faults is something to be seen and this is where the beauty of travel lies.

The fish market will smell, the temple guaranteed to be hot and crowded, the jet lag all too oppressive, the mosquitos on the boat cruise will drive you insane. But oh the adventure!

Our trip to Thailand definitely didn’t disappoint. The tuk-tuk chaos of the cities, the soul fueling street food in the north, diving off pearly islands into endless sea gardens, markets teaming with life both edible and otherwise.

In the capital I walked through streets of spare parts factories where grease covered men stripped old cell phones and scooters for parts which they stored in tiny jumbled sheds. Somehow there was order to the chaos my untrained eye could not see. As a customer came in with a problem they would dash into a specific section and triumphantly come out holding the spare part that was needed, existing in a second-hand world that our auto-updating consumerist culture cannot fathom.

I meandered through a cool, quiet market directly behind the noise of the Grand Palace Complex in Bangkok. Never-ending stalls of dried fish made me realise how much we are draining the ocean, just how much mankind ‘needs’. Women sat on grass mats cutting ginger and chillies into slivers. That ginger was the entire day’s focus, fueled with gossip and fuzzy radio for company. Suddenly the countless meetings in my comfortable, temperature regulated office didn’t seem so bad.

I stood on a train in afternoon rush hour, watching silky skinned teenagers in sailor themed school uniforms watching YouTube videos of beauty bloggers applying layers of foundation. I was there when a scooter driver knocked over an old woman and an entire 6 lane intersection come to a standstill. Everyone stopped to make sure she hadn’t been hurt and admonish the rushing driver who hung his head in shame. Then the beeping chaos immediately resumed.

These moments made my trip breathless. I saw and sampled a different way of being, unconsciously learning so much about myself at the same time. The exhaustion and confusion. The inspiration and wonder. This is what the all-inclusive resort goers will never understand. And actually in the moment you yourself might not fully grasp the importance of it either. But on the plane ride home or in your kitchen or on your commute you will think of it and you will smile. Because in these experiences there is a beauty unlike any other and should not be so carelessly discarded.

all images my own

The January Book List

This January saw the return of the written word. Here are the books I couldn’t put down…

This year sees the return of…dum dum dum…READING. Yes I know, it’s mind blowingly ordinary but it’s something I’ve been neglecting. And in the spirit of becoming a better writer I figured it was time to see what my colleagues in the field were getting up to. And they did not disappoint. January has seen me turn more pages than I did in the whole of last year.

I’ve packed the Kindle away because I’ve realised that I actually much prefer the satisfaction of seeing how far I am in a book, getting excited about the ending or realising exactly how far a book has taken me in a space of time. This does mean that my books suffer. I get hand cramp stretch spines, there are shriveled pages from reading in the bath, chocolate smeared corners and torn covers from quickly shoving them in my bag on the train. But the stories they tell are treasured and I wanted to share them with you in the hopes that they will bring as much joy or inspiration to your life as they did mine.

Please send me recommendations or comments – I love hearing about new books or old ones that have been enjoyed!

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Sweetbitter: Now a major TV series (Paperback)

Read it: if you want to be surprised

I kicked off the year with this whirlwind ride into New York’s restaurant scene by Stephanie Danler. I won’t lie, the very pretty cover might have something to do with me picking it up (I know I’m bad like that) but the write up on the back intrigued me. In theory it’s an easy enough story – girl quits small town America, moves to New York in search of a dream, any dream, and falls into a rabbit hole of food service, frennemies, drugs and self discovery. Sounds simple enough but its so much more than another Devil Wears Prada (which for the record I am a huge fan of). The writing is evocative and vague, sometimes things are spelt out with eye watering clarity in other chapters you have to read between the lines. There are some beautiful quotes and descriptions about food and the changing seasons in New York. Make no mistake this is not an easy read, it’s quite a ride and will leave you quite breathless.

Black Water Lillies by Michel Bussi

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Read it: To appreciate the fragility of life

Ordinarily I would put this down as a typical holiday easy read. One I would steer clear from even if I was holiday (which at the time of reading I was!). But a recommend from a friend and the fact that I had just finished a course on the history of art theft made me give it a go. It did not disappoint. Three main characters, each living a life in the little French town of Giverny, ex-residence of the French impressionist master Monet. The book opens with a murder that impacts or involves them in different ways. This is not just a ‘who done it’ although I couldn’t work out who had done it until Bussi pointed it out to me). There is a delicate undercurrent of sadness and despair throughout each character’s life and the oppressive nature of the little town they live in makes you realise that in a picture perfect town, there is so much more than meets the eye.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Hardback)

Read it: To see life from a completely new perspective

This is one book where the write up did nothing to attract me. It sounded depressing, ordinary and self absorbed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Eleanor is one of the most hilarious heroines I have read in a very long time. Her perception of the world is pure literary gold but the reasons behind her way of being are dark beyond words. This book made me laugh out loud wherever I was reading it. Eleanor’s day-to-day social interactions with the world around her and observations about life are hilarious and completely poignant. I was invested in her happiness from the very first page. This is a gem.

The Anti New Year’s Resolution

The anti-New Year’s resolution is finally here and I’m embracing it. Here’s why…

I am pleased to report that the world seems to have come to its senses and realised that humans are not wind up toys. Apparently we do not run down at the end of one year and magically wind up with brand new vigour, zero emotional baggage and a whole new backpack of motivation one day later. Who knew? All I can say to this revelation is a deep and heartfelt: HALLELUJAH! The pressure is finally off!

If you haven’t noticed, 2019 has seen the rise of the anti-New Year’s resolution. Social media is all ‘new year, SAME you’ hashtags and books spew a message of appreciating the ‘old you’ (like that’s even a thing – let’s call this the REAL you) and not putting pressure on ourselves to become something (robots) which we quite clearly are not.

I quite enjoyed this Guardian article by Oliver Burkeman discussing what he calls the ‘present you’ and why we can’t trust the ‘old you’ to invent the ‘new you,’ which when you take a breath and think about, makes perfect sense. Mr Burkeman recommends we take the expectations down a notch and focus on something more manageable. A week for example. Seven days. 168 hours. A mere spec on the timescale horizon. That feels refreshingly doable if you ask me.

A week disappears before you know it’s even arrived. And you don’t need to become the kind of person who mediates or runs or goes to art galleries because that fits in with the cotton candy version you think you want to be. You can just look at your week and make some snap decisions – Oh I’m free to go to a gallery this weekend! Oh it’s sunny today let me go for a run. I have the energy today, let me do some food prep or clear out the spare room. Before you know it the week has filled up and you are on top of things. And if not then you can always start afresh next week and forget the week that was.

Of course setting long term goals and investments in your career/family life/friends/hobbies is important but for someone who feels anxiety-ridden pressure to commit to any change they have set up for themselves this takes the edge off the internal guilt laden monologue.

Coincidentally this also satisfies the ‘be present’ philosophy all the wellness gurus keep harping on about. Score! So in the spirit of being in the moment and instead of making a big song and dance about my resolutions and writing them in yet another shiny new diary I bought for £24 at Oliver Bonas and never wrote in, I’m quietly taking life 7 days at a time.

Instead of making a big song and dance about my resolutions and writing them in yet another shiny new diary bought for £24 at Oliver Bonas, I’m quietly taking life 7 days at a time.

Case and point I completely overindulged in beverages of the alcoholic nature over the Christmas period. It was bad. The liver struggled. It got to the point that I actually couldn’t remember the last day I had gone without a drink. Not in the desperate alcoholic sense but more because I was on holiday and enjoying myself so the reasoning was – well why not? My poor body had multiple reasons why not. I ran out of milk thistle tablets, which I take religiously when I know I’m going to be punching my liver over an extended period. And waking up with a headache every morning started to get old. So I just decided to stop drinking until I…felt like drinking again. No mention of dry January or setting up a whatsapp support group with all my friends to discuss my decision. I just made a hype-free, adult choice to give my body a break. A week of this has turned into two and now I’m kind of thinking I might as well do dry January, there’s just two weeks left. And to be perfectly honest? I strangely don’t miss it at all.

Accomplish Your Girl Squad Style Goals This Season - Wheretoget

The same thing has happened with my desire to read more books in 2019. I didn’t write up a list of all the books I needed to read to be an intellectually stimulated human being. I also didn’t go out on a book buying binge. I just picked up a book that had been lying forgotten on my bookshelf from my last book buying binge and before I knew it I had finished it and moved on to another and then another. So far I’ve read three books this month and am now happily on my fourth. I think I might keep this up. Not as a shiny new person but rather as the same person rediscovering the joy of doing something she has always loved but not made time for.

If I get busy and the volume of reading or enjoyment wanes then I move on without the guilt of another failed New Year’s resolution, because life should be as simple as turning a page. There is no old, no new, no pressure, no Instagram fueled, gadget ridden perfection. There is just a desire to make a change, no matter how small. Give it a try, who knows, it might just keep ticking over and over, week by week.

Check out my January book list here >

image credits: the dog eared page / pinterest / fashion editorials /

Sex and The City – for the Haters

Why does a TV program from the 90’s need to solve all of our millennial problems? Answer: It doesn’t and it shouldn’t

This is an article I wrote a while ago and never clicked post. It’s something  I was quite passionate about before life got in the way and I never had time to put it out when it was really relevant. I still want to make a comment though so am putting it out there…Hope you enjoy it. 

Can we push pause on life for just one cotton-picking minute. I would like to put my hand up and ask a question. And in today’s ‘eye roll’ age where no one has a minute to spare for anyone else, no slack is ever given and if you don’t keep up you must ship out I appreciate that I’m asking for a lot. But humour me please.

I just wanted to get up on my soap box and ask – where all the haters have come from? Why is there so much hate-orade in town? In quite a few towns I might add. I just don’t understand it. And this has nothing to do with the contestants on Love Island, or Trump’s visit to the UK or even this morning’s ITV discussion about whether or not women are soliciting sexual harrasment by their choice of outfits on the red carpet (a whole other conversation to delve into at some point).

No, what I wanted to jump up and down about for a minute is to ask WHY oh why is there so much hate towards Sex and the City? That 90’s cult obsession that has been re-watched over and over and over again. We’ve watched it for the quotes, the outfits, the boy stories and the fact that we have all seen a glimpse of ourselves in those 4 sassy ladies that ran our lives for the best part of a rather hairy decade. On the eve of Sex and the City’s 20 year anniversary something is clearly up.

It all started with an article I read in Stylist magazine. ‘Has Sex and the City aged gracefully?’ Not ominous at all. In my eyes anything with ‘aging’ or ‘age’ in the title cannot be good. And it wasn’t. The lovely writer Kayleigh Dray proceeded to give cocktail numbered verdicts on how the show, ‘fares today on issues that count’.

Well there’s problem number one – this show wasn’t written today. It was written in a time when women were trying to dominate the workforce, make it on their terms, have babies on their own, figure out how to have that illusive ‘all’ that their mothers and grandmothers had fought so hard for amongst navigating an AIDS epidemic, the bubble, the arrival of the Spice Girls, the fall of Apartheid, Communism and Bill Clinton,   etc. etc.

So why are we comparing it to issues that affect us today? How is that a relevant comparison. Just one example – transsexuals were a hot topic back then but now we have a whole host of gender and sexual related concepts to wrap our heads around -LGBT, asexuals, pansexuals, polyamory, gender neutral, the list goes on. So why oh why do we relate the two?

Ms Dray then proceeds to discuss diversity – sorry I mean – the major lack of diversity in the show. She finds some racist or ignorant examples of how Miranda follows a ‘white guy with a baby’ but fails to mention how Miranda also pursues a black doctor and when discussing him with her friends doesn’t mention a word about him being black. Or that she binge watches a series called Jules&Mimi which features an interracial couple. (Side note – when said doctor’s sister finds out that he’s dating a white chick she’s the one who loses her mind. Who would have thought racism plays both ways? The writers of SATC did).

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What about the episode where the naive Charlotte cavorts with a plethora of lovely lesbians who are mixed race and Asian? Yes she also has to deal with her horrid mother-in-law Bunny who spews xenophobic comments like it’s the latest lunchtime accessory. But dear Bunny is also depicted throughout the show as a solidly two dimensional character on who Charlotte ultimately gets her revenge. Oh and ps she does actually end up adopting an Asian child.

And the comment on Sam wearing an Afro wig? Really? For a character going through cancer on the show I would think she could get a bit of a break. The woman never plays by the rules, why should she with her headwear when she’s going through something as debilitating as chemo? Should I point out how many Beyoncés and Niki Minaj’s get blonde weaves? How is this even a talking point.

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Then we move on to sexual consent. Again lets take a step back. As I recall, at the time the show was applauded for its candid attitude towards sex. Discussions about vibrators, dry spells, threesomes, ‘funky tasting spunk’ were not really du jour in the nineties. Maybe they were in NYC or liberal London, but not globally. Yes maybe it wasn’t all pc but the series was all about showcasing different attitudes towards sex (Charlotte = romantic, Samantha = adventurous, Miranda = mutually beneficial, Carrie = rolling with it). Yes in the advent of #Metoo and Timesup we don’t notice it but we had to start somewhere and SATC was that beginning. HBO’s GIRLS wouldn’t be such a ground breaking success if there hadn’t been anything before it to set a bar – any kind of bar. Just a bar where women are present and having a conversation – be it write or wrong. It got people talking about issues which maybe weren’t being voiced at the time. Just a thought.

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The writer then sums up the article in a nice little bow claiming in a nutshell that for all its flaws we still love ‘ole SATC. Well no Ms Dray, you can’t skin the show alive and then expect to cuddle it (sorry that’s actually quite a gory analogy). I hate this kind of journalism where we start exploring ideas or issues but then run out of ink or someone decides that it would be more controversial or satirically interesting if we tear something to shreds without really going too deep or doing too much research.

Sex and the City

This morbid tone was then echoed over at Vogue as writer Julia Felsenthal discusses the detrimental effect SATC had on her. Who knew fictional TV could be so destructive to our real lives? If I didn’t know any better I would say she was blaming Carrie and the crew for her mistakes, failures, missed opportunities and misspent money. Drinks she couldn’t afford, men she shouldn’t have dated and a lot of energy that should have been directed to achieving her dream.

And I fully appreciate these are lifestyle pieces exploring an opinion. And everyone’s entitled to one. But then I hit an SATC search on google and the top results were less than stellar. WHY!?

Who said TV was supposed to be perfect? And to top that mind blowing concept – who decided we had to emulate it rather than learn from it and it’s characters’ mistakes? Why do we all think we will be the exception rather than the rule? Who decided we all needed to be one of four static representations of womanhood? Representations created and cartooned into gross over exaggerations for effect and good TV. The truth is that none of us are Carrie (mind. blown.). And we don’t each know a person who is SUCH a Samantha. We are all a little piece of each of these women. They are a fragment drawn and imprinted into a TV episode or Candice Bushnell column. And that’s the joy of them.


We are ever changing and so is our world. When we look back at Sex and the City we should enjoy a brief visit to a time where we agreed with certain viewpoints and maybe gained some clarity or realised how far we’ve come from others. I say lets celebrate SATC and those crazy times, look back at how 20 years has changed us, made us better and maybe worse, but definitely moved us on. Because there is no way we can compare ourselves to 20 years ago and relate. And if we do then we are doing something very wrong. So I say enough with the haters. Enough now.