I always want to apologise when I've been off radar, but today there is no apology. Partly as I’ve had a few things going on(!), and partly because I subscribe to Nadia Bolz-Weber’s advice to write from scars rather than open wounds. I’ve owed it to you and to myself to wait until I was ready, so thank you for giving me that time.
I’m fairly sure the dramatic title of this post may have piqued your interest. However, full disclosure early on, if you’re here to get the juicy gossip then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. You’ll have to wait for the book for that...
Joke!! Come on, you have to let me have a couple of them to lighten the tone!
However, if you’ll indulge me briefly, I want to give a glimpse of what’s occurring.
As an aside, did you just picture Nessa from Gavin and Stacey as you read that? See, it’s been a while but I can still read your mind.
At the end of 2020 I discovered what’s now referred to as “affairgate”, and for the first time in over 10 years I was flying solo. A few weeks later, a second lockdown was imposed and that took us through to 2021. On January 4th my dad went into UCLH to start a clinical trial for mantle cell lymphoma, and we were facing a very real chance of losing him. Around this time weddings started being cancelled and postponed, so my main income stream vanished.
It’s fair to say, 2021 didn’t try to coax me in with a pretence that it might be ok. 2021 barged through the door, declared that it intended to ruin me, and then tried its best to deliver on that promise as often as possible. It was as if the writers of “Bu’s Life” had got to the 37th season, run out of storylines, and began drunkenly coming up with ridiculous things to throw at me just for sh*ts and giggles.
Here’s the rub though… You’re reading this, so I’m still here. Not only am I still here, but I’m writing. That means I still have the self-belief and courage to show up and share my messy, imperfect, vulnerable self with you.
Right, we’ve established that 2021 was almost a killer, with my previously imagined worst case scenarios all happening at once. However, we’ve also established that I’m here, lurking in your screen and babbling away.
Therefore, if you know me at all, you know there’s a “here are some gems I found in the carnage” moment fast approaching…
There were amazing takeaways from 2021, which not only made things bearable, but also created connection, trust, and at times, a whole lot of fun!
Here we go...
Work out what it is you actually need, then be brave enough to ask.
Over the years I’ve learnt to do this to a certain extent when my anxiety kicks in. It’s beneficial for all involved if I can reach out to people I’m close to and voice any niggles I’m having, so any concerns can be quickly be dismissed rather than spiral; it's not ideal but it makes a huge difference. In 2021 this combination of self-awareness and openness became a finely tuned skill, as I discovered the value in taking time to understand what I needed and asking for it.
Some requests involved planning, such as playdates with my friends’ kids for a reminder of the adventures that lay ahead (and how loved I really am, as they’re still too young to pretend to like me for politeness sake!!). Some were for smaller things like gin dates (there were lots of these!), or even silly things like song recommendations for an “I’ll be ok” playlist.
Total transparency, this is flipping hard. I don’t know about you, but I used to worry that if I asked for something or voiced a concern I’d appear needy.
2021 taught me that I’m not needy at all, I’m "wanty" perhaps, but that’s a whole different thing!
Being able to put ego aside and get vulnerable enough to vocalise what you need is tough, but the benefits more than make up for it. Along with building trust, it helps you to tune in to what you need and it negates any frustration of waiting for someone to guess. Together these create an environment where the focus can be on the happier, fun things – something I think we all need more of right now.
Don’t do things with one foot outside the door.
Approaching situations in life with both feet doesn’t mean jumping straight in the deep end, it can mean standing at the water’s edge letting the waves occasionally lap over your toes. However, whatever we do, we have to do it with both feet. Life is too short to be experienced half-heartedly.
In 2021 I had moments where I was concerned about the past repeating itself, and I worried that if I believed in something it may get pulled from under me again. The scary thing is that no matter how bad things get or feel, time and opportunities are still passing us by.
In the summer I had a stomach dropping moment, where I realised too late that I’d been holding myself back due to the fear of a particular outcome. The good news was that by doing so I absolutely avoided that outcome; the bad news was that by doing so I was also guaranteeing things couldn’t go right.
I took some time, faced up to what I’d been doing and why, and realised I was setting myself up for failure. There’s a phrase I’ve always loved, which resonated more than ever:
“A ship in the harbour is safe, but that isn’t what ships are built for”.
I decided then that there would be no more half-arsing from me, I refused to sabotage myself again in that way, and I refused to become a one foot out the door person.
Irritatingly though, I’d already acknowledged what happened when I’d tried to protect myself previously in this way, and I wasn’t about to let myself off the hook. After all, a mistake made more than once is a decision.
So, I turned up and I went all in. I was unapologetically me and I embraced everything that came with the experience; I threw myself into it. I was goofy, I was imperfect, and most importantly I didn’t let my enjoyment of the weekend be dictated by thoughts or fears about what could happen in the future.
The outcome? It was the best weekend of 2021… Getting to demo while chatting to the fabulous Restoration Cake was a joy, sharing the power of baking for wellbeing was a privilege, and my time on stage felt “right”. I connected with some glorious people; we swapped stories, laughed until our cheeks ached, danced, sang, ate and drank (none of these in moderation!).
I felt alive again.
Experiencing loneliness, rejection and fear to the extent I did could easily have made me more guarded. It could have left me on the side-lines, with one foot in and one foot out (doing the Hokey Cokey of life, I guess?!); but 2021 taught me that is not an option.
I love that I’m a passionate, fierce, wholehearted creature. I am proud to wear my heart on my sleeve and (now more than ever) to have the courage to go all in.
Life is short, it throws curveballs and things will not always go to plan. That happens no matter what we do, so we owe it to ourselves to set ourselves up for greatness as best we can; and that starts with getting all of our toes wet.
Do it for your future self.
I was first introduced to this idea a few years ago, but in 2021 it became a ledge I clung to more than once.
Sometimes it’s impossible to imagine things being different, and no matter what we do we cannot get out from under the cloud. In these moments, I force myself to picture “future Bu”. She’s usually sat on a balcony in an all-inclusive resort, with a glass of fizz, kicking back and admiring a sensational view. I imagine her slightly raising her glass, with a small nod of her head as she thanks “present day Bu” for not giving up. I remind myself that she cannot exist without me.
Considering future versions of ourselves works on so many levels and across so many time spans. Today I want to share how it helped me in the darkest times.
On days when I would wake up and not want to face the day, I would jot down the key things that the Bu that evening would want me to have done. Some days my list was merely “brush teeth, wash face, eat something, drink 6 glasses of water”, and on those days I would do those things, purely because at the end of each day I really was grateful to my past self for making that list.
The uncomfortable parts of the first two lessons do make me want to shy away from them, but when I come back to me I know they are right as they enable me to stay true to myself. So often we do things as we “should” or in a bid to win people over, 2021 taught me that living life in that way was selling myself short.
One way that I ensure I’m being true to me (and this is hard!) is to stand in front of a mirror and look myself in the eye for 2 minutes - without looking away! It really is tough, but once you get over the initial weirdness, magic happens.
When I do this, I know very quickly if I’ve been acting in a way that I’m not happy with, or if I’m being untrue to myself; needless to say these moments are uncomfortable, but they’re the ones that matter. If we don’t face up to those realisations, change will never happen; and I can assure you that the idea of ignorance being bliss is not a way of life I subscribe to.
It's not all hard going though, sometimes I do it and I can sense myself starting to smile. One thing I can tell you, when you look yourself in the eye and an unspoken “we’ve got this” is sensed, you know you’re nailing it.
Needless to say, it was the most special cake I have ever, ever made.
I can only hope it was worth the wait!
Gang, things are changing, and I’m not too sure what lies ahead for us all. However, I do know that whatever it is, my future self will be going all in (and asking for help when needed along the way).
I hope you’ll join me.
Until next time…
(Of course you can join me here, and I'm also kicking about a lot on Facebook and instagram. PLUS you can get your foodie tickets here. There are a couple of dates I'm unable to make, so do feel free to give me a shout if you want to double check before booking!)